134 episodes

From Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.

In Our Time: Philosophy BBC

    • History
    • 5.0 • 6 Ratings

From Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.

    Mary Astell

    Mary Astell

    The philosopher Mary Astell (1666 – 1731) has been described as “the first English feminist”. Born in Newcastle in relatively poor circumstances in the aftermath of the upheaval of the English Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy, she moved to London as a young woman and became part of an extraordinary circle of intellectual and aristocratic women. In her pioneering publications, she argued that women’s education should be expanded, that men and women’s minds were the same and that no woman should be forced to marry against her will. Perhaps her most famous quotation is: “If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?” Today, she is one of just a handful of female philosophers to be featured in the multi-volume Cambridge History of Political Thought.

    The image above is from Astell's "Reflections upon Marriage", 3rd edition, 1706, held by the British Library (Shelfmark 8415.bb.27)

    With:

    Hannah Dawson
    Senior Lecturer in the History of Ideas at King’s College London

    Mark Goldie
    Professor Emeritus of Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge

    Teresa Bejan
    Associate Professor of Political Theory at Oriel College, University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Deism

    Deism

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea that God created the universe and then left it for humans to understand by reason not revelation. Edward Herbert, 1583-1648 (pictured above) held that there were five religious truths: belief in a Supreme Being, the need to worship him, the pursuit of a virtuous life as the best form of worship, repentance, and reward or punishment after death. Others developed these ideas in different ways, yet their opponents in England's established Church collected them under the label of Deists, called Herbert the Father of Deism and attacked them as a movement, and Deist books were burned. Over time, reason and revelation found a new balance in the Church in England, while Voltaire and Thomas Paine explored the ideas further, leading to their re-emergence in the French and American Revolutions.

    With

    Richard Serjeantson
    Fellow and Lecturer in History at Trinity College, Cambridge

    Katie East
    Lecturer in History at Newcastle University

    And

    Thomas Ahnert
    Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Edinburgh

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    Rousseau on Education

    Rousseau on Education

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) on the education of children, as set out in his novel or treatise Emile, published in 1762. He held that children are born with natural goodness, which he sought to protect as they developed, allowing each to form their own conclusions from experience, avoiding the domineering influence of others. In particular, he was keen to stop infants forming the view that human relations were based on domination and subordination. Rousseau viewed Emile as his most imporant work, and it became very influential. It was also banned and burned, and Rousseau was attacked for not following these principles with his own children, who he abandoned, and for proposing a subordinate role for women in this scheme.

    The image above is of Emile playing with a mask on his mother's lap, from a Milanese edition published in 1805.

    With

    Richard Whatmore
    Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History

    Caroline Warman
    Professor of French Literature and Thought at Jesus College, Oxford

    and

    Denis McManus
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Bergson and Time

    Bergson and Time

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and his ideas about human experience of time passing and how that differs from a scientific measurement of time, set out in his thesis on 'Time and Free Will' in 1889. He became famous in France and abroad for decades, rivalled only by Einstein and, in the years after the Dreyfus Affair, was the first ever Jewish member of the Académie Française. It's thought his work influenced Proust and Woolf, and the Cubists. He died in 1941 from a cold which, reputedly, he caught while queuing to register as a Jew, refusing the Vichy government's offer of exemption.

    With

    Keith Ansell-Pearson
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick

    Emily Thomas
    Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Durham University

    And

    Mark Sinclair
    Reader in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Authenticity

    Authenticity

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what it means to be oneself, a question explored by philosophers from Aristotle to the present day, including St Augustine, Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre. In Hamlet, Polonius said 'To thine own self be true', but what is the self, and what does it mean to be true to it, and why should you be true? To Polonius, if you are true to yourself, ‘thou canst not be false to any man’ - but with the rise of the individual, authenticity became a goal in itself, regardless of how that affected others. Is authenticity about creating yourself throughout your life, or fulfilling the potential with which you were born, connecting with your inner child, or something else entirely? What are the risks to society if people value authenticity more than morality - that is, if the two are incompatible?

    The image above is of Sartre, aged 8 months, perhaps still connected to his inner child.

    With

    Sarah Richmond
    Associate Professor in Philosophy at University College London

    Denis McManus
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton

    and

    Irene McMullin
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    Aristotle's Biology

    Aristotle's Biology

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable achievement of Aristotle (384-322BC) in the realm of biological investigation, for which he has been called the originator of the scientific study of life. Known mainly as a philosopher and the tutor for Alexander the Great, who reportedly sent him animal specimens from his conquests, Aristotle examined a wide range of life forms while by the Sea of Marmara and then on the island of Lesbos. Some ideas, such as the the spontaneous generation of flies, did not survive later scrutiny, yet his influence was extraordinary and his work was unequalled until the early modern period.

    The image above is of the egg and embryo of a dogfish, one of the animals Aristotle described accurately as he recorded their development.

    With

    Armand Leroi
    Professor of Evolutionary Development Biology at Imperial College London

    Myrto Hatzimichali
    Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge

    And

    Sophia Connell
    Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min

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