138 episodes

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

In Our Time: Philosophy BBC

    • History

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

    Plato's Gorgias

    Plato's Gorgias

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of Plato's most striking dialogues, in which he addresses the real nature of power and freedom, and the relationship between pleasure and true self-interest. As he tests these ideas, Plato creates powerful speeches, notably from Callicles who claims that laws of nature trump man-made laws, that might is right, and that rules are made by weak people to constrain the strong in defiance of what is natural and proper. Gorgias is arguably the most personal of all of Plato's dialogues, with its hints of a simmering fury at the system in Athens that put his mentor Socrates to death, and where rhetoric held too much sway over people.

    With

    Angie Hobbs
    Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

    Frisbee Sheffield
    University Lecturer in Classics and Fellow of Downing College, University of Cambridge

    And

    Fiona Leigh
    Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at University College London


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    Iris Murdoch

    Iris Murdoch

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the author and philosopher Iris Murdoch (1919 - 1999). In her lifetime she was most celebrated for her novels such as The Bell and The Black Prince, but these are now sharing the spotlight with her philosophy. Responding to the horrors of the Second World War, she argued that morality was not subjective or a matter of taste, as many of her contemporaries held, but was objective, and good was a fact we could recognize. To tell good from bad, though, we would need to see the world as it really is, not as we want to see it, and her novels are full of characters who are not yet enlightened enough to do that.

    With

    Anil Gomes
    Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, University of Oxford

    Anne Rowe
    Visiting Professor at the University of Chichester and Emeritus Research Fellow with the Iris Murdoch Archive Project at Kingston University

    And

    Miles Leeson
    Director of the Iris Murdoch Research Centre and Reader in English Literature at the University of Chichester

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 54 min
    Kant's Copernican Revolution

    Kant's Copernican Revolution

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the insight into our relationship with the world that Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) shared in his book The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. It was as revolutionary, in his view, as when the Polish astronomer Copernicus realised that Earth revolves around the Sun rather than the Sun around Earth. Kant's was an insight into how we understand the world around us, arguing that we can never know the world as it is, but only through the structures of our minds which shape that understanding. This idea, that the world depends on us even though we do not create it, has been one of Kant’s greatest contributions to philosophy and influences debates to this day.

    The image above is a portrait of Immanuel Kant by Friedrich Wilhelm Springer

    With

    Fiona Hughes
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

    Anil Gomes
    Associate Professor and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, Oxford

    And

    John Callanan
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 53 min
    Marcus Aurelius

    Marcus Aurelius

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who, according to Machiavelli, was the last of the Five Good Emperors. Marcus Aurelius, 121 to 180 AD, has long been known as a model of the philosopher king, a Stoic who, while on military campaigns, compiled ideas on how best to live his life, and how best to rule. These ideas became known as his Meditations, and they have been treasured by many as an insight into the mind of a Roman emperor, and an example of how to avoid the corruption of power in turbulent times.

    The image above shows part of a bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

    With

    Simon Goldhill
    Professor of Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge

    Angie Hobbs
    Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

    And

    Catharine Edwards
    Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    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

Top Podcasts In History

You Might Also Like

More by BBC