Saturday, November 1, 2008

1978: The Year Philosophy Broke

Lately I've been relaxing in the evenings (or, more commonly, waking up in the very early mornings) with episodes of the 1978 BBC TV series Men of Ideas. These are charmingly stilted dialogues between host Bryan Magee and then- (and, mostly, still-) contemporary Anglo-American philosophers (yes, all men, except for Martha Nussbaum and Iris Murdoch) on major philosophers of the past. (Magee seems like a pretty interesting character in his own right: Cockney boy turned Labour MP turned BBC presenter and popularizer of philosophy. Only in England.) They're pitched for a non-specialist audience, and I'm sure there's much in the views presented that have been superseded since the late seventies,* but they're still pretty good general introductions as well as fascinating artifacts of a bygone TV era. My favorites so far: Hubert Dreyfus on Heidegger, Hilary Putnam on the philosophy of science, and Peter Singer on Hegel and Marx. But there are plenty more, mostly skewed toward the analytic tradition: episodes on Kant, Hume, Frege, pragmatism, Wittgenstein, et al. Not to mention a wide variety of amusing late 1970s academic hairstyles. Enjoy!

* For a more contemporary, but overall less satisfying, pop philosophy fix, see the podcast series Philosophy Bites. The best one I've heard is Raymond Geuss on political philosophy.