• Complimentary Earplugs (Part 4 of 100)

    This is continuation of our ongoing series of audio sources you should know about, and a guest post by the AOK VP: Clayton Flesher.

    It is my observation that members of the atheist community tend to take philosophy more seriously than society in general, which only makes sense. It takes some philosophical thinking for most people to ever get to the place where they reject the popular religious views in their community. Additionally, how to live one’s life? What is truth and how we come to know when we’ve found it? Does free will make sense, and if so, does it exist? What kinds of questions can science answer and how do we deal with the questions it can’t? All of these (and more) philosophical questions become more important when religion is no longer there to provide easy answers.

    Taking philosophy seriously doesn’t mean you actually know much about philosophy, though. Contemporary philosophy is largely an ivory tower of jargon and acronyms. There is also the problem that without training in the history of philosophical ideas, it can be very hard to understand how a certain philosophical position came to be accepted or discarded.

    None of this is unique to philosophy. Atheists also tend to take science seriously, but most of us couldn’t pick up the average paper in PLOS One and make heads or tails of it. Fortunately, there has been a push in the our society to make new scientific discoveries and established scientific knowledge available and digestible by the non-scientist public. Journalism, books, podcasts, and to a lesser extent television shows, have brought the findings of science to the mainstream. Names like Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and Stephen Hawking are household names, at least in the households of moderately well educated people.

    At least in the United States, you can’t say the same thing about philosophy. There are no philosophers who have lived in the last 25 years that are well known. The most famous is probably Peter Singer, and he doesn’t come close to any of the science popularizers listed, neither is he trying to do what they did. Singer is an activist more than a popularizer of his field. You can say the same thing about Dawkins today, but that isn’t how he got famous.

    All of this is to say that I think that there are some good strides being made to alleviate this problem. Barring the occasional show on PBS, television has completely dropped the ball, but it is in books and podcasts where the work is being done.

    There are a number of great philosophical podcasts, but one of the best is The History of Philosophy (without any gaps) by Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King’s College London. This podcast is great for someone who really wants a good grasp of how the Western philosophical tradition came to be what it is today. Fair warning though, the ‘without any gaps’ is not just a joke. Adamson is currently 101 episodes into the show, and is just now finishing up with the pagan philosophers and moving on to ancient Christian philosophy. Personally, I’m hoping we both live long enough to see him cover Wittgenstein.

    The show is pretty great. It can be a challenge to get at hard philosophical questions or paint the ideas of a thinker in a way that does them justice. The format Adamson has chosen is ideal for getting around this problem. He makes the questions being grappled with by the great thinkers of history accessible without being superficial. Each episode is on either a minor philosopher, a work or two covering a set of ideas by a single more important philosopher, a way that some philosophical school or schools covered a particular question, or an interview with a scholar who specializes in that week’s subject. Because each episode covers a specific subject, difficult questions and big ideas become much more easily digestible.

    Category: Complimentary EarplugsFreethought in Popular Culture

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.