That question is in the air again. From Plato's Republic to Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures, the definition of art has kept us thinking for a very long time. And as time has gone on, more diverse art forms have asked for a place in the gallery, further complicating the question. One of those emerging forms has been the comic book. In the hands of artists like Art Spiegelman the graphic novel is making a confident play at the hierarchy. So can the comic provide a small clue to the big question?
He’s zigzagged through the universe for 50 years on our screens. Nearly 800 episodes later this inveterate time-traveller has plumbed the intricacies of some serious philosophical issues: from identity to the nature of time; from personal ethics to radical evil; from the uncanny to quantum entanglement. What can this estranged time lord tell us about some timeless questions?
If I am not reading philosophy, chances are I am playing chess. So when I found this piece - on the fateful day the game got a new world champion - mixing chess and Socrates, I thought I would share it here.
Let's talk semantics with Martin Stokhof. Formal semanticists spell out the rules by which the meaning of a sentence is derived from the words in it and the way they’re put together. You might think this is pretty straightforward, but see the interview with Hans Kamp for some nice examples of how the enterprise gets tricky rather quickly. Basically, the issue is that it’s very complicated, in practice, to model the messiness of human language in a super precise way–in a way that, for example, a computer could understand...
What is wisdom? Nietzsche gives his take on the Socratic project of challenging your most deeply held beliefs. Not just your belief in God but all your habits of thinking in terms of the divine. Question the motives behind relentless inquiry: the “will to truth.” Realize how little of your life is actually a matter of conscious reflection, and the consequent limits on self-knowledge....
In the early part of the Twentieth Century Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein transformed philosophy: they emphasized the logical form of language. Ludwig Wittgenstein later repudiated his earlier philosophy, concentrating on how people actually use language, the things they do do with words. Together with J.L. Austin, Gilbert Ryle and others, he initiated what has come to be known as the Linguistic Turn in philosophy. For this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast, Rom Harré, whose PhD supervisor was Austin, discusses the Linguistic Turn with Nigel Warburton.
He made plain the philosophical elephant in the room, and gave the word absurd a pre-eminent place in the philosophical lexicon. Yet he eschewed the term philosopher and offered no apparent system to forge coherence in a chaotic world. What to make of Albert Camus? He’s been claimed by the left and the right, yet he defies set category. In this centenary year we take another look at one of the 20th century's best.
Famed choreographer George Balanchine was reputed to have said, “don’t think, dear: just do". The idea that champion performers switch off their brains to achieve their best has taken hold in popular imagination. Just do it promises an existential zone where real players hit the heights whilst the rest shuffle to the back of the pack. We explore Expert action, a philosophical football punted between those for automatic responses and those who hear the whirring cogs.
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Roman physician and medical theorist Galen. The most celebrated doctor in the ancient world, Galen was Greek by birth but spent most of his career in Rome, where he was personal physician to three Emperors. He was one of the most prolific authors of his age, and a sixth of all surviving ancient literature in Greek was written by him. Celebrated in his own lifetime, he was regarded as the preeminent medical authority for centuries after his death, both in the Arab world and in medieval Europe. It was only the discoveries of Renaissance science which removed Galen from his dominant position in the pantheon of medicine.
"I was leafing through some FBI files on French philosophers when a new candidate for occupancy of the populous Grassy Knoll in Dallas leapt out at me. To the massed ranks of the CIA, the Mafia, the KGB, Castro, Hoover, and LBJ, we can now add: Jean-Paul Sartre. FBI and State Department reports of the 1960s had drawn attention to Sartre’s membership of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, of which Lee Harvey Oswald was also a member. And—prophetically?—Sartre had “dismissed the US as a headless nation.” Naturally I rushed around trying to work out exactly where Sartre might have been on 22nd November 1963. Could he, after all, have been the Second Shooter? Suddenly all the pieces started to fall into place..."
The Twitter public float is the latest of the social networking behemoths to make a grand splash. It’s all become serious business—drawing in more and more people on a global scale—yet philosophers have been slow to respond to the burgeoning conceptual issues on offer. Not so for Tim Rayner who has embraced the new world with vim, while attempting to apply some theoretical rigour at the same time. Follow his chain-of-thought: from the Panopticon to the Potlatch.
Gödel's incompleteness theorems are among the most important results in modern logic, and have implications for various issues. They concern the limits of provability in formal axiomatic theories and have had a great impact on the philosophy of mathematics and logic...
Let me set the scene. It’s hot. It’s really hot. It’s the middle of the Greek summer. Socrates is in Athens where he bumps into an acquaintance called Phaedrus. They say hi. They begin to talk. Phaedrus is a little excited. He has just heard what he thinks is an amazing speech on love — eros — by the orator Lysias. For the ancient Greeks, eros denoted both sexual pleasure and was the name of a god. That is, love has both physical and metaphysical aspects. Socrates persuades Phaedrus to read him the speech (he has a copy hidden under his cloak). After a long morning listening to speeches, Phaedrus is eager to stretch his legs and Socrates agrees to accompany him on a stroll out of the city. What is remarkable is that this is only time in all the Platonic dialogues that Socrates leaves the city of Athens. He is no nature boy. Trees have nothing to teach him...
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Ordinary Language Philosophy, a school of thought which emerged in Oxford in the years following World War II. With its roots in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ordinary Language Philosophy is concerned with the meanings of words as used in everyday speech. Its adherents believed that many philosophical problems were created by the misuse of words, and that if such 'ordinary language' were correctly analysed, such problems would disappear. Philosophers associated with the school include some of the most distinguished British thinkers of the twentieth century, such as Gilbert Ryle and JL Austin.
Melvyn Bragg and his guests begin a new series of the programme with a discussion of the French polymath Blaise Pascal. Born in 1623, Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, inventing one of the first mechanical calculators and making important discoveries about fluids and vacuums while still a young man. In his thirties he experienced a religious conversion, after which he devoted most of his attention to philosophy and theology. Although he died in his late thirties, Pascal left a formidable legacy as a scientist and pioneer of probability theory, and as one of seventeenth century Europe's greatest writers.