My favorite podcast: the History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 20, 2015

Do you enjoy learning about philosophy? (If not, please leave the premises immediately. Don’t let the Adorno hit your Aspasia on the way out.) I suspect a fair number of our readers would like to know more about philosophy, but find themselves with relatively little time to pursue that interest. If this problem belongs to you, I can recommend no better solution than a podcast called History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps (or, as loyal fanatics like myself call it, HoPWaG).

HoPWaG is written and hosted by Peter Adamson, Professor of Philosophy at the LMU in Munich and at King's College London. By “without any gaps,” Prof. Adamson signals that he is telling the history of philosophy as a continuous story, in historical context and including lesser-known figures, unlike the typical survey which focuses only on “great figures” and might jump several centuries from, say, Aquinas to Descartes.

The average HoPWaG episode is about 23 minutes long, making it perfect for commuting. The episodes are extremely well-structured and Adamson transitions smoothly from topic to topic, often with the help of his prodigious talent for puns (don’t worry, they’re better than the one at the beginning of this article). He does about a good job as one could hope making philosophical concepts comprehensible in a short amount of time, and every few episodes he interviews an expert in whatever subject he happens to be covering.

Though not religious himself, Adamson is sympathetic to religious perspectives and, most important for a historian of philosophy, takes religion seriously as a source of philosophical ideas and a context in which most of philosophy has been done throughout history. This can be seen in his generous sections on the Church Fathers and Islamic philosophy (the latter is, along with Neoplatonism, his scholarly specialty), as well as the one on medieval philosophy in Latin Christendom, which he is currently covering.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to start from the beginning (after about a year of listening, I finally caught up with the most recent episode yesterday). As for specific episode recommendations, though, two that stand out are his interview with Boston College professor Sarah Byers on St. Augustine’s use of Stoic ethics, and the latest episode, which covers the theory of transcendentals developed in the thirteenth century. 

Note: another perk of HoPWaG is that Peter Adamson is happy to interact with his listeners and responds generously to comments, emails and tweets!

You can listen to episodes of History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps by visiting the website or subscribing to it on iTunes.

Update: As a commenter pointed out, the History of Philosophy podcast is also being made into a series of books. I've added the Amazon affiliate links for the two volumes already published below.

Thomas V. Mirus is an administrative assistant and writer at CatholicCulture.org. A jazz pianist with a music degree, he often takes the lead in our commentary on the arts. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 21, 2015 6:43 PM ET USA

    Thanks for posting this info. I'm buying the book version as the volumes become available. Note to Jeff: I am planning to buy it from Amazon. Can you post a link that will allow Catholic Culture to receive a benefit?