OLP on the BBC

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Last Thursday on the BBC’s ‘In Our Time’:

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.


Stephen Mulhall
Professor of Philosophy at New College, Oxford

Ray Monk
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton

Julia Tanney
Reader in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Kent

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Click here to access the broadcast (you’ve got a full year to listen for free), and here to view the complete program (next up: Shakespeare’s The Tempest!).

Thanks to all the readers who brought this to my attention! CL

“Philosophical Biography and Autobiographical Philosophy” : Ray Monk & Stephen Mulhall LSE Podcast

Early this month, the Forum for European Philosophy hosted a dialogue between Ray Monk and Stephen Mulhall at the London School of Economics. Together, they took up the questions: Is the biography of a philosopher relevant to an understanding of his philosophy? And is philosophy itself always somewhat autobiographical?

A podcast of the event is available to download from Philosophical Biography and Autobiographical Philosophy.

Podcasts and videos of many LSE events can be found at the LSE Public Lectures and Events: podcasts and videos channel.

(Thanks to Dirk Felleman for sending the link along!)

Peter Geach Sings Frege, Russell & Wittgenstein

This is an abridged version of a recent post by Brian Leiter. The full post which includes the original Heine poem & Geach’s re-worked lyrics (both in German and in English) can be found here. Note: The mp3 file remains available though it’s now past June 5.


Shalom Lappin (King’s College London) writes:

In (I believe) 1974 Peter Geach came to the Philosophy Department at Tel Aviv University, where I was a young lecturer at the time. After his talk, there was a reception at the home of the Chair of the Department. During the reception Geach expressed the desire to sing a song that he had composed in German about Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, the debate over definite descriptions, and other matters philosophical. I recorded the song on a cassette tape, which became part of my collection, and it accompanied me on my wanderings. It disappeared in our house here for many years until my wife came upon it unexpectedly in a drawer, this past weekend. Some additional rummaging turned up an old tape deck with stereo speakers, long unused.
Unfortunately the tape had split, but several days of analogue engineering and a transplant to a blank cassette (amazingly, still available at Mapplin, right here on the Strand) managed to restore it.

I have produced an mp3 file of the recording [available till June 5 from this link].

The sound quality is not great, but Geach’s lyrics are clear, and he is in fine voice. Enjoy.

UPDATE:  Professor Lappin writes with more information:

“Mark [Textor] points out that Geach’s song is apparently based on a poem by Heine. He has translated the song, sustaining the analogy with the poem. I include his translation of Geach, a published translation of the Heine poem, and the German original of the poem (all generously provided by Mark), below. Many thanks to him for his insights and his translation.

“This would seem to open up new lines of research in Geach scholarship. Anyone interested in pursuing them (or changing their thesis topic accordingly) should contact Mark. I am merely the sound engineer here.” . . . Read on.


New Books in Critical Theory (website): Audio interview with Avner Baz

Brandon Fiedor — host of the website New Books in Critical Theory (which features “discussions with critical theorists about their new books”) — has just posted an audio recording of an interview he recently conducted with Avner Baz (Philosophy, Tufts University), about Prof. Baz’s book When Words Are Called For: A Defense of Ordinary Language Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 2012). To listen to this interview online, please click here (and look for the audio player near the bottom of the page). Our thanks go to Brandon for letting us know of this!

In Our Time: The Continental-Analytic Split

The weekly BBC podcast In Our Time recently broadcast a conversation titled The Continental-Analytic Split with Stephen Mulhall (New College, University of Oxford), Beatrice Han-Pile (University of Essex), and Hans-Johann Glock (University of Zurich). The program’s website also features a full archive — well worth browsing through — of podcasts on philosophical (Beauty, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein) and literary (Psychoanalysis and LiteratureProust) topics we thought might interest many of our readers. To access the full archive, please click here.

Audio: Michael Fried’s A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts (on Caravaggio)

Richard Neer (Art History, University of Chicago) has kindly sent us word that audio recordings of Michael Fried’s 2002 A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, on Caravaggio, which have since been published by Princeton University Press as The Moment of Caravaggio, are available for free online. Below are links to recordings of the individual talks. Enjoy! And many thanks to Richard for the tip.

PODCASTS: The Moment of Caravaggio

Michael Fried, J. R. Herbert Boone Professor and director of the Humanities Center, The Johns Hopkins University. In a series of six lectures, Professor Michael Fried offers a compelling account of what he calls “the internal structure of the pictorial act” in the revolutionary art of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

A New Type of Self-Portrait
Listen | iTunes | RSS (51:56 mins.)

Immersion and Specularity
Listen | iTunes | RSS (50:38 mins.)

The Invention of Absorption
Listen | iTunes | RSS (53:20 mins.)

Absorption and Address 
Listen | iTunes | RSS (50:54 mins.)

Severed Representations
Listen | iTunes | RSS (55:43 mins.)

Painting and Violence
Listen | iTunes | RSS (51:33 mins.)

Audio: “The Philosophy of Literature” (Royal Holloway, London; Feb. & Mar. 2011)

The Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC) at Royal Holloway University of London recently hosted a series of events on the topic of “The Philosophy of Literature” (organized by John O’Brien, Royal Holloway). Audiorecordings of the events are now available online at the Backdoor Broadcasting Company. To access the recordings, please click here.

Here is a brief description of the series, followed by a list of the topics and speakers:

The Philosophy of Literature

During the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century, the characteristics of the philosophical approach to literature have undergone some important changes. Alongside the continuation of the traditions of Continental thought, representatively symbolized by the work of Badiou and Rancière, can be detected a move back to elements that were challenged 40 years ago by the generation of Barthes, Lacan, Foucault and Derrida. The death of the author is now being countered by the notion of the author as intentional subject; the disconnection between life and art-work is giving way to a new interest in biography; the notion of the self-contained work of art, or of art-as-textuality, is being displaced in favour of a view of literary language as a hard-wired element of human cognition. From Marion’s version of phenomenology to Currie’s Arts and Minds, the philosophy that might underlie literature is being re-appraised.

Session 1 (23 February 2011) : The Intentional Subject


  • Introduction: Professor John O’Brien
  • Professor Andrew Bowie (Philosophy)
  • Professor Dan Rebellato (Drama)

Session 2 (16 March 2011): (T)exteriors


  • Professor Robert Eaglestone (English)
  • Dr Ruth Cruickshank (French)
  • Dr Clare Connors (English, UEA)

Session 3 (23 March 2011): The Intentional Act


  • Professor Colin Davis (French)
  • Dr James Helgeson (French, Nottingham)
  • Dr Tim Chesters (French)

Philosophy Talk: Joshua Landy on “Reading, Narrative, and the Self”

The November 28, 2010 episode of the weekly radio show Philosophy Talk — hosted by Stanford philosophers Ken Taylor and John Perry — featured Joshua Landy (French, Stanford University) speaking about “Reading, Narrative, and the Self.” To access streaming audio of the show, please click here. Before each new episode airs, Taylor and Perry advertise the upcoming show with a brief write-up on their show’s blog. The following is the write-up for the Nov. 28 show on:

This week’s topic is Reading, Narrative, and the Self. I suppose everybody has a pretty good idea of what each of those things, taken individually, means. Reading is something that most people do. A good narrative — or story, to use a less fancy term — is something most people enjoy. And a self is something everybody has. But I think I need to explain what reading, narrative, and the self have to do with each other. I’ll take them in reverse order, starting with the self.

Everybody has a self. Or maybe it would be better to say that everybody is a self. But what exactly is a self, anyway? The answer to that question depends on who you talk to. Psychologists, for example, tend to think of the self in terms of the particular set of attributes a person most strongly identifies with – those attributes that define who and what he or she is in the world. But we philosophers tend to think of the self less in terms of particular attributes, and more as the underlying agent or thinker who possesses the kinds of attributes that define the self in the psychologist’s sense.

We’re going to be concerned with both senses of the self at various stages of this week’s episode. Let’s start with the self in the psychologist’s sense. The self in that sense is not just given to us in advance as something fixed and determinate. The self in that sense has somehow to be “constructed” out of materials that our society and culture make available.

It may sound absurd — or at the very least so very post modern — to call the self a social construct. The self, it would seem, could exist even without society and culture. But whether that’s absurd or not really depends on what notion of self you are talking about. When I say that the self is a social construct, I really have in mind only the psychologist’s notion of self. But the self in the philosopher’s sense – the thing that underlies the psychologist’s self – that definitely isn’t a social construction. In fact, I think the self in the philosopher’s sense is the thing that does the constructing, not the thing that gets constructed.

Now here’s where narrative begins to come in. Narrative helps us to make sense of our selves. One way we understand ourselves is by narrating ourselves, telling ourselves stories in which we figure as prominent characters. Think of a son who inherits the family business. In trying to make sense of his life, his choices, his situation, he narrates his life as an episode in a great drama, stretching backwards in time over multiple generations. But the stories that we tell ourselves aren’t just about relating the present to the past. They also look to the future. They help shape our choices and decisions. We try to make our narratives true, by trying to become what we’ve told ourselves we are.

I don’t mean to make it sound like we’re prisoners of the stories we tell ourselves, or the ones we inherit from our family, or our culture. We have the freedom to reject the narratives that our society or culture or family offer up. But we can’t make sense of ourselves or even plan for the future without some background narrative in place. We don’t really have a choice about that. It’s part of the human predicament.

And now it should be easier to appreciate what the third topic on our list of three – namely, reading — has to do with the other two. Great works of literature are rich storehouses of narrative possibilities. In real life, we only get one time through. We get one chance to narratively construct a self. But the great works of literature can expose us to thousands of experiments in narrative self-construction. So who better to help us with this trio of topics – reading, narrative, and the self — than someone steeped in the theory of literary narratives. That’s Josh Landy from Stanford University, where he co-directs the Literature and Philosophy Initiative.

The Philosopher’s Zone: Denis Dutton on evolution and aesthetics

Today’s episode of the Australian Broadcasting Company radio show, The Philosopher’s Zone, features the philosopher Denis Dutton (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) discussing evolution and aesthetics. Here is a brief description of the episode:

Peacocks have tails; we have art. Dennis Dutton, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, argues that art is a form of costly display designed to attract members of the opposite sex. But there’s more to it than that: the arts take us into the minds of the people that made them and so they’re an aspect of social life that is beneficial to human beings. This week, we explore a subtle, Darwinian approach to the painting of paintings and the telling of tales.

To download and listen to the episode, click here. To visit the episode’s webpage, click here.