A True Lover of Philosophy


I love philosophy, but I wonder if I love it as much as Stephen West. Here is a little bit of his story:

My parents met when my mom was at her cousin’s house smoking weed; my dad was living in her cousin’s dog house at the time, having been kicked out by his parents, both of whom were terribly abusive…. If I were asked to write a book cataloging the different instances and types of abuse I went through in Alabama, I could easily fill hundreds of pages….

One of the classes I signed up for during Running Start [through the community college] was Philosophy 101, and it changed me forever. I hated my teacher and I hated the textbook, but I loved what I was learning…..

But my love of philosophy and my relationship with my then 17-year-old girlfriend became extremely complicated when my dad kicked me out to live on my own at the age of 16. I had nothing. I had no place to live, no car, barely any clothes, and no desire to surrender myself to foster care again….

[Later] I was an 18-year-old kid without a single positive role model to ask for advice. In a strange way, Hume, Kant, Hegel—these men were my fathers. They were the people who made me ask questions and strive to constantly improve myself. I read more than a hundred books about philosophy before I ran out of room on the bookshelf. I had friends who were philosophy majors asking for help with their assignments; in exchange, they gave me their used textbooks.

At some point, I realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to serving others. On a personal level, I always tried to make people laugh and feel good about themselves, but on a professional level, I was at a dead end. I was doing grueling physical labor at a warehouse ten hours a day. How can you enrich the lives of others by stacking freight?

The good news about working long shifts performing a mindless and repetitive job in isolation is that it frees your brain to think about whatever you want. I reflected on myself and my goals and thought of strategies to improve qualities about myself I didn’t like. I also listened to podcasts. I remember listening to the most popular philosophy podcasts and thinking, “How can these people expect the average person who might be interested in philosophy to understand this? Understanding this requires a lot of previous knowledge.”

Finally, I had found my opportunity to serve others! Everyday, I wake up at 5am and work until 4pm. My whole body is usually aching by the time I get home, which fortunately is not a hindrance to the task of sitting in a chair reading, transcribing sources, structuring episodes, recording, editing, etc. When I refer to my “other obligations” on the podcast, this is what I’m talking about. I work on the podcast every single day, and I can’t remember the last time I went to bed and didn’t wish I had gotten more work done.

Mr. West has produced 20 philosophy podcasts so far, which you can listen to via his site, Philosophize This! They are “beginner friendly if listened to in order,” convey an inspiring enthusiasm for philosophy, and should make anyone who gets to do philosophy for a living feel pretty lucky.

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Alan White
Alan White
6 years ago

West is the 21st century’s current best placeholder for successor to Eric Hoffer in the 20th. So I’d say.Report

David D
David D
5 years ago

West is even better than Hoffer, who consistently me when I heard him speak back in the 20th century.
West is not only articulate, understandable and funny, he has a unique ability to interrelate, and create vivid word pictures of, long-dead philosophers’ lives, times and ideas. Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

West’s podcasts are terrific. They are a splendid philosophical public service indeed! I wish the philosophical “establishment” recognized just how important work like his is.Report

Rachel Charland
Rachel Charland
4 years ago

I absolutely love Stephen West, He makes the concepts much more understandable, but so detailed and interesting at the same time. Any lover of philosophy could listen or read his content and learn while being entertained. Report

Jeff A
Jeff A
4 years ago

As a former philosophy major 50 some years ago, I find these podcasts truly remarkable. What a great way to teach philosophy. In addition to his podcasts, Steven should be on a high level faculty somewhere.Report

Marshall Kupka-Moore
4 years ago

I love your podcast. You have truly enriched my life and the lives of all that I go on to help. I would love to help you any way possible on this podcast; bouncing ideas around, providing different perspectives, anything! thanks for your contribution to the world.Report

clara
clara
3 years ago

Hi Stephen,
Wow, your story is very inspiring.
I love you podcast! It brings a lot of value to my everyday life. I hope you never run out of subjects and topics to discuss, and that the podcast will run for many years to come. I am a true fan. Thank you for making philosophy accessible, inspiring and fun!
Clara Report

Ahmad
Ahmad
3 years ago

There are Partially Examined Life guys, and they make even the toughest reads seem manageable; there is also Peter Adamson, who makes the subtleties and nuances of philosophical terms so vivid that it is hard to believe, at times, we are getting the details so easily, but Stephen West is the man who makes you think on your own. He is one man army. He is the best thing that could have happened to Philosophy in our age.
I wish him all the success.
Report

Margaret
Margaret
Reply to  Ahmad
2 years ago

Why isn’t this lovely man more famous? He is a true star and teacher. i love his podcastsReport

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Margaret
2 years ago

I’m new to his podcasts, but I was just thinking the same thing. He’s really gifted.
Report

Sel
Sel
3 years ago

I was tired of my playlists while running turned on to Podcasts and Stephen West. WOW I am hooked . I never have taken any Philosphy classes but always wanted to learn more and your podcasts are so hilariously cerebral and eloquent.Thank youReport

JOSEPH A CARLSON
JOSEPH A CARLSON
2 years ago

Stumbled across his Podcast, he outdoes any philosophy lecture I have ever heard (and I studied it in college)! Love this guy! Great human being. Report

Josh Vincent
Josh Vincent
2 years ago

Found this podcast series by pure chance after not leaving my phone screen locked in Spotify – wow, what a fascinating start it is off to! I’ve only just started but and I am completely hooked; listening when I’m mowing the lawn, out for a run, even in the car with kids oddly quiet as they listen in. Interesting, informative, thought provoking, entertaining and best of all delivered by someone who clearly doesn’t have an angle or an attitude to make you feel stupid or inferior, which seems quite well done considering the content. I have no previous knowledge of Philosophy (had to check the spelling of the word if that gives you an idea) but this is so accessible that it might even be better to get into this series as a complete novice. I am certainly enjoying it and looking forward to knowing more! Keep up the great work Steve.Report

Sandra
Sandra
2 years ago

I really admire Stephen for the initiative, curiosity & perseverance required to delve into the classics of philosophy. His podcasts are interesting & inspiring to the listener. Report

Zeph Grunschlag
Zeph Grunschlag
2 years ago

I truly love the “Philosophize This!” podcast. I started listening only to episodes about philosophers that I admired or wanted to learn more about. But Stephen does such an amazing job of bringing out a given philosopher’s best ideas on each of his episodes that I can’t get enough of his show. Consequently I have gained a new appreciation for philosophers that I previously detested such as: Derrida, Heidegger, Hegel and Plato.

Thank you Stephen West. Report

Sean Davis
Sean Davis
2 years ago

Just discovered Mr. West’s podcast a couple of weeks ago and they are fantastic!!! I was surprised to find out out he was so young. He sounds much older and mature.Report

Don Smith
Don Smith
1 year ago

There are professors who shouldn’t be teaching and there are gifted people who should be teaching. Stephen West is the latter. Reading original philosophical texts is mind bending but Mr. West sets my mind straight with every podcast.Report

Kathy Fernandes
Kathy Fernandes
1 year ago

I started at the beginning. I love his approach. I got as far as Kant, and then started over again because I don’t want to run out, so this way I can save the more recent philosophers…. I have listened to other podcasts and other philosophy podcasts, but I appreciate Stephen’s logic, the tonal quality of his voice, his delivery. So glad he dropped the music! I have been telling everyone who is willing to listen about my wonderful find in Philosophize This! Report

Henry Kass
Henry Kass
1 year ago

I taught Political Philosophy for over 50 years. I have struggled (as many have )with Heidegger. West’s is certainly the most lucid introduction to his thought i have encountered..- Henry Kass June 4, 2019Report

Roxanne Weaver
Roxanne Weaver
1 year ago

I stumbled onto Stephen West’s excellent Philosophize This! in my podcast app about 4 months ago. After listening to several current episodes I decided to start at the beginning and have been binge listening since then (have about 20 left to get caught up). As others have noted, Stephen makes the concepts understandable and entertaining. I especially appreciate how he relates the ideas from every era to modern situations – there are many examples of how technology may have changed in 2000 years, but human behavior…not so much! Report

Howard Benedict
Howard Benedict
1 year ago

This man deserves a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, all the more so because he recognizes and practices Philosophy as an art. Report

Natalio Schwartz
Natalio Schwartz
1 year ago

I hate Stephen West!
I like going to sleep listening to talking voices. For the longest time I have been using philosophy recordings and never, went past 5 minutes before the zzzzzzs came in. It was so boring…
Now with Stephen West, I can’t go to sleep! He is fascinating, enthusiastic and obviously loves to teach in a fun manner with modern touches. What a brilliant articulate man!
Still hate you! 🙂 NOT!Report

Patrick Mallette
Patrick Mallette
9 months ago

Wow… I totally agree with the above sentiments… especially so because his own personal growth was so self made and seemingly fostered by such an amazing intrinsic need to know … any of his predecessors would be proud.
He’s found a way to relate these complex topics so easily… a real gift.
I’m so pleased to have stumbled upon these podcasts.

Thank-you so muchReport

Stuart
Stuart
6 months ago

Wonderful podcasts. I sometimes wish I could have majored in philosophy in college, instead of in the mundane but practical major that I chose. These podcasts have been a great substitute! Definitely a 21st century Eric Hoffer. I had assumed he was an academic doing this in his spare time as his knowledge is so detailed and he is able to articulate the concepts so clearly.Report

Tee
Tee
2 months ago

All I can say is… Wow! So glad I found this by accident. S W is able to make complicated idea so relatable. Report

Charles Cuthill
Charles Cuthill
2 months ago

I stumbled on Mr. West’s podcast by accident. I am already up to the 54th episode, and it’s great. It opened up a completely nice, interesting and new side of myself!Report

envie aprifou
envie aprifou
25 days ago

I found you by accident too but now I listen to you almost every night on Spotify at a slower speed 0.8x, makes the podcast last longer and gives me time to mentally keep up with you . I love it as much as listening to Alan Watts, don’t stop, you make a difference, you really do.Report