Is This The Breakthrough Philosophy Podcast?


Barry Lam, associate professor of philosophy at Vassar College and a fellow at Duke University has been working on a new philosophy audio program called Hi-Phi Nation (previously). Here’s his pitch:

What if there were a platform where philosophers can collaborate with investigative or beat reporters, nonfiction writers and documentary producers, and use the power of journalism and narrative storytelling to exhibit the power and insight of philosophy of all types to a potential audience that can be much larger and more powerful than print?

Professor Lam sent me rough cuts of a few of the programs over the summer. They indeed seemed to me to be a compelling combination of journalistic storytelling and philosophical investigation. He has now produced a couple of trailers for the show. Here’s one for the first episode, “The Wishes of the Dead.” It gives a good sample of the feel of the show:

The complete first episode and nine others will be available on January 24th. You can subscribe now, for free, on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. A trailer for the whole season is here.

Lam describes Hi-Phi Nation as “a show about philosophy that turns stories into ideas” and is modeling it on other popular programs. He writes:

Some philosophers out there know that shows like Freakonomics, Radiolab, Invisibilia, This American Life, etc., have started a boom of audio production in public and private media, unleashing a lot of money and resources from large media institutions toward audio, all in the interest of producing narrative, documentary-style, seasonal shows dedicated to integrating journalism, narrative-storytelling, and academic research. Audiences are in the millions, and very dedicated. The shows however are heavily skewed toward the economic, psychological, social, and hard sciences.

I’m really appreciative of the existing podcasts and radio shows in philosophy out there, including Philosophy Talk, in trying to balance this skewing. Talk and interview/discussion shows provide daily and weekly content that people who already love philosophy can consume.

I think its time philosophy had its own version of Freakonomics radio, or Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, but with us philosophers taking the helm to make sure we use our academic and curatorial training to do it right.

These kinds of programs take enormous production time, research, and investigative work, and I’ve been essentially a staff of one, but many philosophers out there have contributed, and you will hear their voices on the program.

He includes a request to Daily Nous readers:

I hope you can help spread the word to family, friends, students, and anyone in your network.

Good idea.

There’s more information about Hi-Phi Nation here.

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dmf
dmf
4 years ago

these guys have done pretty well so far and perhaps could help academics to reach a popular audience:
http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2017/01/02/ep155-1-rorty-epistemology/Report

Glenn
Glenn
Reply to  dmf
4 years ago

Agreed. Unfortunately, I know a number of philosophers personally who simply hate the very idea of PEL and won’t even give it a try. In general I would say the podcast is very erudite and does not get the respect it deserves from working philosophers.Report

guy
guy
Reply to  Glenn
4 years ago

I’m surprised to hear there might be principled objections against PEL. I’ve listened for years now and have gotten a lot out of it. There are things I’ll probably never get around to reading myself, but it is still very enlightening to hear about it through PEL lenses. There are things I read several years ago that are hazy now, and PEL can be a helpful refresher.

What exactly do the philosophers to which you refer have against the idea of what PEL does? (And would those issues likely also apply to Hi-Phi?)Report

Glenn
Glenn
Reply to  guy
4 years ago

The simple fact that the main crew that hosts PEL were all grads at U of Texas (in fact I think Brian Leiter was one of their profs) and decided to bail on getting Phds. I don’t want to put words in their mouths but they express a lot of frustration with the state of academia and seem to think an authentic pursuit of philosophy is not served well in the current environment. Thus, without credentials, they are often written off as simply amateurs. Also, their banter gives people of a certain stripe the impression that they are not serious, which to my mind is simply idiotic. Their approach demonstrates to me that they care more than a lot of actual working philosophers about the subject matter itself.Report

Barry Lam
4 years ago

Just to clarify. The first episode will be posted on Jan 24th. This is a push to get subscribers (its free of course!) ahead of the launch. From there, there will be one episode per week until the season is completed.Report

Sergio
Sergio
4 years ago

Dear dmf, if philosophy is a way of living – as it was – instead of a way of thinking – as it is now – then the problem is not that academics have to try to reach a more popular audience: probably, as Nietzsche would say, this is out of their depth!
On the contrary, I hope the “love of wisdom” entered again any so-called academia…
The current challenge is exactly, as the footage claims in the end, to “turns stories (that is real life) into ideas (that is philosophy)” and not the opposite.
Thanks.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Sergio
4 years ago

If philosophy is not for ordinary people, why should ordinary people pay for it with their taxes?Report

dmf
dmf
Reply to  Sergio
4 years ago

well academic philosophy is a way of life as far as I can see, the question is does it offer much in the way of ‘live’ options for the rest of us taxpayers (see NonMo’s related comment) ?
As for “wisdom” I don’t see any evidence that such response-abilities can be taught, same with loving…Report

Lurker
Lurker
4 years ago

This seems really interesting! Thanks for the link.

I do hope that there will be some diversity in the philosophical perspectives on the show, so that not only contemporary analytic philosophy but also continental, non-western, and the history of philosophy get their time to shine in the show as well.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

What a wonderful project! As professional philosophers, this deserves our full support. This might not be a very substantive comment, but since nobody has posted yet to say
“hooray!”, I feel compelled to do so. So “hooray!” with “bravo!”s on top. Philosophy is important and valuable. To keep it to ourselves instead of sharing it would be to treat our own work as without value to society.Report