It’s been said by a number of people I listen to and admire that software testers are, in their heart of hearts, armchair epistemologists. The ideas of what we know, why we think we know it, and the ramifications of what we know is a topic that I personally find endlessly fascinating. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Philosophy, in general, rates high as a topic I enjoy learning about.

One pet peeve… I tend to dislike reading about Philosophy. I much prefer hearing people discuss it, out loud. Perhaps it’s a love for the idea of the Agora, or a true symposium where people would gather, openly discuss ideas, critique and criticize what they hear, and watch the speaker(s) adjust based on what they learned/discovered through the process. Ahhh, if only there were a way that I could listen to ideas concerning philosophy easily, interestingly, in a way and in language that everyday people can understand… oh, and it would be sweet if it was available freely.

Thus, it is with these aspects in mind that I’ve discovered a recent podcast called “Philosophize This!“. Philosophize This is the brainchild of Stephen West, and it is available on iTunes as well as a number of other podcast outlets.

From the description paragraph on iTunes:

Beginner friendly if listened to in order! For anyone interested in an educational podcast about philosophy where you don’t need to be a graduate-level philosopher to understand it. In chronological order, the thinkers and ideas that forged the world we live in are broken down and explained. If you’re religious, this podcast is probably not for you.

I think the description is apt, but I’m scratching my head at the last line. I consider myself religious, but I have no problem whatsoever with the way that the material is presented, and I enjoy this podcast greatly. It isn’t antagonistic towards religion, it just shows that much of philosophy throughout history sought explanations that went beyond “an almighty God was angry” or “we can’t explain it, therefore some unspeakable force in the universe must be doing this”. Anyone interested in the discovery of knowledge and how it works/how we understand what we know should not feel threatened, religious or not.

All right, with that out of the way…

To date, four podcasts have been recorded. They range from the beginning of humanity, and work up to the dawn of Western Philosophy and the Pre-Socratics, up to and through Socrates, and then following on from Socrates to Plato. As it stands right now, the four podcasts focus on the Greek/Ionian/Anatolian/Italian philosophical traditions. If that’s going to be the thread that’s followed, leading up through such notable figures such as Aristotle, Ptolemy, Hypatia, etc. there’s going to be some great stuff to talk about, and keep me interested. If this show branches off and starts looking at Philosophy from an Eastern perspective as well (China, Japan, Indus, etc.), then this will definitely be an eagerly anticipated treat.

What I like about Stephen’s delivery is that he makes the material very accessible (I really never thought I’d hear “The Walking Dead” and Thales, Heraclitus & Democritus in the same podcast). The key is, Stephen takes some pretty esoteric ideas and topics, and presents it in a way that even neophytes  will be able to grasp and consider. In short, Stephen knows how to “speak dude”.

Bottom Line:
“Philosophize This!” has an attitude, it’s mildly irreverent, it rambles a little and meanders, and that’s what makes it fun. If you have an interest in philosophy, or wish you had a better understanding of it, here’s a great place to start.