I have spent some time listening to other philosophy podcasts, particularly the ones on iTunes that are listed as “Listeners also subscribed to”. Some are good, some absolutely unlistenable and a few in between (I’ve put some links at the end of this post). I won’t say which I feel fall into which categories, but I do invite our listeners to chime in with their own reviews of any other philosophy podcasts.
After listening, however, I have decided to hyperbolically extoll the virtues of PEL. Please to enjoy…
- All the participants contribute. We don’t have some random dude who has no apparent connection to the material introduce the discussion and then disappear. Nor do we have ‘interviewers’ or ‘hosts’ who offer up nothing but a set up questions to guests, allowing them to solliquize.
- We are having a genuine dialogue. None of us is the acknowledged leader and we each bring both an open mind and unique perspective to the table. Our purpose isn’t to lecture, educate or browbeat you from a soapbox. (OK, well maybe Wes has a soapbox…)
- We have focus. Beyond framing the discussion around an issue, we have textual grounding for the discussion. This both lessons the likelihood of random stream-of-consciousness rambling and provides an anchor for the discussion when things are in danger of going off the rails.
- We prepare. None of thinks ourselves so clever, intelligent or well read to come without reading the recommended texts. Which correlates with,
- We have respect for each other and the texts/subjects. Regardless of how much fun we make of someone’s ideas (Hegel), writing style (Aristotle) or life (Nietzsche), we take them seriously as thinkers and try to respect the context and goals of their enterprise.
- Authenticity vs. Authority. We are genuinely interested in the philosophers and their ideas and struggle understanding them. We don’t represent ourselves as experts or falsely claim insight or entitlement.
- Enough education, but not too much. We all have the academic background and general smarts to treat the ideas and readings respectably without insulting your intelligence or wringing the life out of them with process, theory, -isms or technical specialization.
- The Real World. We aren’t just evaluating ideas based on logic, tradition or intuition. We allow our real life experiences to inform our reading and responses to the texts.
- We have a sense of humor but we aren’t ‘making fun’. Our goal is to entertain, inspire, enlighten and amuse with a sense of decorum and integrity. Jokes and humor are integral but not dominant elements in that quest.
- Minimal jargon and fetishism. While it is *extremely* difficult not to use technical terminology or inside jargon, particularly when one has been “schooled”, we do our best to keep the discussion ‘right down to earth, in a language everyone here can easily understand.’ We also are not in the business of hagiography (I had to find some way to work that word in here. I love it.)
- Universal approach. We are performing for anyone interested in the ideas, philosophers or texts that we are discussing. Our topics are only limited by that – you don’t have to have a certain background, education, geographical location, academic affiliation, gender, race, hair color or other trait to get engaged.
- Production and audio quality. Hey, we’re not perfect, but we try to maintain a certain level of quality to our podcast, even though we are in three separate cities using Skype and different audio equipment and software. At the very least we try to clean and equalize tracks so that one person’s volume isn’t radically different from another. As someone who listens to podcasts at the gym or in a 9-year old car, this is really important to me.
- We edit. “Um”, “yeah”, “right”, silences…ugh. We try and get rid of the chaff, keep the wheat and provide an engaging dialogue (I’m sure with more or less success by episode). We actually record 2 1/2 to 3 hours of stuff to get around 1 1/2 hrs of material, FYI.
- We have fans, ratings & responses. Check us out on iTunes, Facebook or the PEL web page. It isn’t American Idol level mania, but people listen and care enough to communicate, review and rate us.
- Better music and logo. ‘Nuff said.
To be fair, I should point out areas where we are lacking as compared to the other podcasts.
- We don’t know famous people or prominent philosophers we can get for interviews or guest spots.
- We haven’t been around for years to build up a body of work.
- We don’t have the luxury of time or resources to attend philosophy conferences or festivals.
- We don’t have the luxury of time or resources to produce episodes more frequently than we do.
- Our file sizes are large and our run time varies from episode to episode.
For your reference, here are a few links to other philosophy podcasts – again, we’d love to hear what you think!
- Three Philosophers – http://www.threephilosophers.net/ (Primarily religious, last updated in August)
- Elucidations – http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/podcasts/index.html (‘Official’ cast of the dept of Philosophy at U of Chicago)
- Baggini’s Philosophy – http://julianbaggini.blogspot.com/ (out of UK, publishes a monthly magazine as well)
- Bad Philosophy – http://www.badphilosophy.com/blog/ (long running program by students at Texas Tech University)
- Exploring the Mind – http://exploringthemind.com/ (not really Philosophy, the moderator is somehow involved in hypnosis, but the guests are interesting)
This blog post is dedicated to Marvin Levich. –seth