Philosophy Video Roundup

When I was a young philosopher, I had to trudge 117 miles through a blizzard just to get to a library to read a dry journal article. If the library was closed, I trudged the 117 miles back to my house and turned on the radio in hopes of hearing something interesting. Such was the extent of “multimedia” in those days. Nowadays, through the magic of the Internet, philosophy is available in video form, at your beck and call, 24 hours a day. You’ve all got it too easy.

To make it even easier, I went through the entire Internet and pulled a few philosophical gems from its unclean innards. Here are some famous philosophers, explaining their thoughts in their own words.

Willard Van Orman Quine

Quine was one of the giants of 20th Century analytical philosophy. Equally at home in metaphysics as in the rarified air of hardcore logic, Quine wrote on a variety of subjects, and his 1951 “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (originally published in Philosophical Review, 60, but reprinted in Quine’s compilation of essays From a Logical Point of View) is still a mainstay of the field.

Here is Quine being interviewed about his work. (The interview is in five parts on YouTube. Parts 2-4 are available here: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.)

Daniel Dennett

People seem to either love or hate Dennett. I think he’s brilliant, personally, even when he happens to be wrong! Dennett specializes in the philosophy of mind, and he’s famous for his views on consciousness (especially that there happens to be nothing intrinsically magical or mysterious about the phenomenon). This lack of mysticism has not endeared him to a certain segment of the philosophical community (as his open atheism has not endeared him to an entire other community).

He’s got a great lecture called “The Magic of Consciousness”, but it seems to be eradicated from YouTube. I don’t know if that means he’s trying to sell the video elsewhere, but if one is curious enough a quick Google search reveals a couple of sources where one could still watch it.

There are a ton of Dennett videos on YouTube, but here’s a good one to get started with, from a lecture he gave at TED. (Watch out: the volume for the intro music is absurdly loud.)

John Searle

Searle is another philosopher of mind, famous for his Chinese Room thought experiment, which, he supposed, proved that artificial intelligence was entirely misguided in its efforts to simulate or recreate consciousness. He and Dennett would probably disagree about most things in the philosophy of mind. Here is Searle late in his career, still talking about consciousness, but explicitly saying he’s sick of the Chinese Room.

There are a bunch of videos from this event online.

Here is some Searle from further back in time, in a more digestible chunk:

Hilary Putnam

People in contemporary philosophy don’t talk about Hilary Putnam quite as much as they used to, but there was a time not very long ago when you couldn’t crack open any philosophy journal without his papers referenced just about everywhere. Putnam philosophized mostly about science and math, but also talked about language, mind, metaphysics, and epistemology. Here he is from an interview on the philosophy of science. (As with the Quine video, this one is in five parts on YouTube: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.)

Bertrand Russell

Russell was another giant of 20th Century analytical philosophy. His work in logic and in the philosophy of language was, even though eventually found wanting, so groundbreaking and important that his legacy is assured. He is also well known for fostering the work of a young Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Here is Russell interviewed in 1959. (In three parts: Part 2, Part 3.)

Some Others…

Ian Hacking on the philosophy of math:

Peter Singer on what we eat:

Judith Jarvis Thomson on normativity:

Let us know if you find any other gems out there…