February 4, 2022 - By Rosie Howe
Peter Adamson, a professor of ancient and medieval philosophy and the creator of podcast ‘The History of Philosophy without any Gaps’, on Erica and Marco’s #TALKSHOW where he delves deep into many philosophical questions, his life and more! Marco finally got many of his long awaited questions answered and us, the viewers, see what it’s like to be a philosopher.
Peter Adamson is currently located in Munich doing academics; before this he lived in London for 12 years and was also a professor there at Kings college. He moved to Munich for 2 reasons, 1, his wife is from Bavaria and 2, a professorship came up there which was very attractive to him, it was a no brainer with the combination.
Before this though, he grew up in Boston and moved to Indiana to get his PhD in medieval philosophy…he has done lots of travelling in his life. Marco and Erica asked if this travelling was planned and Peter responded that it wasn’t, life just took him on this journey, one thing he did add is that being an academic means you need to be open with where you live as jobs can be sparse and hard to get…who knew that!
So, why Philosophy? The truth is he didn’t dream of doing this job, he kind of just fell into it…he planned to study literature but was forced to take another subject, out of curiosity he chose philosophy; after reading Plato’s book he thought “it was amazing”, he continued to take the class and the more he did it, the more he was interested. Once he had decided the path to go down he had to decide what to specialize in; he wanted to dive deep into a philosophy branch that still had a lot of work to do and one that didn’t already have 100s of people working on it, he ended up doing medieval philosophy.
He now does Islamic philosophy and admits it was a tactical move, although he found it interesting, he knew there was still a lot of work left and “would love to give his past self a high five” as it was a smart, tactical decision. He got his PhD in the 2000s, only 1 year prior to 9/11, after this there was an explosion of islamic philosophy due to what was, and still is going on in the world.
That’s why he chose philosophy, but where is he now?
“If I was born 100 times, I would be a philosopher 99 of them”
Let’s talk podcast, Peter is the creator of a popular one called ‘The History of Philosophy without any Gaps’- he created this to go from beginning to end of philosophy as when it is taught in schools they have a time period meaning they only teach the most famous people; with a podcast he realised he has endless time and he delves deep into philosophy. As he is a professor, he has a set curriculum but when he does the podcast, there are no restraints and it allows him to look deep into it including different cultures and all of the data that supports it. Marco questioned whether the podcast allowed him to be a philosopher instead of a teacher; but Peter disagreed as his students create different arguments/ philosophies that allow him to be both a philosopher and teacher. Something interesting about Peter is that he is able to read over 5 languages including Greek, Latin and French, but can speak Greek, classical Arabic and Persian (VERY IMPRESSIVE!); this is all due to his profession, when teaching or learning about a new philosophy he is able to learn to read/ speak the language, he does this to get a better understanding of what is being said.
Marco asked “many people leave what they are doing for something else, would you ever do this?”, to which Peter replied “it’s a job, i’m not qualified to do anything else, I always say if iI was born 100 times I would choose philosophy 99 of them and do something abit crazy for 1 of them. I would just specialize in something different each time”. This is someone who LOVES what they do!
Lastly, Erica and Marco asked what his future plans are, he plans to stay in Munich and in terms of his podcast, he is diving into Chinese philosophy very soon…
Do we have free will?- get answers to your philosophical questions
Erica and Marco- “Do we have free-will?”
Peter- There are 2 sides to every question, however, one side would be that we don’t have free-will, even if we think we do; “our body is a puppet for our desires and whichever is stronger is what you will do”- essentially every decision we make has an explanation.
Erica and Marco- “People say that philosophers should be politicians as they have the right knowledge to benefit the community, do you think that is true?”
Peter- “Well one of the best roman emperors was a philosopher”, he then quoted Plato ‘You want to have the people in charge that know what to do and you shouldn’t expect that those people want to be in charge, but we should make those people be in charge as it will benefit society’ Peter then went on to say that the problem with today’s leaders is that their goal is to have power, not that they believe they would be best for the role. For people to have a well-informed opinion on a matter such as Brexit or the pandemic, they should have a PhD in law or economics as a minimum as it’s a question with a very complicated answer and those are the people who should be put in charge.
Erica and Marco- “after interviewing people from across the world, we have realised that everything around the world is very common/similar, how do you see yourself as a philosopher having to deal with different philosophies?”
Peter- “there are 2 things you can imagine happening, both being problematic”, 1, being philosophies never speaking about other philosophies and 2, being everyone saying the same as everyone else- it would be very boring.
There is no before question to this one but I think this is something everyone should hear-
Peter- if people are going to the internet to figure something else, we’re in trouble, taking advice from experts is your best bet when wanting an answer to something. Everybody contradicts themselves online, for example the covid vaccine- there are experts saying it is safe and everyone should have it, but if you look deep enough, you will find another expert saying it is dangerous and you shouldn’t have it. However, Peter says that this is a bad example as there is an overall consensus that the covid vaccine is safe and way more experts telling you to have it done, but when it comes to sensitive subjects with no general consensus, it can be dangerous as you can find an expert saying anything if you look hard enough. He suggests when looking for an answer you should look at a couple things to see if it is a credible source- who is saying it, how many agree with it and what qualifications does that person have.
Peter Adamson is a very intelligent individual with A LOT of knowledge we should all hear…
Listen to his podcast ‘The History of Philosophy without any Gaps’ for all things philosophical and for more about him and what he has to say stream the full episode on Britalians TV now!