A History of Ideas

This major new 60-part radio series offers a fresh take on some of the big philosophical questions of our age. 

  • Updated Wednesday 15th July 2015
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Radio
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History of Ideas animation Copyrighted image Copyright: BBC Radio 4 offers listeners a fresh take on some of the big questions that have preoccupied thinkers down the ages in a major new 60-part series. 

A series of animated films voiced by actress Gillian Anderson, TV personality Stephen Fry, actor Aidan Turner and The Simpsons star Harry Shearer will complement the series.

About the series

A History Of Ideas takes the listener into some of the most significant ideas in history, with topics ranging from beauty and freedom to technology and morality.
The series will hear from lawyers, philosophers, neuroscientists, theologians and others, all with distinctive takes on the question under consideration. 
Each week will begin on the Monday with four thinkers, preeminent in their respective fields, discussing one specific question - with Melvyn Bragg presiding over the exchange of views. The contributors will then have a chance to develop further their arguments in their own authored programmes from Tuesday to Friday.
Visit the BBC web pages about A History of Ideas to find out more including how to listen on iPlayer. 

What does it mean to be free?

A new history of ideas presented by Melvyn Bragg but told in many voices.

Melvyn is joined by four guests with different backgrounds to discuss a really big question. This week he's asking what does it mean to be Free?

Helping him answer it are philosopher Angie Hobbs, criminal barrister Harry Potter, neuropsychologist Paul Broks and theologian Giles Fraser.

For the rest of the week Angie, Giles, Harry and Paul take us further into the history of ideas with programmes of their own.

Between them they'll talk about Isaiah Berlin's distinction between positive and negative freedom, JS Mill's thoughts on individual liberty and the state; what neuroscience has to say about the age old philosophical debate about Freewill and whether freedom is over-rated as a political, moral and psychological concept.

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Neuropsychologist Paul Broks on Wittgenstein This episode explores other minds and how we can't know whether our mind thinks the same as every other mind. Read more
Philosopher Clare Carlisle on Reality and Perception If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Matter and perception is discussed... Read more
Physicist Tara Shears on Falsification Is science always based on fact? Can a theory only be described as scientific when it can be proven false? Read more
Lawyer Harry Potter on Eyewitness Testimony Can we believe evidence we see with our own eyes? David Hume's thinking is explored regarding this question. Read more
How can I know anything at all? This week's 'A history of ideas' looks at how we can know anything at all. Read more
Writer Lisa Appignanesi on the Love of Children Lisa Appignanesi explores the bond between mother and child and initial instincts to raise children. Read more
Psychotherapist Mark Vernon on Freud Mark Vernon looks at Freud's ideas on the Greek God Eros being a force field of love. Read more
Theologian Giles Fraser on Altruism Giles Fraser explains why our genes determine our concern for others. Read more
Classicist Edith Hall on Aristophanes in Plato Edith Hall, from a classical perspective, explains why humans are in search of love. Read more
What is love? Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the big question: "What is love?" Read more
Philosopher Timothy Secret on Ancestor Worship Timothy Secret talks about respect and obedience to your parents an honoring ancestors through grave tending. Read more
Philosopher Angie Hobbs on Plato's Philosopher Kings Should the state be run by philosophers, not people who want power.? Angie Hobbs explores this question. Read more
Economist Kate Barker on the Free Market Kate Barker looks into the father of Economics, Adam Smith's, views on the Free Market and how vital it is to us. Read more
Historian Justin Champion on Toleration Locke's theory on Toleration is examined by Professor Justin Champion. Read more
How should we live together? This week's 'A history of ideas' asks 'How should we live together?' Read more
How do I live a good life? How do I live a good life? Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss this question. Read more
How has technology changed us? This week's 'A History of Ideas' explores the role of technology is relation to how we live our lives. Read more
What makes us human? The programmes on this week's 'A History of Ideas' discusses theories around what makes us human. Read more
What does it mean to be me? This week on A History of Ideas, Melvyn Bragg's' philosophical question is: "What does it mean to be me?" Read more
How did everything begin? This week's A History of ideas looks at Creationism. Read more
How can I tell right from wrong? Morality is discussed during this week's 'A History of Ideas' Read more
Why are things beautiful? Melvyn and guests examine ideas around what is beautiful during this week's A History of Ideas Read more
What does it mean to be free? Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss concepts around freedom in this week's programmes. Read more