Julian Baggini’s Philosophy Monthly – the PEL review

So Mark stole my thunder with his post about AC Grayling, as I was preparing my thoughts about Julian Baggini's regular podcast, Baggini's Philosophy Monthly.  Nonetheless, even though Mark hates and wants to upstage me, I will proceed with my ramblings.

Julian Baggini of Baggini Philosophy Monthly and the Philosopher's Magazine
Julian Baggini

I found and started listening to Baggini's podcast towards the end of last year and was able to reel off a series of cached episodes to get a feel for what he was about.  Unlike Philosophy Bites, which consists of coordinated studio interviews, Baggini's PM typically has more of a 'Charles Kuralt' vibe (look up that reference - old skool!), as he travels around to festivals, conferences, and other assorted gatherings of the philosophically inclined, doing field interviews of philosophers, artists, and others surrounded by the din of beer halls, barking dogs, frolicking children, and the like.  Not always, but a lot.

The episodes are a very short: 1/2 hour, usually consisting of 2-3 segments, which Baggini sets up well with edited-in commentary.  I say 'short' because the time really flies by when you devote 30 minutes to several different topics/people and you only release them once a month.  As the discussions are more free form and sometimes the participants have been drinking, you only start to scratch the surface of whatever is at issue as they warm up to talking philosophy in this or that setting.  Like Nigel & David, Julian is able to bring big guns and big topics to the table each month, having in the last year covered atheism with Susan Blackmore, Christopher Brookmyer, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett; Utilitarianism with Peter Singer (although I'm thinking he'll do any gig at this point); Ethics with Simon Blackburn and Randy Cohen; and Darwinism with Jerry Fodor.

While he gets around and deserves praise for getting folks to chat, I don't feel that Baggini has the interlocutive chops of my boy Nigel Warburton.  That said, he does look like he'd pop a cap in you for bringing a weak-ass argument to the table.  The photo on his website (above left) reminds me of the author pics on all those Routledge books that were popular in my circle when I was in grad school.  Critchley, Bernasconi...ah, those were the days.  Like wearing a black turtleneck and talking about Luce Irigaray would make you the bad boy and get you laid.  Which in my case was not true.  OK, I'm off on a tangent here and getting nostalgic.  I'll get back on topic.

It's worth taking a look at what Baggini says about himself.   He's kind of a rogue intellectual, with enough credibility to be read/heard in respectable media and get books published.  Which is, in conjunction with the topics and guests, why it's worth checking out his podcast.  That said, it's both praise and criticism to say that the podcast leaves you wanting more.  Now that I've caught up, it seems a long wait for a little taste each month.  His website doesn't add much and it seems the majority of his efforts go to The Philosopher's Magazine, which is much more scholarly, erudite and has more depth.  If he was asking my advice, I'd say bump it to an hour or do a couple of episodes a month.  My suggestion to you, dear PEL reader, is to check it out, as it is only 30 minutes of your life once a month, and you might get something out of it that makes it worth the time spent.  If not, it's not like you wasted 2 hours you'll never get back, like seeing Night & Day or listening to one of our episodes.



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