About the Podcast

What exactly is this podcast about?

Philosophy, philosophers and philosophical texts. The format is an informal roundtable discussion, with each episode loosely focused on a short reading that introduces at least one “big” philosophical question, concern or idea.

What are you guys trying to do here?

This podcast is our attempt to recreate the good old days when we’d meet up after a seminar to drink beer and talk shop or get some teaching yas out where students couldn’t talk back. We’re recording it to share the our joy in “doing” philosophy with all who care to listen while ranting bitterly about the profession that we so long ago escaped.

What makes you guys more qualified to talk about this stuff than all those University professors?

Absolutely nothing.

Who is this aimed at? Do I have to know anything about philosophy? Will I feel insulted by this if I already know a lot about philosophy?

Whoa, there Mr. or Ms. Insecure and/or Touchy, don’t worry yer little and/or enormous head about that. We aim to to assume no knowledge (of anything, even, like, basic facts of arithmetic or… like… hygiene), and we believe that even the most withered old Socrates-clone will find the proceedings very entertaining and thought-provoking, if not actually, well, informative.

Do we have to do the reading before listening to the individual episodes?

Well, if we don’t assume you know anything about philosophy, we certainly don’t assume you know anything about the text we are discussing (see how I did that…A includes B, so if you don’t know A, you don’t know B. ;) ). That being said, we believe that reading the texts before listening will make the podcasts more entertaining and informative. Also, they happen to be interesting, intellectually stimulating, fun and really important parts of the cultural history into which you were born (most of you anyway).

Should people listen to the podcast episodes in order, or does that matter?

Each episode is self-contained, but we invariably make some references to things said in previous episodes, so if you just want to hear about a few particular topics, sure, go listen to those episodes, but if you will likely eventually slog through them all, you’re best off starting with the first episode.

Where are the old episodes?

Here. Anything on our site here is on the iTunes podcast listings, too, but note that when you search there, the initial “search result” window will show some but not all of our episodes, with no apparent way to subscribe; you have to actually click on the name of the podcast from there to get to our iTunes store page.

Oh, we’ve also redacted some of our old episodes so that they only appear to the public as a half-hour “preview,” but have no fear, you can acquire all those in full for a simple $5 investment by becoming a PEL Citizen or purchase them a la carte from our Store page or the iTunes store. Read for more information.

OK, I’m intrigued, how do I get and listen to this digital stream of wisdom?

You can click on the “play” button underneath each episode on the main page, download the mp3 files directly to your computer and play them on your PC/Mac (you have to right-click or shift-click on the “download” link and choose “save link as” or “save target as”). You can then transfer them to a portable music player, or if you have iTunes, click here and subscribe. You can also simply open our page on your mobile device and play them from there; we recommend an app like Downcast that lets you store files from a URL on your device and play them at variable speeds/remember your position/etc.

If you use an RSS reader, we have two feeds: one which contains all of our blog material including podcast episode announcements and postings, and one which has only the podcast episodes.

How do you choose topics?
There’s no simple answer to this, but in general we’re trying to cover the full range of material that folks tend to cover in philosophy classes. If there’s enough buzz about a non-academic topic, we may look into it, but that’s the exception. Really, anything one of us is interested in is fair game. By all means, if you have any (specific) suggestions, leave a comment at the bottom of our Podcast Episodes page. Chances are, anything that gets requested enough will eventually be covered, but it could take a while.

Why don’t you cover more philosophers who aren’t dead white males?
See above. We specialize in the Western canon, and only spend a fraction of this covering the last 50 years, which is where most of the female philosophers and philosophers of color (within the Western tradition) congregate. We’ll get to more of them, for sure, but it’ll always be a small portion of what we do. Blame history!

Um, I notice that on iTunes the podcast is labelled “Explicit”. I thought this was about Philosophy and great ideas…?

The podcast covers great ideas, thinkers and texts and while the subject matter is for mature and rational minds, it is not “adult.” It’s just difficult to talk passionately about philosophy (and for at least one of us, drink beer) and not drop an f-bomb once in a while. Hence the label: you are now officially warned.

How am I meant to listen to this podcast?

What? What kind of question is that? Oh, OK… as you may have noticed, the episodes are long… not long compared to a real-life late-night gab session among actual philosophers, and not long compared to the extended cut of The Lord of the Rings, but maybe longer than you may be used to in a podcast.

Well, first off, don’t just sit there at your computer listening to the whole thing, unless you’re at work and want to burn time, in which case, we’re your men. Go get an mp3 player of some sort, load the episodes on to it, and listen while driving cross country, while exercising or while on a stake-out. I personally like to listen while lying in bed, so that I then fall asleep somewhere in the middle and it gives me awfully strange dreams (like maybe dreaming that I’m in fact dreaming and not really perceiving this keyboard!). Better yet, listen to this instead of your loved ones.

What’s with this blog?

The blog is intended to provide supplemental information to the podcast and provide a forum for us podcasters (and guests) to share interesting philosophy resources and things we’re thinking about that for whatever reason don’t make it on the show. On occasion, we also use it to show off our other projects (e.g. Mark’s music). It’s also a prime way for you to participate, by replying to these blog entries. You can initiate new discussions and share resources with our readers yourself through the Facebook group. If you’ve got some philosophy writing chops and want to contribute to the blog, contact us, particularly if you’d like to help present more information on our current episode topic or cover current events in philosophy, e.g. new books or philosophical movie reviews. Here are some blogging guidelines to read for more information.

What is a PEL Citizen?

This is anyone who sets up a recurring donation of $5 or more to us (or $50 for a year) here. Citizens get access to all the vintage, redacted episodes and a lot of other bonus audio. Sign up and use the “Members” menu at partiallyexaminedlife.com to log into the member portion of the site, and bonus audio is on the Free Stuff page. Signing up will also give you the ability to propose and participate in Not School groups, which you can read about here. We will soon be posting ad-free versions of all new episode for Citizens as well, if advertising bugs you.

Who does all the art on this site?

Ken Gerber drew our logo, the brain guy, along with the caricatures for Mark, Wes, and Seth. His other work can be found at http://cartoonstand.wordpress.com/.

All the rest of the art on the site, including most of the pictures of philosophers that go with our episodes, is by Genevieve Arnold. We have introduced more artists recently to cover more of these

And the music?

Mark says: Since I do the final editing and posting of these audio files, I get to shunt in things from my back catalog that seem possibly slightly thematically appropriate. The instrumental intro to the podcast was actually repurposed from a clip I created (very quickly) as part of my job, from a video about how great transportation libraries are. I do have a band right now with recent, very nice-sounding albums for sale: http://www.newpeopleband.com, and you can hear much more music at http://www.marklint.com/samples.htm.

How do you guys do this and make it sound like you are sitting together when you live all over the US?

We do a Skype conference call and each one of us records our audio on our local computer, using either Audacity (freeware), Sound Forge, or (when using macs) Garageband. After we are done, Wes and Seth send their files to Mark using dropbox and he combines them together (using Cubase), adds music, spends WAY too long removing some of the verbal ticks and pauses and particularly dumb comments (Seth and Wes have been helping more with the editing lately, but Mark almost always does a final listen and removes additional material), adds a bunch of metadata to make it look right in mp3 players and posts the finished file.

Is that expensive or something?

Sort of. Housing our files and maintaining this website isn’t free, for sure, and we also hire people to help with our editing and some other things. We’re trying to do more live shows as well. Mostly, this takes A LOT of time that we’re not giving to, e.g., doing our jobs, and so do accept donations, sign up Citizens, and use advertising to make this worth our while. There’s nothing we’d like more than to spend even more time on this, and your contributions help make that possible.

Can I hang out with you?

Uh, sure. Go join the Facebook group or post comments on these here blog posts (you can see which postings have the most recent active discussions on the “Forum” tab here), and we’ll likely respond. Respond to comments by your fellow listeners! Better yet, become a PEL Citizen to join us in Not School online discussion groups. Follow us on Twitter and retweet our blog posts! Have our blog e-mails sent to you on a near-daily basis and forward them around! Start a community! Have PEL listening parties! Oh, and go on the iTunes store and give us a nice review, OK? Thanks.

Wait… Can I be on the show itself?

Well, maybe. If you’re particularly knowledgeable in some area of philosophy that you think we could use help with (e.g. non-Western), or are an academic in some field related to philosophy (e.g. science, art) with some background in philosophy, and if you have experience with graduate-level education and/or public speaking (teaching, podcasting, philosophy meet-up groups, lawyering), then drop us a line and give us some detail re. what topics you’d be interested in talking with us about. Failing that, I advise you to participate in the discussions on this blog and demonstrate to us how clear and insightful you can be, and what resources you’d bring to the table in participating on an episode.

Note, though, that we schedule these things pretty far out, and perpetually have a long list of topics that we’d like to cover, so if we end up leaving you in limbo for months and months, or don’t get around to including you at all, please don’t feel bad.


  1. Dave Hamilton

    July 16, 2009

    I have subscribed and await with *bated* breath my first opportunity to listen.

    Speaking of which: Mark, does your family complain of the fishy smell that comes from your *baited* breath? Or are they used to it by now? :-)

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      July 16, 2009

      All typos on these pages are carefully placed to separate the wheat from the chaff among our readership. You, sir, are prime, Grade-A, triple-monkey WHEAT.

  2. Ryan

    September 7, 2009

    “What this dufus is trying to mutter his way through…” lol. Very much enjoying you guys, hope schopenhauer is on the ticket.

  3. Tom Corwin

    June 1, 2010

    I’ve been enjoying your podcasts for a few weeks now. I listen while jogging mostly. I am particularly interested in the mind-body problem, and I wonder if you plan to discuss David Chalmer’s rather weird take on that topic. He seems to be a dualist. Cheers.

    • Profile photo of Wes Alwan

      Wes Alwan

      June 2, 2010

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks very much — we will be recording a Philosophy of Mind episode soon (and posting sometime in July I think). I’m a big Chalmers fan and very much like his approach to the mind-body problem, so hopefully we can touch on that.


    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      June 2, 2010

      Thanks, Tom. Wes is a Chalmers fan, and I’m finding it intriguing, at least. The article we posted as a supplement was pretty difficult, so I don’t know that we’ll be getting much into it on this first mind podcast, though there will for sure be some general squabbling about dualism. Maybe Wes and I will follow up on the blog individually with some more detailed info re. what we’ve read from him, Nagel, Searle and Dennett.

  4. Ginger

    November 18, 2010

    I am so happy to have found you guys! Your podcasts have made my commute and lunch breaks super interesting! I love the style you guys have in discussing these matters. I am a subscriber! and look forward to the next ones!

  5. Austen

    March 4, 2011

    Awesome podcast!

  6. Kyle

    April 9, 2011

    Great content/podcast!! Spent many a hours listening while in the air, and on the AMTRAK lately.
    Particularly helpful listening to you guys whom are formally learned. Thus am able to get even more out of my good reading.
    For example–was surpised to discussion about epistemology with regards to Montaigne. I take away psychology and humanism from reading him mostly. Thus very interesting to hear what you guys take away from your readings.

  7. Amanda

    July 20, 2011

    I’m a philosophy double major and research assistant tasked with writing an article on Camus and you guys are amazing. The podcast on Camus is simply amazing. I might just listen to this for the next two semesters and assume brilliance.

  8. Dan

    July 27, 2011

    I just wanted to let you guys know how much your work is appreciated. For someone in grad school again now in philosophy (after a decade hiatus post M.A.), this podcast makes for great listening back and forth to campus and during otherwise mind-numbing work. It’s actually better that you three are not traditional, donnish academics – your perspective is fresh and honest rather than edited and revised and edited and revised and… anyway, makes for a great intro to some topics in philosophical history that I didn’t previously know much about.

    Especially since I am now preparing for a seminar on Wittgenstein, I especially enjoyed the TLP episodes. I have to say, after reading so much commentary (where the authors cannot afford to be so candid about how arrogant he was and how ridiculous some of the ideas are), it was refreshing to get a down to earth, but yet seasoned view on it. By my account, there is a selection process that goes into professional philosophy, ensuring the continuation of the same type of thinker (i.e., someone who can tolerate the currently accepted way in which academic writing is done)… the journal system discourages anything more than marginal originality. But that’s neither here nor there…

    Any chance you’ll get to the Neoplatonists, or maybe Vico, or perhaps some of the quirky moderns like Sartre?

    Anyway, great work – I look forward to hearing more!

    • Profile photo of Wes Alwan

      Wes Alwan

      August 21, 2011

      Thanks Dan — much appreciated. Sartre’s coming soon, and I think Plotinus and Vico are somewhere on the list.

  9. Steve DeCresie

    September 27, 2011

    I just found your site about a month ago … and I wanted to write a great review, but I am too busy listening to addictive philosophy podcasts to get anything else done.


  10. Jonnie

    August 7, 2012

    Big fan of the podcast guys! The pugilistic Australian art critic Robert Hughes once said in a particularly snarky review:

    “The unexamined life, said Socrates, is not worth living. The memoirs of Julian Schnabel, such as they are, remind one that the converse is also true. The unlived life is not worth examining.”

    This thought seems to capture the PEL raison d’etre. Thought I would share it here, since Hughes sadly passed today.

  11. T Reilly

    August 10, 2012

    Love, love, love the podcast. Found it while downloading things for a cross country drive. You saved, destroyed and reassembled my sanity several times and I didn’t even get a speeding ticket. You’ve also helped me sort out some methods for communicating a user experience project around next generation search and data visualization. I’ve found a common language between various disciplines is lacking. The first episode I listened to had a number of ah-ha moments in it that have given me tools to break the problem down into digestible bits for people with different backgrounds.

    Keep up the good work! It’s much appreciated. All in all entertaining, enlightening and delightful. Thank you!


    ps – And Mark – I love the podcasts where you are in a particularly snarky mood. You are hilariously funny while cutting down ideas you don’t agree with.

    • Sam

      September 30, 2014

      Hi, just want to say that I really wanted to listen to your podcast but the fact that none of the first 10 episodes will finish downloading after sitting at 2kb/s just makes it not worth it.. PLEASE upload them to a server that doesn’t suck shit, thanks.

      • Profile photo of Seth Paskin

        Seth Paskin

        October 1, 2014

        I just downloaded Episodes 1 pt 1, 3, 5 and 8 in less than two minutes collectively. It’s not the server.

  12. Tony Gilkerson

    December 18, 2012

    Here is a moral question for you. How many free podcast episodes can one listen to before they are obligated to donate? I have listened to a few so far and I am hooked. Rather than donate I like to feel like I am getting something for free so I will try the amazon click-through thing but I don’t shop much, I could try clicking on the Google ads link but that probably will not amount too much. Maybe I could buy a T-Shirt but I have too many already. Crap I am just going to have to donate, thanks a lot for the guilty feeling. In all seriousness, great job, I am going to listen to the backlog first and I am looking forward to

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      December 18, 2012

      Our recommendation some months was $1 if you like a given episode. That should assuage your guilt. Saving it up and making a larger donation is actually better for us, because PayPal takes less of a cut proportionally from a $10 donation than a $1 one.

      However, with the new Citizen option, you can just sidestep the whole guilt issue, because like Simon said, you’re actually getting something that’s worth $5 back for your monthly payment, even apart from the podcast itself.

      I appreciate your guilt! :)

  13. Simon Borrington

    December 18, 2012

    Don’t look on it so much as donating as buying a quality product at a very reasonable price!

  14. Maurice Pennance

    February 1, 2013

    Hi. I just started studying philosophy at 60. I think it might kill me. Good way to go though.

    • Profile photo of Seth Paskin

      Seth Paskin

      February 1, 2013

      Or maybe it will extend and enrich your life…:)

  15. Abbie H

    July 21, 2013

    Really enjoying your discussions! Currently a grad student taking up Philosophy and I find it really helpful listening to your podcasts in addition to our class discussions. Challenging views and opinions are always good in Philosophy. :)

  16. Rey

    October 30, 2013

    I am from Kazakhstan and did my BA in Politics and IR at London University. In my first year we had to do an Introduction to Philosophy course, which was boring, difficult to grasp and uninspiring. After 7 years, you awesome guys manage to inspire me to read and learn more of those crazy and fascinating philosophy texts. My girlfriend is very proud of me, as she is currently teaching philosophy at a local university.

    Thank you!

  17. Vilde

    July 19, 2014

    hi guys! i was recommended your podcast a few weeks ago and i absolutely love it! you’re so funny (i feel like i’m hanging out with you when i listen! — which might sound weird.. i dont know) and you make philosophy highly entertaining.
    to me philosophy is quite an unexplored science, since i’ve never really learnt anything about it in school (still in high school). but now i feel like i’m finally getting some understanding of the big ideas! i’m learning how interesting and intellectually stimulating i find philosophy.
    so yeah, thank you! hope you’re all well, and please keep up the awesome work!

    greetings from norway!

  18. Lynn Basa

    August 19, 2014

    This podcast is my life raft — or maybe a bit of flotsam — in the cold sea of critical theory that I’ve been thrown into having just started grad school for an MFA. I thought that in art history we’d be studying the “history of slides” (as Chuck Close calls it). But, no, it’s all philosophy all the time: William James, Bergson, Benjamin, Ranciere…. Listening to you guys is like being in a discussion group with people who actually understand the reading. I’ve share your link with my fellow students and plan on subscribing. I know that making your podcast is a lot of work but please keep doing it — at least until I graduate.

  19. aoka

    September 29, 2014

    i’m doing critical theory for an essay i don’t really understand and have to link it to sartre’s being and nothingness – i’m not good with learning from words, so listening to your discussion (87, particularly) is tremendously helpful. and i like your quips!
    thank you very much for your help and your time. also, when we click the amazon link, does 6% still go to PEL if i search for something else, or can it only be philosophy books? maybe that’s a bad question, but i’d like to support the podcast if i can :)

    thank you again

  20. Naois

    January 30, 2015

    Hello boys, just thought I’d drop you a line letting you know the various ways in which you are wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever heard discussions conducted the way yours are. You actually listen to each other, are respectful and uncompetitive yet passionate, rarely interrupt someone speaking, and work together intellectually in a quite unique way. Individually and together your style(s) are to be emulated, not least by professionals, and your sense(s) of humour are nothing less than ticklishly entertaining. Fawesome. I’ve listened to about 20 podcasts, jumping all over the place, and am trying to figure out why there is a dearth of shows on women philosophers and philosophers of colour – eg. Hypatia of Alexandria, Simone de Beauvoir, Elizabeth Anscombe, Judith Butler, Hannah Arendt, Mary Wollstonecraft, Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray, Wendy Brown, Linda Martin Alcoff, Iris Murdoch, Simone Weil, Enrique Dussel, Lewis Gordon, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Kwame Anthony Appiah etc. How come?

    But I’m still incredibly happy to have found The PEL.

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      January 30, 2015

      Hi, Naois, Thanks for listening! Some of those names are on our list (and we did Anscombe already), but most are 20th century, which is only one piece of what we try to cover, so it’ll take a while! Best, -Mark

  21. David Emerson

    January 30, 2015

    I just made a donation using your PayPal link. It was simple and easy. More importantly, I feel I have gotten a great deal. The donation is in no way commensurate with the pleasure I have derived from PEL — alas.

    The world is a better place with PEL in it. As Monsieur Gustave says in Grand Budapest Hotel, “You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it.” Which seems wholly appropriate praise for your modus operandi. I hope my modest donation helps PEL to continue it’s fabulous work.

    I encourage others, who enjoy PEL, to visit the “donate” link within the “store.”


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