O.P. Recommends: Hi-Phi Nation Podcast by Barry Lam

A few weeks ago, I discovered this oh-so-enjoyable philosophy podcast, one right up my alley and the alley of anyone who loves philosophy in the public square. It’s called Hi-Phi Nation, ‘a philosophy podcast that turns stories into ideas.’

Created by Barry Lam, its mission is to demonstrate the revelatory power of philosophical thinking through its application to real-life situations, from what soldier-turned-philosopher Mike Robillard calls ‘moral exploitation’ in the military to what constitutes valid scientific inquiry, from the morality of wills and trusts (why should the wishes of the dead ever have priority over the interests of the living?) to what a certain musical subgenre reveals about the nature of art. The latter, in fact, is one of my personal favorite episodes, as philosophy and art are both central in my life.

The style of the podcast is closely modeled on This American Life and other story-driven podcasts. As Lam points out, people love stories, so if one wants to convey philosophical ideas to the public at large, especially complex or subtle ones, there’s no better way to do it than in the context of a good tale. For example, take morality: from Plato and his Republic and Ring of Gyges, to Jesus Christ and his parables, to Louisa May Alcott’s tales of the tribulations and joys of a progressive-minded family living through the Civil War, the most influential moral thinkers and teachers bring their ideas to comprehensible, identifiable, sympathetic life for their audiences.

There are two excellent articles about Lam and the show by Larry Hertz for Vassar Stories (of Vassar College, where Lam is an associate professor), and by Brett Tomlinson for Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Enjoy! I know you will…

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