Bryan Magee's Interviews on Philosophy

Bryan Magee interviewed a number of highly influential philosophers on the BBC in 1978 and 1987. The interviews, which were each about 40 minutes long, remain relevant despite some important omissions, such as the sparsity of women philosophers.

The interviews have been criticized for being too heavy on the "canon," for not including enough non-Western or non-traditional philosophies, and for taking too high a view from an academic pedestal. However, these criticisms are largely outweighed by the interviews' strengths. Magee was a very good interviewer, and he moved things along at a brisk pace, asking precise questions and offering brief summaries to confirm his understanding. These interviews are a great way to get caught up on about 2500 years of thinking, and they are still worth watching today, even though they were conducted over 30 years ago.

All 30 interviews are available on youtube (as of April 2023), which are here converted to mp3 files for convenient listening

First Series of Interviews (1978)

  1. Isaiah Berlin on “Introduction to Philosophy”
  2. Charles Taylor on Marxism
  3. Herbert Marcuse on “Frankfurt School”
  4. William Barrett on “Martin Heidegger“
  5. Anthony Quinton on “Wittgenstein”
  6. A. J. Ayer on “Logical Positivism”
  7. Bernard Williams on “Linguistic Philosophy”
  8. R. M. Hare on "Moral Philosophy"
  9. Willard Van Orman Quine on “Quine”
  10. John Searle on “Philosophy of Language”
  11. Noam Chomsky on “Chomsky”
  12. Hilary Putnam on “Philosophy of Science”
  13. Ronald Dworkin on “Political Philosophy”
  14. Iris Murdoch on “Philosophy and Literature”
  15. Ernest Gellner on “Philosophy: The Social Context”

Transcripts of the first series can be found here

Second Series of Interviews (1987)

  1. Myles Burnyeat on Plato
  2. Martha Nussbaum on Aristotle
  3. Anthony Kenny on Medieval Philosophy
  4. Bernard Williams on Descartes
  5. Anthony Quinton on Spinoza and Leibniz
  6. Michael Ayres on Locke and Berkeley
  7. John Passmore on Hume
  8. Geoffrey Warnock on Kant
  9. Peter Singer on Hegel and Marx
  10. Frederick Copleston on Schopenhauer
  11. J. P. Stern on Nietzsche
  12. Hubert Dreyfus on Husserl, Heidegger and Modern Existentialism
  13. Sidney Morgenbesser on The American Pragmatists
  14. A. J. Ayer on Frege, Russell and Modern Logic
  15. John Searle on Wittgenstein

Transcripts of the second series can be found here

Supplementary MP3 file: When Magee published the book "Ultimate Questions" in 2016, on BBC3's "Arts and Ideas" Matthew Sweet and his guests (philosophers MM McCabe, Lucy O'Brien, Nigel Warburton and Constantine Sandis) discussed his legacy as a broadcaster who interpreted philosophy for a wide audience.

This sites contains MP3 versions of the interviews; video versions can be found on youtube.