Bryan Magee's Interviews on Philosophy

In 1978 and 1987, Bryan Magee interviewed a number of highly influential philosophers on the BBC, in two series of 15 interviews each. The sessions are each about 40 min in length, and remain relevant even with some important omissions (e.g. the sparsity of women philosophers).

Many criticisms can be made of the two series: too heavy on the 'canon', too little on non-western or non-traditional philosophies, taking too high a view from an academic pedestal etc. Yet, for what they were, these interviews succeeded to a large extent, in part because Magee was a very good interviewer; he moved things along a brisk pace, asking precise questions and offering brief summaries to confirm his understanding. These are not a bad way to get caught up to about 2500 years of thinking (although of course, given that they concluded about 30 years ago, there would be some more catching up to do, but that's ok).

28 out of 30 of the interviews are available on youtube, which are here converted to mp3 files for convenient listening at times when a screen is not available.


First Series of Interviews (1978)

  1. Isaiah Berlin on “Introduction to Philosophy”
  2. Charles Taylor (Magee interview not available; substituting recent lecture)
  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 (Magee interview not available; substituting only interview I found online)
  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.