A few days ago I discovered a new BBC podcast, The Philosopher’s Arms.

“Podcast” is, I should say, a misnomer. The Philosopher’s Arms is a BBC Radio 4 series, just finished with its third run of episodes, that the BBC has made available as a podcast download.

And just what is The Philosopher’s Arms? This is how producer Paul Murphy described it on a Radio 4 blog:

The Philosopher's ArmsThis is The Philosopher’s Arms – a place where philosophical ideas meet the real world in the company of beer. The evening’s subsequent conversation ranged over mental health drugs, government happiness policy and prozac in the water supply.

Each week in The Philosopher’s Arms Matthew Sweet takes a dilemma with real philosophical pedigree and sees how it matters in the everyday world. He’ll be joined by a cast of thinkers and experts to show how the dilemma’s we face in real life connect us to some of the trickiest philosophical problems ever thought up.

What you get, for about half an hour per episode, is Matthew Sweet (author of several Doctor Who audio plays for Big Finish, among many other things) talking with an audience in a pub about philosophical concepts ranging from game theory to free will. Sweet throws out a question to the audience, the audience taps on their pint glasses for attention, an expert or three is brought out to discuss the topic, and the listening audience is both entertained and educated. The episodes certainly have more direction than any drunken philosophical conversation I’ve ever had in a bar, but that doesn’t make them any less informative or enjoyable.

At this time of writing, eleven of the series’ twelve episodes are available on the podcast feed. If you’re looking for a podcast that’s a little different, download an episode at random and give The Philosopher’s Arms a try.

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