Although philosophy is a notoriously confusing subject, Stephen West finds ways to explain these topics in an entertaining and mentally stimulating way in his podcast “Philosophize This.” The podcast released its first episode in 2013 and has been consistently uploading since. No matter the listener’s level of familiarity with philosophy, West does an incredible job explaining these academic topics and leaves the listener with new ideas to ponder.
Each episode either focuses on important philosophical figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, or general philosophical inquiries including topics like “Is Killing Animals for Food Morally Justifiable?” (Episode 71). West explains these topics in a way that can be applied to everyday life; not simply repeating what the philosopher might have said, but why they said it. He also examines the decision in the context of its time and why it might be important to contemporary listeners and other philosophers’ opinions. He gives a round view of each topic in a short amount of time, as each episode is typically 30 minutes long.
One of West’s more recent episodes, titled “Episode 171 – Guy Debord – The Society of the Spectacle,” is particularly interesting. During this episode, West discusses Debord’s theory around “The Society of the Spectacle” – an idea that those who engage in our culture’s consumerism—which has gone beyond being simply capitalistic—often do so to a degree that can only be described as religious.
He pointed out that this philosophy is so embedded within our society that we often don’t realize it is happening. As more become more aware of the consequences which accompany rampant consumerism and overconsumption, Episode 171 is likely popular amongst contemporary listeners.
Another of West’s episodes focuses on the Logical Positivists, those who believe that claims are only true and meaningful if they can be verified. They are inclined to agree with subjects like science and mathematics, eventually seeing philosophy only as a secondary tool to reach concrete truths. West explains these ideas by taking from definitions of important philosophers, creating more easily understood definitions himself and using examples. West includes hints of humor throughout his episodes, humorously adding that Carl Popper said that science itself was unverifiable, completely invalidating the ideas of the Logical Positivists.
“Philosophize This” is different from other podcasts in that it allows listeners to learn about the logistics of philosophy and its history while simultaneously being taught how to apply it to their own lives. The listener is not simply being fed facts or dates, but ideas which can be molded to fit different situations. It is also entertaining to see how West chooses to map out these ideas. He uses concise language that is not difficult to understand or obscure, which is a difficult task.
West’s podcast “Philosophize This” is free and available on all streaming services. More information is available at https://www.philosophizethis.org/.