Al-Ghazali was a leading intellectual in the Islamic world of the 11th Century AD, a philosopher, lawyer, teacher, thinker and mystic who made important contributions to Islamic philosophy and to sharia law. The experts on In Our Time who discussed his life and work were Peter Adamson (LMU in Munich), Carole Hillenbrand (Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities) and Robert Gleave (University of Exeter).
We finished three different series over the last week so I wasn't going to write about any of the one-off programmes as well, but Heart vs Mind: What Makes Us Human? irritated me sufficiently that I wanted to say why! The premise of this film was that the presenter, David Malone, had always thought of himself as a wholly rational person but then his life had become derailed - his wife had started to suffer from severe depression and it was as if the person she had been no longer existed.
The In Our Time episode that we listened to this Sunday was quite a chewy one for first thing in the morning! Its subject was Ordinary Language Philosophy which is a school of philosophical thought that dominated the subject during the first couple of decades after the Second World War. It then fell out of favour in the 1970s, but may be making something of a comeback now.
Claude Lévi-Strauss is a name I was vaguely aware of, but I couldn't bring to mind why. And as we listened to this In Our Time programme about him I realised I'd also heard of some of his ideas, at least in passing, but never attached them to the name. The three experts who were discussing him were Adam Kuper (Boston University), Christina Howells (Oxford University) and Vincent Debaene (Columbia University).
Blaise Pascal was a 17th Century Frenchman who was a scientist, mathematician & philosopher. Several of his ideas are still recognised today - either still in use (for instance some of his mathematical work) or recognised by the naming of modern things (like the programming language Pascal). Discussing him on In Our Time were David Wootton (University of York), Michael Moriarty (University of Cambridge) & Michela Massimi (University of Edinburgh).
Gnosticism was part of the growth of secret knowledge cults in the first few centuries AD, flourishing in the 2nd & 3rd Centuries. Although not necessarily associated with Christianity it is best known as a different interpretation of Christianity, and the mainstream Christian Church reacted against what they regarded as heresy in ways that are still part of Christianity today.
Epicureanism is another Greek philosophy I'd heard of but didn't really know more than the name. Even less than I knew about scepticism, where at least I was vaguely aware of the idea. The experts dicussing Epicureanism on In Our Time were Angie Hobbs (University of Sheffield), David Sedley (University of Cambridge) and James Warren (University of Cambridge).
The episode of In Our Time that we listened to this week was perhaps a little brain-twisting for first thing on Sunday morning, but also in some ways appropriate for a Sunday! In it Melvyn Bragg and his guests (John Haldane (University of St Andrews), Peter Millican (University of Oxford) and Clare Carlisle (Kings College London)) discussed the Ontological Argument. This was put forward by St Anselm (Archbishop of Canterbury) in the 11th Century to prove the existence of God by logic alone.
The lecture at this month's British Museum Friends Open Evening ("A Mind Which Could Think Otherwise: Understanding Shakespeare's Creative Intelligence") was tied in with their current major exhibition about Shakespeare (which we went to see a couple of months ago). The lecturer, Neema Parvini, is an academic at the University of Surrey & has written a couple of books about Shakespeare.
We've developed a tradition of listening to a podcast of a recent In Our Time episode while we eat our breakfast on Sundays. This week we moved it to Saturday morning as we were off to see the Tour of Britain start on Sunday (of which more another time), and the programme we listened to was about Scepticism.