Philosophy Talk

by Brian on January 12, 2004

Philosophy Talk, the philosophy radio program featuring Ken Taylor and John Perry, will be debuting its first regular season on KALW at 12 o’clock tomorrow San Francisco time (that’s 3pm in New York, 8pm in London and 7am Wednsday in Melbourne, if I’ve done the math correctly) and you can listen over the internet via the KALW link. The trial run program they did last year was very good I thought, so it should be worth a listen. Tomorrow’s show is on Bush’s doctrine of Preemptive Self-Defence.



Ophelia Benson 01.12.04 at 7:15 pm

I wanted to like it – I longed to like it. I wish US radio had more (any!) of that kind of thing – of things like Radio 4’s Start the Week or Thinking Allowed or In Our Time, for example. But alas, I was unable to like it. It’s too like ‘Car Talk’ – too full of pointless yuks, too broken up into bits, too interrupted. Probably not their fault; probably NPR doesn’t allow anything else; but it doesn’t make for sustained or interesting discussion…


tcb 01.12.04 at 8:31 pm

I agree with ophelia … plus, if they’re still listening to John Searle, I don’t know how current or interesting the topics will be.


Ken 01.12.04 at 8:34 pm

We can’t please everybody, I guess, Ophelia. It was a pilot though and you really shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

The pilot on lying was, in my opinion, too broken up. Even though the callers were intelligent for the most part, they did interrupt the flow of things. Plus, our two guests, though both intelligent and articulate, didn’t really have anything to say to each other. That gave that episode a more busy feel than we wanted. Most likely, we will mainly have a single guests (except for brief interviews here and there) and will go with two guests only when we think we need to have two opposing points of view or some such forcefully articulated by real live advocates thereof (rather than just having John and/or I playing the devils advocate or some such).

But you do have to understand that there are inherit limits of the medium that will always be with us. Radio (in America) is mostly not “destination” listening. People listen to radio for short bits, while driving from here to there, dip in and out. So partly it’s the fault of the medium You can’t have a discussion that last an hour, has a beginning, middle, and end such that only those who are with you from the beginning know what’s going on or where you’ve been.

That’s part of the reason it’s taken us TWO and HALF years to find airtime and why we’re operating on a mere shoestring of a budget — neither radio folks nor potential funders gives us much of a chance of succeeding in making philosophy radio-worthy even for Public Radio’s relatively high-brow listening audience.

But we’ll see. We continue to try to perfect our art. That’s our real goal for the first season, to give birth to a new form and to generate an audience for that form so that (a) potential funders will be more forthcoming with dollars and (b) potential outlets will be more willing to open up space on their airwaves. The two go together obviously.

But by the way, our show has nothing to do with NPR. It’s independently produced, owned, and distributed. NPR is much too conservative and risk averse in their programming to give this serious consideration.

Eventually, if we are successful in building a relatively large audience, NPR may take notice. But so far, mostly silence and disinterest from them, even though we’ve had some contact.

Anyway, do listen in. Send your comments. Help us perfect this emerging form.


Ophelia Benson 01.12.04 at 8:46 pm

Oh, er, hi, Ken. Sorry. I did say it probably wasn’t your fault – it is the medium. (Not NPR. Sorry again. I did wonder as I typed, but was lazy so didn’t look it up.) It is the medium and the US audience. It’s so sad – radio is such a brilliant, wonderful medium, one can do such amazing things with it, but the audience won’t allow it. And that’s an endless feedback loop – the more NPR cranks out silly mindless vacuous programming, the more the audience will think that’s all it can stand, thus constraining possibilities for better stuff.

Maybe the Internet will help (she said wanly). If people start listening to Radio 4, maybe they’ll want programs like those. Maybe.

Anyway, best of luck, I really hope you can make it work, despite the audience that only listens for five minutes.


Rv. Agnos 01.12.04 at 8:52 pm

My only problem with the show was that I tried to call in and the line was busy!

Also, for a show that will be webcast, instead of call-in, a good idea is write in e-mail questions, rather than having call-ins. (They do this on’s web-only baseball radio broadcasts to good effect.) Then, the host can read (and edit), getting in new and interesting points without

You can edit the questions and save 30 seconds of chit-chat. I tend to change stations when I hear “Let’s go to the phones . . .”


Ken 01.12.04 at 8:59 pm

At the moment, we don’t have enough banmdwidth to rely much on the internet. The KALW stream can only take 300 hits at once.

Stanford, which can take a lot more hits, charges an exhorbitant rate for streaming. We can’t afford it yet. So right now, although we will archive at a Stanford site, we won’t do a live stream over it.

As we grow the program, hopefully all manner of things will be possible.

Anyway, I gotta go to a pre-production meeting. The last one before tomorrow.

Listen in. Wish us luck. And send comments.


Ophelia Benson 01.12.04 at 9:07 pm

Luck! Really.


baa 01.12.04 at 9:50 pm

I liked the pilot, and am looking forward to the first show focused on some entirely unsexy, non-topical issue. If you promise to interview Tyler Burge on rationalism I will pledge $500 to Oregon public radio…


harry 01.12.04 at 9:58 pm

Ken (and Ophelia)

I don’t know how the BBC radio commissioning process works exactly, but I do know you can find it on their website. Try to get them to run it, or some appropriately Ophelia -influenced version thereof….


Ophelia Benson 01.13.04 at 12:15 am



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