Friday, 4 December 2020

Podcast review: The Philosopher’s Zone, Radio National, ABC (2020)

This is a fun but low-budget podcast that can honestly fill in dead time in the car. Should do the trick if you want to feel virtuous but also want entertainment. I find the host, David Rutledge, to be credible and conversant with basic principles (I learned about the difference between “epistemology” and “ontology”, which was nice). The dozen or so episodes I caught were all recorded this year and even this small sample – the program actually started airing at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2005 – convinced me ‘The Philosopher’s Zone’ is worth the time spent listening.

Saying that this show is low-budget shouldn’t discourage people looking for material that deals in ideas. It’s low-budget because the format of the show is the interview. Rutledge simply finds someone in a position of professional standing and calls them on the phone. The call is then recorded and edited for broadcasting, and also for inclusion online as a podcast. Easy.

The host seems adept at manipulating the referents and identities that are commonly found in the world of ideas; as such, he’s not a neophyte. But the show differs from other types of podcast journalism in that episodes don’t contain conflicting views beyond what you find within the minds of the interviewee and the interviewer (who can, of course, act as devil’s advocate).

Rutledge tries to make each episode topical – another touchstone of journalism – by turning the focus of the discussion onto contemporary politics, or onto such social issues as online bullying or the erosion of truth in political discourse. In this way, he brings the listener into the orbit of concerns which might otherwise seem remote and forbidding.

While this popularising tendency is welcome for people not used to philosophical discourse, on the other hand the ideas retailed in are not debased by oversimplification. In each ep Rutledge is adequately conversant with the relevant discourse and asks pertinent and probing questions. His subjects reply in kind, keeping in mind always that the person on the other end of the conversation – the listener – is possibly not conversant with all of the concepts being used, so while the pace is fast enough to be compelling the program doesn’t get lost in sophistry.

1 comment:

Gudrun said...

Rutledge is hardly "conversant with basic principles". He is a highly trained, articulate and incisive philosopher. He is well-versed in all the subjects on offer and able to home in on any blank spaces left by his interviewees.