“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

~ John Dewey

Dewey, one of the most famous and renowned philosophers of the 20th century, is undoubtedly someone to listen to! Education is important and one of the key features of life.

This blog post highlights some of my favourite philosophical podcast episodes that are perfect for intermediate and advanced English learners eager to explore famous thinkers and their thoughts.

From the wise words of Ancient Roman Stoics to intriguing thought-experiments and problems, these episodes are a fantastic resource!

Ready to think, talk, and excel in English?
Let’s get started!

Famous Philosopher Episodes

These episodes look at some of the greatest philosophers and thinkers (and schools of thought) and how we can apply their ideas to English and language learning!

Whether you are a fan of philosophy (like me) or want some amazing pieces of advice, these episodes are for you.

213. English Learning and Stoicism: A Stoic’s Guide to Learning English!

2000 years ago, one of the greatest and most powerful Roman Emperors spent his spare time writing thoughts and ideas in his private diary. Years before him, a former slave won his freedom, became an influential teacher, and his lectures became well-known in Ancient Rome. At a similar time, a Roman playwright exchanged letters with his acquaintances discussing issues of philosphy.

These three sources, an emperor’s diary, a former slave’ lectures, and a playwright’s letters, contain an immense amount of wisdom and knowledge. They form the basis of Stoicism, a philosphy that has informed the actions of great leaders and still today is popular and well-known.

I realised that a lot of the famous lessons and ideas in the philosphy of Stoicism, in particular, could be useful for language learners. Using a number of famous quotes from the great Stoic philosophers of ancient Rome, I hope I can give you all some interesting tips and advice to make the most of your learning.

And, at the same time, introduce you to some of the key ideas of Stoicism!

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216. English Learning and Socrates: What Can We Learn from the Father of Western Philosphy?

Socrates is a remarkable historical figure. He is considered to be the founding father of western philosophy, his Socratic method is still widely used, and he is known for being one of the first people in recorded history to use an inductive argument – an approach that was refined by Aristotle and later used by Francis Bacon at the beginning of western science.

The name Socrates is known around the world and he is often placed as one of the wisest people in all of history.

In this episode, I looked at his ideas and approach to asking questions, and then examined the lessons that language learners like us can learn from Socrates!

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223. English Learning and Confucius: What Can We Learn From the Great Teacher and Philosopher?

Confucius is one of the most influential philosophers and teachers of all time.

His teachings are centred on the idea of personal and societal improvement through the cultivation of virtuous behaviour and ethical conduct. Confucianism emphasizes the importance of education as a means of achieving personal and societal improvement, with an emphasis on the pursuit of knowledge and practical experience.

Despite being an ancient philosopher, many of Confucius’ teachings and ideas could be useful, maybe even motivational, for English learners! For Confucius, learning is a lifelong pursuit that requires dedication and persistence.

This episode examines his approach to education and learning, identifying any lessons we can all learn from him!

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Thought Experiments

These episodes are designed to encourage you all to really think in English!

From the ancient Greek Ship of Theseus problem to the ultra-relevant AI related questions posed by the Chinese Room, let’s consider, think and learn.

The Chinese Room: Thought Experiment (Bonus Episode)

Artificial intelligence is constantly in the news today. It is used in various industries, from healthcare to education. AI powers driverless cars, can write entire novels, create never before seen artwork, and is probably going to change the way we work, communicate, and study in the near future.

Popular media and science fiction is full of concerns that AI will take over. There are fears it will replace millions of jobs and, perhaps, eventually dominate our entire society.

It seems inevitable that one day AI will rival humans in intelligence and the ability to think. Or is it?

Philosopher John Searle doesn’t think so. He believes that computers will NEVER be able to think like we do – and he demonstrated his idea through the Chinese Room thought experiment.

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The Ship of Theseus: Thought Experiment (Bonus Episode)

I was watching a YouTube video about watch repairing early this week (I like watches and I’m fascinated by how they work). Some parts of the watch were beyond repair. He had to install a new glass crystal for the front of the watch, new watch hands, a new strap, and multiple new springs and screws for the movement inside. The end result was a perfect looking watch.

By the end of the repair, the watchmaker had probably replaced between 25 and 50% of the watch with new parts. And this triggered an interesting question in my mind – is this still the original watch?

Let’s image in the future the owner of the watch drops it and damages the case and the dial. Another watchmaker again repairs the watch, and replaces the damaged case and dial.

Compared to the original watch that came out of the factory, it has a different case, dial, crystal, strap, watch hands, and some new springs and screws. Is it still the same watch?

Or, if I collected all of those broken parts, repaired them, and then reassembled them, would that be the original watch?

This question is one of the most famous thought experiments in history – commonly known as the ship of Theseus. The core question, problem, or puzzle is this:

if an object has had all of its parts and components replaced over time, is it the same object?”

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The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Thought Experiment (Bonus Episode)

You may have heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma thought-experiment before. It is incredibly famous.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is one of the clearest examples of game theory and features in the Oscar winning movie A Beautiful Mind about the genius mathematician Nash.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a paradox. It shows that two people, both acting in their own self-interest, may not actually produce the best outcome for either individual. It is an example of how strategic thinking can produce sub-optimal outcomes.

Listen to this episode for a deeper look at the prisoner’s dilemma and a discussion on how it affects other parts of society!

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Final Thought

What do you think? Have you listened to all of these episodes already? Or will you listen now?

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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