Revolutions in thought (as opposed to those in politics or science) are in many ways the most far-reaching of all. They affect how we grant legitimacy to authority, define what is possible, create standards of right and wrong, and even view the potential of human life. Between 1600 and 1800, such a revolution of the intellect seized Europe, shaking the minds of the continent as few things before or since. What we now know as the Enlightenment challenged previously accepted ways of understanding reality, bringing about modern science, representative democracy, and a wave of wars, sparking what Professor Kors calls, "perhaps the most profound transformation of European, if not human, life."
In this series of 24 insightful lectures, you'll explore the astonishing conceptual and cultural revolution of the Enlightenment. You'll witness in its tumultuous history the birth of modern thought in the dilemmas, debates, and extraordinary works of the 17th and 18th-century mind, as wielded by the likes of thinkers like Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Pascal, Newton, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau.
And you'll understand why educated Europeans came to believe that they had a new understanding - of thought and the human mind, of method, of nature, and of the uses of knowledge - with which they could come to know the world correctly for the first time in human history, and with which they could rewrite the possibilities of human life.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©1998 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1998 The Great Courses
It's a clear, accessible and complete vision of the history of western thinking in the XVII and XVIII centuries. I found it very helpful.
A physics student would normally be enraptured to watch Einstein write out the equations of Relativity on a chalkboard, because it would be a display of genius and mastery. But, if Einstein put down the chalk, and instead proceeded to write out the equations with his fingernail on the chalkboard, the screeching sound would erase most of the pleasure from the experience.
I have mixed feeling in criticizing the speaker for his annoying voice, becuase this is not an audiobook with a professional reader....but rather a lecture given by a professor. At the same time, the "Great Courses" series is supposed to represent the best lecturers that our universities have to offer. In the same way that some people couldn't stand G.W. Bush pronouncing "nuclear" as "nucular"; I can't stand hearing "human" pronounced "yooomun".
If you want to learn about the topic, I would recommend the audiobook. If you want to enjoy the 12 hours, I would advise listening to the preview first.
P.S. Some of this same material was covered in "The Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition", and the speaker in that series was a delight to listen to.
In many ways, this was a good survey of the Enlightenment: provocative ideas, interesting narratives. I stuck it out till the last three hours, in fact.
There are two problems, from my point of view: first, Prof. Kors has the strongest Brooklyn accent I expect to hear in this lifetime, so stabilized has spoken language become through movies and television. The worst of it is that he inhales the word "human," breathing the "h" in, not out, and the word human shows up ALL the time in enlightenment studies.
The second problem is that he preaches. I don't mean he pushes an agenda: he doesn't. I mean he preaches like the Southern radio preachers of my childhood, getting more and more excited, falling into a rhythm. Since so much of the series is about religion, in one form or another, Prof. Kors has to periodically remind people that he is not advocating --- he says he is trying to communicate the excitement the ideas had at the time. Sounds like preaching to me, though, and I didn't like it.
Eventually I decided I couldn't enjoy this anymore, stopped the audiobook and ordered a book on the Enlightenment to read. One thing about reading, whatever the author's verbal peculiarities, they won't be a problem.
"Absorbing and enlightening"
The amount of information included in this course was excellent - even though I study all these things, I still found it fascinating and I came away thinking about the philosophical topics in a better way.
Some other reviewers have been overly harsh about Professor Kors’s delivery and pronunciation. It’s a lecture series and he has a regional accent. Get over it. Honestly, some of the negative reviews nearly made me refrain from purchasing the series altogether and I’m glad I didn’t do that. I would have missed out. I actually find the professor’s pronunciation quite endearing really. And anyway, it’s supposed to be about the content – and that is great. Professor Kors obviously has a lifelong passion for the intellectual history of the 17th and 18th centuries and his enthusiasm is wonderful to listen to.
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