I don't like existentialism philosophy, but I liked this lecture series. It allowed me to understand other philosophers through the lens of Existenti..Show More »alism, and I got to understand Kant, Schopenhauer, and learn learn more about Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. I liked the hour and a half he devoted to Heidegger so much, I ended up buying "Being and Time" from Amazon.
I would strongly recommend watching the BBC production of the play "Huis Clos" ("In Camera", or also called "No Exit") freely available on YouTube before or after listening to this lecture. I did and am glad for the understanding it brought. The heart of this lecture series is really Jean-Paul Sartre and a lot of what he thinks is within this highly watchable and freely available play.
Even if you think Existentialism is passe (a word the lecturer uses), and you don't particularly like Existentialism this lecture has more than enough to keep you entertained. As with almost all of these Great Course series, I don't know of anything else where I get as much value for my one credit, and because of this series I'm violating one of my rules and plan on reading a difficult book because this series has piqued my interest that much in Heidegger.
This is by far one of the best lectures I've ever heard. I'm not a philosopher. I avoided thinking most of my life. I made a mistake about a year a..Show More »go and read Heidegger's "Being and Time". That completely hooked me. Now, I just have to understand our universe and our place in it.
What is the order within the universe, what is our purpose and why are we here ('the three big questions"). These (or some variation of these) are the three questions that drive me and makes me want to stay alive. As for my reason for being it is to learn as much about the world as I can and this lecture series does that for me better than almost any book or Great Course has.
The professor makes the point that he is only going to look at the Modern Philosophers who added to the field by adding on or subtracting from the other philosophers who came before them and thought differently from the others. This lecture series is a constant exchange of ideas from brilliant thinkers from across a 400 year dialog among respectful friends who all had a unique perspective of some kind to add to the discussion.
He covered Heidegger over two lectures. He gave the best graphic I've come across in order to explain him (it's available on the attached pdf and I would recommend grabbing it while you can). He makes the point that Heidegger starts with things (Being) but will ultimately end with time (past, present, and future) as if he really all along meant to start with time. Cool stuff.
He does start the lecture series with Aristotle and the scholastic school of thought. The great battle that constantly roams the hallways of the world is the conflict between the sophisticated sophists and their putting humans as the "measure of all things" and the absolutist who have their universal, necessary and certain view point of the world. There is no right answer. The world is underdetermined. The facts we have are always adequately explainable by multiple theories. See his lecture on William Van Orman Quine for further explication.
The world is determined by our biological, historical and current context. The weight we impute to those three determine how we see the world. The focus of the lecture series is not the "philosophy of science", but those concepts lurk with in this lecture series.
I really loved this lecture series and would strongly recommend it to anyone, but be prepared to be overwhelmed by all the great thinkers covered and to be inspired to read some of the primary sources cited in this series. One needs to start some where with learning critical thinking and understanding why we are here, what our purpose is and what is the order (ontology, foundation, archetypes, forms, ideals, pick your favorite substitute for 'order') of the universe.
I'd even say that if one can master the ideas presented with in this lecture series (which I have not and know I'll have to listen to it multiple times before I even start to understand) one will be able to understand the "three big questions" and realize how most of what surrounds us is crap and only acts as a distraction against what our authentic selves should be learning and understanding. Our greatest virtue is our higher thought. Our distractions are necessary because we must survive, get along with others and enjoy life, but we should only use those distractions in order to re energize ourselves and learn to enjoy life more fully.
This professor is very good at explaining complicated ideas. Yes, complicated ideas are still complicated when they are explained as best as they can be and I won't lie sometimes I would get lost. Though, don't let that stand in the way of trying this lecture series.
(I had bought the audible before I had signed up for the reasonably priced Great Course Plus on line with video. I watched this course instead of listened to it. So technically this review is for the video version not the audio version. I'm glad I watched it instead of just listen to it. There were many visuals and the Professor did an incredibly good job with hand motions, facial expressions and the like. This is one of the few audible courses or book where I got a lot more out of it by watching instead of just listening. Let that be a warning and a recommendation to sign up to The Great Courses).
Thoughtful, but with much more of a focus on defending Nietszche from attacks than actually exploring his thought. We learn speculative theories, but ..Show More »relatively little about specific works.
Professor Kors has an uncanny ability to enter into the spirit and motivations of the creative minds of this period, and to convey the drama and impli..Show More »cations of their discoveries and creations. I am a voracious reader of history, philosophy, and intellectual history, and I have learned so much, and now have so many tempting side trails to explore. This man loves his subject, and would be just my kind of conversation partner: a delight.
This was one of my favorite Great Courses. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. My only real exposure to Voltaire before this was reading C..Show More »andide in high school. The professor has such passion for the topic, and manages to pass it on to the listener. I felt I learned so much about not just Voltaire but the times he lived in, especially about the forces in French society that led to the revolution, and the figures of the Enlightenment that continue to impact us today.
I thought Prof. Kors was one of the best professors in the Great Courses series -- I always looked forward to listening to him.
I also thought this one was perfect on audio. I never had any confusion because this wasn’t in video form. And I find I make much more progress on Great Courses that are in audio since I’m not tethered to the TV. That said, anyone new to the Great Courses should realize that they sound like a professor lecturing (which is what it is) and not like a narrator reading an audiobook. I actually find that more engaging, but I realize some listeners prefer a smooth narration, rather than someone lecturing from a podium.
The title of this course could have been "The Quest for Objective Values". The professor does an excellent job in the first part of the course of surv..Show More »eying the great philosophers and their positions on relative vs objective values and morals. To each great thinker's position, he offers the opposing view of another great thinker, effectively presenting relativism vs objectivism as an engaging debate that spans all of history.
He then spends the rest of the course defining his own position, which is that yes, there is an objective truth, and that humanity is on the cusp of discovering it. Or at least of discovering how to perceive it, which, in his view, seems to have something to do with recognizing that "aspirational" goals are just as real as achievable goals.
This latter part of the course seems outdated; it is set in a time when we (Americans) had more faith in government, less faith in torture, and more openness to working across party lines and religious divides than we do now. Some of the examples and thought experiments fall flat, given the changes in our culture that have come about since then. I would love to hear an updated version of the same material from the same professor. (His lecturing style, by the way, was excellent.)
The most memorable topic in the lectures, to me, was Plato's view of democracy. If Plato could see us now he would be entirely vindicated.
As I was listening to this lecture series I was telling my wife why I thought it was so important for us to understand the nature of our self. She re..Show More »sponded "the Greeks gave us the concept of the self". This lecture starts off with the fact that when the Oracle at Delphi says "know thy self" what they really meant to ancient listeners would have been entirely different from our modern interpretation and would have meant something more like know your proper place in society and don't rise above your station and most of all play your role that society expects of you. Yes, a concept of the self but not necessarily how we see our self today.
The lecturer likes to put everything in its proper historical context before delving into a thinker or work of literature in detail. He starts with what I would call two anti-self thinkers, Pascal and John Bunyan (author of "Pilgrims Progress"). What do I mean by anti-self? Pascal with his Jansenism ultimately will conclude that one must hate oneself before one can love God, Bunyan will similarly conclude that wisdom starts with the fear of God. At this point in the lecture I ended up listening to "Pilgrims Progress' to see for myself the points he was making in the lecture. Pascal and Bunyan think in terms of a soul being attached to the body but not quite part of the body and thus something different from us. Psychology in its original meaning is "the study of the soul", more of a branch of theology than of science. It's going to take an Enlightenment to change that viewpoint.
The world dodged a bullet because the Enlightenment took us away from that brand of self to realizing that Philosophy (and natural philosophy, science) is not complete when it thought of itself as the search for wisdom instead of the search for knowledge and the understanding of the self beyond the soul.
The philosophers of the time period are covered in detail and some books considered as literature which I had never heard of are covered in detail by way of explaining how we are learning to see ourselves differently. Hume would say we should never look introspectively, but, rather we should let our social milieu be our guide. The Enlightenment is guided by logical positivist thought (the world is made up of things which the senses experience and they are the ontological foundation for the world and are the absolute ground for our being thus leading to universal, necessary and certain knowledge) and they want to try to apply the same kind of thinking to the psychology of individuals and of course that doesn't quite work. Diderot (and others) think we are always actors and are just playing a role as if we are in a play. (That statement finally lets me know what Sartre was getting at in "Being and Nothingness" when he said "Pierre is not a waiter he is only playing at being a waiter" or when Gore Vidal said "there is no such thing as homosexuals only homosexual acts". See even that kind of neanderthal thought stuck around way past the Enlightenment and still lingers around today). The reality of our unconscious mind only gets developed slowly over time.
To me, the lecture started getting exciting at Boswell and that leads to the real focal point of the whole lecture series, Rousseau. There's a line of demarcation between those two thinkers (Boswell mostly with his diaries only discovered and published in 1960, and Rousseau with his many published books) which lead to how we think about our modern self differently from previous thinkers. Before them, we would think in terms of 'character' and 'sincerity'. Character is what others give to us. In Aristotle's Ethics he'll define our values we have coming about through the right action of our habits and the emulation of experts and that's how we build 'character'. As for 'sincerity' one can always say that 'sincerity is the easiest thing in the world to fake'.
The turning point in going from 'character' to 'personality' and from 'sincerity' to 'authenticity'. There is a realization that sometimes our desires aren't really our own. That we might know what we want but we don't always control wanting what we want (there's an unconscious mind in play, the id in Freudian speak). Our true selves are often in conflict due to external and internal demands put upon us. (It was near this point, I ended up listening to Hume's "Dialogues on Natural Religion" because the lecture had been previously discussing it in great detail and was starting to make sense to me).
Rousseau understands (and without the sexual baggage and denial of repression nonsense that Freud brings to the table) and starts the formulation of the modern self, with its focus on the modern personality and the authenticity of the self. There is a direct line from Rousseau to Nietzsche and then Freud. (At this point, I ended up listening to Freud's "Civilizations and Its Discontents"). I don't think the lecturer mentioned Heidegger or Kierkegaard, but their focus on our authentic self obviously partly comes from some of Rousseau's thoughts too. The lecturer also devoted a lecture or two on the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and he mentions that Franklin saw "Plutarch's Lives" as a model in order to shape his own life thru his behavior, but Rousseau saw it has a noble period of a bygone era that had no relation to his time period and we must not shape our self but shape the world instead. Both ways of looking at the self and its formation are valid.
He ends the lecture with William Blake. A romantic who is not within the Enlightenment period as such, but is interesting in his own right and acts as a summary character for what was learned within the lecture. I'm not a poet but I did love hearing the lecturer explain Blake's works of art and poems, and loved the lines "prisons are built with stones of law, bordellos with bricks of religion" and how he related that to the whole lecture series. Wonderful stuff.
Most of this lecture series is talking about works of fictional literature. I seldom read fiction, because I have such a hard time understanding it, but this lecture told me why it was important and I could understand while he was explaining their relevance. This lecture flows like a book since it has not only a consistency within each lecture but a coherence of a narrative to tie them all together. That doesn't always happen with a Great Course Lecture, but when it does it makes for one of the best listens available.
Are you reading this review because of free will or have all the variables that comprise "you" lead you to read this review? Typical scientif..Show More »ic reasoning suggests that if you knew all of the variables contributing to an outcome, then the laws of nature could predict the outcome. Why then do we think that we are the exception to this logic? These lectures tackle these types of questions.
The scope of these lectures is too vast to summarize easily. Indeed, sometimes I felt lost amongst all of the different schools of thought. The content of these lectures is approachable but advanced. It brings together many different philosophical ideas. The later lectures were more accessible as they touched on the application of these philosophical ideas to concepts such as crime and punishment, brain function, and quantum mechanics.
This is not a lecture series I would recommend to someone new to philosophy or to someone that has only a passing interest in philosophy. These lectures require careful listening and some thought. I would, however, recommend them to someone that is very interested in philosophy. I enjoyed them.
I love the Great Courses. This is only the second Professor I haven't been able to stomach. He obviously knows his material, but his delivery is so ..Show More »dry that I can't stay focused. I'm bummed I wasted a credit.
Stunned by the negative review of this wonderful lecture series. I can't imagine anyone halfway versed in metacognition having any problems following ..Show More »this material, supplements or no. Granted, I have done a lot of study in this area and from much more in-depth books than this, but anyone should find this a greatly enlightening book on the process of human thought and logic. I recommend it be read with Novallis' The Deceptive Mind and perhaps Ridgley's Strategic Thinking. Unlike the other reviewer, I have yet to come across a lecture series in The Great Courses that I didn't absolutely love and devour. I wish I could somehow work them into my own classrooms.
Excellent speaker, really interesting material. Addresses various means of attempting to determine what is right and good that have emerged throughou..Show More »t the centuries and their implications with regard to the pursuit of meaning, justice and happiness. Worth listening to more than once!
The course attempts to define conservatism and then track its evolution through the ages in both the U.K. and the U.S.. One learns how the philosophie..Show More »s have evolved and in some cases taken divergent paths based on the impact of the U.S. civil war, the world wars, industrialization, the rise and fall of communism, etc. It's a fascinating journey that attempts to explain why, for example, "conservatives" in the U.S. would be anti-gun control and anti-socialized medicine, while "conservatives" in the U.K. would be supportive of such measures.
This is an excellent survey of the philosophical foundations of Western political thought. It covers not only the foundations of Western political t..Show More »hought (Plato and Aristotle) but also recent developments in western political thought (the animal rights movement and feminism). The explanations are clear, objective, and without a lot of philosophical jargon. At a certain point the standard becomes Liberal Republicanism and it is against this standard that other alternate theories are measured. That privileging of Liberal Republicanism seemed unnecessary to me. Yet when alternate theories are presented their critiques of Liberal Republicanism are presented as well. I will most certainly be listening to this book again. It's worth it.
This was an extraordinarily good lecture series. The science that explains the best way of thinking about the problem was always at the center of the..Show More » lecture. I had not realize that most of my readings about science and philosophy had met at the intersection of metaphysics so nicely until I listened to this series. I will end up getting a book on metaphysics because I can't find any more on this topic at audible. For me, I hate reading and it's a real compliment to this lecturer because I'm even willing to read a book on the topic because of this lecture. I wish the author had more lectures or even a book out there but I can't seem to find any at Amazon.
There wasn't a single topic that he talked about that I didn't find exciting. He starts off by talking about the mind body dichotomy and what this means for the soul. He doesn't mince words. The soul comes about mostly from just silly propositions (and is not fundamental to Christianity until after 300 A.D.), but he says repeatedly in the series just because it is a silly argument doesn't necessarily mean the proposition is faulty. He doesn't miss a single argument on what consciousness is and gives all reasonable hypotheses their due.
He looks at all the classic proofs for the existence of God (ontological, design, morality, first cause) and pretty much shows why they are silly. Now days, instead of 'by design', because Darwin has completely eviscerated those arguments, they talk about 'fine tuning' instead. The fine tuning arguments are the hardest to refute because they are the hardest to explain without understanding a bunch of physics. He does a fairly nice job.
After looking at the mind he delves into the nature of the physical reality. Why Einstein is so important for our understanding about space and time and what does free will really mean and is time fundamental or an emergent property? Einstein takes time out of the universe (with his block universe) and space has no substance (unlike Newton and his bucket of water) and all is relational.
The best way to look at this lecture series is not as a pointless set of discussions about esoteric matters on reality, but as a summary of the best thoughts on how multiple experts understand the world. He really got into quantum physics and discusses why it is so weird (measurement problem, entanglement, double split experiment, ...), and he gives the best summary on Bell's experiment I've heard and tells why there are no hidden variables explaining 'spooky action as a distance' and what entanglement is.
Make no mistake about it. There is some references to long ago dead philosopher's, but this lecture is at the cutting edge of science and it would be a rare listener who would not learn some science that they did not already know from this lecture.
I liked Professor Gimbel's explanations of the different areas of science. He did a good job explaining how the science came into being. What questi..Show More »ons the science is trying to solve. I found his explanations of relativity and quantum mechanics very good. It helped me understand these areas that fascinate me from a outsiders view a little better.
These lectures start at the lowest quantum levels and go all the way up to cosmic levels. Then the lectures follow the same kind of path of understanding humans going from psychology to sociology. The last lecture talks about big data analytics and how amazingly predictable humans surprisingly are. Interesting stuff. It's long but I am glad I listened.
I get irritated by people who think philosophy is a waste of time. A course like this one shows how profitable it is to learn critical reasoning and ..Show More »why it is so important for understanding our place in the universe. Most of the tough questions asked in the series don't have a cookie cutter answer, but all of them provided a method for approaching the question more profitably.
For example, on the nature of identity, what does it mean to be the same person over time ("ship of Theseus" question), he will show that it's probably more profitable to realize that the categories and labels that we put on the concepts about self identity are convenient fictions, and there just might not be a way to answer the question properly. He'll say perhaps as in the Dr. Who TV show that an episode from season one is different from an episode from last season, but they are connected because they are part of the same series. We aren't episodes, but are the series of events that make us up.
I loved the beginning lectures on the nature of knowledge and how absolute knowledge is best thought of as justified true believe. That series of lectures on knowledge and science (and there were several) helps put "philosophy of science" in perspective for me.
One note, I had listened to his course on Metaphysics. Get this one instead, because most of the lectures from that course seemed to also be on this one, and you get a lot more lectures in this course including most of the ones on the other one thus giving you better value for your money.
[I'll give a warning, if you're certain in your belief systems and have no doubt in your faith based things, this lecture might be a disconnect for you because he'll pretty much state that the soul makes no sense, God might not exist, free will is not what you think it is, and so on. As for me, I love learning things that challenge my world view and can recommend this lecture series for anyone who feels the same].