Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle

Narrated by: Robert C. Bartlett
Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (725 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For more than two millennia, philosophers have grappled with life's most profound and "eternal" questions. It is easy to forget, however, that these questions about fundamental issues like justice, injustice, virtue, vice, or happiness were not always eternal. They once had to be asked for the first time.

This was a step that could place the inquirer beyond the boundaries of the law. And the Athenian citizen and philosopher who took that courageous step in the 5th century B.C. was Socrates.

In this intellectually vibrant - yet crystal-clear and accessible - series of 36 lectures, an award-winning teacher provides you with a detailed analysis of the golden age of Athenian philosophy and the philosophical consequences of the philosopher's famed "Socratic Turn": his veering away from philosophy's previous concerns with the scientific study of nature and the physical world and toward the scrutiny of moral opinion. After Socrates, philosophy would never be the same. You learn that much of Socrates's philosophy is captured in the writings of his contemporaries and followers, including not just Plato and Aristotle, but also figures like Xenophon, a great thinker and military commander, and the comic playwright Aristophanes. Professor Bartlett takes you through Plato's most important dialogues - where Socrates is the protagonist - and shows how they convey the core of Socrates's philosophy. He then moves on to Aristotle, who did more than anyone to establish a comprehensive system of philosophy in the West, producing work encompassing morality, politics, aesthetics, logic, science, rhetoric, theology, metaphysics, and more.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle

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Worthwhile

I bought this course to freshen up my knowledge, having spent a while away from the works of Plato (and never having spent much time reading Aristotle, and hoping to use this course to inspire me so to do).

Professor Bartlett lays out a very clear outline of each lecture, and has a definite architecture that he lays out in the first lectures and sums up with in the last. This organization is particularly useful in the latter part of the course, where he presents some very complex, nuanced and occasionally even contradictory arguments from Aristotle's Ethics and Politics (these works are the meat and potatoes of the entire section on Aristotle).

I particularly enjoyed the professor's ability to keep the various characters and frames of reference (vital to understanding what Plato is doing in the dialogues, as Prof. Bartlett makes clear) in the picture. I feel that my understanding of the Apology, Euthyphro, Republic and particularly (if surprisingly) Aristophanes' The Clouds has been deepened considerably.

Note that Aristotle's natural philosophy works and metaphysics are mentioned but not discussed here, the focus being Aristotle's takes on morality, virtue and the good life, which dovetails nicely with the earlier part of the course.

The time spent with Xenophon's Socratic dialogues was a nice surprise, as I hadn't encountered them before and they form a refreshing counterpoint to Plato's far more ironic and subtext-laden dialogues.

Overall, recommended.

28 people found this helpful

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The Life Socrates, NOT The Philosophy of Socrates

What disappointed you about Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle?

This course focuses on the life of Socrates and the lives of his students and contemporaries. The story here provides a cultural and contextual background for these major Greek thinkers, but unfortunately gets caught up in the details of ancient Greek social history without giving much attention to the tenets of the philosophy. Of course, some points of Socrates' teachings are necessarily described, but I found this course wasn't at all what I was looking for, and I found it rather boring.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Probably not, unless I got a very good recommendation for a course that fulfills my desire to have someone deeply explain the ideas (as opposed to the history).

Did Professor Robert C. Bartlett do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

Yes, he is an excellent orator and very skilled at weaving information into a followable storyline.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

This course would be better categorized and described as "History of Philosophy." It's great if you want to understand the history of philosophy and the relationships between some of the major Greek philosophers. It's not the best if you want to learn about the intricacies of their ideas.

49 people found this helpful

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Wake-up! and listen to lectures like this one

The professor is very good at making these philosophers relevant to today and explaining what their dialogs (in Socrates' case) or books (in Aristotle's case) mean. He did such a good job it took me a month to finish this course because I would often end up listening to the play, dialog or book he was talking about for free through LibriVox (why does Audible overcharge for those things?).

Here's a mnemonic I use: think of three Greeks in their togas in a SPA, therefore you'll know the order that they come in (S)corates, (P)lato, and (A)ristotle.

The professor really seemed to focus on Plato's dialogs that involved Socrates and therefore I would say the Plato part of the lecture was really about Socrates.

The professor does something I really liked. He demystifies Socrates and puts him back down to earth. He'll say, for example, that the Republic is not really about a utopian state but is about how to understand what justice is within an individual and even as Socrates clearly states it's just a way to magnify the pieces that make up the whole within the individual the same way a sign written in bigger letters allows one to see better. Even the allegory of the cave is not strictly speaking about philosophy, but is more about our political understanding of the world (I think the professor says it that way, but he is a Political Scientist and sees the world that way).

The professor gives a very good contrast between Socrates and Aristotle. Socrates would say that The Good (Virtue) is depended on our Knowledge and The Bad (Vice) is done because of the ignorance we have. Incontinence (the lack of control we have over ourselves or thoughts) is due only because of our ignorance, and therefore we never can knowingly do bad. Aristotle would say that we can knowingly do bad things to ourselves and we do that in spite of our knowledge.

I really loved what the professor had to say on Aristotle's ethics, and I ended up listening to that with LibriVox. I never would have been able to follow that book without this lecture telling me what he was really saying (Aristotle is a miserably poor writer, but is always worth while wading through because he sees the world unlike anybody else). In brief, don't let the world distract you from what is unimportant and focus on the contemplative instead and wake-up!

13 people found this helpful

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Hard to follow

The halting speaking style and bad audio recording, which made the ends of sentences and the ends of many words taper off into inaudible mumbles, combined with a lack of structural flow and arc, made for a difficult lecture series to follow. Having said that, Professor Bartlett has some outstanding and clear-minded insights into his subjects, that I was very impressed by. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I were actually in a classroom and could hear him better.

5 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

An excellent introduction to these great men and philosophy in general. Worth a listen even if you have studied philosophy for a while.

8 people found this helpful

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EVERYONE should listen to this

This is great coupled with Plato's readings. I have ONLY read Plato's Republic (and it was years ago) but this audiobook reminded me of how Socrates has so thoroughly shaped the philosophy I follow. I have a great loyalty to 'justice'. It has also motivated me to look at Plato's other works and revealed to me so much more about Socrates than I expected.

I listen while I go about chores or other jobs that don't require my 100% attention (like at work while making gels, making solutions, purifying proteins, etc [I work in a lab]). I've found that it GREATLY settles my mind. After listening, I feel enthralled but so much more stable and satisfied. If you care about Justice, this is an informative and fulfilling listen.

8 people found this helpful

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good lectures, bad intermissions

if the post-production had removed those annoying horns after each lecture then the world would be a better place.

2 people found this helpful

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  • JD
  • 09-05-16

Restricted by a formula

This is the second Great Courses I've listened to and the speakers seem to be bound by a formula that slows the momentum of the content. "This is what I'm about to tell you; this is what I'm telling you; this is what I told you." The speakers have no personal opinions or personalities and seem to be reading a manuscript that ends in the sound effect of canned clapping. These speakers have won awards for teaching but none of their talent shows through. The content could be exciting shared by a passionate individual but just feels like a list read by a guy with a doctorate in reading.

8 people found this helpful

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Don't be fooled by other reviews

Don't be fooled by reviewers who falsely claim that this book is off-topic, for it is their own ignorance of the topic that leads them to make these assertions. This wonderfully-narrated book guides you through works by Plato-Socrates and Aristotle, simply by following their texts.

1 person found this helpful

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plenty of fluff

The speaker clearly has a mastery of philosophy, though he spends about half the time speaking with extra fluff. like, "in so far as" or "in as much as" or "i should preface what im about to say with these seven predecates so that i surely imply the exact derived meaning from the text written in a different language 2000 years ago". the last one was a bit sacastic... but i think you get it. i had myself translating nearly everythung he said in to a much more consise manner due to all the extra mostly useless words he adds. i think if he just said what he needs to say instead of adding all the extra language he would better communicate, instead he leaves me wondering if he thinks its expected of a speaker to speak this way when talking about such lofty subjects.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Steve
  • 09-22-16

I wanted to hear their philosophy

Would you try another book written by The Great Courses or narrated by Professor Robert C. Bartlett?

I wanted to hear their philosophy, but this lecture as far as I could stand it was about how brilliant they were without showing any of the brilliance.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Robert C. Bartlett?

I really don't like Prof Barlett's style. I prefer someone the talk to me without appearing to perform

Any additional comments?

It was my mistake for not researching it properly

5 people found this helpful

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  • Cap. TT
  • 02-09-15

Not engaging.

I may have bought this without much appreciating the fact that those are basically lectures, but even as such it is way too boring with no easy way to capture the core ideas. Too lengthy on superficial subjects and not enough base. I'm returning this one.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ed
  • 01-21-15

A dry and unsatisfying slice of a vast pie

Would you try another book written by The Great Courses or narrated by Professor Robert C. Bartlett?

Covering the three greatest philosophers of Ancient Greece in one lecture series is ambitious to say the least. It started off well with Socrates but then the lectures jumped straight to Aristotle and I got very little sense of Plato's own contribution. That is my first criticism. My second is that the coverage of Aristotle was almost exclusively confined to the Nicomachean Ethics which is fine and perhaps should have made up an entire lecture series in its own right but this emphasis left me no wiser about Aristotle's other works.

Professor Bartlett is not the most captivating speaker. He crams a lot into each sequence so that your head is quickly reeling as it tries to capture points and facts and keep pace at the same time. I shall buy another couple of books and then come back for another go at this rather dry lecture series. My aim was to be equipped to tackle Augustine and Aquinas and I don;t yet feel up to that monumental read so this book has taken me less far than I hoped for.

By no means a waste of time. Not for the faint hearted but it does add enough value to be worth a listen by dedicated students of the subject.

What was most disappointing about The Great Courses’s story?

See above

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Robert C. Bartlett?

This question is ridiculous. Get a grip Audible

Could you see Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

This question is ridiculous. Get a grip Audible

2 people found this helpful

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  • kristian
  • 06-13-20

A Monumental Waste of Time

The lectures are so mind numbing academically dry and boring. How can any academic professor take the wonderful works of these great philosophers and come up with something so devoid of any richness, joy or meaning to life. If philosophy is aimed at imparting wisdom to enrich our life’s then Robert C Bartlett has failed spectacularly.

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  • T
  • 02-13-20

The ugly philosopher who will never be a swan

"In this intellectually vibrant - yet crystal-clear and accessible - series of 36 lectures" - Description of Lectures Representing the colloquial interpretation of philosophy, the lecturer is verbose and provides little to no content. You are therefore liable to be bored with his poor presentation and lecturing. All it not lost though as you may derive some short lived pleasure from his combination of being very pleased with himself without knowing how useless he is at it. I recommend you skip this for these excellent courses, The Philosopher's Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room Patrick Grim, The Great Courses The Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition Daniel N. Robinson, The Great Courses

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  • adomas
  • 03-31-17

lengthy but enlightening

eventhough it was a little hard to finish, many of the chapters had very interesting content. The story was well structured and easy to follow.

I'd say a book wook be a lot more enjoyable, but this was really good for walks and sometimes I'd space out but it doesn't matter too much if you miss some of it.

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  • Tout en chantant
  • 12-31-16

Bland, boring, superficial, poorly presented

What would have made Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle better?

In a course entitled Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle the field to cover is of course bast and some judicious choices have to be made if you want to bring some depth to treatment and avoid bland superficality, this Professor C Bartlett unfortunately fails to do: his approach is anodyne, dull, repetitive and often very poorly reasoned. I got the impression that he did not spend much time preparing for this course.

What will your next listen be?

I am going straight to the source this time: Plato's Republic

What didn’t you like about Professor Robert C. Bartlett’s performance?

He lacked vigor and mental finesse. His sentences are boring and his treatment of the subject meandering and often inconsistent.

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  • J A Bennett
  • 07-21-15

Great book, shame about the lecturer

What did you like about this audiobook?

It is a fantastic introduction to the ancient philosophers but the lecturer often stumbles over his words and in some cases even says the wrong words which I think can be rather misguiding especially when discussing philosophy, sometimes one wrong word can change the meaning of the sentence and I feel that this particular speaker doesn't sound confident enough to convey the meanings of the texts well.

How has the book increased your interest in the subject matter?

as I say the subject matter is amazing, it certainly has increased my love of ancient philosophy and lead me to read further on the subject

Does the author present information in a way that is interesting and insightful, and if so, how does he achieve this?

The speaker is rather sub-par (see above)

What did you find wrong about the narrator's performance?

He seemed very nervous and stumbled over many sentences sometimes crossing the meanings of the sentences he said. Not helpful when trying to take in important philosophical points.

Do you have any additional comments?

The rest of this series has much better narrators and they are well worth a listen, this seems to be an unfortunate anomaly.

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  • Frederick Hickey
  • 07-31-16

A great intro to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

This is a wonderfully paced account of the Philosophy's of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The course is quite accessible for those with little to no experience of these philosophers teachings. This is a definite recommend.

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  • Omar
  • 09-12-17

Buy any other book

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have set the course of thinking in the west for thousands of years. They are instrumental in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In this course you learn about none of that.

I have no idea what the other reviews are talking about. Wikipedia is better than this book. The lecturer first ignores everything the philosophers talked about except virtue and justice, and then really just gives his own spin on it. Ignoring all the bits you really need to know.

He's very difficult to follow. He tends to use about 4 commas and 30 words to say what could be said in 5. His melodious voice easily puts you to sleep, and when you do manage to listen you realise he's just talking about his favourite bits in each book. He totally skips over all the science and mathematics, doesn't put anything into context, and at the end of the day you feel like the Caliph who asked Ibn Razi to explain what was going on.

All the other great courses I've bought have been great. This is terrible. I returned it.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-13-18

amazing

a great introduction to philosophy, letting the listener feel engaged to increase understanding of what is being taught.