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Publisher's Summary

We have all pondered seemingly unanswerably but significant questions about our existence - the biggest of all being, "Why are we here?" Philosophy has developed over millennia to help us grapple with these essential intangibles. There is no better way to study the big questions in philosophy than to compare how the world's greatest minds have analyzed these questions, defined the terms, and then reasoned out potential solutions. Once you've compared the arguments, the final step is always deciding for yourself whether you find an explanation convincing.

This course gives you the tools to follow and create logical arguments while exploring famous philosophers' viewpoints on these important questions. Although progress has been made toward answers, brilliant thinkers have continued to wrestle with many big questions that inspire thoughtful people everywhere. These questions include: What is knowledge? Does God exist? Do humans have free will? What is right and wrong? How should society be organized?

Given the complexity of these big questions, it should be no surprise that many controversies are far from settled. In fact, by the end of these 36 lectures, you may be even less sure of the right answers to some of the questions than you were at the beginning. But being a philosopher means constantly testing your views - giving a reasoned defense if you believe you are right and modifying your ideas when you realize you are wrong. You'll discover that great thinkers before you have offered convincing answers to hard questions, philosophers after them have made equally persuasive objections, and then still others have refined the debate even further - causing the issues to come into sharper and sharper focus.

Join Plato, St. Anselm, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Mill, Smith, Marx, Rawls, and many others in an exploration of fundamental questions. Get ready to think big!

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

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 03-17-16

No easy answers, just easy questions

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 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].

57 of 57 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Experience

What made the experience of listening to The Big Questions of Philosophy the most enjoyable?

This is a terrific audio book by a terrific author and lecturer. He really pulls you into philosophy rather than just talking about it. He also has a course on Metaphysics, which I'll take as soon as I get through with my current course.

What about Professor David K. Johnson’s performance did you like?

I love his enthusiasm for his topic.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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interesting and challenging

although i might not agree with all of the conclusions the course draws, i do feel i learned a lot, and that the course was worth the time and money

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Great lectures that will challenge your views!

I just can't say enough how great this whole series is. Professor David K Johnson is one of the better lecturers because of the way he is able to take complex ideas and break them down. While I don't pretend to understand everything in these lectures, I enjoy the challenge they present. Acknowledging that we can always allow for what we believe we know to change and grow is a central theme here. This particular lecture is supposed to pick apart certain beliefs and force us to honestly think about what they are and what they mean. Not to mention that Professor Johnson is absolutely hilarious. I highly recommend this lecture

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Bravo!

For anyone interested in philosophy, this is a must-have.
Prof. Johnson did an incredible job, far better than his previous lecture series (Exploring Metaphysics).
My only criticism is that towards the end, the lectures become less interesting, as they include more political and less philosophical issues.
Overall, very informative.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A very complete introduction.

Ready for more courses on the subject.
Very well divided and good takeaways at the end of each lesson

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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One of the most enjoyable books I've listened to.

Challenged many of my own personal beliefs and opened up new perspectives of how I view the world. Very thought provoking. I am definitely going to give this another listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Phenomenal listen

This was a very enjoyable book start to finish.
Professor is charming. Worth the credit.



3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Good but repetitive

I purchased this after I purchased the lecturer's series on metaphysics. They are essentially the same lessons. Same questions, Same examples same explanations. If I had known I would have only gotten one or the other.

Unless you really like hearing the same stuff over and over, just get one of these two lectures.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Best Philosophy course by far

As a lifelong learner with an interest in philosophy, I have taken many online philosophy courses. This is the best course I've taken so far in both the breadth of contentand the ability to make complex ideas accessible to the layperson. I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in philosophy.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • mr
  • 10-20-17

Worth staying with it til the end

Overall really thought provoking content as well as arming you with tools for day to day functioning. Are bits that get a bit mind twisting/heavy in early/middle parts but well worth sticking it out to the final few chapters which were some of the most interesting to me anyway. Thank you.

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  • fedgie
  • 10-12-16

Scotsmen don't lie!

because we believe everything thing we say to be the truth! great listen gets you thinking and asking yourself questions!

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  • N. M. Kosky
  • 07-21-16

Excellent

Briefly- lucid, reasonably comprehensive and up to date. Very much recommended. Suitable for the non- expert.

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  • Jayne Charlton
  • 06-10-16

Excellent

This is an excellent overview of the quest for understanding the basic principles of philosophy. Just makes me want to continue in my quest for the real question!

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  • shikha
  • 05-27-16

very good

enjoyed listening to it..made me think a lot and fascinated me at some point..love the narrator

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hermez Hwoma
  • 11-18-17

This is imo the best intro to philosophy a/book

I wasn't kidding when i said this book easily rates as one of the best in its category.
I'd say a lot more if i had time but I'll give a few words which i think reflect the book... Clear. Concise. Non biased. But honestly... I have to stress his ability to convey what are supposed to be some of the deepest questions, so clearly and easy to understand. Basically, if you're a fan of Sam Harris for the clarity in the sentences he constructs, you'll like David Johnson.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful