The Great Courses: Modern Philosophy

21 books in series
4.5 out of 5 stars 10,069 ratings

No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life Publisher's Summary

What is life? What is my place in it? What choices do these questions obligate me to make? More than a half-century after it burst upon the intellectual scene - with roots that extend to the mid-19th century - Existentialism's quest to answer these most fundamental questions of individual responsibility, morality, and personal freedom has continued to exert a profound attraction.

Now, in a series of 24 probing and thoughtful lectures, you can enrich your own understanding of this unique philosophical wave, the visionary thinkers it brought together to ponder and debate these questions, and the prominent role it still plays in contemporary thought.

"Existentialism is, in my view, the most exciting and important philosophical movement of the past century and a half," says Professor Solomon. "Fifty years after the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre gave it its identity and 150 years after the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard gave it its initial impetus, it continues to win new enthusiasts and, in keeping with its still exciting and revolutionary message, vehement critics." Plumbing both sides of the debate, these lectures examine a wide range of Existentialist thought. You'll be exposed to the religious approach of Kierkegaard; the bold fiction of Camus; the warrior rhetoric and often-shocking claims about religion and morality posed by Nietzsche; the radical and uncompromising notion of freedom championed by Sartre; and the searching analysis of human historicity and finitude offered by Martin Heidegger. And you'll encounter the reluctance - often angrily expressed - of many of Existentialism's major figures to be thought of as part of any philosophical movement or even as intellectual allies!

©2000 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2000 The Great Courses
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    • No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life

    • By: Robert C. Solomon, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Robert C. Solomon
    • Length: 12 hrs and 7 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,174
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 1,018
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 991

    What is life? What is my place in it? What choices do these questions obligate me to make? More than a half-century after it burst upon the intellectual scene - with roots that extend to the mid-19th century - Existentialism's quest to answer these most fundamental questions of individual responsibility, morality, and personal freedom, life has continued to exert a profound attraction.

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • Good for even a non-existentialist

    • By Gary on 07-24-15

    Regular price: $34.95

    • The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida

    • By: Lawrence Cahoone, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Lawrence Cahoone
    • Length: 18 hrs and 46 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 619
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 548
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 542

    What is reality? Ask yourself whether you can actually know the answer, much less be sure that you can know it, and you've begun to grapple with the metaphysical and epistemological quandaries that have occupied, teased, and tormented modern philosophy's greatest intellects since the dawn of modern science and a century before the Enlightenment.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Exceptional

    • By Occam's Toothbrush on 05-12-16

    Regular price: $41.95

    • Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning, 2nd Edition

    • By: David Zarefsky, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: David Zarefsky
    • Length: 12 hrs and 15 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 702
    • Performance
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    • Story
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    What is effective reasoning? And how can it be done persuasively? These questions have been asked for thousands of years, yet some of the best thinking on reasoning and argumentation is recent and represents a break from the past. These 24 engaging lectures teach you how to reason, how to persuade others that what you think is right, and how to judge and answer the arguments of others - and how they will judge yours.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • If you are on the fence, Get it!

    • By liam on 08-22-13

    Regular price: $34.95

    • The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

    • By: The Great Courses, Kathleen M. Higgins, Robert C. Solomon
    • Narrated by: Kathleen M. Higgins, Robert C. Solomon
    • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 950
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 839
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      4.5 out of 5 stars 816

    Who was Friedrich Nietzsche? This lonely and chronically ill, yet passionate, daring, and complex man is perhaps the most mysterious and least understood of all contemporary philosophers. Why are his brilliant insights so relevant for today? How did he become the most misinterpreted and unfairly maligned intellectual figure of the last two centuries?

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Perfect entry point for understanding Nietzsche

    • By Charley Yeager on 03-09-15

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Power over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory

    • By: Dennis Dalton, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Dennis Dalton
    • Length: 12 hrs and 19 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 147
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 132
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 129

    What is the connection between individual freedom and social and political authority? Are human beings fundamentally equal or unequal? In 16 in-depth lectures, Professor Dalton puts the key theories of power formulated by several of history's greatest minds within your reach. These lectures trace two distinct schools of political theory, idealism and realism, from their roots in ancient India and Greece through history and, ultimately, to their impact on the 20th century.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Fantastic

    • By Zachary Lank on 03-13-15

    Regular price: $34.95

    • The Birth of the Modern Mind: The Intellectual History of the 17th and 18th Centuries

    • By: Alan Charles Kors, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Alan Charles Kors
    • Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 131
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 112
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      4.5 out of 5 stars 112

    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.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Astonishingly engaging

    • By Maura on 01-28-16

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Freedom: The Philosophy of Liberation

    • By: The Great Courses, Dennis Dalton
    • Narrated by: Dennis Dalton
    • Length: 6 hrs and 15 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 53
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 48
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    Professor Dalton explores the meaning of freedom and examines the progress of both personal and political freedom. These eight lectures are a guided tour along the byways of the philosophy of liberation, beginning with its ancient roots and ending in 20th-century America.Throughout these lectures, you'll follow the progress toward personal liberation and spiritual freedom found in the lives of those who were often consumed by fierce and difficult struggles for political freedom....

    Regular price: $14.95

    • Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment

    • By: Alan Charles Kors, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Alan Charles Kors
    • Length: 6 hrs and 13 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 157
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 140
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 137

    Discover why intellectuals and historians alike consider Voltaire to be one of the most intriguing, influential, and elusive thinkers of the modern world. Focusing on the deepest, most enduring aspects of Voltaire's work and thought, but never losing sight of the colorful, fascinating man himself, these 12 lectures sketch for you a vibrant, thought-provoking vision of Voltaire as "the father of the Enlightenment" and one of the great literary personalities of all time.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Enlightenment ideas still relevant today

    • By EmilyK on 03-26-15

    Regular price: $14.95

    • Quest for Meaning: Values, Ethics, and the Modern Experience

    • By: The Great Courses, Robert H. Kane
    • Narrated by: Robert H. Kane
    • Length: 12 hrs and 13 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 180
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 155
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 156

    Is there an ethics that we can all agree on without stifling pluralism and freedom? What would such an ethics look like? Most important, how should you, as a thoughtful person, find your way among the moral puzzles of the modern world and its cacophony of voices and opinions? These are just some of the engaging and perplexing questions you'll tackle as you join Professor Kane for this thought-provoking, 24-lecture examination of the problems surrounding ethics in the modern world.

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • Yes, Virginia, there is an objective truth.

    • By "unknown" on 07-17-14

    Regular price: $34.95

    • The Enlightenment Invention of the Modern Self

    • By: Leo Damrosch, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Leo Damrosch
    • Length: 12 hrs and 12 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 95
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 87
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    In 24 lectures that let you see the world through the eyes of the Enlightenment's greatest writers, follow the origin of new ways of thinking-ideas we today take for granted but are startlingly recent-about the individual and society. You'll discover how these notions emerged in an era of transition from a world dominated by classical thought, institutional religion, and the aristocracy to one that was increasingly secular, scientific, skeptical, and middle class.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Shows how we became authentic and sincere

    • By Gary on 03-08-17

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Great Philosophical Debates: Free Will and Determinism

    • By: Shaun Nichols, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Shaun Nichols
    • Length: 12 hrs and 29 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 244
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 213
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 207

    Do you make your own choices or have circumstances beyond your control already decided your destiny? For thousands of years, this question has intrigued and perplexed philosophers, scientists, and everyone who thinks deliberately about how they choose to live and act. For if free will makes us accountable for our choices, does the opposite hold true, that determinism absolves us of responsibility?

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • This will challenge how you think!

    • By A Texan 2 on 02-13-15

    Regular price: $34.95

    • The Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements

    • By: Paul Gordon Lauren, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Paul Gordon Lauren
    • Length: 12 hrs and 5 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 38
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      4.5 out of 5 stars 32
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      4.5 out of 5 stars 32

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." These stirring words from the Declaration of Independence are a powerful statement of the importance of human rights in Western civilization. But many of the freedoms we enjoy today were not so "self-evident" to lawmakers throughout much of our history.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • great set of lectures and a really good narrator

    • By marcelo velasquez on 11-28-16

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Philosophy as a Guide to Living

    • By: Stephen A. Erickson, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Stephen A. Erickson
    • Length: 12 hrs and 25 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 60
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      4 out of 5 stars 51
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      4 out of 5 stars 53

    We've all asked ourselves whether there is any meaning in human life. But for philosophers, this is just the first question of many: Is such a question even answerable by philosophy? And if so, can the practice of philosophy itself pursue a positive answer? Can philosophy prove life has any meaning? These 24 accessible lectures offer a thoughtful and stimulating discussion of how some of the greatest minds in the past three centuries have pondered why we are here and what journey we might be on.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • The Antidote to Excessive Analytics

    • By Stanley Jungleib on 11-02-17

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Machiavelli in Context

    • By: William R. Cook, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: William R. Cook
    • Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 288
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 259
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      4.5 out of 5 stars 259

    Mention the name Niccolò Machiavelli and you might unleash a powerful response-even among people who have never read a word of his writing. The word "Machiavellian" conjures up images of an indistinct figure quietly making his way through the darkest corridors of power; a cold-blooded political liar; or a coolly practical leader - amoral at best - willing to do whatever is necessary in a world governed not by ideas of right or wrong, but by solutions dictated by realpolitik.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Wow!! Machiavelli - Refreshing and Contrarian

    • By mc2 on 06-14-15

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World Through Experience and Reason

    • By: James Hall, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: James Hall
    • Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 73
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 62
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      4 out of 5 stars 60

    Everyone has to think in order to function in the world, but what is the best way to reason effectively in your pursuit of reliable beliefs and useful knowledge? What is the best way to prove a case, create a rule, solve a problem, justify an idea, invent a hypothesis, or evaluate an argument? In short, what is the best way to think? Professor Hall helps you cut through deception and faulty reasoning in these 24 humorous, clear, and interesting lectures, offering a friendly but intellectually rigorous approach to the problem of thinking.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Wow!

    • By Douglas on 08-18-13

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Questions of Value

    • By: Patrick Grim, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Patrick Grim
    • Length: 12 hrs and 16 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 87
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 77
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      4.5 out of 5 stars 76

    We live in a world seemingly dedicated to questions of fact and finance. What should I invest in? What school district is the house in? But the fundamental questions of our lives are actually questions of value: What makes life worth living? Are there values that transcend cultural differences? Is all value subjective?

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Captivating

    • By M. Conneely on 03-16-15

    Regular price: $34.95

    • The Conservative Tradition

    • By: Patrick N. Allitt, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Patrick N. Allitt
    • Length: 18 hrs and 20 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 358
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 319
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 314

    A thorough understanding of Conservatism's lineage, principles, and impact on history is essential to making sense of the 21st-century political dialogue-a dialogue that consumes the television you watch, the newspapers you read, and the radio you listen to.No matter where you place yourself on the ideological spectrum, these 36 lectures will intrigue you, engage you, and maybe even provoke you to think about this political philosophy in an entirely new way.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Another gem by Prof. Allitt & The Great Courses

    • By Quaker on 07-12-14

    Regular price: $41.95

    • The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas

    • By: Lawrence Cahoone, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Lawrence Cahoone
    • Length: 18 hrs and 24 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 467
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 413
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 408

    Without even realizing it, we all use the fruits of political philosophy. From liberty to democracy to community, the terms and concepts originated by political philosophers are ingrained in our global consciousness. Yet many of us have an incomplete picture of how these ideas developed and, quite possibly, a skewed perception of their intentions and implications. This highly relevant course sheds light on the labyrinth of Western political and social theory, as well as its influence on modern history.

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • An Excellent Survey of Western Political Thought

    • By Dana Garrett on 06-02-15

    Regular price: $41.95

    • Exploring Metaphysics

    • By: David K. Johnson, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: David K. Johnson
    • Length: 11 hrs and 24 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 720
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 639
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 632

    This mind-bending tour of metaphysics applies philosophy to the forefront of today's knowledge. Over the course of 24 fascinating lectures, Professor Johnson thinks through the big questions about humans and the universe: The relationship between the mind and the brain, how consciousness emerges from neurochemical processes, the existence of God, human free will, the possibility of time travel, and whether we live in a multiverse or even a computer simulation.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Examine your existence in an incredible journey!

    • By Grant on 09-21-14

    Regular price: $34.95

    • Redefining Reality

    • The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science
    • By: Steven Gimbel, The Great Courses
    • Narrated by: Steven Gimbel
    • Length: 18 hrs and 6 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,678
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,416
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2,382

    No subject is bigger than reality itself, and nothing is more challenging to understand, since what counts as reality is undergoing continual revision and has been for centuries. The quest to pin down what's real and what's illusory is both philosophical and scientific, a metaphysical search for ultimate reality that goes back to the ancient Greeks. For the last 400 years, this search has been increasingly guided by scientists, who create theories and test them in order to define and redefine reality.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • mind = blown

    • By Bailey on 09-13-15

    Regular price: $59.95

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