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Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 3rd Edition

Comprehend the full scope of Western philosophy in this blockbuster course exploring influential philosophers from the pre-Socratics to the Postmodernists.
Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 3rd Edition is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 84.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Minds 3rd Ed I have purchased dozens of courses from The Teaching Company. All of them have been educational, beneficial, and very enjoyable. The great minds third edition was no exception!
Date published: 2022-12-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from "Great Minds" is misleading for some lectures This zealot Cary spent 36+ hours talking about Jesus and gospels. What has Religion got anything to do with great minds except the man named Jesus started a religion. Spending 36+ hours to talk about him is totally inappropriate. Wrong forum for religious fanatics.
Date published: 2022-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good enough to buy again I thoroughly enjoyed this course on cassette tape several years ago. It led me to other courses by some of the same instructors. Good enough to buy it on DVD so I can toss the bulky tapes. I am looking forward to enjoying it again as soon as it gets to the top of the heap. Also expecting the DVD visuals will add to the experience. Perhaps more later.
Date published: 2018-09-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Patchy and uneven coverage This mammoth (in TGC standards), 42 hour course, gives a wide survey of western intellectual evolution, and provides in many cases adequate depth. If I am not mistaken it is the longest course produced by TGC to date. The course is a huge undertaking with no less than 13 professors taking part - each lecture given by a single professor. How was it: patchy and uneven. I found some of the lectures to be beautifully delivered while others (usually given by different Professors) were much less so. For this reason, it is hard to give a fair review of the course other than to say that some is very good while some is only fair. Particularly I found the lectures given by Professor Phillip Cary (the one on Jobe was brilliant), and the ones covering more modern philosophy from lecture 49 onwards to be very good. I don’t find it surprising that this course format is not repeated extensively in the TGC repertoire.
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better than Bertrand Russell's Philosophy History! This is another solid course from the Great Courses. It is even better than the classic book Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. Because the course has several different professors teaching it, you always get new perspectives on the diverse philosophers. What I find most striking about the history of western philosophy is how much has and how much hasn't changed. In the ancient days, the Pre-Socratic materialists tried to discover the most fundamental substance. Today modern physicists try to discover the grand unified force. In the old days, the Sophists denied that humans could gain objective knowledge beyond the limitations of culture. Today, the postmodernists argue that objective truth is a culturally relative invention. In the beginning, the Hebrews and polytheistic Greeks argued that personal gods created the cosmos. Today process theologians argue that God created the cosmos and is a dynamic being that evolves with the evolving cosmos. Finally the Socratic philosophers argued objective knowledge was possible through the use of reason. Today the modern philosophers who reject postmodernism still believe philosophy gives objective knowledge. In summary, the philosophers have come a long way in their quest for knowledge but their basic projects remain more or less the same.
Date published: 2018-05-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting material...very annoying professor I love this topic, and the comprehensive natured the material really appealed to me. I am learning from and enjoying parts of it immensely. However, several of the courses are taught by Phillip Cary, who I find repetitive, boring, and uninformative. He would repeat the most obvious point 4-5 times in a row and as a result not cover very much of his topic. It really ruined much of the course for me as I would often skip lectures taught by him. I found the other professors on the course quite good. Nevertheless I always enjoy learning new things from The Great Courses, and overall, I’m glad I bought this course.
Date published: 2018-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Challenge Yourself It's a big course (84 lectures), but worth every minute. You will never see an issue from just one perspective anymore.
Date published: 2018-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazingly interesting content Only about halfway through and already this is one of the best courses I have purchased which is saying a lot . Great courses people continue to amaze me . Patrick
Date published: 2018-02-01
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This course brings together 12 professors for 84 lectures on more than 60 of the most important thinkers in history. Enjoy the benefit of learning from the finest scholar-teachers active today while you study the key ideas of influential philosophers from the pre-Socratics to the Postmodernists. The curriculum is comprehensive, incisive, and thought-provoking—in short, an intellectual experience to be treasured.


Robert C. Solomon

What I want to ask you is to look at emotions, as I have, as something wondrous, something mysterious, something exotic, as well as something dangerous, something profound, and something valuable.


The University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Robert C. Solomon was the Quincy Lee Centennial Professor of Business and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for more than 30 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania and his master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy and psychology from the University of Michigan. He held visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Auckland, New Zealand; UCLA; Princeton University; and Mount Holyoke College. Professor Solomon won many teaching honors, including the Standard Oil Outstanding Teaching Award; the President's Associates Teaching Award (twice); and the Chad Oliver Plan II Teaching Award. In addition, he was a member of Academy of Distinguished Teachers at UT, which is devoted to providing leadership in improving the quality and depth of undergraduate instruction. Professor Solomon wrote or edited more than 45 books, including The Passions, About Love, Ethics and Excellence, A Short History of Philosophy with Professor Kathleen Higgins, A Better Way to Think about Business, The Joy of Philosophy, Spirituality for the Skeptic, Not Passion's Slave, and In Defense of Sentimentality. He also designed and provided programs for corporations and organizations around the world. Professor Solomon passed away in early 2007.

By This Professor

No Excuses: Existentialism and Meaning of Life
Alan Charles Kors

Voltaire always has the last laugh on us all, which may be by design. Laughter was a weapon for Voltaire, and irony was essential to that laughter.


University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Alan Charles Kors is Henry Charles Lea Professor of European History at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been teaching since 1968. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. He received postdoctoral fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Professor Kors won two awards for distinguished college teaching and the Engalitcheff Award for defense of academic freedom. He is president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Professor Kors is the author and editor of several books on European intellectual history, including D’Holbach’s Coterie: An Enlightenment in ParisAtheism in France, 1660-1729: The Orthodox Sources of Disbelief; and Anticipations of the Enlightenment in England, France, and Germany. He is editor-in-chief of the four-volume Oxford University Press Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. With Harvey A. Silverglate, he is coauthor of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.

Professor Kors has served as a member of the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities and on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals.

By This Professor

Phillip Cary

In many ways, Plato was the founding figure of Western philosophy; although there were philosophers before him, his writings were the first that founded a lasting Western philosophy.


Eastern University

Dr. Phillip Cary is Professor of Philosophy at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, where he is also Scholar-in-Residence at the Templeton Honors College. After receiving his B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, Professor Cary earned his M.A. in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Yale University. Professor Cary is a recent winner of the Lindback Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching at Eastern University. He has also taught at Yale University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Hartford. As the Arthur J. Ennis Post-Doctoral Fellow at Villanova University, he taught the nationally recognized undergraduate Core Humanities seminars on ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and modern thought. As a scholar, Professor Cary's specialty is the thought of Augustine, but he has also published scholarly articles on Luther, the doctrine of the Trinity, and personal knowledge. His most recent books include two on Augustine, Inner Grace and Outward Signs, both published by Oxford University Press in 2008, as well as a commentary on the book of Jonah, also in 2008, published by Brazos Press.

By This Professor

The History of Christian Theology
Darren Staloff

The Prince is a supremely practical work, a work devoted to the question of how one acquires, secures, holds, and improves Princely power.


City College of New York

Dr. Darren Staloff is Professor of History at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He earned his B.A. from Columbia College and his M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Prior to taking his position at City College, Staloff served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia. He also spent three years as a preceptor of Contemporary Civilization at Columbia University. Professor Staloff is the recipient of a National Endowment of Humanities Fellowship, the President's Fellowship at Columbia University, and the Harry J. Carman Scholar at Columbia University. Professor Staloff has published numerous papers and reviews on the subject of early American history and is the author of The Making of an American Thinking Class: Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in Puritan Massachusetts (1998) and Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding (2005).

Dennis Dalton

There is such athing as unity of being, and that the highest truth is when we manage,as individuals, to perceive oneself in all being.  Once that is achieved, once the separateness is overcome,then illusions will be overwhelmed as well.


Barnard College, Columbia University

Dr. Dennis Dalton is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. He earned his B.A. from Rutgers University, his M.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in Political Theory from the University of London.

Professor Dalton has edited and contributed to more than a dozen publications and has written numerous articles. He is the author of Indian Idea of Freedom and Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action. His fields of interests include classical and modern, Western, and Asian political theory; politics of South Asia, particularly the Indian nationalist movement; nonviolence and violence in society; and ideologies of modern political movements in Europe, India, China, and Africa.

Dr. Dalton served as a review editor for the Journal of Developmental Studies (London) and as a U.S. correspondent for the South Asian Review (London). He is a member of both the American Political Science Association and the Association for Asian Studies.

Professor Dalton has been honored with numerous teaching awards, scholarships, and grants, including the Barnard College Margaret Mead Award 2009 for Distinguished Teaching, the 2008 Barnard Commendation for Excellence in Teaching, a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, a senior fellowship with the American Institute of Indian Studies, and a Gandhi Peace Foundation Grant.

Douglas Kellner


University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Douglas Kellner holds the George F. Kneller Chair in the Philosophy of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He earned his B.A. from Doane College, studied in Copenhagen, Tubingen, and Paris, and earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Columbia University. Before taking his position at UCLA, Professor Kellner taught philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin for more than 20 years. He also taught in Canada, Taiwan, Sweden, and Finland, where he received a Fulbright Fellowship. A popular lecturer, Professor Kellner has spoken in many American universities as well as in London, Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Seoul, Tokyo, and other cities throughout the world. Professor Kellner is the author of many books on social theory, politics, history, and culture, including Herbert Marcuse and the Crisis of Marxism and Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film. He coauthored with Michael Ryan, Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity and Jean Baudrillard: From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond; with Steven Best, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations, Television and the Crisis of Democracy, The Persian Gulf TV War, Media Culture, and The Postmodern Turn.

Jeremy Adams

Epictetus believed that the only things in our power are our will and our body. Our will is always free, and we must keep both it and our body untainted; and in that way, we will avoid pain, which is merely external to us.


Southern Methodist University

Dr. Jeremy Adams is Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at Southern Methodist University. He earned his A.B., A.M., and Ph.D. in History at Harvard University. Prior to taking his post at SMU, Professor Adams taught medieval European history and served in the interdisciplinary History, Arts, and Letters program at Yale University. He has taught frequently in SMU programs in Europe at Madrid, Toledo, and Paris, as well as at University College, Oxford. For his teaching and scholarship, Professor Adams received the DeVane Medal from the Phi Beta Kappa Chapter of Yale, the Perrine Prize from the Phi Beta Kappa Chapter of SMU, and the Danforth Foundation's E. Harris Harbison Award. The student body of SMU has several times honored him as one of the Outstanding Professors on campus. Dr. Adams has published on a wide range of topics, including pre-modern European landscape history. His publications include Patterns of Medieval Society and The Populus of Augustine and Jerome: A Study in the Patristic Sense of Community, winner of the National Catholic Book Award for Scholarship in 1972.

Louis Markos

When it comes to learning and to teaching, my motto has always been that of Socrates: The unexamined life is not worth living.


Houston Baptist University

Dr. Louis Markos is Professor in English at Houston Baptist University, where he also holds the Robert H. Ray Chair in Humanities. He earned his B.A. in English and History from Colgate University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan. Professor Markos specializes in British romantic poetry, literary theory, and the classics and teaches courses in all three of these areas, as well as in Victorian poetry and prose, 17th-century poetry and prose, mythology, epic, and film. He received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the University of Michigan and was named the Opal Goolsby Teacher of the Year at Houston Baptist. Dr. Markos has published several articles and is the author of How C. S. Lewis Can Train Us to Wrestle With The Modern and Postmodern World.

Kathleen M. Higgins

Deciding what’s important in life and what isn’t, recognizing what way of life is desirable for each individual—that’s really the center of what being a human being is all about.


The University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Kathleen Higgins is Professor of Philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin, where she has been teaching for over 20 years. She earned her B.A. in Music from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University. Professor Higgins taught at the University of California, Riverside, and she is a regular visiting professor at the University of Auckland. Her academic honors include appointments as Resident Scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Study and Conference Center (1993) and Visiting Fellow of the Australian National University Philosophy Department and the Canberra School of Music (1997). She also received an Alumni Achievement Award from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (1999). A prolific writer and recognized Nietzsche scholar, her books include The Music of Our Lives (Temple University Press) and Nietzsche's Zarathustra (Temple University Press), which was named one of the Outstanding Academic Books of 1988-1989 by Choice. She coedited numerous books with her husband, Professor Robert Solomon, including Reading Nietzsche, A Short History of Philosophy and the Routledge History of Philosophy, Volume IV: The Age of German Idealism.

Robert H. Kane


The University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Robert H. Kane is University Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin. He earned his B.A. from Holy Cross College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University. In his three decades on the UT faculty, Professor Kane won no fewer than 15 major teaching awards. These include the Friar Society Centennial Teaching Fellowship, the President's Excellence Award, the Liberal Arts Council Teaching Award, and the Delta Epsilon Sigma Award for teaching introductory classes. In 1995, he was named an inaugural member of the university's Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Dr. Kane is one of the world's leading defenders of an anti-determinist conception of free will. He is internationally known for his efforts to reconcile such a notion with modern science. His writings comprised more than 60 articles and reviews and four books, including Free Will and Values (1985) and Through the Moral Maze: Searching for Absolute Values in a Pluralistic World (1994). Professor Kane's work, The Significance of Free Will (1996) won the Robert W. Hamilton Faculty Book Award and was the subject of symposia in major journals in Europe and the United States and a conference in the United States.

Mark Risjord

When the philosopher’s work is done, we don’t have a new subtle theory, what we have is no theory at all.


Emory University

Dr. Mark Risjord is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Emory University. He earned his B.A. in Philosophy and Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin and his Ph.D. in Philosophy at The University of North Carolina. Prior to taking his position at Emory, Professor Risjord taught at Michigan State University. In 1997, Dr. Risjord was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award by the Emory University Center for Teaching and Curriculum. He is the author of Woodcutters and Witchcraft: Rationality and Interpretive Change in the Social Sciences (2000). His articles and essays have been published in American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Psychology, and Perspectives on Science. In addition to his interest in the philosophy of anthropology, Dr. Risjord studies the philosophy of language and the philosophy of science.

Jeremy Shearmur

There are few things more exciting than exploring and assessing ideas—especially, interesting alternatives to those we usually take for granted. But it is even more exhilarating to present them to The Teaching Company’s demanding audience!


Australian National University

Dr. Jeremy Shearmur is a Reader in Political Theory in the Faculty of Arts at The Australian National University. Professor Shearmur was educated at the London School of Economics (University of London), where he also worked for eight years as assistant to Professor Sir Karl Popper. Professor Shearmur's Ph.D. thesis on F. A. Hayek was a joint winner of the British Political Studies Association's Sir Ernest Barker prize in political theory. Prior to taking his position in Australia, Professor Shearmur taught philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and political theory at the University of Manchester. He also served as Director of Studies of the Center for Policy Studies and worked as a research associate professor for the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. Professor Shearmur has published The Political Thought of Karl Popper (1966) and Hayek and After (1996) and was joint editor of H. B. Acton's The Morals of Markets and Related Essays (1993). He has also published numerous papers in philosophy and political thought.


01: Introduction

Philosophy can be described as a historical discipline subject to change over time. The pre-Socratic epoch represents the birth of Western philosophical speculation in the greater Greek diaspora. Classical Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle drew on the pre-Socratic traditions, as well as on one another's teachings, to construct the first full-blown philosophical systems. The Hellenic and Roman worlds inherited these classical doctrines and incorporated them into their own philosophic perspectives.

31 min
The Pre-Socratics—Physics and Metaphysics

02: The Pre-Socratics—Physics and Metaphysics

In this lecture, we witness the birth of philosophy in the speculations and systems of the pre-Socratics. We explore how these philosophical forerunners shifted the focus of learned thought from religious questions of "who" and "why" to scientific questions of "what" and "how" and started a dialogue that continues to this day. Milesian physicists and Pythagoreans attempt to locate the primal origin of all things. Heraclitus and the Eleatics argue, respectively, that the true nature of reality is endless change (pluralism) or unchanging being (monism).

30 min
The Sophists and Social Science

03: The Sophists and Social Science

This lecture discusses the impact of the Sophists on public policy and private morality in 4th century BCE. Some see Sophistic analysis of conventional law based on premises about nature as a forerunner to political science. This lecture considers Sophist attitudes about power, morality, and religion, and concludes with a case study: the Melian dialogue, a famous passage from Thucydides, the Sophist-influenced 5th-century historian whose book on the Peloponnesian War is hailed as the first work of social science.

30 min

04: Plato—Metaphysics

Plato is the most influential philosopher in the West mostly because he invented what came to be called metaphysics, the study of true being. He aligns himself with Socrates, who drew people into critical dialogue on issues such as "What is virtue?" The Platonic theory of forms is the basis for Plato's picture of the ascent of the soul to a vision of the world above.

30 min

05: Plato—Politics

This lecture begins with the question that Plato poses throughout "The Republic": What is the meaning of justice? Socrates asserts that for a just society or Republic to be attained, reforms or "waves" of social and political change must first occur. Plato's theories of justice, power, and leadership are expressed in his "Allegory of the Cave." This vision asserts that the just state or polis cannot emerge until philosophers rule and, thus, political power is wielded wisely.

30 min

06: Plato—Psychology

Connected with the metaphysical notion of a deep truth about being is the psychological notion of a deep truth about ourselves. In the "Phaedo," he argued that the soul is immortal because it is akin to the forms and will return to be with them if it is pure when it separates from the body at death. Thus, Plato is the source of the "otherworldly" spirituality that is so important in the Western tradition.

30 min

07: Aristotle—Metaphysics

Aristotle, the second most influential philosopher after Plato, was also Plato's student. Aristotle modified Plato's notion of form to create a science of nature or physics. His key idea was to explain the nature of change by reference to four types of causes: form, matter, goal, and cause of motion.

30 min

08: Aristotle—Politics

The most significant critique of Plato's "Republic" comes from Aristotle, who focused his criticisms on the three great reforms, or "waves" of change, discussed in Lecture 5. Aristotle argued against the desirability of the proposed reforms with the logic characteristic of his philosophy of moderation.

30 min

09: Aristotle—Ethics

Aristotle's ethics are an attempt to discover: "What is the good or ultimate goal of human life?" His answer is that happiness is the life lived by a certain person: the virtuous person. Virtue is to the soul as good health is to the body. Among the human excellences Aristotle discusses are the four cardinal virtues: courage, temperance, justice, and practical wisdom.

30 min
Stoicism and Epicureanism

10: Stoicism and Epicureanism

Two philosophical traditions emerged from the legacy of Plato and Aristotle in a time of cultural, political, and military change. Epicureanism was the more elite of the two; Stoicism was more readily adaptable to the needs of ordinary people and to traditional Roman values. We encounter Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, and four later Roman Stoics: among them the philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius, who ruled with resolute virtue as emperor for 14 difficult years.

30 min
Roman Eclecticism—Cicero and Polybius

11: Roman Eclecticism—Cicero and Polybius

This lecture addresses the distinctive Roman style of philosophizing: the combination of several schools' traditions into a new blend. The most successful synthesizer and the most influential Roman thinker was Cicero, evident in his ethical and his political thought. Until the 20th century, Cicero's influence was never eclipsed by any other Roman—and perhaps by any Greek—philosopher.

30 min
Roman Skepticism—Sextus Empiricus

12: Roman Skepticism—Sextus Empiricus

This lecture discusses Skepticism, a tradition, like Epicureanism and Stoicism, that arose in Greece in the 4th century B.C.E., spread throughout the Hellenistic world, and survived to influence post-Renaissance Western thought. In the modern lexicon of thoughtful terminology, it is very good to be empirical in method, skeptical in mental reflex.

27 min

13: Introduction

Two major strands of the Western tradition are from the classical Greek and Roman world of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero and from the Biblical world of Moses and Jesus. They blended in the writings of Church Fathers such as Augustine, and in the medieval period was a flowering of their synthesis. Scholastics such as St. Thomas Aquinas, and mystics such as Johannes Eckhart, were heirs of this union of Athens and Jerusalem. Modernity represented a fundamentally new relation to both these sources of Western thought.

31 min
Job and the Problem of Suffering

14: Job and the Problem of Suffering

There is nothing like the Book of Job; it is one of the greatest poems ever written. A good man who suffers incomprehensibly pours out his heart to God, but afraid to complain; wishing for death, yet longing to bring his case before God; and increasingly impatient with friends who offer him "good advice" that misses the point. If you expect God to answer or explain, you will be disappointed. Oddly, Job does not seem disappointed. This book is about a very unusual relationship, one that the biblical people of Israel understood well because they lived it.

33 min
The Hebrew Bible and Covenantal History

15: The Hebrew Bible and Covenantal History

The Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament, can be read as the story of a relationship between two main characters: God and his people Israel. The relationship is defined by a covenant that binds them. Throughout the text, the covenant relationship is threatened by Israel's disobedience and God's punishment: exile and destruction of the Temple. Yet the relationship is never broken, and there is always the expectation of a restored peace.

30 min
The Synoptic Gospels—The Historical Jesus and the Kingdom of God

16: The Synoptic Gospels—The Historical Jesus and the Kingdom of God

In the New Testament, the synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) are key sources for research on "the historical Jesus." Scholars disagree on what the historical Jesus was like, but nearly all agree that the proclamation of something called "the kingdom of God" was central to his work, along with the telling of parables and "miraculous" healings. Most scholars would say the key to who Jesus was, and who he thought he was, is to understand what he meant by "the kingdom of God."

28 min
Paul—Justification by Faith

17: Paul—Justification by Faith

Paul, author of the earliest writings in the New Testament, is called the "apostle to the Gentiles" because his mission was to preach about Christ to non-Jews. He formulated a doctrine of justification in terms of a contrast between living "under the Law" as Jews did, and living under grace as believers in Christ did. This formulation affected Western Christian thought from Augustine onward where the key issue was the status of the individual soul before God.

27 min
Plotinus and Neo-Platonism

18: Plotinus and Neo-Platonism

Plotinus was the last great philosopher of pagan antiquity, a systematizer of the heritage of Plato, founder of Neo-Platonism, and theorist of a form of otherworldly spirituality that was profoundly influential in the Western Christian tradition through Augustine. Most influential of all, he sketched a spiritual ascent of the soul's turning inward to discover unity not only with the one Soul and the divine Mind, but with the One itself.

30 min
Augustine—Grace and Free Will

19: Augustine—Grace and Free Will

Augustine was a Church Father, a Christian thinker who helped formulate the basic doctrines of ancient Christianity. He formulated a Christian Platonist spirituality that was immensely influential for the Western tradition. But Augustine's doctrine of grace includes a frightening implication that God chooses in advance to give his help and delight to some but not all—raising troubling questions about predestination.

32 min
Aquinas and Christian Aristotelianism

20: Aquinas and Christian Aristotelianism

This lecture discusses how Thomas Aquinas adapted Aristotelian thought and philosophical method to the needs of the Christian philosophy and theology of his time. It presents six aspects of the Aristotelian legacy that Aquinas integrated into his system: logic, epistemology, teleology, motion, politics, and legal thinking. An understanding of Thomas's social background and institutional context—the Dominican Order and the discourse of the university—helps us grasp Aquinas's significance for his time and ours.

30 min
Universals in Medieval Thought

21: Universals in Medieval Thought

This lecture discusses the vexing problem of "universals"—the relationships of names to things, and of both names and things to standard categories of the Western analysis of phenomena (individual, species, genus) as explored and temporarily resolved in medieval Western thought. Since the 14th century, major thinkers have tended to fall into the realist, the nominalist, or the conceptualist camp.

30 min
Mysticism and Meister Eckhart

22: Mysticism and Meister Eckhart

A coherent tradition of mystical thought in the Christian Middle Ages can be described in terms taken from the Bible, Augustine, and the Eastern Christian neoplatonist known to the West as Denys. Augustine sought an intellectual vision of God, but the medieval tradition wanted to go beyond vision to "ecstasy" or "the darkness above the light" or "passing into God." Meister Eckhart in the 14th century reintroduced the Plotinian theme of a deep inner unity between God and the soul that is higher than intellectual vision as well as the ultimate reality in the depth of the soul.

31 min
Luther—Law and Gospel

23: Luther—Law and Gospel

Using concepts taken from Paul and Augustine, Martin Luther taught that we are justified by faith alone; we can receive the grace of God only by believing the Gospel of Christ and not by doing good works. Luther started a debate among local scholars that blew up into a huge controversy involving the pope. He concluded that the pope wanted to take the Gospel away from Christians; the break between the Roman Catholic Church and those who saw things Luther's way was inevitable.

30 min
Calvin and Protestantism

24: Calvin and Protestantism

John Calvin wrote a compendium of theology that made his Reformed variety of Protestantism more exportable than Lutheranism and spawned familiar forms of Protestantism such as Presbyterianism. He departed from both Luther and the Catholics by teaching that justification happens only once in life, part of Calvin's doctrine of predestination.

31 min

25: Introduction

From the close of the 15th to the end of the 17th century, Latin Christendom was transformed. Philosophically, the epoch is opened by the age of the Renaissance, a rebirth of classical learning and art. The 17th-century Age of Reason was characterized by a rejection of authorities and an awareness of tensions between rational philosophic speculation and traditional religious beliefs. The seminal work of Sir Isaac Newton brings the Age of Reason to a close and marks the onset of the Age of Enlightenment.

31 min
Machiavelli and the Origins of Political Science

26: Machiavelli and the Origins of Political Science

As a work of political realism, Machiavelli's "The Prince" marked a sharp departure from the classical idealist tradition associated with Plato. This lecture will explain Machiavelli's purposes in writing "The Prince" and outline his practical advice for gaining and keeping political power.

31 min
More's Utopianism

27: More's Utopianism

Thomas More's "Utopia" is a Christian-humanist view of an ideal society. This lecture will review the features and significance of More's ideal system, highlighting its similarities to, and divergences from, Plato's "Republic."

31 min
Erasmus Against Enthusiasm

28: Erasmus Against Enthusiasm

This lecture examines the commitment of the Christian humanist Erasmus to oppose excessive enthusiasm in any religious or intellectual matter. Generally rejected by most parties to the ferocious religious controversies of the next century and more, Erasmus has emerged again as a compelling voice of reasoned culture.

30 min
Galileo and the New Astronomy

29: Galileo and the New Astronomy

Galileo Galilei promoted the theory of heliocentric astronomy and a quantitative rather than qualitative view of nature. His demanding methodology in the sciences and his struggle against Aristotelians who controlled offices of censorship and philosophical conformity in the church became emblems of the attempt at a free natural philosophy.

30 min
Bacon's New Organon and the New Science

30: Bacon's New Organon and the New Science

Francis Bacon, politician and philosopher, undertook to criticize the Western intellectual inheritance and transform the human quest for knowledge. His work "The New Organon" argued that an inductive, experimental science would yield a new knowledge that would be dynamic, cumulative, and useful.

31 min
Descartes—The Method of Modern Philosophy

31: Descartes—The Method of Modern Philosophy

Rene Descartes sought to demonstrate that we could establish a criterion of truth and, with it, know with certainty the real nature and the real causes of things. His thinking challenged Scholasticism at its core and altered the nature and problems of Western philosophy and science. It bequeathed a categorical dualism: the world divided into mind or body, mental, or physical domains.

31 min
Hobbes—Politics and the State of Nature

32: Hobbes—Politics and the State of Nature

Thomas Hobbes asserted that people are ruled not by reason but by passions, especially the desire for power and the fear of death. The remedy for this natural inclination to violent, aggressive behavior is to establish a powerful state called the Leviathan that would be ruled by an absolute sovereign who would guarantee the peace and protection of each subject.

30 min
Spinoza—Rationalism and the Reverence for Being

33: Spinoza—Rationalism and the Reverence for Being

One of the most brilliant and challenging thinkers in the Western philosophical tradition was Baruch Spinoza. His principal work, "The Ethics," offers a brilliant expression of his metaphysical monism. Spinoza asserts that nature is not the creation of a supernatural God; rather, he identifies nature as God.

31 min
Pascal—Skepticism and Jansenism

34: Pascal—Skepticism and Jansenism

Blaise Pascal was a member of the Jansenist movement, which argued for the need for salvation by faith alone, a state achievable only by God's grace. Pascal's "Pensees" became one of the publishing sensations of the 17th century. It stressed the misery and absurdity of man and human life without God, the insufficiency of intellectual knowledge of God, and the role of grace and the heart in faith.

31 min
Bayle—Skepticism and Calvinism

35: Bayle—Skepticism and Calvinism

Pierre Bayle was one of the most influential authors of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The arrogance of reason and the avoidance of a simple, peaceful faith, Bayle believes, lead to superstition, intolerance, and cruelty. The irony of Bayle's work is that he was increasingly read as irreligious because his fideism confronted a learned world that was ever more naturalistic and committed to reason.

31 min
Newton and Enlightened Science

36: Newton and Enlightened Science

Shortly after receiving his bachelor's degree at Cambridge, Isaac Newton, in one stretch of 18 months, formulated the law of gravity, laid the foundations of modern physics in his laws of motion, transformed the entire science of optics, and created the calculus. Newton also believed that natural philosophy proved God from the order and contingency of the world. The Newtonian synthesis gave to the culture a great confidence in inductive science.

31 min

37: Introduction

The generation of readers and authors from 1680 to 1715 was one of the most revolutionary in European history because of its fundamental change in attitudes toward knowledge and nature. This generation increasingly believed induction from data, not deduction from inherited premises, to be the path of truth, and it made the systematic inquiry into experience the heart of natural philosophy.

31 min

38: Locke—Politics

Among all the European political theorists, John Locke most influenced early American ideas about government. Locke envisaged a social contract among reasonable men, in the state of nature, to legitimize a moderate government ruled not by an authoritarian sovereign, but by a majority of propertied citizens.

30 min
Locke—The Revolution in Knowledge

39: Locke—The Revolution in Knowledge

John Locke's influence on the late 17th and the entire 18th century can scarcely be overestimated because he changed the culture's sense of the nature and limits of knowledge. The implications of his thinking are dramatic: We learn our ethical ideas from experience, and we are products of our environment, which, if changed, would change the kinds of human beings it produces.

31 min
Vico and the New Science of History

40: Vico and the New Science of History

Giambattista Vico's philosophy of history had an immense influence on 19th- and 20th-century thought. Vico replaced the premise of Cartesian epistemology with his own principle of "verum factum," which states that we know the truth about matters that we have cognitively constructed. Vico's work has interesting implications for the study of the past, and yet, he uses modern scientific methods to demonstrate the potential dangers of using those methods.

31 min
Montesquieu and Political Thought

41: Montesquieu and Political Thought

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu's contribution to Enlightenment political thought was his effort to systematize an understanding, through natural inquiry, of the order and the instabilities of human political and social forms. His perspective and his moral agenda had a deep influence on the American Revolution.

31 min
The Worldly Philosophy of Bernard Mandeville

42: The Worldly Philosophy of Bernard Mandeville

Bernard Mandeville's career and thought exemplify central themes of the Enlightenment. His most famous work, "The Fable of the Bees," presented his central paradox in moral theory, namely that private vices make public benefits. Mandeville's rigorism and focus on consequences revealed the tensions between Judeo-Christian and classical virtues versus modern commercial and secular society.

30 min
Bishop Berkeley—Idealism and Critique of the Enlightenment

43: Bishop Berkeley—Idealism and Critique of the Enlightenment

George Berkeley's most important philosophical work, "A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge," established his reputation as an empiricist alongside Locke and Hume. His subjectivist idealism was cogently stated as: esse est percipi: "To exist is to be perceived."

30 min
Hume's Epistemology

44: Hume's Epistemology

This lecture examines the empiricist philosophy of David Hume, who, along with Locke and Berkeley, held that all our mental representations arise from sense experience. We will examine aspects of Hume's epistemology and his efforts to reconcile necessity with liberty.

30 min
Hume's Theory of Morality

45: Hume's Theory of Morality

Just as Hume located the origins of causation in the constant conjunction of sensed phenomena, he located the origin of our moral judgments in their constant conjunction with a sentiment of approbation or disapprobation. Hume assesses the morality of behavior in terms of its consequences, especially in terms of its advancement of social utility.

30 min
Hume's Natural Religion

46: Hume's Natural Religion

With Hume, we see a growing skepticism about the relationship of natural philosophy and religious belief, a skepticism that explains in part the increasing tendency of intellectuals to turn away from problems of theology to problems of secular society.

32 min
Adam Smith and the Origins of Political Economy

47: Adam Smith and the Origins of Political Economy

This lecture explains the ideas and significance of Adam Smith's views, in his "Wealth of Nations," about division of labor. We will also examine Smith's social philosophy, which suggests that a market-based society allows social cooperation to take place as an unintended consequence of individuals' pursuits of economic self-interests.

30 min
Rousseau's Dissent

48: Rousseau's Dissent

The ideas of Jean-Jacque Rousseau shared much with Enlightenment thought—above all, his Lockeanism, his deism, and his commitment to religious tolerance. However, for Rousseau, cultural "progress" invariably led to moral decadence, creating artificial needs and artificial inequalities. The problem, then, is to recognize the depredations of artificial social life and to seek to redeem those to the greatest extent possible. The legacy of Rousseauist themes is influential and profound, extending to counterculture movements of a "return to nature."

30 min

49: Introduction

The first phase of 19th-century European high culture is associated with Romanticism. Romantics rejected the arid rationalism and scientism of the Enlightenment. A reaction against Romanticism, known as positivism, had set in by mid-century. The final phase of 19th-century thought witnessed the rise of Existential themes and issues.

31 min

50: Kant's "Copernican Revolution"

This lecture examines the views of Immanuel Kant on the limits of knowledge, reason, science, and metaphysics, as expressed in his seminal work, "The Critique of Pure Reason". Kant's "Copernican Revolution" in philosophy inverted the order of knowledge as Copernicus had inverted the positions of the Sun and Earth.

31 min
Kant's Moral Theory

51: Kant's Moral Theory

This lecture examines Kant's views about morality and value. We examine Kant's derivation of his famous categorical imperative: "Act only by that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law." We will also consider the meaning and significance of alternative formulations of the categorical imperative, including Kant's "principle of humanity."

30 min
Burke—The Origins of Conservatism

52: Burke—The Origins of Conservatism

In this lecture, we examine elements in Edmund Burke's argument against the French Revolution. We will also explore how his support for the American Revolution can be squared with his denunciation of the French Revolution. This, in turn, leads us to conclude with the difficult problem of the overall character of Burke's views.

30 min
Hegel—History and Historicism

53: Hegel—History and Historicism

For Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, history represents the necessary and rational unfolding of absolute Spirit becoming conscious of itself and discovering its own nature. Hegel's historicism—the notion that the artistic products and accepted truths of a given era are relative to that era—profoundly influenced Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida.

31 min
Marx—Historical Materialism

54: Marx—Historical Materialism

Karl Marx's historical materialism is an attempt to answer Hegel's idealist explanation of history in purely naturalistic or scientific terms. Marx's historical materialism posits two fundamental entities: actual historical persons and the forces of production. For Marx, real history begins only when technology has solved the problem of production.

31 min
Marx—On Alienation

55: Marx—On Alienation

The hallmark of Marx's idea of alienation is his theory of work, especially of alienated labor in the capitalist system. Marx blames this economic system for the dissatisfaction that many people find in their work. Marx contends that such unhappiness is unnecessary and demands that it be changed so that we may experience fulfillment in our various forms of work.

30 min
Mill's Utilitarianism

56: Mill's Utilitarianism

John Stuart Mill was a thoroughgoing empiricist in the footsteps of Hume. In moral philosophy, he has become the classic defender of one of the main theories of ethics, which is known as utilitarianism.

30 min
Kierkegaard and the Leap of Faith

57: Kierkegaard and the Leap of Faith

Sören Kierkegaard is the Danish Christian philosopher who became the founding figure of Existentialism by thinking in a new way about how faith is possible in Christendom, in the era we now call Victorian.

30 min
Schopenhauer—The World as Will and Idea

58: Schopenhauer—The World as Will and Idea

Arthur Schopenhauer is most notorious for his philosophical pessimism, but he was one of the most ingenious and influential thinkers of the 19th century. The core of his theory is that reality is known to us as Will, which is full of self-conflict, so the world is not a harmonious place and human life has no hope of satisfaction. Only aesthetic experience and sainthood promise some escape from the torment of life's sufferings.

30 min
Nietzsche—Perspectivism and the Will to Power

59: Nietzsche—Perspectivism and the Will to Power

This lecture will focus on Friedrich Nietzsche's so-called perspectivism: the view that there is no metaphysical "thing-in-itself" and, therefore, no singular truth or truths about the world. Nevertheless, Nietzsche does present what would seem to be a singular thesis about the world, the "Will to Power." The point of the lecture is to clarify both of these central theses.

27 min
Nietzsche—The Death of God, Morality, and Self-Creation

60: Nietzsche—The Death of God, Morality, and Self-Creation

This lecture concerns Nietzsche's infamous attack on Judeo-Christian religion and morality and the project of self-creation with which he seeks to replace them. Again, we see an apparent contradiction or tension in Nietzsche's thought. He is, on the one hand, very much a naturalist. He does not believe in free will. And he believes that each of us is largely determined by our biology.

30 min

61: Introduction

The first half of the 20th century has been aptly described as an "age of extremes." The Western industrialized nations underwent dramatic changes and traumatic crises. In this context of tumult and change, philosophers sought to reconceptualize the role and function of their discipline. The result was the development of three competing conceptions of philosophic practice: philosophy as regulative, philosophy as therapeutic, and philosophy as edification.

30 min
James's Pragmatism

62: James's Pragmatism

Influenced by the work of Charles Sanders Peirce, William James created a theory of pragmatism, which held that the meaning of any idea can be found only in experience. James melded Nietzschean perspectivalism with the American thought of Emerson. James's project was a philosophical "Protestant reformation," with the individual rebelling against the authority of accepted truths and absolutes. The world is not fixed, James argued, but is constantly remade by us. Therefore, independent analysis of the world from a priori assumptions is impossible.

30 min
Freud's Psychology of Human Nature

63: Freud's Psychology of Human Nature

Sigmund Freud's immensely influential theory rests squarely on his analysis of human nature. We seek to cope with inner turmoil through sublimation of our instincts, but as he says, our coping mechanisms are inadequate, and unhappiness is much easier to attain than happiness. Freud's conclusions are unquestionably pessimistic and powerfully expressed in his classic text, "Civilization and Its Discontents."

30 min
Freud's Discontents

64: Freud's Discontents

According to Marx and Freud, we are suffering from a common malady termed "the alienated split self." They say we can confront the problem of alienation constructively by raising our consciousness. Freud, in particular, perceives society as the collective expression of individual aggression.

30 min
A.J. Ayer and Logical Positivism

65: A.J. Ayer and Logical Positivism

A. J. Ayer was one of the leading logical positivists. In "Language, Truth, and Logic," he argued that philosophy should abandon the study of metaphysics and take up a detailed analysis of language. He argues that assertions that cannot be verified in empirical experience are "nonsense." Philosophy was to be the handmaiden of science, and the job of the philosopher would be to explain the meaning of scientific terms and logic.

30 min
Max Weber and Legitimate Authority

66: Max Weber and Legitimate Authority

Max Weber is thought to be the founder of modern sociology. He studied power relations in societies as part of his effort to "demystify the world." His greatest insights were into the varieties of authority, and he offered a profound diagnosis of the ways power is legitimated and administered in modern bureaucratic societies.

31 min
Husserl and Phenomenology

67: Husserl and Phenomenology

This lecture focuses on Husserlian phenomenology as a response to positivism and historicism. Edmund Husserl was opposed to relativism, skepticism, historicism, and positivism because they attempted to explain mind in terms of nature rather than nature by way of consciousness.

29 min
Dewey's Critique of Traditional Philosophy

68: Dewey's Critique of Traditional Philosophy

John Dewey's version of pragmatism represented the American values of democracy, progressivism, and optimism. Dewey was skeptical of truth, believing that what we call "truth" is simply what works best for us at the time. Man's moral ends are not eternal truths but are formed through customs and habits that change over time.

31 min
Heidegger—Dasein and Existenz

69: Heidegger—Dasein and Existenz

This lecture focuses on Martin Heidegger's early philosophy in Being and Time; his focus was on our place in the world, what he called "Dasein," or simply, "being-there." From this seemingly simple starting point, Heidegger weaves a refreshing new way of thinking about knowledge, of ourselves, and our place in the world.

31 min
Wittgenstein and Language Analysis

70: Wittgenstein and Language Analysis

Ludwig Wittgenstein claimed that traditional metaphysics was flawed because it was based on mistakes in the use of language. The solution was to focus on those uses of language that cause confusion, using philosophy as a therapy against, in his own words, "the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language."

34 min
The Frankfurt School

71: The Frankfurt School

Members of the Frankfurt School developed provocative and original perspectives on contemporary society and culture, including analyses of Fascism and the high-tech and consumer society that exists now. Drawing on Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Weber, the Frankfurt School synthesized philosophy and social theory to develop a critical theory of contemporary society.

30 min
Structuralism—Saussure and Lévi-Strauss

72: Structuralism—Saussure and Lévi-Strauss

In this lecture, we consider the modern school of structuralism, an interdisciplinary approach to all branches of human knowledge that rejects all ontological and epistemological sources of meaning in favor of an antimetaphysical approach. This approach posits that all humanistic pursuits are the products of deep structures that predate human consciousness.

30 min

73: Introduction

Philosophy in the latter half of the 20th century was written in the context of accelerating and often disturbing changes in Western society, politics, and culture. Philosophers focused on two critical features of modernity, both inherited from the Enlightenment. One issue focused on modern political theory and practice, the other on the ideal of objective scientific rationality and progress.

31 min
Hayek and the Critique of Central Planning

74: Hayek and the Critique of Central Planning

Hayek was an economist and political philosopher. He is also well known for his critique of the ideal of "social justice." We will explore this and some of Hayek's other key ideas in social philosophy, including his interpretation of the rule of law, and conclude by discussing some continuing lessons that his ideas offer for societies such as our own.

30 min
Popper—The Open Society and the Philosophy of Science

75: Popper—The Open Society and the Philosophy of Science

Karl Popper wrote extensively on scientific issues and the history of ideas and was the author of "The Open Society and Its Enemies," an impressive work in political philosophy. In this lecture, we will explore Popper's ideas about knowledge and politics and their connections.

30 min
Kuhn's Paradigm Paradigm

76: Kuhn's Paradigm Paradigm

In this lecture, we will look at Thomas Kuhn's views, his "Structure of Scientific Revolutions," and his controversial ideas about the character of science. We will examine how he was led to refine his idea of a "paradigm" in light of criticism that he had used the term too loosely. Finally, we will look at the research to which Kuhn's ideas have led.

31 min
Quine—Ontological Relativism

77: Quine—Ontological Relativism

Willard Van Orman Quine made major contributions to ontology, epistemology, and mathematical logic. His philosophy came at a time when logical positivism suffered setbacks in its attempts to reduce mathematics to logic. He attacked positivism's attempt to create a foundational first philosophy that would establish the meaning of language.

30 min
Habermas—Critical Theory and Communicative Action

78: Habermas—Critical Theory and Communicative Action

Jürgen Habermas first major book on the origins, genesis, and decline of the public sphere showed how democracy was made possible by the rise of newspapers, literary journals, and public spaces where ideas critical of the existing order could be discussed and debated. Habermas made many contributions to philosophy and social theory and is today one of the most highly respected thinkers of our time.

31 min
Rawls's Theory of Justice

79: Rawls's Theory of Justice

John Rawls's "A Theory of Justice" draws on the theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau to argue that the best society would be founded on principles chosen by rational citizens who would choose a system granting the most extensive liberties to its citizens while ensuring the maximum justice. The text has served as a philosophical defense of the modern welfare state.

31 min
Derrida and Deconstruction

80: Derrida and Deconstruction

In this lecture, we will consider the origins of deconstruction in the theories of Derrida, particularly as they were first presented to America in his (in)famous lecture, "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" (1966). We shall see how Derrida, rather than work within the binaries of traditional metaphysics (or logocentrism), attempted to break down (or deconstruct) all such binaries. We shall contrast deconstruction from both Platonic and Christian thought and seek to understand the main terminology associated with deconstruction.

30 min
Rorty's Neo-Pragmatism

81: Rorty's Neo-Pragmatism

Richard Rorty argues that philosophers have traditionally sought to escape from history by searching for "truth." Rorty believes that truth can never be found imbedded in language but is merely a statement that we approve of. His pragmatism is the basis of his defense of the postmodern bourgeois liberalism of the West.

31 min
Gouldner—Ideology and the

82: Gouldner—Ideology and the "New" Class

In the trilogy "The Dark Side of the Dialectic," Alvin Gouldner presented a Marxist critique of Marxism itself. His analysis of the "new class" of intellectuals and others who earn their living from their education, not their ownership of capital, provides a necessary corrective to the Marxist idea of class struggle and helps explain why so many Marxists and radicals were not proletarians, but intellectuals

31 min
MacIntyre—The Rationality of Traditions

83: MacIntyre—The Rationality of Traditions

Alasdair MacIntyre articulates a form of right-wing postmodernism, affirming the importance of traditions in contrast to the modern rejection of tradition and authority. He contends in "After Virtue" that modern moral reasoning is incoherent because it consists of ill-understood fragments of previous and more coherent traditions of moral reasoning.

31 min
Nozick's Defense of Libertarianism

84: Nozick's Defense of Libertarianism

In "Anarchy, State, and Utopia," Robert Nozick asks us to consider that individuals have rights to their person and to their justly acquired property—and then asks us to take these ideas seriously. He offers several striking lines of criticism, including some reflections on democracy, redistribution, and justice, and a critique of the leading American political philosopher, John Rawls.

32 min