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Philosophy and Religion in the West

Examine how philosophy and religion have interacted throughout history on fundamental questions of religious belief, including the concepts of God, creation, sin, mercy, and redemption.
Philosophy and Religion in the West is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 58.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Insightful Course Clear and comprehensive introduction into the relationship between philosophy and religion in Modern Western thought.
Date published: 2023-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My "Second" Phillip Cary Ph, D Course. This is my "Second" lecture presented by Phillip Cary, Ph. D. Like his lecture on Martin Luther, Professor Cary holds my attention. His classes are to-the-point. He presents vast perspectives of history's prominent philosophical scholars and dedicated theologians.
Date published: 2022-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine I gave this also as a present to my sister. I found it a very good course. Clear the first time I listened to it, and worthwhile listening to several times after! Excellent!
Date published: 2022-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful tool for autodidactic endeavors! I recently have been utilizing these courses as well as others in the Great Courses catalog to further my interests in Russian Literature and Philosophy. In addition to reading these lectures fill in the gaps that are needed to fulfill my educational goals!
Date published: 2021-06-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Mixed This course is misnamed - it should be called Philosophy and Christianity. While other religions are mentioned (specifically Judaism and paganism) they're included more for context than for anything else. Professor Cary's attempt to shoehorn philosophical inquiry through his orthodoxy says more about his own conflicts than western intellectual development. He doesn't even bother to mention Emerson's influence on Kant's transcendentalism. There were a few gems in the course but they're colored by a dishonest premise. This is the only "fair" review I've given a course - almost every other course I've listened to has been truly "great."
Date published: 2020-10-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Emphasis on Western Religion and Philosophy This is the second course that I have taken from Professor Cary, the other being “Augustine, Philosopher and Saint” which I liked pretty well, giving it 4 stars across the board. Never having had any formal education in either philosophy or religion, but being interested in both, this course seemed like a natural for me. I came away being more knowledgeable about the intersection of the two disciplines than before, but also somewhat disappointed, as I was expecting a bit more. On the other hand that may well have been an unreasonable expectation, as covering philosophy from Plato to almost the present day in only 32 lectures is a very tall order, even when largely restricting philosophy as regards religion. And religion is restricted to Christianity and some Judaism. The Christian emphasis is a bit more on mainstream, conservative Protestantism than the other branches. Some reviewers have commented that they would have liked some inclusion of Islam, but I give Dr. Cary a pass on this, assuming that Islam does not fall into the “Western” religion category. Plus if he tried to add one more variable to the equation, I might still be listening to the course. Although there are quite a few lectures centered on religion (e.g. #10: Church Fathers), the main thrust of the course is a lecture mostly about one particular philosopher and how that philosophy relates to religion. For example Maimonides and Jewish rationalism contrasted with mysticism is treated quite well in lecture 12. Of course often religious issues such as Grace or Theodicy are treated from philosophical perspectives. Most philosophers get one lecture, excepting Plato and Kant, both receiving two. While I did not find Professor Cary’s delivery to be particularly dynamic, he is clear and easily understood (at least as easily understood as philosophy and religion can be). I thought that his discussion of ideas revolving around “proof” and “belief” to be very interesting and may well result in a modification of my own views. The analogy of how a 5-year old might believe in Santa Claus, as opposed to a 10-year old, made this section easy to grasp. In contrast to a couple of reviewers, I found the last lecture where Professor Cary gave us many of his own views regarding the current state of philosophy and religion to be of special interest. Dr. Cary is upfront about coming from that conservative, protestant tradition, but for me that background did not appear to bias his lectures. I took the course on audio and don’t expect that I missed very much by not having videos. The course material is generally of TTC’s standard for courses of this era, and I’d make special mention of Dr. Cary’s translation recommendations. I always like it when a knowledgeable person articulates reasons for on particular translation or another.
Date published: 2020-07-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Leans too much toward religion I suppose I shouldn't be overly surprised at the overtly religious overtones; but I thought it might leave open the possibility of philosophy contributing to non-believers.
Date published: 2020-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect. I have made one of the best decisions that I have ever made when it comes to education and life by choosing and learning from your courses. Again I want to thank you very much for coming into my life.
Date published: 2020-01-02
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Overview

This course examines how philosophy and religion have interacted throughout history on fundamental questions of religious belief, including the concepts of God, creation, sin, mercy, and redemption. Invoking the writing of the greatest Greek, Jewish, and Christian thinkers as well as "modern" philosophers such as Hume, Kant, Schleiermacher, and Nietzsche, this course casts new light on the entire Greco-Judeo-Christian belief system of the Western tradition.

About

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.

INSTITUTION

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
854
Introduction—Philosophy and Religion as Traditions

01: Introduction—Philosophy and Religion as Traditions

Thinking about philosophy and religion under the common rubric of "tradition" can be highly illuminating. Here's why.

34 min
Plato's Inquiries—The Gods and the Good

02: Plato's Inquiries—The Gods and the Good

In Plato's early dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates tries to get the title character to think critically about the question "What is piety?" In later dialogues, Plato suggests what kind of things might supply an answer. His thinking will play an enormous role in Western religion.

29 min
Plato's Spirituality—The Immortal Soul and the Other World

03: Plato's Spirituality—The Immortal Soul and the Other World

Plato's philosophy is inherently religious and has had a deep influence on Western spirituality.

31 min
Aristotle and Plato—Cosmos, Contemplation, and Happiness

04: Aristotle and Plato—Cosmos, Contemplation, and Happiness

Plato and Aristotle attempted to trace the movement of the heavens back to a divine starting point or first principle. Aristotle conceived of God as Prime Mover and also as Divine Mind in which our minds participate. The world is thus inherently purposeful, naturally ordered toward the good and ultimately toward God.

31 min
Plotinus—Neoplatonism and the Ultimate Unity of All

05: Plotinus—Neoplatonism and the Ultimate Unity of All

Plotinus saw four levels of being, the lowest of which is the visible, material world of change, division, and death. Plotinus's spirituality is based on the desire for ultimate unity.

31 min
The Jewish Scriptures—Life With the God of Israel

06: The Jewish Scriptures—Life With the God of Israel

In the religion of Israel, God is not a principle or concept, but a person. The ancient Israelites identified specific places where their God could be met and told stories about how he was met. The foundational story is told in the book of Exodus.

31 min
Platonist Philosophy and Scriptural Religion

07: Platonist Philosophy and Scriptural Religion

Referring to the three levels of Plotinus's view of the divine, this lecture compares Platonist spirituality with biblical portraits of God and his people, and begins examining how these two traditions came to be combined in Western thought. Whether it is wise to combine them is a central and recurrent question for Jewish and Christian theology.

32 min
The New Testament—Life in Christ

08: The New Testament—Life in Christ

In contrast to the Platonist view of the immortality of the soul, the New Testament speaks of the bodily resurrection of the dead, beginning with Jesus Christ. Hence for Christians, Jesus' body is the holy place where God is to be met: this is the root of the Christian teaching that Christ is God incarnate.

31 min
Rabbinic Judaism—Israel and the Torah

09: Rabbinic Judaism—Israel and the Torah

The religion we now know as Judaism arose after the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. The resulting tradition focuses on the importance of Torah study as the "place" of God's gracious presence in Israel.

31 min
Church Fathers—The Logos Made Flesh

10: Church Fathers—The Logos Made Flesh

While the rabbis were forming orthodox Judaism, the Church fathers were forming the central doctrines of orthodox Christianity.

31 min
The Development of Christian Platonism

11: The Development of Christian Platonism

The early, more radical Christian Platonists focused on souls escaping bodies (Gnosticism) or falling into bodies (Origen). In orthodox Christian Platonism, however, souls remain embodied, receiving divine light from above or within.

31 min
Jewish Rationalism and Mysticism—Maimonides and Kabbalah

12: Jewish Rationalism and Mysticism—Maimonides and Kabbalah

Jewish thought in the Middle Ages moved in two directions. Rationalists like Maimonides interpreted the Scriptures as a figurative expression (suitable for the many) of Aristotelian metaphysics. The mystical direction was represented by the texts of Kabbalah.

31 min
Classical Theism—Proofs and Attributes of God

13: Classical Theism—Proofs and Attributes of God

The view of God that was worked out by medieval theologians and philosophers has come to be called "classical theism."

32 min
Medieval Christian Theology—Nature and Grace

14: Medieval Christian Theology—Nature and Grace

The universe of classical theism is inherently good; not perfect like God, but oriented toward God. However, in the Christian version of that universe, human nature, which God created good, has been corrupted by the Fall and needs to be restored by grace.

31 min
Late-Medieval Nominalism and Christian Mysticism

15: Late-Medieval Nominalism and Christian Mysticism

What spelled the beginning of the end for medieval thought?

31 min
Protestantism—Problems of Grace

16: Protestantism—Problems of Grace

Protestantism inherits the Augustinian conception of grace and wrestles with two problems that result from it.

31 min
Descartes, Locke, and the Crisis of Modernity

17: Descartes, Locke, and the Crisis of Modernity

Modern philosophy is born amid a crisis of authority, especially religious authority. The moderns to the subject, seeking the sources of belief and certainty in the self.

28 min
Leibniz and Theodicy

18: Leibniz and Theodicy

In Leibniz's panpsychism, every atom (or monad) of the physical world has a kind of "inner self;" that is alive. Using his theory of monads, in combination with his logic of possible worlds, Leibniz constructs a theodicy (an attempt to answer " problem of evil."

31 min
Hume's Critique of Religion

19: Hume's Critique of Religion

David Hume was perhaps the most astute critic of religion in the highly critical period of Western history known as the Enlightenment.

30 min
Kant—Reason Limited to Experience

20: Kant—Reason Limited to Experience

With the thought of Kant, the modern "turn to the subject" attains a new depth and fullness. He argues that the very possibility of experience (and, hence, of empirical knowledge and the natural sciences) presupposes certain subjective conditions.

26 min
Kant—Morality as the Basis of Religion

21: Kant—Morality as the Basis of Religion

Kant set limits to theoretical reason in order to make room for practical reason. He argues that popular notions such as duty point toward a purely rational (a priori) foundation for morality, grounded in a principle of conduct that all rational beings recognize they should follow, regardless of inclination.

34 min
Schleiermacher—Feeling as the Basis of Religion

22: Schleiermacher—Feeling as the Basis of Religion

Religious thinkers after Kant wanted to find an approach to God based neither on theoretical reason nor on pure morality. What they found was feeling. This finding lies at the root of Romanticism and liberal theology.

32 min
Hegel—A Philosophical History of Religion

23: Hegel—A Philosophical History of Religion

Hegel held that history unfolds dialectically, according to a divine and necessary logic. For Hegel, Christianity provides a powerful but mythical image of this process.

26 min
Marx and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion

24: Marx and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion

Marx interprets cultural phenomena (including religion) in terms of the hidden interests they serve. Freud offers a psychological version of this.

34 min
Kierkegaard—Existentialism and the Leap of Faith

25: Kierkegaard—Existentialism and the Leap of Faith

Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish Christian famous for his notion of the "leap of faith," is also widely regarded as the first existentialist. His aim was to nourish authentic individual faith in the paradox of Christ.

32 min
Nietzsche—Critic of Christian Morality

26: Nietzsche—Critic of Christian Morality

Nietzsche is one of the few critics of Christianity bold enough to criticize its morality and propose his own substitute.

32 min
Neo-orthodoxy—The Subject and Object of Faith

27: Neo-orthodoxy—The Subject and Object of Faith

Neo-orthodoxy reacted against the liberal Protestant attempt to base theology on religious experience and then branched off in two very different directions.

33 min
Encountering the Biblical Other—Buber and Levinas

28: Encountering the Biblical Other—Buber and Levinas

The 20th-century Jewish thinkers Martin Buber and Emanuel Levinas draw upon concepts implicit in the Hebrew Bible to conceive of human relationships in ways that elude the Greek and German philosophical traditions.

31 min
Process Philosophy—God in Time

29: Process Philosophy—God in Time

Process philosophy expresses the pervasive 20th-century dissatisfaction with the metaphysics of an unchanging God. As initially formulated by A. N. Whitehead, it was based on an ontology of events (where "what happens" is more basic to reality than "what is").

32 min
Logical Empiricism and the Meaning of Religion

30: Logical Empiricism and the Meaning of Religion

The modern "turn to the subject" reached a point of special intensity in the early 20th century. Yet logical empiricism in the English-speaking countries and phenomenology on the continent unraveled into various forms of "postmodernism."

32 min
Reformed Epistemology and the Rationality of Belief

31: Reformed Epistemology and the Rationality of Belief

"Reformed" epistemology is a recent philosophical movement that defends the rationality of religious beliefs. Here you'll learn about three of its leaders: Nicholas Wolterstorff, Alvin Plantinga, and William Alston.

30 min
Conclusion—Philosophy and Religion Today

32: Conclusion—Philosophy and Religion Today

Philosophy has often criticized religion, but also has often supported it. Here we ask why religion should be grateful to philosophy, and what religion offers that philosophy does not.

33 min