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The Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition

Explore the entire western philosophical tradition in this comprehensive introduction to the topic taught by a member of the philosophy department at Oxford.
The Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 200.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant The best Wondrium course I've taken so far. In depth, great storytelling, fun, easy to stay attentive, and just delivered with great aplomb, sophistication, and verve - I'm going to watch again one I finish viewing some other philosophy courses. You can tell the lecturer truly enjoys his topic.
Date published: 2024-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses offered. While reviewing another course by Professor Robinson, I discovered that I could add pictures! Well, I am hopeful that although I reviewed this course already "Comfort and Joy", a couple of days ago, that I will be able to add these pictures to further my support for not only the best teacher I ever experienced in my entire life, but also to honor and support all education, knowledge and teachers. I am so grateful.
Date published: 2024-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Is there someone you care for? Of course, there is someone you care for, almost always is, even if you can't have them all to yourself forever more. I am here to tell the world and everyone in it - there has not been, nor is, nor ever will be a more life essential, precious and important gift you can give someone than - knowledge/education. I tell you truly and honestly that here - in this lecture and a few others on my favorite list - are the best gift I have ever known in my entire life! Nothing better - not even anything at all - not even my absolutely cherished Bible! I tell you this particular lecture series - most especially - and also several others - helped me to understand the Lord in ways I never would have - at all - without them. It's important for more people who base their faith on the Bible to understand that it was educated people - learned people of that time - Old and New Testament - that wrote these things down - when it is said... all scripture is edifying - you must understand there was no Bible then that was being referred to at all. It is the absolute most precious gift of my life; sharing these lectures with me is the best thing my dad ever did for me. I could never repay it! And though some of it is a true test and trial of faith - I have to tell you honestly - the Lord is able to keep those who belong to Him, and I believe if you could hear Him - He would say to trust Him and use your own mind to think with, because surely that is why He gave a mind to each one of us. So, if you care for someone - share (especially) this one and other Great Courses with them... here a few suggestions: "History of World Literature" with Prof. Grant Voth, "The Golden Islamic Age" with Gearon, "Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition" with Prof. Grant Hardy, "The Book of Genesis" with Rendsburg, "World Heritage Sites" with Jacobs, "After the New Testament" with Ehrman, "Religions of the Axial Age" with Muesse, "Between the Rivers - History of Mesopotamia" with Prof. Castor, "Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World" with Worthington, "Classic Mythology" with Vandiver, "World's Greatest Geological Wonders" with Wysession, "Albert Einstein" with Howard, "Mr. Lincoln" with Guelzo, "World's Greatest Paintings" AND "Masterworks of American Art" both with Kloss and several others that I can't think of at the moment.
Date published: 2024-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Like reading your favorite book a second time! Professor Robinson is outstanding and brilliant in this course, which I just finished for the second time. Being a learner in they course is like reading your favorite classic again and again! I have enjoyed well over one thousand lecture sets since 2002, and cannot image a day without learning from one. Dr. Robinson is in the teaching class with Dr. Rufus Fears (RIP), Professor Greenberg, Professor Alex Filippenko (I have watched his marvelous 96 lecture set twice), Dr. Hazen, Etc. Over the years I have been asked how do you know so much about so many things, and of course I share my secret. Enjoying a brilliant course like Dr. Robinson's, pushes the learner to purchase a classical text referenced in the course and seek. to understand the lecturers position. Incredible course and professor well worth the time and investment.
Date published: 2023-07-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Every thought, explained. Professor Robinson is very smart, and he likes to prove it to you every moment. Unfortunately, his personal religious views are subtly distorting the content. For me, it got very tiring.
Date published: 2023-04-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Overall Enlightening Experience Most of us take these courses to expand our horizons. Whatever your background, you'll meet new characters of philosophy and literature to enrich your point of view. You won't meet Sartre or Kierkegaard or hear discussions of the novels of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, or Kafta. Not surprising inasmuch as each professor of philosophy has his/her own bailiwick.
Date published: 2023-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Monumental 60-lecture Course Up until about three years ago, reviewers on this website were provided with multiple 1–5 scales by which to evaluate various component aspects of each course. With one overall rating scale now being the sole yardstick provided, I regret that course reviews may be less nuanced. As indicated above, I assigned “Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition” 5 stars, and I am grateful for what I learned from Dr. Daniel N. Robinson, though I feel it is appropriate to alert prospective purchasers to the following points of concern: * Even though this is one of the longest series available from the Great Courses catalogue, there are so very many philosophers and philosophies discussed from the past 3000 years that Dr. Robinson could really only explain the gist of what characterized each, which is a bit disappointing. * The professor’s eloquence is generally entertaining, but his ornate rhetoric is such that a student may need to pause and check word definitions fairly frequently. * Most of the lectures are packed with rich information; though further reading about Alan Turing’s Turing machine has persuaded me that that particular topic (in Lecture #49) was not well explained by Dr. Robinson. * One last quibble: I don’t care for the course’s title. “Most Influential Ideas of Philosophy” would have been better, because some famous philosophers and some of their ideas have been “great” only in the way that “great” events may be ones looming large in history, without necessarily being admirable or of general benefit to human society. Despite my stated reservations, I still decided to rate the present course as excellent. Why? It was because of the answers that undeniably and quickly came to mind when I asked myself certain key questions: * Did I learn a lot? Yes, probably in as much detail as could be expected from such a broad survey course. * Did the lectures make me want to learn more? Absolutely. I’ve already ordered a number of suggested supplemental books from Inter-Library Loan. * Was I eager to progress through Dr. Robinson’s lectures? Yes. Even when I studied more than one per day, I could barely wait to view each successive one. * Did this course compare favourably with other courses I’ve attended in person? Yes, it compared very favourably to courses taken at four different universities, with at least three of those courses addressing similar topics. * Was Dr. Robinson an engaging speaker throughout? He was, and I especially appreciated that he shared some genial humour, plus his personal scholarly opinions, above and beyond the basic course content. More than any other reason why I concluded that 5 stars was the fairest rating for this course was that, again and again, I felt inspired by it. I have also found myself highly motivated to discuss the ideas presented with my wife and my friends.
Date published: 2023-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Marvelous! This course is fantastic. Professor Robinson is brilliant! I thoroughly enjoy all 60 lectures. He is fast pace and highly dynamic, but his expositions are clear and impactful. This is a course that requires full concentration, not the kind of course you want to listen to while doing something else, lest you miss a great deal of contents.
Date published: 2023-01-21
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These lectures offer a coherent and beautifully articulated introduction to the great philosophic conversation of the ages. They cover an enormous range of seminal thinkers and perspectives, but always from the vantage point of the enduring questions: What can we know? How ought we to act? How should we order our life together? Dr. Robinson's lectures make the ideas of philosophy thrilling, passionate, human, and divine. Customers agree: "Professor Robinson explains multiple disciplines like no one since Aristotle. His scope is awesome. A professor's professor."


Daniel N. Robinson

Developments in philosophy are chiefly in the form of greater clarity, an ever more refined sense of just what makes the problem problematic. If ignorance is not thereby totally overcome, at least it is exposed.


Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University

Dr. Daniel N. Robinson (1937–2018) was a member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University, where he lectured annually since 1991. He was also Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Georgetown University, on whose faculty he served for 30 years. He was formerly Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, and he also held positions at Amherst College and at Princeton University.

Professor Robinson earned his PhD in Neuropsychology from City University of New York. He was president of two divisions of the American Psychological Association: the Division of History of Psychology, from which he received the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Division of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, from which he received the Distinguished Contribution Award.

Professor Robinson was the author or editor of more than 40 books, including Wild Beasts & Idle Humours: The Insanity Defense from Antiquity to the Present, An Intellectual History of Psychology, The Mind: An Oxford Reader, and Aristotle's Psychology. He was the editor of the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. He also published widely on the constitutional history of the US and its philosophical foundations, with original research appearing in the International Journal of Constitutional Law and The American Journal of Jurisprudence. He was coeditor of The American Founding: Its Intellectual and Moral Framework (London: Continuum, 2012).

By This Professor

From the Upanishads to Homer

01: From the Upanishads to Homer

Before ancient Greek civilization, the world hosted deep insights into the human condition but offered little critical reflection. Homer planted the seeds of this reflection.

31 min
Philosophy—Did the Greeks Invent It?

02: Philosophy—Did the Greeks Invent It?

Discover how and why the ancient Greeks were the first to objectify the products of their own thoughts and feelings and be willing to subject both to critical scrutiny.

31 min
Pythagoras and the Divinity of Number

03: Pythagoras and the Divinity of Number

How can we comprehend the very integrity of the universe and our place within it, if not by way of the most abstract relations?

30 min
What Is There?

04: What Is There?

How many kinds of stuff make up the cosmos? Might everything, in fact, be reducible to one kind of thing?

31 min
The Greek Tragedians on Man’s Fate

05: The Greek Tragedians on Man’s Fate

The ancient philosophers were only part of the rich community of thought and wonder that surrounded the world's first great dramatists and their landmark depth psychologies.

29 min
Herodotus and the Lamp of History

06: Herodotus and the Lamp of History

Can history actually teach us? Herodotus looked at what he took to be certain universal human aspirations and deficiencies and concluded that indeed history could.

30 min
Socrates on the Examined Life

07: Socrates on the Examined Life

Rhetoric wins arguments, but it is philosophy that shows us the way to our humanity.

31 min
Plato's Search For Truth

08: Plato's Search For Truth

If one knows what one is looking for, why is a search necessary? And if one doesn't know, how is that search even possible? Socrates versus the Sophists.

31 min
Can Virtue Be Taught?

09: Can Virtue Be Taught?

If virtue can be taught, whose virtue will it be? A look at the Socratic recognition of multiculturalism and moral relativism.

31 min
Plato's Republic—Man Writ Large

10: Plato's Republic—Man Writ Large

This most famous of Plato's dialogues begins with the metaphor—or perhaps the reality—of the polis (community) as the expanded version of the person, with the fate of each inextricably bound to that of the other.

31 min
Hippocrates and the Science of Life

11: Hippocrates and the Science of Life

Hippocratic medicine did much to demystify the human condition and the natural factors that affect it.

29 min
Aristotle on the Knowable

12: Aristotle on the Knowable

Smith knows that a particular triangle contains 180 degrees because he has measured it, while Jones knows it by definition. But do they know the same thing?

31 min
Aristotle on Friendship

13: Aristotle on Friendship

If true friendship is possible only between equals, how equal must they be—and with respect to what?

30 min
Aristotle on the Perfect Life

14: Aristotle on the Perfect Life

What sort of life is right for humankind, and what is it about us that makes this so?

31 min
Rome, the Stoics, and the Rule of Law

15: Rome, the Stoics, and the Rule of Law

The Stoics found in language something that would separate humanity from the animate realm, and that gave Rome a philosophy to civilize the world.

31 min
The Stoic Bridge to Christianity

16: The Stoic Bridge to Christianity

The Jewish Christians, Hellenized or Orthodox, defended a monotheistic source of law.

29 min
Roman Law—Making a City of the Once-Wide World

17: Roman Law—Making a City of the Once-Wide World

Roman development of law based on a conception of nature, and of human nature, is one of the signal achievements in the history of civilization.

29 min
The Light Within—Augustine on Human Nature

18: The Light Within—Augustine on Human Nature

Thoughts and ideas from the fathers of the early Christian Church culminated in St. Augustine, who explores humanity's capacity for good and evil.

30 min

19: Islam

What did the Prophet teach that so moved the masses? And how did the Western world come to understand the threat embodied in these Eastern "heresies"?

31 min
Secular Knowledge—The Idea of University

20: Secular Knowledge—The Idea of University

Apart from trade schools devoted to medicine and law, the university as we know it did not come into being until 12th-century Paris.

31 min
The Reappearance of Experimental Science

21: The Reappearance of Experimental Science

There were really two great renaissances. The first occurred at Oxford in the 13th century: the recovery of experimental inquiry by Roger Bacon and others.

30 min
Scholasticism and the Theory of Natural Law

22: Scholasticism and the Theory of Natural Law

Thomas Aquinas's treatises on law would stand for centuries as the foundation of critical inquiry in jurisprudence.

30 min
The Renaissance—Was There One?

23: The Renaissance—Was There One?

From Petrarch in the south to Erasmus in the north, Humanistic thought collided with those seeking to defend faith.

30 min
Let Us Burn the Witches to Save Them

24: Let Us Burn the Witches to Save Them

Even in the time we honor with the title of Renaissance ran an undercurrent of a heady and ominous mixture of natural magic, natural science, and cruel superstition.

31 min
Francis Bacon and the Authority of Experience

25: Francis Bacon and the Authority of Experience

Francis Bacon would come to be regarded as the prophet of Newton and originator of modern experimental science.

30 min
Descartes and the Authority of Reason

26: Descartes and the Authority of Reason

Descartes is remembered for "I think, therefore I am." With his work, the authority of revelation, history, and title was replaced by the weight of reason itself.

30 min
Newton—The Saint of Science

27: Newton—The Saint of Science

In the century after Newton's death, the Enlightenment's major architects of reform and revolution defended their ideas in terms of Newtonian science and its implications.

30 min
Hobbes and the Social Machine

28: Hobbes and the Social Machine

As the idea of social science gained force, Hobbes's controversial treatise helped to naturalize the civil realm, readying it for scientific explanation.

30 min
Locke’s Newtonian Science of the Mind

29: Locke’s Newtonian Science of the Mind

If all of physical reality can be reduced to elementary corpuscular entities, is the mind nothing more than comparable elements held together by something akin to gravity?

30 min
No matter? The Challenge of Materialism

30: No matter? The Challenge of Materialism

When Berkeley reacted to Locke with an extravagant critique of materialism, he unwittingly reinforced claims of skeptics he meant to defeat.

30 min
Hume and the Pursuit of Happiness

31: Hume and the Pursuit of Happiness

David Hume was perhaps the most influential philosopher to write in English, carrying empiricism to its logical end and thus grounding morality, truth, causation, and governance in experience.

31 min
Thomas Reid and the Scottish School

32: Thomas Reid and the Scottish School

Thomas Reid was Hume's most successful and influential critic, with a common sense psychology that was both naturalistic and compatible with religious teaching and which reached America's founders.

30 min
France and the Philosophes

33: France and the Philosophes

The leading French thinkers of the 18th century—Voltaire, Rousseau, Condorcet, and Diderot—appealed directly to the ordinary citizen, encouraging skepticism toward traditional authority.

31 min
The Federalist Papers and the Great Experiment

34: The Federalist Papers and the Great Experiment

The extraordinary documents written in support of the proposed constitution represent a profound legacy in political philosophy.

30 min
What Is Enlightenment? Kant on Freedom

35: What Is Enlightenment? Kant on Freedom

Here the limits of reason and the very framework of thought complete—and in another respect undermine—the very project of the Enlightenment.

30 min
Moral Science and the Natural World

36: Moral Science and the Natural World

Kant traced the implications of a human life as lived in both the natural world of causality and the intelligible world of reason (where morality arises).

30 min
Phrenology—A Science of the Mind

37: Phrenology—A Science of the Mind

In founding the now-discredited theory of phrenology, Franz Gall nevertheless helped define today's brain sciences.

31 min
The Idea of Freedom

38: The Idea of Freedom

The idea of freedom developed by Goethe, Schiller, and other romantic idealists forms a central chapter in the Long Debate over whether or not science has overstepped its bounds.

31 min
The Hegelians and History

39: The Hegelians and History

Hegel's Reason in History and other works inspired a transcendentalist movement that spanned Europe, Great Britain, and the United States.

31 min
The Aesthetic Movement—Genius

40: The Aesthetic Movement—Genius

By the second half of the 19th century, the House of Intellect was divided between two competing perspectives: the growing aesthetic concept of reality and the narrowing scientific view.

30 min
Nietzsche at the Twilight

41: Nietzsche at the Twilight

A student of the classics, Nietzsche came to regard the human condition as fatally tied to needs and motives that operate at the most powerful levels of existence.

29 min
The Liberal Tradition—J. S. Mill

42: The Liberal Tradition—J. S. Mill

When can the state or the majority legitimately exercise power over the actions of individuals? The modern liberal answer is set forth in the work of Mill, an almost unchallenged authority for more than a century.

30 min
Darwin and Nature’s “Purposes”

43: Darwin and Nature’s “Purposes”

From social Darwinism to sociobiology, the evolutionary science of the late 18th and 19th centuries dominates social thought and political initiatives.

30 min
Marxism—Dead But Not Forgotten

44: Marxism—Dead But Not Forgotten

After years of influence, the Marxist critique of society is now more a subtext than a guiding bible of reform.

31 min
The Freudian World

45: The Freudian World

Marx, Darwin, and Freud are the chief 19th-century architects of modern thought about society and self—each was nominally "scientific" in approach and believed their theories to be grounded in the realm of observable facts.

31 min
The Radical William James

46: The Radical William James

Mortally opposed to all "block universes" of certainty and theoretical hubris, James offered a quintessentially home-grown psychology of experience.

30 min
William James's Pragmatism

47: William James's Pragmatism

Working in the realm of common sense, James directed the attention of philosophy and science to that ultimate arena of confirmation in which our deepest and most enduring interests are found.

30 min
Wittgenstein and the Discursive Turn

48: Wittgenstein and the Discursive Turn

Meaning arises from conventions that presuppose not only a social world but a world in which we share the interests and aspirations of others.

29 min
Alan Turing in the Forest of Wisdom

49: Alan Turing in the Forest of Wisdom

Turing is famous for breaking Germany's famed World War II Enigma code, but, as a founder of modern computational science, he also wrote influentially about the possibilities of breaking the mind's code.

31 min
Four Theories of the Good Life

50: Four Theories of the Good Life

The contemplative. The active. The fatalistic. The hedonistic. There are good but limited arguments for each of these.

32 min
Ontology—What There

51: Ontology—What There "Really" Is

From the Greek ontos, there is a branch of metaphysics referred to as ontology, devoted to the question of "real being." Ontological controversies have broad ethical and social implications.

28 min
Philosophy of Science—The Last Word?

52: Philosophy of Science—The Last Word?

Should fundamental questions, if they are to be answered with precision and objectivity, be answered by science? We consider Thomas Kuhn's influential treatise on scientific revolutions.

30 min
Philosophy of Psychology and Related Confusions

53: Philosophy of Psychology and Related Confusions

Psychology is a subject of many and varied interests but narrow modes of inquiry. Today cognitive neuroscience is the dominant approach, but other schools have reappeared.

31 min
Philosophy of Mind, If There Is One

54: Philosophy of Mind, If There Is One

The principal grounds of disagreement within the wide-ranging subject of philosophy of mind center on whether the right framework for considering issues is provided by developed sciences or humanistic frameworks.

29 min
What makes a Problem

55: What makes a Problem "Moral"

Is there a "moral reality"? We examine especially David Hume's rejection of the idea that there is anything "moral" in the external world.

29 min
Medicine and the Value of Life

56: Medicine and the Value of Life

What guidance does moral philosophy provide in the domain of medicine, where life-and-death decisions are made daily?

30 min
On the Nature of Law

57: On the Nature of Law

Philosophy of law is an ancient subject, developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Cicero. We see how natural law theory has evolved through the Enlightenment and the writings of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin.

30 min
Justice and Just Wars

58: Justice and Just Wars

Theories of the "just war," beginning with St. Augustine and including St. Thomas Aquinas, Francisco de Vittoria, and Francisco Suarez, set forth principles by which engaging in and conducting war are justified.

30 min
Aesthetics—Beauty Without Observers

59: Aesthetics—Beauty Without Observers

The subject of beauty is among the oldest in philosophy, treated at length in several of the dialogues of Plato and in his Symposium, and redefined through history. What is beauty? Is there anything "rational" about it?

30 min

60: God—Really?

We consider various theological arguments for and against belief in God, including those of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Reid, and William James.

30 min