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Daniel N. Robinson – Great Ideas of Philosophy

50 Great Ideas of Philosophy



Great Ideas of Philosophy(50 lectures, 30 minutes/lecture)Taught by Daniel N. RobinsonPhilosophy Faculty, Oxford UniversityDistinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown UniversityPh.D., City University of New York# From the Upanishads to Homer# Philosophy—Did the Greeks Invent It?# Pythagoras and the Divinity of Number# What Is There?# The Greek Tragedians on Man’s Fate# Herodotus and the Lamp of History# Socrates on the Examined Life# Plato’s Search for Truth# Can Virtue Be Taught?# Plato’s Republic—Man Writ Large# Hippocrates and the Science of Life# Aristotle on the Knowable# Aristotle on Friendship# Aristotle on the Perfect Life# Rome, the Stoics, and the Rule of Law# The Stoic Bridge to Christianity# Roman Law—Making a City of the Once-Wide World# The Light Within—Augustine on Human Nature# Islam# Secular Knowledge—The Idea of University# The Reappearance of Experimental Science# Scholasticism and the Theory of Natural Law# The Renaissance—Was There One?# Let Us Burn the Witches to Save Them# Francis Bacon and the Authority of Experience# Descartes and the Authority of Reason# Newton—The Saint of Science# Hobbes and the Social Machine# Locke’s Newtonian Science of the Mind# No matter? Never mind! The Challenge of Materialism# Hume and the Pursuit of Happiness# Thomas Reid and the Scottish School# France and the Philosophes# The Federalist Papers and the Great Experiment# What Is Enlightenment? Kant on Freedom# Moral Science and the Natural World# Phrenology—A Science of the Mind# The Idea of Freedom# The Hegelians and History# The Aesthetic Movement—Genius# Nietzsche at the Twilight# The Liberal Tradition—J.S. Mill# Darwin and Nature’s “Purposes”# Marxism—Dead but Not Forgotten# The Freudian World# The Radical William James# William James’s Pragmatism# Wittgenstein and the Discursive Turn# Alan Turing in the Forest of Wisdom# Four Theories of the Good LifeThe Great ConversationPerhaps more so than in any other discipline, philosophy is best understood as a “great conversation”held across hundreds of years. All philosophers—and we are all philosophers or their followers—have the same eternal questions:   * What can we know about the world?   * What is the best kind of life?   * When is it legitimate for one person to have power over another?   * How should we govern ourselves and each other?   * On what philosophical precepts does the rule of law depend?   * What are the philosophical justifications for respect of the individual?   * What legal and moral implications arise from the claim of our “autonomy”?   * On what basis, philosophically, did we ever come to regard ourselves as outside the order of nature? Socrates and Nietzsche wanted to answer these questions. Aristotle and Hegel wanted answers to these questions. Scientists, artists, and all thinking people want answers to these questions. In the nature of things there are no final answers, but some are clearly better than others—more coherent, more consistent, compatible with relevant facts.The Great Ideas Connected Across TimeThis extraordinary series covers more than 2,000 years of philosophical thought. Yet this course is much more than a collection of the thoughts of various geniuses; it links their concerns across centuries, thereby making their debates a part of our own.These lectures offer a coherent and beautifully articulated introduction to the great philosophic conversation of the ages. They cover an enormous range of key thinkers and perspectives, but always from the vantage point of the enduring human questions.Some of What You Will LearnIn these lectures you will:   * Explore the three basic philosophical questions—What can I know? How should I behave? Is this tribe or polis able to preserve our knowledge, protect our interests, lead us to a more meaningful life?   * Understand why we should aspire to moral excellence, which is developed through habitual striving and a devotion to self-perfection, and how we might attain a flourishing form of life.   * Explore the four general assessments of what constitutes the good life. These have come and gone over the course of time in various forms. The titles of the lectures in this course alone show its vast scope. But in every lecture, there is substance that can change your view of the world and its history.You will see the birth of rational thought. Dr. Robinson addresses in one lecture why such critical thought would begin in Ancient Greece. The fruit of that period, knit together by the lives of three men, would never be matched.Most famous was Socrates, the pagan philosopher whom St. Augustine would revere because he was willing to die for truth. Socrates’s student, Plato, wrote so powerfully on almost every issue in philosophy that Alfred North Whitehead later commented that all of Western philosophy was a footnote to Plato. (But British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell described Plato as a “garden-variety” fascist.)Aristotle, Plato’s student, was possibly the most fruitful single mind in human history. Aristotle laid the foundations for virtually every science, and his treatises on friendship and the good life have never been surpassed. As Dr. Robinson concludes: “Aristotle makes quite clear that our character is shaped by our works. That is, we make ourselves into the sorts of beings we are in virtue of the manner in which we conduct our lives.”After Greece, the lectures explore the beginnings of Christian philosophy in the work of the Roman Stoics, the exceptional debt of civilization to Roman law and to Islamic scholars who preserved and extended Greek thought while Europe became a backwater in the “Dark Ages.”Early in the 17th Century, Francis Bacon defends the scientific mode of knowledge. Experience and not speculation is the central source of learning. He observed that “words are but the pictures of matter,” and that to fall in love with words was as mistaken as to “fall in love with a picture.”Bacon’s program to rely on experience was not embraced by the genius René Descartes, inventor of analytic geometry. His division of the mind and the body has been a rupture in Western philosophy ever since. Professor Robinson describes one reply to Descartes’s proof of his own existence:”The Scottish ‘common sense’ philosopher Thomas Reid is kidding around a bit when he gets to Descartes’s famous ‘Cogito, ergo sum.’ Descartes would not accept his own existence until he could come up with a very good rational argument that culminates in a conclusion that he exists. Reid says a man who disbelieves his own existence is no more fit to be reasoned with than one who thinks he’s made of glass.”The course carefully examines the thought of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Reid and their impact on government and particularly the new democracy in America.The Enlightenment program of scientific knowledge undermined the possibility of human freedom because a world completely determined by material causes made freedom an illusion. The course examines the ongoing debate, exemplified by the conflict between Hume and Kant, over whether there can be any truly moral acts taken in a causally determined world. And the course shows how this debate is amplified in the German Romantic thought of Goethe and Schiller, in which freedom becomes the defining feature of human being. In Nietzsche, the lectures show how the argument for freedom takes on a full, dark, and possibly more honest aspect.The course also examines the collision between the inherently social understanding of meaning created by Wittgenstein and the vastly different estimation of human thought created by the code-breaking genius Alan Turing—and the subtle reply to him from American philosopher John Searle.Further lectures, unique to the second edition of this course, examine the concept of reality itself, plus ideas of “natural law” and “moral reality.” Do these concepts exist in the larger universe independent of us or our sentiments? How do such “moral” problems impact medical and ethical decisions? Is war ever justified?You will see how natural law theory has evolved through the Enlightenment and the writings of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin, among others. Theories of “just war,” beginning with St. Augustine and including St. Thomas Aquinas and Francisco Suarez, set forth the principles by which engaging in and conducting war are justified.Finally, after exploring the concepts of aesthetics and beauty, we turn take a concluding look at history’s greatest theological debates about the existence of God.A Great TeacherThis course is the integration of a life-long student of these issues who has thought and published in every area covered by these lectures. Professor Robinson is one of those rare teachers whose tremendous respect for his audience, vast expertise, relish for language, and engaging rhetorical flair create an exceptionally enjoyable learning environment.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.” Another writes: “Enjoying these tapes is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life at this time.”Professor Robinson is Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University, on whose faculty he served for 30 years. He is currently a member of the Philosophy faculty of Oxford University and was formerly Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Columbia University.Professor Robinson is author or editor of more than 40 books, including Wild Beasts & Idle Humours: The Insanity Defense from Antiquity to the Present (Harvard 1996), An Intellectual History of Psychology (3rd edition, Wisconsin, 1995), and The Mind: An Oxford Reader (Oxford, 1998 ). His most recent book is Praise and Blame: Moral Realism and Its Applications (Princeton, 2002).


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