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CD Soundtracks are the entire audio portion of this video course. They contain some references to visual images, animations, graphics and content designed for the video experience.
Digital Soundtracks are the entire audio portion of this video course. They contain some references to visual images, animations, graphics and content designed for the video experience.
These are fundamental questions. And most of us have surely asked them of ourselves in one way or another.
Such introspection has been going on for millennia, as Professor Robert H. Kane explains. And the devoted search for answers to these questions—for wisdom about the human condition—has shaped cultures around the globe.
Yet today, the very possibility of such wisdom is being challenged.
"Postmodern" thinkers assert that we can no longer seriously pursue questions of purpose and objective meaning.
Others may not go quite as far, but few would deny that a sense of profound uncertainty about basic human values haunts the modern age:
How and why have we come to this?
Is the postmodernist challenge correct? Do questions about objective values mark the limits of a dream that is now all dreamed out? Are we hopelessly trapped within our own partial and relative perspectives, doomed never to discover what is authentically true and good?
Or is it still possible to aspire toward objective standards of meaning in a way that takes into account the realities of pluralism?
And even if the need for a common ground is granted, must we not ask whose morality will be represented? Is there an ethics that we can all agree on without stifling pluralism and freedom? What would such an ethics look like?
Most important, how should you, as a thoughtful person, find your way among the moral puzzles of the modern world and its cacophony of voices and opinions? What criteria should guide your thinking about ethics and your stands on issues of the day?
These are some of the questions you'll tackle as you join Professor Kane in this thought-provoking examination of the problems surrounding ethics in the modern world.
The contemporary issues you'll consider include:
Professor Kane's approach is as searching and comprehensive as any you could ask for.
His lectures range over a rich array of literary, religious, and philosophical sources representing thousands of years of civilization.
You begin with the Axial Period (c. 800-300 B.C.) which the philosopher Karl Jaspers identified as the seedtime of many of the world's great religious and wisdom traditions.
Its many bequests to us include:
Professor Kane explains that modern thought has completely separated fact from value, and examines the consequences of this divorce. Modern science has especially contributed to this dissolution because it seeks explanations in causes, not intentions.
This threatened the older wisdom traditions and left modern thinkers with the challenge of finding a ground for ethics that could not be reduced to individual preference or social convention.
These thinkers included such influential modern philosophers as Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, and John Stuart Mill, as well as more recent figures like John Rawls.
They rose to the challenge in a variety of complex and sophisticated ways, seeking a basis for ethics in common human feeling, reason, utility, or the notion of a social contract.
These ideas all remain influential today, and are the subject of current debates that Professor Kane explores with great subtlety and insight.
For that reason alone, this course is indispensable to anyone who is serious about understanding the shape and origins of our current ethical situation.
Reflecting on Plato's prescient criticisms of democracy in the Republic, Professor Kane also asks how our society will fare amid this growing moral debate.
Viewed against the larger backdrop of human history and current world events, freedom and democracy appear as exceptional achievements, forged in an era of much greater moral consensus than we know today.
Can democracy's continued health be taken for granted if procedures alone hold it together while citizens increasingly disagree about basic questions of what is right and wrong, permissible and impermissible?
Most intriguingly, Professor Kane spurs you to ponder the possibility of recovering the ancient quest for wisdom and virtue in a way that respects the insights of modern thought and the achievements of modern pluralism.
This discussion is structured around a fascinating contemporary parable about a gathering of representatives from many different cultures and belief systems at a remote monastery high in the Himalayas.
Does the vision sketched in this parable suggest a viable way of proceeding? Can thoroughgoing pluralism coexist with deeply held convictions about the best way of life? Do our current contentions over ethics mean that we are living through a transition to some new Axial Period?
Whatever your thinking on such questions, you can rest assured that it will be immeasurably enriched by the harvest of reflection you glean from Professor Kane's compelling lectures.
The University of Texas at Austin
Ph. D., Yale University
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.
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