Philosophy and Religion in the West

Course No. 625
Professor Phillip Cary, Ph.D.
Eastern University
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Course No. 625
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Course Overview

Acclaimed humanities teacher Phillip Cary explores thousands of years of deep reflection and brilliant debate over the nature of God, the human self, and the world. It's a debate that serves as a vivid introduction to the rich and complex history shared by the West's central religious and philosophical traditions.

Whether you're a believer, a seeker, or both, you'll find much to spark your deepest ponderings in these talks on the long and rich interplay between faith and reason.

>Different Systems of Thought Joined in a Search for Answers

Philosophy and religion ask many of the same questions:

  • What is the ultimate reality?
  • What can we know about it—or what should we believe about it?
  • How do our questions and thoughts, our hopes and fears, relate us to it?
  • Is this ultimate reality a person whom we meet, or an object that we contemplate?

These are questions no thoughtful person can evade.

They are enduring and perennial. And they are possessed of a history whose twists and turns have left their mark on almost every person on Earth.

To learn how these crucial issues have been discussed over the past three millennia is to enter the core of our intellectual heritage—to find the origin of some of our deepest perplexities and most cherished aspirations.

3,000 Years of Faith and Reason

A theologian who earned his doctorate in philosophy and religious studies at Yale, Professor Cary is now head of the philosophy program at Eastern University in St. David's, Pennsylvania.

He is the author of Augustine's Invention of the Inner Self, published by Oxford University Press, and the teacher of The Teaching Company's course Augustine: Philosopher and Saint.

Originally trained in both philosophy and English literature, he is the ideal companion on this journey to the heart of the spiritual adventure of the West.

It is a comprehensive journey—intellectually, philosophically, and spiritually—but one which requires no special background.

All you need to bring is your own curiosity as Professor Cary weaves any background concepts you need into the fabric of his 32 lectures.

By the end of this course, those insights will belong to you—and you gain a new or sharpened fluency in issues that include:

  • The historical interaction between philosophical traditions (such as Platonism) and religious traditions (such as Judaism and Christianity)
  • The philosophical origin of certain key religious concepts, such as the immortality of the soul, the Fall, and "going to heaven"
  • The attractiveness of ancient philosophy for Judaism and Christianity
  • The synthesis of philosophy and religion that characterized the "classical theism" of the medieval period
  • The significance of modernity for the history of Western religion
  • The most prominent philosophical criticisms of religion
  • The classic proofs that have been attempted of the existence of God
  • The reasons why many religious thinkers of the 20th century are suspicious of the alliances between philosophy and religion
  • The relationship of critical rationality and religious belief.
Witness the Origins of a Debate Still Underway

Under Professor Cary's guidance, you'll cover thousands of years of profound reflection and debate concerning the nature of God, the human self, and the world.

You begin your journey by exploring the roots of the philosophical tradition in ancient Greece, examining how Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Neo-Platonist philosopher Plotinus dealt with issues concerning God, the soul, and the nature of the cosmos.

You continue along the path with the two great Western religious traditions, Judaism and Christianity, and follow its turnings to philosophers and theologians who are alive and writing today.

In keeping with his commitment to "critical objectivity," Professor Cary urges students not to take his word as final on a topic, but to think it through independently.

Learn to Trace Common Themes and Complex Influences

In this questing spirit, you'll probe the ideas of dozens of towering and diverse thinkers, tracing unifying themes throughout the works of writers who so often are thought to have little save brilliance in common.

These include not only Socrates and the prophets but also Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Maimonides, Luther, Calvin, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Martin Buber, Karl Barth, and others.

And as Professor Cary takes you through their agreements and differences, you gain a precise and detailed grasp of how philosophy and religion—especially Judaism and Christianity, the leading spiritual traditions of the West—have long been intensely concerned with many of the same questions.

Surprising Interactions of Great Thinkers

This, as Professor Cary explains, has led them to interact in intricate and sometimes surprising ways:

  • You wonder along with him when he asks why the Platonic idea of the immortality of the soul has come so largely to displace the scriptural doctrine of bodily resurrection in Christian belief.
  • You ponder the remarkable but little-noted influence of Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of the medieval Catholic thinkers, on Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism.
  • You probe the links between Kierkegaard's call for a Christian "leap of faith" in the 19th century and the secular Existentialism of Martin Heidegger in the 20th.
  • You consider whether Jacques Derrida's much-discussed Postmodernism has roots in the concept of the "Other" framed by the Jewish thinker Emmanuel Levinas.

Again and again, as you explore the answers offered over so many centuries, you find yourself aided and encouraged to form your own conclusions about the great unfinished story of faith and reason.

And you see that it is a story that has always been close to the heart of our civilization, whether seen in its moments of glory or its times of anguish.

No matter which of the aforementioned categories you put yourself in—believer, seeker, or some combination of the two (if Professor Cary is right, they go together quite well)—this course is sure to enrich and inform your thinking to an unexpected degree.

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32 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction—Philosophy and Religion as Traditions
    Thinking about philosophy and religion under the common rubric of "tradition" can be highly illuminating. Here's why. x
  • 2
    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. x
  • 3
    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. x
  • 4
    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. x
  • 5
    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. x
  • 6
    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. x
  • 7
    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. x
  • 8
    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. x
  • 9
    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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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." x
  • 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. x
  • 15
    Late-Medieval Nominalism and Christian Mysticism
    What spelled the beginning of the end for medieval thought? x
  • 16
    Protestantism—Problems of Grace
    Protestantism inherits the Augustinian conception of grace and wrestles with two problems that result from it. x
  • 17
    Descartes, Locke, and the Crisis of Modernity
    Modern philosophy is born amid a crisis of authority, especially religious authority. The moderns "turn to the subject," seeking the sources of belief and certainty in the self. x
  • 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 "the problem of evil"). x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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"). x
  • 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." x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x

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Your professor

Phillip Cary

About Your Professor

Phillip Cary, Ph.D.
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...
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Philosophy and Religion in the West is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 55.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from phliosophy and religion An interesting blend of 2000 years of religion and philosophy.
Date published: 2018-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Course for Thinkers This course, "Philosophy and Religion in the West," offers the viewer an opportunity to examine various philosophies regarding metaphysics (study of reality such as the nature of God, nature of ourselves, and nature of our world etc.) and epistemology (study of how do we know something) and the interactions of philosophical thought with Christianity and Judaism. Professor Phillip Cary concludes, at times philosophy has supported Christianity and at other times it has challenged Christianity. In examining philosophies, the listener/reader becomes aware of what the different philosophical traditions hold and the pros and/or cons of these traditions in contributing to our understanding of spiritual realities. Professor Cary's presentational style summarizes various philosophical traditions and Christianity and Judaism in an insightful and clear manner. Even though Professor Cary openly admits he is a Christian, he also said at the beginning of this course that he would remain objective in presenting the subject matter in a balanced manner. After completing this course, I conclude Professor Cary made good on this commitment. Furthermore, the course guidebook is easily readable for a course that has breadth and depth and reinforces the lectures so as to help the reader gain more clarity on a subject that deserves further review. Similarly, the glossary in the back of the course guidebook offers easy access to terms used in the course and assists in more readily understanding the course content. For these reasons, I strongly recommend reading the guidebook after listening to the lectures. Who can benefit from this course? 1. Those who seek truth on matters of ultimate reality. 2. Believers who seek a better understanding of the interactions between philosophy and Christianity. 3. Those who want to know whether Christianity is a reasonable faith. Is there a rational basis for believing Christianity?
Date published: 2017-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Refreshingly informative and substantial content We love the content and the presenter's style. Have watched thew videos mutliple times.
Date published: 2017-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Title of This Course is Accurate This is a course about Philosophy and Religion in the West. Professor Cary sticks to this topic and doesn't start talking about astronomy or about the east or about what he had for breakfast. I wondered why this course wasn't titled Religion and Philosophy in the West, but then I stopped wondering about that and started thinking about something else. Now that I have the finished my short preface, I can get on with my review. This was a good course, wide in scope but informed and detailed. I recommend listening or watching this course with Hall's Philosophy of Religion -- the two make a good pair. I would say that Cary is strongest on Plato and early Christianity. He is weakest on Nietzsche, mostly because he seeks to explain Nietzsche by looking at his childhood and upbringing. The idea is that Nietzsche was raised by a bunch of pious women and that his entire philosophical enterprise was merely a belated rebellion against them. This strikes me as dubious, but I could be wrong. I'd never even heard of any of the figures mentioned in this course before listening to it, so that shows you where I'm coming from. Cary is strong on Kant, although I noticed that he did not explain Kant's metaphysics, which allowed Mr. Kant to retain his theism, as simply Kant's attempt to be a philosopher and a good boy without alienating his religious parents. Maybe I'm just skeptical about biographical criticism...probably because I don't have a biography myself. I used to have one, but I lost it. I think it's somewhere in Sweden. I listened to the audio, specifically the audio download, and I found it sufficient. That's because I close my eyes I paint an imaginary classroom on the inside of my eyelids. Early on Professor Cary says that he is a Christian. I seem to remember him saying that he came from a fairly conservative tradition. As I listened to this course, I didn't get the feeling that he was putting a slant on it with the possible exception of Nietzsche (see above), but then he was excellent on Hume. And unlike another reviewer, I liked his final lecture, which I found tolerant and espousing an idea that people who disagree can still talk with another.
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Premise flawed This course is akin to listening to a review of a review of a review of its subject matter. One needs to have first read the source material (Plato, etc.) to gain even an appreciation of the lectures and this should have been stated as required reading up front. Otherwise, for all practical purposes, the lectures are just hearsay and one is just drinking the professor's Kool-Ade, since one is not making an informed consumption of the ideas presented.
Date published: 2016-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Faith Seeking Understanding: A Well-Done Overview This course provides an excellent, broad, nuanced, and balanced overview of the development of Jewish and Christian (primarily Christian) theology over the last few thousand years. The course is indeed primarily theology - that is, a study of belief systems from within a religious context - rather than philosophy of religion - that is, an examination of belief systems from an external perspective, one which attempts to be academically objective and which assumes no commitment to any religious belief. At the same time, it does a fine job of presenting and integrating those non-religious philosophical perspectives (especially Plato's, but many others' as well) from which Judaism and Christianity (primarily Christianity) drew throughout the evolution of their ideas and beliefs. And the course makes clear that this is a process of evolution - the religious beliefs which so many accept unquestioningly did not spring full-grown from the head of Zeus or any other god. They changed quite significantly over past centuries, and presumably will continue to do so over the centuries to come. A remarkable amount of material is covered, as a reading of the course description will make clear. Keep in mind, however, that as adroitly presented as this course is, no lecture series can do justice in 16 hours to millenia of complex, deep, and impassioned thought. This is an overview, an introduction, not an analysis in depth. Professor Cary is excellent - clear, organized, knowledgeable, and passionate about his subject. While he is forthright about his own religious orientation - he is a "conservative" Protestant, a Lutheran - he encourages his students to think for ourselves about the material, rather than accepting anything "on faith," and I found his presentation to be fairly balanced between competing points of view. It is only in the final lecture that he lays out some of his own core beliefs. Obviously, I recommend this course highly. But having said all that, I do have some serious concerns. I wish there had been more direct critique of the positions discussed, more analysis of reasons for and against accepting the arguments and beliefs. Some was provided, but more often a narrative was given of a view's development and history, and an explanation given of its meaning, without substantial consideration of opposing views. In particular, almost no consideration was given to the question of how one could determine if any given belief is true, of what actual connection it has with reality. Views were generally well explicated with regard to their meaning and internal consistency, but rarely with regard to why one should believe them, rather than take them simply as metaphors or made-up stories. A few examples among many are the concepts of Plato's forms, and of Plotinus' soul, divine mind, and the One. Yes, I realize religion is largely considered a matter of faith; this still leaves the question of why have faith in any given belief. And as in many other explications of Christianity which I have heard, I was struck by the remarkable lack of attention to Jesus's teaching, in favor of an almost exclusive focus on the need to believe that he died for our sins and was bodily resurrected. Finally, a particular concern of mine: Professor Cary starts his lecture on Nietzsche on the right foot by noting in no uncertain terms that, despite later intentional misinterpretations, Nietzsche hated anti-Semites and would have hated the Nazis. However, he then presents the standard, tendentious, and entirely mistaken view that "For Nietzsche the basic element of all life, even of all reality, is 'Will to Power.'" This is just wrong. Obviously I can't argue my point here, but if you have any serious interest in philosophy I urge you to read Nietzsche for yourself. He has great faults (he was horribly misogynistic), but his stress on humankind's responsibility for our own flourishing is wonderful, and his analyses of our lives, motivations, and beliefs are deeply insightful and often brilliant. So - a well-done overview of an important and fascinating subject, despite several serious deficiencies. I recommend it highly for any with an interest in religion, theology, or the philosophy which contributes to them.
Date published: 2016-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not for the faint of heart Audio CD review. First off, this is not the course for you if you are looking for “light” entertainment -- you are going to be challenged to take it all in. Dr. Cary warns you of that upfront, and he is correct. However, this is the course for you if you are looking to understand the abiding philosophical and religious leitmotifs that that run the course of the western intellectual tradition. This course is so rich in factual and conceptual content that just writing a review of it is a challenge. Please be aware that everything I have stated so far is meant as the highest of compliments. That Dr. Cary can speak so eloquently, so fluidly, and so vividly about so much is a marvel. Dr. Cary has an almost unique ability to paint a word picture. I had fancied myself to be fairly well versed in many of the topics covered in the course, but Dr. Cary helped me to better see these topics in my mind’s eye. Every single lecture imparted a historical or meta-physical understanding I had not had before. Again be warned: while Professor Cary is an outstanding lecturer, these classes are “dense”. You really need to commit to these lectures so you can devote your full attention to them. This is probably not a class you want to listen to while driving.
Date published: 2015-12-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fascinating Beginning, Lost Me at the End Overall: The early discussion of the interplay of religion and philosophy was fascinating but the latter lectures were difficult to grasp or resulted in minimal revelation; The overall focus seemed too restrictive on the orthodox Judeo-Christian God vs. other views of God Pluses: • Discussion on the love-hate relationship between western philosophy and Christianity/Judaism: Examples of how philosophy challenges aspects of orthodox Christianity/Judaism but also how it is used to provide explanations; Examples are also provided of how Christianity borrowed ideas from Plato and other Platonist philosophers to help form its orthodoxy Minuses: • Philosophical thought on the nature of reality/meaning of life outside of the context of orthodox Christianity/Judaism was lightly covered (Islamic God, other views of God, etc.) • Some of the lectures were hard to grasp (the latter ones) and when those philosopher’s main points were understood the insight appeared minimal and did not leave me more reflective
Date published: 2015-09-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Deep and Thought Provoking Audio Review: Dr. Cary wades through a very deep subject when looking at philosophy influences on religion and vice versa. He warns us that some of the subtleties of the philosophical interpretations do not always sink in during one pass through in several of the lectures. Having listened to all 32 lectures, I'd have to agree and will definitely be going back to re-listen to some of the lectures. Early in the course, Dr. Cary admits to his worldview as an Orthodox Christian who will attempt to present the material in an objective fashion allowing the student to make up their own mind on how to best integrate the philosophies into their own views. He is successful in this endeavor. Even when he does mention his own interpretations he is careful to remind the student that they should not necessarily draw the same conclusions. It is refreshing to hear such objectivity in an area with such a diversity of perspectives. At first the influence of the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle on the foundations of Orthodox Christianity may come across as strange, but when one realizes that Greek philosophy was adopted by the Romans, the Romans ruled the Holy Lands during and for hundreds of years after Jesus's life, and that Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and created the Council of Nicea in 325 to define the foundations of orthodox Christianity, it is much less surprising that this connection occurred. Dr. Cary presents a fairly complete philosophical and religious journey from the ancient Greeks/Romans, through the "nature for a purpose" medieval era, to the reformation, to the Enlightenment (though Voltaire's absence was conspicuous), to the "limits on Reason" of Immanuel Kant, through more modern philosophical challenges to the classical concept of God (such as Marx and Nietzsche's critiques of the supernatural, the concept of a changing God, and existentialism). As Dr. Cary explains, these philosophical approaches bring critical thinking to religion. The religious focus of the course is predominately on Christianity. Dr. Cary explains this as being due to the fact that philosophy had a greater impact historically on Christianity. He does talk about Judaism and philosophy in a few lectures, but this area could have been explored more deeply. Similarly Islam was not really mentioned until the last (summary) lecture; either more pith should have been included in the lectures or Islam should have been noted as being outside the scope of the course at the onset. The accompanying course guidebook is excellent with very good lecture summaries, a bibliography, a timeline, a glossary, and biographical notes. The guidebook serves as a handy and needed reference for the lectures. To anyone willing to pursue this interplay of philosophy and religion with an open mind, and who can manage the mental stamina to explore intellectual depths, I strongly recommend this course.This course is very i stimulating and probes into some of the deepest recesses of conceptual ability. The student should be prepared to give their cerebral cortex a workout.
Date published: 2015-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent In Every Way AUDIO: CDs This course sat on my shelf for a couple of years, and I would dip into a lecture every once in a while. I finally took the plunge and listened to it from beginning to end, in fact twice (as Professor Carey recommends). It is not that the lectures are that hard to follow, quite the contrary. Professor Carey is great at explaining complex matters, and references everyday things and situations as illustrations of points and issues he discusses. The second time around, however, helped me pick up on matters I missed the first time and allowed everything to fall into place in my understanding. I came to the course with a fairly general knowledge of western philosophy, best through the 19th century and fairly sketchy after that, but I knew little about its relationship to religions. I knew that Plato looms large in the history of western philosophy (Alfred North Whitehead, 1861-1947, having noted that western philosophy constitutes footnotes to Plato) and that Platonism (which is “inherently religious” Course Guidebook, Page 12) influenced the development of Christian theology. This course, however, proved a real eye-opener for me in its breadth and depth of treatment. Professor Carey ably shows that western philosophy started out with much more “spiritual” content than is found in Jewish and Christian scripture, and how these religions creatively “stole” concepts (Professor Carey’s preferred practice, rather than any deeper buy-in to a philosophical system). For instance, Platonist concepts were critical in the development of early Church doctrines on the humanity and divinity of Christ and on the Trinity. Professor Carey also shows how the interaction between philosophical traditions continued over succeeding centuries in western philosophy and religion and, most notably, how a “…special love-hate relationship [developed] between Christianity and philosophy…” (Page 52). Only two philosophers get more than one lecture, Plato and Kant, at two lectures each, and quite justifiably so. It should be noted here that Professor Carey is primarily focused on Christianity, which benefited most through critical inquiry fostered by its sustained and intense engagement with western philosophy, though there is also a considerable amount on Judaism and occasional references to Islam. Professor Carey early on states that he is not neutral on religious matters, being in a “…rather orthodox conservative Protestant tradition…” (Audio, Lecture 1). Nevertheless, he appears even-handed throughout. As good as the whole course is, the best for me is Professor Carey’s treatment of modern times, notably from Alfred North Whitehead’s development of process philosophy through the end of the 20th century. All I can say is “wow”, as Professor Carey opened up aspects of 20th century western philosophy and Christian theology I had not known about or had understood poorly. I find this 1999 course an excellent complement to Professor Tyler Robert’s equally excellent 2009 TC course ‘Skeptics and Believers: Religious Debate in the Western Intellectual Tradition’, though I wish I had listened to Professor Carey’s course first. Finally, Professor Carey has an excellent course guidebook, with exceptionally detailed lecture outlines, timeline, glossary, and annotated bibliography.
Date published: 2015-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally got around to it I learned enough in grad school to pass the tests on these philosophers and their ideas, but have long wanted to understand and compare them more deeply. Cary's presentation is just what I needed. I look forward to many more listenings in the future.
Date published: 2015-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Thorough and Accessible Survey While Prof. Cary's course is substantive, I found his analytic and expository gifts made the course both challenging and rewarding. I learned a great deal from each lecture. It was a surprise to me how much of a role the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle played in the development of Christian theology. Each lecture opened up a fresh vista for me into the inter-relationship between philosophy and theology. One of my favorite eye-openers was 'The Hermeneutics of Suspicion,' a forbidding title that was a great stage from which to view Modernist trends. Lectures on the more contemporary theology, which by Prof. Cary's admission were formative in his later education, were less interesting to me than many of the other lectures. But this course is wonderful..
Date published: 2015-01-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good but difficult Though I do not share Professor Cary's religious perspective I have a lot of respect for his knowledge and even-handedness. Thus while I believe that this course is probably about as good as it gets with respect to finding the interplay between religion and philosophy, sometimes I found the connection somewhat strained and unclear. I recently finished his course on the history of christian theology, which I found very good, and probably should have watched that first.
Date published: 2014-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It’s a lot to take in. My study of Philosophy has been general and somewhat light. My study of religion has been considerably deeper and more extensive. Professor Cary has added a better understanding of the flow of both Western Philosophy since Plato, and its interrelationship with its contemporary Judeo-Christian thought. It has given me much to contemplate and integrate into my personal religious philosophical belief structure. Many long held constructs were challenged, most survived, several have been modified, and many more are under further and deeper contemplation. In truth the same can be said for many of the new concepts presented: some accepted, some rejected, most are still being processed for some type of integration. I found Professor Cary well versed, competent, and understandable. The presentations were logically ordered and very well constructed. I found the earlier lectures easiest to follow and integrate within my knowledge structure. As the lectures proceeded to philosophers with whom I was not as familiar it became more difficult. This was primarily a lack on my part, not Professor Cary. I do disagree with the reviewer who did not think the final lecture was as “good”. I found it was a great personal summation of the course, and especially appreciated Professor Cary’s statement of how his own beliefs and studies worked together. I have found that too often facts, theories, and ideas are simply discussed. How a knowledgeable scholar has integrated the secular and religious into his personal understanding was very much appreciated. I had to work hard to complete all of this course, but have found it well worth the effort.
Date published: 2013-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course, Highly Recommended This is the third course that I have listened to by Professor Cary. It came up to the high level that I had expected. Although I am not in ‘sync’ with the professor’s religious outlook I appreciate the fact that he is explicit in his religious orientation and that his view has philosophical depth. I particularly liked the lectures on Plotinus and Buber. The former because I have felt a need to understand this key link between Greek philosophy and Christianity and the later because I have been very impressed recently with his writings. Also, Professor Cary’s discussion of the nature of the ‘soul’ in Christian theology was fascinating, and he made a number of very salient points. The final lecture, where Professor Cary seems to sum up his position, was unfortunately not at the level of the general course, although this may just be a purely subjective opinion on my part. In sum, however, I recommend this course most highly for anyone with an interest in the intersection of western philosophy and Christianity.
Date published: 2013-02-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Highly Valuable and enriching course This is the first course I have taken with Proffesor Cary and it will not be the last! One of my main areas of focus is the interaction of religion and philosophy and this course covers this subject beautifully vis-a-vis Christianity and Judaism. For me the courses particular strength is the way it delineates very systematically and clearly how during the period from its beginning to pre-Reformation times theologians and philosophers enriched their understanding of Christianity through use of Greek (specifically Platonic and Neo Platonic as well Arisototelian)philosophy. Professor Cary is masterful is explaining the spiritual content of this strand of Greek thought (Plato's theory of Forms and Plotinus hierarchy of Truth)and how this complemented and also challenged Christian orthodoxy. The emphasis placed on "illumination" or intellectual vision- whereby one can have direct apprehension of Divine Truths-by Augustine and others is very interesting. That this element of spiritual understanding was steadily (since Aquinas and in particular since post Reformation times)marginalised within Christianity is, according to some, one of the reasons we have created a non sacred view of the world leading to current environmental(and other)discord. The course is a wonderful complement to Professor Thomas Williams' excellent course on Faith and Reason, The latter part of the course is also helpful in showing the post Reformation developments in this area. I will definately be listening to other courses from Professor Cary. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2013-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Recommended, important course. DVD REVIEW: Recommended, strong, enjoyable lecture series ~~ recorded in 1999, with scenes of the studio audience following written lecture notes and/or making notations. The graphics in the DVD version are minimal, not of any real help. The guidebook is an excellent aid, good bibliography. This type of course calls for fine clarity and explanations: Dr Phillip Cary comes through overall with flying colours, sorting out the sense of both disciplines, presenting material as objectively as possible (he states that he is a Protestant), leaving final decisions to the student, as he weaves his way, for example, through the many difficult and at times ethereal philosophical positions taught by the ancient Greek philosophers. Naturally, Plato figures hugely, and I think this series alone would serve as an exemplary introduction to the Greek master, for Professor Cary does a sterling job in his careful discourses relating to Plato's writings (and Aristotle's) ~ he shows how Plato's thoughts in The Dialogues have influenced Western thinking in general, and Judaism and Christianity in particular in relation to the nature of God... I never tire of hearing The Allegory of The Cave! I was especially impressed by the logical way in which the lectures are structured and presented... everything flows smoothly; Dr Cary does a fine job of showing how religion and philosophy influenced each other which is a critical aspect of this course. There's a lot to take in, though, and a second playing will surely tie up any loose ends. I felt that the lectures dealing with Judaism were perhaps the weakest, and his refusal to pronounce out loud the Jewish name of God YAHWEH was eccentric. There was no consideration of Islam in this course, though the religion of Mohammed has become an increasingly influential religion and culture in the west. I have to add that Dr Cary's discourse on the Christian trinity was as clear as any such explanation can be: "three complete individuals". In these lectures, Dr Cary exhibits far less of the strange & extreme "slurping" breath-intake tic that dominates his course on Luther. He is an enthusiastic teacher, though his unusual beard makes him look a bit odd which can be distracting. My rating is 4.6, so I had to upgrade to five.
Date published: 2013-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from First Rate I was intrigued by the title; it seemed to me to be impossible to cover the range envisaged. A friend who teaches Religious Education said that he had used it in his lessons to great benefit and that recommendation persuaded me. This does not modify my original thoughts, the range is vast but the overview presented is excellent and would enable anyone to pursue a particular area which was of interest. A book, or, indeed, a lecture on any subject, or person is, perforce, one sided, but this course gives context and an illuminating insight into historical development. I suspect that many of us have a vague notion of what is meant by various philosphical terms, but this course does enable a clearer view - definitions - of what the protagonists meant. I should like to suggest that it goes beyond its subjects, philosophy and theology, into the realm of cultural history in the west. It might even help to explain who we are and why.
Date published: 2012-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Lecture Course This is one of my favoriate lecture courses I have listened to on the top of Philosophy and Religion. It is full of excellent content.
Date published: 2012-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating, brilliant This is probably my favourite Teaching Company Course--and I have listened to or seen at least 15 of them. I agree with the commenter who said he wanted to write Professor Cary a fan letter. I felt exactly the same way. Don't be put off by the people who complain he didn't cover enough--this was an exhilarating, concise and helpful INTRODUCTION to religious/philosphical ideas IN THE WEST. If you want to know more about pre-Socratic/Platonic Greek thought, or Muslim philosophy or would have liked a whole course on Spinoza or Hume, by all means, investigate these, but that is not what Professor Cary is trying to do here. He is trying to help you get your philosophical ducks in a row, and to see the sweep of philosophical ideas as they have played out over the centuries in the west. I've gone through this course three times, and loved it just as much the third as the first. And learned more each time, as I had the foundation to build on. His style is, I think, very engaging and modest and honest and human. He's not slick. He's just a darn fine teacher.
Date published: 2012-06-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Sermon The professor is a christian. He makes a point of this a couple times at least. It's nothing he hides. But it does color the course. In fact, his last lecture is something of a sermon for the budding philosopher. I do have a few complaints about the course. The first is that he leaves out the muslims. They are an important and large religious group and have a continual and important presence in the west. The second is that he does not go back before plato and socrates. My guess is that they were influenced by various religious ideas and it would be best to point these out. Third is that there is just not enough about non belief. The agnostic or atheist positions. As more people fall into these groups , it's important to see what they may draw upon.
Date published: 2012-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening and Brilliant This is an exceptional course - having wrestled with philosophy and religion, philosophy of religion and links between ancient wisdom and Christianity and often ended in the mud, this series of lectures delivered with exceptional clarity by an articulate, thoughtful and thought provoking lecturer was one of the best investments in time and money I ever made. Thank you Professor Cary - you make a big difference.
Date published: 2011-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Lot To Take In! I am personally well versed in theology and Christian studies but I have only been reading Philosophy seriously for about 3 years now. I saw this course as a way to help me understand how the two have influenced each other. I especially appreciated how Dr. Cary explained neo-platonism's influence on the Patristic period. This has wet my appetite to learn more about the extent of this influence. Dr. Cary is easily to listen to, he has great enthusiasm and clarity in his presentation. I listened to the CD, so I cannot speak to the visual presentation. Some of the previous reviewers wished that the course was longer. I have mixed feelings about this. It was so much information to try to grasp in 32 lectures. Possibly if it were longer and more in-depth, it should be divided into two courses: ancient/medieval and then Reformation/enlightenment to present. I will continue to buy Dr. Cary's lectures.
Date published: 2011-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from More Religion than Philosophy This course is a good survey not only of how Western philosophical concepts have been put to use by Christianity and Judaism over the past 2,000 years, but also of the Western philosophical tradition itself. Cary is an eloquent and clear lecturer, and he does a good job of explaining sometimes abstruse philosophical ideas and concepts (e.g., Plotinus's nearly imcomprehensible speculations about the "One," the "World Soul," etc) in clear, down-to-earth terms. Cary is up-front about his adherence to reformed Protestant Christianity, which comes through very clearly in his lectures, with the religion at times predominating over the philosophy. Not being much of an orthodox believer myself, I was more interested in Cary's discussions of the extensive debts that Christian doctrine owes to Plato and Aristotle than to his examination of the ideas of various 20th century Protestant and Jewish theologians.
Date published: 2010-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of My Favorites I've listened to most of the philosophy courses TTC offers and most of the religion courses TTC offers. This one did a great job of bridging the gap. It was comprehensive, but clear, and it kept my interest throughout. I finished feeling as if I'd been given new insight into the topic.
Date published: 2010-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have studied Philosophy; I have studied Religion but never with the interweaving that this course handles. To follow the strains of how each of these disciplines effected the other was exhilarating. However, the student of this course should have some background in both of these fields as this course can not possibly go into depth required to fully understand the details of either. For those details take The Teaching Company courses "The Great Ideas of Philosophy" and "The Philosophy of Religion." I appreciated the conciseness of this course since if it had gone into all the details of both disciplines it would have been 80 to 100 lectures long.
Date published: 2009-10-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended, Especially for Non-Philosophers I very much enjoyed Professor Cary's presentation of the material in this course. He definitely did a good job explaining the issues, and the history of the intersection between Philosophy and Religion. However, I agree with some of the reviewers that the course unfortunately lacks depth in many parts. True, it's impossible for anyone to cover such great thinkers and broad topics in only one lecture each, so let Professor Cary have more lectures. Overall, this was a very good course, but could have gone deeper. I would definitely recommend it for those with limited background in the field.
Date published: 2009-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Survey Prof Cary delivers an admirable survey course, given the time limitations of one lecture on each subject or thinker. The course would have been more valuable if it were longer and permitted the lecturer to go into more depth. The concise nature of the course did force the descriptions to be focused and to the point and Cary worked well to quickly and succinctly dleiver the essence of each philosophers contribution to the cannon
Date published: 2009-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Philosophy Course Ever Professor Cary is one of the few people to whom I've considered writing a fan letter. This course provides in depth critical analysis of the philosophical and religious movements of the West. His presentation weaves the two through fascinating references to the lives of the authors, historical trends, as well as the repeated invitation to "think critically - don't just agree with me". I have found this to be one of my three favorite courses, and would recommend it to believers as well as skeptics.
Date published: 2009-01-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Tries to do Too Much I love Prof Cary's course on Luther because it is focused and nuanced. This course tried to take on too big of a topic and comes across too superficial. I am not saying that you won't learn quite a bit from it but I would rather if it had been broken up into several 24 lecture series focusing on different groups of thinkers.
Date published: 2009-01-15
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