The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida

Course No. 4790
Professor Lawrence Cahoone, Ph.D.
College of the Holy Cross
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Course No. 4790
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Course Overview

What is reality? It's a seemingly simple question. But penetrate beneath its surface and the simplicity drops away, a succession of subsequent questions luring you deeper—to where even more questions await. Ask yourself whether you can actually know the answers, much less be sure that you can know them, and you've begun to grapple with the metaphysical and epistemological quandaries that have occupied, teased, and tormented modern philosophy's greatest intellects since the dawn of modern science and a century before the Enlightenment.

During this rich period of philosophy, fascinating minds like Kant, Locke, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein (to name but a few) struggled to improve our understanding of the world against the backdrop of unprecedented scientific, technological, and historical developments. The resulting tension brought forth a vast range of questions:

  • Is the scientific view of the world compatible with human experience? And is the issue made more difficult by concepts like free will, moral responsibility, and religion?
  • What is the mind's place in a physical world? And is the mind itself different from the brain?
  • Is there such a thing as objective truth? What are the implications of the answer for politics, science, religion, and other aspects of human civilization?

And, ultimately, the most important question of them all:

  • What is the ultimate nature of reality, and what are the limitations on our knowledge of it?

To understand the answers to these questions—as well as the ideas of the modern philosophers who asked them—is to amplify not only your understanding of the Western intellectual tradition, but of history and science as well. And you will likely become an even more astute observer of contemporary trends and events by developing broader and deeper perspectives from which to observe them.

The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida offers you an introduction to the basics of modern and contemporary Western approaches to the philosophies of both reality (metaphysics) and knowledge (epistemology), right through the end of the 20th century, when some philosophers were even questioning the value of philosophy itself. Led by author and award-winning Professor Lawrence Cahoone of the College of the Holy Cross, these 36 lectures will take you on an engaging intellectual journey that encompasses prominent figures from all the major traditions of Western philosophy.

You'll explore the ideas behind modern philosophy's most important movements, including

  • dualism, where much of modern philosophy began;
  • rationalism, which views reason as the seat of all knowledge;
  • empiricism, which views the senses as the source of all knowledge;
  • idealism, where ideas formed the basis of the nature of reality;
  • existentialism, the iconic 20th-century philosophy of alienation; and
  • postmodernism, which radically refuses all notion of objective truth.

Just as important, you'll get a clear sense of how these and other movements fit into philosophy's broader progression—for example, the division into "analytic" and "continental" philosophy—to the present day.

Explore a Radical Period in Western Philosophy

Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Peirce, Nietzsche, James, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Rorty, Derrida—these and the other minds you meet in this course are easily recognized today as among the most influential in human history. But this was not always the case.

While these thinkers were indeed shaped by the currents of thought that swirled around them and their ideas frequently respected and accepted, they were also often considered intellectual radicals, their views appreciated far less in their own era than in later ones. This is, in fact, a key reason why the work of so many of them has endured and why we still read them today.

Their unique perspectives on generally accepted ideas and frequently divergent views pushed philosophy in dramatically new directions. As intellectual radicals unwilling to passively accept the contemporary status quo, they offer an enduring bond of kinship with anyone who is eager to encounter new and challenging approaches to the most fundamental questions the human mind can seek to answer.

Draw New Connections between Philosophy, Science, and History

As Professor Cahoone notes, historical and scientific changes have driven the progress of modern Western philosophy. He points out the origins of modern philosophy among great social changes you might not expect to encounter in a philosophy course, including the discovery of the Americas, the decline of feudal aristocratic institutions, the growth of a commercial middle class, the Protestant Reformation, the growth of the nation-state, and the Scientific Revolution.

Similarly, throughout The Modern Intellectual Tradition, you'll be reminded repeatedly of the links connecting history, science, and philosophy, against a backdrop of further transformations such as the growth of liberal republicanism; the rise of industrial capitalism, Communism, and Fascism; and the scientific advancements of the 20th century. You learn how natural science grew out of what was once called natural philosophy, how the seeds of the social sciences were first planted in the soil of philosophical inquiry, and why Professor Cahoone believes that it is philosophy itself that holds the key to reintegrating the divergent fields with which it has a bond.

Moreover, the course's focus on metaphysics and epistemology will strengthen your understanding of the entire process of "doing" philosophy. For it gives you a chance to ask yourself the same question so many thinkers before you have had to confront as they pondered where the starting point of philosophy should be. And you may well find, as so many of them have, that your answer depends on just which aspect of an increasingly complex world you have foremost in mind.

Meet Some of Modern Philosophy's Greatest Minds

One of The Modern Intellectual Tradition's great strengths is the skill with which Professor Cahoone conveys both an understanding of the new and sometimes complex directions offered by the great minds in the course, and a glimpse into their human sides as well.

By presenting his portraits with clarity, an easy-going style, and constant attention to where each thinker fits into philosophy's historical matrix, Professor Cahoone demonstrates exactly why his teaching skills have been honored.

You learn, for example, that

  • Baruch Spinoza, the Jewish philosopher whose presentation of "pantheism" helped reconcile the existence of God with Aristotle's metaphysics, was actually a lens-grinder and had at a young age been excommunicated from his synagogue as an accused atheist;
  • Immanuel Kant—the great philosopher whose influence on Western philosophy is on a level with Plato, Aristotle, and Hegel—spent the first half of his life as a mathematical physicist whose only reported instance of being late for his daily constitutional was the day he first read Rousseau;
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein, perhaps the most influential philosopher of the 20th century, was originally training to become an aeronautical engineer when he became so obsessed with questions of mathematical logic that he eventually abandoned his studies to learn under Bertrand Russell; and
  • Alfred North Whitehead, convinced that metaphysics must keep pace with 20th-century physics, developed an alternative formulation of Einstein's general relativity with empirical predictions that initially performed just as well as Einstein's.

With The Modern Intellectual Tradition, you'll get to experience these and many other great thinkers, both individually and together, from all the major traditions of modern Western philosophy. All you need to bring is your own curiosity about how you can know the world. From there, you'll learn how the things you know come together and discover the implications that come with whatever position you take on the world around you.

As centuries of thinkers before you have learned, it's a journey of unending wonder.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Philosophy and the Modern Age
    Preview the course, beginning with the scientific and social changes of the 17th through 19th centuries that forced all major philosophers to develop dramatically new views. Then see how the 20th century unleashed three diverging pathways for Western philosophers, each producing its own wave of this radically new thought. x
  • 2
    Scholasticism and the Scientific Revolution
    Grasp how the Scientific Revolution arrived in a world already reeling from religious and social upheaval, fragmenting the medieval Aristotelian-Christian view of the cosmos. Can philosophers discover a way to follow God and the new science at the same time? x
  • 3
    The Rationalism and Dualism of Descartes
    Learn how Descartes forged the first and most influential solution. He posited a private self-consciousness, with its own innate ideas, as the foundation of knowledge, with reality fundamentally divided into both matter and mind (or soul). The former is the realm of science; the latter is that of religion, psychology, and ethics. x
  • 4
    Locke's Empiricism, Berkeley's Idealism
    See how Locke's denial of innate ideas created the modern empiricist view of knowledge as based solely on experience, instigating centuries of empiricist-rationalist debate. Later, Berkeley inaugurated modern idealism with his conclusion that empiricism must deny matter's very existence; there are only minds, with experiences programmed by God. x
  • 5
    Neo-Aristotelians—Spinoza and Leibniz
    Follow the attempts of two thinkers to integrate religion, philosophy, and science without straying from Aristotelian foundations. For Spinoza, everything is one substance—God. For Leibniz, every substance has its own mental properties and "view" of the universe, with God binding all together. x
  • 6
    The Enlightenment and Rousseau
    Watch the Enlightenment's self-conscious heralding of modernity, where science, freedom, and cosmopolitan education will mean progress in the face of superstition, authority, and tradition. The greatest dissenter is Rousseau, who argued that progress in art, science, and the economy yields no progress in morality or happiness. x
  • 7
    The Radical Skepticism of Hume
    Watch Hume drive empiricism to the extreme of radical skepticism, dismissing all metaphysics as nonsense. If we only know through experience, all we know is experience, so science cannot rationally say that the sun will rise tomorrow or even that it probably will. x
  • 8
    Kant's Copernican Revolution
    Learn how Kant tried to find an answer to Hume, without which neither science nor philosophy can claim general knowledge of reality. His reasoning changed philosophy forever as he argued that the human mind does not passively receive our experience of the world but actively constructs it from sensation. x
  • 9
    Kant and the Religion of Reason
    Kant's saving of science came at a price—the ability to know things as they appear but never "things in themselves." Reason, he argues, cannot prove—nor can science disprove—God, the soul, or free will. Kant protected faith from contradiction and created a different path for the German Enlightenment. x
  • 10
    The French Revolution and German Idealism
    See how the French Revolution and Kant inspired German idealists like Fichte and Schelling to invent a new kind of philosophy, with spirit—hence, freedom—as the basis of nature, not the other way around. x
  • 11
    Hegel—The Last Great System
    Grasp Hegel's synthesis of Fichte's idealism and Schelling's panentheism with world history as the story of God's coming to self-consciousness. We can follow the "dialectic" of partial, incomplete historical perspectives up to the perspective of the Whole, that is, of God. x
  • 12
    Hegel and the English Century
    Watch how the Industrial Revolution, the rise of European imperialism, and the philosophy of Hegel inspired other thinkers—including Comte, Spencer, Bentham, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, and, especially, Darwin and Marx—to create historical explanations for the development of mind and society. x
  • 13
    The Economic Revolution and Its Critic—Marx
    The socially wrenching birth of industrial capitalism, with its massive human costs, provoked many critics, but the most influential was a young German follower of Hegel, Karl Marx. See how his ideas became the 20th century's greatest challenge to Western liberalism. x
  • 14
    Kierkegaard's Critique of Reason
    Kierkegaard remains the most radical philosophical critic of reason itself. Follow his rejection of Hegel and any attempt to "rationalize" the human condition. For Kierkegaard, the human spirit is subjected to fundamental choices that cannot be reconciled, particularly religious faith, which is intrinsically irrational and higher than reason. x
  • 15
    Nietzsche's Critique of Morality and Truth
    Meet the most violent critic of the Judeo-Christian and, to some extent, Greek values of Western civilization. Nietzsche declared that morality makes the individual sick. The modern decline of religion leaves only the "will to power" and the need for a new set of values. His deepest concern was what those values would be. x
  • 16
    Freud, Weber, and the Mind of Modernity
    Besides Hegel, Marx, and possibly Nietzsche, two other German-speaking authors created much of the background for analyzing the unique form of life evolving in the 20th century. Listen as Freud's and Weber's arguments that modern society will generate increasing discontent were taken up by later philosophers. x
  • 17
    Rise of 20th-Century Philosophy—Pragmatism
    Watch as late 19th-century philosophy begins to fragment into the three subcultures that would characterize philosophy's next century: analytic, continental, and pragmatic. The last would become the indigenous American tradition, exemplified by its two major contributors, Charles Peirce and William James. x
  • 18
    Rise of 20th-Century Philosophy—Analysis
    Grasp how Frege's invention of the first new logic since Aristotle, combined with Russell's and Moore's attack on the dominant idealism of the age, led to a new approach, "analytic" or "Anglo-American" philosophy. It would become the dominant philosophical approach in all English-speaking countries. x
  • 19
    Rise of 20th-Century Philosophy—Phenomenology
    Watch as Husserl tried to formulate a new ideal philosophy of meaning on the basis of a nonempiricist, holistic analysis of human experience. His solution changed all subsequent European philosophy, liberating the investigation of lived experience from empiricism, psychology, and natural science. x
  • 20
    Physics, Positivism, and Early Wittgenstein
    Witness the logical positivists' reaction to the new physical view of the world offered by special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, and Hubble's discovery of the universe's expansion. They declared that reality is knowable only by science's "verifiable" constructions of sense data. As the young Wittgenstein wrote, beyond those limits we should be "silent." x
  • 21
    Emergence and Whitehead
    Learn about both British Emergentism, which argued for a nonreductive metaphysics of science, and the work of Alfred North Whitehead, the one 20th-century philosopher to take up the 17th-century goal of a metaphysical system consistent with physics to explain the place of mind, values, and God. x
  • 22
    Dewey's American Naturalism
    Encounter the work of the most prominent American philosopher of the 20th century. Most famous as a philosopher of education, John Dewey called for a transformation of philosophy on pragmatic and naturalist principles and wrote in virtually every area of philosophy. To many Americans, Dewey was philosophy. x
  • 23
    Heidegger's Being and Time
    Learn how one of the most important philosophical books of the 20th century created the basis for modern existentialism, as Martin Heidegger put Husserl together with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche to forge a new kind of phenomenology that seeks the meaning of human existence. x
  • 24
    Existentialism and the Frankfurt School
    Witness European philosophers exploring individual alienation in mass culture as the modern Western world swirls in the turmoil of World War II. The German Frankfurt school merged Marx with Freud to find domination in reason itself. The French combined existentialism with Marxism. And Heidegger—without apology then or later—joined the Nazi Party. x
  • 25
    Heidegger's Turn against Humanism
    Watch Heidegger's later work take a new, decidedly anti-humanist direction. He called for a rejection of Western metaphysics—which expressed the triumph of technology and individualism dictating to Being—and instead asked that humans patiently "listen" to the call of Being. x
  • 26
    Culture, Hermeneutics, and Structuralism
    See culture and language seize a prime position in philosophical thought with Ernst Cassirer's neo-Kantian view of culture, Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutics (amplifying Heidegger's claim that language is the "house of Being"), and Ferdinand de Saussure's and Claude Levi-Strauss's creation of structuralism. x
  • 27
    Wittgenstein's Turn to Ordinary Language
    Plunge into perhaps the most influential work of 20th-century philosophy as Ludwig Witt-genstein rejected his own earlier positivism to declare that linguistic meaning is dictated by its use, not by logic but by the contextual social activities in which sentences operate. Philosophical problems are caused by ripping terms out of their practical context. x
  • 28
    Quine and the End of Positivism
    See how Willard Van Orman Quine, who studied with the logical positivists, undermined their view. He showed that their distinction between truths of reason and truths of experience, borrowed from Kant, was a mistake. x
  • 29
    New Philosophies of Science
    With the decline of positivism, see the appearance of new interpretations of scientific knowledge. Learn about Popper's rejection of the idea that science seeks to confirm its theories, Davidson's formulation of an alternative to reductionism, and Kuhn's provocative view of scientific revolutions. x
  • 30
    Derrida's Deconstruction of Philosophy
    Learn about the most famous of the French postmodernists and his "deconstruction" of the history of Western philosophy. All writing (or sign-use, in general), Jacques Derrida asserted, must involve the pretense that the meanings of signs can be controlled, a pretense he vigorously denied. x
  • 31
    The Challenge of Postmodernism
    Derrida's work and that of kindred French thinkers Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard created postmodernism. This movement's radical rejection of modern philosophy's central notions—and perhaps even philosophy itself—joined with a view of postmodern society as no longer requiring a "metanarrative" or foundational philosophy. x
  • 32
    Rorty and the End of Philosophy
    Sample the thinking of the most famous American contributor to philosophical postmodernism. Richard Rorty argued that the search for the foundations of "knowledge" —little more than whatever the verification procedures of society say it is—is a bankrupt enterprise. Traditional philosophy, according to Rorty, is well forgotten. x
  • 33
    Rediscovering the Premodern
    Learn how a series of 20th-century philosophers—including Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, and Alasdair MacIntyre—called for reincorporating premodern notions to supplement modernity. For if modern philosophy is indeed at a dead end, might not its departure from premodern thought be responsible? x
  • 34
    Pragmatic Realism—Reforming the Modern
    See how pragmatism enjoyed a resurgence as a means of preserving the philosophical search for realist truth in the absence of foundationalism. Encounter a variety of attempts at nonfoundational epistemology, as thinkers like Habermas, Putnam, Margolis, and Campbell demonstrated this pragmatic renaissance. x
  • 35
    The Reemergence of Emergence
    While various applications of pragmatism resurfaced in the theory of knowledge, there was also a noticeable return of the metaphysical doctrine of emergence. Witness this return not only in the work of philosophers of science but also in science itself, exemplified by the late 20th-century interest in "complexity." x
  • 36
    Philosophy's Death Greatly Exaggerated
    After the unprecedented philosophical radicalism of the 20th century, the question of philosophy's future still remains. Sample some of the most likely approaches by which philosophy might successfully integrate—and find common ground among—an increasingly complex array of human activities. x

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Your professor

Lawrence Cahoone

About Your Professor

Lawrence Cahoone, Ph.D.
College of the Holy Cross
Dr. Lawrence Cahoone is Professor of Philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, where he has taught since 2000. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. A two-time winner of the Undergraduate Philosophy Association Teaching Award at Boston University who has taught more than 50 different philosophy courses, Professor Cahoone is not only a skilled teacher, but also...
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The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 103.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Modernity: Enlightenment Reason Critiqued The transition from the ARISTOTELIAN worldview that conditioned the language and thought of Greco-Roman antiquity and the SCHOLASTIC-Christian middle ages was slowly vanishing from the horizon. With the coming of the Humanistic Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the age of Discovery, the rise of Nation-States, the decline of Feudal institutions, the rise of industry and commerce, etc. historical consciousness would culminate into the SCIENTIFIC Revolution -- a Galilean-Copernican worldview. This 17th century Age of Reason brought the philosophers and scientists that professor Lawrence Cahoone engages with in his lectures "The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida" to the center of the debates. Both from inside and outside the universities, this revolution in thought posed critical challenges to its First Philosophy -- metaphysical and epistemological FOUNDATIONAL questions -- were raised that demanded solutions. Approaches to Reality, Knowledge, Methodology, etc. culminated culturally in the 18th century Age of Enlightenment and politically in the French Revolution. Secular in its orientation to the studies of the individual, society, nature, religion, and God, REASON itself believed its new INSTRUMENT could shed its chains from ancient authorities (Aristotle / Ptolemy), from medieval superstition (Clergy / Aristocracy), and from the weight of the authoritarian past itself. This critical reasoning resulted socially and technically in the 19th century Industrial Revolution. With a radical new social infrastructure, the cumulative results of the 17th to the 19th century revolutions brought the MIND of MODERNITY into being. A sample of SCHOOLS from the professor's discussions would include: rationalism, empiricism, idealism, skepticism, pluralism, relativism, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, deconstruction, postmodernism, etc. Today, modernity's big-3 philosophic traditions center around: linguistic analysis, continental philosophy, and pragmatism. Each are explored and found more SPECIALIZED and fragmentary then prior schools of thought. As schools of thought sub-divided into increasingly specialized fields and methods, they each loss communication with the others and turned inward, further specializing in research and DIMINISHING in communication between schools. Its been explained that MATHEMATICS is the QUEEN of the sciences, but infrequently understood that FIRST PHILOSOPHY is the MOTHER of them all. Although modern philosophy is currently practiced without a stated first philosophy, the partially unconscious and fragmentary mind is repressing, and society suppressing, its respect to its mother and her metaphysical and epistemological being. Recall the social critics who open modernity's psychic structure within history and culture beyond the confinements of academic hallways and abstractions. Nietzsche and his God is dead chant, Freud and his civilized discontents portraits, and Weber and his disenchantment of specialists, all address the predicaments of BEING in the world. It seems to me its time once again for philosophy as a WAY OF LIFE and THERAPY to integrate the separate sciences and critique postmodernism. Being in the world notions of objective truth / EXISTENCE, meta-narratives / ORIENTATION, and human nature's search for meaning / DEVOTION are needed to avoid the slide into the abyss, nihilism, and insanity. To quote the professor in closing: " learn how natural science grew out of what was once called natural philosophy, how the seeds of the social sciences were first planted in the soil of philosophical inquiry, and why ... it is philosophy itself that holds the key to reintegrating the divergent fields with which it has a bond." Thanks professor -- very highly recommended!
Date published: 2018-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant AND Invaluable The material the professor presents is extensive, difficult to access in the original and by no means easy to assess - especially for an amateur but fascinated non-philosophe. Here the prof sets all that out in the context of ancient and enlightenment philosophy - and in the process covers such a wealth of different schools, complex & often impossibly badly written books [try reading Heidegger] plus varied historical persona that it would all have befuddled & bemused me - IF - his presentation style hadn't been so clear and easy to understand. Prof Cahoone's material demands a lot of reflection and the transcripts available from Great Courses proved any easy way to refresh my memory of the lectures - as I thought it all through. I could not have come to an understanding of this core material without having access to this most excellent course.
Date published: 2018-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great content Look, anybody who can make Hume and Kant easy deserves a gold star. I have always found them to be tremendously difficult reads. This professor sailed through them and their differences in the clearest way I could imagine. Excellent course.
Date published: 2018-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific primer I've only listened to the first twelve CD lectures so far but it's enough to say that I like Professor Cahoone's organization and presentation, he doesn't cover every single notable philosopher between Descartes to Derrida but the ones he does cover are predominate in their time; I don't know enough to vouch for the total accuracy of the philosopher's positions or if there was an omission that should have been presented but it did seem to be right on for me.
Date published: 2018-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is excellet. As a university student I am often quite dissapointet with my professors. It's rare for somebody to embody a holistic and somewhat "sufficent" perspective on wide ranging subjects such as the history of philosophy and also being able to teach it. What this professor does is quite amazing, he really gives you a throughout understanding of the modern philosophy tradition. The videos are just 30 minutes each, but this is no problem here. His lectures are extremely "compressed" so to speak. He picks out the important the "keyterms" and gives a accurate map of the landscape which you later can use to help you navigate the works which you want to study further. This proffessor managed, in 30 minutes, to teach me more about Heideggers philosophy than my proffessor managed to do in a whole semester due to his strict focus on keyterms, ideas and their structure.
Date published: 2017-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SUPER! Cahoone is riveting! Taken many courses absolutely non better than this.
Date published: 2017-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Descartes to Derrida by Lawrence Cahoone Professor Cahoone's course is outstanding. The material has been carefully prepared. The depth of coverage is just right. Dr. Cahoone's lectures are clear, concise and thought provoking. His delivery style is inviting and enjoyable. I look forward to each session.
Date published: 2017-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very clear & thorough Material covered is a good survey, Cahoone speaks clearly and understandably, the series is well organized, each lecture is well organized. There were a few moments when he was talking about something I was pretty familiar with and I felt he was missing or skipping issues, but this is a survey, so that was reasonable. Quite, quite good. I will probably at some point re-listen to the entire thing.
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very helpful introduction to philosophy Having never studied philosophy before, I purchased this course as supplementary material for a university class. I listened to the lectures in my car, and I was very pleased. The professor was very well organized, his speaking style was pleasant and engaging, and he concluded each lecture with a comprehensible "take away" idea. I appreciated his balanced presentation; he was quick to say that these philosophers are noteworthy because they brought new ways of looking at the world, but that doesn't mean we have to accept their ideas. My only complaint (and it is a small one) is that the professor would sometimes introduce a technical term, explain it once, and expect the listener to remember it from then on. That didn't always work for me; I sometimes found myself saying, "He keeps using that word! What does it mean, again?"
Date published: 2017-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If this course were a restaurant, it would get a very high review. As a Great Courses course, it also gets a high review, for many of the same reasons....namely this is a very clear survey of major thinkers since Descartes. After listening to the Descartes lecture, I was overcome with Cartesian doubt, so severe that I started to question whether or not I was overcome with Cartesian doubt. Maybe it was some other kind of doubt. Or maybe I was just hungry since I skipped breakfast. I don't know. I got over it and listened to this entire course. Here's the thing: I've listened to a lot of philosophy courses from "The Great Courses", but even if the lecturers cover some of the same figures (e.g. Kant, Hegel, Marx), I never feel that things are getting redundant. Instead, things get clearer and clearer as I hear yet another angle or explanation. There is another course by Cahoone -- something about politics. After hearing this course, I'll probably listen to that one, too. If these episodes are the main course, maybe the politics course will be like the dessert. But maybe not....I think I'll watch some of the cooking courses so that I can keep my food metaphors straight.
Date published: 2016-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GREAT REVIEW !!!!! This is probably one of the best reviews of a difficult subject that is done in a manner of presentation, ,that even the least knowledgeable person of philosophy can easily understand.
Date published: 2016-10-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent intro...but... This course provided an awesome overview to philosophy. The professor explained complex concepts clearly and in a way that they were digestible to someone without a philosophy background. The only issue is that there are clearly lights or something directing the prof to change where he is looking and thus the camera angles, etc. As a result, I felt like the professor wasn't able to be natural, which made the teaching more robotic than I think he would normally be in a classroom setting. More room for flexibility for the professors would have improved this program. I don't want to be aware that he is being directed while I am trying to understand Hegel.
Date published: 2016-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellectually stimulating course I have completed 23 of the lectures on DVD so far and my opinion is that this is an excellent course in every way. The course content, the professors' presentation and knowledge of the subject matter and the course guide book are all outstanding. The content can be rather abstract at times but Dr. Cahoone always provides very helpful examples of the concepts he is talking about.
Date published: 2016-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Modern Intellectual Tradition This is not an easy series of philosophical concepts to grasp in one listening but the effort is very stimulating and eventually rewarding. A real intellectual adventure for a non-philosopher. The lecturer is excellent.
Date published: 2016-06-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from lacklustre presentation The material covered was much of the most important in Western thought since Decartes. The professor, though, was monotonous in delivery and often stumbled over his words. His abstract concepts--expected in philosophy--often needed more and clearer exemplification.
Date published: 2016-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from this is the essence "teaching", not lecturing A long time ago, I majored in Philosophy in undergrad school. I completely blew an honors paper on The mind body problem of Descartes . Now I know why, thanks to Professor Cahoone.I was fortunate to have a successful career in spite of the Philosphy B.A., but, for all these years since school I have continued to study and enjoy philosophy. This course has increased my understanding beyond measure. Dr. Cahoone says frequently "in other words" or, "look at it this way" or " in simpler terms". He speaks slowly and precisely and thereby deconstructs the most complicated ideas into pieces more easily understood. Just brilliant teaching.
Date published: 2016-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from magnificent as a medical doctor and non-english native Speaker from europe, I am amazed about the ability of the Professor to formulate his ideas in such an erudite yet easy to grasp way, I have never come across such a densely formulated "great course"; for example Professor Robinson in "the great ideas of philosophy" time and again strays off course,here not a single word is superfluos. highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A patient and surprisingly complete survey I probably should have taken more time to compose this review. This will be much too short. But, after my third listen, I had to go on record. I love intellectual history and there are a certain few areas that I know fairly well. I like to consult a survey from time to time to help me place what interests me most in perspective. This is one of the best lecture series for that purpose. Professor Cahoone is, above all, patient. He takes his time and makes each step of this intellectual journey clearly understood. He does such a good job at it that, unlike other lecturers, it is quite difficult to pin-point where his own sympathies might lie. I have purchased many lecture series form The Great Courses. This is one of the best.
Date published: 2015-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear, competent and engaging Amazingly, this professor managed to narrate 300+ years of the history of philosophy coherently and with a narrative line that made sense. Nearly all the philosophers were described comprehensibly, except for Husserl, Kant and Hegel, who of course are not all that easy to understand anyway. I recommend this course if you're interested in catching up on the field of philosophy. I enjoyed it even though I had previously studied many of the ideas and figures discussed.
Date published: 2015-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course and needs script download Phiiosophy courses such as this one, needs to be read in order to understand the large concepts and the detailed thinking of the various thinkers. It would be very helpful to have the script available for download for those of us who want to study the material more thoughtfully.
Date published: 2015-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best One of the best of many Teaching Company courses I have taken. Professor Cahoone's lectures are clear and focused. The subject matter is of course not simple and one must expect to put in some time and effort above just listening to the lectures once or twice. For me this required some background reading outside of the course guidebook which only gives a cursory overview of the lectures. The included glossary is very helpful however. Having enjoyed the lecturer as much as I did, I have his series of lectures entitled The Modern Political Tradition in my queue of Great Courses.
Date published: 2015-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant Presentation I have no problem with a professor reading from a teleprompter as Dr. Cahoone does. It's way better than fumbling with notes. That said, Dr. Cahoone has jaw-dropping intellect. I am staggered by the breath of material with which he is fluent. The Teaching Company has many first-rate lecturers, and Dr. Cahoone is among them. His lecture technique is the best in that it feels as if he's telling stories, no small feat for what otherwise could be the driest of subjects.
Date published: 2015-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Bargain This was my first audio lecture purchase, and I couldn't be happier. What a great way to spend time in traffic. The lectures were very informative, comprehensive, and thought provoking.
Date published: 2015-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from really concise and clear addresses historical evolution of philosophical issues in clear analytic terms, no "hand-waving"
Date published: 2015-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I learned a lot. Even about the themes I already knew, I learned something. Prof. Cahoone is excellent in his exposition, and the themes cover well the whereabouts of Philosophy (specially Metaphysics and Epistemology) for the last 500 years.
Date published: 2015-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprised How Much I Enjoyed This I suppose it shouldn't be too surprising, as I've always liked Mathematics and things analytic, but I had never studied Philosophy (other than logic). I found the subject fascinating, and really liked the professor's presentation; he speaks slowly and clearly, giving you time to think through the often challenging concepts. In terms of value, there are a lot of lectures for the price, so I found this to be a course to be recommended for several reasons.
Date published: 2015-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Filled in my French Void I started my education in Philosophy with Daniel N. Robinson's the Great Ideas of Philosophy.when it was only 50 lectures. The Teaching Company was describing him as "the professors professor". I agreed, of course. My father-in-law had a PhD in New Testament and Systematic Theology from Drew University. He recognized that the concept of the Big Bang meant that the world had a beginning. My father-in-law worked on a manuscript for several years. I reviewed two nearly final versions. From this, I was well aware of intellectual history though the logical positivists. I also learned that Secular Humanism is the Devil Incarnate. Larry Cahoone in this Course filled in the void in my understanding of intellectual history. I have watched Daniel N. Robinson's 2nd Edition and am disappointed in the additional ten lectures. This course was the first one I saw with the new set. I think it works well with "the narrative" paradigm. However, I believe we have recently entered a paradigm shift more along the lines of Karl Popper and Sir, Ronald Aylmer Fisher. Popper was wrong to try to apply single factor social engineering. Fisher had an analytical approach appropriate for the Real World.
Date published: 2015-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2015-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Intro to a Complex Subject If you've always wanted to understand modern philosophy, especially how it ties in with language etc., then this is your course. Prof. Cahoone makes it as easy as possible. However, even then, this course will require careful listening and maybe side reading to thoroughly understand some of the material, especially with regard to the 20th century concepts (Heidegger anyone?). You can almost feel the professor's mind straining as he struggles to keep these complex ideas manageable, and he actually pulls it off. You have to do your part, though, to get maximum value from this course. Simply listening once and half-heartedly will not do, nor can you extract much value without reflecting on each lecture afterwards. In other words, unlike some of the lighter TGC courses, this one requires work. I often found myself looking up concepts on the web to get a deeper understanding of the material or just to confirm my understanding. However, if you cooperate by seriously paying attention, you will learn more than you ever thought possible. Professor Cahoone is precise and does not waste words; since everything he says is relevant, you will likely need to take your time and repeatedly listen to some of the lectures to get it all. He presents this rigorous material in the friendliest way possible to anyone willing to meet him halfway. Prof. Cahoone's other course, Modern Political Tradition, is a cakewalk by comparison. This Modern Intellectual Tradition course is about the most abstract ideas, while the political course is about practical ideas. I love them both, but this Modern Intellectual Tradition course is unique and makes a dry, difficult, and rigorous subject interestng and accessible to all.
Date published: 2015-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellectually Intriguing An excellent overview of the modern Intellectual tradition originating in Europe and America. The instructor presents complex ideas clearly such that the viewer can understand what the authors were trying to convey. The instructor not only brings the viewer along, but creates in the viewer the desire to keep going on to the next lecture. The instructor provides a useful historical context for investigating the works of the various philosophers
Date published: 2014-12-06
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