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Publisher's Summary

For more than two millennia, philosophers have grappled with life's most profound and "eternal" questions. It is easy to forget, however, that these questions about fundamental issues like justice, injustice, virtue, vice, or happiness were not always eternal. They once had to be asked for the first time.
This was a step that could place the inquirer beyond the boundaries of the law. And the Athenian citizen and philosopher who took that courageous step in the 5th century B.C. was Socrates.
In this intellectually vibrant - yet crystal-clear and accessible - series of 36 lectures, an award-winning teacher provides you with a detailed analysis of the golden age of Athenian philosophy and the philosophical consequences of the philosopher's famed "Socratic Turn": his veering away from philosophy's previous concerns with the scientific study of nature and the physical world and toward the scrutiny of moral opinion. After Socrates, philosophy would never be the same. You learn that much of Socrates's philosophy is captured in the writings of his contemporaries and followers, including not just Plato and Aristotle, but also figures like Xenophon, a great thinker and military commander, and the comic playwright Aristophanes. Professor Bartlett takes you through Plato's most important dialogues - where Socrates is the protagonist - and shows how they convey the core of Socrates's philosophy. He then moves on to Aristotle, who did more than anyone to establish a comprehensive system of philosophy in the West, producing work encompassing morality, politics, aesthetics, logic, science, rhetoric, theology, metaphysics, and more.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 02-18-15


I bought this course to freshen up my knowledge, having spent a while away from the works of Plato (and never having spent much time reading Aristotle, and hoping to use this course to inspire me so to do).

Professor Bartlett lays out a very clear outline of each lecture, and has a definite architecture that he lays out in the first lectures and sums up with in the last. This organization is particularly useful in the latter part of the course, where he presents some very complex, nuanced and occasionally even contradictory arguments from Aristotle's Ethics and Politics (these works are the meat and potatoes of the entire section on Aristotle).

I particularly enjoyed the professor's ability to keep the various characters and frames of reference (vital to understanding what Plato is doing in the dialogues, as Prof. Bartlett makes clear) in the picture. I feel that my understanding of the Apology, Euthyphro, Republic and particularly (if surprisingly) Aristophanes' The Clouds has been deepened considerably.

Note that Aristotle's natural philosophy works and metaphysics are mentioned but not discussed here, the focus being Aristotle's takes on morality, virtue and the good life, which dovetails nicely with the earlier part of the course.

The time spent with Xenophon's Socratic dialogues was a nice surprise, as I hadn't encountered them before and they form a refreshing counterpoint to Plato's far more ironic and subtext-laden dialogues.

Overall, recommended.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Marcus A. Harris on 02-04-15


An excellent introduction to these great men and philosophy in general. Worth a listen even if you have studied philosophy for a while.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By Steve on 09-22-16

I wanted to hear their philosophy

Would you try another book written by The Great Courses or narrated by Professor Robert C. Bartlett?

I wanted to hear their philosophy, but this lecture as far as I could stand it was about how brilliant they were without showing any of the brilliance.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Robert C. Bartlett?

I really don't like Prof Barlett's style. I prefer someone the talk to me without appearing to perform

Any additional comments?

It was my mistake for not researching it properly

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Cap. TT on 02-09-15

Not engaging.

I may have bought this without much appreciating the fact that those are basically lectures, but even as such it is way too boring with no easy way to capture the core ideas. Too lengthy on superficial subjects and not enough base. I'm returning this one.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By Omar on 09-12-17

Buy any other book

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have set the course of thinking in the west for thousands of years. They are instrumental in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In this course you learn about none of that.

I have no idea what the other reviews are talking about. Wikipedia is better than this book. The lecturer first ignores everything the philosophers talked about except virtue and justice, and then really just gives his own spin on it. Ignoring all the bits you really need to know.

He's very difficult to follow. He tends to use about 4 commas and 30 words to say what could be said in 5. His melodious voice easily puts you to sleep, and when you do manage to listen you realise he's just talking about his favourite bits in each book. He totally skips over all the science and mathematics, doesn't put anything into context, and at the end of the day you feel like the Caliph who asked Ibn Razi to explain what was going on.

All the other great courses I've bought have been great. This is terrible. I returned it.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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