The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida : The Great Courses: Modern Philosophy

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Lawrence Cahoone
  • Series: The Great Courses: Modern Philosophy
  • 18 hrs and 45 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

What is reality? Ask yourself whether you can actually know the answer, much less be sure that you can know it, 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.
These 36 lectures are the perfect 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. Led by Professor Cahoone, you'll partake in 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, rationalism, empiricism, idealism, existentialism, and postmodernism. You'll plunge into the thought of some of philosophy's most important thinkers, including Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Peirce, Nietzsche, James, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Rorty, and Derrida, learning how many of them were in fact considered radicals, their views appreciated far less in their own era than in later ones.
And you'll gain a clear sense of how each of these movements and thinkers fits into philosophy's broader progression, often pushing philosophy in dramatically new directions right up to the present day, as well as how philosophy is intimately related to a multitude of other disciplines.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Learn to answer the big three questions

This is by far one of the best lectures I've ever heard. I'm not a philosopher. I avoided thinking most of my life. I made a mistake about a year ago and read Heidegger's "Being and Time". That completely hooked me. Now, I just have to understand our universe and our place in it.

What is the order within the universe, what is our purpose and why are we here ('the three big questions"). These (or some variation of these) are the three questions that drive me and makes me want to stay alive. As for my reason for being it is to learn as much about the world as I can and this lecture series does that for me better than almost any book or Great Course has.

The professor makes the point that he is only going to look at the Modern Philosophers who added to the field by adding on or subtracting from the other philosophers who came before them and thought differently from the others. This lecture series is a constant exchange of ideas from brilliant thinkers from across a 400 year dialog among respectful friends who all had a unique perspective of some kind to add to the discussion.

He covered Heidegger over two lectures. He gave the best graphic I've come across in order to explain him (it's available on the attached pdf and I would recommend grabbing it while you can). He makes the point that Heidegger starts with things (Being) but will ultimately end with time (past, present, and future) as if he really all along meant to start with time. Cool stuff.

He does start the lecture series with Aristotle and the scholastic school of thought. The great battle that constantly roams the hallways of the world is the conflict between the sophisticated sophists and their putting humans as the "measure of all things" and the absolutist who have their universal, necessary and certain view point of the world. There is no right answer. The world is underdetermined. The facts we have are always adequately explainable by multiple theories. See his lecture on William Van Orman Quine for further explication.

The world is determined by our biological, historical and current context. The weight we impute to those three determine how we see the world. The focus of the lecture series is not the "philosophy of science", but those concepts lurk with in this lecture series.

I really loved this lecture series and would strongly recommend it to anyone, but be prepared to be overwhelmed by all the great thinkers covered and to be inspired to read some of the primary sources cited in this series. One needs to start some where with learning critical thinking and understanding why we are here, what our purpose is and what is the order (ontology, foundation, archetypes, forms, ideals, pick your favorite substitute for 'order') of the universe.

I'd even say that if one can master the ideas presented with in this lecture series (which I have not and know I'll have to listen to it multiple times before I even start to understand) one will be able to understand the "three big questions" and realize how most of what surrounds us is crap and only acts as a distraction against what our authentic selves should be learning and understanding. Our greatest virtue is our higher thought. Our distractions are necessary because we must survive, get along with others and enjoy life, but we should only use those distractions in order to re energize ourselves and learn to enjoy life more fully.

This professor is very good at explaining complicated ideas. Yes, complicated ideas are still complicated when they are explained as best as they can be and I won't lie sometimes I would get lost. Though, don't let that stand in the way of trying this lecture series.

(I had bought the audible before I had signed up for the reasonably priced Great Course Plus on line with video. I watched this course instead of listened to it. So technically this review is for the video version not the audio version. I'm glad I watched it instead of just listen to it. There were many visuals and the Professor did an incredibly good job with hand motions, facial expressions and the like. This is one of the few audible courses or book where I got a lot more out of it by watching instead of just listening. Let that be a warning and a recommendation to sign up to The Great Courses).

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- Gary


I majored in philosophy many years ago and have kept up with it on an enthuisiast's level since then. However, I truly learned more from this set of lectures than I have from any other source. I think I finally understand the morass that is 20th century philosophical thought. Professor Cahoone is an exceptional teacher - lucid, knowledgable without being verbose, thoughtful and serious. Without a doubt the best Great Course I've audited.
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- Occam's Toothbrush

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses