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Publisher's Summary

What is the meaning of life? Is human existence meaningful or absurd?
If you've ever pondered these questions, you have an extraordinary adventure in store, as an award-winning teacher presents a boldly revealing inquiry into these most fundamental of human concerns.
In this inspiring series of 36 lectures, Professor Ambrosio charts how these questions have been pursued and grasped through the ages, providing you with the understanding and the tools to come to terms with them in a direct, practical way. Using the key metaphorical figures of the Hero and the Saint, he leads you through the history and evolution of two Western traditions that address the question of meaning: The Greek-derived, Humanist philosophical tradition and the Judeo-Christian/Islamic theistic tradition, tracking the two archetypes as they react to and evolve with cultural changes across the centuries. But these lectures go far beyond an exercise in intellectual understanding. From the very beginning, Professor Ambrosio aims the philosophical problem of meaning squarely at the student, inviting you to actively engage with it by asking you to grapple with universal questions like, How should I live my life? What is the relationship of death to life? Is there some deep, sustainable connection between the two?
Drawing on the work of thinkers from Plato and Epictetus to Simone Weil and Viktor Frankl, you'll probe the existential choices about meaning and value that exist as potentials in the fabric of our experience and that call forth the dignity and possibility of our own living.

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

©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By Michael D. Mullen on 01-31-15

Engaged Frustration!

What disappointed you about Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life?

The most frustrating thing about this lecture series from the Greta Courses is that you want to like it, yet in the end you feel as if the lecturer ultimately cannot take a stand, make a decision. He seems to want to please everyone, and ends up doing the cliche of pleasing no one but himself. I did not feel as if his logic, arguments were sound, and that a certain points he avoids issues that major world views put forward. These views give little room with those that disagree with them, so why accommodate them? If they have something serious to say, can we dismiss them without truly listening to what they say?

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?


Did Professor Francis J. Ambrosio do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

Professor Ambrosio has an engaging style, and the content is not easy. Still, the essense of what he says is leaves you wanting more meat, less fluff.

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 12-19-17

This cannot be a real course.

Any additional comments?

I rarely write critical reviews as different people find value in different things, and who am I to stand in the way of another human wanting to explore.

I've decided to review this one in case that – by some twist of fate – this becomes somebody's first brush with philosophy.

I'm fairly certain this isn't a real course, but was planted among The Great Courses' audio courses as a social experiment. Professor Francis J. Ambrosio sounds like a highly intelligent person, so I'm rather certain he's in on it. My theory is that someone decided to check whether a respectable professor giving 36 purely nonsensical lectures would result in some people being tricked into believing they're listening to something profound.

It's a fair experiment, and I see the value in running it. But I would just like to stress – for the sake of any novice – this isn't philosophy. If you are considering delving into philosophy, please, don't base your decision on this course.

The Great Courses offer some truly amazing introductory courses. You might want to try "Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality," "Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines," "Origins of the Human Mind" and "Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics," among others.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Isam on 03-17-15

mind blowing lectures

These are some of the best enlightening lectures I have ever come across. The professor has such a detailed knowledge of how the mind works that you think he peering into your thoughts. Truley amazing stuff

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Tobias Engberg on 07-05-18


I loved these lectures and went through them in just three days. I am so thankful for all of the new perspectives they have given me. I think they are quite unique.

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