Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life : The Great Courses: Intellectual History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Francis J. Ambrosio
  • Series: The Great Courses: Intellectual History
  • 18 hrs and 39 mins
  • Lecture

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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- Michael D. Mullen

Simple ideas made complex

What would have made Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life better?

Each chapter requires some serious work to become easier and more pleasant to listen to. This feels more like one of those old books in which you constantly need to jump back several pages to understand the point being made.

Has Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life turned you off from other books in this genre?

Not really. There are many great books on the same topic.

Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Francis J. Ambrosio’s performances?


You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It's thorough.

Any additional comments?

This book is very hard to listen to as the simplest ideas are lost in circumvoluted thoughts. It reminded me of what I disliked most at university: the inability to state interesting ideas in an interesting way.

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- Curdy

Book Details

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