Quest for Meaning: Values, Ethics, and the Modern Experience : The Great Courses: Modern Philosophy

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Robert H. Kane
  • Series: The Great Courses: Modern Philosophy
  • 12 hrs and 13 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Is there an ethics that we can all agree on without stifling pluralism and freedom? What would such an ethics look like? Most important, how should you, as a thoughtful person, find your way among the moral puzzles of the modern world and its cacophony of voices and opinions? These are just some of the engaging and perplexing questions you'll tackle as you join Professor Kane for this thought-provoking, 24-lecture examination of the problems surrounding ethics in the modern world.
The contemporary issues you'll consider include conflicts between public and private morality, the degree to which the law should enforce morality, the teaching of values in the schools, the role of religion in public life, the limits of liberty and privacy, individualism versus community, and the loss of shared values and the resulting discontent about politics and public discourse. Professor Kane's approach is as searching and comprehensive as any you could ask for. His lectures range over a rich array of literary, religious, and philosophical sources representing thousands of years of civilization. Most intriguingly, they spur you to ponder the possibility of recovering the ancient quest for wisdom and virtue in a way that respects the insights of modern thought and the achievements of modern pluralism. Whatever your thinking on such questions, whatever your own personal question for true meaning, you can rest assured that it will be immeasurably enriched by the harvest of reflection you glean from these compelling lectures.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Yes, Virginia, there is an objective truth.

The title of this course could have been "The Quest for Objective Values". The professor does an excellent job in the first part of the course of surveying the great philosophers and their positions on relative vs objective values and morals. To each great thinker's position, he offers the opposing view of another great thinker, effectively presenting relativism vs objectivism as an engaging debate that spans all of history.

He then spends the rest of the course defining his own position, which is that yes, there is an objective truth, and that humanity is on the cusp of discovering it. Or at least of discovering how to perceive it, which, in his view, seems to have something to do with recognizing that "aspirational" goals are just as real as achievable goals.

This latter part of the course seems outdated; it is set in a time when we (Americans) had more faith in government, less faith in torture, and more openness to working across party lines and religious divides than we do now. Some of the examples and thought experiments fall flat, given the changes in our culture that have come about since then. I would love to hear an updated version of the same material from the same professor. (His lecturing style, by the way, was excellent.)

The most memorable topic in the lectures, to me, was Plato's view of democracy. If Plato could see us now he would be entirely vindicated.

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- "unknown"

Lectures 1-12 much stronger than 13-24

The first half of the course contains a thorough review of the history of moral philosophy. The arguments put forth by famous philosophers over the centuries are simple, logical, and powerful, yet often outdone by even stronger counterarguments by other philosophers. Kane summarizes, categorizes, and clarifies this history in a very understandable way.

The 2nd half of the course shifts to being more about Kane's personal ideas on morality, which IMO stand out by their relative weakness, complexity, and lack of critique as compared to the earlier arguments. Kane's ideas are not without their critics, though unlike the arguments in the first half, the most powerful counterarguments do not get their time. Furthermore, the winding and unfocused nature of lectures 13-24, which include thoughts on public vs private morality, problems and solutions to democratic governments, and Kane's personal suggestions on how we should view religion nowadays, left me underwhelmed by the latter portion of the course.
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- Matthew

Book Details

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