The Big Questions of Philosophy : The Great Courses: Modern Philosophy

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor David K. Johnson
  • Series: The Great Courses: Modern Philosophy
  • 19 hrs and 1 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

We have all pondered seemingly unanswerably but significant questions about our existence - the biggest of all being, "Why are we here?" Philosophy has developed over millennia to help us grapple with these essential intangibles. There is no better way to study the big questions in philosophy than to compare how the world's greatest minds have analyzed these questions, defined the terms, and then reasoned out potential solutions. Once you've compared the arguments, the final step is always deciding for yourself whether you find an explanation convincing.
This course gives you the tools to follow and create logical arguments while exploring famous philosophers' viewpoints on these important questions. Although progress has been made toward answers, brilliant thinkers have continued to wrestle with many big questions that inspire thoughtful people everywhere. These questions include: What is knowledge? Does God exist? Do humans have free will? What is right and wrong? How should society be organized?
Given the complexity of these big questions, it should be no surprise that many controversies are far from settled. In fact, by the end of these 36 lectures, you may be even less sure of the right answers to some of the questions than you were at the beginning. But being a philosopher means constantly testing your views - giving a reasoned defense if you believe you are right and modifying your ideas when you realize you are wrong. You'll discover that great thinkers before you have offered convincing answers to hard questions, philosophers after them have made equally persuasive objections, and then still others have refined the debate even further - causing the issues to come into sharper and sharper focus.
Join Plato, St. Anselm, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Mill, Smith, Marx, Rawls, and many others in an exploration of fundamental questions. Get ready to think big!


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

No easy answers, just easy questions

I get irritated by people who think philosophy is a waste of time. A course like this one shows how profitable it is to learn critical reasoning and why it is so important for understanding our place in the universe. Most of the tough questions asked in the series don't have a cookie cutter answer, but all of them provided a method for approaching the question more profitably.

For example, on the nature of identity, what does it mean to be the same person over time ("ship of Theseus" question), he will show that it's probably more profitable to realize that the categories and labels that we put on the concepts about self identity are convenient fictions, and there just might not be a way to answer the question properly. He'll say perhaps as in the Dr. Who TV show that an episode from season one is different from an episode from last season, but they are connected because they are part of the same series. We aren't episodes, but are the series of events that make us up.

I loved the beginning lectures on the nature of knowledge and how absolute knowledge is best thought of as justified true believe. That series of lectures on knowledge and science (and there were several) helps put "philosophy of science" in perspective for me.

One note, I had listened to his course on Metaphysics. Get this one instead, because most of the lectures from that course seemed to also be on this one, and you get a lot more lectures in this course including most of the ones on the other one thus giving you better value for your money.

[I'll give a warning, if you're certain in your belief systems and have no doubt in your faith based things, this lecture might be a disconnect for you because he'll pretty much state that the soul makes no sense, God might not exist, free will is not what you think it is, and so on. As for me, I love learning things that challenge my world view and can recommend this lecture series for anyone who feels the same].
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- Gary "l'enfer c'est les autres"

Should have ended before Political discussions

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

80% of the course was a good refresher on basic Philosophical thought. However, when the author entered the realm of politics his bias towards liberal concepts made him forget some of the basic Philosophical concepts.Such as True beliefs needed justification and where experts have opposite conclusions neither experts opinion can be the basis of a true belief.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Eliminated the political discussions

What about Professor David K. Johnson’s performance did you like?

I thought he was funny and entertaining

If this book were a movie would you go see it?


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- Michael Sheber

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-08-2016
  • Publisher: The Great Courses