Reason & Faith: Philosophy in the Middle Ages [TTC Video]
01 November 2016, 07:23
Course No 4636 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | 4.49GB
Are philosophy and religion—reason and faith—fundamentally at odds? From today's strict division between questions of logic and questions of belief, one might think so. But for 1,000 years during a pivotal era of Western thought, reason and faith went hand-in-hand in the search for answers to the most profound issues investigated by Christianity's most committed scholars:
- Can God's existence and attributes be established by reason alone?
- Are there Christian doctrines that are beyond the scope of logical demonstration?
- How can Christian beliefs be defended against objections and made internally consistent?
These questions posed by the great philosophers of the Middle Ages bear no resemblance to the stereotypical medieval dispute about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin—a problem that apparently no one in the Middle Ages discussed. Instead, they are emblematic of an extraordinarily rich period of intellectual ferment, when the best minds of the age participated in a common struggle with transcendent questions, using reasoning in the service of faith.
From Augustine to Ockham
Reason and Faith: Philosophy in the Middle Ages examines this ambitious project. In 24 half-hour lectures, you will learn about the great Christian philosophers from Augustine to Ockham, following their efforts to illuminate the full scope of Christian doctrine using philosophical tools inherited, in large part, from the ancient Greeks. Far from being "Dark" Ages, this was an era when faith was not blind and reason was not godless, when the great philosophers and the great theologians were the very same people, and no one saw anything surprising about that.
Your teacher is Professor Thomas Williams, an award-winning educator and noted historian of medieval philosophy. Belying the image of the recondite medieval scholar, Professor Williams lectures with spontaneity, humor, enthusiasm, and warmth. He is especially well qualified to take you through the key texts of the period; he has published translations of several of them. Furthermore, he has made his own translations of all of the extracts used in the course, which include material that is not available elsewhere and is therefore left out of most introductory college courses on the subject.
Why Study Medieval Philosophy?
Today, medieval philosophy is an often-overlooked period between ancient philosophy and the Enlightenment. You will find it rewarding to explore for many excellent reasons:
- A bridge between ancient and modern: The ideas of ancient thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle were rediscovered by medieval philosophers, who applied them to theological problems. Modern philosophy, in turn, began as a response to the medieval project.
- Tools for understanding Christianity: Medieval philosophers probed deeply into the fundamental nature of Christian teachings. Perhaps no other thinkers worked so diligently to show how the Christian faith is consistent with what can be demonstrated by reason.
- An intellectual challenge: What are the limits of reason? Medieval philosophers continually tested these boundaries, and by thinking critically about their arguments you can enhance the rigor of your own ideas.
- A exemplar for philosophical inquiry: Whatever your own beliefs, engagement with the different styles of careful argument employed by medieval philosophers can inspire you in your own search for wisdom.
Professor Williams notes that medieval Christian philosophy was largely disengaged from the political and cultural currents of the time, so that these lectures necessarily concentrate almost exclusively on philosophy. Nonetheless, it is significant that so much intellectual energy went into addressing issues of faith. If you are interested in medieval history this course will serve as a fascinating philosophical backdrop to illuminate debates that occupied many of the greatest minds of the era.
Eight Extraordinary Philosophers
Who were these great minds? Among the philosophers you will encounter in this course, you focus on eight in detail:
- Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was influenced by Plato's distinction between the intelligible realm, which is perfect and accessible only by the mind; and the sensible realm, which is imperfect and apprehensible by the senses. He argued that God's perfection and goodness is equally manifest in both spheres.
- Boethius (c. 476–c. 526) wrote his influential The Consolation of Philosophy while in prison awaiting execution. In the book, philosophy is personified as a woman who shows how human freedom and moral responsibility are possible within God's providential governance of the universe.
- Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) formed his views as a teacher of monks who wished to understand logically what they believed by faith. Anselm's most famous demonstration of a Christian truth is his "ontological argument" for God's existence, which holds that God is "that than which a greater cannot be thought."
- Peter Abelard (1079–1142) acknowledged that God surpasses the power of human understanding, but he was not willing to make the incomprehensibility of God an excuse for obscurity or careless thinking. Some of his bold reformulations of Christian doctrine provoked ecclesiastical censure.
Plato continued to be the dominant influence on medieval philosophers until the 13th century, when the translation of most of Aristotle's works into Latin offered a powerful and controversial tool for systematizing Christian thought. The second half of this course examines philosophers engaging with this new trend.
- Bonaventure (1217–74) was willing to borrow Aristotle's teachings when he found them useful, as in his account of theoretical knowledge; but he rejected Aristotle's view that the world has always existed and argued passionately against what he took to be excessive enthusiasm for Aristotle.
- Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) used the works of Aristotle as his primary philosophical inspiration, developing arguments for the existence of God as well as an account of the powers and limits of human reason in knowing God. After Aquinas's death, some of his views were officially proscribed by the Condemnation of 1277.
- John Duns Scotus (1265/66–1308) began from roughly the same theory of knowledge as Aquinas but ended up with a radically different account of religious language. He was known as the "Subtle Doctor" for his ingenious arguments. His surname, Duns, is the origin of our word "dunce"—a slur on the ineptness of his imitators.
- William of Ockham (c. 1288–1347) made famous the principle now called "Ockham's razor," which gives preference to simplicity in explanations. His tenacity in using this principle led to a breakdown in the harmonious relationship between theology and philosophy envisioned by both Aquinas and Scotus.
By the end of Ockham's life Aristotelianism was losing ground rapidly. Within a generation, a new Renaissance version of Platonism was widespread and thriving. Thus a philosophical era that began with Augustine's adoption of a Platonic worldview closed, a thousand years later, with the revival of a very similar outlook.
Faith Seeking Understanding
The golden age of philosophers pursuing both reason and faith may be long past, but their mission continues to inspire thoughtful people today—not least Professor Williams.
In the first lecture he notes: "I got interested in philosophy as a teenager because of religious questions—questions about how to make sense of the things I believed, how to defend them, how to understand them, and how to make them square with other things I knew, or thought I knew. And I quickly became attracted to medieval philosophers precisely because their questions were my questions. Their project, like mine, was one of faith seeking understanding; and they carried out that project with a rigor, an intensity, and—I think—a success that is unmatched in the history of philosophy."
The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas [TTC Video]
01 November 2016, 05:01
Course No 4750 | MKV, AVC, 1024x576 | AAC, 96 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 6.04GB
Liberty. Democracy. Rights. Community. The terms and concepts originated by political philosophers have become so ingrained in our global consciousness that politicians and ordinary citizens reference them with frequency and a sense of assuredness. Without even realizing it, we all use the fruits of political philosophy. The question is, are we using them well?
Many of us have an incomplete picture of how the ideas of political philosophy developed or their intentions and implications, despite their ubiquity. Complicating the matter, the meaning of many words in the political lexicon has evolved over time; “freedom,” “equality,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “neoconservative,” “libertarian,” “progressive,” “socialist,” “democratic,” and “republican” have each been used in a variety of ways.
Practically speaking, if we can grasp these concepts and understand their history, we are in a far better position to follow and evaluate political discussions in the media and among our social circles with discernment, so we can understand the terms as well as—if not better than—those who casually bandy them about.
In addition, tracing the origin of political thought and its execution on a grand scale allows us to develop big-picture awareness of political philosophy’s enormous influence throughout modern history, adding historical and philosophical depth to our understanding of both past and current events.
The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas is your opportunity to navigate the labyrinth of Western political and social theory. Guided by award-winning Professor Lawrence Cahoone of the College of the Holy Cross, these 36 eye-opening lectures reveal how political philosophers, in responding to the societal problems and changing conditions of their day in revolutionary ways, created virtual blueprints of action for leaders to implement—for good or ill. You’ll gain not only the tools necessary to comprehend and evaluate the omnipresent language of politics, but also a thorough understanding of the wellspring of thought that has emerged over centuries of political philosophy.
You’ll also gain knowledge of the intellectual origins of monumental historical events and developments from the Renaissance through the 21st century, such as
- the creation of America’s political system, which was crucially influenced by John Locke and Montesquieu;
- the French Revolution, which was influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau;
- the formation of most capitalist contemporary societies, which have been guided by the theories of Adam Smith;
- the invention of communist regimes, which is largely attributable to Karl Marx; and
- the numerous reforms of progressivism, which include the eight-hour workday, minimum wage laws, worker’s compensation, voting rights for women, and social insurance for the elderly, disabled, and unemployed.
This ambitious course is a highly relevant exploration, with a third of it focusing on the very recent past and a great many lectures concerning events and ideas of the last century. By course end, you will have acquired the context necessary to appreciate how political ideas have developed over time, including many of the hot-button topics of today, from libertarianism and neoconservatism to feminism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism.
Connect Centuries of Western Political Thought
Offering impressive breadth and depth, The Modern Political Tradition has a scope you’re unlikely to find in a traditional university course. Here, you’ll trace the rise of movements including capitalism, liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, socialism, and communism; you’ll look at various incarnations of the social contract theory; and you’ll learn how disagreements between Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison influenced America’s Constitution and system of government.
As you immerse yourself in the politics of events such as World War II and the invasion of Afghanistan, as well as movements such as for civil rights and environmentalism, you’ll consider a range of fascinating topics:
- Fundamental notions of freedom and rights
- Moral realism versus moral relativism
- Dangers and advantages of the free-market model of economics
- Questions of distributive justice and the welfare state
- “Just war” theory, which is currently being tested by the war on terror
- The inequality of a policy of “color blindness”
- Whether democracy or “liberal republicanism” is applicable to every civilization
You will also see how the French Revolution and its aftermath, the Napoleonic Wars, set up the international spectrum of conservatism on the right, some brand of socialism on the left, and a mix of liberal and civic republicanism in the middle—in addition to giving us the very terms “right” and “left.”
In Professor Cahoone’s treatment of everything from totalitarianism to postmodern critique, he provides a clear analysis of the defenses philosophers have used to support their ideas, critics’ arguments against those ideas, and how the two relate.
A major focus of this course is liberal republicanism, which you will come to realize is not only a unique and experimental concept in history, but a highly complex one. With several political, social, and economic principles and institutions woven into its fabric, liberal republicanism remains subject to a host of criticisms and questions that political philosophers are still attempting to address.
However, modern thought—and this course—are by no means limited to liberal republicanism. You’ll see other ways of imagining a free and equal society, as well as those of philosophers like Vladimir Lenin and Carl Schmitt, who reject the very idea.
Discover Philosophy for the Real World
Compared with more metaphysical realms of philosophy, political philosophy is the discipline’s most influential and tangible area. Broadly speaking, it attempts to answer the question of how human beings should live together in society. On a more granular level, it asks such questions as these:
- What is justice?
- What is the chief good of political society?
- What kind of government is best?
- What is a just distribution of goods, services, and income?
In The Modern Political Tradition, you’ll study individuals with clear vision in addressing these and other fundamental problems. Among the earliest is Niccolò Machiavelli, from whom we get the notion of “the ends justify the means” and his assertion that political actors will inevitably behave immorally, what later writers have called “dirty hands.”
You’ll also delve into the deontological ethics of Immanuel Kant and the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill—ideas so influential that they are commonly referenced (albeit without attribution) during ethical controversies to this day.
In every lecture, you’ll meet revolutionary figures who have left an indelible mark on history and, in many cases, continue to influence political debate.
- Mary Wollstonecraft: Responsible for the first feminist political theory in 1792, she called for a “revolution in female matters” from the “tyranny of man.”
- Leonard Hobhouse: He was an Englishman whose arguments for a “new” liberalism reappeared throughout the 20th century as part of American progressivism, the Square Deal, the New Deal, and the Great Society.
- Alexandre Kojève: He argued that Henry Ford was the greatest Marxist of the 20th century because he paid his workers enough to buy the Model T cars they produced.
- Ayn Rand: The famous writer’s theory of “objectivism” and defense of laissez-faire has been cited as influential by a vice-presidential candidate and the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, among others.
- John Rawls: A late 20th-century progressive, he reinvigorated the theory of distributive justice by arguing for an American form of European social democracy.
Join a Respected Philosopher and Author
Having penned several books on issues presented in this course, Professor Cahoone—a philosopher in his own right—delivers these lectures with remarkable insight, accessibility, and authority. His engaging teaching style, even-handedness, and ability to distill an array of multifaceted concepts have garnered raves from Great Courses learners and university students alike.
To enhance your understanding of the material, Professor Cahoone has created detailed diagrams, many of which have been animated, specifically for this course. Along with a variety of other on-screen graphics, these visuals illustrate complex points that arise throughout the lectures for those who choose video.
After completing The Modern Political Tradition, politics will come into focus like never before. Even America’s seemingly hopelessly stalemated politics will suddenly be viewed in an entirely new light.
Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds [TTC Video]
31 October 2016, 19:06
Course No 3843 | M4V, AVC, 640x360 | AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 11.35GB
Macedonia, 336 B.C.E. King Philip II is murdered under mysterious circumstances amid a cloud of intrigue.
Constantinople, 532 C.E. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian nearly abandons the city to an angry mob until his wife, Theodora, persuades him to stay.
France, 1095 C.E. Pope Urban II gives a speech that inspires thousands of his subjects to embark on a crusade to Jerusalem.
Time and again, moments shape history. We often examine history from a distant vantage, zooming in on a few dates and kings and battles, or spotlighting faceless trends and general themes. But history is made up of individuals who were as alive in their time as we are today. Pausing on a few key individuals and magnifying specific moments in their lives allows us to experience history in a whole new way—as a vibrant story, full of life.
Living History: Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds takes you back in time and throws a spotlight on two dozen turning points where the tide of history changes irrevocably. Taught by acclaimed Professor Robert Garland of Colgate University, these 24 dramatic lectures examine key events from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome to medieval Europe and Asia. Spanning thousands of years and three continents, this course illuminates fascinating historical dramas on the individual scale.
More than covering great events that change the contours of history, Professor Garland takes you into the scene and allows you to hear what he terms the “heartbeat of history.” Rather than merely reviewing the facts of events such as the Battle of Marathon, the arrest and trial of Jesus, and the coronation of Charlemagne, you’ll engage with a variety of first-hand accounts and authentic primary and secondary sources to experience what it was like to live these events as they occurred. From reports by historians such as Herodotus and Livy to official scrolls and administrative records, these eyewitness sources and ancient documents take you back in time through the eyes of people who were there.
Through a blend of historical facts and imaginative reasoning, Living History: Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds offers you the chance to meet the actors and witness the great events as they occur. Professor Garland breaks down these turning points to days and even hours so you will truly feel like a participant in stories hundreds or thousands of years old—but still in a vibrant and fascinating world.
Meet Extraordinary Men and Women
In your tour of the ancient and medieval worlds, Professor Garland introduces you to some of the most captivating and enigmatic characters to have ever lived. You see Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and others as energetic, charismatic leaders who were complex and flawed people, by turns admirable and brutal, circumspect and brazenly power-hungry. Whether we view them as heroes or villains, they are fascinating.
There is perhaps no better example than Alexander the Great. Educated by Aristotle, a brilliant military tactician, and relentless in pursuit of his goals, he was also a paranoid megalomaniac with a desire for grandeur and a violent temper. These facets of his personality all come to bear on the moment when his army has had enough and refuses to march further into India. Witness how Alexander must back down while still saving face.
You’ll also encounter some extraordinary women and watch them defying the rules to make their mark on world history:
- Observe how Cleopatra uses her charms, intelligence, and theatrical ability to achieve unprecedented influence in political affairs—and how her relationship with Mark Antony eventually enables Octavian to become the undisputed ruler of the Roman world.
- Reflect on how Theodora, at one time a mime and possibly a prostitute, climbs her way up the social ladder to become the wife of a socially conservative emperor.
- Meet Wu Zetian, a classically educated concubine who eventually becomes China’s first female empress, doing much during her reign to establish a meritocracy and improve the lives of her subjects.
Professor Garland also explores the lives of a wealth of key philosophical and religious figures, from the secular wisdom of Socrates to the deeds of Jesus and Muhammad to the breathtaking spiritual conversions of Ashoka the Great and the Grand Duke Vladimir, founder of the Russian Orthodox Church.
See How History Often Turns on a Moment
Beyond the people, what makes an event “great” often lies in its consequences. Hundreds or thousands of years have passed since the events of this course, yet we feel their rippling effects. When Pyrrhus marched his Greek army toward Rome, he had dreams of making his mark on the world’s stage, but his “victory”—and subsequent withdrawal—paved the way for Rome to supplant Greece as the dominant global power. Or consider Pontius Pilate’s decision to offer Jesus up for crucifixion to please the crowd, even though he likely believed Jesus innocent of the charges brought against him—the events resulting from his choice have resonated over millennia.
Quick decisions, a victory, a defeat, an impulse: these small moments shape history. One of the joys of this course is that in examining these moments, Professor Garland also reflects on contingencies. What if Charles Martel had not defeated the Muslim invaders at the Battle of Tours? Would Europe have become a largely Muslim continent? Or, what if Theodora had not urged her husband Justinian to stand firm and not flee when the angry mob at the hippodrome in Constantinople was baying for his blood? Would the Byzantine Empire have come to an abrupt end one hot afternoon? Reflecting on these contingencies makes clear the myriad ways in which the ancient and medieval worlds have made us who we are today.
View History through the Eyes of Ordinary People
Professor Garland is an amazingly empathetic lecturer, passionate about history and the people who lived it. Perhaps his greatest strength is taking you into the minds of ordinary citizens. While you have likely heard some of the stories in this course before, his approach sheds new light on such events as the first theatrical presentation of Aeschylus’s Oresteia and the trial of Socrates. Both of these events reveal the way the Athenian democracy functioned at moments of unease and crisis.
Imagine the thoughts of Muslim envoy Ibn Fadlan, coming from cosmopolitan Baghdad in the 10th century, upon arriving in the wild territories of Central Asia. Or picture yourself in the crowd when Pericles or Pope Urban II gives an inspirational speech extolling the glory of Athens or Christendom. Would you be moved by the swell of the crowd and the enthusiasm of the day?
Witnessing these moments as a participant—slowing down to hear the “heartbeat of history”—is a captivating way of reflecting on the past. Living History: Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds takes you inside the hearts and minds of those who lived through fascinating human dramas—a novel approach to history you won’t find anywhere else.