Soren Kierkegaard’s Crises

Here we have an interesting lecture from the course by The Teaching Company, called “Philosophy as a Guide to Living” which is taught by Professor Stephen A. Erickson. The course has 24 lectures, each lasting 30 minutes. However today I will be briefly going through lecture 12 called “Kierkegaard’s Crises”.


Professor Stephen A. Erickson

As you might know, lecture 16 is perhaps half way through the course and Prof Stephen reflects on what he has looked at understanding the meaning of life. Prof Stephen feels that life seems complicated and complex, but now we have reached a dead end.

Stephen discusses the previous lectures and what philosophers have thought about life. Stephen mentions lectures 8 and 9 which centers on Schopenhauer’s Pessimism and realism. These lectures conclude that Life cannot be such a burden, although we must fight our animalistic passions in order to gain a higher sense of worth. We struggle in this cruel world and struggle with our inner demons or animalistic intentions, but we can resign ourselves to peace and art to withdraw from the world, if only for a moment.

Prof Stephen then briefly talks about lecture 10 and 11, which is on Alienation in Marx and his utopian Hope. Prof Stephen feels that We do not all need to contemplate revolution, even if life is quite hard.

Now its time to look at Kierkegaard’s ideas. Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, poet and thelogen born 5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855. He is actually called an existentialist. What this philosophy or movement is defined as is that we all need to look at ourselves individually to understand the power we hold, we are all free to make our own decisions and must avoid being pressed into organisations, definitions and institutions. Soren’s ideas present that we MUST become individuals, we are not born individuals.

Philosophy at that time was you were born into something. You was born as a Christian or born into another religion, you can read many books and that was the only sure way to represent that religion. Soren felt this was easy, all too easy, all too secure.


Søren Kierkegaard

Prof Stephen talks a bit about how humans have a lower and a higher nature. what can connect us with our reason? where can we discover meaning? Stephen mentions that the Greeks felt we perhaps could detach from our emotions and find something that would give a lasting value to us. The Greeks almost seem obsessed about finding truth and beauty.

Maybe if truth is eternal and we perhaps could know it, then maybe there is something eternal about us. Perhaps and only just perhaps there is some objective immortally we can grasp, before we leave this planet, maybe then we can find something that matters to us, something that MEANS something to us and subdue our lower nature and enhance our higher nature.

Soren Kierkegaard read a lot about the thinkers in his day. Most of these were danish hegelians. They talked about a lot of history as Friedrich Hegel did in his day. Soren felt that the ideas like this to explain life was being abused. Soren Felt such academics who read hegal were into trivialities and being pompus about it. He noticed that everyone is making life easier, this cannot be so. Soren now wants to be famous, but instead of making things easier, how about he makes things more difficult. Why not look into the small things that seem unimportant, but they SHOULD matter. so that we pay attention to the details of life.


Friedrich Hegel

Kierkegaard’s Meaning in life is found through living through situations that do not seem to make sense. We are stuck by either/or situations.

Prof Stephen quotes Kierkegaard on a few things. Stephen states that Kierkegaard feels Life is not where history of dialectic ideas or about the history of this or that.

Kierkegaard wrote many books. One of them was “fear and trembling” This famous book about the dilemma of Abraham a biblical character, he was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Such a dilemma to Kierkegaard was The teleological suspension of the ethic,

What does this mean?

Prof Stephen explains that this means that “There is morally no justification for you to sacrifice your son”, but god has command him to make this sacrifice, but why? God has commanded, and thus Abraham must do it, but it cannot not be morally right, but it is however justified by a higher reason. Thankfully god saves Abraham from the painful and moral dilemma by sending him an angel to stop the sacrifice. Still for those of us who are not fortunate, we struggle with moral, ethical and religious values every day. To Kierkegaard, this is actually a GOOD thing. We should struggle and question our individuality in accordance to religion, we should NOT be so sure of ourselves, but we should struggle within and not show our pain as if we bear a cross.

Soren tells us that the true meaning of our lives is within us and hidden, but it seems no one else can know it, touch it or understand it, but perhaps only through a relationship with god. As you probably can guess Soren Kierkegaard is deemed to be a Christian philosopher and a lot of his knowledge is set on Christian terms.

Soren sets to explain his ideas through through two concepts. They are two knights, think perhaps of those who fight for their belief and are on a quest.

The first concept is the Knight of resignation. Soren has troubles with such people who are knights of resignation. Those who display their religion, display their humility and poverty, they resign but call attention to themselves.

knigt of resignation

The other concept is the Knight of faith. Now soren prefers these people, they are inward, unseen, but you do not know that they are a knight of faith, you cannot tell from their external appearance on who they really are. They sometimes act on their faith, but they will not tell you they acted on this because their religion told them to.

knight of faith

Could you tell she is a knight?

Kiekegaard felt you should not display your relation to god, but understand it, in accordance to finding your meaning of life.

The lecture mentions that Soren also stressed the importance of separateness and isolation from others as quite a good thing. We must not be too overly connected with others. There was a Danish journal called “The Corsair” which often satirised people, eventually the journal satirised Soren Kiekegaard and eventually made serious fun out of him.

Children began to throw stones at Soren when they saw him in the streets. The lecture states this was a sad and cruel situation, but Soren felt this seemed quite a good thing. Soren actually practised what he preached. Security with others is a kind of death, we put on faces to meet the faces that we see, but this is almost inner agony. Have a think about this one one for a moment.

The lecture concludes that we Set of reflections regarding oneself, to realise one isn’t but MUST become an individual. Essential existentialism, our true nature to be reached, we need to be specific with god. This lecture is part one in this course next lecture looks through stages on the meaning of life according to Kierkegaard lecture 13 – Kierkegaard’s Passion.

Questioning the value of life’s horrors

Here we have a difficult lecture that I often listen to. Why is it difficult? well as you can guess it is difficult because of its title “Life’s Horrors”, which is lecture number 16.

The lecture looks into why the horrors of life causes problems with life’s values. I would also like to mention the lecture can be quite tough to get your head around, not because its not explained well, Professor Patrick Grim explains the lecture’s content extremely well, but some points raised can be challenging. This lecture is taken from a course called “Questions of Value


Professor Patrick Grim

The lecture starts off with the notion that It seems you cannot completely avoid the horrors what the world sometimes reflects. Perhaps all you need is to turn on the TV and watch the news then in a few minutes you are tuned into a report of immense suffering.

This lecture concentrates on two ideas. One is how some people react to horrors using religion, while the other is the reaction to horror using anti-religion. Hence they feel religion cannot fully explain away the deep meaning of the horrors of life.

Well what does this lecture means by life’s horrors? Lets look into this more deeply.

We are giving a detailed breakdown of life horrors in the first part of this lecture. The first is what is horror itself?

Prof Patrick feels such horrors life hold are fatal, unpredictable, unavoidable.

Then we are taught about Natural horrors and what they consist of being floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and so on. Then the next type of horrors are diseases, plaques, fevers causing millions of deaths. We are then shown what organic horrors are, being cancer, strokes or when the body attacks itself.


What about the Pain that is caused by life horrors? The result of the horrors not on its victim, but also on those who try to care for the person, those who feel helpless and struggle or witness such horrors or its after effects? Such horrors can go so deep that it blots out even love that aids to try and recover from the pain. A good example is that of Alzheimers which causes so must strife not only for the victim but for their carers who at times feel helpless to stop the ultimate suffering of those who are unlucky enough to be struck down by the illness.

So then how does Theology tackle these natural evils? How can religion explain away the cause? Are we meant to suffer? It is mentioned in this lecture those who support the religious view is that we are meant to suffer, because it adds character, strength and understanding of such horrors, but wait there are other types of horrors

What about human evils? We have horrors caused by War. Where innocents are slaughtered and killed in such terrible ways. Humans, especially men have caused rape, which can scar those physically and mentally for life. We have those who inflict suffering on others, not just from error, but some do this because they enjoy inflicting suffering. They enjoy the result such horrors can bring, although not fully mentioned in this lecture. The argument why horror has been brought about by mankind is that the ultimate ruler of the universe has granted mankind free will to choose between good and evil, but how is this justified?


The lecture then describes other horrors. We have accidents, political oppression, the economic climate, addiction. Horrors so bad that not even innocence and protect against horrors. The young, innocent and even animals are no barrier against the forces of such horrifying conclusions. One horror that can affect all and usually does affect the majority of the worlds population is that of starvation, which does not discriminate on those it chooses to attack. Tearing families down and causing deaths in an untold number.

What could be a normal life? Progressive development, retirement, old age and a painless death. This is what life is suppose to be? However most lives do not fit this picture, does it not seem unfair? That is it so Unjust to receive such horrors? Do we not deserve our due.

Prof Patrick Grim feels that justice has nothing to do with human suffering on these scales, the universe does not seem to care. If we were to pick at random another person in history and brought them forward to our modern life, what are the chances that his or her life would be as good as ours?

Some lives are randomly victimised by crime. At most a lot of people ask Why me? What is the justification of it all? This lecture tries to tackle how others justify the horrors brought on life.

So what is the point of all this horror? There seems to be no justification.
There are many conclusions that try to justify the horrors unleashed upon us, the lecture looks at What these conclusions are?

First we can look at one of the Religious answer to justifying life’s horrors

Those who follow some religions state that We need to suffer to understand the positives about life. Without suffering, how can we understand what is valuable in life, hence the title of this course “Questions of Value”

The lecture examines this argument and gives us other reasons why we have to suffer according to religious concepts.

It seems suffering can give Courage in the face of adversity, we need fear in order to learn courage. Plus suffering allows us to increase Human dignity.

The lecture mentions celebrity and how their suffering inspires others. One such famous celebrity is Steven Hawkins, for such a genius it is amazing how he can cope with such a deliberating disease and still work and try to build upon science.

The other celebrity is the movie actor Christopher Reeve, who starred in many successful movies including superman films of the 1980s. Later on during his life, he fell from a horse and suffered devastating spinal cord injuries leading to paralyse. We look upon how much suffering Christopher had to go to and how such suffering lead to Christopher becoming a good example to others, using his fame to highlight the heartache of serve injuries.

Christopher Reeve

The lecture moves on to question what emotions can help in justifying such horrors?

One emotion is Sympathy for others, it seems again that Suffering seems to add character, although no one would rush to suffer to gain this. The lecture looks into other claims made from religious traditions concerning suffering.

However there is a problem, why should someone’s pain is your gain? Why should someone else have build up of character because they sympathize with those who suffer from such horrors? This lecture then looks at What is the trade off? What is the justification?

Those that follow some religions might use the argument that it is god who decides who should suffer, but then this leads on to other problems. The lack of justice, which is exemplified by the book called “The Brothers Karamazov” written by Fyodor Dostoevsky.


Fyodor Dostoevsky

In the book a character named Ivan tells a story about a powerful aristocrat whose dog has become injured because one of the kenal staff that being a boy accidentally hurts the dog. The Boy is then locked up and the next morning the boy is let loose, starving, frightened and cold. He is let loose to run for his life while the aristocrat sends a pack of dogs sent to kill boy. Before his mothers eyes. The story goes into heart breaking detail as the dogs finally catch the young boy and kill him before his mother’s eyes.

With this Ivan renounces religion, because children and the innocent do not understand it. Why should children suffer for the greater good?

Does the goal of harmony or greater good, justifies the suffering of the one child.

The lecture takes one last look at the examples of horror and looks at unknown suffering, how such horrors can actually destroy character rather than add to it, destroy relationships rather than build it. There are also higher order evil, than just higher order goods. It seems understanding horror is so deep, so complex and so mysterious, perhaps the idea of the forces of good cannot justify the reason for horrors.

So it seems “not every horror brings a higher order good”

The second opinion that being Anti-religious critique feels that this is not “The best of all possible worlds”. It does not seem to wash. Here the lecture quotes from the famous ethical and empiricist philosopher David Hume.


David Hume

Quote from Hume

Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?…
Nothing can shake the solidity of this reasoning, so short, so clear, so decisive.

The Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, which was published after Hume’s death because of the controversy it would have caused.

He feels there is no such thing as a single powerful ruler of the universe that can justify the horrors unleashed on humanity.  Even if such a god was all powerful and could stop such horrors, would we not go against such a god if we tried to fight such horrors?  How far can we choose to go against such ruler?

This is a difficult and brilliant lecture and the course is a challenging one. You will probably have to play most lectures several times to get their concepts and conclusions. I do feel the lecturer sometimes talks a bit quickly, but he does get your attention.

Hardy Life at Its Worst

One of my favourite interests is literature. I managed to get hold of this course called “TTC – Classics of British Literature“. I have several courses of literature and this course is one of my favourites. The course is taught by Professor John Sutherland and as usual each lecture is 30 minutes long. The course contains around 48 lectures, so you will be spoilt for British culture and perhaps become a literature master.


Professor John Sutherland

I decided to look at lecture number “38 Hardy Life at Its Worst”. This lecture is on Thomas Hardy a great Victorian novelist and poet. He started out writing fiction, then moved on to more serious themes. He could not stand to ignore life’s harsh treatment of those who aspire to be something else.

Thomas Hardy, died in 1928, was considered a Great man of the novel.

But What kind of monument was Thomas Hardy? What did he leave behind?


Thomas Hardy

The lecture discuss the tug of war on Where Thomas would be buried. Eventually his heart went elsewhere, I think Wessex and his brain cremated at Woking.

Well lets look at why is this lecture about life at its worst?

The lecture gives us a brief overview of Thomas Hardy’s birth place Wessex. The region of Wessex was going through some great change and many was for the worst. Thomas Hardy never seemed to forget the difficulties of his childhood and this caused some divisions within himself.

What were those The divisions?

As stated before From 1860’s to 1890s he wrote fiction and novels. The later years, he wrote poetry.
Hardy wrote against morality and portrayed life at its toughest. One book was even banned by a bishop, I wonder what book that was?

One of Thomas Hardy’s book “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” described one of the women being raped. It was also known that readers criticised the book “Return of the native” as too grim. Thomas Hardy tailored the book to suit the audience needs.

Many of Thomas’s books including “Far from the madden crowd“, was criticised because people wanted more happier endings.

Eventually Thomas Hardy decided to write more on reality and moved away from fiction, during his later years.

The Lecture moves on to his life and looks at the relation of his life to his novels?
Hardy was born in the county of Dorset. He was born into political reform, Robert Peel the then Prime Minster began to reform of the corn laws. There was no more protectionism for British corn laws. Imports were now not so heavily taxed any more.

Such changes in rural farm life became an inspiration to Hardy’s book “The Mayor of Casterbridge“. It was heavily influenced by the decline of the farming industry around that time. The lecture moves on to study why Thomas Hardy was interested in science, especially Charles Darwin.

Thomas Hardy had no children in which due to later years upset him greatly. Thomas also had failed relationships. To make life more difficult for Thomas his best friend killed himself. Why is Thomas so pessimistic?

“Humans have an intelligent relation with nature, but there was always some struggle.”

The lecture moves on to one example of the hard life and how it is portrayed in another of Hardy’s book. The Theme of “Far From The Madden Crowd“, one of the characters Fanny dies destitute and unknown. However her death is not to be in vain as she resembles the Patron saint of loss causes.

Professor John Sutherland talks about how Thomas is interested in church architecture, but also mentions Thomas did not align himself to religion, but loved the design.

In 1898 Thomas moves off from fiction and wrote a poem for “the love of the church and its structure”, but still distanced himself from religious belief.

The lecture then talks a bit about another of Thomas Hardies book “Under the Greenwood Tree“.

Professor John then starts to read a Poem -> The Impercipient

THis lecture exams the friction between religion and Thomases belief

THAT from this bright believing band
An outcast I should be,
That faiths by which my comrades stand
Seem fantasies to me,
And mirage-mists their Shining Land,
Is a drear destiny.

Even though what is shown is just a small part of the poem, the lecture explains that the poem shows how difficult it is for Hardy to believe in faith due to what he has seen around him.

In 1862 Hardy now goes to London to try his fortune. He first Went to London as a architect and then moved on to writing. Hardys novels begins to show his pessimism. One of Hardy’s books “Jude the Obscure” exemplifies his use of tragedy.

The Discussion of book is about Jude and it starts in Wessex green which has become run down. Wessex shows the misery of peoples lives. Jude is an orphan and throughout the book we are shown the sad hard life of Incest, suicide and alcoholism.

Jude eventually becomes inspired by education and hope to be a great teacher one day. The lecture shows that Hardy sees things differently and warns us of the difficulties to come. Jude starts out well, he studies hard and dreams of university.

However Professor John states there are Obstacles to Jude’s dreams and fantasies.

One of the obstacles is the British class system
The other is that Sexual relationships causes Jude major problems

Prof John describes a passage of the book of Jude’s aspiration. His dreams and fantasies. Here the lecture describes how a maid puts end to Jude’s fantasies by trapping him into some marriage, but he still does not give up. Eventually Jude moves close to Oxford, but ends up in another relationship with someone outside his class, but Jude ends up drinking heavily and this causes them to part.

Jude eventually gives up his dream of education, and soon there is a tragic climax in the novel. One of Jude’s lovers Sue is pregnant, but she cannot find lodgings. Jude can take no more of life’s upsets.

The lecture read out Part of novel.

All of Jude’s three children murdered and his other child commits suicide. Jude’s lover Sue then has a miscarriage. All this is too much for Jude to bear. Jude dies due to alcoholism.

Another part of the Novel is read out describing Jude’s dead body.

The lecture shows the Irony of Jude’s funeral as it is done when there is a parade of Oxford students celebrating their last exam results. The lecture finishes up on Why do we like tragedy? How does Hardy create beauty out of suffering?

“We have to look at life as it really is, if we want to live life.”

If you enjoyed looking up on this lecture, you will be sure to enjoy the course. You will learn much from it.

Anxiety and Mood Disorder Lecture

Welcome to another review and description of an audio lecture I have collected over the years. This time we have another lecture series from The Teaching Company. This course is called “Psychology of Human Behaviour” and is taught by Professor David W. Martin.

I enjoy listening to this course, because my other job is a carer’s representative/consultant for carers. These carers care for those suffering mental health difficulties. You can learn a lot from this course, where lectures are again 30 minutes long and the lectures hit a massive 36 episodes.


Professor David W. Martin

Here I look at lecture number 8, which looks at Anxiety and Mood Disorders and their sub classifications. Be warned though, the new DSM book  is out, which is DSM-V, this lecture centres in on the classification off DSM-IV. What I mean by DSM is that it stands for “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”. It is a book used by psychiatrists or those studying in the field to recognise certain mental illnesses.

Professor David gives a quick run down of the illness and breaks things down to prepare you for the lecture material, just in case you do not want to listen to the whole of the lecture. He mentions that these two mental illnesses are a lot of what you see regarding mental health problems, however the good news is that many do not have not be institutionalised for these.

First the lecture describes Anxiety and its sub classification. Prof David discusses Phobias and OCD. OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder.


David then starts out that Anxiety used to be called neurosis, he mentions that Freud use to treat these. Such disorders have been around for a long while. sufferers have severe worry of a possible danger. David then talks about Phobias and what they are. I guess a general description is that they are undue fears and can cause avoidant behaviour. Such avoidant behaviour can actually reinforce the fear.

Prof David then breaks down the different types of phobias. We look at animal phobias. In fact the lecture mentions that evolutionary psychologists have also looked at this type of phobia. Such phobias actually effect a large population, it could be built into us as a survival instinct.

We then look at other phobias one category is Natural environments phobias, which are fear of earthquakes, floods, fires and so on. Still its not that it is an illness to be afraid of these, but only when there is a less chance of them and how we behave in order to protect ourselves. Then David discusses another phobia as fear of damage to the body, such as fear of blood, injection phobias and many more threats to the body.

We then look at situational phobias, such as flying in an air plane or being a passenger of a car and other situations where you would probably see in the Final Destination movies.

Phobias seems to be more present in women at 16% than in men at 7%, but this statistic can change, since this course is a little old now. Phobias Can be dealt with by using behavioural therapies, I am sure other remedies exist though.

We then look at another subcategory which is Panic disorders

Prof David states in the lecture that these tend to be set off by itself, for little or no reason.
He discusses the signs of panic and how it affects the body. Plus how they occur and can appear fast and then go away almost just as quickly.

A good example of a panic disorder is Agoraphobia, which is fear of crowds, which causes the suffer to stay at home.


Suffers range from 5% for women, 2% for men on panic disorders, which can be dealt by using cognitive behaviour therapies.

Next Prof David moves on to describing Generalized anxiety disorders. He breaks this down in what this means and how it affects suffers. Usually they have a chronic unhappy condition of life. This affects them by making them unhappy, have headaches and cause sleep disturbances. There are many other patterns. The lecture gives a good example of a suffer who had a bad upbringing. We then move on to the final sub category of anxiety disorder. This being OCD, which means Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

OCD causes some of the following being intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviour. A good example is Fear of germs, here the lecture mentions its first celebrity suffer being Howard Hughes who had a fear of germs. You can also suffer by having a fear of messing something up, but this is increased by 10 times. We then have another example of nurse with fear of AIDS. She washes herself almost continually.


Unfortunately some suffers have co-mobility, which is more than one condition. Treatments range from behavioural therapies to taking Prozac.

We then look at the next major category and its sub categories being Mood disorders. The lecture talks about unipolar depression and its classification. We notice that women get this more than men, suffers can get a life time suffering from this symptom.

Other similar illness are Dysthymia and suffers can be depressed for most of the day, then it can go up for 2 years. It can affect suffers by causing low self esteem and concentration problems. We also have depressed moods, even though nothing triggered it. Unfortunately it can be a real difficultly diagnosis problem. Since many suffer from depression, but how can you tell if its chronic?

It can affect suffers by fatigue, sleep problems, a sudden eating change, slow down of activity or thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts. Plus it can re-occur again. The lecture mentions what treatments can help suffers deal with the symptoms such as anti-depressant drugs, inhibitors, ECT which I believe stands for Electroconvulsive therapy and is very controversial.

The lecture next looks at bipolar depression, suffers tend to be about the same, for men and women. It is quite easy for most if not all people to get depressed, e.g. death of a loved one.

So what’s the difference?

Again it is probably the length of time one suffers from the illness.

Suffers can have depressed episodes or manic episodes and some get the swings of highs and lows. That meaning when they feel excited, full of energy and then next they are slow, depressed and lack of energy.

The lecture describes how it affects suffers. Then the lecture talks about Hypno mania. Some controversial issue is that some actually like being on a high, since it can cause a burst of creativity. Suffers tend not seek medication, one reason is that they ll feel they are on a low depending on side effects and loss of manic symptoms. Treatment can range from anti-depressive drugs, lithium for the manic phase. Suffers can actually hit into psychosis if mania is not dealt with soon enough.

Lastly the lecture looks at suicide. It interesting that the lecture mentions women try suicide at a higher rate than men, but men tend to actually have a higher rate of success when it comes to taking their own lives.


The lecturer tends to talk a lot more slowly in this lecture, so it is easier to grasp some concepts, but beware other lectures in this course are quite challenging. The course is recommended as a start out into looking into the world of psychology.

The Social Contract

Welcome to another post on philosophy-101 blog. Today we have an audio introduction to The worlds 100 greatest books. This audio package delivers an introduction to why these books are the greatest, the period the books were set in, the brief introductions about the author of the book and then the audio goes into some detail about the story. Some books in this package are not even novels; some of the books are non-fiction. Just like the one I hope to describe here in this blog.

There are such a vast array of books within the audio collection, that the package will not give you the whole story of each book word to word. That would take far too long, but you will get some idea about why such the books are so famous.

The audio package is released by intelliquest who also did the audio collection called “The world’s 100 greatest people“. The reason they released such a collection on books, is because life is so short and some books can take so long to read. One of the books called “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy would take months to read, maybe years, however it is a very easy book to read, but here the audio collection will give you a much shorter the breakdown, summary and idea behind the book along with some symbolism. Can you imagine trying to read and understand “Ulysses” by James Joyce? Unfortunately this collection does not cover James Joyces materials, but it does cover Shakespeare, Stendhal, Gustave Flaubert, Goethe and many more.

I recommend if you are really interested in the study of literature, please visit shmoop gamma. With that site you get an even more detailed analysis, summary and plenty of famous quotes. Shmoop offers breakdowns on tougher books including “Altas Shrugged” by Ayn rand, “Ulysses” by James Joyce and so much more literature. Perhaps you can use the Shmoop in conjunction with the audio collection.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Well lets delve into the book I hope to discuss on the blog today. The book is indeed quite famous or infamous depending who you are talking to. The book is called “The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This book is number 73 within the audio package and each section is usually 30 to 45 minutes. Rousseau did not have an easy upbringing, his mother died after his birth and his father left him when he was aged 10.

When Rousseau was in his teens, he left for Paris because he became bored and felt trapped in his home town. He was drawn to the bright lights of the city, working in many fields. He found his calling in literature and philosophy, although Rousseau was skilled in many fields. Rousseau won a competition which raised the question if the arts and sciences did society a disservice. Rousseau submitted a paper called “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences”, which argued why the arts and sciences were dangerous to society.

Rousseau took this step further by publishing his most famous book called “The social contract”, which this audio collection describes in some detail.

Interestingly Rousseau is nearly the opposite of what Thomas Hobbes (another philosophy from England) explained about the state of man’s nature in society. In Hobbe’s book called “leviathan”. Thomas felt that man without an established society was weak, living in fear, violent and dangerous. Hobbes argued for a social contract where all would give up their power to the absolute ruler and that contract would hopefully bind all men to live in safety.


Thomas hobbes

Rousseau disagreed and felt that complex societies actually made men more brutal, dangerous, and living in fear and stress. Rousseau felt that man who lived without the need society or possessions did better off, because they did not fear who would take things away from them. All man would need was a place to sleep, eat and not be corrupted by power or knowledge. Rousseau felt such men were “Noble savages”.

Rousseau’s ideas caused friction with those who were in power at the time and Rousseau was hounded by the government and monarchy. Rousseau was even jailed when he criticised those in power. The audio book discusses Rousseau’s life, the idea behind his book and its influences.

You will not be disappointed with this collection. That is unless you really want to read all the books on the list and there is no reason why, but to get through 100 books can take nearly a life time, and some books are not always a fun read.

Marx’s Social Critique

We now look to another course, which I tend to listen to often called “European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century” The course is taught by Professor Lloyd Kramer.

Professor Lloyd Kramer
Professor Lloyd Kramer

This time I will discuss how the lecture revolves around one of the most famous political philosophers Karl Marx. This is on lecture 14 called “Marx’s Social Critique”.

Karl Marx

The lecture starts off on what cultures had influenced Marx, mainly being German, French and English. The lecture then moves on to how Marx began to develop his critique. As stated earlier, Marx’s had the widest influence in the world of economics from Mid 19th century culture context, but now we live in a very different world. Prof Lloyd who mentions several times throughout the lecture that Marx was heavily influenced by Hegalism.

We look into the reasons why Marx moved to Paris in 1843. One of the reason is that Karl Marx had no work in Germany, also he saw Paris as best place for revolution. Many exiles there due to the revolution of 1883, plus many Political activists were also in Paris.

Marx spent a lot of time on Conception of socialism. Marx broke with friend Reuger. but Reuger was not interested in socialism and he decided to leave Karl Marx since he did not want to be associated with the left Hegalism

The lecture explores how Marx had the passion to study the French revolution, French socialism and importantly English economics.

It seems Marx ideas were taking form, they were changing. Marx started to Study thesis of other famous thinkers. He then would create an anti-thesis. Marx would check for the mistakes of the famous thinkers in their written works. Marx uses the German tradition to attack the French and English thought. He then would give a Radical critique of German theories by using French and English thought.

Around this period the lecture talks about the Famous book he wrote with Friedrich Engels called “The German ideology”, which was written around 1845. We then explore Marx’s changes in his theories and thought.

Friedrich Engels

Most of this lecture centres in on Marx’s critique on the early French revolutionaries and English classical economists.

Marx main critique of them is that he felt that they lacked an understanding of history

Marx felt the French, lacked direction and that they did not understand history. Marx felt the Leaders of French revolution did not understand class structure. They only served their own social group. The Jacobins only served the private property class.

Marx felt that the “rights of man” was a masks to serve the rights of the property classes. Marx Does not feel that the revolutionary leaders represented “The rights of man”

Marx criticised many of the famous French thinkers, one of them was Pierre Joseph Purdon Again Marx felt they did not understand the process of history, only revolution. Marx did feel that the French did understand politics and the understandings of starting a revolution.

Marx then moved on to studying the British economists

Marx still felt that the British economists did not understand the Historical perspective. but the French did understand politics and revolutions. The lecture talks about how he felt the economic analysis was good, but then again that they did not explain any historical relevance. Can you see how the idea of history is being formed for Karl Marx class conflict?

Karl Marx studied and criticised the following being Adam Smith and David Richardo.

The lecture mentions Karl heavily disagreed with their ideas of the Universal standard. Mark felt that this is the worst state of privation in which life can know. He disagreed that all workers must be miserable, Marx disagreed with Ricardo, he felt that this a part of history, not a natural law.

Karl Marx felt that suffering is not the natural condition of the workers, history made things that way, and things can change…but what would cause the change?

Prof Lloyd mentioned how Marx admired the economists view of how hard they studied economic relations and how society was affected by it.

Next Marx now moves on to critiques the German Hegelians.

This is when Marx co-wrote his famous book “The German ideology”, but no one dare not publish it, with the response stating it was either too long, too complex or irrelevant.

Marx Felt German philosophers of history lacked the crucial political and economic reality of analysis, as the lecture mentions, German thought is upside down compared to French and English theories. Marx felt that the Hegelian dialectic is not correct. He felt history is basically social relations and economic relations, no need for this vague unfolding spirit. It is too metaphysical and does not make sense in anyone’s life.

The lecture explains in some detail why Marx felt socialism as a more radical way in which history is moving into. Notice the keyword being History. Marx felt that Hegal’s ideas were as if he was “standing on his head”, Marx pondered how to bring German thought back on its feet.

The lecture now moves on to another key part of Marx’s ideas that being of Alienation.

First according to Hegel, Alienation occurred when the thought and idea struggles to move into the material world.

Alienation to Feuerbach was caused by religion, For instance a man would place highest ideal form outside of him self and then worship it, which would take him away from his present imperfect form. Take him away from society.

Alienation to Marx was that people separated by the objects they produce. The lecture brilliantly explains that We are made human by what we produce, but the capitalist takes the objects from what people produced.

Here we are giving a quote from the lecture.

“The worker places his life in the object”, but then the object is taken away from the worker.

Object -> money -> used against the workers

Man creates capital, then worships money, but life is lost by worshipping something outside the self.

So then, how can we unite the worker with what he creates? how do we stop the alienation?

As before, Marx felt alienation is not natural or permanent law. Marx felt that History had a strong influence on society and work. Marx pushes the concept that history is always changing, it is moving towards a higher form of production

We get another quote on the lecture from Karl Marx

“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”

Marx felt the struggle will come from opposing classes, rather then opposing ideas, which the Hegelians focused too much time upon.

The lecture finishes up with this brilliant quote to sum up Marx’s ideas.

“Philosophers have only interpreted the world, but the point is to change it” which was launched as critique of German idealists. They spent too much time on analysing the spirit of history.

Professor Lloyd Kramer does speak slightly fast on this lecture and you will probably have to replay it several times, but it does explain difficult thoughts and concepts at an easy basic level.

Knowledge Products on Nietzschie

God is Dead!
This is how the audio course Giants of Philosophy starts off on its explanation of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. If you find the introduction of this course startling and profound Just wait till you hear the rest of the course.  The narration is done by the late great actor Charlton Heston and he does a brilliant job of it too.  Charlton keeps us interested through the course throughout.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche was no stranger to controversy as the start of the course rightly points out. Within the first 10 minutes we learn that the philosophies of Nietzsche was easily adapted for the Nazi’s, Nietzsche hated the Jewish religions and Christianity. At times Nietzsche was extremely nationalistic, deplored morality and through it weak for the heard mentality. Nietzsche also adored those who were strong and were honest enough to use their strength to gain power and flaunt their power.

Nietzsche felt European civilisation was dying off due to its constant belief in Christianity and felt that Europe was becoming decadent. Nietzsche wanted the new man, the “Overman” who would not only become man, but over him, this man would not do deny the meaning of the earth, but enjoy it. Nietzsche hated the pseudo talk of Christianity and felt many Christians could not live up to the ideals of Christianity anyway.

The course examines how Nietzsche fell in love with the philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Søren Kierkegaard, but then Nietzsche disagreed with the conclusion of Schopenhauer’s view of “the will”, which Schopenhauer stated that the meaning of the earth is a cruel meaningless place, where our desires consume us and thus as we try to fight “this will”, it is a losing battle and the only way we could challenge “the will” would be through artistic appreciation or through contemplation, but rationally “the will” concludes absurdity and Nihilism will reign supreme. Nietzsche agreed the world was cruel, but felt that there was little wrong with this, we should celebrate it and we should affirm life. Pointless Nihilism is just a form of giving up.

By the way, Nihilism is the idea that life and rationality is so meaningless, so absurd, that life becomes pointless and we ultimately will believe in nothing, perhaps this nothing will even erode belief. We just live to eat, breed and then die.

Nietzsche also disagreed with Kierkegaard’s view of throwing ourselves into a leap of faith to religion. As pointed out earlier in this course, Nietzsche despised religion and felt religion was for the weak masses, who chain the strong so that the weak could be kept safe. Nietzsche felt religion was a lie that denied the true meaning of the earth.

The course has many voice actors narrating how Nietzsche would have talked. There is also a narration for Bertrand Russell, which I found quite funny, because Bertrand was severely dismissive of Nietzsche and his philosophy, you can listen to Bertrand’s criticism here.

We get to listen to Nietzsche’s idea of the overman, his views into morality. We also hear of Nietzsche’s criticism of how philosophy was developing, where Nietzsche felt philosophy was inventing the world, not realizing the world. The course examines and discusses Nietzsche’s friends and how he fell out with some of them. How Nietzsche felt about women and Nietzsche’s view on art, his admiration for Greek culture and then the course moves on to Nietzsche view on art.

What I have mentioned so far is on the two first tapes and there is around two or three more to go. The style of the course makes it easy for the listener to take in Nietzschian philosophy and it’s easy to listen again and again. The break music can be a bit off putting at times though. You will love the voice acting, its just as if Nietzsche was talking to you, trying to persuade you with his arguments. You will not get a lesson like this from many other courses.

Why was Nietzsche so hated by some philosophers and then only to be cherished by later philosophers?

There are a mix of reasons and I hope to at least point a few out.

The reason why some hate Nietzschian philosophy.
  •  Quite a few Christians (although not all Christians) felt Nietzsche was a blasphemer, you can also imagine what the Jews think of Nietzsche.
  • Nietzsche was not too fond of women and said pretty horrible things about them, including how to treat women and how he felt they lacked rationality.
  • Others questioned Nietzsche ideas of morality.  Stating that the results led to the destructive world wars.
  • Some major philosophers dismiss Nietzsche because his philosophy did not seem to take the rigid structure philosophy can demand, some philosophers go so far to state Nietzsche as poetic, which is quite true in some regards.
  • Nietzsche’s work was easily twisted for Nazi propaganda purposes, especially since Nietzsche despised Jewish religion. There is a good documentary called “Nietzsche and the Nazis” on this subject here.
  • Other philosophers felt Nietzsche was too abstract and his solution to Nihilism does not make much sense.
  • Some philosophers felt Nietzsche cure for Nihilism was worse than the disease.
  • Nietzsche’s disapproval for democracy.
  • Nietzsche’s reaffirmation of values clashes against biological values or is a poor misinterpretation of Darwinism.
  • His philosophy is aimed at the few, this being the elite and perhaps the individual at the cost of the masses. The mass and perhaps downtrodden is ignored since Nietzsche despises them.
Some reasons why Nietzsche philosophies are praised.
  • Some felt that Nietzsche gave birth to Existentialism, although he did not claim to be an existentialist himself, some felt that religion was too stifling and we get a chance to examine how man could perceive himself in the world, even if the world turns out to be cruel.
  • Some major philosophers felt that even if Nietzsche’s philosophy was not so well structured, it is still easily understandable and most influential.
  • We have quite a few state that Nietzsche’s work was adapted for Nazi use by Nietzsche’s sister (Elisabeth Förster) and that the later version of Nietzsche’s work were not his main world.  It is known that Nietzsche fell out with his sister because she married an anti-Semite.  He also fell out with the great composer Wagner because of his anti-Semitism.
  • Nietzsche would have laughed at the idea of the Germans being a great and noble culture or race. At times Nietzsche would criticise his culture as decadent. Nietzsche can easily be associated with anarchy.
  • If your the elite, power hungry or even an artist, you ll love Nietzsche.
  • If Nietzsche can influence literary greats like George Bernard Shaw, postmodern and existentialists philosophers (who are hard to please), feminist movements and psychologists, then something must be good. However we need to note that there is a battle to have Nietzsche as someone who recommends an idea, because he is a much sort after icon.
I am sure I have missed a large amount of points and there are plenty of points others can think of.
Even if you do not manage to get hold of this particular course. It is always possible to read many of Nietzsche’s works.

The thing is that “Knowledge products” is a very old course and its highly unlikely that the knowledge products site even sells the course, but many other audio sites might sell them.

Audio Cover
There are other courses mainly from “The Teaching Company” that cover Nietzsche in depth and I hope to revisit this famous or infamous philosophy again at some point.