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.

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.

Kant’s Copernican Revolution

Here is a good philosophical course for you budding philosophers out there. This course is called “TTC – Modern Intellectual Tradition From Descartes to Derrida” it is taught by Professor Lawrence Cahoone of Stony Brook University.

Professor Lawrence Cahoone

Today we centre on lecture 8 called the “Kant’s Copernican Revolution”. Now Immanuel Kant’s philosophy is not the most easiest to understand, in fact some of his books are such a difficult read, they were revised constantly. Lets take a close look at how this lecture describes Immanuel Kant’s revolution.

Immanuel Kant is considered as one of the greatest western philosophers, but why? This lecture explores part of the reason why. Kant read one of David Hume’s books and was inspired by Hume’s theory that we cannot know anything without experience.

Kant wrote many books, one of the most famous is “The Critique of pure reason”. This lecture examines Kant’s idea of the transcendental dialect.

Immanuel Kant was born in east Prussia, he went on to teach at university of Koenigsberg. Kant is famous for being Known to be punctual, you could actually check your watch by him. One day he made a lot of people late because of reading one of Rousseau’s famous books

As mentioned, Kant wrote many books, the most famous are the 3 big books. Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of practical reason, Metaphysics of Morals. His whole philosophy almost centres on the following question

What the human mind can do?

Immanuel Kant

The lecture proposes this idea. If Hume was right, then science is in trouble. Immanuel Kant takes up the cause. Kant asks if We have necessary true knowledge about the world. How can we have truths about reality?

As noted before the Scottish philosopher David Hume is sceptical about all our knowledge, but Kant tries to break down what Hume describes. Kant tries to tackle Hume’s theory. The idea on how we Experience to know what is true.

The lecture moves on how Kant borrows from another philosopher Leibniz to make truth by definition. Then the lecture describes the use of kant’s theory in statements. Here is an example

“All bachelors are unmarried”, the statement in itself contains the truth.

but the above statement is different from the one below.

“There are bachelors in this room”, but this cannot be true by definition. We would have to ask the people in this room.

Unfortunately as usual, I only have the audio lecture, and the lecture goes on to describe a diagram shown.

The lecture talks about A Priori knowledge v a posteriori knowledge, which takes some getting your head around and getting used to. Kant now tries to classify Hume’s theory, but first he needs to break down Hume’s argument piece by piece.

Kant comes to a conclusion. He states You do not need experience to know that its true, plus new information not in the subject. David Hume feels this is not true, but Kant wants to disprove this. How?

Kant agrees that there are no initate ideas, but that does not mean ALL knowledge comes from experience. The revolution begins, what if the object of our experience conform to our cognition? What if the mind has a way of handling and organising experience?

The keyword here is organises.

The lecture now examines The transcendental activity of organising things.

Here the lecture gives us an example of when we wake up how the mind organises things in the room. What if cognition is active and not passive?

Throughout the history of philosophic thought, Kant feels that philosophers feel that the mind is passive, that the mind just soaks things up. Kant claims the mind grasps and organises experiences. Hence things are switched around, we organise objects, not just receive objects. This could mean we know how the world would be tomorrow, because our cognitive activity begins to experience the world by tomorrow.

The explains there is a problem of objective knowledge regarding the rose coloured glasses problem. Then the lecture discusses Transcendental activity, the stuff that the mind does to organise the world, before it experiences it.

Lecture describes the parallel line problem and how this idea can defeat Hume’s empiricist view.

Then the lecture moves on to describe Kant’s idea of 3 components of mental capacity. Two of the components are

intuition – space and time, all I am perceiving there are empirical facts, but other things are independent of experience.
understanding – concept of substances and properties are part of the “A Priori”, the mind structures into experience, it organises what it experiences.

Remember!! Hume says, no rational reason, we believe things on the basis of habit.

David Hume

Kant says it IS possible to know things without experiencing them, but there is a price to pay, there are problems.

What is the problem of this?

The lecture describes how Kant feels our minds are limited by the boundaries of experience. All of us are experiencing an objective world. We have objective true knowledge, but not of what caused it, but in a sense that at least SOMETHING caused it.

Kant splits things between the empiricists and the rationalists. Kant is a rationalist, he feels mind organises things from time and space. Kant feels we have objective knowledge as the world appears, but not as in things IN THEMSELVES. Notice the keyword is APPEARANCE.

A lot of philosophers feels Kant has caused some damage to Hume s scepticism of knowledge, but the lecture mentions this does come as a price.

This lecture is very tough and you would have to replay the lecture several times to get some ideas of what is going on, but this is beneficial, because you learn new things each time you replay the lecture. This lecture is not really for beginners, but it does explain things without sounding too dry.

Scottish Moral Enlightenment Thinkers

Today we look at a course present by The Modern Scholar – The Enlightenment, Reason, Tolerance, and Humanity – by Professor James Schmidt.


Professor James Schmidt


Prof James specializes in the history of European political and social thought from the eighteenth century to the present.

This course taught by Prof James Schmidt and the subject matter is on one of the most controversial periods in history. The Enlightenment caused Revolutions in science, philosophy, society and politics; these revolutions swept away the medieval world-view and ushered in our modern western world.

On lecture 11 of this course called “The Scottish Enlightenment and the Origins of Social Theory”.

We move away from the French enlightenment and concentrate on the Scottish Enlightenment. Here we look at the development of Moral theory and thought. Two famous Scots were mentioned in this lecture David Hume and Adam Smith, but this lecture concentrates more on Adam Smith’s theories and contributions to Moral philosophy.



David Hume

There seems to be a tradition in this period in Scotland that many Scottish thinkers concentrated on Moral philosophy.

Other names are mentioned in this lecture for instance Bernard Mandeville and his idea that to introduce morality into society does not work and that vices are almost good in themselves.



Bernard Mandeville

Mandeville wrote a 2 volume book “The fable of the bees”. The poem is talked about in more detail.

Prof James looks into What is the message of Mandeville’s the poem?

It seems that it is Vices that make society, the government should not try to make citizens moral.

However there were criticisms of this poem by other great Scottish thinkers. One of them was Francis hutcheson

This lecture even stated that someone even claimed mandeville was more like “man devil” (laugh)

Anyway, Prof James looks into Francis criticism of Mandeville Moral theory and poem



Francis Hutcheson

Francis Critical of mandeville’s account of human nature. He feels that Bernard contradicts societies role. He feels that the bees are egoist bees. The bees Seems clever, but they are overly rationalistic. As humans are sociable beings, our actions are driven by social virtues. We are naturally benevolent human creatures. Our sociability unites us, although our rationality may make us individual at times.

Francis Second criticism is that he feels that mandeville is traditionalist, calling something a virtue as promoting the public good. He just relies on too much a traditional idea.

The lecture looks at how Francis now begins to counter act this moral theory and how he starts teaching moral philosophy. He is the founder of Scottish moral philosophy. Then the course moves on to David Hume is linked to this school. It talks about The classic book “The treaty of human nature”, which did not do so well at the time.

Adam smith, political economist and the author of “The wealth of nations”, however he did write a moral philosophic book, which is mentioned in some detail in this lecture.

The one thing that brings all these famous Scottish moral thinkers together is that the feel that socialising is the approach to moral questions and that they avoid religious sentiments. They share a faith through the sciences you can bring order to chaos in society. He mentions Newton is their inspiration. Their ideas are heavily scientific, but they share an awareness of the weakness of reason in order to unite society.

The lecture then examines David Hume’s famous quote

Reason is the slave of passions

Prof James Schmidt then talks about The theory of moral sentiments by Adam Smith. He examines how Adam tries to make sense on how we judge and make moral distinctions. Adam Smith’s book tries to look at the rules of how we reason. We seem to evaluate others then we move to evaluate ourselves. Here he mentions how Adam smith tries to explain our we relate to others experiences and how we share the emotions of other peoples experiences using moral judgements.

Adam smith


Adam Smith

We learn from others in order to judge and look at ourselves, however there is a limit. Sympathy can only go so far for each of us.

The lecture then looks at how one sympathies about an of earthquake happening in China, which killed thousands

How a European man would feel a bit sorrowful and discusses how such an earthquake would effect Europe, however what would happen if this man would loose his finger? Then his emotions and sorrowfulness would increase 10 fold.

Still amazingly Adam Smith finds this behaviour natural in humans.

Our passions seem to allow us to be impartial, but why? The impartial spectator. The man within, what does society give us? We look at ourselves from another prospective.

Adam feels that It is from society that we gain our conscience, we avoid the original sin, our moral sentiments is strengthened from society.

Other peoples self interest can in some way help preserve us, but not in the language of benevolence. Adam smith begins to look at other things which binds society together, he now begins to look at how wealth and economy can play in society. The idea of “The invisible hand”. How the market can function unimpeded without too much interference from the state.

James Schmidt looks into how Adam looks into the making of a pin and how productivity can be increased when parts of the work is divided, but creativity becomes lessened if they do thing again and again. The wealthy that command the respect and attention from society while the poor becomes less visible. Eventually the poor joins religious cults and this makes things even worse for the poor as they become even more distant from life.

James Schmidt talks Adam Ferguson and about the problem of liberty as if he feels society thinks liberty is given to them, rather than fought for.

With this lecture, you get the added bonus with a student asking the lecturer a question. In this lecture a student asks the following.

Question : was there attention between intellectual scientific discoveries and their religious feelings?

Yes, I know the question is a little long winded, but the answer provided by James Schmidt is almost as enlightening as the subject matter itself. This lecture runs for around 30 minutes and is very easy going. The Enlightenment is not an easy subject, but for philosophy and history. It is quite crucial to learn.