An Introduction to Western Philosophy

An Introduction to Western Philosophy

Philosophy  -  Playlist 123 Comments
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Ratings: 8.02/10 from 55 users.

The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western PhilosophyBeginning with the death of Socrates in 399 BC, and following the story through the centuries to recent figures such as Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein, Bryan Magee's conversations with fifteen contemporary writers and philosophers provide an accessible and exciting account of Western philosophy and its greatest thinkers.

The contributors include A.J. Ayer, Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Singer, and John Searle, so that the documentary is not only an introduction to the philosophers of the past, but gives an invaluable insight into the view and personalities of some of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.

The series are little bit dated but I think they're real treasure and food for thought.

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Ralph
Ralph
1 year ago

Fancy but interesting on so many levels a lot of what if's this is really good on the basis of always asking (why this) or (why that ) very informative soul searching and u know what they say about (unexamined life) but I must say this,( remember the times and the peoples of those times they lived in), and nothing is written in Stone times and ideas are always changing and what was true yesterday may not be true today *** but a fantastic brain exercise that's way psychology and psychotherapy and and the rest of it are questionable, at the very least with so many people and so many kinds of personalities environmental factors and we are all so different (one size dose not fit all).. BUT IS IT HELPFUL NO DOUBT EXTREMELY HELPFUL PSYCHOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY THEOLOGY.. WE HUMAN BEINGS GIVE THINGS MEANING (NOTHING IS AN EMPIRICAL TRUTH) THERE ARE SO MANY TRUTH'S OUT THERE , MANY TRUTH'S, MANY PEOPLE MANY WAYS (5+5=10) (8+2=10) (7+3=10) 9+1=10 ALL RIGHT, (AND ALL HUMAN CONSTRUCTS).. IF I'M NOT MAKING ANY SENSE PLEASE CORRECT ME I'M NOT REALLY AII THAT SMART I HOPE THIS MAKES SOME KIND OF SENSE THANK YOU ****PLEASE BE KIND

NX2
NX2
10 years ago

My gosh, such an interesting series on different levels. Outdated? Those facial gestures, that body language...it's almost like looking at a hyper realistic episode of the fast show. Brilliant. And i learned a lot from it, don't get it wrong...:)

Dean Dallman
Dean Dallman
11 years ago

Just getting into philosophy, watched Allan De Bottons 'guide to philosophy...' Good for an absolute beginner but I found it rather basic and generic without sounding too pompous what you'd expect to achieve in everyday life. Anyone know any mentionalbe docs or philosophers worth researching? thanks!

AntiTheist666
AntiTheist666
12 years ago

@robertallen1

Please Robert, you’ve gotta get on the case! The post but one (of mine) before this one Man! And please be as specific as you can, postage will be involved. It seems so strange to me that I’m fascinated by your few remarks about this play. I’m desperate to know, why philosophy? Yet I’m sure I already know the answer. Strange indeed. Maybe I’ll get a pleasant surprise or nasty shock. I also enjoy satire occasionally; have you read any Tom Sharpe?

The Patient One

AntiTheist666
AntiTheist666
12 years ago

@Achems

Many thanks for your efforts. That’s fine.

Achems_Razor
Achems_Razor
12 years ago

@AntiTheist666:

I have tried to put your Spinoza post through about 4 times, would not go through probably because of your audio link.
I took that link off. And put it through again.

AntiTheist666
AntiTheist666
12 years ago

@Moderators

Hi to all. I used to post here as Atheist13 but can no longer access that account or my old email address. I think my computer is suffering from some kind demonic possession! I hope my latest reincarnation is ok. Regards.

The Crucified One

iwanawannawannaknow
iwanawannawannaknow
12 years ago

Eternal icecream for the intellect and 'soul'. "Love of Wisdom" will never be irrelevent, Janus.

Janus Agerbo
Janus Agerbo
12 years ago

Comparing Chomsky's concept of the mind that is ready to learn to an idea of magically having knowledge before birth! Blah - this is why philosophy gets more irrelevant as science progresses.

Trevor LeFiles
Trevor LeFiles
12 years ago

More attention to detail will make one a better philospher as well as seeing the detailed detail as well.

Trevor LeFiles
Trevor LeFiles
12 years ago

You do realize that almost all modern philosophers are not religious, but are deemed religious?

Trevor LeFiles
Trevor LeFiles
12 years ago

So out of everyone reading this Miles Burnyeat interpretation I bet everyone hearing his reading on the history of western philosophy, are coming to their own conclusions and rejecting or injecting their own minds with his teachings of other people.

tooCents
tooCents
12 years ago

Not a documentary. A fantastic interview series that's not been equaled since with leading figures expertly summarizing complex ideas for a general audience.

Some of the posts here are truly pathetic. You have the racist anti-European with tired and debunked lie that the Greeks got everything from Egypt -as usual No evidence, nothing of substance offered, just the usual racist propaganda meme spit out onto our monitors that now seems to pop-up whenever the Western philosophical tradition's figures are discussed online.

And you have the, "I need pictures and music". Sad little Generation of gamers mind-ruined mutants. No, what you need is ritalin and to not share what a dumbf*ck you are because nobody cares.

Mohammad Saffar
Mohammad Saffar
12 years ago

I want to watch it but I couldn't find it anywhere. Can anyone help me please?

JB
JB
12 years ago

Good intros in each episode, but the interviews can be slow [though its an old 'style' of TV]. They are in-depth interviews, which can be hard to understand what's been said.

robertallen1
robertallen1
12 years ago

@Atheist 13

Apparently my last post to you got stuck in the queue. Luckily I was able to retrieve it.

Just how do you make a living, however small, being an atheist? Is it perhaps more lucrative than being an agnostic or a logical positivist? I’m certain it’s not as lucrative as faith healing, astrology and fortune telling. These practitioners seem to get so much for doing so little.
Because it has not reached any appreciable level of sophistication, nor can it be expected to, the general public rests content with the dull, tedious and desultory and even puts a premium on them in the form of higher income coupled with low to moderate intelligence. This explains (but does not justify) the hefty salaries “earned” by trash men, plumbers, lawyers, talk show hosts, newscasters and “general” celebrities. In all, you have nothing to be sorry about for having earned more than your keep.
Again, I’m curious. How will your anti-establishment site differ from those anti-establishment (even atheist) sites already out there? And speaking of anti-establishment, I also thought of “Hell for Idiots.” That way I could take a more ecumenical approach. I also came up with “A Beginners Guide to Damnation.” If I can’t get people to read it, perhaps I can sell the movie rights to some reality TV show as a starring vehicle for Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.
To answer your question re Grabbe, I quote from the antihero, “What kinds of crazy conditions are these?”
Politics in any country is disgraceful. Talleyrand whom I admire if only for entertainment had the right idea—appearance, appearance, appearance, which, as we know, was as original with him as it was with Machiavelli. “The Prince” = Real Life.
For fear of blathering on, I will put off any discussion of the monetary system and principles of taxation. I am still waiting to hear your anecdote, for a good (or even not so good) anecdote can drive a point home more forcefully than a philosophic dissertation.

robertallen1
robertallen1
12 years ago

@Atheist13

Have not heard from you for a while. How's the atheism coming?

Have you started, "Misquoting Jesus?"

robertallen1
robertallen1
12 years ago

@Atheist13

In a large sense, literature is anything that is written down. However, as you can guess, I use the term in a narrower, more exclusive sense.

It’s been quite a while since I read “The Republic”, but from what I recall, it was no more than a blueprint for an idealized state, interesting from a philosophic and social point of view. All the discussions I have heard focus on the Republic itself, not on how the work is put together, not on the manner of expression and in those regards, I found nothing. Now, Michiavelli writing in a more temporal vein 1,800 years later is a different story.

In short, in literature treatment supersedes everything—something Sartre, Disraeli and Upton Sinclair never understood and Balzac, Henry James and sometimes Zola did. Of course, I realize that in the general sense in which I began, I might simply be venturing into the realm of good literature as opposed to bad or mediocre literature, but somehow Stendahl packs more of a punch than Plato, H. G. Wells more of a wallop than Socrates and both are far more intellectually stimulating and entertaining. Perhaps this comparison is unfair, for the school of Greek philosophers of which Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were members seemed to ponder and chase after a lily-white ideal (however false), while Stendahl and H.G. Wells wallowed in the sordid real—but for both, treatment was everything.

By the way, both commentators mentioned how popular Socrates and Plato were in their lifetimes. Are there any contemporary sources to support this? Was it a popularity among peers or were the hoi polloi included?

At any rate, have a nice getaway.

robertallen1
robertallen1
12 years ago

@Atheist13

O.K. So besides philosophy, what are your intellectual interests?

Atheist13
Atheist13
12 years ago

Oh dear, my first ever comment (below) on this website looks a bit pathetic and thin now, let’s see if I can do a bit better.

This is a treasure trove of philosophical information. Maybe the gems contained in it aren’t as bright and shiny as they could be but they’re highly valuable nonetheless. Yes it’s got lots of awkward body language and seems a bit dated and crusty, but if you can concentrate on the subject matter being discussed there’s much to enjoy.

All the interviewees are from the upper echelons of academia, in most cases they’re experts in the field of the philosopher being discussed. Add to this that they’re interviewed by the highly underrated Brian Magee and you’ve got philosophy gold.

There are just too many individuals concerned and the subject matter too broad and deep to offer a complete review, but I will say this. If you are new to philosophy I wouldn’t try to watch it all at once, just take one or a few philosophers at a time, you can always come back for more. Philosophy lovers however can fill their pockets with pearls of wisdom and jewels of information.

Bryan Magee (himself an expert on Schopenhauer) was close friends with Karl Popper and wrote many philosophical works. His autobiography “Clouds of Glory” won an award in 2004.

“Let no one delay the study of philosophy while young
nor weary of it when old”

Epicurus. Greek Philosopher, BC 341-270

Mark Stouffer
Mark Stouffer
12 years ago

I agree with Atheist13. More philosophy please! It's kind of important.

Atheist13
Atheist13
12 years ago

Thanks Vlatko, great site. More philosophy please!

I reccomend this doc for anyone who has an interest in the big questions of life, examined or otherwise.

Misa Amane
Misa Amane
13 years ago

Okay, here's how we can determine wether you're into science or philosphy: Aristotle or Plato. Your choice is the distinctive line of divison between the love of philosophy and nazi experiments on mother nature. I'm a Platonian follower, and I love his Utupia. I just agree with Plato on 99.99% of his philosophy.

thoughtfulcynic
thoughtfulcynic
13 years ago

I've just begun this series and greatly appreciate the candid and conversational tone of it. Reading a few of the other comments, I must insist that philosophers have no need to take "talking head" classes -- at least they didn't back during these days, and I, for one, appreciate it. These are philosophers doing what philosophers do -- talking, thinking, dialoging, asking questions, following logic.

Science was once simply an arm of philosophy, thus it was originally called the philosophy of science. I love both!

kittybrat
kittybrat
13 years ago

thank you. This in depth informative and provocative series of conversations opened up new factors I'd not yet realized.

Aristotle
Aristotle
13 years ago

@NaughtyGnosiophile

Amen.

Here are a few comments from a few Scientists.

A theory is an ephemeral attempt to explain facts not an everlasting truth in it self.

Niels Bohr: “Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.”

Max Born: “I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy.”

Werner Heisenberg: “Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves.”

Wolfgang Pauli: What really matters for me is … the more active role of the observer in quantum physics … According to quantum physics the observer has indeed a new relation to the physical events around him in comparison with the classical observer, who is merely a spectator.

Sounds like Philosophy to me...

NaughtyGnosiophile
NaughtyGnosiophile
13 years ago

@cas

"Philosophers are at best lazy wannabe scientists."

You could say it's the other way around too. Science is an implementation of empiricism, which is a school of thought within epistemology, which is a branch of philosophy.

Some philosophers extrapolate too much from a partial understanding of the math or science (philosophers often misunderstand Goedel). But scientists also try to play philosopher (Dawkins and his crusade against God). I don't view either as a bad thing, because it means we're drawn to each other's fields of expertise and open to learning.

"They invent nothing..."

Technically, scientists invent nothing either. They just discover things. Once you invent something, you're an engineer.

You could say that mathematicians and philosophers invent more than scientists do, because they actually *make it all up*. Mathematicians invent systems of mathematics and philosophers invent systems of metaphysics.

"...most have been scientifically WRONG throughout history."

Most *scientists* have been scientifically wrong throughout history. Out of the bajillion hypotheses put forward every second, the vast majority of them get shot down during the rigorous scientific process. Even our most robust hypotheses (now graduated to theories), quantum physics and relativity, are *probably wrong* because they give 2 inconsistent views of the Universe.

There's nothing wrong with being wrong. We are all wrong about most things most of the time. It's about learning from those wrongs to move in the right direction.

Aristotle
Aristotle
13 years ago

@Epicurean_Logic

Use yourself for proof. Much more fun than logic. I'm sure you'll find a contradiction or two. I did..

I’ve been re-reading some C G Jung and just finished Symbols of Transformation, Archetypes and the Coll Uncon and Memories, Dreams, Reflections. I’m boning up for The Red Book. Exciting eh?

Epicurean_Logic
Epicurean_Logic
13 years ago

@MyBrother,

Thankfully, Stephen520 posted his review when I was online and I noticed it. Somehow it slipped my attention up until that point.

I have been watching this while concurrently reading an antiquarian book called 'system of logic' by J. Stuart Mill published by The Silver library. I picked it up for a small fee at my local charity shop. Some of the ideas overlap and it is a useful memory aid to take in data through two differing mediums.

On a surprising note I actually understand the ontological proof of Gods existence! It is a proof by contradiction. I am trying to find the holes in it. Watch this space.

Aristotle
Aristotle
13 years ago

@Epicurean_Logic

I am really surprised you just found this!

Epicurean_Logic
Epicurean_Logic
13 years ago

Plato would have loved this series: two people sitting on a sofa and philosophising. No explosions, fancy special effects, emotive language or distracting music just deep discussion in its purest form.

A bit of a slow burner but overall very good and packed with information. 9/10.

StephenM520
StephenM520
13 years ago

Awesome documentary perfect to listen to while cleaning house or paying games.

Wise
Wise
13 years ago

@cas
Philosophers are not "at best lazy wannabe scientists", in their earliest forms science and philosophy were very much intertwined disciplines, maybe even consider how you define a 'scientist' and work on explaining how they are different. Also, many of the concepts philosophers analyse demand the fine-tuning of abstract theoretical understanding through discussion rather than lab tests.

I thought this was an excellent series...
yes it was dated
yes the experts had slightly awkward nerdy body language but frankly, being invited to speak at that academic level for a television series is probably more than you will ever achieve to earn peoples respect of your intellect^

Good information there, very interesting.

thanks for the upload!

oscar o
oscar o
13 years ago

before you say anything bad about philosophy read philosophy, read philosophers like Descartes, and ask yourself how did the scientific method became to be? "I doubt(think) therefore I am" -Descartes

russ0074
russ0074
13 years ago

Boo to all those who make fun of this. Go watch a Brittney Spears video. Alex, I wish we were neighbors.

Alex B
Alex B
13 years ago

Wow. To hear that almost everyone thinks this stuff is boring really exemplifies how sheep-like people can be. I don't mean to offend, but really? Just because there's no pretty pictures, explosions or boobs, does not mean it's not interesting enough to gain our full attention.

I think people have these preconceived ideas of what they THINK philosophy is, and simply categorize this intellectual conversation as useless, boring, or absent practicality.

Everyone who questions the things we normally take for granted is a philosopher in their own right. The problems we face today are a direct result of us not questioning things and being spoon-fed ideas and information. Why can't everyday people talk like this on the street, at work, or in the coffee shop? This is a much more productive use of language and time. Much better than talking about the weather, the news, sports, or sharing office jokes. We'd all be better critical thinkers if we discussed philosophical ideas.

Philosophy is not about the people who write books and go to university, but about looking at ordinary things and asking extraordinary questions. Socrates in fact did not write anything and I fell exemplified what it means to be a philosopher. Engaging in intellectual conversation with people in your community and living by the conclusions you have arrived at through philosophy.

I crave this type of discussion and hope to see more videos like this in the future. The advent of YouTube opens the floodgates for such ideas to be expressed. It's up to us to take advantage of our tools of communication to expand our awareness and understanding of each other and ultimately universal existence.

Ben
Ben
13 years ago

Back for seconds. These are the best documentaries I've found on this site. It's a pity British telly isn't like this anymore, everything's just a cheap copy of American light entertainment.

Jo McKay
Jo McKay
13 years ago

Very entertaining, thank you...(wince, as I feel myself, metaphorically being pelted with 'little' stones). :) I clicked into a program which read INTRODUCTION TO WESTERN PHILOSOPHY, and, alas, that is what I heard. And while I do appreciate, sometimes, the National Geographic and Indiana Jones type presentation (multi-media graphics and sound), I also appreciate the 'simple' presentation of ideas, thoughts, information, argument. That the study of philosophy from it's (recorded, at least) beginnings to today offers us the HOW TO ask ourselves the questions that are important to us, may indeed be the road map that assists in enough general agreement to both save the earth and humanity through the challenging times of today.Not for the first time, but perhaps this time as Materialism breaks heads with Humanism it is billions, not thousands of lives, perhaps existence not just quality of existence that weighs into the process and the outcomes. Asking the right questions, research, intelligent argument, and then PLEASE listening to and active response to the warnings and theoretical conclusions reached by WISE minds will decide whether we have, and if we do, what kind of future we will have... Some say that the only moral questions of today are Environmental...If anyone will win the argument 'so to speak' against unchecked materialism it will be those with a Philosophic mind. For this I am willing to Listen and Learn and Ask myself and others a few questions.The art of Conversation may again return (assuming it can also be linked to a blog,Twitter, etc :). Again, excellent and entertaining!

lux
lux
13 years ago

@ dread
on which ancient stones you excavated you read this?
please share with us your valuable indications.

otherwise keep your stories for your half wise mates.

grazie

cas
cas
13 years ago

Philosophers are at best lazy wannabe scientists. They invent nothing, but are men who used their charms for their opinions to be heard and most have been scientifically WRONG throughout history.

Rafi
Rafi
13 years ago

Are these recordings available for sale ?

Ocasta
Ocasta
13 years ago

@Jack - I'm pretty sure Peter Singer is in here. I haven't watched through the playlist, so maybe the person who made the playlist didn't include it, but I've seen an episode where Peter Singer talks about Hegel before. Search youtube for it if it isn't in this playlist. Not sure about Bernard Williams.

1. If one read a book on the history of philosophy, isn't one to some extent reading _about_ philosophy? One would probably also be reading philosophy, but at the same time also reading about it.
2. Yes, but they never dream. At least, they don't remember dreaming when they wake up.
3. I don't know man, that one blew my mind.

Ben
Ben
13 years ago

I can understand people saying they find this a bit boring or long-winded but the format of pure conversation means these are among the most in-depth philosophy documentaries you'll find.

Philosophy isn't a subject where pictures and diagrams necessarily help, there's nothing that has to be demonstrated, it can all be explained or referenced.

I've found these very informative, it's nice to here experts talking in plain language rather than some celebrity dumbing everything down.

Jack
Jack
13 years ago

The contributors include A.J. Ayer, Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Singer, and John Searle? Well you got three right. You better check this again. The contributors actually include Miles Burnyeat, Martha Nussbaum, Anthony Kenny, Anthony Quinton, Iris Murdoch, Hilary Putnam, John Serle, A.J. Ayer, John Passmore, and Goeffry Warnock.

I have some of questions.
1. How does one read 'about' philosophy?
2. Do flies actually sleep?
3. What exactly does this mean? "i feel myself as if i were"

Chris
Chris
13 years ago

Wow.

I was really interested in this documentary. I like reading about philosophy and figured this would be really good.

Until about fifteen minutes in when it occured to me that they were going to go on like that for five hours.

It's like watching flies sleep.

esma
esma
13 years ago

nostalgic..i feel myself as if i were in one of those boring lessons and cant help yawning...

Dee
Dee
14 years ago

Couldn't stop thinking of a Monty Python sketch. Had John Cleese written all over it!

iomismo
iomismo
14 years ago

@dread

"European don´t have a clear history of their own"....

I dont know what you are talking about, I find pretty difficult to imagine a place with more history per sqkm than
Europe.

non serviam
non serviam
14 years ago

WHAT?! Why are there no pretty pictures and bright flashing colors in this documentary?

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!!!!!

Aristotle
Aristotle
14 years ago

Philosophy is only a bore (in most cases) while listening to academics banter between each other. Individuals are attracted to any given subject matter two ways. One is its appeal, the other is coercion, as in, it’s required for the attainment of a given personal goal.

The latter has no need for explanation. A subject’s appeal is another story. It’s emotional at some level, if it’s only that you find it interesting. You then proceed to study and research your interest and draw your conclusions.

Conclusions may be true or false. In order to determine the correctness of the conclusions you must have the ability to use logic and critical thinking. The answers must hold up against all criticisms. That is the realm of Philosophy. There is no room for emotion in the process other than attraction to the subject matter.

Alas, today there is a lack of critical thinking and a wealth of emotional conclusions. The Golden Ages of Egypt, Greece, Rome and all others have fallen by their own swords and degenerated. Their ethnicity is of no importance. The important questions are why they fell and are we aware of whether or not we are falling into the same traps? So what is truth or what is the Self, anything or nothing, fact or illusion?