Homepage » Lectures » Lecture 8

Lectures / Disk 8


Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition (Part IV, The Enlightenment and Its Critics)       
Featuring Various Professors

DISK 8.1 
Lecture 37: Introduction/ Kors
This lecture introduces the generation of authors from 1680 to 1715, a period which is considered as one of the most revolutionary in European history because it witnessed fundamental changes of attitudes towards knowledge and nature. The intellectual world was still very mixed among Traditional Aristotelian scholastics, Skepticism and Mysticism and ‘new philosophers’ who emerged to set the terms of debate.

Lecture 38: Locke – Politics/Dalton
This lecture discusses the views of John Locke, one of the most influential political theorists. Locke disagrees with Hobbes (see lecture 32) regarding his theory of the state and nature, which he regards as compassionate, unlike the aggressive and violent condition that Hobbes supported.

Lecture 39: Locke – The Revolution in Knowledge/Kors
Although Locke is not highly thought of by 20th century philosophers, his role in intellectual history was of outmost importance. This lecture continues discussing Locke’s epistemology, which shaped the thinking of he entire 18th century.

Lecture 40: Vico and the New Science of History/Staloff
Vico’s philosophy of history had a great influence on the 19th and 20th century thought. He supported that we know the truth about matters that we have cognitively constructed or made. Vico’s New Science is intended as a warning against the central tendencies of the Enlightenment thought.

Lecture 41: Montesquieu and Political Thought/Kors
Montesquieu was a foundational thinker in the development of political science and sociology during the intellectual revolution of the 17th century. In this lecture his works are discussed promoting two central questions: What is relative to time and place? What is natural and universal? Human beings may live in a variety of ways and believe in different things, but there is a reality principle of objective and natural causes as well as consequences which exist and set limits to our human system.

Lecture 42: The Worldly Philosophy of Bernard Mandeville/Staloff
The career and thought of Bernard Mandeville demonstrate several central features of the Enlightenment in early 18th century England. Among his other works examined in this lecture, “The Fable of the Bees”, his most famous work, presents his central paradox in moral theory. The perceived moral of the story is that virtue and greatness are incompatible.

DISK 8.2 
Lecture 43: Bishop Berkeley – Idealism and Critique of the Enlightenment/Staloff
This lecture examines the extreme idealist conclusions that George Berkley drew from his empiricist premises, the philosophical principle supporting that all knowledge arises from experience and what cannot be confirmed by experience is not naturally known. Berkeley was one of the three great empiricists along with Locke (see previous lecture) and Hume, who argued that the human mind contains only certain ideas and the mind of God contains all ideas. 

Lecture 44: Hume’s Epistemology/Staloff
The discussion of the empiricist philosophy is continued in this lecture by looking at David Hume. He brought the empiricism of Locke and Berkeley to its logical conclusion. Hume identified relations of cause and effect as the source of our knowledge dividing all knowledge into relations between ideas and matters of fact.

Lecture 45: Hume’s Theory of Morality/Staloff 
In this lecture Hume’s theory of ethics and morality is examined. Hume offered a scientific theory about morality and not a prescriptive code of ethical conduct as he was mostly interested in describing the cause of moral evaluation among human beings. He attempts to scientifically answer the question of what makes us approve of some actions and disapprove of others.

Lecture 46: Hume’s Natural Religion/Kors
The first half of the 18th century was the pick of confident and optimistic natural philosophy and natural religion, linking human beings to natural truth and knowledge of God. Hume’s most enlightening work on natural optimism was his “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” challenging the fundamental grounds of natural religion.

Lecture 47: Adam Smith and the Origins of Political Economy/Shearmur
Turning to something different, this lecture explains the key ideas of Adam Smith and his views about the division of labor. One of his key works discussed in this lecture is “The Wealth of Nations” looking at the division of labor in the commercial society. He illustrated this division by discussing a pin-making workshop and the gains in productivity which comes from this specialization.

Lecture 48: Rousseau’s Dissent/Kors
Rousseau had much in common with the Enlightenment thought such as his commitment to religious tolerance and his deism. However his critique of so- called ‘progress’ in the arts and sciences and his celebration of the primitive in original nature composed a major disagreement from the prevailing Enlightenment beliefs. For Rousseau progress led to moral corruption as it created artificial needs and inequalities. He believed that society has made man vicious, weak, arrogant and unnatural but it is humans that formed society in such a way, therefore returning to the religion of nature (deism) is the only salvation.

<Back to Lectures>