Provider: The Great Courses by The Teaching Company [course page]
Lecturers: Professor David K. Johnson Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma)
Subject: Philosophy + [Science / Physics + Neuroscience] + Religion
Delivery: 24 Audio lectures
Recommended Load: N/A
Completion Date: 08/06/2014
Description: Professor Johnson demonstrates the importance of Philosophical thought using examples in science and religion.
Strengths: This lecture series covers a lot of material in a short time. The speaker delivers it all in a conversational tone, with a hint of humour and pop culture references strewn throughout. He builds upon material over time and often references what he’s discussed in previous lectures. As such, the material is best listened to in order.
Although I’ve spent a bit of time studying the “big three” (a.k.a. Science, Religion and Philosophy), it seems that a lot of students tend to not think beyond the terminology used in textbooks. This series goes beyond the simple stuff in order to discuss how philosophy can help us come to terms with the fact that we know very little about what makes the universe and human beings behave in the manner that they do.
As mentioned above, the material builds upon itself. This is done by explaining the terminology and arguments (both deductive and inductive) used by philosophers in the various fields. The lecturer goes into the pros and cons of each, citing where he falls and why. This all concludes with the “Matrix Argument”, a lecture that has resulted in some rather interesting online discussion on sites such as Goodreads. However, variations of this argument have been introduced as part of philosophical courses for years due to their ability to question our perceptions of the world around us.
Weaknesses: Having some minor knowledge of some of the material will help reduce backtracking and looking for definitions of the terms.
Conclusion: This lecture series is an entertaining, educating and enlightening explanation of the importance of Philosophy across the various fields. Although I have done some study (courses and online free-study) of the big three, this course ties them all together nicely. It doesn’t answer all questions, instead encouraging students to consider that they do not and may never understand the answer to many of their questions. Philosophy in this context is the awareness of our lack of knowledge and understanding of the universe. It is this spark of wisdom that also encourages students to dig deeper and start asking further questions, as questions may lead to answers.
I recommend this lecture series to anyone with an open mind and an innate curiosity. Folks with an appreciation for the weird nature of the universe should also check it out.