This is the first part of a
two-part, 24-lecture course on the history of Western philosophy taught by
philosopher Leonard Peikoff. This first part starts with the pre-Socratic
Greeks and ends with the Enlightenment thinker David Hume. This course is
intended for non-experts, but philosophy students should find much value in
Peikoff’s presentation as well.
Peikoff holds that philosophic
ideas play a fundamental role in shaping world events. The purpose of these
lectures is to trace the development of Western thought from ancient Greece to the
present. The lectures summarize the arguments each philosopher offers in
support of his conclusions, as well as Peikoff’s analyses and exposes of intellectual
Here is the course outline:
1. The First Problem: Are There Any Absolutes?
The father of philosophy: Thales. The philosophy of flux: Heraclitus, "You
cannot step into the same river twice", change as the only absolute. The
mind-body opposition begins: the mathematical mysticism of the Pythagoreans.
2. The Triumph of the Metaphysics of Two
Worlds. The birth of determinism: the materialism of Democritus. The birth
of "It seems to me": the skepticism of the Sophists; "Might
makes right." Socrates. The first complete philosophy: Plato. Plato's
3. The Results in This World. Plato's
epistemology, the myth of the cave. Plato's ethics/politics: reason vs.
emotion, Platonic love, the Philosopher-King, communism as the political
4-5. A Revolution: The Birth of Reason.
Aristotle. Epistemology: sensory evidence as the base of knowledge, the laws of
logic, the nature of truth. Ethics/politics: happiness as the moral goal,
reason and the good life, the Great-Souled Man; the ideal society.
6. Philosophy Loses Confidence.
The philosophy of pleasure: the hedonism of Epicurus. The philosophy of duty:
Stoicism. The new Skepticism: Pyrrho of Elis. Neo-Platonism: Plotinus.
7-8. Philosophy Becomes Religious and Recovers.
The rejection of reason and happiness: Christianity. The first major Christian
philosopher: Augustine, faith as the basis of reason, the ethics of
self-sacrificial love, man as a corrupt creature. The Dark Ages. The
rediscovery of Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas: the union of Aristotelianism and
Christianity, the absolutism of reason and the new role of faith. The
aftermath: the Renaissance.
9. The New Breach Between the Mind and
Reality. Materialism and determinism in the name of science, dictatorship
in the name of harmony: Thomas Hobbes. The father of modern philosophy and the
first famous Continental Rationalist: René Descartes, the method of
universal doubt, "I think, therefore I am", the theory of innate
10. The Breach Deepens . . . The second
famous Rationalist: Spinoza, pantheism, determinism. The third famous
Rationalist: Leibnitz, the unreality of matter, the "windowless
monads." British empiricism: John Locke.
11. . . . and the Attempt Collapses.
Empiricism becomes subjectivist: Bishop Berkeley, "To be is to be
perceived." Empiricism becomes bankrupt: the skepticism of David Hume, the
attack on the external world and on causality, the breach between logic and
12. Conclusion. The Objectivist answer to
key problems posed by Ancient and Modern Philosophy.
Leonard Peikoff is an
American philosopher who had a close 30-year friendship and professional
association with Ayn Rand. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, is the author of
three books, and has lectured on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism for
decades. He is considered the world’s foremost authority on the philosophy of Ayn
This course is 33 hours long. It was originally recorded in
1970 before a live audience. Each lecture is followed by a Q & A period.
(MP3 download; 33 hrs. 22 min., 1.44 GB)
The description of this
product has not necessarily been reviewed or approved by Leonard Peikoff.