The Examined Life
The Examined Life brings learners the philosophic wisdom of the western world in 26 half-hour videos on DVD. Each episode examines the "Great Questions" that have intrigued philosophers from antiquity to the present. Using writings of past philosophers and interviews with contemporary philosophers, the series underscores how these classic questions still reverberate in modern man. Produced in cooperation with TELEAC/NOT (the Netherlands Educational Broadcasting) Corporation and UR (Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company).
"My intention is that [The Examined Life] will encourage
Topics Covered in The Examined Life:
1. What is philosophy? combines two classic models--Plato's Parable of the Cave and the character of Socrates--with contemporary philosophers comment on the subject.
2. What is human nature? contrasts traditional Greek and Judeo-Christian views of human nature with post-Darwinian and existential views.
3. Is mind distinct from body? examines how Descartes' dualistic view has been subject to waves of attacks from materialism, including present exponents of artificial intelligence and neuroscience. The program features commentary by John Searle, Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, and various other philosophers.
4. Is there an enduring self? weaves the reflections of an expectant mother with inquiries from philosophers ranging from Socrates to the present about whether or not a person has an enduring self.
5. Are we social beings? looks at the relation between personality and sociocultural context. Contrasts an atomistic and a situational view of the self, represented by Descartes and Hegel using the endangered culture of the Laplanders in Sweden. Contemporary philosophers include Charles Taylor.
6. What is real? explores the conflict between Thomas Hobbes's materialism and George Berkeley's idealism and the 20th century conflict between realists and antirealists. Philosophers include John Searle, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty.
7. How do we encounter the world? examines the views of Husserl, Heidegger, and others in which reality is a phenomenon of consciousness.
8. Do we have free will? asks if our lives determined, or if we freely choose among alternatives? Ancient philosophers believed us to be free moral beings, but how do we define our options in a world governed by the laws of physics?
9. Is time real? questions whether time is something measured only by clocks and calendars or exists as a separate entity in its own right. The program explores theories of time presented by Aristotle, Augustine and Kant, and contrasts Newton's theories of time with Einstein's theory of relativity.
10. Does God exist? delves into how philosophers have examined the universe for evidence for God's existence. How did the world begin? Is there a reason for its order and design? And, can we reconcile the existence of God with the existence of evil?
11. Can we know God through experience? considers whether certain mystical experiences are indications of the existence of a Divine Being. What kind of evidence is necessary for religious belief?
12. Is reason the source of knowledge? presents the rationalism of Descartes and Leibniz, the roots of rationalism in Plato and geometry, and the continuing debate over whether the mind alone can generate knowledge.
13. Does knowledge depend on experience? focuses on the 17th and 18th century empiricism of John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume, and the 20th century empiricism and naturalism of W.V.O. Quine, who is interviewed.
14. Does the mind shape the world? examines Immanuel Kant's position that we interpret the world through a priori constructs of the mind, as well as later philosophers' views of how these constructs may vary among languages and cultures.
15. How does science add to knowledge? highlights the classic, Baconian inductivist view that grew out of the Scientific Revolution and the challenges posed by Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn. Includes consideration of Kuhn's views about the role that paradigm theories play in scientific revolutions.
16. Does science give us truth? looks at correspondence, coherence, and pragmatist theories of truth, and how conflicts have carried over into realist vs. antirealist views of science, including the Einstein-Bohr debate about quantum mechanics.
17. Are interpretations true? inquires how it is possible for us to interpret and understand each other? Is there a true or correct way of interpreting the meaning of what people say or write? Explores the views of Schleiermacher, Gadamer and Wittgenstein on language and meaning.
18. Is morality relative? discusses whether all morality is culturally determined, or whether there are some moral values that are valid for all cultures. Harman, Wong, and Rachels explore the claims of relativism. The issue of child labor is explored from a relativist point of view.
19. Does the end justify the means? looks at utilitarianism against the backdrop of a construction project with environmental import and discusses the problem of what is intrinsically valuable.
20. Can rules define morality? addresses formalist theories of ethics, particularly that of Immanuel Kant, and explores some of the implications of his views in relation to ethical issues.
21. Is ethics based on virtue? explores Aristotle's and other ancient views of virtue and the good life and contemporary virtue ethics with its focus on emotions, personal relationships, character, and long-term values.
22. Moral dilemmas...can ethics help? considers the relevance of utilitarian, Kantian, and virtue ethics to the situation of a family with a severely impaired newborn.
23. What justifies the state? asks whether the state is merely an artificial arrangement we construct to make life better, as social contact theorists claim, or whether it’s a natural organism through which people achieve their potential.
24. What is justice? explores questions about distributive justice, both from a national and global perspective, examines the views of Aristotle, Marx, Rawls and Nozick.
25. What is art? looks at several views on the nature of art, and how these have been affected by changes in artistic styles and techniques. Danto, Duchamp, Lyotard and others are interviewed on the significance of contemporary conceptual art.
26. What is the meaning of life? evaluates how the meaning and purpose of life have been viewed in light of religion, culture and history, as well as from an individual existential perspective. Program features the views of Hegel and Kirkegaard.
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