Modern Intellectual History

Modern Intellectual History: From Descartes to Derrida, by Lawrence Cahoone (Teaching Company) ★★★★
I’ve been a bit disappointed recently at the quality of Teaching Company lectures and have backed off on the purchase of some of the latest productions from that company. My feeling was that the lecturers were too biased in their discussions without giving credence to opposing views. In this lecture series, Cahoone maintains a very compelling discussion of the major philosophers from Descartes to those still alive today, holding ones’ interest while giving an in-depth review of the main philosophical contributions of the person under discussion. He ends a touch weak, with a discussion arguing against the death of philosophy. It seems as though philosophy has gone full circle, with philosophy realizing that a crisis created by Derrida and other post-modernists has left no discussion since the claim is that all truth is either un-knowable or un-communicable. Cahoone shows how modern philosophers have tended to return to the classics to resolve this muddle, creating a spiral (not a circle). Thankfully, he doesn’t discuss whether philosophy is spiraling downwards or upwards, as I tend to feel that it’s taking a downward spiral. After all, without an infinite reference frame, there should be no way of knowing whether one is spiraling up or down! This is a lecture series worth listening to, and will probably be heard again by me.