Cover art for Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

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Summary

René Descartes is often described as the first modern philosopher, but much of the content of his "Meditations on First Philosophy" can be found in the medieval period that had already existed for more than a thousand years. Does God exist? If so, what is his nature? Is the human soul immortal? How does it differ from the body? What role do sense experience and pure reason play in knowing? Descartes stands out from his predecessors because of the method he developed to treat these and other fundamental questions. Drawing on his study of mathematics, he searches for a way to establish absolutely certain conclusions based on indubitable premises. His importance in modern philosophy lies in the challenge he offers to every subsequent thinker in philosophy and science. The French philosopher Descartes is often called the "Father" of modern philosophy in the West. His Discourse on Method presents the reason why: his method of inquiry. He was the quintessential "rationalist," subjecting all sense experience as doubtful and untrustworthy. Rather than relying on external authority (whether from other people or from God), Descartes demands nothing less than absolute certainty that begins with the self and proceeds step by step with the rigor of logical and mathematical precision. Even though he claims that he has proved the existence of God and explained God’s nature, even that core tenet must be established through rigorous logical argument. No subsequent philosopher is able to ignore this bold and challenging foundation for all thinking. Those who become his disciples as well as those who reject his way of thinking are all under his spell. Many think they have broken that spell only to find that he has shaped them in ways that are not easy to escape.

©2020 SAGA Egmont (P)2020 SAGA Egmont

Length: 3 hrs and 31 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Summary

David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion had not yet been published when he died in 1776. Even though the manuscript was mostly written during the 1750s, it did not appear until 1779. The subject itself was too delicate and controversial, and Hume's dialectical examination of religious knowledge was especially provocative. What should we teach young people about religion? The characters Demea, Cleanthes, and Philo passionately present and defend three sharply different answers to that question. Demea opens the dialogue with a position derived from René Descartes and Father Malebranche - God's nature is a mystery, but God's existence can be proved logically. Cleanthes attacks that view, both because it leads to mysticism and because it attempts the impossible task of trying to establish existence on the basis of pure reason, without appeal to sense experience. As an alternative, he offers a proof of both God's existence and God's nature based on the same kind of scientific reasoning established by Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. Taking a skeptical approach, Philo presents a series of arguments that question any attempt to use reason as a basis for religious faith. He suggests that human beings might be better off without religion. The dialogue ends without agreement among the characters, justifying Hume's choice of dialogue as the literary style for this topic.  Born in Scotland, Hume challenges much of the philosophy that prevailed in Europe and England in the 17th and 18th century. He was especially critical of the rationalism developed by René Descartes and his followers. Although he wrote a number of influential essays (including "A Treatise of Human Nature" and "Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding"), his dialogues are especially well suited for the topic of religion. As his character Pamphilus says: "Any philosophical question that is so obscure and uncertain that human reason can reach no agreement about it, if it is treated at all, seems to lead us naturally to the style of dialogue."

©2020 SAGA Egmont (P)2020 SAGA Egmont

Author: David Hume
Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for An Introduction to Metaphysics

An Introduction to Metaphysics

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Summary

The basic principles that Bergson articulates, especially his way of thinking about reality as a dynamic process and his view of human beings as creative and evolving, should be helpful to anyone who seeks to go beyond simply dealing with the practical demands of daily life and consider the nature of things. Of special importance is Bergson’s claim that it is both possible and necessary to know from the inside rather than confining our attention to external perspectives and points of view. Intuition is able to get beyond what is relative and place us inside reality. This essay is, as the title says, an introduction. But if we think there is more to a human being - and even to nature itself - than material structures alone, perhaps the time has come to take a fresh look at Bergson’s essay. In "An Introduction to Metaphysics," Bergson traces the demise of metaphysics to the failure of both scientific materialism and dogmatism and to the immense success of a kind of pragmatism that promised liberation from the fruitless battles among various schools of philosophy. He also rejects relativism and criticizes the vacuum that is created when philosophers refuse to inquire about the nature of reality. To avoid metaphysics easily leads to a worldview shaped by unexamined ideas and hidden presuppositions.  Henri Bergson was born in the year that Darwin published the Origin of the Species. He could not have imagined the philosophical impact of evolutionary theory, which is now so great that Bergson’s philosophy, which emphasizes "creative evolution," is experiencing a significant revival. The basic principles that Bergson articulates, especially his way of thinking about reality as a dynamic process and his view of human beings as creative and evolving, should be helpful to anyone who seeks to go beyond simply dealing with the practical demands of daily life and consider the nature of things.

©2020 SAGA Egmont (P)2020 SAGA Egmont

Length: 2 hrs and 5 mins
Available on Audible