During this lecture, we'll examine philosophy during the Enlightenment (or from the ~1750s until the early 1800s). In particular, we'll focus upon David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. In addition to exploring contributions made by each thinker, with these three, we'll see the beginnings of a fork in philosophy that will take us up until the present.
The story of this lecture will be about philosophy's simultaneous embrace and rejection of the spirit of the Enlightenment era, that of rationality, empiricism, science, and related.
On one hand, Hume and Kant will nod to this spirit, but then go about undermining one of its chief intentions - to illuminate the darkness of our reality. They'll question in this manner: how can reality ever be truly known if a human being's rational and observational faculties are limited? And if reality cannot be truly known, then what is it that humankind is really doing during this so-called "age of reason"?
On the other hand, you'll have Hegel, influenced by what some would call the "Anti-Enlightenment" thinking of German Idealism and Romanticism, who'll claim that not only can we never know reality "in-and-of-itself", the very search for it only reveals ourselves - and that together we are One.
When studying the philosophy of the Enlightenment, one might reasonably ask, how is it that all of its major philosophers were either limiting, cautioning, or rejecting so much of what defined the spirit of their era?
Here again we see philosophers doing what philosophers do best: setting a trend by rebelling against the common course of their time, a theme that we'll continue to explore during this lecture.
Additionally, two intellectual seeds planted during the Enlightenment will grow philosophy in two separate directions, and bring us into the modern era until today. The first seed is that of the Enlightenment spirit itself, which will continue on in the form of the philosophical schools of materialism, analytic philosophy, logical positivism, and the philosophy of science. Philosophy 101 will devote two upcoming lectures to these schools of thought. The second seed is the "Anti-Enlightenment" spirit, which will shape entirely different schools of philosophy, such as idealism, continentalism, phenomenology, existentialism, and postmodernism (all of which hold a large debt to Hegel, as we shall see). Philosophy 101 will also devote two upcoming lectures to these schools.
We'll see that from the Enlightenment onward, there is a steady tension in philosophy - and throughout the entirety of the western world, both intellectually and materially. Much of the remainder of this course will be devoted to understanding how the seeds mentioned above have grown, and how they come into conflict with one another - and occasionally into consilience.
Textbook chapters: Chapters 15-17, the Great Conversation
(Likely more videos are forthcoming, so check back for further recommendations.)