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Modern Philosophy: Kant to the Present

Leonard Peikoff

Date: n/a

This is the second 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.

1. The Historical Background. A summary of those issues essential for an understanding of recent philosophic trends.

2-3. Aristotelian Logic Is Banished From Philosophy. The father of contemporary Philosophy: Immanuel Kant. The Kantian revolution in philosophy, the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, Kant's famous argument: the "deduction of the categories", reality as unknowable "things-in-themselves", the phenomenal and noumenal worlds. Kant's ethics: the morality of duty, the attack on happiness, the Categorical Imperative.

4. A New "Logic" Leads to an Old Politics . . . Hegel. Reality as a dialectic process, the Absolute, the coherence theory of truth, Hegel's concept of freedom, the absolutist state.

5.  . . . and to an Epidemic of Irrationalism. 19th-century German romanticism. Schopenhauer: the metaphysics of the Will, the irrationality of the universe. Nietzsche: the philosophy of Power, "Beyond Good and Evil." Marx: Communism, dialectical materialism, the economic interpretation of history, advocacy of world revolution.

6. The Virus Reaches the Defenders of Science. Comte: the philosophy of Positivism, the origin of "altruism." Mill: Utilitarianism, a collectivist defense of capitalism. Spencer: reality as unknowable, Social Darwinism.

7-8. Truth, Logic and Values Are Divorced From Reality.  Pragmatism. The Pragmatic theory of meaning: C.S. Peirce, the Pragmatic theory of truth: William James, Pragmatism fully developed: Dewey's instrumentalism. Logical Positivism. The linguistic theory of logic, the verifiability theory, knowledge as probability, rejection of metaphysics.

9. Language Is Formally Divorced From Reality. The Analysts.  Philosophy as the analysis of propositions: G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, Ordinary Language Analysis: the later Wittgenstein, the emotive theory of ethics.

10. Nausea Becomes a Metaphysical Emotion.  Existentialism: Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre. The rejection of reason, the absurdity of the universe, Death and Nothingness, fear, trembling and dread. Zen Buddhism.

11-12. Man Finds His Defender: Objectivism.  The primacy of existence vs. the primacy of consciousness, the subjective, the intrinsic and the objective, the Objectivist theory of concept-formation, the derivation of the Objectivist ethics and politics from its metaphysics and epistemology.

Recorded in 1970.

history of philosophy

Parts: 12

Handout: none


  • Campus, 2018 - 2198 mins - An edited compilation of History of Philosophy parts 1 and 2
  • e-Store, 2015 - 1896 mins - Also known as: History of Philosophy Part 2