Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Philosophical Sermons

Yesterday I decided to trawl through some lectures located in my philosophy folder when I came across this gem.  The course is called Modern Philosophy and it is taught by Dr Ronald H. Nash.  He has taught many courses and you can find the course here.  The course is free from the Reformed Theological Seminary group and is worth checking out, but there are some problems with the course. 

I must admit the lectures are unlike any other that I have heard before from the countless philosophical courses I have picked up from other sources, e.g. The Teaching Company, Knowledge Products, Modern scholar and so on.  I was really surprised that there are sermons out there that delve into philosophy, although to be fair a lot of philosophy had derived from spiritual teaching.  I at first listened to a sermon on Friedrich Nietzsche, which is lecture 18 and it’s almost an hour long.  Heck! There are two lectures on him.   

The philosopher Ronald H. Nash does know his subject and he knows how to explain difficult philosophical ideas, especially GW Hegel’s idea on the philosophy of history and how that can lead to the idea of a perfect state.  Many people out there know that if there was a difficult topic then Hegel’s would stand out as one of them.

Well going back to Friedrich Nietzsche, the reason I listened to this lecture was because I knew first-hand how Nietzsche despised religion to the point where he called religion a slave morality. This was because worshippers were told how to be moral without putting much thought into their own true nature as Friedrich would have mentioned this.  Well Andrew explained Nietzsche’s ideas simply and gave me a new view on the problem of mortality.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
There were some little problems I encountered listening to the sermon.  I mean Nietzsche was no friend of religion, even if you tried to sugar coat Nietzsche’s ideas.  So it was not long before the sermon took note of when Nietzsche went mad and how this could have reflected on his ideas.  Personally I would have not tried to critique Nietzsche’s ideas in order to put a positive note on my own theories or beliefs.  We could say Nietzsche’s ideas were a warning to Christianity not to be so complacent.  

Going away from lecture 18, I spent some time listening to lecture 2, which is called “Postmodernity and Deconstruction”.  This time Ronald really dug his claws into the ideas of postmodernity.  There are many problems with postmodernism and this relates to the view that there is no inherent absolute truth.  Perhaps everything is relative, and we all know where this leads.  It leads to the idea of what works for me is right and what works for you is right.  This is a big problem for moral issues, because as the lecturer correctly points out, there are some things that just cannot be defended.

Playing devil’s advocate, I feel postmodernity’s attack on modernity wanted to break down structures.  I would even go so far to say that postmodernity is at times not fully accepting of itself.  So you will not easily find postmodernists agreeing on one principle. It just wants to break down rationality and build it back up with things alien to rationality.  This leads to a paradox where there is no easy escape.  

You can also find postmodernity in architecture, religion, art (difficult to express), media, literature and philosophy. It is quite a big culture movement and not just a theory or idea.  So the ghost of postmodernity cannot be easily defeated.

Art defining Art - Pollock's no 5
I enjoyed Ronald’s lecture and I have not listened to his other lectures on Kierkegaard, Existentialism, Evangelicalism and so on.  I hope to get to those in due time.  Still I do wish that he did not point out his adventures where he had argued with certain people.  It does leave a sour taste in the mouth. I especially get a little annoyed with the constant laughing from the crowd as Ronald injects humour into his sermons.  Sometimes things are funny and sometimes it seems the crowd is being disrespectful to those Ronald disagrees with.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The fall of the Roman Empire

When I am not trawling through philosophy books or audio files, you can find me digging through some history topics.  This particular blog is not on a book or audio, but actually on an educational TV show.  Here we shall delve into the fall of the Roman Empire.

Eugen Weber
 I have got to admit the Roman Empire has baffled me.  How did they do it? How did such an Empire expand and last for so long as it did.  I was in such anticipation when it came to the episode 14: The fall of Rome, which is shown on the Annenberg Media site.  The episode comes from a course called “The Western Tradition” hosted by the late Eugen Weber.  The TV show was shown back in 1989.  You can see this episode here.

As I had noted earlier I was in such anticipation when I started to watch the episode and I am glad to say I was not disappointed.  I still feel a lot was missed out of that particular episode, but to be fair you can only pack so much information within 30 minutes.   What was missing in length was made up for by the episodes content.  You will need to pay quite close attention to this episode, because Eugen will often slip in his critique of why certain things happened during the fall of Rome.  So it is a good note that Eugen does not just only report on the events of western history, he examines it as well.

Fall of Rome
When Rome fell, it was not pleasant.  It was inevitable that the barbarian hordes be it the Goths, Vandals or Huns swept through Rome, which is probably what many would say why Rome fell in the first place, but there was other contributing factors.  The fall or Rome was made worse due to corrupt despotic rulers, a chaotic tax system, disease and pestilence ravaging the city and mass migration.  This is only just a small part of why Rome fell, which is covered in great detail in this particular episode.

I have many courses and lectures on the might of Rome and its gradual decline, but this episode is a good start for anyone looking into the history of Rome.  You actually might be surprised by its findings.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The most shared Diary in history....Ann Frank

Yesterday I decided to go see a play at the theatre.  The play was called “The diary of Ann Frank” and it was showing at The Broadway Theatre.  I had seen the film before (the one made in 1954), so I sort of knew what I was in for, but I have not been to the theatre for such a long time.

Just watching the billboard and poster up on the theatre made me wanted to watch the play.  Well I must say I was not disappointed.  I watched the play around 2:00 pm amongst a large group of school kids, so I thought “Oh no, it’s a bit of bad luck, they are all going to misbehave and mess up my enjoyment”, but after a while though, the children were all drawn to the play because the actors there were astounding.

I often wondered how those actors could zone out and be in a world of their own while I watched them intently.  It’s like they did even notice I was there.  They were all so professional.   

The play has plenty of hidden messages and meanings, so pay attention.  Not only are you reliving what Ann Frank had lived through, but you are watching the adaption of the play and hidden messages seeping through, which causes you to think deeply after watching the play.

One message that stuck in my mind was when Ann Frank had accidently spilt milk on Mrs Van Dann coat.  Of course Mrs Van is livid and an argument ensues.  Ann Frank runs to her room in tears only for her father to console her, but then he warns Ann that all people make mistakes, but the difference between the good and the bad people is that the good people learn from them.

Now although at first this is a message for Ann Frank, do you not wonder who else Ann’s father is referring too?  Makes you think doesn’t it.

The claustrophobia of the Jewish family and their guests hiding out above a factory causes tensions to arise time and time again.  You can feel your emotions become swayed as you see anger and frustration burst forth from one person to the next, but above all, I just cannot help thinking that any family be it Jewish or not, would behave excatly the same.  Come to think of it, not much is mentioned about how Jewish the family are, you just do not notice it, except for one major scene.  Even though the propaganda of those times played up on how different the Jews were from everyone else.

Another thing I would like to mention is that some characters actually seem to play up to you, rather than just act alone.  Ann Frank on the stage is a mischievous girl no matter what way you look at it, she cannot help herself and not only does she flirt with Peter Wessel (the 16 year old son of Mr and Mrs Van), but she also flirts with you time and time again.  This then makes my poor heart sink in despair as I realise what is to come, but I do not want to spoil the play for you.  Please go see the play for yourself.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Polite discussion on Political Correctness

A few days ago I downloaded an mp3 file from a site called Philosophy talks, which is a radio show dedicated to philosophical subjects.  The show is hosted over in Chicago and has links to Stanford University.  The file I downloaded was called Existentialism and after listening to the show, I was hooked.  I then proceeded to buy all 200 episodes of the shows past programs.  I rate the show highly and it covers philosophical topics in depth.  You can listen to reports, phone-ins and a guest lecturer on the show on various subjects such as money, terrorism, relativism, luck and so on.

Well the episode I listened to today was on political correctness.  The show’s hosts Ken Talyor and John Perry broke down the subject and always starts off pondering what political correctness is.  After firing a few questions at each other, they then ask a reporter to go about looking for students to find out what political correctness means to them.  After the report is done, a guest lecturer or specialist on the subject advises the hosts about the topic.  Next we have a phone in session where the public will phone in and ask questions or give their opinions.

The thing I found out about the subject political correctness is that it’s not so easy to define to begin with and a lot of the public seem to hate being told what to do or what to say.  I will not spoil the show for you, but there are a few points that I agree with, which Ken Taylor pointed out.  I feel political correctness has been used as an excuse to cover up intolerable behaviour.  For instance, if something told a member of the public to get lost because they were of different colour and used a racist word, then we can argue that this is racism apart from being politically incorrect.

If someone came up to a young lady out of the blue and kept asking her to show them her assets (you figure it out), then it’s not only politically incorrect, its sexual discrimination.  We need to note that discrimination and sexual discrimination has been around far longer than the notion of political correctness and these are far bigger issues, which can be a whole lot more complex, there is little excuse for a racist or bigot to state that they are not allowed to say certain things because that it is politically incorrect.

Still the problem with politically correctness is that people may abide by the rules, but still feel the same way they did about others before, the problem of discrimination is just hidden and on top of that we have arguments of censor of free expression.

My final conclusion is that in the end, no one is fully stopping someone from saying something, but in the end if someone goes out of their way to offend without cause of respect, then they must reap what they sow, hence they are to be shown what they said, who they said it too and why.  The worse the derogatory comment, the harder it is for the discriminator to hide, which all bigots love to do is hide behind their true intent.

I recommend you to listen to some of philosophy talks shows.  You will not be disappointed. I hope to cover more of the past episodes of the show.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

If it works, its Pragmatism

Listened to a few more lectures today, not as much as I would have liked because I had to pop into work today.  The course I would like to mention from my collection is quite a tough one and it is called “Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida” taught by Professor Lawrence Cahoone, Ph.D. of Stony Brook University.

The particular lecture is Lecture number 17 Rise of 20th-Century Philosophy—Pragmatism.  I think this particular course gets down to the knitty gritty of a most difficult and abstract subject, that being philosophy. I loved how he lectured on Hegel’s philosophy, which is on the idea and how history makes an impact on society.  I always find Hegel very difficult to understand.  Still this lecture on Pragmatism is rather challenging.
Lawrence gives us an introduction to the three great movements of philosophy starting from Pragmatism, Phenomenology and then Existentialism. We then look into why such philosophical movements were labelled as radical and moving away from the traditional area of philosophizing.  Most of the lecture is on Charles Sanders Peirce and it looks at his discoveries and arguments against the idea that we can know all that there is to know about anything.  Peirce was critical with many of the foundations of philosophy and basically wanted to start from another angle.

Pragmatism started over in the states and some of its major functions rested upon the importance of testing statements for truth claims in accordance to how they are accepted by others in society.  Ideas, belief and statements are only useful if they work.   Pragmatists will not waste too much time on the metaphysical realm and would rather want explanations on ideas that have value to us.  Our experience of things that are useful to our everyday lives is what pragmatists wanted to pursue. 

Apart from Charles Sanders Pierce, there were other contributions to pragmatism from philosophers being William James, John Dewy and later on W.V Quine.  I must remind you this lecture can be quite challenging and Pragmatism compared itself to many other philosophies and ideas.  So this is one lecture you will be listening to more than once.

Friday, 18 March 2011

National Unification, but at what cost?

I have just been listening to some of the lectures from The Teaching Company. If there was any a good reason for starting up a collection of lectures on history, philosophy and intellectual history, then this company would be the best reason.

The course I have been listening today, well yesterday due to the blog being posted so late at night is called “Foundations of Western Civilization II: A History of the Modern Western World”. The course is taught by Professor Robert Bucholz and throughout the course he keeps you interested from the word go. My favourite lecture from this course is lecture 41 “The Holocaust”.  The way he spends his time revealing in detail the nature of the holocaust is sheer brilliance in which he quotes “The epitome and calamity of evil”. Still that is a blog for another day.

I spent most of my time listening to lecture 29 which is called “Nationalism—1848–71”. Here we continue off on the bloody struggles for the unification of Italy and German Unification.  There were other countries rising up in nationalism, but on this lecture these were the two which is focused on.

Here we have Italy being fed up of being bossed around by Austria who have taken up some of the Italian lands. Italy does a deal with Napoleon the III (who ruled France at the time) in order to try and kick Austria out for good and work towards unification. This works under the leadership of Victor Emmanuel, but this is not the end of the story as the lecture continues.

Next we then look at the struggle for German unification. Here we see Prussia and Austria bid for who is the strongest to lead for the unification of Germany, but clearly Prussia has a strong industry, population, efficient government and a brilliant statesman who is this?

None other than Otto Von Bismarck

Explore in depth as the lecture explains in detail how Otto Von Bismark outwitted and outmanoeuvred his enemies time and time again in the name of German Unification, which led to Wilhelm the First becoming titled Emperor or Kaiser of Germany.

Learn how France deteriorated into a bickering government after a war which leaves France bitter, downtrodden and hungry for revenge.

Europe from 1871 would never be the same again as the balance of power pushed countries into fear and distrust. No longer could Britain spend its time in glorious Isolation, no longer could France look for lands to conquer and Germany becaming the growing threat to the balance of power.

There are so many big questions. I kept thinking about National unification, but at what cost? Could Europe adjust in time as power shifts from one country to another? Is war politics by other means? Did Otto Von Bismarck go too far?

Many of us could not care for what happened during 1848 – 1871, but for sure this was another step towards the Great war.  If you are interested, try and purchase this course and listen to the lecture.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Internet and Democracy debate

Just been watching an interesting debate at The debate was on how the internet affects democracy in the hands of its users.  This being the people or the masses.  

Lets look at the for and against on the topic of how the internet affect democracy.


1. We have those who use the internet themselves and set up facilities to encourage people to use the internet as freedom of speech.  Here they feel that this is the main idea of a democracy where people can get to use their voice.
2. We have those feel that the so called experts of the old communication medium, being the newspapers, radio and TV make mistakes and so this leads to people looking for other opinions on the internet.
3. We have those who feel that it is too hard for the ordinary public to express themselves on TV, radio and older sources of communication.  They feel that you would have to be rich, famous or exceptional to be heard and thus the internet is a great source of expression and creativity.


1. We have those who feel that the internet is getting over satiated with information that after a while the quality of the information goes down.  
2. We have those who feel that the internet can not be fully trusted because it is in the hands of those who produce information that cannot be viably trusted.  
3. We have those who feel that the internet is a dangerous weapon against democracy, because it allows the power of mass media and communication in the hands of the uneducated.

Who are those against?

Farad Monjoh and Andrew Keen

Who are those for?

Jimmy Whales and Micha Sifry

My View on the debate

I have not fully finishing watching the debate, but I am leaning on the side of the Internet being no threat against democracy, but that does not mean that there are no dangers.  Why?

It is true that the Internet is much content that cannnot be easily viable, but then this can also be the fault of the researcher or user who does not look for more than one source of information.  There are also those within our society that seek to use the Internet to spread rumors and lies, but then this can be done with other forms of media.  Still, the Internet can allow such false information to spread rapidly.

But what of the dangers of those who seek to control the Internet?

Well for instance, what if our so called experts decide to dismantle the internet because they feel it is a tool that is too dangerous for those who do not understand the notion of freedom or the responsibility of producing correct information?

Well my blog here would go! Does it mean I have a set agenda to destroy democracy? No! That is not my agenda, my main agenda is to share what I have learnt.  I could be wrong in what I know or I could be right, but if I have no channel to express myself, then I would never be heard.  There will be no debate and no one would learn anything.

There are plenty of countries out there that will curtail peoples freedom in the name of that the Internet is too dangerous a tool and it will cause chaos in society, but then is this in the name of democracy? Somehow I do not think so.

I feel democracy itself has allowed the Internet to appear, if this was not the case then the Internet would have never been born in the first place.  Democracy is more than a form of government, it asks for inventiveness, creativity, expression and opinion for the people and by the people.  Democracy is rule by the mob and cannot easily be protected by the elites who feel they know best.  The internet can be dangerous for not just one form of government, but for many forms.  

Still who is to say that democracy is not any more dangerous for those who live by this form of government?

At the end of the day, the internet or any form of government are just tools that are meant to better our lives, but what really counts is the agenda of the individual or the masses who use the tools.

You can watch the debate here

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

New to collection and current project

Found a great site today, although I ve been mainly looking into US politics the site is very informative. The site is called and I believe it has many other videos.  Check it out when you have the chance.

I have also started listening to an audio book called Sophie's World.  If you ever want to get into a beginner's guide into philosophy, then this is the book to get hold of.  It basically is about a 14 year old girl getting postcards, which seems to be meant for someone else.  Eventually the girl ends up doing a philosophy course that starts from the Greek period up to the big bang theory.  The way the book describes the history of philosophy gets one thinking and even though it might seem for children, adults can enjoy the book as well.

I am now on chapter 7 of the book, which looks at Socrates. A man who knew that he did not know anything and was against the idea that philosophy is all about knowing things.  He was in love with ideas and wisdom and he loved to question people using his famous Socratic method.  Eventually being the gadfly that he was, led to his death by drinking poison.  He was convicted of corrupting the youth and failing to acknowledge the gods.

Monday, 14 March 2011

My Collection

Before I look at my current project. I would just like to mention my collection.  I guess its all the Internets fault, but the web is such a treasure trove of information.  I could not resist the temptation of downloading, purchasing, reading and storing books and data.

My main source of entertainment when it comes to philosophy is listening to lectures.  I do have books, but most times I just like to sit back, close my eyes and listen to lectures.  There are several of audio lectures on the web and my favourite one related to my interests is The Teaching Company.  The company has a vast field of lectures covering many fields on philosophy, history, politics and so on.  Feel free to check out The Teaching Company.

There are more audio lecture sites, in fact many of them.  My next favourite site is The Modern Scholar.  The lectures are in depth, but the range is not so vast. Sometimes I find the lecturer talking too fast, but some lectures provide some tests at the end.

Next on the list is a very old site and the audio lectures are very hard to come by, but do not be fooled. The narrators here will keep you interested in the content of the course.  This site is called Knowledge products. I listened to my first lecture here on existentialism and have never looked back.  I am now hooked!!

I have collected the rest of my lectures from several sites and a good one worth mentioning is Learn Out Aloud.  Most of the audio books/lectures are free and worth downloading to listen to.  Another way to get at lectures is via itunes.  This is because many universities place free lectures and books on their sites and Itunes can get access to them in one stroke.  Make sure to download Itunes and look for your favourite subject be it postmodernism to pragmatism.  Here is a list I am using, which I use as a reference if I find a topic too hard. Visit wikipedia often as a reference, even if sources do not seem reliable, it is a good start to break down harder topics.

Moving away for audio books, lets look at video.  Please be aware that downloading video can eat up your drive, so its worth investing in a external hard drive.  I have four external drives ranging from 500 GB to 1 TB of info mainly on books and courses. 

Your best access to documentaries and videos on intellectual topics would be Youtube, but there are others floating around.  I recently discovered Annenberg Learner and most of their content is free, although some will only allow viewing from the states.

Lets move to PDF books.  My collection on PDF ranges on the following topics that I am interested in being "History of Philosophy, ethics, philosophy of the mind, Epistemology, sociology and so on".  The size of the book collection is vast in GBs. Reading from the computer screen is not usually recommend, so printing out the book is a good option, still you can get away from this by using Text to speech software, this is so your eyes do not take the strain.  Neospeech is by far one of the best text to speech voice, which is in the generation of SAPI 5, problem is Neospeech can be expensive, but if you look into Ivona Text to speech then they are almost just as good and much cheaper.  Use Balabolka to read the PDF text which is free to save eye strain.

My last collection is actually not on the computer or Hard drives, but on the shelf and yes, you ve guessed it.  I have books in plain old hard or paper back lying around.  Perhaps the best way to read, there is only one problem.  Books take up space and when you consider that a HD can hold thousands of books compared to what my room can hold.  There is only one winner and I am thinking about looking for PDF versions of my hardbacks.

I have only mentioned a very small part of educational material you can find on the web.  There are much more and if you come across some, feel free to share the links with others.

My blogging begins

Well this is my first blog.  I have been meaning to start off a blog for ages and have never really gotten around to it.  Now things are different, because since I have helped my friend start off her blog, I thought I should at least make a blog of my own.

I have been wondering what this blog should be all about.  Perhaps it will be about me? my hobbies? my beliefs? I think in the end I have decided I shall blog about what I do most and that is about philosophy. This is because I do quite a lot of reading on the subject and since philosophy is such a vast field, I will never really run out of blogs.  Personally I think I shall blog about the books I read as perhaps if it was a review.  I do have a lot of audio books, lectures, books, documentries and so on.  So I will be blogging about those.

I feel my main worry though is putting the time and energy into creating a blog each day or maybe a few times a week.  The main thing though is at least my journey begins.