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Publisher's Summary

Professor Cary explores thousands of years of deep reflection and brilliant debate over the nature of God, the human self, and the world in these 32 lectures. It's a debate that serves as a vivid introduction to the rich and complex history shared by the West's central religious and philosophical traditions.

Whether you're a believer, a seeker, or both, you'll find much to spark your deepest ponderings in these talks on the long and rich interplay between faith and reason. You'll join Professor Cary on the fascinating search for answers about the similar questions philosophy and faith ask: What is the ultimate reality? What can we know, or what should we believe about it? To learn how these crucial issues have been discussed over the past three millennia is to enter the core of our intellectual heritage - to find the origin of some of our deepest perplexities and most cherished aspirations. It is a comprehensive journey - intellectually, philosophically, and spiritually - but one which requires no special background. By the end of these lectures, you'll gain a new or sharpened fluency in issues that include the historical interaction between philosophical traditions (such as Platonism) and religious traditions (such as Judaism and Christianity); the synthesis of philosophy and religion that characterized the "classical theism" of the medieval period; the most prominent philosophical criticisms of religion; and the reasons why many religious thinkers of the 20th century are suspicious of the alliances between philosophy and religion.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1999 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1999 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Philosophy and Religion in the West

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Biased in favour of Judaism, anti-Christian

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No. The narrator, Professor Phillip Cary reminds us that he has "many Jewish friends" and that he is not happy with Christians who attempt to label Judaism 'legalistic' or Christians who don't understand why Orthodox Jews can't utter the word 'YHWH" (Yahweh). He then frequently lambasts Christian theology for 'stealing' Greek philosophy for its owns ends. Yet when he comes to the Kabbalah and realises most of it is lifted from Plotinus, he never once accuses the Jewish tradition of 'stealing' key elements from Neoplatonic philosophy.

What did you like best about this story?

Decent overview, not much detail

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I don't know whether this is the modern liberal academia in the US being ridiculously politically correct and appeasing Jews no matter what, but Cary's blind adoration for Judaism and his anti-Christian overtones really detracted from the professionalism and academic honesty required for such difficult topics as this.

Could you see Philosophy and Religion in the West being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

No.

Any additional comments?

No.

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  • Bror Erickson
  • 04-12-2014

How Religion and Philosophy Impact Each Other

Years ago I had the privilege of listening to Prof. Cary speak on Luther and Calvin in regards to the sacraments and salvation. I've been a fan of his ever since. These lectures will make a fan of you also. As a Lutheran pastor I have given a lot of time to the study of both philosophy and religion. I've read Copleston and T.W. Jones on the history of philosophy, as well as diving into original sources. I have spent a good deal of time reading about other religions as well. Yet, I have found few who are able to deliver the content Cary does as clearly and concisely as he does. I mean his study and personal grasp of the subject matter is evident in every lesson, and point. Seriously, if you teach philosophy or religion in any capacity you do yourself a favor to give this lecture series a listen. If you are interested in this subject you will find nothing better that I know of.
This series will better help any listener understand why they personally think the way they do, it will also challenge them to understand why others think the way they think. This will be true of Christians, atheists, Jews and Muslims. Cary, a man of strong convictions himself, is refreshingly respectful of all the positions he covers, whether or not he agrees with them. He is also forthcoming with his own biases.
Cary does buy into "The New Perspective on Paul" as introduced by Sanders and made popular with N.T. Wright. I myself think that this position is a bit flawed. He discuses this position in relation to the Christian concept of legalism and Augustine. Yet, despite this disagreement I find myself compelled to take Cary's advice at the beginning of the lecture series and listen to this one again. I did find his presentation of this position to be the clearest one I've come across. And I'm sure listening to the series as second time will be even more rewarding than it was the first time through. I am also looking forward to listening to his other lecture series.
Cary has a particular gift of exposing how theology and philosophy have impacted each other over the years, and how these developments have changed Islam, Judaism and Christianity over the years, and in turn how these religions have also had impact on philosophy.

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  • Philo
  • 13-07-2016

If the topic sounds interesting, you'll like this

I am assuming the listener has a pretty good attention span and pretty good patience with walking through a lot of moderately abstract words and ideas. The person who would not like this is one who would quickly start rolling eyes and glazing over at any description of the details of religious doctrine. I love this lecture set. From days of sitting in Episcopal church as a little boy, I have always scratched my head at its odd (to my boy self) utterances, such as the Nicene Creed. Hey WHAT?! As a little boy with a hunger for vocabulary, I had a hunger to grab those words and phrases and follow them like strings back to whoever and wherever they came from. What does that MEAN? What did those people THINK? How did my "ordinary" neighbors and family members come to reel off all this jargon with apparently little deep understanding of it? How could they say they base their lives on that? As with political matters (where I read just today some impassioned, blustery comment on the Constitution's 14th Amendment, of which the writer was clearly utterly clueless), I have had the same feeling with almost all religious remarks and assertions I hear. How could people seem so ignorant and yet be hurling this stuff at each other and fighting about it? In other words, I am a scholar by temperament. I HAVE to dig into this stuff. And here, I am mightily rewarded. I am swimming in this stuff. And the presentation is ideal. This is as listenable as I could imagine this topic being. As I strive to do as a professor, this professor uses the most clear, plain examples possible to open our minds' eyes to some pretty fancy ideas. This is first-rate. Not only Plato and Aristotle, but inquiring minds might want to know, who was Plotinus? Philo of Alexandria? Maimonedes? Augustine? On and on.

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  • Mat
  • 23-12-2017

best history of western philosophy n religion

this is my 3rd time listening to this and it's a great refresher. always gets to the heart of the matter.

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  • Benzion N. Chinn
  • 18-06-2017

Some Corrections Regarding the Jewish Tradition

Any additional comments?

Professor Cary mentions the Oven of Aknai story in his discussion of rabbinic Judaism in which Rabbi Eliezer gets God himself to declare that he is right. It is Rabbi Joshua ben Karha, not Rabbi Judah, who argues that the Torah is not in heaven and that, therefore, the rabbis are able to overrule even God himself. On a more serious note, Professor Cary argues that the rationalistic tradition died out after Maimonides in the 13th century. I understand that for the sake of time it makes sense not to get bogged down into late medieval Jewish philosophy and thinkers like Hasdai Crescas and Isaac Abarbanel, but to claim that such a tradition did not exist is false. Yes, the medieval Jewish philosophical tradition lost out to Kabbalah, but that is a complicated story that played out over several centuries. Kabbalah's victory had far more to do with historical circumstances like the expulsion of 1492 and the fact that its debt to non-Jewish sources was less obvious than to anything intrinsic to Judaism.

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  • constantstudier'swife
  • 04-04-2018

Great Course... literally!

Philip Cary does an impressive job waking through Christian, Jewish, and Islamic history (it seems more could have been covered on Islam). I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in keeping up with religious philosophical conversation today.

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  • Adam Shields
  • 13-11-2017

Impact of the interaction between the two

Phillip Cary was the professor in my favorite Great Courses course, The History of Christian Theology. He is a professor at Eastern University. Philosophy and Religion in the West was nearly as good.

This is a western history of philosophy. I would also like to see an eastern version, but I do not think that exists from Great Courses right now.

The course opens with Plato and Socrates before moving into Jewish and Christian philosophy. Because I have been intentionally trying to work on developing my philosophy background, there were things here that were both repetitive from other Great Courses or reading, but also a number of areas where something finally clicked for me.

The largest overlap in content was the end of this course and the Modern Philosophy course that I listened to earlier this year. This course was particularly focused on religion and philosophy so did not have the breadth of the previous course, but taking a second round within a couple months of the earlier course was helpful.

Part of Cary’s on going points was looking at different ways of conceiving God and human authority. The later point of understanding ‘Authority as other’ was very helpful in understanding some of the shift in understanding of authority and God in later eras of philosophy.

I also just happened to listen to a podcast interview with Alvin Plantinga, who was mentioned toward the end of the course, which was helpful as well.

Overall, I still feel like I have a long way to go before I really get a basic grasp on philosophy, but this was a good course that was able to add to my understanding of theological develop as philosophical development in the West.

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  • Jim
  • 12-11-2015

Very Knowledgeable professor.

The material was very in depth. The professor covered a massive amount of material in an interesting way.

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  • Fitnation
  • 14-09-2015

Excellent

The content and presentation of the course was excellent. Perhaps he should have spent a small amount of time on liberation and third world Christian theologies and philosophies.

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  • Feldshtein
  • 11-02-2020

Amazing and so beautifully structured.

This lecturer has very rare skill to powerfully and simply explain very complex topics. I swallowed this course in several days and I only regret that Phillip Cary doesnt have something not for 16, but for 50 hours.

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  • Andi Barnett
  • 07-08-2020

Worth listening twice

I immensely enjoyed this lecture series and didn't want it to end. There's so much information and insight that it is worth listening to at least twice. One gains a deeper level of understanding the second time around.

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  • LM C
  • 11-02-2019

Great listen!

I personally loved this audiobook. It will serve as great intro to many figures and their works, allowing you choose specific ones for further study. It would be a great idea to have knowledge of the classical laws of logic, in order to cut through some of the self-refuting works presented that were not pressed nearly as much as they should've been by professor Cary (especially the parts by Kant, Marx & some psychologists). My last criticism would be the in the criticism of the Scholastic arguments for God's existence. As a current student of Metaphysics (and a Convert on the arguments, after an agonizing process) it was a mistake that I wasn't ready nor willing to let slip by. Such as not differentiating between accidentally vs essentially ordered causes. This is a crucial point and the reason why Aristotelians couldn't escape the conclusions, despite their belief in past-eternal (never ending) chain of causes. Perhaps the audiobook was produced in a time when the subject was less talked about, however it is not a new development, nor something even an ardent opponent of proofs for the existence of God, like Dr Arif Ahmed (atheist professor at Cambridge) would deny exists (that is, the difference between accidentally and essentially causes & the logical entailment) which is why he subscribes to brute facts. Overall, great listen & would recommend to everyone I know.

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  • Tobias Engberg
  • 15-07-2018

Very good, indeed

I appreciated so much about these lectures, for example his way of giving justice to viewpoints with wich he disagrees, and his pointing to THE fact that we should believe things to be truee just because ge says them. And ge has a super-impressive breadth of knowledge.

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  • Dcl Bester
  • 01-06-2018

Wonderful lecture series

Simply the best overview that I've heard. Great speaker with great insights. Highly recommended for curious minds.

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  • Joe Brown
  • 01-05-2018

Good insights, but some errors

Useful summaries of Plato etc., but got Gnosticism VERY WRONG INDEED. This part was disappointing.

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