Crash Course: Philosophy

BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
As an enormous fan of Crash Course, I would be loathe to see it end any time soon. As such, I want to offer yet another option for a future CC endeavour: philosophy. 

I think this would be a great subject to tackle since, like history, philosophy has a kind of timeline that can be used as basis for planning out the various episodes. So, for western philosophy for instance, it could start with Thales and progress through Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, neo-Platonism, Thomas Aquinas, scholasticism, scepticism, empiricism, humanism, existentialism, postcolonial theory, etc. The same could be done for eastern philosophy as well, with plenty of overlap I am sure, although I am far less familiar with the exactitudes of that subject. 

Moreover, I think philosophy would be a good subject for Crash Course because it isn't just about facts and dates; rather, it will provide viewers with a wider understanding of how certain ways of thinking developed and the ability to think more critically about their own surroundings.


  • shaunaaaahshaunaaaah Posts: 113 ✭✭
    I'm a philosophy major in university so I'm wholly in support of Philosophy as a Crash Course subject, but it's a huge subject it literally covers everything (or more than that, or nothing depending on your metaphysics) there's have to be either lots of more specific series or one that's like 600 episodes.
    Firstly think of the comments when covering ethics, which is probably the most fun area of philosophy, it's much easier to get people into conversations about ethics than say identity theory, I've successively tricked people into talking about it but they can't know on the outset.
    Also it would be very hard to teach in 13 minute bits, History is pretty cut and dry, there's some interpretation there but the most interesting philosophy is so open and debatable and by definition there isn't a simple answer.

    So as awesome as it would be, especially as an amazing chance to change people's mind about what philosophy is, I really doubt it'll happen.
  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    I completely understand where you are coming from, especially as a specialist in philosophy. Having personally studied history (in one form or another) at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level, when I saw John was going to try tackling ALL history in 42 episodes I was pretty sceptical. But, as we know, it turned out great. 

    The thing is that not every little detail needs to be discussed. So, using the history course as an example again, John could have probably done an entire series on World War 2 had he included all the details about battles, political factors, economics, etc. but he instead chose to focus on the context of the war, how it happened, and why it is still relevant. In doing so, he was able to essentially sum up WW2 in 13 minutes - a behemoth task in any case. 

    This is what I think could be done with philosophy; we don't need to know all the subtleties of existentialism or nihilism, for instance, but rather how they developed and why they are relevant historically and in the present. It may be a difficult task, but who says these things are supposed to be easy? Where's the fun in that?  :)
  • shaunaaaahshaunaaaah Posts: 113 ✭✭
    True, the entire scope doesn't need to be there, but often the details are where whole theories crumble. Like Utilitarianism sounds great until you find out it's maximizing aggregate happiness at all times, is blind to distribution and requires lying often, among worse things,
    I think the main difference between History and Philosophy which made History possible is that History is done, it's been decided sure it still has implications and effects which are interesting and all but Philosophy is very much so not decided and may never be. 

    He might do something like focus on concepts that have good thought experiments connected, like the Chinese Room and What Mary Knew. They make complicated subjects like AI much more easy to grasp, and lend themselves to video.
    I'd still love to see a Crash Course Philosophy series, I'm just skeptical how well it could be covered.
  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    I am going to use your example of Utilitarianism for a minute, and let's imagine a possible episode that would cover it. Granted, I am not an expert on the subject by any means, but this is how I think it could work:

    1. What is Utilitarianism? J. Bentham & J.S. Mill; the development of classical Utilitarianism
    2. Key problems with the theory: ignores justice, aggregate utility, maybe another? These seem to be the big two, but like I said, I am no expert.
    3. Historical impact 

    This seems like a very reasonable outline for an episode to me. It don't think it would take very long to explain, for example, why ignoring justice would be good within the confines of Utilitarianism but bad societally and morally. 

    Moreover, the fact that some of these topics are not very clear-cut and decided is, I think, a really interesting aspect and one that could encourage healthy discussion of the material.

    And, just as a postscript, history isn't as decided as most people think it is - although it is often presented as such. ;)
  • ScioletSciolet Posts: 32
    I'm by no means an expert in philosophy, but I too would love to see this happen. Also, unsure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but Crash Course: Physics would make me really, really happy [-O<
  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    @Sciolet People have been taking about a physics course a bit over HERE
  • ScioletSciolet Posts: 32
    @Belisarius: Thanks for redirecting me (also: awesome picture. You could write anything and I'd respect it)
  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    Haha well thank you @Sciolet. Nothing like a blind, disgraced general to inspire respect!
  • DunyaDunya Posts: 63
    i'm taking VCE Philosophy next year in year 11 and this would help me so much. I've bought and read a few books and done some research on prominent philosophers, but with so many different ideas (not to mention many so hard to grasp) it does get rather confusing. and John would make the best out of it as always (:
    Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta:
    the tip  of  the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap,
    at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    Well if a CC: Philosophy course can help make things less confusing for you and others like you @Dunya - not to mention help make learning more fun and interesting! - then I really think it is worthwhile.

    Are there any specific suggestions of things you think might be useful/work well?
  • I would love a CC: Philosophy course. It's a great idea. I would love to see this become a thing.
  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    @RachelRaccoon Can I just say how appreciative I am that your very first post is in support of idea? I am really glad to hear people think this would be a good idea - so spread the word around! 

    And if anyone has any ideas or suggestions, please post them!
  • DunyaDunya Posts: 63
    @Belisarius i think straight off the bat John's persona will make learning ANYTHING absolutely worthwhile (: I think there should be the evolution of philosophy, different sides to each idea, how the idea was brought up, disputes Philosophers have had. I think bringing different philosophers together would be a grand idea. the strengths and weaknesses of each idea. how much power philosophy have over people in modern society and which and how modern people use philosophy in their artforms 
    Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta:
    the tip  of  the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap,
    at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
  • @Belisarius Ha, thanks! It's a great idea, and as @Dunya said, he has a great personality that would make learning philosophy so much more enjoyable. It's a very broad and heavy topic, and I think CC could handle it really well. I've tried watching Philosophy courses on iTunes U, and the majority of them are pretty boring (with the exception of the Yale course on Death and the famous Harvard course on Justice, which I completely recommend). So I'd be really interested to see CC's take on it.
  • LexiD523LexiD523 Posts: 3
    As someone with a Philosophy degree, I'm always for anything that gets people thinking about such things!  But if he doesn't, might I recommend Action Philosophers!?
  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    @Dunya I can't agree more that, handled poorly, some (slash, most) philosophical topics can be difficult to convey in an engaging manner, and that John's (or @Hank's, for that matter) personality would help a great deal in making philosophy actually interesting. The two brothers are definitely one of the biggest strengths of the Crash Course series!

    @RachelRaccoon I've watched a ton of the Yale courses (the one on the American Revolution is still one of the best courses I've experienced, whether in the classroom or otherwise), but I haven't gotten around to watching the one on Death yet. It will have to be the next on my list! And do you have a link to the Harvard course on justice? 

    @LexiD523 Anything with Plato as a wrestling superstar automatically deserves to be read! 
  • @Belisarius Yep, you can watch it online here- 

    I wouldn't recommend watching it before you go to bed, cuz I did that, and it kept me up all night- I couldn't stop turning it over in my head. Learn from my mistakes xD
  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    Thanks @RachelRaccoon! I actually tend to deliberately watch courses like these just as I am going to bed since I can turn my display off/down and just listen as I drift off - and then re-watch anything I sleep through the next day. 
  • @RachelRaccoon those Harvard courses were my introduction to philosophy, and they made me fall in love with it. Have you read the book by the same guy, i can't remember the name(not helpful,i know), but i really recommend that book as well :)

  • @Th3_Blu3st_Blu3_3v3r No, I haven't read the book yet. It's called "Justice: What's the Right Thing To Do?" or something, right? Maybe I'll check the library.
  • @rachelraccoon yes, that's the book! 

  • BelisariusBelisarius Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    Well, regardless of whether CC: Philosophy is in the cards for the future, I am glad this thread has gotten people talking about philosophy at least! 
  • tortor Posts: 15
    As a Philosophy undergrad I would also really love to see John cover Philosophy - he's touched on it in Vlogbrothers videos and he did double major in English and Religious Studies. I really like @Dunya's syllabus. :)

    For what it's worth, I like Three Minute Philosophy on YouTube. It's not exactly the same idea, but it's a fun way to summarise philosophers themselves. The guy who made them seemed to stop early last year, though. 
  • Philosophy sounds really good, I'm iffy on westren philosophy and all I know of eastren philosophy comes from that book "The Tao of Pooh" and "The Te of Piglet" by Benjaman Hoff .  If we did a historcial take on the subject it might be fun to make a comprasion between the two sides. I often wonder if philosophers thought process was defined by their enviroment, and what impact their ideas had on society. 

  • IronNavIronNav Posts: 1
    Yup.  I'd love a Crash Course: Philosophy.
  • JorickJorick Posts: 56 ✭✭
    Wonderful idea!

    @tor Cool channel :)
  • DumbledorkDumbledork Fresno, CAPosts: 16
    Although I majored in Chemistry, I loved Philosophy enough to minor in it. I would love to see this come up for Crash Course. I think it might be helpful to start with the pre-Socratics. Feminist philosophy would also be interesting to see.
  • tiagotheweirdotiagotheweirdo Lisbon, PortugalPosts: 75
    I live in a country where all students must have 2 full years of philosophy in high school and if my teachers can teach Rawls and Kant to a bunch of 16 year-olds, John Green would do it easily. 
    Also if this were to actually happen I think it should be divided into topics and then develop authors or thesis from there. For example, say theme 1 would be Free will and determinism or Philosophy of action (lousy translation). In this theme you would try to understand what determinism is and all the theories associated with this subject (Radical determinism, compatibility, libertarianism , indeternism and so on). This way knowledge would be associated with problems the normal person can relate to instead of a area of study we never heard of (ontology, I'm looking at you).
  • DoctorNekoDoctorNeko Posts: 17 ✭✭
    Well as a future Philosophy teacher I would be really happy if there was a CC Philosophy.
    There are of course different ways to tackle Philosophy and I really like Kant's approach of dividing everything into these four questions:
    1. What can I know? – Epistemology
    2. What should I do? – Ethics
    3. What may I hope? – Religion
    4. What is Man? – Anthropology
    A lot of schoolbooks and curricula in Germany follow this outline. These four questions are further divided into other topics, like theories of justice. 
     For me the most fascinating part of Philosophy is that, in contrast to something like Physics, there is no outdated part. There is no theory which can not be relevant for today and which is not discussed anymore. Aristotle is still relevant today in ethics as well as Kant and Mill are. We still read and talk about Descartes, even though there are some major problems in his mind-body theory. So for CC  you can pick the most interesting and influential theories from different time periods for each of these questions.

    I would probably not recommend following the history of Philosophy as the theories and ideas of most philosophers are most interesting and understandable juxtaposed to other theories, which sometimes came hundreds of years later. 
    Also I am unsure about the approach of teaching one philosopher each episode as a lot of them do not only have one theory about a certain subject but a really broad philosophy which is meant to explain the whole world. Just take Kant for an example. There is nearly no problem or question that he not try to tackle or which his texts can not be applied to, which is why it has become a running gag for us future teachers in didactic courses to reply to the question "Who else said something about this topic?" to reply with "Kant!", because it is always true :)
  • HastingsHastings Posts: 24
    I would deeply love to see a Crash Course Philosophy produced! I'm a political science major, but I took an Introduction to Philosophy course last fall which I learned quite a bit from and thoroughly enjoyed. The course definitely further whetted my appetite for philosophy, and it gave me a good foundation to start from (I've always had an interest in philosophy, it's just that prior to taking that course I had no clue where to start from).

    Here's to hoping that a Crash Course Philosophy is one day produced!
    "Then we have found, as it seems, that the many beliefs of the many about what's fair and about the other things roll around somewhere between not-being and being purely and simply." -Plato: Republic

    Semper discens sum, de vita, de mundo, de omnibus, vivo et vivens amo!
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