Eastern & Western Philosophy Boxed Set

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What motivations underpin human behavior? How do we define good? Does God exist? Why should we believe that the world really is as we experience it? How can a person live a life of virtue? Eastern Philosophy explores the genesis of spiritual thought and investigates the central doctrines of Confucianism, Shinto, Hinduism, Judaism, and Isalm.. Each program in this series contains new on-location footage, authentic re-creations and reconstructions, as well as commentary and a… More >>

Eastern & Western Philosophy Boxed Set

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  1. As I was watching this, I got the distinct feeling that it must have been an edited-down version of a much longer documentary series. Yes, this is a two-disc set, divided into six parts (3 parts per disc); and it clocks in at about 5 hours overall. So it isn’t exactly short. But I’m certain that there has to be a much longer, and more detailed version somewhere. In many places throughout this series, topics would be introduced as if they were about to be discussed in some detail, only to be dropped suddenly without any further elaboration. And in some places, the narrator makes reference to things that have not previously been mentioned, as if they had already been discussed. So, it left me with the impression that they must have started out with a very long, and highly detailed documentary series, but then cut it down to the bare bones for this DVD set. If this was indeed the case, then I must say that the end result was unsatisfactory. They completely overlooked many important philosophers and schools of philosophy; and the ones they did cover were not covered adequately at all. The disc on Eastern Philosophy wasn’t too bad (though the fact that it completely ignores Taoism is simply inexcusable); but the disc on Western Philosophy was very disappointing. Imagine that you’re channel surfing, and you watch five minutes of one TV show, then change channels and watch ten minutes of another show, change channels again and watch two minutes of a third show, change channels again and watch eight minutes of a fourth show, and so forth. That’s more-or-less what this documentary felt like. You are given just a small sampling of each philosopher or school of philosophy; and not enough of any single one of them to make much sense. I have a strong background in philosophy, and have studied most of the philosophers covered in this video; but even I had trouble following some of this stuff, because it seemed as if they were leaving out important pieces of the puzzle. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this as a way for a beginner to learn philosophy; though it might be suitable as a refresher for someone who has already studied philosophy fairly extensively. As I said, this documentary really seems as if it must have been edited down from a much longer and more detailed version. That longer and more detailed version (if it exists) might actually be quite good, even for beginners. But this version leaves much to be desired.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  2. There is enough meat in these diminutive vignettes to aid the classroom instructor in introducing several major historical philosophers. For this reason I encourage all philosophy instructors to take a serious look at the series. Now for the down side, the sequences are slow and almost boring. Speakers use enough philosophical jargon to make the eyes of armchair thinkers glaze over.

    Just to make it clear:

    For the classroom: Yes

    For the living room : No

    My copy of the DVD on Eastern Philosophy had a glitch in the menu. No matter what buttons I pushed I was taken back to part one. If I had it to do over again I would most certainly purchase the DVD on Westrern Philosophy. I’m not sure I would purchase the entire set. Enough enformation exists on Eastern Philosophy that I could probably find something I would like better.

    Rating: 4 / 5

  3. First of all, as far as I am aware, this is one of the few DVDs available on the subject. This surely makes it a number one asset for teachers of philosophy. Secondly, it is richly produced as well. Though having no dramatization – something that may help students – it presents attractive stuff. Thirdly, it is distributed very efficiently for a teacher to use. In fact, one can choose any philosopher available and show only that; or else a whole period of thought. Next, the product balances – for once – East and West. Having material dealing so brilliantly with Eastern philosophy is marvellous. Finally, I would say that most of the presentation of individual philosophers is very well done. Of course, each one is just a very scant introduction, and one should not expect to have a full treatise about any philosopher. This is understandable. But as an introduction, most of the presentations are very satisfactory. Some, unfortunately, are not that good. For instance, Aquinas’ presentation, for one, is very poor. But few others are so. So, on the whole, this product is highly recommendable indeed.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  4. The discipline of human thought was labeled by the ancient Greeks as “the love of wisdom,” or philosophy. This two-disc set provides an informative, articulate, and intelligent introduction to the basic premises of dozens of philosophers and a half-dozen “religions” in Asia and the Near East. If you, like myself, have spent years at University poring over tomes of vast works in general philosophy then this disc probably contains very little new information. But for undergraduate students who are interested in a concise summary of many of the primary world wide philosophies this is a brilliant and excellent educational resource to becoming acquainted with the greatest thinkers of our time.

    The first disc refers to six Eastern philosophies, perspectives most laymen would refer to as “religions,” Confucianism, Shinto, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. Other than a brief overview of the work of Confucius and one of his disciples, Mencus, the experts on this disc do not spend much time surveying the work of one individual. If you have studied specific canonical texts and are very well acquainted with the central tenets of each belief, then there will be very little new information on this disc for you. In many places due to the time constraints and the obvious extensive breadth of the overall perspectives many of the lectures are composite and do not delve into specific intricate philosophies, particularly the section on Buddhism and Hinduism. However, if you are being introduced to a belief for the first time these half hour discussions receive more than a fair accounting and will set the foundation for ease in future research. I was not familiar with Shinto, but I found the picture created by Dr. Rana Mitter in that segment to be more than adequate to give me a firm grasp of the concepts of Kami and its relevance in Japanese culture.

    The second disc, Western Philosophy, is much more typical of what philosophy students study, particularly the areas of logic, ethics, and metaphysics. Except for the case of Pragmatism, which is condensed into a single lecture on two notable philosophers, William James and Charles Pierce, each philosopher is examined individually and the most basic summary is given for their pioneering contributions. However this disc is anything but simple, with a literate vocabulary and assumption of the viewer understanding the basic systems of philosophy as well as the historical context of the Christian Church and the Industrial Revolution in the lives of our philosophes. Most of the familiar faces are presented, although some receive significantly more attention than others.

    In the first section there is a very brief survey of many Ancient Greek philosophers that primarily lists their idea very quickly before moving to the next thinker. However, if you have studied this time period of philosophy you know most of our artifacts are fragmented so its not like there is a vast amount of primary resources to discuss. Socrates and Plato receive a fair treatment, however the scene is stolen by Aristotle who is given almost more than enough screen time. This is justified however, as his commentators explain for centuries he was considered “The Philosopher.” There is also a brief survey of Medieval Christians Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus, but unlike the previous disc no actual commentary on Christianity as a whole (which would not be appropriate on a philosophy discourse anyway).

    The second section covers Enlightentment thinkers, all the giants of the Rationalist and Empiricist movements. This is what comes to mind for most philosophy students, and I found this to be the most engaging segment of the series. Political philosophy fans will be disappointed as Voltaire, Rosseau, and Thomas Jefferson make no appearances, although Thomas Hobbes and John Locke are present (but mostly their metaphysical views are expressed). I would say these absences are because most of the philosophes were stricly political, but a later character on the next section dispels that idea as his ideas are solely of a political nature. Anyway, all the early “skeptics,” Descartes, Spinoza, Berkeley, David Hume, and the immortal Immanuel Kant are given excellent introductions that surpass any petty “Cliff Notes/Philosophy for Dummies” slacker approach.

    The last disc I found somewhat controversial by some of their choices and exclusions. First it begins with Hegel, which is the obvious jumping point after Kant. However the lesser known Schopenhauer is given a brief segment so short it was difficult to determine his contributions. Then the series skips over a whole generation to Friedrich Nietszche, who recieves scant examination for his concept of “the will to power” and too much time is devoted to redeeming history’s erroneous association of Nietszche with Hitler’s Nazi party. Then, Karl Marx of all people is given a slight overview, though his contributions were economical and for the social scientists. Then, anachronistically, the lecturers revert back to Soren Kierkegaard who is discussed fairly but referred to as the “first existentialist” (I’m sorry, he opened the way but that title has always been Nietzsche’s). After Pragmatism’s five minutes, the complex philosophy of language held by Wittgenstein is introduced, but don’t expect it to make much more sense on this disc than it does in his difficult texts.

    The last philosopher survey is the only one that I was utterly disappointed with in the series, that of Jean-Paul Sartre. The commentator Dr. Kathleen Morris only introduces the extremely general subjects of “Be-ing and No-thing-ness,” and completely disregarding the central topics of “the Gaze” or temporality she gives an inadequate description of “bad faith” in its relation to “no-thing-ness.” I personally was not satisfied because having written my philosophy thesis on “Being and Nothingness” not only did Morris miss the point but also is probably the only person in this entire six hour series who gave anyone incorrect information, specifically regarding Sartre’s socialist leanings in conjunction to “bad faith.” Sartre is the only representative of the entire existentialist movement, there is no mention of Heidegger, Camus, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, or Simone de Beauvoir.

    Overall this disc is a wonderful review guide and the perfect inroductory class instruction for the philosophically naive. However, Western Philosophy is limited mostly to metaphysical philosophies and and the battles with the Christian Church most of these “heretics” endured. I personally feel that if they were not going to investigate existentialism then they should not have included Sartre, who probably is only on the disc for being the giant of existentialism. If you do use this series for teaching philosophy to prospective students, make sure to enforce that these surverys are by no means exhaustive nor do they include the full sweep of the discipline, it is merely a delicious initial taste, the tip of the ice berg. But this was a glimpse of one of the most wonderful expanses of the human mind in existence and reminded me why I devoted my academic years to these curious strangers.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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