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Darren Staloff

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Title: The Search for a Meaningful Past: Philosophies, Theories, and Interpretations
Lecturer: Darren Staloff
Producer:
The Teaching Company
Duration: 16 x 45 minutes
Media: Audio only

This series of lectures aim towards explaining various philosophies, theories and interpretations of human history. Each lecture covers a specific theory or school of thought, with the exception of the first and last few lectures, which are more general in their nature.

These general lectures are very interesting and sheds light on known problems or thoughts in a fantastic way. Professor Staloff has carefully chosen what to say in these lectures and my expectations after finishing the first couple of lectures were extremely high.

However, alas, this impression does not last, because I think that the middle section of this series is uneven; some lectures are really good, but some are so oblique I do not think I would be able to retell even the most basic concept covered in them. This is a serious problem with this series, because often the subject matter is described in a much too complicated way without a pedagogical framework.

Let me take the lecture on Hegel as an example. I am sure that it is very difficult to explain Hegel’s philosophy in 45 minutes, so I do not expect wonders. What I do expect is clarity of structure, which is sometimes lacking (concise summaries of key concepts are often lacking, for instance), and even though I listened to this particular lecture twice, I still had problems keeping track of what the lecturer was talking about.

Enough of negative comments now, because in general, this series is excellent and professor Staloff summarises a vast field in a fairly limited time, and he does it well. I found some lectures extremely interesting (especially one towards the end on naturalism and William McNeill). By way of recommendations, I can only recommend this to people who are seriously interested in either history or philosophy, but preferably both (I am, so therefore I liked it). It should also be noted that it is by far the most difficult series from the Teaching Company that I have yet reviewed.

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