A Romp Through the History of Philosophy

Marianne Talbot’s wonderful introduction to Philosophy, from the Presocratics to present times (Wittgenstein), produced by Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education.


This is a very clever introduction to philosophy! Marianne Talbot takes you through each historical period, focusing on one area of philosophy in each historical era. She introduces the Presocratic philosophers by highlighting the Atomists and ontology, the study of beings.

The section on Greek philosophy introduce Plato and Aristotle’s contrasting approaches to an example question, “What is red?.” The question helps us to see the metaphysical difference between a formal answer and a descriptive answer given from experience.

The early modern period covers the debates between the Rationalists (Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza) and the Empiricists (Locke, Berkeley, and Hume), focusing on Hume and the epistemological debate over causation.

In the late modern period, Talbot takes us through debates in ethics and politics between Utilitarianism and Deontology (e.g., Kant). She offers several concrete examples that clearly show the strengths and weaknesses of each position.

In contemporary philosophy, Talbot explains Wittgenstein’s early and late philosophy of language, highlighting the linguistic turn in philosophy and returning to the question of What is red?” from the beginning of the seminar.

Along the way, Talbot asks us to consider questions like what is happiness, whether it is okay to sacrifice 5 healthy adults to save 150 others, our use of language, and whether we can see causation. She is a witty story-teller armed with many concrete examples that really bring philosophy to life. Highly recommended as an introduction to Philosophy!


Video lectures used under the Creative Commons License with attribution; the original lectures can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16TegBGFTn8&t=10s.

Video Content

Course Curriculum

Marianne Talbot’s Introduction 00:03:00
Ancient Philosophy: Ontology and Metaphysics
The Presocratics: Atoms In A Void 00:06:00
Introducing Plato and Aristotle 00:02:00
Plato On Ideas: What Is Red? 00:05:00
Plato’s Theory Of Recollection 00:08:00
Aristotle’s Universals and Particulars 00:05:00
Early Modern Philosophy: Epistemology
Introducing the Rationalism, Empiricism, and the Problem of Causation 00:03:00
What Is Causation, Really? 00:07:00
Hume’s Denial Of Causation 00:02:00
The Rationalists and Our Concept Of Reason 00:05:00
Late Modern Philosophy: Ethics aand Politics
What Is Happiness? Principle Based Ethics (Deontology) and Utilitarianism 00:06:00
Principle Based Ethics: Kant and the Deontologists 00:08:00
Right Action, Moral Law, and Kant’s Categorical Imperative 00:05:00
Intentions Or Consequences 00:05:00
What Is Moral Truth, An Aside 00:04:00
Early 20th Century Philosophy
Early Wittgenstein 00:04:00
Later Wittgenstein 00:04:00
Additional Materials
Addendum: Your Belief About Me, Would It Exist If I Didn’t? 00:08:00

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