Professor Fred E. Baumann looks at what some philosophers have had to say on this subject, mostly in the form of stories about utopias. Five are written by great philosophers and the last by a challenging, nearly contemporary American scholar. All have exerted great influence on the history of thought or have expressed influential currents of thought. Professor Baumann's lectures not only examine these texts, but also address the results of attempting to put these utopias into practice.
©2008 Fred E. Baumann; (P)2008 Recorded Books
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"Provocative and stimulating, albeit conservative"
This is the most engaging and provocative entry in the "Modern Scholar" series. Despite the huge differences that divide my view of politics from Baumann's (I consider myself much more left-leaning), I was challenged by his strong arguments, which are very difficult to refute. He is particularly harsh on Rousseau and Marx, and you can feel a conservative animus driving his critique of Rousseau in particular (his stunning advice about how to read Rousseau at the end of the last lecture about him is much worthier than the critiques that precede it). But it's an animus, not a bias; he's passionate about the material, and communicates his sense of the stakes with piquancy and concision. He gives all the thinkers under consideration their due, without using the occasion as a personal soapbox. He even has some memorable one-liners. And that's everything that one could ask for from a professor.
N.B. You can probably tell from my review that the title of Baumann's course is misleading. This course isn't about the question of human perfectability, let alone about utopian literature. It's about some classic theorists' attempts to eliminate the contingency of politics and the (mostly disastrous) efforts that result.
"Excellent Coverage of an Ever-Relevant Topic"
Whether or not most people are consciously aware, the idea of perfectibility or lack thereof in human life is a moving force in most politics and philosophical study. It also affects most of us in our daily lives.
These lectures are an excellent overview of the history of Utopian philosophies and societies, with the lecturer offering a good survey of the relevant materials, recommendations about further reading, and interesting discussion and conclusions.
The lecturer is extremely conscientious about presenting his own opinions separately from the facts, and he is very careful to point out when his scholarly opinions are less widespread than other scholars' views. This is all as it should be.
Based on the criticism of some reviews, I must conclude the reviewers may lack experience with the structure of actual college courses. Professor Baumann does a superb job presenting a broad overview of the material, which is extremely difficult to do in an introductory survey course. Naturally, he discusses many other relevant materials that the reader may choose to study-- but he does not assume the reader has done or will do so. In addition to an excellent basic introductory course, Professor Baumann presents a certain amount of his own scholarly view; exactly that which is expected and valued in a college course, which this series hopes to replicate.
"A look at some of the most famous utopian works"
I felt a compelling need to read those works after listening to each lecture. If you like dystopian literature you just have to know what utopia is about.
The narrator isn't monotonous at all. Usually listening to lectures like that lulls you to sleep. Mr. Baumann did a marvellous job!
The author gives his opinion on the subject in a rather unobtrusive way.
Perhaps the singing was a bit unexpected :)
I will certainly listen to the lectures again.
"Not at all what I had hoped for"
I was hoping for a study of the various literature of utopian societies: Brave New World, 1984, Shangri-la, etc.
Instead this is a study of philosophers comments and debates on utopia.
It's interesting, but not what I wanted.
"Maybe one day, when I do all his work for him..."
I enjoy hearing the actual Discussion and Information on subjects, not simply hearing what conclusions the lecturer has reached themselves after reading the material 'skipped' actually addressing... The course covers lots of books but, by the lecturer's own admission, the course is not meant to actually tell you What is in the books, but to give you lots of conclusions drawn from material you have not yet covered... in the hopes that once you Have read all of the material, it will Finally somehow become coherent and the conclusions listed will Finally be explained sufficiently for you to Begin to think about them... Basically, I'd appreciate presentation of the MATERIAL itsself and not a discussion of what he thought about the material after he read it... which He Knows you have yet to read...
It's just pointless commentary that can only be either taken as read on some sort of 'faith' in his own 'Expertise' on the material, Or left completely hanging untill such time as you get the material, read it seperately, and then return in future to EACH AND EVERY PASSAGE to Then Apply that MISSING INFORMATION to the contemplation of what the lecturer has drawn from it...
I would rather have a lecturer who's intention is to REPRESENT the materials covered in a comprehensive way that allows for understanding and contemplation Without necisitating somehow Seperately Studying material to only Then return to the lecture to glean Any substance at all.
No. He seems to think it is not his responsibility to actually Teach or Cover subjects but simply to Grace us with a list of his own opinions on topics, he knows full well, we do not, as yet, understand... Moreover, he insists on 'covering' topics and materials that by his own admission are difficult, dense, and posessing of a multitude of opinions to be drawn By 'skipping' the actual material... like it's not his job to 'bother' to teach it...
Teach the class! Don't Tell the class what you think they might think if they ever get someone to teach it to them. That's Your Job!
Frustration. Especially among philosophic and political subjects, giving students the info to judge your own opinions for themselves should be your FIRST priority... Dictating conclusions you just 'expect' your students to come to - especially when you don't even explain enough satisfactorally for them to even completely understand your own basis for the conclusions You draw just seems insulting and kinda completely misses the point of study of these subjects. All philosophy, sociology, and political students are interested in exploring subjects With their Own powers of reasoning and rationalisation. If your class Isn't here to present that material, Why would I bother - if I STILL have to do all the work alone eventually anyway.
I've read lots of the Modern Scholars, this speaker just gets lazy and doesn't really want to do the Real Work of Covering Material... chosing instead to just talk about his own opinions - BUT EVEN THEN without giving sufficient material to understand even Those Conclusions! I'd be better off skipping his jabber and just reading the book list...
two hours into it, that's exactly what I decided to do!
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