Whitehead presented these three lectures at Princeton University in 1929. Although 85 years have passed, his central thesis and his analysis remain remarkably current. The scientific materialism that Whitehead opposed with such vigor continues to dominate in academic circles, and even now those who question that worldview are often accused of being anti-scientific.
Friedrich Nietzsche opened the door to philosophy in the 20th century. He anticipated depth psychology, championed myth, attacked literalism in religion and the arts, placed humanity in an evolutionary perspective, and launched a critique of scientism that remains potent in the 21st century.
René Descartes is often described as the first modern philosopher, but much of the content of his Meditations on First Philosophy can be found in the medieval period that had already existed for more than a thousand years. Does God exist? If so, what is his nature? Is the human soul immortal? How does it differ from the body? What role do sense experience and pure reason play in knowing?
Berkeley’s Dialogues employ the Socratic mode of inquiry. These dialogues are between Hylas (whose name is derived from the ancient Greek word for matter) and Philonous, whose name means “lover of mind.”
A dialogue between Socrates and Meno probes the subject of ethics. Can goodness be taught? If it can, then we should be able to find teachers capable of instructing others about what is good and bad, right and wrong, or just and unjust. Socrates and Meno are unable to identify teachers of ethics, and we are left wondering how such knowledge could be acquired.