Ah, 20th-century philosophy: even a great many philosophers of the 20th century wouldn’t touch it. When you want to approach a thorny, complex, contradictory field like this, you especially value a teacher like Rick Roderick (1949-2002). Called “the Bill Hicks of Philosophy” by his fan sites, Roderick recorded a series of lectures for The Teaching Company, in the early nineties. (Though the Great Courses have grown far more slickly produced since then, the intellectual content of their older efforts, like this one, remains solid.) Above, you’ll find “The Masters of Suspicion,” the introductory lecture to “The Self Under Seige,” his video course on 20th-century philosophers. In eight segments (available in a playlist below), Roderick covers the likes of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Jürgen Habermas. Perhaps he can make sense of them for you; if not, he’ll make them into hours of entertainment.
Not having come up steeped in 20th-century philosophy during his own education, Roderick has his own opinions about how these luminaries throw into question all forms of human knowledge and identity. But he does take their ideas seriously, connecting them as he considers them to real issues and then-current events. This reveals that he also has his own opinions, more than willingly given, about — bear in mind, the year was 1993 — Bill Clinton, Jesse Helms, political correctness, Pat Buchanan, Billy Graham, network television, Jerry Falwell, and The Big Chill. “When we do philosophy my way,” Roderick announces in his distinctive West Texas accent, “we just talk about what’s goin’ on and try to find our way about.” If that’s how you like philosophy done, visit rickroderick.org to hear much more of it.
You can find more recent philosophy courses produced by The Great Courses here.