Philosophy with a Southern Drawl: Rick Roderick Teaches Derrida, Foucault, Sartre and Others

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 to hear much more of it.

You can find more recent philosophy courses produced by The Great Courses here.

Related content:

170 Free Philosophy Courses

Michel Foucault: Free Lectures on Truth, Discourse & The Self

Walter Kaufmann’s Lectures on Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960)

Derrida: A 2002 Documentary on the Abstract Philosopher and the Everyday Man

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (7)
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  • DC says:

    Rick Roderick is the king. Period. The fact that so few people know his name is probably the greatest tragedy in the last century of philosophy.

  • Jason The Obscure says:

    The American focus on being king in many areas, including unfortunately, The Breeding Ground for the un-examined life results in members of the culture, like Roderick, remaining unknown, as opposed to say, Paris Hilton, Rush Limbaugh, and other social swill.

  • Jim says:

    his lectures bring the subject matter alive. A brilliant speaker and very addictive. Love the youtube videos so much and my life would be a little bit worse without them…

  • Jim says:

    I believe Roderick’s last video in the “Self under siege” on Baudrillard is the best description of post-modernism I have ever heard. Most people confuse post-modernism with deconstruction, Rick does not.

  • michael olson says:

    I stumbled on Rick Roderick while looking for information on Søren Kierkegaard and I listened to Roderick and was fascinated. His critique of post modern life and the authors who wrote about it alive and relevant. Thought the lectures were available on UTube, I wanted a copy of my own and searched the net and found few. When I want to review a modern writer I turn to his lectures to make them relevant. No one should miss the lectures who are interested in Philosophy, modern and postmodern, and the writers who are part of that history.

  • Ted Buila says:

    If any of you are teaching, need (as opposed to looking) a ‘learning break’ in your subject/wake up student-listners, download/put on one of his tapes/vids you won’t disappointed.

  • J Miller says:

    I admire Rick Roderick as one of the most brilliant minds of our time or any time in human history. To think he was to be found in West Texas just shows that gemstones are formed in unlikely and barren looking places.

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