History of Philosophy

This course was adapted from a series of lectures on the history of Western philosophy given by Dr. Leonard Peikoff to fans of Ayn Rand in the early 1970s. Dr. Peikoff holds that a knowledge of the history of philosophy is “a precondition to understanding, and therefore to changing, the nature and present course of the civilization.” The purpose of the course, therefore, is to present and analyze the central philosophical arguments and developments from Greece to the Enlightenment in order to show the steps by which the ideas and trends of today have come to be accepted, as well as the context in which they must be understood and, if necessary, corrected. The course provides an excellent introduction to the subject of philosophy as well as a demonstration of the power of ideas to shape the intellectual climate of a culture. The course is intended for a general audience and presupposes no prior knowledge of philosophy.

Note: Since the lectures from which this course was adapted were originally given by Dr. Peikoff in the 1970s, a few of Dr. Peikoff’s cultural references may be obscure to those unfamiliar with the cultural atmosphere of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This will not, however, hinder one’s understanding or appreciation of the course content.

Course Introduction and Lectures 1 & 2 of History of Philosophy are now available; additional lectures coming this summer!

In this lecture, Dr. Peikoff introduces the subject of philosophy and explains the importance of studying philosophy’s history.

200 - Intermediate 30 minutes


History of Philosophy Lecture 1   Leonard Peikoff

In this lecture, Dr. Peikoff discusses the birth of Western philosophy in ancient Greece and the ideas and approaches taken by its first major thinkers: Thales, Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the Pythagoreans.

200 - Intermediate 110 minutes


History of Philosophy Lecture 2   Leonard Peikoff

In this lecture, Dr. Peikoff discusses the final schools of Presocratic philosophy before turning to the skepticism of the Sophists and then to Socrates, a man whose ideas and approach to philosophy served as an inspiration for all later schools ...

200 - Intermediate 90 minutes


History of Philosophy Lecture 3   Leonard Peikoff

In this lecture, Dr. Peikoff explains Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology, including his influential theory of Forms, his case for innate knowledge, and his famous myth of the Cave.

200 - Intermediate 90 minutes