I am always looking for great audiobooks to make the otherwise-annoying commute to work and back a little more edifying. Even more edifying than reading billboards and bumper stickers. To this end a couple of times each month I take a break and grab something off the shelf down in the AV section of the library.
About a month ago, pressed for time, I could not find anything that looked more interesting than the billboards, so I just grabbed the tallest item I could see on top of the shelf. It turned out to be the first in a series of lectures produced by The Teaching Company called Great Minds of The Western Intellectual Tradition.
It’s not really an audiobook, but a collection of lectures from some pretty brilliant professors, covering the big thinkers of the West from Plato up through, at the point where I am at, Emmanual Kant.
There are seven parts to the series, and each part has five or six discs in it. Each disc contains two lectures at 30 minutes each.
So far I have absolutely loved it. When I was in college there were few things I enjoyed as much as realizing that I had chosen a professor who actually knew how to give an interesting, accessible lecture.
The professors chosen for these lectures are about as good as it gets for the most part. This is crucial when dealing with some of the more impenetrable theorems of Hume, Kant, or Vico.
It’s not perfect, but an audio lecture while navigating Salt Lake City’s traffic is also not the ideal setting for profound mental engagement. This is one of the challenges of the series on audio: there are a lot of unfamiliar phrases and ideas that have to be unraveled, but the discs play onward ever onward, despite me not understanding something.
Or I can start daydreaming and realize that I just missed 10 minutes worth of fundamental Aquinas and now I have no idea what I’m listening to. There are booklets that accompany each lecture, but reading while driving is not for me, alas.
One other note: one of the professors has the most extreme lisp I think I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t detract from his lectures, but it does make me smile every time he says “mechanistic certainty” or “mechanistic sciences.”
If this sound intriguing, head over to the library and see if they have some strength training material for your brain.