The Best of the Great Courses

 

I listened to my first Teaching Company courses, now known as The Great Courses, over 20 years ago. A dear friend suggested that I listen to The Great Ideas of Philosophy by Prof. Daniel N. Robinson. It was magnificent, and I soon had finished ALL of Prof. Robinson’s courses: The Great Ideas of Psychology, Consciousness and Its Implications, Greek Legacy: Classical Origins of the Modern World, and American Ideals: Founding a “Republic of Virtues.” Every course was incredibly illuminating.

In college, I could count the number of Great professors on one hand: my Trig/Statistics/Calculus professor, an American History professor, and the great David Bell, an English professor. Daniel N. Robinson had all the qualities of a great teacher, primarily the ability to present a survey class, like The Great Ideas of Philosophy, which included the Western philosophers from the pre-Socratics into the 20th century, as if he were a full believer of the philosopher on whom he was lecturing.

I have since listened to (and occasionally viewed, but I much prefer listening while driving or walking) dozens more. Here is a list of some of the other professors I find to be great, “great” meaning I will listen to their courses again and again with unfailing pleasure.

Note: Never pay full price. Wait until the courses you want go on sale for 70% less or more.

Robert Greenberg: The most prolific of the Great Courses professors, Prof. Greenberg does Classical Music right. Funny, smart, and compelling, I recommend you start with one or all ten of his Great Masters series, which have a minimum of technical musical language. Great Masters: Mozart–His Life and Music. After those, if you want to get a deeper knowledge of the formal language of Classical Music, try either his survey course How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, or Bach and the High Baroque.

Michael Sugrue: Only one course, but it doesn’t get better than this: Plato, Socrates, and the Dialogues. I steal from him shamelessly. Why? In the words of Stravinsky, when challenged that a portion of one movement of his symphony sounded like it was stolen from Mozart, said, “Of course, I stole from him. He’s great.”

William R. Cook: Prof. Cook, and his occasional compatriot professor Ronald B. Herzman, is fantastic on courses like: St. Augustine’s Confessions, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Francis of Assisi, Lives of the Great Christians, Machiavelli in Context, The Catholic Church: A History, The Worlds Greatest Churches, The Cathedral, and Tocqueville and the American Experiment. No, as it happens, I am not a Catholic.

Thomas L. Pangle: Only one course, but it’s required: The Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Consitution.

Steven L. Goldman: For the best in Science and related topics: Great Scientific Ideas that Changed the World, Science in the 20th Century: A Socio-Intellectual Survey, and Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It. A marvelous trilogy of courses.

There are more, but start with any of these. I’m sure some of you have a few courses you would recommend.

Enjoy!

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There are 36 comments.

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  1. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):

    Top three shelves are all Greenberg.

    Nice lamp!

    Not sure what’s going on with the William Tell bookends.

    • #31
  2. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    Jim Kearney (View Comment):

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):

    Top three shelves are all Greenberg.

    Nice lamp!

    Not sure what’s going on with the William Tell bookends.

    Pretty much the same as my samurai sword bookends.

    • #32
  3. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Another big fan of the great courses here- I would second:

    1)JSB’s courses on wine and spirits-the intro has too much promo about her- not needed    b/c the content is good.

    2) Cook’s courses are all good- particularly the one on The Confessions and the course on The Cathedral.

    I would also recommend:

    1) F X Noble’s courses are very good- he is an excellent old school lecturer- rarely looks at his notes and knows his material backwards and forwards.

    2) all of Kenneth Harl’s courses and he has a bunch- his anecdotes and asides are always amusing.

    3) the engineering courses by Ressler. The Greek and Roman Technology course is a must before visiting Europe.

    4) Matthewes’ courses- Why Evil Exists and The City of God

    there are many more- but as said before always get them on sale.

    • #33
  4. Weeping Inactive
    Weeping
    @Weeping

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Another big fan of the great courses here- I would second:

    <snip>

    2) Cook’s courses are all good- particularly the one on The Confessions and the course on The Cathedral.

    Mr. Weeping and I enjoyed his “The World’s Greatest Churches” course. Might have to check out his “Dante’s Divine Comedy” too.

    • #34
  5. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Weeping (View Comment):

    Or check out their streaming service, Great Courses Plus. I’m not sure all of the courses they have on DVD are available on the digital platform, but a lot of them are there.

    I have enjoyed several courses by Dorsey Armstrong – namely “The Black Death”,

    “The Black Death” was advertised on Amazon’s Fire TV, so I subscribed.  I’m about 4 episodes in.  Pretty good.

    • #35
  6. Weeping Inactive
    Weeping
    @Weeping

    Al Sparks (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):

    Or check out their streaming service, Great Courses Plus. I’m not sure all of the courses they have on DVD are available on the digital platform, but a lot of them are there.

    I have enjoyed several courses by Dorsey Armstrong – namely “The Black Death”,

    “The Black Death” was advertised on Amazon’s Fire TV, so I subscribed. I’m about 4 episodes in. Pretty good.

    • #36
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