Centre for Continuing Education

The Fabulous Philosophers of the 19th Century Course

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

Darwin, Marx, Freud, Mill, Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky. What a century! There are so many towering intellects to choose from it is difficult to decide who has had the most impact on the twentieth and twenty first century. Marx utterly transformed political theory and political reality; Darwin’s evolutionary theory has affected almost every area of science and social theory; and Freud’s theory of the unconscious became one of the most powerful subjective realties of self understanding.

We will also cover the beginnings of Existentialism with Kierkegaard’s leap into ‘faith’ as a passionate ‘free choice,’ which no rational understanding could ever justify, and we will end with Dostoyevsky’s analysis of socialism, nihilism and religion in his masterpiece: Crime and Punishment.


Introduction to the Nineteenth Century

The problem to be solved.

Individualism, communism and liberalism

Three Nineteenth Century philosophical approaches, to the challenges of population growth and political uncertainty: Individualism; Communism; Liberalism.

J. S. Mill (1806-1873)

The fall and rise of a reputation: Mill and Modernism. In the last twenty years Mill’s philosophy has grown in importance compared to other theories of social and political life. We will study his psychology, moral science, political economy and his views on women. Text: On Liberty. Mill on Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is one of the most powerful tools for making social and political judgements; the problem is that it appears seductively simple: we need to consider if this theory meets the needs of a complex, global world.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Darwin is not a philosopher but his ideas had profound philosophical implications. One way of seeing the philosophy in the ideas is to study them through the work of philosophers such as G.E. Moore (1903) who is one of the first to understand the impact of evolution on moral philosophy. Text: The Descent of Man.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

We will investigate the nature of ‘faith’ and its relation to ethics. Kierkegaard uses Biblical stories such as Abraham’s sacrifice of his son to give an arena in which to examine ethical responsibility: is it ethical ever to give judgment to another, even if that other is God? Text: Fear and Trembling.

Soren Kierkegaard and Existentialism

Kierkegaard provides an odd beginning to Existentialism in that most subsequent existentialists were atheistic; however the ‘existential angst’ of human existence is central to his ideas, and freedom to choose one’s essence the core of being human.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Don’t give up on Marx just yet!!! In the last few years some notable thinkers have reassessed Max’s ideas for the contemporary world; we will consider some of these new approaches.

Emerson’s Nature and Transcendental poetry

We will consider Emerson on the issue of how humans ‘understand’ nature, and how language functions as a creative entity.

Sigmund Freud (1850-1939)

Even if Freud’s theory of the unconscious is objectively a ‘fiction’ it became one of the most powerful subjective realties of self understanding. Text: Three Essays of the Theory of Sexuality.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment

Intended audience

Anyone with a general interest in philosophy.

Delivery style



Handouts are provided in class


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • All very well organised and the facilities are excellent. The tutor teaches the classes with an expert edge wrapped up with passion and humour.

  • These philosophy courses are always very interesting and mentally stimulating.

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