• This course is offered in Term 1 (Feb-Apr) 2023 as an in-person course at the EarthDiverse Centre in Hamilton, New Zealand, live-streamed via Zoom if you live elsewhere, and as video recordings of the live sessions if you cannot attend the regularly scheduled class.

Date & Time:

  • This course meets on Wednesdays from 11:00am-1:00pm beginning on 15 February 2023 (New Zealand time). The course meets for 8 consecutive weekly sessions. The final session will be held on Wednesday 5 April 2023.

  • If you live outside of New Zealand and wish to Zoom in to our live class sessions, check the nearest local Time Zone equivalent below:

Time Zone equivalents:

for live-streaming Zoom Sessions from New Zealand. If your Time Zone doesn't suit our live-streamed class, you can also access our courses by watching the live-recorded sessions that are posted to the course webpage each week, usually the next day.

  • Honolulu, Hawai’i: begins Tue 14 Feb 2023, 12:00-2:00pm

  • US Pacific: begins Tue 14 Feb 2023, 2:00-4:00pm

  • US Central: begins Tue 14 Feb 2023, 4:00-6:00pm

  • US Eastern: begins Tue 14 Feb 2023, 5:00-7:00pm

  • London, UK: begins Tue 14 Feb 2023, 10:00pm-12:00am

  • New Delhi, India: begins Wed 15 Feb 2023, 3:30-5:30am

  • Bangkok, Thailand: begins Wed 15 Feb 2023, 5:00-7:00am

  • Singapore: begins Wed 15 Feb 2023, 6:00-8:00am

  • Tokyo, Japan: begins Wed 15 Feb 2023, 7:00-9:00am

  • Sydney, Australia: begins Wed 15 Feb 2023, 9:00-11:00am


  • WHAT TO THINK, WHO TO BELIEVE? A History of thought and philosophy down the centuries.

  • In the postmodern age there is a veritable plethora of ideas, beliefs, opinions, dogmas, dramas and viewpoints all scrambling for our attention and allegiance. It’s a jungle out there – the good, the bad and the ugly. How to sift the dregs from the dry-cleaning, separate the crud from credible assertion, disconnect truth from the drivel and trash? What helps is the ability to step back and obtain an overview of ideas that have entertained humanity down the ages in order to obtain a certain perspective on matters. This series of 8 consecutive weekly lectures will do just that. From Plato to Popper, from Socrates to Peter Singer, this sequence will span the whole history of Western thought from ancient times up to the present in order to help throw light on our present confusions and conundrums.

Week 1: The Greeks

This is where it all began. Deep thought. These thinkers confronted many of the same puzzles, posers and challenges we today endeavour to solve. Their input set the ground work which has helped sharpen the debate on moral, political and spiritual issues we currently still grapple with.

Plato and Aristotle

Week 2: The Romans

They were not all plumbers and imperialists. Some were smart thinkers, among them philosophers who built on thought that had proceeded them; practical sages, from slaves to emperors. Many today still follow their advice and find comfort in their teachings.

Marcus Aurelius

Week 3: The Christians

Faith and reason arm wrestled during the medieval period as another layer was added to the foundations of our civilization. This has left a legacy that we are still having to come to terms with as we try to make sense of life, the stars and an inflationary universe out there.

St Thomas Aquinas

Week 4: The Renaissance

This was a major turning point in our history. It is where we looked back and forward with new found confidence and self-belief – the age of Michelangelo, Columbus, Galileo, Shakespeare, Descartes, Luther and others. It marked the early beginnings of the modern world and the initiation of modern thought.

Rene Descartes

Week 5: The Enlightenment

The Eighteenth century was a time where many of our contemporary ideas found root; liberty, equality, emancipation from superstition. It set the stage for our thinking and conduct for the next two centuries, where the “smile of reason” prevailed.


Week 6: The Victorians and Others

A lot of hard thinking went on during this period to do with political, social and religious issues. God was pronounced dead but Marx was alive and well. Some of this was prompted by scientific discovery, others by technological change impacting on society. We are still dealing today with the backwash from that disruptive yet innovative period.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Week 7: The Twentieth Century, First Half

Philosophers had a good deal to think about during a time that witnessed two world wars, the Holocaust and the reality of the atom bomb in a context that saw society grow more secular. It was an unsettling half century in which the very meaning of life became an issue for thinking men and women

Jean-Paul Sartre

Week 8: The Postmoderns

Postmodern thinkers pulled the rug out from under the feet of conventional thought, questioning the very foundation of ideas built up over hundreds of years. Modernist assumptions were challenged which directly fed into social issues like feminism, gender and planetary concerns. It was a heady time and our heads are still spinning from the shuddering impact.

Julia Kristeva

Meet our Instructor:

History, Literature & Philosophy Instructor Peter Dornauf, MA Dip Tchg

Peter Dornauf has taught in secondary schools, Wintec and Waikato University collectively for over 25 years. He is a well know Waikato artist, art critic and a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. His book “Days of Our Deaths” serves as the basis for one of Peter’s other popular EarthDiverse courses, “A Cultural History of Death.” Peter also teaches our “The Spiritual in Modern Art” course and continues to develop additional EarthDiverse courses for future Terms.


This class is a hybrid class with both in-person sessions in our classrooms or streamed live to anywhere (with an internet connection!) via Zoom.

All in-person classes are held at the EarthDiverse Centre located at 401 Anglesea Street, Hamilton Central, Hamilton (located just north of the Hamilton Central Bus Station) (entrance is located on the left side of the building, see map). Those looking for parking for our evening classes can park just in front of the building in any of the available car parks. Daytime parking can be found in our dedicated car parks, or free 2-hour on-street daytime parking can be found just in front on Anglesea Street.

Distance Learning:

This course has distance-learning options for those unable to attend the live class sessions in Hamilton, New Zealand. Students have three options for attending our courses once they have registered:

  • Attend in-person classes in our Hamilton classrooms at the regularly scheduled day and time.

  • Attend our live on-line classroom sessions via Zoom at the regular scheduled day and time.

  • Watch the live-recorded class sessions at your leisure, at a time, day and place more suited to your schedule.

Distance-Learning options:

  • In addition to our in-person classes in Hamilton, our courses offer distance learning options for those unable to attend classes in-person. Live-streamed Hamilton classes are available via free Zoom software for those living outside the Waikato. Live-streaming allows you to participate fully in your own learning, ask questions of the instructor and participate fully in the same way as if you were in the physical classroom.

  • Those unable to attend the scheduled date and time of the actual class sessions, or those who need to miss a class or two due to previous engagements or unexpected illness, can watch any or all of the live-recorded video sessions on their computers, laptops, tablets or mobile devices and study at their own pace and in their own time.

  • Detailed instructions on how to access our distance learning components will be sent after completing your registration. There are no additional fees for this service. However, distance learners will need access to a desktop or laptop computer with a good quality web-camera (tablet devices and mobile phones can also access our live-streamed classes), a built-in microphone (most modern laptops have built-in microphones) or a headset with a microphone. You will also need to download and install the free Zoom software on your computer or device. Those accessing the video recordings will be able to do so with a simple web browser on any device.

Pricing options:

All prices in New Zealand dollars. Unwaged includes students, seniors and retirees.

Course curriculum

    1. EarthDiverse Course Information

    2. EarthDiverse Zoom instructions

    1. The Greeks

    2. 20230215 T1.1 PHL105 History of Western Philosophy video

    3. 20230215 T1.1 PHL105 PDF

    1. The Romans

    2. 20230222 T1.2 PHL105 PDF

    3. 20230222 T1.2 PHL105 video

    1. The Christians

    2. 20230301 T1.3 PHL 105 PDF

    3. 20230301 T1.3 PHL105 video

    1. The Renaissance

    2. 20230308 T1.4 PHL 105 PDF

    3. 20230308 T1.4 PHL105 video

    1. The Enlightenment

    2. 20230315 T1.5 PHL105 PDF

    3. 20230315 T1.5 PHL105 video

Additional course info:

  • Videos and PDF content of class presentations or whiteboard notes are uploaded weekly after each live sessionupl
  • Begins on Wed 15 Feb 2023
  • NZ time: Wednesdays 11:00am - 1:00pm


  • Those who cannot make the class meeting day and time via live Zoom sessions may consider accessing this course through the weekly recorded video sessions. Class videos are posted to the course web page usually within 1-2 days of each live class session and are available for your own personal learning on a day and time of your choosing.


  • The course fee includes all teaching materials.

  • You will require a pen or pencil and a notebook for taking notes. Any notes that your instructor writes on the class whiteboard will also be posted as a digital PDF file on the course web page so that you can print these out at home and add them to your own notebook.


  • There are no prerequisites for this course.