Phil-1051-14 Introduction to Philosophy Fall 2014 Location: smth 115 / mw 2: 20-3: 35 pm

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Learning Objectives
The course’s principal learning objectives are shared by all participants, including the instructor. They include the following:

  1. To better acquaint ourselves with our shared philosophical tradition in the West by honing our ability to be in thoughtful conversation with some of its most challenging and insightful texts

  1. To deepen our understanding of our own lives by examining our assumptions and commitments about what human existence is all about and what matters within it

  1. To better bring out and sharpen our own ideas about what there is, what we can know, what we should do and what we can hope for1

  1. To appreciate how the main themes within Western philosophy have unfolded historically

  1. To recognize, evaluate and critique philosophical arguments and develop our own

Upon successfully completing the course requirements outlined below, students will have developed a richer and more sophisticated understanding of the following key issues:

  • What is philosophy and how can it help us?

  • Are there other minds than our own? Can we prove it?

  • Can we be certain of anything at all, even of our own existence?

  • Could a machine think? What makes anything think that does?

  • Are we free? Does it matter?

  • Does God exist? If so, why is there so much evil in the world?

  • What (exactly) is the difference between right and wrong?

  • What is oppression, how does it work and what can we do about it?

  • What makes something or someone lovable or worth caring about?

  • What is (wait for it…) the Meaning of Life?

Course Format

This course is intended to be more than a series of lectures and written assignments. Completing the assigned reading and actively participating in class discussions are equally important parts of the course and will ensure that we all learn a great deal from the material and one another.

A word on the readings: The readings are many and varied but all demand and reward careful attention. It is in the nature of philosophical writing to be subtle and challenging, so re-reading is an essential strategy for understanding what is being communicated. Be patient and you’ll find that it’s worth the effort!
N.B. Please note that the course Twitter feed on our course website ( will provide important updates and supplemental materials throughout the semester. Be sure that you follow it on Twitter or monitor it often on the Weebly site.

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