INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
Philosophy is a discipline in the humanities, and as such it is interested in goals rather distinct from those of the natural and social sciences — although philosophy pays close attention to the findings of these other areas of human inquiry.
Philosophy is concerned less with the accumulation of facts, than with the education of the individual. Our primary goal — and the goal of the humanities in general — is to help each individual increase their level of self-understanding. This is not a small matter, and it lies at the heart of any human existence that is worth living.
[I offer a brief discussion of the humanities here.]
So here’s the deal:
After a semester of hard work, deep confusion, and more hard work, you will have:
(1) become acquainted with the nature of Western philosophy and some of its perennial concerns;
(2) further developed your logical and analytic skills for critically evaluating arguments and beliefs;
(3) had the opportunity to reflect on some of the most pressing questions confronting each of us as human beings (once our material needs are met), such as:
Is there an objective difference between right and wrong, and true and false? If there is, can we come to know it?
How might we best get on with each other? Are there better and worse ways for organizing our communal existence?
Can we prove or disprove the existence of God?
What is it to be human?
After this semester, most of you will never again be asked to explain Descartes’s argument against skepticism or Kant’s moral theory, but all of you will be required to live — and this you can do either intelligently or not, either well or not. You can aim to live lives of wonder, filled with beauty, and seeking truth — or not. What shape such a life takes is partially up to you, of course; philosophy is here to offer you some useful shaping tools.
You will be asked in this course to learn and understand various concepts and theories and arguments; but in doing this, you will also be developing your skills in thinking critically and creatively about the world around you, and about the role you see yourself playing in it.
More detailed learning objectives are listed under each day on the schedule.