Introduction to Philosophy

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    INTRODUCTION

    Philosophy is a tradition of wondering, doubting, suffering and despairing, speaking and writing, thinking and meditating. A tradition which dates back more than 2500 years, philosophers have continued to wrestle with some of the big questions concerning what it means to be a human being in the world, among other human beings, who go about their day experiencing, praying, acting, speaking and questioning.

    The tradition of philosophy in the European context, traces itself back to Ancient Greece where philosophy as an organized discourse and form of writing begins with Socrates and Plato. But philosophy as a process of seeking wisdom when faced with our everyday problems is not limited to this European tradition. Many geographically defined cultures from the Far East, to South Asia, to the Middle East, have developed distinct and overlapping philosophical traditions. Religious thinkers, philosophers, poets, writers and social/political thinkers have approached many similar problems from different places, at different times, and in different languages, thereby creating unique perspectives on what it means to a be a human being.

    This course aims to provide a historical introduction to philosophy by approaching it as way of life. We will proceed from Socrates and Ancient Greece through to 20th Century France and Michel Foucault. The three main main questions which will guide our journey through European philosophy will be, How is philosophy a way of life? Who is the philosopher? And, what is the purpose of philosophy?

    This course will proceed through close readings of some of the big thinkers across historical traditions. The course is designed to facilitate in seminar dialogue and philosophical discussion. It will help you develop close reading skills, the ability to think and form questions, and to discuss complex ideas. The overall aim of the course is simple: to provoke you to think for yourself and about yourself in relation to the world.

    TARGET AUDIENCE/ CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

    Philosophy is fundamental to being a human being and the liberal arts. This course will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand the history of ideas from a European context. It will also interest anyone who asks questions, or thinks about the big questions, such as: who am I? Or, What is the meaning of life? And, it will be of especial interest to anyone who wishes to broaden their capacities for thinking in any context (be it further humanity studies, or business, entrepreneurship, management, or any of the caring professions and even politics) by learning about different philosophical positions and perspectives.

    TARGET AUDIENCE/ CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

    Upon successful completion of this course you will:

    • have developed a historical understanding of the tradition of philosophy
    • be able to engage and discuss some of the most important philosophical questions
    • have developed the ability to closely read, interpret and analyse philosophical texts
    • have developed skills in understanding and discussing key philosophical problems
    • have begun to develop your own reflective views in a philosophical manner

     

    Course Curriculum

    Introduction
    Philosophy as a way of life
    How to approach philosophy?
    Pierre Hadot
    Socrates
    The Irony of Socrates
    Know thyself!
    The Gadfly and the Midwife or The philosopher as unwanted sage
    The Good life and the Good death
    Plato and Socrates
    Plato, his life and his relation to Socrates
    Diotima’s love
    Eros the god of love
    Desire and Beauty
    The lovers of wisdom
    Happiness and the good life
    Philosophy as a way of life: Part III - The Epicureans and the Stoics
    Who was Epicurus?
    Pleasure, pain and happiness
    The fear of death
    The regulation of desire
    Philosophy as therapy
    The good life in the garden
    The Stoics – Epictetus
    Who were the Stoics?
    Reason or therapy?
    The good life in the world
    The stoic approach to death
    Some points of comparison between Epicurus and the Stoics.
    St. Augustine
    Augustine’s approach to philosophy
    The problem of sin
    Pain, suffering and death
    Happiness, love and the highest good
    Michel de Montaigne
    Skepticism
    Why this preoccupation with death?
    Montaigne’s meditation
    The good death
    Rene Descartes
    Seeking new foundations in an uncertain world
    The meditations as literature
    The method of doubt: the dream and the daimon
    “I think therefore I am”
    Res Cogitans and Res Extensa
    Some questions for Descartes…
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Who was Nietzsche?
    Nietzsche on Socrates
    The inversion of Socrates and death
    What is the power in valuing?
    The mistake of philosophers
    The philosopher of the future
    Michel Foucault
    Returning and reinterpreting the origin of philosophy
    The philosophical maxim: “Know thyself”
    Foucault’s “Care of the self”
    The three conditions of the modern for self-knowledge
    Foucault’s conclusion
    Wrapping up the course, tieing up loose ends.

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