Units of Study
Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry
In this part of the course, attention will be given to the purposes and benefits of studying philosophy. Students will be introduced to various types of philosophical questions and problems and to some of the areas of philosophy that deal with these questions – for example, epistemology (theory of knowledge), ethics (foundations of morality), metaphysics (theories of the nature of existence), and logic (principles of reasoning).
In working on some specific philosophical problems, learners will also become acquainted with some of the main methods of philosophical inquiry, such as Socratic dialogue or method, inquiry through the use of myth or anecdote, and textual analysis. Students should learn some techniques of argumentation in this introductory unit.
Logic and Scientific Philosophy
In this unit the student will be introduced to the art of formal reasoning and discusses the principles involved in the philosophy of science. It examines what logic is, explains the history of logic, and introduces the form of logical arguments and some of the terms and methods used by logicians. Learners will learn the form of logical arguments the differences between deductive and inductive reasoning; analyze syllogisms, formal and informal fallacies, and assess the worth of arguments. In addition, this unit will give an overview of the philosophy of science and explore differences between science and the philosophy of science. We will examine the effect of the ideas of theorists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and Thomas Kuhn and to explore the challenges to various scientific views of the world.
Learners will be introduced to the fundamental questions of metaphysics and will discuss many of the answers that metaphysicians have developed. The history of metaphysics will be examined with focus on two metaphysical issues: reality and appearance; and the self. The students will also look at the issues of personhood, as well as the relationship between minds, machines, and animals. Finally, they will focus on the quest for meaning by discussing theories of a supreme being, determinism and freedom, and various approaches to the idea that life has meaning.
This unit introduces the fundamental questions of epistemology and discusses many of the answers that epistemologists have developed. It discusses the history of epistemology, and then focuses on knowledge and knowing. It introduces rationalism and empiricism, discusses various conditions for knowing, and examines various kinds of knowledge. It will also introduce theories that try to bridge the gap between rationalism and empiricism and will summarize contemporary thinking about knowledge. Finally it will examine the links between truth and knowledge and investigates some of the difficulties of defining truth.
This unit introduces some of the fundamental questions of ethics, the history of ethics, and the ethical theories that philosophers have developed to respond to them. Learners will explore how philosophers from various world traditions have attempted to answer the questions. Finally, they will examine several current ethical issues and discusses how ethical theories can be applied to them.
This unit introduces the history of and some of the fundamental questions of aesthetics and the theories that philosophers have developed to respond to them. It will focus on the challenges involved in defining art and explaining its value. Students will examine western aesthetic traditions and summarizes various categories, theories, and types of art. Finally it will examine western and non-western concepts of beauty and how these concepts influence definitions of art. It also explores some of the questions raised by aestheticians, such as, How are aesthetics, art, and beauty related? and Should art have social value?
Social and Political Philosophy
This unit introduces the history of and some of the fundamental questions of social and political philosophy and explores the theories that philosophers have developed to respond to them. It will explore philosophers’ arguments justifying the existence of political states and summarizes various approaches to the relationship between individuals and the state. It will focus on the theoretical underpinnings of western and eastern social and political thought. We will discuss issues, such as the social contract and the conflict between liberalism and Marxism that have dominated social and political debate at various times. Finally we will study concepts of law and justice and explores how these notions affect individual people.