This subject is designed to prepare students for an engagement with clear critical thinking and discourse by introducing them to some important areas of philosophy. The first main section focuses on epistemology, which deals with various questions about the nature of human knowledge. Our discussion of these questions leads naturally into the second main section: an examination of various competing theories of the nature of truth and objectivity. The third and final main section of the course introduces students to the study of logic, familiarising them with conceptual tools indispensable for the critical analysis of arguments. Throughout the course, the aim is to develop the students’ understanding of these ideas as not being remote and merely technical, but as being implicit in questions and issues at the heart of human self-understanding.
Metaphysics is the philosophical study of ultimate reality. It explores the nature of our world and the arguments which attempt to explain why reality has the features it has. A central strand within Western philosophy has traditionally explored these questions with reference to God and the role God plays in explaining how the world came to exist and why it is as it is. This subject will provide students with a broad grounding in the reponses of philosophers to these questions, with some sustained reference to the work of Aquinas. Particular questions addressed include questions such as: What is it for something to exist? What is it that makes something the same entity over time? Are you something that can exist even if your body is destroyed? What is it for a person to act freely? If determinism were true, would that rule out human freedom?
This subject deals with the evolution of medieval philosophy from late classical antiquity onwards. An important theme will be the complex oppositions between Aristotelian and Platonistic tendencies, and between realistic and nominalistic tendencies, in the philosophical theories of that period, and the influence that such oppositions had on conceptions of the relationship between reason and faith. The thought of such Church Fathers as St. Augustine and Origen will be discussed, in relation to the background Platonistic or Neoplatonistic philosophical tendencies prevalent in late antiquity. Discussion of the context set by the Aristotelian logica vetus or ‘old logic’, within which Boethius and Abelard are major figures, will then lead into an exploration of the high scholasticism that followed the reintroduction into the Latin West of previously unavailable works of Aristotle, and of which St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus and William of Ockham are major figures. The synthesis of faith and natural reason argued for by Aquinas is explored in relation to various less synergistic views of the role of natural reason in relation to faith that were held both earlier (e.g. by St. Augustine) and later (e.g. by William of Ockham) in the Middle Ages. Also discussed will be the influence of certain non- Christian thinkers (such as Avicenna and Averroes) on the reception of Aristotle’s thought in the West, particularly with respect to questions about the relations between bodies, souls, and intellects of persons
This subject deals with the various approaches that have been developed in the effort to come to philosophical grips with the ethical and moral realm – an effort that has always been central to the discipline. A wide variety of approaches will be studied, including theories that fall under the rubrics of ‘natural law ethics’, ‘virtue ethics’, ‘Kantian deontology’, and ‘utilitarianism’. Both normative and meta-ethical issues will be addressed. Figures discussed will include Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Kant, Hume, and Mill, as well as such contemporary or near-contemporary philosophers as Alasdair MacIntyre, Bernard Williams and John Finnis. The subject also addresses meta-ethical questions (in relation to, e.g., Ayer and Geach).
This subject will focus on various threads in the development of philosophy since the 17th century, near the beginning of what we call the Modern Era. By tracing these particular lines of development, we’ll come to see what makes the philosophy of the Modern Era distinctive. One element of this distinctiveness, for example, is a certain sort of emphasis on the human subject or self, and on what is truly knowable by it, as opposed to what might transcend it. Starting with the rationalist Descartes, the father of Modern philosophy, we’ll follow the development of a foundationalist world-picture, predicated on the ‘idea’-idea, through the empiricisms of Locke, Berkeley and Hume. The first half of the course will end with a discussion of the transcendental idealism of Kant and its philosophical legacy.
This subject deals with the philosophical issues that arise in connection with such concepts as state, government, civil society, community, economy, sovereignity, political power, legitimacy, political liberty, legality, right, justice and the like. It traces the response of the Western philosophical tradition to these issues onwards from its beginnings in the work of Plato and Aristotle. The first part of the course will take us from this classical Greek beginning through to the integration of the classical-era ideas into the Christian world-picture in the work of St. Thomas Aquinas. We’ll then explore various distinctively modern-era approaches to the understanding of the political realm, such as the social contract theories of Hobbes and Locke, the utilitarian politics of Mill and Bentham, and the historicisms of Hegel and Marx. In the last third of the course, theories of a more recent vintage will be engaged. These will include the liberalism of Rawls, and the critiques of liberalism offered in critical and postmodern philosophies, such as those of the Frankfurt School, Michel Foucault, Jean-Francois Lyotard, William Connolly, Eric Voegelin and Radical Orthodoxy.
This subject deals with the nature and consequences of the so-called ‘linguistic turn’ of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, via which philosophy moved, roughly speaking, from an emphasis on the mind to an emphasis on language. Key concepts and distinctions to be addressed may include: the analytic/synthetic distinction, logical atomism, verificationism, language games, meaning holism, performativity, intensionality, descriptivism, the New Theory of Reference, and the pragmatics/semantics distinction. Philosophers discussed may include: Frege, Russell, and early Wittgenstein; Carnap, Ayer, and the Vienna Circle; late Wittgenstein, Quine; Austin and other speech act theorists; Kripke, Putnam and other proponents of the New Theory of Reference.
This subject is intended to develop in the student an understanding of certain key concepts and distinctions in (a) twentieth-century analytic philosophy of science and (b) philosophy of mind, which may include: the problem of induction, Goodman’s new riddle of induction, the hypothetico-deductive model of confirmation, the deductive-nomological model of explanation, the theory/observation distinction, logical empiricism, falsificationism, theory-ladenness, the Quine-Duhem hypothesis, scientific paradigms and normal vs. revolutionary science, the mind-body problem, behaviourism, central-state materialism, functionalism, realizer vs. role, supervenience, naturalization, qualia and the hard problem of consciousness. Philosophers discussed may include: Hempel, Goodman, Popper, Quine, Kuhn, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Smart, Armstrong, Putnam, Lewis, Dennett, Davidson, Kim, and Chalmers.
Completion of eight Philosophy units constitutes a major.