INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

 

This class will provide an introduction to philosophy by focusing on three topics that philosophers often think about: the nature of right and wrong, the existence and nature of God, and the nature of free will.  We will explore what different philosophers have historically said about these topics.  But philosophy is not about memorizing what other people believe.  It's about figuring out what you believe, and why you believe it.  You will be encouraged to think hard about some of the difficult questions that we discuss in each of these sections.  

 

Philosophy is often portrayed as a discipline in which people can engage in dreamy or romantic contemplation of the “big questions”: What is the nature of reality?  Is there a god?  Can we really be free?  There is some truth to that portrayal.  Philosophers are interested in questions that deal with things of a somewhat abstract nature.  But there is some untruth as well.  Philosophers do not engage in whimsical ponderings.  There are standards as to what is good philosophy and what is bad philosophy.  We approach these questions in a rigorous and precise way.  One of the goals of this course is to teach you what the standards of good philosophy are.

 

Course Text:

 

Philosophical Horizons, edited by Steven Cahn

 

Assessment:

 

Regular writing assignments, one mid term examination, and one final examination.

 

Course Schedule:

 

Week 1: Ethical Relativism (Rachels)

 

Week 2: Ethical Egoism (Rachels)

 

Week 3: Utilitarianism (Mill)

 

Week 4: Ethics and Religion (Euthyphro)

 

Week 5: Pascal's Wager (Pascal)

 

Week 6: The teleological and cosmological arguments (Paley, Taylor)

 

Week 7: The ontological argument (Anselm)

 

Week 8: The problem of evil (Mackie)

 

Week 9: The problem of free will and determinism

 

Week 10: Hard determinism (Holbach)

 

Week 11: Indeterminism and soft determinism (Chisholm, Ayer)

 

Week 12: Incompatibilism (van Inwagen)

 

 

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