This course will introduce you to the major topics, problems, and methods of philosophy and surveys the writings of a number of major historical figures in the field. Philosophy can be – and has been – defined in many different ways by many different thinkers. In a scholarly sense, philosophy is the study of the history of human thought. It requires familiarity with great ideas understood through the various major thinkers in world history. In its most general sense, philosophy is simply the investigation of life’s “big questions.” We will explore such fundamental questions in several of the core areas of philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy, ethics, and the philosophy of religion. With the help of commentaries and discussions from a number of contemporary philosophers, we will read and reflect on texts by major Western and non-Western thinkers including Lao Tzu, Buddha, Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Saint Anselm, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Bertrand Russell.
This course aims to not only familiarize you with philosophers and problems but to also improve your ability to think critically about the issues, develop your own ideas about them, and express these ideas clearly and persuasively in writing. Unit 1 introduces philosophy as a discipline and provides a sense of its subject matter and methodology. Unit 2 addresses topics in metaphysics and epistemology – traditionally the “core” areas of philosophy. Units 2, 3, and 4 cover moral, political, and religious philosophy, respectively. Each unit presents selections from a set of philosophers whose works are traditionally compared on the same themes in order to set up contrasting approaches and opinions.
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
- Identify and describe the major areas of philosophical inquiry, explain how those areas differ from and relate to one another, and place the views and arguments of major philosophical figures within those thematic categories;
- Use philosophical terminology correctly and consistently;
- Identify and describe the views of a number of major philosophers and articulate how these views are created in response to general philosophical problems or to the views of other philosophers;
- Explain the broad outlines of the history of philosophy as a framework that can be applied in more advanced courses;
- Identify strengths and weaknesses in the arguments philosophers have put forward for their views and formulate objections and counterarguments of your own invention; and
- Apply critical thinking and reasoning skills in a wide range of career paths and courses of study.
More info: http://www.saylor.org/courses/phil101/