Course outline / Historical

I. Introduction: What is philosophy and the 'philosophic life'?

traditional divisions of philosophy
timeline of philosophers (click here).
Plato: Apology

II. Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion

Plato: Phaedo (the immortality of 'the soul' )
Aquinas, the five ways
Anselm, the ontological argument
Paley; the argument from design
Hume, miracles, problem of evil

III. Ethics

natural law and deontological theories
Mill's 'proof' of utilitarianism
arguments on what is 'natural,' 'equal,' 'good,' 'just' (from the Euthyphro and Republic)

IV. Contemporary Ethics

Westermarck on relativism,  James Gould on pornography; Primoratz on the morality of prostitution;
ethics, moral subjectivism and egoism

V. Epistemology

Descartes: the origin of knowledge in reason and argument
Hume: the origin of our knowledge in experience (e.g., on our knowledge of causality)
Plato's allegory of the cave; on method in social science)

VI. General questions in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics
Cause and effect, the relation of the mind and the body; free will

The texts we shall use are: Students should also have a good dictionary available.

Students might consult web pages on:

Philosophy Pages (from Garth Kemerling):

Method of the course and the role of the student:

The class will have a `lecture and discussion' format. The professor will introduce a topic with a summary of the relevant arguments or a commentary on a text. This will be followed by questions and discussion of the material by the class as a whole (e.g., points of clarification or criticism and of comparison; comments on the relations between or among different issues).

Students are expected to have prepared the readings before class, to attend all of the classes and to participate in discussion. Students who have more than 5 unjustified absences in a term will be subject to sanctions.

It is essential in learning how to do philosophy that students be prepared to ask and answer questions in class.


Attendance, class notes, and (surprise) quizes (20%); Christmas examination (20%); 2 written assignments (test in mid October - 10% and a short essay in early March - 15%);  Final examination (35%)