Philosophy | Introduction to Philosophy
P100 | 3168 | O'Connor
In this course, we will tackle several of the 'biggies':
What kind of a thing am I?
(That rug rat that went by my name thirty years ago has just about nothing physically in common with me, so how can that have been me? What if a neuroscientist managed to erase all traces of my memories and basic personality traits and replaced them
with new ones, preserving the life of my body throughout - would THAT still be me? Does it make sense to say that I could survive death?)
Does God exist?
(Is there any way of settling this matter just through rational
reflection? If He does exist, could we figure out anything of what He must
be like quite apart from religious revelation?)
What is the physical world like, in very fundamental and general terms?
(We all recognize that the world isn't exactly as it appears to us. Could
we be SYSTEMATICALLY mistaken about its nature? How could we tell, one way
or the other? If a very strange friend - no doubt a philosopher - asked me
why I assume that my lifelong experiences involve contact with a big world
'outside' myself, instead of merely being one long, complicated dream,
what could I say in response? [Beyond, "get a life."])
No doubt you often lie awake at night sweating over these questions. But
you may not know that philosophers past and present approach these
questions not through random musings, but with rigorous, systematic
methods of reflection. And so shall we. So if you really want to engage in
casual B.S. or tell someone about your grandmother's strange experiences,
tune in to Talk Radio. But if you're up for being pushed to think long and
hard until your brain cries out for mercy, then check this out. You'll
make a start on learning how to think well and express those scintillating
thoughts in clear, persuasive writing. (You didn't really think you'd
achieve those goals by taking a single course, did you?)
We'll read two of the most influential and engaging texts in the history
of philosophy as well as some more recent stuff. There will be several
short quizzes, a couple papers, and an exam.
Rene Descartes, MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHY; George Berekeley, THREE
DIALOGUES BETWEEN HYLAS AND PHILONOUS; Bertrand Russell, THE PROBLEMS OF
PHILOSOPHY; John Perry, A DIALOGUE ON PERSONAL IDENTITY AND IMMORTALITY.