Philosophy | Introduction to Philosophy
P100 | 10361 | Schmitt, Fred

This is a course on divine and human nature.  We will devote most of
the course to our first topic, God.  Does God exist and what is
God’s nature?  Are there rational grounds for believing in God?
Would it be permissible to believe in God even if there were no
rational grounds?  We will discuss the relation between God and
morality, and between God and the meaning of life.  We will discuss
the role of reason and faith in religious life.  Our second topic
for the course will be human nature, to which we will devote about a
third of the course. We will focus on the mind-body problem—whether
human beings should be understood as material beings, as immaterial
souls, or as some combination of the two.  The immortality of the
soul is a central issue here.  We will discuss whether machines can
think and whether animals have souls.  If there is any time left
after all this, we may discuss the question of free will and
determinism. This is an introductory course.  It assumes no prior
knowledge of philosophy or anything else.  There will be a lot of
attention to developing reasons for your beliefs and arguments for
philosophical positions.  It is hoped that the skills you acquire in
doing this will help you to think more clearly and rigorously in
other areas of thought and life.  In some ways, philosophy is more
like life than many other things you study in college.  It is a no-
holds-barred free-for-all, in which everything is relevant and
anything can happen.  There is no way to prepare for philosophy
except to live, and philosophy is one of the few studies that has
any chance of preparing you for life. It does so indirectly, by
enabling you to think more clearly and with greater focus on what
matters.  There will be two in-class exams and a final paper, about
five pages in length.


Joel Feinberg and Russ Shafer-Landau, eds., Reason and
Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, 13th
Joel Feinberg, Doing Philosophy, 4th edition