Philosophy | Introduction to Philosophy
P100 | 28743 | Ludwig, Kirk


We will investigate a number of traditional philosophical problems
that arise in trying to understand our place in the natural world
and our relations to each other. The problems we will survey all
raise challenges for our naïve self-image, and reveal complexities
behind the everyday, in complete ignorance of which most people are
content to live and die.  We will begin with questions about how
much of what we ordinarily take ourselves to know, about the world
around us, about the future, and about others, we really do know.
This will lead us into the investigation of the nature of the mind-
world relation, and into an investigation of the relation of the
mind to the body.  We will next take up the question how to
understand how we could act freely, or even genuinely act at all,
given that we are as much a part of the natural world as the stars
and wind and rain, and our paths through the world are as much
determined, in principle, by the laws of nature operating on our
physical constituents, as is the path of each individual raindrop on
its brief gravity borne journey from sky to earth.   We will take up
then certain puzzles that arise in thinking about the relations of
the sorts of things we talk about using our vocabulary for
macroscopic objects, ships and shoes and sealing wax, and persons,
on the one hand, and their fundamental material constituents, on the
other—and, in particular, certain puzzles that can arise about what
it is for one such macroscopic object at one time to be the same as
or different from another at another time given change among their
parts.  We will then take up some questions concerning the nature
and grounding of morality, and, most centrally and fundamentally,
the question ‘Why be moral?’  We will end with an investigation of
the nature and grounding of the good life, that is, what sort of
life it is best to lead and how one can lead it.  These are all
large problems.  It the purpose of the course not to solve but
rather to introduce them, and to introduce methods for approaching
them that are more apt to lead to advances in our understanding than
to further obscurities.  It is in this way, by doing philosophy, and
by grappling with some of the most fundamental challenges to our
self-image, that you can best come to understand the nature of
philosophical inquiry, and its place in the constellation of
subjects taught at the university.

The skills the course aims to improve, if not to the highest
possible degree, for that is a lifelong project, are the ability to
think for oneself, the ability to think without fear of the
consequences, the ability to think clearly, the ability to analyze
arguments, the ability to engage in close reading of texts, and
inseparably from these, the ability to write clear, well-organized,
argument oriented essays.

Texts:

Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the
Objections and Replies, Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Berkeley, Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, Longman, 2006.
Various selections from longer works and essays and articles made
available either on-line or in a coursepack.