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PPR.201: History of Philosophy

Tutor:   Dr Cain Todd (Michaelmas) and Professor Alison Stone (Lent)                                                                              
Terms:  Michaelmas and Lent

Course Description:  Western philosophy has a long and rich history, and many of the questions that occupy present-day philosophers have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years.
This module looks at some figures and debates from philosophy’s past and considers how they bear on philosophy in the present. The exact make-up of the course will vary from year to year, but themes covered may often relate closely to religion and politics. In particular, themes covered may include:

  • What is the nature of the mind, and how does it relate to the body?
  • Can we have any reliable knowledge of the world outside our minds?
  • To what extent does thought depend on language?
  • Is there a God?
  • What is the relation between religious faith and knowledge?
  • What is history, and has there been progress over the course of world history?
  • Most generally, how should we understand the relation between philosophy and its history?

These problems and others are studied by close consideration of a selection of texts from the history
of Western philosophy. This may include the ‘early modern’ period, i.e. the 17th and 18th centuries,
encompassing Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. Figures from the
medieval period may sometimes be studied, and so may figures from 19th century philosophy such as Hegel, Feuerbach, Kierkegaard and Marx.

Learning Outcomes:          

On Successful completion of this module students will be able to:
•                     Explain what is involved in most of the problems covered.
•                     Set out some of the influential arguments that have been made in relation to each.
•                     Relate these arguments to the philosophers of the period.
•                     And begin an independent evaluation of them.

Assessment:  40% coursework and 60% exam.
Coursework: 2 essays of 2500 word each.  Exam: 3 hours. 

Teaching Method:            Lecture (1.5 hours) and seminar (1 hour) weekly.

Introductory Reading
Scruton, R,                         A Short History of Modern Philosophy, Routledge 1995
Solomon, R & Higgins, K     A Short History of Philosophy, Oxford University Press 1996.

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