PPR201: History of Philosophy
Tutor: Dan DeNicola (Michaelmas) and TBC (Lent)
Terms: Michaelmas and Lent
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. Themes covered will relate closely to religion and politics and typically include some or all of the following:
- What is the mind or soul, and how does it relate to the body?
- What is the nature of the good life?
- Can we have any reliable knowledge of the world outside our minds?
- Is there a God? What is the relation between religious faith and knowledge?
- 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, covering two periods: the ancient or classical period, and the early modern period.
Michaelmas term: Classical Philosophy
This part of the course addresses the development of philosophical thought in the classical cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, its influence and contemporary relevance. The lectures will introduce ideas from the Pre-Socratic philosophers, Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, and Hellenistic schools (the Cynics, Sceptics, Epicureans, Stoics and Neo-Platonists), introducing the many literary forms in which early philosophy is written. The central theme throughout will be descriptive and normative conceptions of the soul (psyche).
Lent term: Early Modern Philosophy
This part of the course will deal with early modern philosophy, looking at some major philosophers of this period, which spans the early 16th to the late 18th century. Figures to be covered typically include Descartes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume. We shall read each thinker within their historical context, especially when this helps to highlight the meaning and purpose of their philosophical theories, and will consider the ongoing contemporary relevance of these theories.
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.
40% coursework and 60% exam.
Coursework: 2 essays of 2500 words each. Exam: 3 hours.
Lecture (1.5 hours) and seminar (1 hour) weekly.
Scruton, R A Short History of Modern Philosophy, Routledge 1995
Solomon, R & Higgins, K A Short History of Philosophy, Oxford University Press 1996.