Friday, July 04, 2014

Introduction to Western Philosophy at MCCC

I'll be teaching Introduction to Western Philosophy at Monroe County Community College this fall (along with Philosophy of Religion and Introduction to Logic).

The text I'm using is: Anthony Kenny, An Illustrated Brief History of Western Philosophy

I'll treat this as a true introduction. It's rare to find a student who has already been exposed to these ideas.

I can't teach the entire book, so I'm choosing topics. Currently I'm looking at the following:

  • Pre-Socratic philosophy - Parmenides' idea of "Being."
  • Plato's Theory of Forms (Ideas) and the allegory of the cave.
  • Aristotle's logic, and metaphysics (form/matter, substance/accidents; Being qua being)
  • Medieval philosophy - Aquinas' use of Aristotle's metaphysics on the nature of change; essence and existence.
  • Descartes' search for certain knowledge via methodical doubt; the 'cogito' ("I think, therefore I am").
  • Locke on ideas and qualities; on innate ideas.
  • Hume on causation.
  • Kant's "Copernican revolution"; space and time as a priori categories of the mind (pure reason).
  • Mill's Utilitarianism (ethics).
  • Kierkegaard's existentialism; truth as subjectivity.
  • Nietzsche's morality (this Nietzsche section will be different from what I teach in my Philosophy of Religion classes); Nietzsche's "Superman" (Ubermensch).
  • Wittgenstein - logical positivism; language games.
My task (which I am looking forward to): to bring these big ideas to my students in ways they can begin to understand them. Students will be evaluated on their understanding, not on agreement or disagreement (because you can't meaningfully agree or disagree with anything until you understand).