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Michaelmas Term 2017
Module Outlines
Senior Freshman Single Honours Philosophy

PI2012/PI2013 (Logic & Philosophy of Science) and PI2010/PI2011 (History of Philosophy II) are each made up of two module components with 11 lectures (over five and a half weeks) in each term. There are two lectures per week for each of the two modules. Each module component covers a single coherent theme or topic (e.g. Formal Logic or Kant's Epistemology and Metaphysics) and is usually taught by the same lecturer. PI2014 and PI2015 (Texts I and II) are made up of four module components between them and consist of two hours of lectures per week.

Part of the assessment for each course will be by means of essays, which are marked by the SF teaching assistants. For guidance please consult the list of SF Essay Titles.

The examination for each module takes place at the end of the year, during April and May. The rubric for the examination paper will reflect the components that make up each of the above modules.

PI2012: Formal Logic

Module Outline

This course is an introduction to classical logic aimed at philosophy students. We will make use of formal methods to make the notion of ‘validity’ precise in two systems of logic: propositional logic and predicate logic. We will first learn how to identify the logical form of arguments and then learn how to check their validity. In the case of propositional logic we will make use of truth tables and a tree method. In the case of predicate logic we will make use of some basic model theory and an expanded tree method. Time permitting we will also look at 28 some basic concepts in meta-logic – properties about the logical systems themselves.

In the final part of the course we turn our attention to some issues in philosophical logic, where we employ formal methods to serve philosophical ends. We will look at how logic can aid us in coming to grip with puzzles about vagueness, indeterminacy, identity and existence.

At the end of this module students will be able to:

  • Translate sentences and arguments from English into the languages of propositional and predicate logic.
  • Assign truth conditions to formulas, using truth tables as a semantics for propositional logic and model theory as a semantics for predicate logic.
  • Check the validity of argument forms in propositional and predicate logic using a tree method.
  • Use formal methods in the service of some philosophical ends.

PI2010: History of Philosophy II A

Module Outline

Component 1: Kant (Prof. Lilian Alweiss)

This unit will consider Kantʼs Copernican revolution in epistemology and metaphysics and his distinctive form of idealism. In particularly we shall be focusing on his account of space and time; his account of the relation between a priori and empirical knowledge and his response to scepticism.

The set-text for this unit is:

Immanuel Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason, translated by Kemp Smith, Macmillan.

At the end of this component students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate central features of Kant’s idealism

Component 2: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard (Prof. Vasilis Politis)

The aim of this module is to study two great texts by two great philosophers sometimes referred to as existentialists: Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (also his Genealogy of Morals) and Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript. In regard to Nietzsche, we shall ask how his critique of morality is to be understood, and whether this is a critique of all morality and morality as such or, on the contrary, the critique of a particular bourgeois morality prevalent and his and perhaps our time. We shall ask, most especially, what Nietzsche means by the claim that certain supreme values are ‘beyond good and evil’; and whether this claim is consistent with itself. Here we shall consider, in particular, his claim that love is a supreme value that is beyond good and evil; a claim that Wagner took up in his operas such as Die Walküre (part of which we shall listen to). We shall also ask whether it is right, as some critics do, to read Nietzsche as a naturalist; and whether it is possible to understand him in such a way that his critique of religion is compatible with a certain understanding of the Christian faith, such as we find in Dostoyevsky and indeed Kierkegaard.

In regard to Kierkegaard, we shall concentrate on his aporia, which he articulates in the Postscript, of how a human being can come to be good. We shall consider how Kierkegaard derives this aporia from a careful study of Plato. Finally, we shall consider his proposed solution to this aporia, which appears to be that coming to be good is a gift of God, and therefore requires faith. We shall concentrate especially on Kierkegaard’s view that this conception of good is tied to the notion of subjectivity and authenticity: this search for goodness is at the same time a search for oneself, and a search that can be conducted only in an existential inwardness and even silence.

We shall by asking whether the existentialist ethics defended by Nietzsche and Kierkegaard can be thought to articulate an alternative to the usual candidates for ethics: deontology, virtue theory, consequentialism.

At the end of this component students will be able to:

  • Students will learn to engage critically with the critique of morality and religion of two great philosophers
  • Students will be introduced to a distinctive conception of value, and of faith, by two great philosophers
  • Students will learn to study a number of important texts by two great philosophers

PI2014: Texts I

  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lecture and 11 hours of tutorial
  • Lecturers: Dr. Kenneth Pearce and Dr. Damien Storey

Module Outline

Component 1: Berkeley's Principles (Dr. Kenneth Pearce)

In this component, we will be reading George Berkeley's first presentation of his immaterialism (idealism), the Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710). Special attention will be paid to the historical context of Berkeley's thought, to the arguments for immaterialism, and to the content of Berkeley's own metaphysical system. In addition to deeper understanding of Berkeley's philosophy, students will hone their skills in close reading of texts and in rigorous philosophical reconstruction and analysis of arguments.

At the end of this component students will be able to:

  • Explain Berkeley's immaterialism.
  • Explain the main arguments for this thesis in the Principles.
  • Engage in close reading of philosophical texts in their historical context.
  • Reconstruct philosophical arguments found in historical texts.
  • Critically analyze philosophical arguments found in historical texts.

Component 2: Rawls's Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (Dr. Damien Storey)

In this course we’ll be reading John Rawls’s last book, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (2001). Rawls was an immensely influential liberal political philosopher, whose work pretty much set the agenda for modern political philosophy. In this book he ties together the conclusions of his two main works and updates them in light of 30 years of critical discussion: his theory of the basic rights and distributive principles in a just society (A Theory of Justice, 1971), and his theory of how a democracy can legitimately unite citizens divided by a plurality of reasonable but irreconcilable moral, philosophical, and religious views (Political Liberalism, 1993).

Besides getting a grip on the basic ideas of Rawls’s political philosophy, we will be paying special attention to two unique features of Justice as Fairness. First, Rawls offers his final responses to some of his libertarian, socialist, and fellow liberal critics; we will look at the history of some of these debates and assess how successful Rawls has been. Second, in Justice as Fairness Rawls is more explicit about what he thinks a just democracy would look like, and thus about how his theory can be put into practice. We will think about what would change if current democracies became Rawlsian democracies: which of our democratic institutions would need to be overhauled? Could we continue with our current style of free market economy? And how much more egalitarian would it actually be?

At the end of this component students will be able to:

  • Critically analyse and interpret Rawls’s Justice as Fairness.
  • Understand the major themes in Rawls’s political philosophy, with a sense of how they evolved during his career.
  • Engage critically and in detail with some of these themes, with awareness of the broader debates into which they fall.