Classic Thinkers (PHIL*1000) | College of Arts

Classic Thinkers (PHIL*1000)

Code and section: PHIL*1000*01

Term: Fall 2019

Instructor: John Russon


What does it mean to be a person?  This is the basic question we will ask and—ideally—answer in this course.  On the one hand, we are organisms—animals—that are part of the world of nature; on the other hand, we are free, self-conscious and rational beings, and that seems to set us apart from the rest of nature.  In this course, we will focus especially on the unique domains of experience that are opened up for us by our freedom: specifically, we will study the question of how to live a happy and meaningful life and the question of how to live to be morally and politically responsible.   In the first half of the course, we will focus on personal experience.  We will begin with the 20th-Century existentialist philosophy Martin Heidegger, and examine the challenges we face in owning up to our freedom.  We will then turn to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and his study of the basic demands of developing a healthy character and the role this plays in happiness.  In the second half of the course, we will turn to political experience.  Here, we will turn first to the 14th-Century Muslim philosophy Ibn Khaldûn, and his analysis of the basic structures—and problems—of political life.  We will then turn to contemporary studies of political life, focusing especially on themes of exploitation, race and gender.  This course will involve lectures and writing assignments, and it will also require you to participate in a weekly seminar section in which you will be responsible for discussing the material we are studying.

"Course Outline"