Introductory Philosophy: Major Texts (PHIL*1000)
Term: Winter 2016
One of the most powerful ways that the study of philosophy can influence us is by making us reflect on aspects of our experience that we normally take for granted, revealing insights about our experience that can transform how we live. In our study of some of the greatest texts of our tradition, we will take up five such transformative reflections on experience. We will begin with the contemporary German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), and his book Being and Time. With Heidegger, we will look at the ways our “lived” involvement with things is typically at odds with the “theoretical” way we portray ourselves, and we will investigate the ways in which this leads us to be fundamentally dishonest, both in our scientific pursuits and in our behaviour with other people. We will then turn back to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC), and his book Nicomachean Ethics. With Aristotle, we will look at the processes by which we form our personal character, investigating in particular the bad habits we develop that lead us to crippling problems in personal and social life. We will then turn to the political domain, drawing first on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (from 1776) to understand the economic powers that invisibly shape our society and then turning to John Dewey’s Individualism Old and New (from 1930) to reflect on the impact, both positive and negative, that our contemporary economic and political world can have on our formation as individuals. We will conclude with recent work by Judith Butler and other contemporary feminist writers, looking in particular at the complex personal and political issues that are interwoven in our everyday experiences of gender and sexuality.
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