Introduction to Philosophy
1. Term 1 - Reason and Religious Belief (Mr. F. Williamson)
In term 1 we will be doing some Philosophy of REligion. This course examines soem issues in the epistemology and metaphysics of religious belief. In particular, it seeks to answer the questions: Is belief in God rational? Are there good or even compelling reasons to believe that God exists? Is it even appropriate to demand that belief in God be rationally warrented? We tackle some of these issues via a consideration of some of the classical and comtemporary formulations of argumetns for the existence of God.
Term 2 - Mind & Its Place in Nature (Prof Marius Vermaak)
We look at the following issues: What is the mind andhow is it related to the body? Can computers and animals think? What is a self and can it survive death? The readings will come from part Three of Feinberg & Shafer-Landau, Reason & Responsibility (14th edition).
Term 3 (To be announced) (Prof W. Jones)
Term 4 - Determinism, Freedom & Responsibility (Prof Pedro Tabensky)
I will be aiming to make your lives difficult because that's just the kind of guy that I am. As a philosopher with a sadistic streak, I will attempt to undermine fundamental beliefs that most of you have regarding your capacity to make free choices. Most of us, prior to encountering philosophy, are convinced that we genuinely have free will and that this means that how we act is, typically, entirely up to us - entirely free. And most of us take this to mean that, at a given moment of choice, truly doable alternatives are typically available to us. When choosing whether or not, say, to become a vegetarian, non-philosophers almost always think that at least two options are genuinely open to us. This deeply held belief about free will conflicts with key beliefs regarding the nature of explanations of human behaviour. These latter beliefs seem to lead us to conclude that, for the purposes of explaining how people act, we may as well assume that the universe is fully determined, meaning that we may as well assume that we only have one genuine option at any given moment of choice. So, if these latter beliefs regarding the nature of explanation are correct, then it cannot be true that I could genuinely have become a vegetarian or not at the moment when such a choice was being made. And, if it turns out that we must dispense with our basic intuitions about free will, then it also seems that we may have to dispense with another fundamental belief we have about ourselves, namely that we are genuinely responsible for what we do. For, if it is true that genuine live synchronic options do not actually exist when we are making decisions regarding how to go on, then it seems that we cannot help but to go on as we do. And if we have no genuine alternatives at a given moment of choice, then how could anyone blame us or indeed praise us for what we do?
By the end of the course you will find that indeed I am an obnoxious gadfly (confirming my own beliefs about myself). But I also hope that you will end up a little wiser, a little more capable of challenging my outlandish views. And if you can indeed effectively challenge my views, then I will rest content that I have managed to teach you something important; something that, perhaps paradoxically, will make you a little freer.
Lectures Times and Venue
- Monday Period 5, Wednesday Period 2, Thursday Period 3, Friday Period 4
- Venue: Zoo Major
- Monday. You will be assigned to a tutorial group.
- There are weekly tutorial assignments and proper attendance at tutorials forms part of your overall assessment in ITP.