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Philosophy 2

 (2017)TERM 1: Hume (Marius Vermaak)

David Hume (1711-1776) is one of the most important philosophers in the history of philosophy. We study his short masterpiece, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748). Hume argues for influential and controversial views on the nature of philosophy, the power of reason, the nature of our minds, and the justification of our beliefs. It is a crucial text if you want to understand contemporary philosophy.

Readings will be provided.

TERM 2: Philosophy of Mind (Francis Williamson)

This is an introductory course in the Philosophy of Mind, with a special focus on the relation between mind and body and the problem of mental causation. Our fundamental aim in the course is to come to grips with the dominant positions philosophers have taken with respect to these matters. We do this in order to illuminate and develop what we ourselves — each of us individually — take to be the truth about the mind and its relation to the physical world.

Our course has its starting point in four theses we might be inclined to accept but which are jointly inconsistent:

  1. Thesis of mental-physical distinctness: mind and body just seem to be different from each other.
  2. Thesis of physical causal closure: you don’t need to or can’t go outside the physical realm to explain a physical event.
  3. Thesis of mental efficacy: mental events cause other mental and physical events.
  4. Thesis of non-overdetermination: it is not possible for an event to have more than one set of causally sufficient conditions.

Our course works through some of the dominant positions and seminal arguments in the Philosophy of Mind with respect to these four theses in our attempt to answer the question: which view is the most plausible?

A course reader will be provided.

TERM 3: Social Injustice (Ward Jones)

The following quotation comes from a UN Document: “[T]he notion of social justice is relatively new. None of history’s great philosophers—not Plato or Aristotle, or Confucius or Averroes, or even Rousseau or Kant—saw the need to consider justice or the redress of injustices from a social perspective. The concept first surfaced in Western thought and political language in the wake of the industrial revolution and the parallel development of the socialist doctrine. It emerged as an expression of protest against what was perceived as the capitalist exploitation of labour and as a focal point for the development of measures to improve the human condition. It was born as a revolutionary slogan embodying the ideals of progress and fraternity. Following the revolutions that shook Europe in the mid-1800s, social justice became a rallying cry for progressive thinkers and political activists.... By the mid-twentieth century, the concept of social justice had become central to the ideologies and programmes of virtually all the leftist and centrist political parties around the world...”

In Philosophy 1, we learned about ideal moral theory; we were concerned with what makes someone just toward others. In this course, we will be working with non-ideal moral theory: the work we read will be concerned with philosophical descriptions of ways in which we are unjust to others and how to conceive, incorporate, and respond to it. We focus on the following topics: the nature of oppression, exploitation, racism, psychological oppression, economic oppression, and consciousness-raising.

TERM 4: Kierkegaard & Nietzsche (Larry Bloom)

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are both heavily influenced by and extremely critical of the enlightenment.  The main critique for both thinkers is the primary and in some cases exclusive importance that enlightenment thinkers give to reason and universality.  We will be examining what it is that each of the two philosophers find objectionable about giving reason such a central and important place.  What do each of them intend to replace reason with as being of primary importance?  We might note as well that, although they are critical of the place of reason, both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are very aware that they are using reason in developing and arguing for their alternatives.  A major focus of this course—in addition to exploring Kierkegaard’s and Nietzsche’s alternatives to the centrality of reason—will be the strange and unique ability of reason to critique itself.

Course co-ordinator: Vermaak m.vermaak@ru.ac.za


Tuesday        Period 2 Zoo 02

Wednesday    Period 3 Zoo 02

Thursday       Period 4 Zoo 02

Friday           Period 5 Zoo 02


Mondays       Tut Groups, Times and Venues TBA.


Course work (tutorial assignments, essays, class tests) 40%

Examinations (Paper 1 in June; Paper 2 in November) 60%

Last Modified :Tue, 30 May 2017 15:55:48 SAST