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Philosophy Honours/MA 1 2017

 First Semester:

Paper 1: Comparative Philosophy – African & Chinese Thought (Vermaak & Okeja)



This course is an exercise in comparative philosophy. We first ask questions about the project of comparative philosophy: What is being compared? Is comparison possible? What can be achieved by comparison? Then, we apply the answers to two traditions: Chinese and African philosophy. For instance, harmony is a key value in both traditions. What are the similarities and differences between African and Chinese approaches to harmony? The course will cover texts on comparative philosophy, as well as readings in Chinese and African thought.

Paper 2: Richard Rorty: (Jones)


The American philosopher Richard Rorty (1931-2007), was one of the most important, radical, and challenging philosophers of the latter part of the twentieth century. Much of Rorty’s output was on philosophy itself; he questioned the way in which philosophy has been practiced for the past four hundred years. In particular, he questioned what he saw as the project of attempting to ‘mirror’ or represent the world in our study of it. In opposition to this, Rorty denied that we should take ourselves to be beholden to truth in philosophical and other discourse, and he thought that doing so would liberate us to work on simply improving people’s ability to lead their own lives. In this course, we will look at a wide range of Rorty’s writings, across his career, as well as at his debate with feminist Sabina Lovibond about the prospects for Rorty’s worldview to liberatory politics.


Paper 3: Aesthetics (Bloom)


The question of this course will be: what is art?  The question is an unusually difficult one.  We cannot, for example, look at a bunch of examples of works of art and derive a definition from those examples—as we perhaps could if we wanted to understand what a chair is—because we wouldn’t even be able to choose the appropriate examples without already having some idea of what art is.  In fact, because the nature of the thing under consideration—art—is so obscure, the question is difficult to even formulate clearly.  One way to formulate the question is to ask what, if anything, art does: what is the function of art?  Another is: what is it that a work of art is trying to communicate to us?  Yet, even this question is problematic.  If we could say what a work of art means in a way other than the way that the work is saying it then the work itself becomes unnecessary.  In struggling to answer these questions, our goal will be to develop a better appreciation for works of all kinds of art.  We will do so by reading texts in the history of aesthetics that are all struggling to come to terms with these issues and by examining and attempting to interpret some works of art from various genres. Other, subsidiary questions that we will ask will include: What is beauty?  Does a work of art need to be beautiful?  What is the relationship between art and morality?  Can art be moral or immoral?  Is the being of the art in the work, the artist, the viewer or some combination of these?  Our answers to these questions will both depend upon and support our answer to the primary question of what art is and of how to appreciate a work of art.


Second Semester

Paper 4: Contemporary epistemology (Flockemann)


Epistemology is a cornerstone of the analytic tradition of philosophy, with positions taken in that particular field having wide implications for other areas of philosophy. In this course, the aim is to acquaint ourselves with the key debates in this area. We will tackle traditional problems like the sceptical problem; the debate between internalism and externalism about justification; the debate between foundationalism and coherentism; and the Gettier problem. Hopefully, by the end of the course, students will have some grasp of the traditional preoccupations of epistemologists, as well as some sense of the recent – and often theoretically exciting – developments in the field.


Paper 5: Feminist deconstruction of Sigmund Freud’s patriarchy: Luce Irigaray’s psychoanalysis [TBC] (Alloggio)


In her major book, Speculum of the Other Woman (1974), French psychoanalyst Luce Irigaray radically critiques Sigmund Freud’s patriarchal approach to women. In this course, we are going to read and discuss Irigaray’s philosophy of psychoanalysis in order to understand how masculine ideology implicitly formed Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. We will read some of Freud’s works on femininity and childhood development in conjunction with Irigaray’s feminist deconstruction of how women and femininity have been excluded from psychoanalysis and philosophy.


Paper 6: Anti-Naturalism (Williamson)


This course revolves around a selection of papers in recent analytical philosophy all of which take aim at Naturalism as the dominant but deeply problematic philosophical ideology of our age. The course involves readings dealing with Naturalism from a variety of points of view, and as such ranges over issues in contemporary epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and ethics. The main text for the course will be the J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig (eds.) collection entitled Naturalism: A Critical Analysis.


Paper 7: Consciousness and Consciousness-Raising in Radical Movements for Social Change [TBC] (Lindsay Kelland)


This course will take an in-depth look at the importance of consciousness and thereby consciousness-raising in radical movements for social change. We will first explore the ways in which consciousness is said to be (negatively) impacted on by systemic oppression in order to then examine why consciousness-raising holds such a central place in these movements. We will then explore consciousness-raising itself—how does consciousness-raising take place? What are its aims? What is meant to be happening when one’s consciousness is raised? How is a raised consciousness meant to impact on how one then sees the world, oneself and others? What might it mean to be able to see social reality ‘as it really is’? We will focus on both black consciousness (particularly the work of Steve Biko and Frantz Fanon) and feminist consciousness (particularly Sandra Bartky, bell hooks and Drucilla Cornell) when exploring these questions.

Last Modified :Tue, 30 May 2017 15:58:54 SAST