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Philosophy 101 (2022)

Philosophy 101 (PHI101) is a first-year, first semester course aimed at introducing students to philosophical ideas, issues and methods via topics in metaphysics, epistemology and ethics from a range of philosophical traditions.

The course bears 15 credits at NQF Level 5. There are no entrance requirements.
DP requirements: at least 35% for course work.
Assessment: Coursework 60%; June exam 40%.
Supplementary exam: June result 45 – 49%
Sub-minimum of 40% for aggregation.


Term 1: On Teaching and Learning (Larry Bloom)

What does it mean to learn? There is a type of learning that cannot be reduced to either memorization of new opinions or the simple ability to state one’s previous opinions clearly. What is it? As we will see, learning—of the sort that we will be interested in here—involves a certain sort of self-improvement. Yet, the self-improvement in question is quite mysterious. If a person wants to become a better carpenter, for example, that person must first know what a good carpenter is and then strive to make oneself into that thing. But what of becoming a better knower? We cannot know what it is to be a better knower beforehand in the same sense. How do we even strive towards it? In other words, it seems that to learn we have to already know; but, if we already know, we don’t need to learn. What is the role of the teacher in this process? We will be investigating these questions by reading a few classical texts by philosophers who have thought deeply about this issue. The first step will be to fully understand the problem itself.


Seeing as this is a course on teaching and learning, it is perhaps even more important than usual that we pay attention to what we are doing as we examine the subject matter of this course. The goal of the course is nothing so fancy as the “pursuit of truth,” whatever that might mean, and I have no dogma or set of dogmas that I intend to convince you of. You will never be expected to accept anything I or any of the philosophers we read and discuss have to say; the goal of this course has very little to do with providing you with new opinions. The goal, rather, is to help you develop the skill and understanding necessary to evaluate opinions that are presented to you, as well as ones you may already have. We will attempt to achieve this goal through open-minded examination of certain important texts and the thoughts and ideas contained therein. Becoming good at examining texts will also be a goal of this course. The belief motivating these goals is the belief that such activities are valuable and that they are activities that you can improve at with regular, focused practice.


Term 2: Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Francis Williamson)

This course aims to introduce students to Philosophy by way of a subject-matter that most of us have strong opinions about, namely religion.


We will be philosophising about a whole number of connected issues relating to the phenomenon of religion, starting off, first, with what exactly it is that distinguishes religion from other kinds of belief-systems, such as ideologies or philosophies of life. Part of this intellectual investigation leads us to the possible connection religion has with divine revelation and the connection revelation itself might have with faith. Our question will be whether, perhaps,  both revelation and faith are among the essential distinguishing features of religion.

Secondly, we consider the question whether religion is the sort of thing which can be either true or false. If religion is thought of as a sort of cultural response to the world as we find it, then what sense can it make to think of a religion as possibly true or false? Might many religions or multiple religions ALL be true or valid? Just as it seems possible to have multiple moral orientations that come from diverse cultural perspectives, might it not also be possible to have multiple religious responses, all of which are true or valid in their own way?

Furthermore, if religion involves something like revelation from Divinity or God, then this leads us directly to a consideration of some philosophical justifications for belief in the existence and nature of such a God and why belief in God arguably cannot be a matter of faith at all but is rather a matter of metaphysics. If the existence of God is something that we know from natural reason alone (metaphysics/philosophy/science) rather than revelation, the question then arises as to how we go beyond the mere God of Philosophy to the God of Religion. How does faith connect with reason? How does revelation relate to Philosophy?

These and related questions form the basis of this introductory course in the Philosophy of Religion.




Last Modified: Mon, 14 Feb 2022 08:05:30 SAST