About History of Philosophy

This one semester course is an introduction to the history of western philosophy. The time period covered will begin slightly before the classical period in Greece, and will end with the crisis of the Enlightenment, around 1780 AD.

Because we cannot cover everything, we will emphasize especially

  1. Epistemology: the evolving understanding of truth, reason, and evidence during the periods that we study.
  2. The Philosophy of Religion: how philosophers defended, analyzed, and criticised religious belief, and how philosophical doctrines informed the work of influential religious thinkers.
  3. Ethics: how we arrived at some of the core ethical concepts---virtue, the good life, the will, and the social contract---that are still the foundation of ethical reflection today.

As we study these topics, we will strive to understand not just the theories and arguments contained in the philosophical texts we read, but also the relationship between those texts and the practical questions (particularly about political and social justice, religious belief, and scientific method) that confronted their authors.

By the end of the semester, you should expect (1) to know more about what a few philosophers have said about the topics listed above (2) to better understand “how we got to today”---how our common sense and basic intuitions depend on the path through history that happens to lead up to the present moment and (3) to have faced and overcome significant challenges, and as a result, to have grown as a reader, a writer, and a philosopher.