Admission to this course is restricted to second-year students in the BA Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives.
What is philosophy and how does one do it?
In philosophy, perhaps more than all other branches of knowledge, the answers to these questions are wide-ranging and always controversial. For some, questions on the nature of philosophy belong to a separate subdiscipline called “metaphilosophy”, while others doubt such subdivision is possible. The question of philosophical methods is just as controversial: on one end of the spectrum are those for whom it is possible to identify and categorize specific methodological approaches in philosophy. For others, philosophy is necessarily tied in with a resistance to method, if method means the application of preconceived programs, referring to a tradition going as far back as Plato’s distinction between the true desire for wisdom and the sophistry of promising a sure path towards it.
This course has two main objectives: (1) to study the wide variety of approaches to the questions concerning the nature and methods of philosophy; (2) to train students in engaging in philosophy in these different ways through writing and collaboration, and to foster critical reflection on how students engage with philosophy and what their own approach is.
We start by studying the concept of philosophical method as such. Then, students collaborate to analyze the character, virtues and limitations of different methods in philosophical texts, and the views on the nature of philosophy that underlie them. Attention is paid to, among other things: the analytic-continental distinction and its history; the benefits and limitations of identifiable philosophical methods (such as thought experiments, reflective equilibrium, logical analysis, genealogy, phenomenology, etc.); style, argumentation and text-structure; the relation of philosophical to scientific methodology and the problem of naturalism; the resistance to method in continental thought. In the final part of the course, several central debates pertaining to the nature of philosophy are discussed: whether and how philosophy is relevant or useful; the place of philosophy in the university and in society; the relation of philosophy to its history and the possibility of progress in philosophy; the problem of philosophical canon-formation and the diversification of philosophy.
Aside from familiarizing themselves with different approaches to philosophy and philosophical method, students also learn to collaborate to analyze the methods latently employed in important philosophical texts. Finally, students learn to consciously and critically reflect on their own approach to philosophy.
Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:
the wide range of possible responses to the question what philosophy is;
the different approaches to philosophical methodology: from the application of methods in philosophy to the resistance to method in philosophy;
the different kinds of identifiable philosophical methodologies, their benefits and limitations;
the relation of philosophical method to style, argumentation, text-structure and scientific method;
a number of central debates concerning the nature of philosophy, including: its relevance or use; its place in university and society; its relation to tradition and progress; its diversification.
Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:
identify, evaluate and employ different philosophical methods;
collaborate to analyse and explicate the (latent) methods employed in philosophical texts and their implicit views on the nature of philosophy;
critically reflect on, and formulate in writing, their own approach to philosophy.
The timetables are available through MyTimetable.
Mode of instruction
Class attendance is required.
Take home group examination/assignments (40%)
Written examination with essay questions (30%)
Active Participation/cooperation in class/group (pass/fail)
Final course grade is the weighted average of these examinations (see above).
Only those who actively participated in (and received a passing grade for) the group assignments are eligible for the resit. There is no resit for the group assignments. The resit consists of one take home examination covering all course material, containing short open questions and essay questions. The resit is weighted 60% and replaces the essay and written examination. Resit is passed if the weighted average of the resit (60%) and the group assignments (40%) is a passing grade.
Inspection and feedback
How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.
Students are required to obtain a copy of:
- Chase, James, and Jack Reynolds. Analytic Versus Continental: Arguments on the Methods and Value of Philosophy. London, New York: Routledge, 2014.
All other texts will be made available through Brightspace.
Enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.
For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.
For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga