General education courses are absolutely essential to the first year curricula of liberal arts and sciences programs. Liberal arts and sciences colleges are meant to cultivate well-rounded human beings, and this involves more than just teaching students how to perform certain tasks. It also involves letting them struggle with perennial problems, and not just contemporary global challenges.
The history of philosophy is really the history of the various arts and sciences. Long before we started distinguishing the various disciplines from each other, philosophy was the master-discipline that addressed all of their questions. It is for this reason that someone like Aristotle could be such a foundational and influential thinker on topics ranging from ethics, aesthetics, and logic to physics, politics, and biology. In engaging with thinkers like this, History of Philosophy students are introduced to the pre-disciplinary origins of the many narrow fields they will try to bring back into conversation during their interdisciplinary studies at LUC. In addition to the important history of ideas elements of History of Philosophy, its emphasis on epistemology and critical thinking—without privileging the methodologies of any particular disciplines—is something that will serve students well in all of their future endeavors. Finally, it simply isn’t possible to study the history of philosophy without learning something about how it connects with some of the most important events in world, European, and even Dutch history. Depending on the instructor, History of Philosophy students might encounter monumental events such as the Peloponnesian War, the Alexandrian Conquest, the Crusades, the Reformation, the lynching of the de Witt brothers, and the Holocaust, just to name a few examples. History of Philosophy ensures that LUC students enter their second semester equipped with a broad overview of how the world ended up as it has, which seems important for people who want to fix its problems.
Although the various History of Philosophy instructors are free to make substitutions or other adjustments to the reading list based on their individual expertise and educational backgrounds, this course is primarily intended to provide an historical introduction to/overview of “Western” philosophical ideas (the LUC course Philosophies of the World offers students the opportunity to explore a variety of “non-Western” philosophies, and other courses in the philosophy minor focus on specific “non-Western” traditions). The course will proceed from some of the earliest significant texts in the ancient world and continue on to consider more recent developments.
By the end of this course students should be able to:
Demonstrate familiarity with some major movements in the history of philosophy.
Critically reflect on, distinguish between, and examine key varieties and aspects of philosophical argumentation.
Exhibit the analytic skills necessary to comprehend the relevance of the past to their understanding of the present, while becoming more familiar with their own assumptions and values.
Acquire a set of reading, writing, and discussion skills that allow them to engage texts and others in an informed and conscientious manner.
Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.
Mode of instruction
Each ordinary meeting of the course will consist of an interactive discussion on the scheduled topic, with reading to be completed prior to the meeting. This course depends heavily on group discussion of significant primary texts. Each class will begin with the instructor introducing the key issues and readings for that day and offering an interpretation of the works being discussed. Students should join in the discussion at any time, asking questions, making suggestions, or making comparisons with other texts we have read. For each meeting, each student should mark out a short passage (1-3 sentences) from the day’s reading that especially stood out.
Participation and attentiveness in class discussions, 19%
Short written reflections (1200-1600 words total), 16%
One “mid-term” essay (1000 words), 25%
One final short answer exam (during reading week), 40%
Available online, but if you prefer hard copies, many of them can be found in Classics of Philosophy, edited by Pojman (Oxford University Press, 2010).
Nigel Warburton, A Little History of Philosophy (Yale University Press, 2011).
Anthony Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2010).
Adam Buben, Meaning and Mortality in Kierkegaard and Heidegger: Origins of the Existential Philosophy of Death (Northwestern University Press, 2016). (The early chapters of this book are especially helpful for Buben’s classes.)
Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Adam Buben, email@example.com