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History of Philosophy



This is a compulsory first-year course.

Admission requirements

  • Class of 2017: None.

  • Classes of 2013-2016: None.

Course description

This course is an historical introduction to philosophical ideas from the Western tradition. The course will proceed from some of the earliest philosophical ideas in the ancient world and continue on to consider key developments in the medieval and modern periods. In the kind of liberal arts and sciences program offered by LUC, it is important to consider the ways in which knowledge has been created, organized, and legitimized throughout history. To help initiate students into the process of thinking about how historical and cultural contexts have shaped what it means to be knowledgeable in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, this course considers how ideas have changed over time.

Weekly overview

Week 1: Introduction to Philosophy (Presocratics)
Week 2: Plato and Socrates
Week 3: Platonic Forms and the Soul
Week 4: Aristotle’s Four Causes
Week 5: Aristotle’s Mean
Week 6: Epicurean & Stoic Tranquility
Week 7: Augustine, Aquinas, and the ‘Baptizing of the Greeks’
Week 8: [no classes]
Week 9: Descartes’ ‘I Think’
Week 10: Spinoza’s House
Week 11: Hume’s Skepticism
Week 12: Film
Week 13: Kant’s “Copernican Revolution”
Week 14: The 19th Century
Week 15: Review
Week 16: Final exam

Learning objectives

This course depends heavily on group discussion of significant primary texts in the history of philosophy. Each class will begin with the instructor introducing the topics 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 (one or two sentences) from the day’s reading that especially stood out.

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with, and evaluate, some major movements in the history of philosophy;

  • distinguish among key varieties and aspects of philosophical argumentation;

  • reflect on and examine both shared and diverse human experiences so that you recognize the similarities and differences across cultures as well as historical periods; and

  • comprehend the relevance of the past to your understanding of the present while coming to understand the perspective of your own assumptions and values.

Mode of instruction

Each teaching week of the course (Weeks 1 – 7, and 9 – 15) will consist of one 2-hour interactive discussion on the weekly topic, with reading and web-posts due prior to the meeting.

A BlackBoard site will support the course and provide for virtual interaction with the course material. Do check our course site regularly for up-to-date reading assignments, multi-media material, and announcements. For further details of how the course will proceed, see sections below on “Assessment” and “Weekly overview”.


In-class participation
Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7, 9 – 15

4 Weekly web-postings (300 words)
Weeks 4 – 6, 13

One mid-term essay (1000 words)
Week 9

In-class final exam (short answer)
Week 16

Compulsory textbook

There is no set textbook for the course. Assigned readings will be made available on BlackBoard. While many of the primary texts are in the public domain, you may wish to purchase your own hard copies for future reference and reflection. For an introduction to philosophy, you may find the following general reference texts useful:

Nigel Warburton, A Little History of Philosophy (Yale University Press, 2011).

Anthony Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Contact information

Dr. Adam Buben (convener):