This course provides an historical introduction/overview to mostly Western philosophical ideas. The course will proceed from some of the earliest significant texts in the ancient world and continue on to consider more recent developments. One of the key issues in the kind of liberal arts and sciences program offered by LUC is the way in which knowledge has been created, organized, and legitimized throughout history. The goal is to help initiate students into the process of thinking about how historical contexts have shaped what it means to be knowledgeable.
A bit about our starting point: The 6th century BCE marks a watershed in the history of human achievement. For example, this was the period when Western philosophy began to take shape around the northern Mediterranean. Prior to the birth of philosophy, mythopoesis ruled the day when explanation of the origin, nature, and proper navigation (in multiple senses) of the world was sought. While the old revelatory myths of supernatural feats have hardly been abandoned, philosophy offers a more down-to-earth explanation that is based largely on human rational and sensory capabilities. Through a consideration of some of the most fascinating thinkers the world has ever produced, we will get a glimpse of several foundational philosophical questions.
Students should be prepared for extensive reading, thinking, and writing, as well as active participation and engagement with the readings (and each other) in the classroom, if they would like to do well in this course.
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.
Once available, timetables will be published here.
Mode of instruction
Each ordinary meeting of the course will consist of a 2-hour 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 classroom discussions is worth 18% of the overall course grade. This will be assessed throughout the course, and is meant to encourage constructive and active engagement with course materials and fellow students.
A 250-300 word reflection will be due in four different weeks, and each will be worth 6% of the overall course grade (totaling 24%). These will help to assess the capacity to articulate questions, concepts, and arguments based on individual engagement with course readings.
One “mid-term” essay will be worth 18% of the overall course grade. This will encourage analysis of concepts covered in the course (as specified by instructor-determined topics), and expression of ideas in a clear and organized manner.
One final in-class short answer exam (during reading week) will be worth 40% of the overall course grade. This will encourage a clear comprehension of objective course content.
There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.
Available online, but many of them are available 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).
This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact email@example.com.
Dr. Adam Buben: firstname.lastname@example.org