Department of Philosophy
History of Philosophy
History of Medieval Philosophy
History of Renaissance Philosophy
History of Early Modern Philosophy
History of Semantics
History of Ontology,
History of Metaphysics
History of Natural Philosophy
History of Mathematics
Kinds of Knowledge and Foundationalism
History and Development of Knowledge
Philosophy of Language
Theory of Knowledge
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of the Sciences
Ethics, Social Philosophy
Ethics of Virtue
Methodology of Ethics
Concepts of Nature in Ethics
Concepts of Community, Tradition and Morality
Concepts of Knowledge, Normativity and Practice
Concepts of Identity and Morality
Concepts of Cognitive Structures in Knowledge
Applied Ethics, Business Ethics
Ethics in Politics and Economics
Rationality and Non-Reductionism
Reasoning, Rationality and Knowledge
Automated Reasoning, Social Choice, Common Knowledge and Artificial Intelligence
Philosophy of Education
Philosophical of Anthropology,
Philosophy of Culture and Aesthetics
Cultural semiotics and comparative philosophy
History and Philosophy of Logics and Semantics
Perception, Cognition, Ontology
Problems of Method in Contemporary Philosophy
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of literature
Philosophy of psychology
Philosophy of Economy, Culture, Modernity, Social Order,
Philosophy of Technology and Technological
Culture, Science and Technology Studies
Computer Ethics, Philosophical Anthropology
Hermeneutics, Scarcity, Sustainability, Medical Technology
Environmental Philosophy, Ethics, Food Ethics, Nature Ethics, Animal Ethics
Pluralism, Philosophy of Agriculture, Philosophy of Technology
Plato and the platonic tradition
Aristotle and the Aristotelian tradition
Renaissance and Early modern Philosophy
Issues in German Idealism
Actual diagnosis of society
The Course Material Includes:
Downloadable podcasts video or audio or both
Each module has mandatory progress tests that must be passed, in order to be allowed to take the module's final exam.
Exceptions from the tests or the exam can be granted where other similar courses or proof of experience are deemed to be sufficiently qualifying. However, such exceptions are at the instructors discretion.
Part 1: METAPHYSICS AND THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE
1. 'Perhaps the best scepticism-rebutting argument in favour of the existence of body is the quasi-scientific argument ... that the existence of a world of physical objects having more or less the properties which current science attributes to them provides the best available explanation of the phenomena of experience' (STRAWSON). Discuss this issue in 20 lines.
2. Is there anything that you and no one else could know?
3. Can we have rational grounds for a belief that our memories of our childhood thoughts are correct?
4. 'The key to understanding perception is not sensation but discrimination.' Discuss.
5. 'If I see someone else peel a potato, ... I don't see the knife making the peel come up. And what I most obviously fail to see, though I do judge, is that each bit of the peel would not have come up if the knife had not moved in there' (MACKIE). Is it correct to say that causation is not observable?
6. Can one meaningfully ask for a description of things as they are in themselves, rather than as they appear to us?
7. If I know that p, and it is true that p only if it is true that q, must I know that q?
8. Is induction mere habit?
9. Do we need both the categories of substance and event?
10. 'The trouble with explaining necessity in terms of possible worlds is that no one knows what worlds are possible.' Discuss.
11. Is it possible to give an account of the identity of persons which respects the usual logic of identity?
12. ' ... it is perfectly clear that, if there were such a thing as this existence of individuals that we talk of, it would be absolutely impossible for it not to apply, and that is the characteristic of a mistake' (RUSSELL). Discuss.
13. Are there problems about the relation of mind and body that are not in principle answerable by scientific investigation?
14. 'A knows a priori that p if and only if A believes that p and it is necessarily true that p.' Discuss.
15. Could there be a period of time during which nothing happened?
16. Could a thing have spatial location but no temporal location?
17. Are the properties of particular things themselves particular?
18. Is it arbitrary what is to count as a natural kind?
19. If metaphysics were eliminated, would any beliefs worth keeping be lost?
PART 2. PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
20. Does the under-determination of theory by data undermine the idea that some theories are rationally accepted?
21. 'The history of scientific revolutions makes scientific realism untenable.' Discuss.
22. In what sense, if any, is physics the fundamental science?
23. 'Nothing can travel faster than light.' How would you explain the appropriate sense of 'can'?
24. Is serious use of the concept of probability within scientific theories incompatible with determinism?
25. 'Theories are no more conclusively falsifiable than they are conclusively verifiable.' Discuss.
26. Why is it wrong to explain the length of the flagpole by the length of the shadow?
27. 'Instrumentalists make weaker claims than realists; the former, therefore, are more likely to be right.' Discuss.
PART 3: METAPHYSICS AND THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE
1. Is knowledge simply true belief that is not at all accidental?
2. EITHER 'Our experiences cause our beliefs but they do not justify them.' Discuss.
OR Is our belief in an external world a theory that best explains the perceptual data?
3. Does scepticism rest on a mistake?
4. Does the possibility of acquiring knowledge by being told something depend on having a well-founded belief in the reliability of others' testimony?
5. Can memory tell us anything that we do not already know?
6. What makes a piece of knowledge a priori?
7. EITHER What philosophical worries about induction, if any, are answered by the observation that 'nothing could induce me to put my hand into a flame - although after all it is only in the past that I have burnt myself?'
OR Are hypotheses of the form 'All Fs are G' invariably confirmed by observing that a particular F is G?
8. Is travelling through time only contingently more difficult than travelling through space?
9. Are there tensed facts?
10. 'The possession of a property by a substance at a time.' Is this a good account of what an event is?
11. Might there be non-existent objects?
12. EITHER 'Identity over time is nothing but spatio-temporal continuity.' Do you agree?
OR Is it merely an illusion that Hesperus might not have been Phosphorus?
13. If everything F were destroyed, would F-ness still exist?
14. Does the suggestion that the mental supervenes on the material satisfactorily resolve questions about the relation of mind and matter?
15. 'To say that it is possible that p is simply to say that we can imagine it being true that p.' Discuss.
16. 'The F caused the G.' 'All Fs are followed by Gs.' 'If there had not been an F, there would not have been a G.' How are these three claims related?
17. Is redness a physical property, an objective property, both, or neither?
18. What, if anything, makes some of the kinds into which we classify things more natural than others?
PART 4. PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE & technology
19. Do models play any more than an heuristic role in science?
20. ' ... observation and experiment, in conjunction with hypothetico-deductive reasoning, do not adequately account for the choice of scientific theories.? Is that so?
21. Does the corroboration of a novel prediction provide more support for a theory than its explanation of an observation known before the theory was propounded?
22. Is theory underdetermined by data in any worrying sense?
23. Are there any laws of nature?
24. Did Popper provide a more satisfactory account than the logical positivists of what makes an assertion scientific?
25. Can probability be analysed in terms of degrees of conviction?
26. Are all explanations really arguments?
27. 'Any talk of the goal of science is a mistake. While it may be that each scientist has a goal, there is no one goal that each scientist has.' Discuss.
28. How could one vindicate a scientific methodology?
29. Does the revision of a theory automatically change the meaning of its theoretical terms?
30. Is it possible to resolve the dispute between realism and instrumentalism?
PART 5. METAPHYSICS AND THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE
1. 'A subject cannot know that p if she has no idea how she knows that p.' Do you agree?
2. Can the attempt to show that a belief is fully justified avoid falling into an infinite regress?
3. 'Scepticism can be defeated by argument.' 'Scepticism can be defeated, but not by argument.' 'Scepticism cannot be defeated.' Which of these claims is closest to the truth?
4. Could there be truths that we could not in principle understand?
5. What is the relation between perceiving a and perceiving that a is F?
6. Is memory simply the retention of prior knowledge?
7. Does induction need a justification?
8. Is the idea of a time at which nothing happens any more or less problematic than the idea of a space that has no occupant?
9. 'Since persons, unlike clubs or nations, are natural individuals, questions about their identity always have definite answers.' Discuss.
10. Does the appeal to possible worlds help us to understand necessity?
11. Are properties sets of particulars?
12. Is either of the categories substance or event more basic than the other?
13. 'Psychophysical dualism is false. But it could have turned out to be true.' Do you agree?
14. 'A cause is a full and sufficient condition of its effect.' Is it?
15. Are secondary qualities essentially dispositional in a way that primary qualities are not?
16. 'There might be a substance which has all the identifying marks we commonly attributed to gold and used to identify it in the first place, but which is not the same kind of thing' (KRIPKE). Do you agree?
17. 'Nothing that happens now can affect the past or the laws of nature. So nothing that happens now can affect what will happen in the future.' Assess this argument.
18. Are there contingent truths that can be known a priori?
19. Is epistemology central to philosophy?
PART 6. PHILOSOPHY OF Semantics and language
20. Should observation sentences have any particular linguistic form?
21. Is there any merit in thinking of scientific theories as stipulated rather than discovered?
22. Was Quine right to hold that scientific theories are underdetermined by evidence?
23. In what sense did Kuhn hold that observation is theory-laden? Was he right?
24. 'Now a little reflection will lead us to the result that there is no fundamental difference between a universal sentence and a particular sentence with regard to verifiability but only a difference in degree' (CARNAP). Do you agree?
25. What has probability to do with counterfactuals?
26. Is Popper's principle of demarcation falsifiable? Does it matter if it is not?
27. 'As physics is the ultimate basis of all natural sciences, so the philosophy of physics is the foundation for the whole of the philosophy of science.' Discuss.
28. Is the best explanation for the role of mathematics in modern science the principle that the world itself has a mathematical structure?
PART 7. Philosophy of Mind
1. Assume that monism is preferable to dualism. Which then is preferable, materialism or mentalism?
2. 'Consciousness is an entirely private, first-person phenomenon' (DAMASIO).
Has philosophy given us reason to doubt this?
3. In what sense, if any, is thinking action?
'Folk psychology is not concerned with the hidden neural machinery that lies behind behaviour, and no discovery about the nature of that machinery can pose a threat to folk psychology.' Discuss.
Could there be a science of the mind?
5. What would a Martian-or an angel-have to be like to be a person?
6. 'Zombies are outwardly behaviourally identical to living human beings but have no conscious experience. Australian zombies are molecule-for-molecule identical to living human beings but have no conscious experience.' Could there be any zombies? Could there be any Australian zombies?
7. Is there something it is like, experientially speaking, to understand a sentence?
8. What is the best way to formulate functionalism as a theory of mental phenomena?
Can a subject of experience be directly aware of itself?
Is introspection a form of perception?
10. Is there such a thing as the self? What is the best case that can be made for its existence?
11. Is there anything puzzling in the phenomenon of weakness of will?
12. Is empiricism coherent as a theory of mind?
13. What, if anything, is meant by 'emotional intelligence'?
14. How much can someone seeing a tree and someone hallucinating a tree have in common, mentally speaking?
15. 'Conscious decisions to perform actions occur after the physical processes that lead to the execution of those actions have been initiated.' If this is true, does it threaten our autonomy or freedom of will?
What causal antecedents does an intentional action have to have?
'A basic action is something we do, and do intentionally, and don't do by doing anything else.' What useful role can this notion play?
17. What has to be true if I remember a past experience 'from the inside'?
Part 8 : Philosophy of the psychology and mind
1. What makes a state of a person a mental state?
2. 'The principle on which we "solve the other minds problem" is: same-causes-same-effects, and relevantly-similar-causes-relevantly-similar-effects' (SEARLE). Is it?
3. Does perception always involve the having of belief?
4. Can there be a criterion of whether we are awake or dreaming?
5. Can a functionalist account for our knowledge of our own minds?
6. 'There are two statements contradicting one another: one is that feelings are essentially hidden; the other, that someone is hiding his feelings from me' (WITTGENSTEIN). Discuss.
7. Can a materialist cope with the consideration that a thought, but not a brain process, can be original, illogical, true or confused?
8. Does 'I' refer to a body, a mind, a composite of body and mind, or nothing at all?
9. 'The most important difference between a sensation and an emotion is that emotions, unlike sensations, are directed to objects' (KENNY). Discuss.
10. Are actions made voluntary by acts of will? If not, what makes them so?
11. Can there be thought without language?
12. Is it sufficient for intending to act that one should desire to act and believe that one will do so?
13. Is it right to say that a mental state is conscious if and only if it is accompanied by a thought about that state?
14. Can the mind change the world?
15. Does the content of a thought ever depend on factors external to the mind of the thinker? Of what significance is it if it does?
16. Could there be satisfactory explanations of human behaviour which made no appeal to beliefs or desires?
Part 9 : Philosophy of the consciousness and belief
1. 'There could be an exact physical replica of you that lacked consciousness.' What arguments might be advanced for and against this possibility?
2. 'What the sentences of my language mean may depend on contingent facts about my environment, but the content of my mental states cannot do so.' Discuss.
3. 'From the subject's point of view, remembering something is just like imagining it.' What differentiates memory and imagination?
4. Can functionalism give an adequate account of beliefs?
5. 'Self-ascription [of mental states] depends on other-ascription [of them]' (P F STRAWSON). Does it, and if so why?
'The only way to treat the mind as a part of the natural world is to reduce mental phenomena to physical ones.' Discuss.
Are there any psycho-physical laws? Can this be settled a priori?
7. 'Are we perhaps over-hasty in our assumption that the smile of the unweaned infant is not a pretence?' (WITTGENSTEIN). Am I over-hasty in my assumption that your smile is not a pretence?
8. 'There are no cases of self-deception, only cases of wishful thinking.' Discuss.
9. Can languageless creatures have beliefs and desires? What sorts of beliefs and desires might they have?
10. Is Davidson's anomalous monism a form of epiphenomenalism?
11. 'If the will is free, then no scientific study of the mind is possible.' Discuss.
12. Is every case of doing something intentionally also a case of trying to do something?
13. How does seeing a bloody dagger differ from hallucinating one?
14. What is the relationship between fearing a dog, and judging that it is dangerous?
15. If I am aware simultaneously of rising anger and of a sharp pain in my leg, what makes it the case that the anger and the pain are felt by the same person?
Part 10 : Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Criticism
1. Can anything of value be salvaged from Plato's aesthetics if we reject his metaphysics?
2. Could a comedy be cathartic?
3. 'In every part of the world which we call beautiful there is surprising uniformity amidst an almost infinite variety' (HUTCHESON). Is this true, and if it is, what can we conclude from it?
4. 'The same excellence of faculties, which contributes to the improvement of reason ¼ [is] essential to the operations of true taste' (HUME). Does Hume make taste depend too much upon the intellect?
5. 'The beautiful is that, which ¼ is represented as the object of universal delight' (KANT). Explain and evaluate Kant's reasons for this claim.
6. What is the sublime?
7. Can Schopenhauer's account of aesthetic experience be applied to art forms other than music?
8. Could there be poetry without metaphor?
9. Can a musical work be distinguished from the sum of its performances?
10. 'If only we could forget for a while about the beautiful and get down instead to the dainty and the dumpy' (AUSTIN). How might this help the study of aesthetics?
11. Do photographs depict their subjects?
12. Can we want Othello to see the truth about Desdemona before it is too late, without wanting the play to have a happy ending?
13. Could one wine be objectively better or worse than another?
14. ' "The fine arts" is just a grand name for the leisure pursuits of the moneyed classes.' Is it?
Part 11: The philosophy of Art & literature
1. Did Plato's attitude towards poetry change between the composition of the Ion and the Republic?
2. 'The cathartic effect of a tragedy can contribute to its instrumental value but not to its intrinsic value as a work of art.' Do you agree?
3. 'Beauty is the name of something that does not exist which I give to things in exchange for the pleasure they give me' (PESSOA). Discuss.
4. 'The taste of all individuals is not upon an equal footing' (HUME). Is it not?
5. Why does Kant insist that the judgment of taste must have no interest as its determining ground?
6. Assess the plausibility of Kant's formalism about beauty in relation EITHER to architecture, OR to painting, OR to music.
7. 'Music... is a non-conceptual art, and is able to present to us, in objective form, a direct picture of the will itself' (SCRUTON). Discuss.
8. Should the relation between a picture and what it represents be assimilated to the relation between a predicate and what it applies to?
9. 'The crucial question to ask of [the institutional theory of art] is this: Is it to be presumed that those who confer status upon some artifact do so for good reasons, or is there no such presumption?' (WOLLHEIM). Discuss.
10. Can children's games of make-believe teach us anything about the nature of art?
11. Is the imagination involved in understanding fiction in a way that it is not involved in understanding history?
12. Should historical considerations inform our account of the nature and meaning of art?
13. Can a perfect copy of a work of art be as good as the original from which it was copied?
14. Could a poet discover that his own poems did not have the meaning that he ascribed to them?
15. Could a pornographic film be a work of great aesthetic value?
Part 12: Philosophy of linguistics and art
1. 'So the artist has neither knowledge nor correct opinion about the goodness or badness of the things he represents' (PLATO). Does Plato have good reasons for this claim? What are its consequences?
2. 'The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. ? The true difference is that one relates what has happened, the other what may happen' (ARISTOTLE). Are Shakespeare's history plays then mere history?
3. What are the similarities and differences between aesthetic and moral value?
4. Does Kant succeed in distinguishing the beautiful from the merely agreeable?
5. Was Schopenhauer right to regard the arts as cognitive rather than expressive?
6. Could one decide whether something was a work of art without evaluating it?
7. Is there a paradox of tragedy?
8. 'In "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" Sherlock Holmes solves a murder mystery by showing that the victim has been killed by a Russell's viper that has climbed a bell rope. What Holmes did not realize was that Russell's viper is not a constrictor. The snake is therefore incapable of concertina movement and could not have climbed the rope. Either the snake reached its victim some other way or the case remains open.' Does this argument rest upon a mistake about fiction?
9. Can artistic intentions be adequately expressed in photographs?
10. Is it more rational to respond emotionally to a piece of music than to a novel?
11. What is fashion? Is fashion consciousness a form of good taste?
12. 'Understanding [of the work of art] is reached through description, but through profound description, or description profounder than scrutiny can provide, and such description may be expected to include such issues as how much of the character of the work is by design, how much has come about through changes of intention, and what were the ambitions that went to its making but were not realized in the final product' (WOLLHEIM). Discuss.
13. Can a resemblance theory of depiction account for pictures, which misrepresent their subjects?
14. Is onomatopoeia a form of non-linguistic representation?
15. Should we, wherever possible, restore paintings to their authentic colors?