Centre for Continuing Education

Introduction to Philosophy Course I

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

Learn about philosophy the smart way with Philosophy courses at the University of Sydney.

This introductory philosophy course provides an understanding of the history of philosophy and the major contribution it has made to areas of thought such as political theory, ethics, aesthetics and the sciences. It encourages the development of critical thinking and the use of informal logic techniques as you explore some of history’s great thinkers and philosophers including the Greek pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Nietzsche and Foucault.

Come along, extend your intellectual horizons and find out why this introductory course creates a loyal following for our philosophy program.

Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • discuss the main features of the idea of philosophy, its history and significance
  • discuss the individual thinkers in the course, and their contribution to the development of philosophy, politics and psychology
  • compare the implications of the history of philosophy with our contemporary world view
  • use the insights of the course to deepen your knowledge of yourself and your life issues
  • apply some of the ideas to personal decision making mechanisms.

Content

Introduction to philosophy

We commence with an overview of the course content and then consider the question: What is philosophy?

Greek philosophy

How did Greek philosophy begin? We consider this question through an analysis of the Pre-Socratic Philosophers: Thales, Heraclitus, Parmenides and Democritus. We also introduce the topic of formal logic, the issues of truth and validity, and methods of good argumentation.

Plato on justice

Plato’s political utopian text the Republic had a profound influence on most later political philosophy. We discuss Plato’s concept of ‘justice’ and how he builds his utopian society based on that founding concept.

Aristotle

Aristotle’s philosophy in the Nicomachean Ethics is studied as an introduction to the topic of ethics. Particular attention is given to the problem of human ‘free will’. We also consider the system of informal logic, and discuss some examples of good and bad arguments.

Seventeenth Century England

We now move from the Ancient Greek world to seventeenth century England and further develop the study of political philosophy through Thomas Hobbes' work: Leviathan. Problems such as the justification of political power and the problem of individual rights will be discussed. We also continue our work on the problem of how to assess a sound argument.

Human rights

John Locke introduces the idea of ‘human rights’ as a basis for his political theory. This idea is the foundation of Liberalism and integral to all Western political thinking. We consider Locke’s theory of private property including his concept of ‘property in the body’.

Immanuel Kant

The eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant is considered to be the founder of modern aesthetics. We consider Kant’s theory of the importance of aesthetics to human life and his concepts of the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘sublime’.

Romantic Movement

The next development in philosophy is the Romantic Movement. The Romantics shift the analysis of the human condition away from reason and social order to issues of emotion and the unconscious, irrational drives which subvert our rational intentions.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The late nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche will be studied for his aesthetic theories which represent a core nineteenth century romanticism, and for his critique of morality which introduces many of the themes which preoccupy continental philosophy during the twentieth century.

Michel Foucault

This week we introduce postmodern philosophy with the work of the French thinker Michel Foucault. We look at his theories of how power works in social and political life; how the concept of ‘truth’ functions; and the role of the body in the political machinery of history. We discuss his texts: The History of Sexuality Vol 1 and Discipline and Punish.

Intended Audience

Anyone with a general interest in philosophy

Delivery Style

Lecture/seminar

Recommended Reading

Readings are provided in class

Materials

Handouts are provided in class

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • A fantastic lecturer to bring the students into the heart of philosophy in these interactive classes!

  • Our presenter provided entertaining and informative sessions, full of thought-provoking ideas and light-hearted insights into everyday life. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to put some time aside to ponder the big questions of life in an environment that encourages dialog and feedback amongst participants. We had so much fun debating each other in those sessions.

  • The tutor was exceptional and managed to present complex material in a way that was engaging and intelligent. Also had a great sense of humour. I will be seeking out other courses conducted by the same tutor.

  • I already have recommended both this particular course and courses in general run by CCE. My experience of the tutors has been fantastic.

  • Just adore this tutor! They can make even the driest subject interesting and even fun.

  • Fabulous presenter who engages well with the group and makes the subject accessible and relevant to our lives. Very worthwhile experience. I’ll definitely be attending more courses with this tutor. Many thanks for the opportunity.

  • Great lecturer. The course was insightful and enjoyable to attend. The best thing about it was the ability to discuss openly about the topics.

  • A great tutor, with a very sound grasp on the material and an extremely engaging style of presentation.

  • The tutor was fantastic. Made the subject matter fun and understandable. I would be very interested to do more of their courses.

  • The course was exactly what I was looking for. The content delivered was at the level of the group. The lecturer was brilliant. I look forward to doing more courses.

  • Fabulous tutor. Very knowledgeable and entertaining.

  • An excellent lecturer. Delivery is highly stimulating. Succinctly and effectively explained complex concepts and their use of real-life examples to illustrate the points have been extremely helpful. This is a great introduction to philosophy!

  • An outstanding teacher – open, informed, generated great debate. If only all teachers could be like them.

  • The tutor was excellent and I was satisfied with the material that was covered in the course. I’ve enrolled for another course with the same tutor and very much looking forward to it.

  • An entertaining and knowledgeable lecturer, well-versed in the teaching of philosophy for beginners. They expressed complicated theories in a language which engaged our attention for 10 weeks. They made us laugh at their references to everyday-life to explain the deeper meanings. They listened to us too when we attempted to make sense of the great thinkers. I am looking forward to the next skeptical session with this tutor.

  • Bloody brilliant – second time I’ve done this!

  • I am looking forward to doing further courses. As I have probably said before, this tutor is an engaging lecturer.

Introduction to Philosophy Course I

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What others say.

  • I couldn't have asked for a better tutor to introduce me to the world of philosophy.
  • I was very pleased with the course. I liked the whole concept of adult learning on topics like this and I liked the idea of learning without assessment. This course has an excellent lecturer/teacher - particularly for an adult audience. The content was pitched and delivered at the right level for the audience. I particularly enjoyed the sense of humour which I saw as a mark of the tutor's remarkable intellect. My congratulations and thanks to both the tutor and to the Centre.
  • I am looking forward to doing further courses. As I have probably said before, this tutor is so engaging.