Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: Philosophy of the Body and Mind

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 course will examine philosophical ideas about the nature of the human body: what kind of entity is it, and how does it produce our self-hood as individuals and as a species? We will draw from both the Western and Chinese philosophical traditions. Some topics include the concept of a healthy body; the body and sexuality; the body and pain; the concept of ‘deviant bodies’ (on this issue, we will use the French philosopher Michel Foucault).

We will also spend two weeks on the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Merleau-Ponty is one of the most significant theorists of the 20th century; his philosophy of the body grounded much of the subsequent work on the issue across philosophy, medicine and cultural studies. We will end with some current philosophers and their theories of the body in the 21st century.

Aims

This course aims to equip students with the ability to confidently discuss philosophical ideas about the nature of the human body: the type of entity it is and how it produces our self-hood as individuals and as a species.

Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  1. Discuss philosophical ideas about the nature of the human body.
  2. Discuss both the Western and Chinese philosophical traditions.
  3. Discuss the concept of a healthy body; the body and sexuality; the body and pain; the concept of ‘deviant bodies’.
  4. Discuss the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
  5. Identify some current philosophers and their theories of the body in the twenty-first century.

Content

This course covers the following topics:

What is the human body?

The course begins with an overview of ancient and modern philosophers, examining their understanding of what the body is, its role in creating self-hood and its relation to the mind.

Chinese philosophy of the body

Week 2 looks at alternative views to the Western philosophical tradition and its views on the body. Chinese Medicine views the body from within its own philosophical framework. Students will study the philosophy behind this Eastern view and its relation to the cosmic order.

The body in representation

We will look at how the body has been represented in various ages and societies, and the cultural, religious and political implications of these representations.


Beauty and the beast

In many societies connections have been made between beauty/ virtue/ health, and alternatively between evil/ ugly/ disease. What drives these connections and distinctions? This week, we will also look at the concept of ‘deviant bodies’ and their connection to various ideologies. We will consider the works of French philosopher Foucault during our discussions.


The body and sexuality

Ideas about how sex works and its' relation to virtue and the good life have varied widely over history. We will consider historical philosophical thought alongside contemporary views.


The body and pain

Where is pain located? We commonly say that it is in the body, but is this an accurate description of how pain works? We look at both ancient ideas about pain alongside contemporary views on this issue.

The concept of a healthy body

There is much contemporary discussion in medicine on what constituted ‘normal’ in terms of health; Is wellbeing the same as being medically healthy?


The phenomenal body

Two weeks of course content will focus on the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Merleau-Ponty is one of the most significant theorists of the twentieth century; his philosophy of the body grounded much of the subsequent work on the issue across medicine and cultural studies.


Contemporary philosophy of the body

The course ends with current philosophical theories of the body in the twenty-first century.

Delivery Style

Lecture

Recommended Reading

To be provided in class.

Materials

To be provided in class.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion
Philosophy Course: Philosophy of the Body and Mind

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