A Few Introductory Remarks about the Course:
This course will serve as an introduction to philosophy. But what is philosophy?
The English word "philosophy" comes from the Greek (philosophia), which literally
means "love of wisdom".
*I’m skeptical that any definition will really suffice: philosophy is probably many
things; not one thing…
Here’s one definition that might serve our purposes in this course:
“Philosophy is the study of fundamental problems, such as those connected with
existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. “
Some of you might be thinking: “Well, some of these questions and problems
sound pretty interesting. But wouldn’t science do a better job of answering them
than some weird discipline founded a couple of millennia ago by strange Greek
men in togas?”
Good question! Here’s a thought experiment:
A thought experiment: Would knowing every relevant scientific fact about the
following questions exhaust the reasons for inquiry into them?
- What is beauty? Are aesthetic considerations objective or subjective?
- What is justice?
- Are human beings fundamentally free, self-authoring beings?
- Is the world we inhabit comprised of physical material only, or are there
immaterial entities too?
- Is it okay to have sexual intercourse with non-human animals?
- Can moral claims be true or false in the same way as ordinary claims about
the physical world?
- Is there a God?
- May a state legitimately force its citizens to adopt a certain religion? Why
or why not?
Science teaches us immense amounts about our world, but it’s not clear that
these are scientific questions. Maybe what makes all of these questions “philosophical” is that they are