Back to the Philosophers Themselves!
Full course description
How can an absurd novel like Voltaire’s Candide (1759) be understood as ‘philosophy’? Why did Plato present Socrates and his friends in an elaborate dialogue on love during a fancy dinner instead of just explaining his theories in an orderly written argument? And why can philosophical texts be written quite systematically and be personal (Descartes) as well as in the form of seemingly associative notes and comments (as in Wittgenstein’s famous Philosophical Investigations)?
In this course well known philosophical texts will be read and analyzed in detail. Students will be confronted directly with the specific, often personal style of a philosopher- that will be completely different from the week before. . While the course presents a range of philosophers who considerably differ in time period, background and philosophical current, what binds them is their careful attention to style, and how their way of presenting their message is intricately bound up with their philosophical outlook.
Reading philosophers, that is, the reading of some of their primary texts, is not only a pleasure in itself: most of the more interesting philosophers are also famous stylists. Therefore it is important to read the original texts instead of always relying on handbooks or (internet) encyclopedia texts to acquaint oneself with the central ideas of these philosophers.Moreover, there is a lot to learn from reading philosophers themselves, to see how they are positioned in the tradition of philosophy and in the contemporary intellectual debate, to determine what interesting problems are, and how one could go about searching for some answers, solutions or new questions for our time. Reading philosophers themselves also has merit for another reason: it turns out that philosophers use a variety of writing styles and publication media like a scientific treatise, a monograph, an essay, a collection of aphorisms or even a novel. And last but not least: they provide the best introduction into some of the classical philosophical problems like: What can we know? How should we valuate? What is justice? Is there something like moral sense? Are we free? How does language work? Who is (not) included or excluded?
In this course we take the time to collectively read and profoundly discuss original texts of Plato, Descartes, Voltaire, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein and Irigaray. They are responsible for some of the best work that has been produced in the philosophical tradition.
To study diverse challenging philosophical texts, avoiding PBL’s usual fragmentary reading.
To be immersed in primary texts of important philosophers and get intellectual pleasure from it.
To introduce some classical philosophical problems.
To become aware of different styles, text forms and sorts of philosophy.
HUM1007 Introduction to Philosophy or HUM2008 Introduction to Ancient Philosophy/Ancient Philosophy or COR1004 Political Philosophy.
Plato, The Symposium (172a-212c, 222c-223d).
René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
Voltaire, Candide. Or : Optimism. Orig. Candide ou l’Optimisme.
Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Freedom of the Will (except the fourth chapter). Orig. Preisschrift über die Freiheit des Willens.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations. §§ 1-108.
Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the other woman. 1985, p.243-83.