Explore some of the most important ideas, themes and thinkers in the history of Western philosophy. Learn about some of the central problems of philosophy, and how to puzzle them for yourselves.
In this term we will be looking closely at issues in Moral and Political philosophy and exploring the connections between the two. The kind of questions we will be exploring include the following: are there any objective standards of what is morally right and wrong? Or are all such judgements always relative to a certain time and place or from person to person? What might the implications of this be? Can we turn to philosophers when trying to resolve ethical dilemmas in real life?
Turning to questions of social and political philosophy, we ask such questions as; are there any good, rational reasons why we should obey the laws of the State? What makes political authority legitimate, and when is it illegitimate and open to resistance? What is the proper relationship between the power of the State and the Freedom of the Individual? What do we really mean when we talk about freedom anyway? Can we really talk about 'progress' when it comes to the development of societies and culture, and what are the implications of an answer to this question?
In exploring these ideas and others, we will come across the work of range of philosophers from the 17th Century up until today, including Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, Bentham, Marx, and more.
By the end of the course, you should be able to:
- Compare, Contrast and Evaluate different theories within normative ethics (e.g. Kantian versus Utilitarian approaches to the nature of morality)
- Assess the significance of philosophical debates concerning the nature of morality (e.g. the Realism vs Relativism debate concerning the nature of moral values)
- Compare, Contrast and Evaluate differing philsophical approaches to the relationship between the individual and the State
- Develop your knowledge of the history of philosophy and the ideas, debates and concepts which have been developed there