What is Philosophy?
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, Grove, NY, 1954, p. 13.
|PHIL-SHU 101||Online||Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:15pm–2:30pm|
|Brad Weslakeemail@example.com||1555 Century Avenue, Room 961||By appointment.|
This course is a methodologically oriented introduction to philosophy through the study of selected central problems. Our approach will be historical, comparative and interdisciplinary.
The aim of this course is for students to significantly improve their capacity to:
- Extract, explain and evaluate the arguments contained in philosophical texts.
- Understand the central arguments and theories contained in the assigned readings.
- Understand different ways in which the nature and methods of philosophy have been conceived.
- Apply multiple philosophical methods to a single question.
- Constructively participate in philosophical discussion.
- Write clear, concise, and well organised philosophical essays.
- Three 6–8 page papers.
- Attendance and participation.
The final grade will be determined approximately as follows:
|First Paper (Wednesday 17 March):||20%||[PDF]|
|Second Paper (Monday 19 April):||30%||[PDF]|
|Third Paper (Sunday 16 May):||40%||[PDF]|
|Attendance and participation:||10%|
Attendance and Lateness
Students are required to attend all classes on time. An explanation for every absence or late attendance must be submitted in writing. Every failure to attend class on time will count against the component of the final grade awarded for attendance and participation, unless an explanation is received and approved. Requests for exceptions will be considered on a case by case basis, and typically granted only when related to an illness or other unforeseeable change of circumstances. Students who have been excessively absent will be considered to have unofficially withdrawn and will be given a final grade of F.
It is a condition on passing this course that students read and adhere to the NYU Shanghai policy on academic integrity as described in the current NYU Shanghai Academic Bulletin.
Meeting 1: What is Philosophy? (Monday 25 January)
- Hadot, Pierre.  1995. “Philosophy as a Way of Life”, in Davidson (Ed), Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 264–276 [PDF]
Section I: Scepticism
Meeting 2: Descartes I (Wednesday 27 January)
- Descartes, René.  1996. Meditations on First Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. First and Second Meditation, pp. 17–23. [PDF]
Meeting 3: Descartes II (Monday 1 February)
- Stroud, Barry. 1984. “The Problem of the External World”, in The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 1–38. [PDF]
Meeting 4: Vasubandhu I (Wednesday 3 February)
- Vasubandhu, c400, Viṃśatikākārikā and Viṃśatikāvṛtti. Translated by Anacker, Stefan. 2005. Seven Works of Vasubandhu: The Buddhist Psychological Doctor, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, pp. 161-179. [PDF]
Meeting 5: Vasubandhu II (Monday 8 February)
- Mills, Ethan. 2017. “External-World Skepticism in Classical India: The Case of Vasubandhu”, in International Journal for the Study of Skepticism, Vol. 7, No. 3, August, pp. 147–172. [PDF]
Meeting 6: Method I: Comparative Philosophy (Wednesday 10 February)
- Siderits, Mark. 2017. “Comparison or Confluence In Philosophy?”, in Ganeri (Ed), The Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 75–92. [PDF]
Spring Festival: 11–19 February
Section II: Freedom
Meeting 7: First-Order Compatibilism (Monday 22 February)
- Ayer, Alfred Jules. 1954. “Freedom and Necessity”, in Philosophical Essays, Macmillan, London, pp. 271–284. [PDF]
- Hume, David.  2007. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and Other Writings, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Chapter 8, “Of Liberty and Necessity”. [PDF]
Meeting 8: Second-Order Compatibilism I (Wednesday 24 February)
- Frankfurt, Harry G. 1971. “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person”, in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 68, No. 1, January, pp. 5–20. [PDF]
- Wolf, Susan. 1987. “Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility”, in Schoeman (Ed), Responsibility, Character, and the Emotions: New Essays in Moral Psychology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 46–62. [PDF]
Meeting 9: Second-Order Compatibilism II (Monday 1 March)
- Zhuangzi, c350BC, “The Secret of Caring for Life”, in Watson, Burton. 2013. The Complete Works of Zhuangzi, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 19-21. [PDF]
- Velleman, J. David. 2008. “The Way of the Wanton”, in Mackenzie and Atkins (Ed), Practical Identity and Narrative Agency, Routledge, New York, pp. 169–192. [PDF]
Meeting 10: Incompatibilism I (Wednesday 3 March)
- van Inwagen, Peter. 1975. “The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism”, in Philosophical Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3, March, pp. 185–199. [PDF]
- Lewis, David. 1981. “Are We Free to Break the Laws?”, in Theoria, Vol. 47, No. 3, December, pp. 113–121. [PDF]
Meeting 11: Incompatibilism II (Monday 8 March)
- Pereboom, Derk. 2001. Living Without Free Will, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 110-117. [PDF]
- Vihvelin, Kadri. 2013. Causes, Laws, and Free Will: Why Determinism Doesn’t Matter, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 148-155. [PDF]
Meeting 12: Method II: Experimental Philosophy (Wednesday 10 March)
- Sommers, Tamler. 2010. “Experimental Philosophy and Free Will”, in Philosophy Compass, Vol. 5, No. 2, February, pp. 199–212. [PDF]
- Sripada, Chandra Sekhar. 2012. “What Makes a Manipulated Agent Unfree?”, in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 85, No. 3, November, pp. 563–593. [PDF]
Section III: Virtue
Meeting 13: Aristotle I (Monday 15 March)
- Aristotle, c330BC, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I. Translated by Roger Crisp. 2000. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 3–22. [PDF]
Meeting 14: Aristotle II (Wednesday 17 March)
- Aristotle, c330BC, Nicomachean Ethics, Book II. Translated by Roger Crisp. 2000. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 23–36. [PDF]
Meeting 15: Virtue and Reason (Monday 22 March)
- McDowell, John. 1979. “Virtue and Reason”, in The Monist, Vol. 62, No. 3, July, pp. 331–350. [PDF]
Meeting 16: Xunzi (Wednesday 24 March)
- Xunzi, c300BC, Chapters 1-2, 23. Translated by Eric L. Hutton, 2014. Xunzi: The Complete Text, Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. 1–15, 248-257. [PDF]
Meeting 17: Situationism (Monday 29 March)
- Doris, John M. 1998. “Persons, Situations, and Virtue Ethics”, in Noûs, Vol. 32, No. 4, December, pp. 504–530. [PDF]
Meeting 18: Xunzi and Situationism (Wednesday 31 March)
- Mower, Deborah S. 2013. “Situationism and Confucian Virtue Ethics”, in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 16, No. 1, February, pp. 113–137. [PDF]
Qingming: 5–7 April
Section IV: Property
Meeting 19: Locke (Monday 12 April)
Locke, John.  2003. Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration, Yale University Press, New Haven, Chapter V, “Of Property“, pp. 111–121. [PDF]
Meeting 20: Locke and Capitalism I (Wednesday 14 April)
Macpherson, C. B. 1951. “Locke on Capitalist Appropriation”, in The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 4, December, pp. 550–566. [PDF]
Meeting 21: Locke and Capitalism II (Monday 19 April)
Ryan, Alan. 1965. “Locke and the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie”, in Political Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2, June, pp. 219–230. [PDF]
Meeting 22: Locke and Colonialism (Wednesday 21 April)
Arneil, Barbara. 1996. “The Wild Indian’s Venison: Locke’s Theory of Property and English Colonialism in America”, in Political Studies, Vol. 44, No. 1, March, pp. 60–74. [PDF]
Section V: Existentialism
Meeting 23: Camus I (Sunday 25 April)
Camus, Albert.  1975. The Myth of Sisyphus, Penguin, Harmondsworth, pp. 10-32. [PDF]
Meeting 24: Camus II (Monday 26 April)
Camus, Albert.  1975. The Myth of Sisyphus, Penguin, Harmondsworth, pp. 32-63; 107-111. [PDF]
Meeting 25: Beckett (Wednesday 28 April)
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, c1949. Text from Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts, Grove, New York, 1954. Film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg from Beckett on Film, Clarence Pictures, London, 2001. Act I [PDF] [AVI], Act II [PDF] [AVI].
China Labor Day: 3 May
Meeting 26: Sartre I (Wednesday 5 May)
Jean Paul Sartre, No Exit, c1944. Text from Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1989. No Exit and Three Other Plays, Vintage, New York, pp. 3–46. Film adapted and directed by Philip Saville, BBC, 1964. [PDF] [YouTube]
Meeting 27: Sartre II (Monday 10 May)
Jean Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism, 1946. From Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2007. Existentialism Is a Humanism, Yale University Press, New Haven. pp. 17–54. [PDF]
Meeting 28: Money and Love (Wednesday 12 May)
Smith, Justin E. H. 2016. “Money and Love”, in The Philosopher: A History In Six Types, Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. 223–236. [PDF]
Updated: 25 April 2021