Central Problems in Philosophy

Spring 2016

Samuel Beckett, from Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, Grove, NY, 1954, p. 13.


Course CodeLocation Times
PHIL-SHU 150-001 (14602)1555 Century Avenue, Room 204Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:45am–11:00am


NameEmailOfficeConsultation Times
Brad Weslakebrad.weslake@nyu.edu1555 Century Avenue, Room 1226Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00am–12:00pm, or by appointment.


This course is an 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:



The final grade will be determined approximately as follows:

First Paper: 20% [PDF]
Second Paper: 30% [PDF]
Third Paper: 40% [PDF]
Attendance and participation: 10%

Due dates:

First Paper: Tuesday 15 March
Second Paper: Tuesday 19 April
Third Paper: Thursday 12 May


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 to the instructor. 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 at least one day prior to the class in question. 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 in life circumstance. Students who have been excessively absent will be considered to have unofficially withdrawn and will be given a final grade of F.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? (Tuesday 26 January)

Section I: Perception and Reality

Meeting 2: Descartes I (Thursday 28 January)

Meeting 3: Descartes II (Tuesday 2 February)

Meeting 4: Vasubandhu I (Thursday 4 February)

Spring Festival Holiday: 8–12 February

Meeting 5: Vasubandhu II (Tuesday 16 February)

Meeting 6: Nyāya I (Thursday 18 February)

Meeting 7: Nyāya II (Tuesday 23 February)

Section II: The Self

Meeting 8: Locke I (Thursday 25 February)

Meeting 9: Locke II (Tuesday 1 March)

Meeting 10: Locke III (Thursday 3 March)

Meeting 11: Vasubandhu I (Tuesday 8 March)

Meeting 12: Vasubandhu II (Thursday 10 March)

Meeting 13: The Self and Suffering I (Tuesday 15 March)

Meeting 14: The Self and Suffering II (Thursday 17 March)

Section III: Virtue and Character

Meeting 15: Aristotle (Tuesday 22 March)

Meeting 16: Special Session on Cognitive Penetration (Thursday 24 March)

Meeting 17: Confucius I (Tuesday 29 March)

Meeting 18: Confucius II (Thursday 31 March)

Spring Recess: 4–8 April

Meeting 19: Character I (Tuesday 12 April)

Meeting 20: Character II (Thursday 14 April)

Section IV: Biology and Identity

Meeting 21: Human Kinds (Tuesday 19 April)

Meeting 22: Race I (Thursday 21 April)

Meeting 23: Race II (Tuesday 26 April)

Meeting 24: Race III (Thursday 28 April)

Meeting 25: Ancestry I (Tuesday 3 May)

Meeting 26: Ancestry II (Thursday 5 May)

Meeting 27: Culture I (Tuesday 10 May)

Meeting 28: Culture II (Thursday 12 May)

Updated: 7 May 2016