开始时间: 07/06/2015 持续时间: 7 weeks
This course will introduce you to some of the main areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each week a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise. We’ll begin by trying to understand what philosophy is – what are its characteristic aims and methods, and how does it differ from other subjects? Then we’ll spend the rest of the course gaining an introductory overview of several different areas of philosophy. Topics you’ll learn about will include:
Week 1: What is Philosophy? (Dr. Dave Ward)
We’ll start the course by thinking about what Philosophy actually is; what makes it different from other subjects? What are its distinctive aims and methods? To help us think about this, we’ll consider a couple of different approaches philosophers have taken to arguably the biggest question of all: what is the Meaning of Life? We’ll then look ahead to some of the different branches of philosophy we’ll be considering on the course.
Week 2: What do you know? (Professor Duncan Pritchard)
We know a lot of things – or, at least, we think we do. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge; what it is, and the ways we can come to have it. This week, we’ll take a tour through some of the issues that arise in this branch of philosophy. In particular, we’ll think about what radical scepticism means for our claims to knowledge. How can we know something is the case if we’re unable to rule out possibilities that are clearly incompatible with it?
Week 3: Are scientific theories true? (Dr. Michela Massimi)
In this session we will explore a central and ongoing debate in contemporary philosophy of science: whether or not scientific theories are true. Or better, whether a scientific theory needs be 'true' to be good at all. The answer to this question comes in two main varieties. Scientific realists believe that theories ought to be true in order to be good. We will analyse their main argument for this claim (which goes under the name of 'no miracles argument'), and some prominent objections to it. Scientific antirealists, on the other hand, defend the view that there is nothing special about 'truth' and that scientific theories and scientific progress can be understood without appeal to it. The aim of this session is to present both views, their main arguments, and prospects.
Week 4: Minds, Brains and Computers (Dr. Suilin Lavelle)
If you’re reading this, then you’ve got a mind. But what is a mind, and what does it take to have one? Should we understand minds as sets of dispositions to behave in certain ways, as patterns of neural activation, or as akin to programmes that are run on the computational hardware of our brains? This week, we’ll look at how and why recent philosophy of mind and psychology has embraced each of these options in turn, and think about the problems and prospects for each.
Week 5: Morality: Objective, Subjective or Relative? (Dr. Matthew Chrisman)
We all live with some sense of what is good or bad, some feelings about which ways of conducting ourselves are better or worse. But what is the status of these moral beliefs, senses, or feelings? Should we think of them as reflecting hard, objective facts about our world, of the sort that scientists could uncover and study? Or should we think of moral judgements as mere expressions of personal or cultural preferences? This week we’ll survey some of the different options that are available when we’re thinking about these issues, and the problems and prospects for each.
Week 6: Should you believe what you hear? (Dr. Allan Hazlett)
Much of what we think about the world we believe on the basis of what other people say. But is this trust in other people's testimony justified? This week, we’ll investigate how this question was addressed by two great philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, David Hume (1711 - 1776) and Thomas Reid (1710 - 1796). Hume and Reid's dispute about testimony represents a clash between two worldviews that would continue to clash for centuries: a skeptical and often secular worldview, eager to question everything (represented by Hume), and conservative and often religious worldview, keen to defend common sense (represented by Reid).
Week 7: Philosophy and the Structure of Reality (Dr. Alasdair Richmond)
In our last week we’ll take a brief tour through some of the issues in metaphysics, a branch of philosophy that investigates the ways that reality could intelligibly be. As a case study, we’ll focus on the possibility, or otherwise, of time-travel. Some have thought that the apparent possibility of creating a machine that we could use to transport a person backwards in time can be ruled out just by thinking about it. But is time-travel really logically impossible? What would the universe have to be like for it to be possible? And can we know whether our universe fits the bill?
This course will introduce you to some of the most important areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each week a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise.