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  3. Philosophy: The Big Questions

Philosophy: The Big Questions (PHIL10002)

Undergraduate level 1Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2017
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 1
Subject codePHIL10002
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject provides a general introduction to philosophy through an examination of big questions in three areas of philosophy: (1) Ethics. Does the moral rightness of an action depend solely on its consequences? Or are there some actions, like torture, which are morally wrong no matter how desirable the consequences? What is the moral status of animals? What is the responsibility of members of developed countries for global poverty? Is it morally permissible to spend money on non-essentials while children die of preventable poverty-related causes? (2) The Metaphysics of Genetic Engineering. What makes you you? What changes can you undergo and still be you? If you had been genetically altered in utero would you still be you? If genetic engineering becomes commonplace in homo sapiens (as it already is in many crop species) are we still homo sapiens? We’ll examine questions of the self via an exploration of the metaphysical implications of genetic engineering. (3) Knowledge and scepticism. What is knowledge and do we actually know what we take ourselves to know? Do we know that there is an external world or might we be subject to a massive illusion created by an evil demon? How is it possible for scientific knowledge of laws of nature to be based on limited observation of empirical facts?

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • REFLECT critically upon big philosophical questions;
  • IDENTIFY and define key philosophical concepts;
  • READ philosophical texts with particular focus on the philosophical arguments that are presented in these texts;
  • WRITE well-structured and well-argued short essays that accurately explain and critically assess philosophical views;
  • ARTICULATE their own responses to philosophical views, support them by reasons and defend them in light of criticism;
  • Critically EVALUATE philosophical views by considering the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments for and against the views.

Last updated: 15 July 2017