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Philosophy, literally "the love of wisdom", has long been associated with the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. Philosophical questions tend to be foundational and abstract in nature. In this course, we'll aim to connect those questions to practical issues. One theme will be skepticism, about knowledge and about science. 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 it be merely an illusion? How is it possible for scientific knowledge of laws of nature to be based on limited observation of empirical facts? Other themes include ethics, and identity. What makes you you, and how do you know? What moral obligations do we have to potential sexual partners, to ourselves, to animals, and to people in poor countries? Are some actions wrong even if they lead to desirable consequences, like killing the few to save the many? In Big Questions, we'll examine (mostly) 20th and 21st century works of philosophy with an eye towards understanding how such philosophical questions connect to our lives today.
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: 13 November 2019