Introduction to Philosophy Fall 2008 ( Philosophy 100 (Honors))
Instructor: Dr.Arindam Chakrabarti Office: Sakamaki Hall C305 Time: Tues/Thurs: 9—10-15 am Office Hours: Wed 9—11 am (and by appointment) Place: Sakamaki C 103
The main purpose of this course is to acquaint the students with some central problems, positions, and arguments in the main branches of philosophy: Philosophy of Mind, Theory of Knowledge, Metaphysics, Moral/Social Philosophy, and Aesthetics. In order to dispel the popular prejudice that philosophy has nothing to do with ordinary daily life, the philosophical theories are applied to Friendship and Fashion, two themes close to young people’s lives. So, the course could be alternatively described as an introduction to the Philosophy of Friendship and to the Philosophy of Fashion.
Since it is meant to be a multi-cultural introduction to philosophy, the other objective of the course is to read critically the writings of both Asian and Non-Asian Philosophers, trying to extract arguments from the RgVeda, Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, the works of Confucius, Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, Nagarjuna, Seneca, Aquinas, Bacon, Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, Kant, Emerson, Kierkegaard, Derrida, Roland Barthes etc. We shall weave all the different debates on the self, the body, consciousness, knowledge, doubt, reality, cause, change, novelty, universals, virtue, happiness, relationships, beauty with two running threads. First, the most personally, practically, emotionally relevant theme in our lives: Friendship, and second, the apparently superficial but global market-driving social-aesthetic force: Fashion. Following the reasoning of those great thinkers, we shall try to answer such questions as: What is friendship? Is friendship possible? How does it start and end? Why is it valuable? Do our friends define who we are? What makes some style of dressing “fashionable”? What is the intrinsic attractiveness of the New? How is wanting related to needing, in so far as our habits of consumption are concerned? Are trends in fashion rationally explicable? How do fashions fashion our bodies and selves? How is fashion related to style?
A Sample Starting Point of a linking discussion
"My dear friend! There is no friend." So goes an ancient saying. Already while making such an utterance the speaker seems to be in two minds: one calls upon, hence believes that there is a friend and the other believes that there is not. But how can a single person have two minds or be a divided self? We start our philosophical hike along this forking path of "Divided Self". We then investigate the real nature of our selves, and what constitutes knowledge, for example knowing that someone else really loves me or knowing anything for that matter. How do we go about defining such a common concept as 'friendship'? Do we first collect instances and then look for common and special features ? On what basis do we collect the instances then? Can a non-human be a friend of a human? Or God? A tree or a river? the environment? Or a car or a computer? Do we really choose our friends freely or simply happen to get into friendships (like we get biological parents) due to causes beyond our control?
1. To learn how to think self-critically, logically, analytically, and philosophically.
2. To practice reading philosophical classics such as the Upanishads, the Annalects of Confucius,
the texts of Buddhist Philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Aquinas, Bacon, Kant, Emerson,
Kierkegaard, Derrida etc.
3. To learn to write clearly, arguing for both sides of an issue.
4. To train the students in philosophical debate and dialogue about everyday concerns.
WORLDLY WISDOM by Daniel Bonevac( WW)
OTHER SELVES ed by Michael Pakaluk (OS)
FASHION: A PHILOSOPHY by Lars Svendsen (F)
Exams and Assignments:1. 4 assigned 2-page journals ( @5 points each= 20points)
2. One midterm in-class written test in the second week of March (30 points).
3. One take-home 5-page final essay due on the last day
of instruction( Dec 12).
Students who do not complete all writing assignments will get a D or a failing grade.
Any student who plagiarizes in this course will receive a failing grade and will be reported to the Dean of Students. So, please cite your sources.
Tentative Week-by-Week Study Plan :
Week 1: Doubt and Dialogue as the Beginning of Philosophy.
What is an argument (not a quarrel)
Why does philosophy need logic?
Assigned Reading on Day One: Appendix to Ch1, WW, “Logic in a Nutshell”.(pp36-62,WW)
Some arguments to prove that no one can be a friend of anyone.
Thinking both sides of an issue may divide your mind into conflicting halves.
Week 2: WW Ch 4: Mind. Parts of the Person or Soul in Upanishads and Plato.
Week 3: OS pp1--27(Plato's Lysis.) and (Aristotle) pp 28--78.
Week 4: Fashion and Friendship of Pleasure and Utility: novelty, imitation and originality.
“I am unique, just like you”.
Week 7&8: WW Ch 2: Knowledge, Ch 3: Experience
Week 9&10: OS pp 117--130: Seneca and pp 149-184: Aquinas
Week 11, 12, 13: WW ch 5, Additional Materials on 'Freedom'.
WW ch 7,8. OS pp208-- 233 ( Kant, Emerson, Kierkegaard)
Week 14: OS: Elzabeth Telfer and Other Contemporary Philosophers on Friendship