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Introduction to Philosophy

Syllabus for pre-PhD Distance learning course on Philosophy

INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

Movses Demirtchyan, PhD, Associate Professor
Yerevan State University, Distance Learning Laboratory

1. Course module description
This course module introduces philosophical thinking in general. We will present and describe how philosophical thinking differs from ordinary, religious and scientific consciousness. Consequently, we shall focus on questions (for example: Is knowledge possible? Does it come from reason or from experience? What is the ultimate substance of the world? Is it material or ideal? Are human actions free or determined? Does God exist? Are moral norms relative or absolute?) as well as on some specific concepts philosophers use to articulate their experience and the world we live in (being, substance, justice etc.).

2. Objectives of the course module

2.1 To become familiar with major philosophical problems and the methods to cope with them.
2.2 To learn how to read and interpret philosophical texts.
2.3 To acquire an initial command of philosophical language.
2.4 To demonstrate what it means to adopt "philosophical attitude" as an elevated form of human curiosity and resistance to any kind of dogmatism.

3. Assessment
Since this is a distance-learning course, assessment will be based only on students’ written work.

  • Weekly written essays – 60%
  • Final essay-40%

4. Course module program

Class 1 What is philosophy?
The concept of philosophy and historical stages will be introduced in this class. Main problems of philosophy, and the features of philosophical thinking will be presented as well.

Readings:

Assignment 1:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What are the differences between philosophical and non philosophical thinking?
  • Which problems can be called “philosophical” and which is the main problem of philosophy? Please, substantiate your answer. 
  • What are the historical phases of philosophy?

Class 2 Philosophy of Ancient times
The main theories of great philosophers of Ancient times will be introduced, as well as, the main features of Greek philosophy. The students will be introduced with ontology - the first philosophical system ever.

Readings:

Assignment:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • Why is the ontology so important for philosophy and how it has been formed?
  • Which are the main differences between Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophical systems? 
  • Describe and explain the main features of ancient philosophy?

Class 3 The philosophy of Middle Ages
This part of the course module introduces the main problems of philosophy of religion and the proof for the existence of God. This period of history of philosophy includes 5th -14th ages, when science and philosophy were under the influence of religion and church.

Readings:

Assignment 3:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • Which are the features of the Middle ages philosophy?
  • Which are the main problems of the Middle ages philosophy?
  • Can the proofs of God’s existence be accepted as logical and scientific proofs? Please, substantiate your answer.

Class 4 Axiology
In this class, the concept of axiology will be presented. It is also called theory of value, or the philosophical study of value. The differences between value and truth will be presented as well.

Readings:

Assignment 4:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What is axiology and the difference between value and truth?
  • Is there any criterion for the right value? Please, substantiate your answer.
  • What are the features of the system of values of a modern man?

Class 5 Epistemology
This is probably the hardest part of the course, where we’ll try to investigate the concept of epistemology, its place in philosophy and influence on science. Also, the theory of scientific cognition is introduced in this class.

Readings:

Assignment 5:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • Describe and explain the concept of epistemology?
  • Which are the differences between epistemology and cognition?
  • What is the importance of study epistemology? Please, substantiate your answer.

Class 6 Philosophy of New ages
There are two philosophers, whose theories had great influence on philosophy of New ages. One is Francis Bacon, and the other is Rene Decartes. Both of them have theories of scientific methods, which will be introduced during this class.

Readings:

Assignment 6:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What is the meaning of theory of idols given by F. Bacon?
  • Compare scientific methods of these two philosophers?
  • What is the meaning of doubt as a method? Please, substantiate your answer.

Class 7 Philosophy of life
During this class the theories of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus will be introduced.

Readings:

Assignment 7:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • Which are the main concepts of philosophy of life?
  • Describe and explain the main theories of philosophy of life?
  • What is the social basis for this philosophy?

Class 8 Closing exam
Based on your interest, choose any topic discussed withing this course module and write an analytic essay (13-15 pages).

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