Introduction to Philosophy — course modules

Who behaved better or worse — Arachne or Athena?

Arachne and Athena.”
Stephen Hicks, “Why Philosophy Begins with Thales.”
[Optional: The movie Troy (2004), roughly based on Homer’s Iliad and starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom.]

Was Socrates’ verdict just?

Plato, Apology of Socrates. The Internet Classics Archive.

Can God’s existence be proven?

Galileo Galilei, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina” (1615).
William Paley, “The Watch and the Watchmaker” (1802).
Kenneth Einar Himma, “Design Arguments for the Existence of God,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

What is selfishness, and is it good or bad?

Ayn Rand, Book One of The Fountainhead.
Plato, “The Myth of Gyges”.
Mother Teresa, excerpt “On Prayer” from No Greater Love (1987).
[Optional: Less Wrong, Why Men Wear Pink.]

What is the relation between mind and body?

Dualism quotations from Martin Luther, St. Paul, and Lucretius.
Scott Calef, “Dualism and Mind.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Daniel Dennett, “Where Am I?” (1978).
[Journalism: Heart Transplantation, Artificial Kidneys, Brain Transplants. Peter Voss, “The Third Wave of AI.”]
Robert Epstein, “The Empty Brain” (Your Brain Is Not a Computer). Aeon, 2016.


Is life meaningless?

The Meaning of Life — Selected Quotations (from Psalms, Shakespeare, Brooke, Marvell, Thoreau, and others).
Stephen Hicks, “Would Immortality Be Worth It?” (1992).
Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus” (1942).
[Optional: Sergey Nechayev, The Revolutionary Catechism (1869).]

Is war inevitable?

William James, “The Moral Equivalent of War” (1906).
Jean Bethke Elshtain, “Identity, the State and Sacrifice” (1991).

Do I know anything?

Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave.”
René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (1641).
Fyodor Dostoyevsky “The Grand Inquisitor,” excerpted from The Brothers Karamazov (1880).
Emily Underwood, “How your mind protects you against hallucinations,” Science (2017).

Does evil disprove the existence of God?

James R. Beebe, “The Logical Problem of Evil.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Nick Trakakis, “The Evidential Problem of Evil.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Love and Sex

Immanuel Kant, from Lectures on Ethics: “Duties towards the Body in Respect of Sexual Impulse” [1775-1780].

Is human nature bad?

Plato, excerpts from The Republic: excerpt from Book 2 on “The Myth of Gyges.”

Is torture ever justifiable?

Augustine, on “Righteous Persecution” (c. 397-418 CE). HTML version.
Thomas Aquinas, “Whether it is lawful to kill sinners?” and “Whether heretics ought to be tolerated?” From Summa Theologica (1265-1274).
John Locke, excerpts from A Letter concerning Toleration (1689).
Tara Smith, “What Good is Religious Freedom? Locke, Rand, and the Non-Religious Case for Respecting It” (Arkansas Law Review 69:4).

Is philosophy worthwhile?

Bertrand Russell, “The Value of Philosophy” (1912).
Jean-Paul Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism” (1946).
B. F. Skinner, excerpt from Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971).
Alexis de Tocqueville, “Origin of the Anglo-Americans,” excerpt from Chapter 2, Part 2 of Democracy in America (1835).

Other Materials

The Debate Evaluation Rubric.

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