Intermediate Philosophy Part 3: Society, Language and Difference
Philosophy in the second half of the 20th century was faced with the demands of formulating an adequate response to the world after the second world war: the rise of different forms of totalitarianism, the horrors of the war itself and the role of technology in bringing this about became urgent issues. We will examine two forms of response to this situation. Firstly, we will examine how Critical Theory attempted to explain and move beyond the social contradictions that had been laid bare during this period. Following on from this, the question of the place of language in our relations with the world came to a central focus of attention, giving birth to the ideas of structuralism and post-structuralism. In this part of the course we will engage with the work of Lacan, Derrida, Foucault and Deleuze.
Who is this course for
This is not a course for absolute beginners to philosophy. Students joining this course would benefit from having some previous experience of studying philosophy. Graduates of other humanities or social-science disciplines, however, with experience of complex theoretical frameworks, should find it very challenging yet potentially intellectually manageable to begin their philosophical studies with this course. All students will need to have reached at least Level 2 standard (equivalent to GSCE) in the English language.
What does this course cover
This term focuses on key developments in 'continental' philosophy in the later part of the Twentieth Century up until today. We will examine Derrida's development of the them e of deconstruction and assess its significance and implications for philosophy and for other branches of 'theory' more broadly. We will also look at Foucault's development of the theme of power/knowledge and again assess its significance. Other sessions of the course will look at a range of other, more recent developments in what is often called 'postmodern' thought.
- Explain and analyse key ideas in Derrida's work (e.g. differance, writing, logocentrism, undecidability, etc)
- Explains and analyse key ideas in Foucualt's work (e.g. the body, micropolitics, discipline, the thesis that power is productive before it is repressive, etc)
- Compare contrast and evaluate other contributions to work in 'postmodern' philosophy (e.g. Lacan, Deleuze, Levinas)
- Assess the significance and implications of 'postmodernism'
- Apply the insights you have developed during the term to wider debates in philosophy
What will it be like
The course will be taught in a seminar style, and there will be lots of opportunity for discussion and debate. Optional exercise will be set as homework, to help you explore and consolidate what you have learned and discussed in class, and extracts from the writings of some of the thinkers covered will be made available as preparatory reading for some of the classes. Explanatory handouts will also be provided to help you understand some of the more difficult concepts and arguments covered. At the start: Tutor and student self-assesment to establish previous experience of the themes and thinkers covered on the course.
What else do you need to buy or do
Notebook and pen, for taking notes in class. Students may find it helpful to have Robert Solomon's book Continental Philosophy Since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the Self (about £17.99), as useful background reading, but this is not a requirement of the course. Extracts from the work of some of the thinkers we are studying will be provided as preparatory reading at home, and exercises will be set as homework for some classes. Students who undertake the reading and exercises will find that they gain more from the course.
What this course could lead to
Further courses in the wide range of Philosophy classes available at the Centre, or further Philosophy courses elsewhere. The subjects covered during the term would also be of interest to and useful for people considering in pursuing other courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences with an emphasis on theory and critical thinking (e.g. Psychology, Sociology, Politics, Anthropology, History, etc).
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This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria
Got a Question about this Course?
Contact The Departmental Administrator.
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