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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 it 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 it 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 I 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. All the resources for the course will be available from the Moodle page for the course so there is no need for you to but any additonal texts. 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 could it 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).

Available Courses

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.

24 April 2024 – 10 July 2024
Wednesday, 11:00 to 13:00
Course Code:419C
£152 / £53
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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Upper Intermediate Philosophy: Geo-Philosophy in the Age of Climate Crisis

Building upon the predictions concerning the ramifications of human activity on earth's resources, a pertinent question emerges: Can philosophy play any role in navigating this predicament? This course aspires to conjure such an intervention and sheds light on the intertwining of philosophy with the human relation to the Earth, a concern extending beyond the realms of present-day debates. Indeed, it reveals a deep-seated enigma that has been a constant companion of Western philosophy since its very dawn - what is the nature of the bond between thought and the Earth? Through an exhaustive exploration emphasising the Earth's enduring, yet often enigmatic, presence across the trajectory of philosophical debate, this course lays the foundation for a philosophical retort to the looming ecological reality. The course will traverse key philosophical texts, commencing with the pre-Socratic philosophers and the Stoics, and continuing through Plato and Aristotle; progressing to philosophers of the enlightenment such as Descartes, Leibniz, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant; and concluding with 19th and 20th-century thinkers like Nietzsche, Marx, Heidegger, and Deleuze. Together, we will asses how the history of the concept 'Earth' has shaped our relation to the natural world, and the possibility of forging a new perspective, one which could pave the way towards a revitalized relationship with our environment, ultimately crafting a different future trajectory.

22 April 2024 – 15 July 2024
Monday, 13:00 to 15:00
Course Code:421CS
£147 / £51
11 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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Advanced Philosophy: The Legacy Of Alain Badiou

French philosopher Alain Badiou is often recognized as the last living torchbearer of the influential 'May 68' generation that boasted figures like Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Derrida. Badiou's comprehensive philosophical interventions are highlighted by his magnum opus, Being and Event, a masterpiece that beautifully encapsulates and undermines the essence of French continental philosophy. Being and Event uniquely merges set theoretic mathematics with Lacanian psychoanalysis, interwoven with the sensitivity of Mallarmé's poetry and the intensity of post-Marxist political thought. Badiou's work, rich in depth and diversity, has sparked significant conversations and critical thinking in the philosophical community. This course offers a deep dive into Badiou's intellectual ecosystem, exploring the intricate intersections of diverging ideologies and thought systems converging in his work, focusing particularly on Being and Event and subsequent texts. We will also investigate his significant influence on leading contemporary philosophers, such as the provocative Slavoj Žižek, the insightful Bruno Bosteels, and the innovative Quentin Meillassoux. The impact of Badiou's thinking extends beyond his own work, creating ripples that continue to shape 21st century philosophical discourse.

25 April 2024 – 11 July 2024
Thursday, 18:00 to 20:00
Course Code:427CS
£168 / £59
12 Meetings
1 Rushworth St
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Upper Intermediate Philosophy: Aspects Of The Philosophy Of Art

This course covers an investigation into some of the perennial thinkers and topics within philosophical aesthetics within the Western tradition: It is structured broadly in two parts, the first looking at the thoughts and theories on art provided within the philosophies of 6 key thinkers within this tradition: Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche and Heidegger; the second on some central issues within contemporary philosophy debates within the philosophy of art, such as the definition of art and artworks, the different art forms, meaning in art, fakes and forgeries, and art criticism and appreciation. In doing so it will not only address the contemporary relevance of the thought of historical thinkers, but will also address some key historical and contemporary philosophy, ranging beyond aesthetics, and touching on the philosophy of language, logic, culture, politics, history, ontology and epistemology.

25 September 2023 – 11 December 2023
Monday, 13:00 to 15:00
Course Code:419CS
£161 / £56
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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Meet The Tutor

For more information contact hum@marywardcentre.ac.uk at admin@marywardcentre.ac.uk

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