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Philosophy for Beginners Part 1

Explore some of the most important ideas, themes and thinkers in the history of Western philosophy. Learn about some of the central problems of philosophy, and how to puzzle them our for yourselves.
  • Who is it for?

    This course is for absolute beginners, and no previous experience of philosophy is necessary. Students will need English language skills to the equivalent of level 2, however, in order to benefit fully from the classes.

  • What does it cover?

    The course will provide an introduction to a range of key issues and debates in Philosophy. In particular, we will be looking at issues in epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and metaphysics (questions concerning the ultimate nature reality). We will be investigating questions such as: Is it ever possible to have certain knowledge about ourselves and the world around us? How does knowledge come about? Is the ultimate nature of reality something that we can have access to? What is the nature of that ultimate reality? Is it purely physical or must it really be something mental or spiritual? Is reason the defining characteristics or humans or are we really creatures of instinct and habit?

    We will be exploring these question and others through an examination of the work of the Ancient Greek philosophers in the first half of the term. Here we will look at the some Pre-Socratic philosophers and especially Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. In the second half of the term we will explore the debates within the European Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Centuries, looking at the contributions of Rene Descartes and David Hume in particular.
    By the end of the course, you should be able to:
    Describe the distinctive nature of philosophical problems and give examples of these
    Explain and evaluate some of the key ideas and debates in Ancient Greek Philosophy (e.g. Plato's theory of the Forms, Aristotle's theory of Substance)

    Compare and contrast Descartes and Hume's approach to the question of knowledge and the nature of mind

  • What will it be like?

    The classes will be discussion-based, allowing participants to explore, debate, and (inevitably) disagree. Please note that in a philosophy class, disagreement is not only acceptable, but is actively encouraged. Be prepared to have your preconceptions challenged.
    Your tutors will assess your progress through your class participation, in conjunction with your own self-assessment of your progress. In philosophy, however, progress often means becoming less certain, or more perplexed.

  • What else do I need to buy or do?

    You will need a notebook, a pen, and an open mind. Your tutors may also recommend further reading, but the course does not require the purchase of any more materials. We will also make course materials and other resources available to you outside of class via the College's Moodle website.

  • What could it lead to?

    You could continue into the second term of the Introduction to Philosophy course, where the focus will be on questions of moral and political philosophy. Other courses which may be relevant would be any course in the Humanities and Social Sciences with an emphasis on theory and debate. For example, Anthropology, Psychology, Economics, History etc.

Available Courses

Philosophy for Beginners Part 1

Explore some of the most important ideas, themes and thinkers in the history of Western philosophy. Learn about some of the central problems of philosophy, and how to puzzle them our for yourselves.

27 September 2023 – 13 December 2023
Wednesday, 14:00 to 16:00
Course Code:410
£145 / £51
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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Advanced Philosophy: Deleuze - Between Philosophy And Cinema

In his ground-breaking works, Cinema 1: The Movement Image and Cinema 2: The Time Image, Gilles Deleuze intricately explores the symbiotic relationship between philosophy and cinema. According to Deleuze, throughout the twentieth century, both philosophers and filmmakers grappled with the concept of movement - filmmakers materialized it through images, while philosophers crystallized it into thought. Deleuze compellingly posits that the quintessential preoccupation of both philosophers and filmmakers is the enigma of time's movement. The philosophical questions surrounding time's fluidity are pivotal - What does being ensnared in time's flow signify? How can we comprehend this ceaseless movement? Given the transitory nature of the present, what is its true reality? If the present lacks conventional reality, how can the past or future exist, as the former was once present, and the latter is destined to become so? In Deleuze's philosophy of cinema, these questions are far from abstract. They gain tangible significance expressed through the filmmaker's imagery and the philosopher's concepts. This course invites an exploration of these time paradoxes (and many other metaphysical and political questions that follow these paradoxes) as elucidated in Deleuze's Cinema volumes. It will refer to a broad range of cinematic examples, anchoring our philosophical discourse in specific cases.

21 September 2023 – 07 December 2023
Thursday, 18:00 to 20:00
Course Code:425CS
£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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Intermediate Philosophy Part 1 : Reason and Unreason

It is not uncommon to hear today calls for a defence of and a return to Enlightenment values: but what exactly were they? The flourishing of the natural sciences from the 17th Century onward brought about not just an entirely new conception of the nature of the world but also a radical rethinking of the nature of reason itself, which in turn had profound implications for our understanding of the self and of society. But rather than a celebration of the serene progress of triumphant reason, the Enlightenment itself might be better understood as a series of crises. We will explore the myriad of issues these developments raise through an examination of the great thinkers of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries.

27 September 2023 – 13 December 2023
Wednesday, 11:00 to 13:00
Course Code:419
£152 / £53
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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