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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.

25 September 2024 – 11 December 2024
Wednesday, 14:00 to 16:00
Course Code:410
£167 / £58
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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26 September 2024 – 12 December 2024
Thursday, 18:30 to 20:30
Course Code:413
£175 / £61
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.

23 September 2024 – 09 December 2024
Monday, 18:00 to 20:00
Course Code:416
£175 / £61
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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25 September 2024 – 11 December 2024
Wednesday, 11:00 to 13:00
Course Code:419
£167 / £58
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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Advanced Philosophy: Philosophy And Literature In Recent French Theory

This course explores the intricate relationship between philosophy and literature through the works of Gilles Deleuze, Roland Barthes, Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. Each of these thinkers demonstrates how philosophical arguments can inspire literary writing and how literary analysis can lead to profound philosophical insights.



With Barthes and Foucault, we will examine the concepts of authorship and the notion of the author's 'death.' Blanchot will guide us in exploring the idea of a 'space of literature,' while Derrida will challenge us to consider the nature of the literary act. Deleuze will present literature as a machine that generates specific affects.



We will read short stories by Brecht, Beckett, Proust, Melville, Kafka, and Sacher-Masoch, alongside significant works from our five main philosophers: Deleuze's Proust and Signs and Coldness and Cruelty, Barthes' S/Z and The Death of the Author, Blanchot's The Space of Literature and The Book to Come, Derrida's Writing and Difference and Of Grammatology, and Foucault's The Order of Things and What Is an Author?.



Through these readings, the course aims to illuminate the processes by which literature becomes a dynamic force in the creation of philosophical ideas, and how philosophy, in turn, embarks on a literary journey to create a ?logical? novel.





26 September 2024 – 12 December 2024
Thursday, 18:00 to 20:00
Course Code:427CS
£193 / £68
12 Meetings
1 Rushworth St
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Upper Inermediate Philosophy: The Question Concerning Nature

27 September 2024 – 13 December 2024
Friday, 13:00 to 15:00
Course Code:422CS
£185 / £65
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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Meet The Tutor

For more information contact The Departmental Administrator at admin@marywardcentre.ac.uk

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