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Philosophy For Beginners Part 3

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 out 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.
    Although the course continues from Terms 1 and 2 it is still possible to start on the course in this term and we will not assume that everyone in the class already has knowledge of the topics covered previously.

  • What does it cover?

    In this term we will explore the theme of the source of our values and the meaning of our existence. It is often said that our modern world has moved from a religious to a secular age and we will be exploring whether or not we have really come to terms what such a transformation might mean, if indeed it has really happened.

    Some of the questions we will be asking include: are there any rational justifications for religious belief? How should we think about the relationship between faith and reason anyway? If we come to reject the idea that a supreme being can act as the foundation of our values, what are the implications of this? Does the absence of the divine mean that our lives are pointless or without real meaning? Or does this mean that we have to create such meanings for ourselves? What might the implications of this be for our sense of morality, freedom and the idea of an objective truth?

    In the course of exploring these questions, we will look at the work of 'religious' thinkers such as Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant and, in a very different way, Kierkegaard. We shall also explore the contributions of atheist and existentialist philosophers such as Nietzsche and Sartre.

    By the end of the course, you should be able to:
    - Explain and critically assess a variety of arguments for the existence of God
    - Assess debates concerning the relationship between Faith and Reason
    - Explain and assess the significance of key ideas in the existentialist tradition (e.g. Nietzsche's proclamation of the 'death of God' and the 'reevaluation of all values'; Sartre's view that 'we are condemned to be free')
    -Develop your knowledge of the history of philosophy and the ideas, debates and concepts that have been developed through this

  • 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 move on to do some of the range of courses that the College offers at the Intermediate level of Philosophy. If you started the course this term, you could continue to study at this level on the courses for terms 1 and 2. You could also apply the ideas you have looked at in the course to a range of other courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences, such as Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, History or other subjects.

Available Courses

Philosophy For Beginners Part 3

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 out for yourselves.

24 April 2024 – 10 July 2024
Wednesday, 14:00 to 16:00
Course Code:412
£145 / £51
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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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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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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For more information contact hum@marywardcentre.ac.uk at admin@marywardcentre.ac.uk

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