This course has concessions available

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 run online using Zoom for the live class sessions and either the Moodle page for the course or some other system for the distribution of the electronic resources for the session sitting alongside this. Although there will be some adjustments that need to be made for the online version of this course, we will aim to keep the experience as close as possible to that of a face to face course taught in the Centre.

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

The course will be run on Zoom, please make sure you have installed it in advance of your first class on your computer or mobile device. You can sign up for free here:

You will need a microphone (it's fine to use whatever is built into your device) and camera, so we can see you via video. You may also want to use headphones during the session.

You can participate in class sessions through the use of a computer, laptop, tablet or other similar internet enabled device. Please note that if you only have access to a smartphone, you will be able to attend the class sessions and participate in them but you will find it more difficult to benefit from the full range of materials and activities involved in the course if this is your only means of connection.

Make sure you have a small space to work in during the session and that as far as possible that you can keep this space quite and clear of interruption so that you can concentrate on what is happening in the class.

By signing up to the course you are consenting to being on camera. The content of the lesson may occasionally be recorded by the tutor for internal education and training purposes but any such recordings will not be made available to anyone outside of the Mary Ward Centre organisation without us asking you again for further permission to do so.

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 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

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Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening and weekends to suit your timetable. You can learn face to face at one of our centres (Bloomsbury or Waterloo) or take an online course

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’