INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY                                                  45.201




Schedule of Classes                                    Terminology & Definitions









Question 1: What is Truth

       A. Absolutism versus Relativism  

--  Friedrich Nietzsche (German, 1844-1900): What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions- they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.  (from On Truth And Lies in a Nonmoral Sense)


       B. Correspondence versus coherence theory


-- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Truth", section 3 (Correspondence theory), 5 (coherence theory), 6 (Pragmatic theory)


       C. Empiricism versus Rationalism

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section 2 and 3, available at:

Rene Descartes, Meditations, at



Question 2: Does science or religion have a claim to truth?


             A. Is the Scientific Method the best or only source of truth?

            B.  Is Religion primitive and obsolete? 

             C. Can Religion and Science Coexist?




              A. Can Animals Think?

                            Reading: Rene Descartes, handout


                             Koko video:

                             Monkey Business" by Martin Gardner, NY Review of Books, 3/20/1980, at:


              B. Can Computers Think?

                   Reading:  -- Douglas Hofstadter, "A Coffeehouse Conversation on the Turing Test" (available online; search "hofstadter coffeehouse conversation turing": note you need not read the Post Scriptum).

-- David Hume, "Of The Immortality of the Soul"  at:  NOTE: read only this essay, not the other hume essays.  Focus on Parts I & III; you can skip II (MOral Arguments).  Note that the question we are interested in is not that of immortality, but of belief in a mind distinct from the body.


                C. Do Humans have a mind or soul?  How does it connect with the body?


Question 4: Is Free Will an Illusion?

READING  Jerry Coyne, "Why You Don't Really Have Free Will," USA Today, 2012

David Hume, from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section VIII.


Question 5: can evolution explain human nature?



Question 6: Is Morality objective or a human creation?

Read outline of John Mackie's Argument:


                   Do people act only in self-interest?  Reading:


Question 7: What is Art and Beauty?

Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying" (1889)  (Critique of imitation theory of art)

OPTIONAL: Clive Bell, "Art"  (Defense of Formalist theory of art)


Question 8: Does Evil exist?



Question 9: Which is a better means of organizing Society, capitalism or socialism?



Question 10: Is War Ever Justified?


Question 11: Does life have any meaning or purpose?