This course—syllabus here—explores fundamental questions about ourselves and the world.  What is justice? What is our place in the world and in society? What makes us happy? Does God exist and can we prove it?

As you engage with these questions, you will experience philosophy in different forms: (1) philosophy-as-dialogue; (2) philosophy-as-poetry; and (3) philosophy-as-proof. In the classroom and at home, you will be encouraged to do philosophy in these different forms. There is not just one way to do philosophy, and hopefully, you’ll feel at home in one of them.

For more information about the course, scroll down!

1. Philosophy-as-dialogue

week 1: Mon Aug 28 & Wed Aug 30

We will begin by examining the nature of justice. What is justice? Is justice what benefits the strongest? Is justice better than injustice?

watching/reading –  The Melian Dialogue [video, PDF]

listening – Adamson, History of Philosophy, Episode 25 [link]

week 2: Wed Sept 6 — No class on Mon Sept 4 

We will read Plato’s most famous philosophical dialogue, the Republic, beginning with book I (summary here). In it, Thrasymachus defends the view that justice is whatever benefits the strongest, while Socrates attempts to prove him wrong. 

reading – Plato, Republic, book I [PDF]

NB: Assignment #1  [PDF] – due Sept 6

week 3Mon Sept  11 & Wed Sept 13 

In order to better understand the nature of justice, in book II (summary here) Socrates suggests that we draw a parallelism between justice at the level of the state and justice at the level of the individual.

reading – Plato, Republic, book II [PDF]

week 4: Mon Sept  18 —  No class on Wed Sept 20

Same topic as last week.

week 5: Mon Sept 25 & Wed Sept 27

The parallelism between the state and the individual is further articulated in book IV (summary here). As the dialogue progresses, Socrates offers a definition of justice which does not reduces it to whatever benefits the strongest.

reading – Plato, Republic, book IV [PDF]

NB: Assignment #2 [PDF]  – due Oct 2

week 6: Mon Oct 2 & Wed Oct 4

In book VIII (summary here) Socrates compares four types of governments with four types of individuals. This comparison makes clearer why a parallelism exists between the state and the individual.

reading – Plato, Republic, book VIII [PDF]

week 7:  Wed Oct 11 – no class Mon Oct 9

In book IX (summary here) Socrates defends the claim that the just is happy, while the unjust is unhappy. If so, justice must indeed be better than injustice.

reading – Plato, Republic, book IX [PDF]

week 8: Mon Oct 16 & Wed Oct 18

Same topic as last week.

2. Philosophy-as-poetry

NB: Assignment #3 [PDF]  – due Oct 23

week 9: Mon Oct 23 & Wed Oct 25

We will read Lucretius’ philosophical poem The Nature of Things. We will begin with book I which explains how indivisible atoms constitute the whole of reality, in its different forms and shapes, and why the universe must be infinite.

reading – Lucretius, The Nature of Things, book I [PDF]

week 10Mon Oct 30 & Wed Nov 1

Next, we will turn to human psychology, life and death. In book III, Lucretius explains why although our soul is mortal, we should not fear death.

reading – Lucretius, The Nature of Things, book III [PDF]

week 11:  Mon Nov 6 & Wed Nov 8

NB: Assignment #4 [PDF]  – due Nov 6

reading – Lucretius and modern physics [PDF] – optional

week 12:  Mon Nov 13 & Wed Nov 15

We will conclude with book IV that articulates a theory of perception, sexuality and love.

reading – Lucretius, The Nature of Things, book IV [PDF]

NB: Assignment #5 [PDF]  – due Nov 20 – submit assignment here

3. Philosophy-as-proof

NB: Assignment #5 [PDF]  – due Nov 20

week 13: Mon Nov 20 & Wed Nov 22

In order to understand the idea of “proof” or “demonstration”, we will preliminarily familiarize ourselves with Euclid’s axiomatic method (for an introduction, see here) by reading the first book of the Elements.

reading – Euclid, Elements, book I [text] [slides]

week 14: Mon Nov 27 & Wed Nov 29

Having mastered the axiomatic method, we will read book I of Spinoza’s Ethics. This is a philosophical treatise that employs the axiomatic method to establish propositions about the nature of reality, the existence of God, the relationship between matter and soul, happiness and the good life. We will, however, only have time to read the parts about God’s existence.

reading – Spinoza, Ethics, book I [text] [guide to text]

NB: Assignment #6 [PDF]  – due Dec 4

week 15: Mon Dec 4 & Wed Dec 6

Same topic as last week.

week 16: Mon Dec 11

Final overview of the course.

 NB: Assignment #7 [PDF]  – due Dec 13 –  submit assignment here



There will be seven assignments (each 10% of the grade unless state otherwise)

#1.  [PDF] – due Sept 6 

#2.  [PDF] – due Oct 2  

#3 [PDF] – due Oct 23  – 25 % of the grade 

#4.  [PDF]  – due Nov 6

#5.  [PDF] – due Nov 20 – 25 % of the grade

#6.  [PDF] – due Nov 27 

#7.  [PDF] – due Dec 13 

submit assignment here