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   Course Title    Philosophy and Ethics
Lecturer    Peeter Muursepp
Institution    Mainor University
Country    Estonia

  1. Introduction

    1. The course is presented for the first semester of the first year to all students of the University of Mainor as part of the bachelor curriculum.
    2. The course has no preliminaries.
    3. The completion of the course gives 2 credit points.

  2. Objectives of the course

    The course forms the basis of academic education. The students learn about the main aspects of European philosophical thought, which have formed the basis for the scientific worldview and study the nature of ethics.

  3. The main content of the course

    The course gives an introduction into the main principles of European philosophical thought from Ancient Greece to contemporary times. Some of the main problems of philosophy are considered at greater depth, for instance, the mind body problem in connection with the problem of artificial intelligence, the problem of the possibility of metaphysics in connection with the progress of eugenics. The most influential treatments of ethics are explained with the purpose of forming the basis for considering some central problems of contemporary applied ethics, i.e., the problems of euthanasia, abortion, etc.

  4. Course detail

    Topics of lectures and seminar discussions. One general topic covers two academic hours:

    1. Philosophy as such, its main parts and their general characterisation.

      A general introduction into philosophy. The nature of metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, philosophy of economics, etc. The role and position of the philosopher in contemporary society.

      Analysis of Jacques Maritain's "Philosopher in Society".

    2. The specifics of philosophical thought.

      The difference of thinking in philosophy from scientific and common sense reasoning. The advance of philosophy from mythology. Real and pseudoproblems in philosophy.

    3. The genesis of the main trends of philosophy in Ancient Greece. Senses and reason. The Eleatic School. The Ancient Atomists.

      An explanation of the Eleatic dilemma of sense and reason, its possible solutions. The essence of Zeno's paradoxes. Their significance for the European intellectual culture.

    4. Plato and Aristotle, their critical comparison.

      The basics of Plato's theory of ideas and Aristotle's alternative view. Their common points and differences. Analysis of Plato's "Crito".

    5. Ancient ethics as practical philosophy.

      Comparative analysis of the ethical principles of the Stoics, the Sceptics and the Epicureans - lecture and discussion about the

      significance of the Ancients' views for the modern humans

    6. Some main problems of Scholasticism in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

      The ontological argument of St. Anselm of Canterbury as an example of logical reasoning. It's criticism by St. Thomas. Examples of St. Thomas' own arguments for the existence of God. Deep analysis of an excerpt from Summa Theologica.

    7. The basics of Modern rationalism, cogito ergo sum, Gilbert Ryle's Myth of Descartes.

      The main points of Descartes' Meditations of First Philosophy. His advance to cogito ergo sum. Descartes' dualism as the basis of the body-mind problem. Gilbert Ryle's approach to the problem as an example of XX. century analytical thinking. Analysis of the corresponding text.

    8. The basics of British empiricism, David Hume's scepticism.

      Difference of modern empiricism from rationalism. John Locke and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. George Berkeley's esse est percipi and how to understand it. What did David Hume mean by his criticism of inductive inferences?

    9. Immanuel Kant's critical philosophy and ethics.

      The essence of Kant's Copernican turn in philosophy and the basics of his critical philosophy. The basic principles of Kantian ethics, the categorical imperative. Analysis of an excerpt from Prolegomena - the difference between analytical and synthetical decisions.

    10. The basics of positivist philosophy.

      The positivist turn in philosophy - what does it mean? Did economical and socio- political reasons play a role? If so, then how significant was their role?

    11. George Edward Moore's Principia ethica.

      Ethics from the point of view of an analytical thinker. As an example, special stress is laid on explaining the essence of utilitarian ethics.

    12. The analytical method in philosophy - Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore.

      Explanation of the basics of the analytical method, based mostly on Frege's Meaning and Reference.

    13. Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus logico-philosophicus.

      Understanding of the world as a compound of logical entities - facts. The new understanding of philosophy and its method. Special attention on the understanding of philosophy as criticism of language.

    14. Verification and falsification - the Vienna Circle and Karl Popper.

      The essence of the scientific worldview, presented by the Vienna Circle.
      The methods of verification and falsification, their main differences.
      Karl Popper's contribution to the philosophy of science and social philosophy.
    15. Later Wittgenstein - Lecture on Ethics, language games, rule following, the private language argument.

      The essence of ethics by Wittgenstein. The misuse of language in Wittgenstein's sense. Some examples of typical thinking of later Wittgenstein from Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty.

    16. Ethics today, the main problems of applied ethics.

      Discussion of some selected problems of contemporary applied ethics, i.e. the problem of abortion, the problem of euthanasia, ethical problems concerning cloning and artificial intelligence.

      Lectures make up roughly half of classroom time.

      Seminars, which make up the second half of classroom time, are dedicated to the analysis of classical philosophical texts.

  5. Assessment

    The students have to read the seminar texts and one textbook giving an overview of the history of philosophy and to write an essay.

    The students have to pass a test and write an essay of the length of 1200-1800 words. The essay is more important in deciding about the final grade. A discussion based on the essay may follow. Participation in seminar discussions is considered as part of the final grade.

  6. Reading list

    The basic book of the history of philosophy:

    Esa Saarinen "A History of Western Philosophy from Peak to Peak, from Socrates to Marx".

    Additional and/or alternative books on the history of philosophy.

    Seminar texts from the website and from the journals Akadeemia and Looming. The students have to read all texts that are discussed in class. They are mentioned in section IV. The texts are subject to change from one academic year to another.

    The main sources used by the teacher:

    The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy. Ed. by N. Bunnin and E. P. Tsui-James. 1996.
    The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Ed. by Robert Audi. 1999.
    Harré, Rom. One Thousand Years of Philosophy: From Ramanuja to Wittgenstein. 2000.
    Blackburn, Simon. Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy. 1999.
    Thomson, Mel. Philosophy. 2000.
    Sidgwick, Henry. The Methods of Ethics. 1981.

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