This course introduces some fundamental problems, positions and theories of 20th and 21st century theoretical philosophy. Both epistemological issues (questions concerning knowledge) and metaphysical issues (questions concerning the nature of existence) are discussed, but a two other themes are always implicitly or explicitly present: the nature of language and meaning, and the relevance (and status) of contemporary science. Although we cannot cover all work of relevance either these topics, I do hope to sketch a useful picture of some of key developments.
The core readings for the course are selected texts by William James, Karl Popper, W. V. O. Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Michel Foucault, Edmund Gettier, Linda Zagzebski, David Chalmers, Quentin Meillassoux and Donna Haraway. Many of these have been gathered into a compendium which will be available at the beginning of the semester. This course is text-oriented, and you are expected to read the relevant texts in the compendium before each week’s lecture. The lectures will be used to examine the underlying issues and to place them in critical and historical perspective.
To help with pre-lecture preparation, most weeks you will be emailed a number of questions to think about while reading the texts. Some of these questions will be used for group discussion.
Other books and resources:
Two other valuable resources are the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Most articles in both sources are written by philosophers who made (or are still making) contributions to the topics discussed. Many articles are themselves substantial contributions to the philosophical literature. Consulting these sources is a useful habit to acquire.