Phil 20101: Introduction to Philosophy (revised)

304 Malloy
Phone:  631-7327
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Purpose of Course
Reading Assignments
Lecture Outlines
Class Handouts
First Paper Assignment
Second Paper Assignment
Study questions for midterm exam
Study questions for final exam Key to Paper Comments Comment Assignments

Purpose of Course:

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to philosophy and to the importance of philosophical inquiry for their own lives.  To this end we will examine a sampling of philosophical classics. Some recurrent themes: the nature of philosophy and of philosophical wisdom; the distinctiveness of the philosophical life; the relation between intellection and affection in the pursuit of wisdom; the existence and nature of God; the relation between intellectual virtue and truth; the relation between faith and reason; the nature of human flourishing; the role of individuality in the pursuit of human flourishing; the relation between moral virtue and happiness. The philosophers to be discussed include Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas (and through him Aristotle), St. Augustine, Descartes, Hume, Mill, and Nietzsche.

Texts (other editions and/or translations are acceptable):

  • Plato, Five Dialogues (Hackett)  (ISBN:  978-0872206335)
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One: God (Notre Dame) (ISBN:  978-0268016784)
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Beatitude -- my translation, on line
  • Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method (Hackett) (ISBN:  978-0872204225)
  • David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (Hackett) (ISBN:  978-0872204027)
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (Hackett) (ISBN:  978-0915144433)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (Penguin) (ISBN:  978-0140449235)
  • St. Augustine, Confessions (Hackett) (ISBN:  978-0872208162)


  • Careful reading and re-reading of all assignments and scrupulous class attendance.
  • Submission of a comment or question on the reading every third day -- see assignments -- comments due by midnight the day before (10% of grade). (I do not expect or want mini-dissertations, just straightforward and concise questions or comments.)
  • Two 5-page papers on assigned topics, due on 2/9 and 4/15, each worth 20% of grade).
  • Two exams, the first on 3/4 and the second on 5/4 (each worth 25% of grade).

Tentative outline with reading assignments:

I. Plato (428 BC-348 BC)

  • 1/14: Apology, in Five Dialogues, pp. 23-44 (17A-42A)
  • 1/19: Phaedo, in Five Dialogues, pp. 93-106 (57A-69E)
  • 1/21: Phaedo, in Five Dialogues, pp. 106-135 (69E-95E)
  • 1/26: Phaedo, in Five Dialogues, pp. 135-155 (95E-end)

II. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

III. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)

  • 2/18: Discourse on Method, pp. 1-6 (Part One)
  • 2/23: Discourse on Method, pp. 6-12 (Part Two)
  • 2/25: Discourse on Method, pp. 12-17 (Part Three)
  • 3/2: Discourse on Method, pp. 17-21 (Part Four)
3/4  Hesburgh funeral (no exam)

IV. David Hume (1711-1776)

  • 3/16: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, pp. 3-12 (Part I)
  • 3/18: Rescheduled midterm exam
  • 3/23: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, pp. 13-38 (Parts II-V)
  • 3/25: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, pp. 54-76 (Parts IX-XI)
  • 3/30: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, pp. 77-89 (Part XII)

V. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

  • 4/1: On Liberty, pp. 1-33 (chap. 1 and first part of chap. 2)
  • 4/8: On Liberty, pp. 33-52 (last part of chap. 2)
  • 4/13: On Liberty, pp. 53-71 (chap. 3) (combined with first Nietzsche reading)
VI. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
  • 4/13: Beyond Good and Evil, Preface & Part Two, #24-#44)  (combined with last Mill reading)
  • 4/15: Beyond Good and Evil, Part Three, #45-#62 (paper due)
  • 4/20: Beyond Good and Evil, Part Five, #186-#203

VI. St. Augustine (354-430)

  • 4/22:  Confessions, pp. 3-47 (Bks. 1-3)
  • 4/27:  Confessions, pp. 51-125 (Bks. 4-7)
  • 4/29: Confessions, pp. 129-170 (Bks. 8-9)

5/4 FINAL EXAM  4:15-6:15 (MONDAY)