The Learning Modules provide an overview of what to do from week to week. They will vary in how long they take to work through and will be more and more open ended as the term goes on. Ensure you ask questions in the activity stream.
Term One: Introduction to Philosophy
The aim of term one is to provide an overview of the key areas in the study of Philosophy and to encourage participants to think philosophically. We will initially explore what philosophy actually is, the development of philosophical though over time and then move into some key philosophical areas. The best way of studying philosophy is by doing it. This means there is a heavy emphasis on discussion and knowledge building with others in this course. Anyone enrolling should be enthusiastic about that prospect.
Becoming a Philosopher
This hub is a platform for you to develop the skills and competencies of a philosopher. It is designed for you to ‘do’ Philosophy, rather than just spend time reading about it. It has been set up for you to engage in a range of topics and inquiries. Essentially we need to explore puzzles and problems. These will usually be framed as big questions, which you will inquire into. Inquiry is fundamental to this course. You then need to learn to interrogate a problem, and ultimately to develop arguments to refine and find answers. The process of argument is not a way of proving you are correct. It is something you are doing together. Have a look at the videos below to get some ideas on how to do this.
Objective: To explore key philosophical questions through discussion / To learn to engage in online discussion effectively
Time: Two Weeks
Stop here if you have not really contributed to the introductory activities. This is is extremely important. Discussion needs trust, and that in turn requires that we know each other. Go back and contribute before you engage in the eternal questions.
The next two weeks is entirely focused on discussion. I will post the following ‘big’ questions into the Google+ Community for you to discuss. Each of you then participates in each discussion in whatever order or whatever time you want. The key is participation across the board. I will also create a padlet board for you to post your own suggestions for discussion. These two weeks are an important indicator of how willing you are to engage in discussion. It also serves as a valuable time to develop your ability to effectively engage in discussion.
- What is the ‘good life’?
- What is truth?
- What is happiness? How do we achieve it? What makes us happy?
- What is the purpose of life?
- What is reality?
- Imagine you could create a Utopian society. What would its moral system be?
- Is there life after death?
- Don’t make your post too long. An initial paragraph of between 5-10 lines is more than enough.
- Think about your answer and re-read it before you click “submit”
- Be considerate of other people’s views. You don’t have to agree with them, but be constructive
- Participation is the key to success and enjoyment
- Don’t worry what other thinks of your views
- Don’t write a post to impress everyone with your astounding intellect. Make it real.
- Look to ‘build’ on other student’s posts, especially if you agree with a point they have made
- Share your views but also, look to highlight interesting points others have made. Can you take their point further? Or ask a question? Play devil’s advocate?
- The key to the success of any discussion is actually interacting, commenting on what other’s have said – not just sharing your views in isolation
HAVE FUN WITH THIS EVERYONE. WHEN ELSE HAVE YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEND THIS AMOUNT OF TIME JUST DISCUSSING THINGS. PARTICIPATE. YOU WILL GET A NUDGE FROM ME IF YOU ARE A LITTLE QUIET
WEEK TWO GUIDANCE
The current ‘Eternal Questions’ module is set up as a two week module. After the first week you will find quite a lot of discussion will have taken place. The question from there, is how to develop each thread and to continue digging.
- Find ideas, thinking that could be developed further. Bring some further ideas
- Introduce a question (or questions) to a particular discussion thread. See if you can take things in a slightly different direction
- So far you have relied on your own ideas and knowledge. Do some research on what other sources say on these topics. Look for ideas from recognised philosophers (both now and past). For example, what does Socrates say about truth? Don’t just bring content in though. Look to reflect on what you have found and to integrate into the thinking that is already in the discussion
As always, participation is key.
Further Guidance on Philosophic Discussion
- Disagreement or challenging ideas is a way of refining them. It is a fundamental part of critically examining an argument. You need to be prepared to look at ways of challenging what others have said. A good way is to ask a question or two. This is what Socrates was well known for. Or provide an alternative idea that is worth considering. Look to find out what authoritative sources say on the matter – i.e. Philosophers. Bring this into the discussion.
- New ideas emerge through discussion and the examination, analysis, and criticism of other people’s ideas.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END
At the end of the two weeks we will examine the discussions (in the video conference). As the discussion develops ensure you start taking note of some of the key ideas that have come out of them. We almost need to be able to create a small synthesis or summary of each main idea. We will be pulling this out together and then assigning quick summaries. Be prepared. You will need to know the discussion well.
Objective: Our aim over the rest of the term is to broaden our understanding of the different fields of philosophy and to develop our knowledge of existing philosophical thinking. In order to do this, all students will engage in research and then apply what they learn to existing and new philosophical questions
This section of work should take us to the end of the term and will evolve over the next few weeks.
- Your most immediate task is to go to the Great Thinkers wall and read through what is already there. Then you need make at least THREE new posts. You either add further information on a philosopher already there or you add a short bio for a new philosopher. It would be a good idea to create an account in padlet so your name comes up on posts.
- Ensure you join the new groups that have been developed. Do a bit of reading on each field of philosophy so you are clear what sort of ideas each explores.
- Each of you needs to add at least one discussion in the appropriate group and then to participate in the various discussions across different groups. Explore those that interest you, but as a group let’s ensure that every question has some discussion.
- Start doing some of your own reading and research. The Crash Course in Philosophy on Youtube series is a good starting point. Access the two textbooks if you would like some in depth reading. You are free to find and use your own resources though. Look to explore ideas from authoritative sources (such as the philosophers on the Great Thinkers Wall) that help with the various discussion questions.
- Look to start applying what you find out to discussion questions – whether new or existing (such as the eternal questions). Ensure you refer to the source when you apply it.
Objective: To develop a foundation knowledge of the history and relevant application of Philosophical thought
We are meandering a bit and perhaps not achieving what we need to so a slight change of direction over the next two weeks. We are going to go move our focus from discussion to research on philosophical thought and apply it to some of our recent discussions. The discussions can continue, but are not the priority. The priority activities are the following.
“Philosophy is, first of all, reflection. It is stepping back, listening to yourself and other people (including the great philosophers), and trying to understand and evaluate what it is that you hear, and what it is that you believe”
“Indeed, doing philosophy almost always includes appealing to other philosophers in support of your own views, borrowing their arguments and examples as well as quoting them when they have striking things to say (with proper credit in a footnote, of course)”
The Big Questions
I am not sure we are quite achieving these things at the moment so I am going to give you some direction
- Read this quick overview of the history of Philosophy. Or find another source that gives you a reasonably brief overview. Use this book for a detailed exploration into the history. Take note of some of the most significant philosophers you come across and what ideas they contributed. Also check through the Great Thinkers Wall. Choose one significant philosopher, identify who they are on the relevant post in the Hub, and come ready to tell us what ideas they have contributed to Philosophical thought in the video conference.
- Most of your energy during the next two weeks needs to spent on this. Using this foundation understanding find and apply existing philosophical thinking to the relevant posts in this Wall. These are not discussions. I have lifted the discussion questions from our hub, but you are now asked to post and connect ideas from philosophers that help us better understand these questions. Read the instructions on the wall. I will provide one example.
- Continue to discuss questions posed, but this is your LAST priority. Do it as an extra. Test out some of the thinking you have found