Themes in Western Philosophy

Ref: C2224610

Philosophy asks questions about the meaning of life, and in this course we look at contributions made by major thinkers. We shall ask questions about: how it is possible to know anything at all; whether God exists; what a good life is; what it means for one thing to cause another; what happiness is; how we should be governed; what the nature of mind is. The philosophers we shall consider will include: Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Mill, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. More importantly, students will be encouraged to ask questions in a subject where the notion of a correct answer is itself controversial. We move on from the observation made by Socrates that only the examined life is worth living. But was he right?

Course aim

To provide an overview of themes in Western philosophy and to introduce students to the skills necessary for philosophical debate.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Discuss the thought of ten major philosophers.
  • Confidently engage in philosophical debate.
  • Evaluate arguments presented
  • Formulate arguments
  • Explain the purpose of philosophy and its use in our society.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You will be asked to read the relevant chapter in Sharon Kaye's Teach Yourself Philosophy: A Complete Introduction.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • You need to buy the book by Sharon Kaye mentioned above.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider

Download full Course information sheet

Themes in Western Philosophy


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  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
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  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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