Key Texts in Philosophy

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Key Texts in Philosophy

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


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    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    In this course you will gain knowledge of, and insight into:
    1. the larger developments in the history of philosophy, with a focus upon the themes of time and history;
    2. the ideas of key thinkers in the history of philosophy relevant for historians (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Nietzsche, Gadamer, Foucault)
    3. philosophical concepts such as (true) knowledge and belief, subject and object, time, interpretation.

    And you will practice the skills to:
    1. critically read and analyze primary philosophical texts;
    2. take part in discussions about the texts;
    3. develop a position in relation to a theme or a philosopher’s ideas;
    4. you will improve your writing skills (on the basis of feedback).

    What is time? And what is the relevance of knowing our past and history? Philosophers from antiquity until the present day have reflected upon these questions. In this course, you will get an overview of the main developments in the history of philosophy and will read key texts in the history of philosophy, with a special focus upon the notion of time and the problem of understanding history.

    In the first week, we start with the perception of time in antiquity and early Christianity, and will read texts fragments of Plato and Aristotle (on (true) knowledge and belief, and on history), and a part of church father’s Augustine’s famous Confessions, in which he asks “what is time?”, and claims that we can only perceive or experience what is contained in a momentary present.

    In the second week, the focus is upon the notion of history in the modern period (17th-19th century). In Kant’s text the prevailing notion of history in the age of Enlightenment is exemplified: he views history as aiming at a goal. At the end of the 19th century Friedrich Nietzsche radically questions this view on history.

    In the last week, we will concentrate upon the views of contemporary philosophers, in particular Hans-Georg Gadamer and Michel Foucault. Gadamer is the father of contemporary hermeneutics: he gives a novel account of notions such as prejudice and tradition, and criticizes the Enlightenment rejection of all prejudices. Finally poststructuralist thinker Foucault radically questions ideas about continuity of the past, and reinvents the notion of archeology and genealogy.

    In introductions (the first seminar every week) the larger timeline of the history of philosophy will be presented; in the subsequent two text-reading seminars, original texts of philosophers will be discussed in detail. Reading the original sources will give you a better understanding of the specifics of the philosopher’s thinking about time and interpretation. The text-reading seminars are mandatory (80% attendance).

    - Two short papers of 1000 words about the primary texts (10% each, minimum required grade: 5)
    - Written exam with essay questions on the course materials (seminars and literature) (75% of the final grade). Minimum required grade for the exam: 5,5.
    - Participation in class (5%).

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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