Ideas Knowledge Ethics

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS2017014

Course Coordinator and Team: Wrick Mitra, Anup Dhar

Email of course coordinator: anup[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in, wrick[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: NA


This first foundational course in the School of Human Studies presents some of the finest ideas in philosophy. Philosophy offers a first look into the constitution of an object. It is a sort of intellectual ‘behind-the-scenes;’ the scene of the course, its object, is the human. The course raises a concern at the very heart of this School in which all programmes offered revolve around newly constituted objects. An interest in gender or the clinical requires us to return to philosophy to see how it prepares the ground for asking new questions on the human but also sets a limit on the answers that are given. So this return is as much political as it is intellectual. As we read of questions philosophers have repeatedly asked we will also think of those they have rarely asked. A renowned philosopher once wrote of it: philosophy is the deepest cultural form available to us today within which to reflect upon the human condition. We will study some of these deep issues first and then reflect on the possible limits that have been set on the answers philosophers have tried to give us. This demands of us a sense of history and indeed the course presents ideas on the human in a quasi-historical mode: we study the history of philosophy, often western philosophy, through some of its greatest moments in their contexts. The course thus traces a history of ideas, or a history of the philosophy of the human, in an attempt to examine some of the fundamental questions of human existence. Three vast questions, reflecting three big domains of philosophy (ontology, epistemology and ethics), also reflected in the title of the course (I-K-E), are taken on: Who are we? How do we know? What must we do?

Course Outcomes:

we think how knowledge about humans was createdwe see ourselves as subjects of knowledge – actively producing, consuming and circulating knowledge – of which we are also the objects. We consider how this has (quasi-)historically come to be as we evaluate modes of knowing available to humans and also try to relatethe communities that produce such knowledge to the kind of knowledge made available through them. In the end, as young students,you should be able to measure such knowledge, wherever possible, against instances from your lived worlds not only to judge the validity of such knowledge but also to generate meaningful criteria for understanding knowledge as a contingent and collective process.

1. To develop a method to think critically about the history of philosophy

2. To recognize the major epistemic shifts/moments in this history, leading up to the “present”

3.To relate this method, as well as its limits, to understand the complexities of “Human Studies”

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  • Key Concepts:(Post)Human, Rationality, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ontology, Aesthetics, Ethics, Morality, Legality, Performativity, Language, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism.
  • Key Thinkers: Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche, Marx, Saussure, Frankfurt School.
  • The course is structured quasi-historically through moments that shaped our thinking on the human. Consisting ideallyof 8 modules, lastingtwo weeks each(some more, some less), the courseconsists of about50 pages of reading per week. Modules are as follows:
  • From Orality to Literacy (circa 5000 BCE to 100 BCE): An Introduction to Philosophy
  • From Paganism to Theology (circa 100 BCE to 1000 CE): Socrates, Plato, St. Augustine
  • The Copernican Revolution (circa 1500 to 1700 CE): Descartes
  • The Enlightenment and the French Revolution (circa 1700 to 1800 CE): Kant
  • The Industrial Revolution (circa 1800 to 1935 CE): Nietzsche, Darwin, Marx
  • WWII and the Holocaust (circa 1936 to 1955 CE): Adorno, Benjamin, Fromm, Marcuse
  • 1968, 1989 and Ideology: Derrida
  • 1992 and the Information Revolution: Latour

Assessment Details with weights:

You are required to write a single-page reflection on assigned readings for each week. Reflectionsshould be shared with the rest of the students since its purpose is to accustom students to reflect on and participate in the modalities through which ‘knowledge’ is collectively produced. Counting sixteen weeks of classes overall, each student is expected to turn in fifteen reflections in all, skipping the first introductory week. Each student may however skip three reflections in all over the course of the semester with prior permission from the instructor. You must therefore turn in 12 reflections over the course of the semester where each reflection counts for five percent of your overall course grade. The twelve reflections will together account for 60% of the course grade. The remaining 40% of the grade is covered in an end-of-term assessment – term paper, viva or written exam – to be jointly decided in consultation with you. In addition, 80% attendance will be mandatory, failing which, the student will be penalized a grade for every week of classes missed from the required number of classes.

*** End Term Exam – Format and Date to be Decided and Declared Later***

Reading List:

Week 01 – Introduction to the Course

Course Overview: A Quasi-Historical Philosophy of the Human

Week 02 – Introduction to Philosophy

Reading: Plato – Apology

Reading: Eigen – I Killed Socrates

Week 03 – From Orality to Literacy (circa 5000 BCE to 100 BCE)

Reading: Plato – Symposium

Week 04 – From Orality to Literacy (circa 5000 BCE to 100 BCE)

Reading: Plato – Phaedrus

Reading: Lear – Socratic Method and Psychoanalysis

Week 05 – From Paganism to Theology (circa 100 BCE to 1000 CE)

Film: Agora; Reading: None; Reflections based on Film

Week 06 – From Paganism to Theology (circa 100 BCE to 1000 CE)

Reading: St. Aquinas and the Schoolmen

Reading: St. Augustine’s Theology

Week 07 – From Paganism to Theology (circa 100 BCE to 1000 CE)

Reading: Foucault – The Hermeneutics of the Subject – Lecture One (First & Second Hour)

Week 08 – The Copernican Revolution (circa 1500 CE)

Reading: Foucault – The Hermeneutics of the Subject – Lecture Two (First & Second Hour)

Week 09 – The Copernican Revolution (circa 1500 CE)

Reading: Descartes – Meditations on First Philosophy – Meditations I, II & VI

Week 10 - The Enlightenment (circa 1700 CE to 1800 CE)

Reading: Kant – What is Enlightenment?

Reading: Foucault – On Kant’s What is Enlightenment.

Week 11 – The Industrial Revolution (circa 1800 CE to 1935 CE)

Reading: Nietzsche – The Genealogy of Morals

Reading: Marx – Philosophical Premises

Week 12 – The Industrial Revolution (circa 1800 CE to 1935 CE)

Reading: Marx – Sociological Premises

Week 13 – The Industrial Revolution (circa 1800 CE to 1935 CE)

Reading: Marx – Methodological Premises

Week 14 – WWII and the Holocaust (circa 1936 CE to 1955 CE)

Reading: Benjamin – The Storyteller

Reading: Levi – Survival at Auschwitz

Week 15 –1968, 1989 and Ideology

Reading: Derrida – Structure, Sign and Play

Week 16 – 1992 and the Information Revolution

Reading: Latour – We Have Never Been Modern – Chapter 1

Week 17 – Conclusion


Sophie’s World (Gaarder); History of Western Philosophy (Russell)