Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2011
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 1A

Introduction to Philosophy

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber

FALL 2011
(Click on Calendar)

Course Description

  1. The course seeks to grasp as well as answer a number of central questions in philosophy through the writings of contemporary and major Western philosophers as well as through the close study of several fundamental issues that have arisen in the course of the development of the Western philosophical tradition, such as free will, our knowledge of the "external" world, and the meaning and value of truth and justice.

  2. Readings will be drawn from the writings of major philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Leibniz, Kant, John Stuart Mill, and Bertrand Russell, as well as prominent contemporary philosophers such as Peter Singer, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Daniel Dennett, Martha Nussbaum, John Searle, Bernard Williams, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Hilary Putnam and Thomas Nagel.

  3. The main focus of the course, however, will be on the questions: Why be good? What is consciousness? Do persons have rights? If so, in virtue of what do they have them? What do human beings know, if anything, about the world they inhabit and how do they know it? Is there a G-d? The course is more about thinking and thinking things through than it is about coverage or the memorization of a bunch of facts.

  4. Topics will include arguments for and against the existence of God, the value of religious belief and faith, the problem of evil, the nature of scientific explanation, perception and illusion, minds, brains and programs, personal identity ("who am I?"), freedom and determinism, moral "truth" v. moral relativity, forgiveness and justice, and what makes life worth living . . . to name a few.

  5. The course is designed to be an introduction to philosophy and its problems and as such it is not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive. The classic materials are selected to provide a basis for understanding central debates within the field.

  6. The course is divided into four sections and each section is devoted to a key area within Western philosophy, in the areas, for example, somewhat fancily put, of epistemology, general metaphysics, ontology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, and ethics:





  7. In its aim and format the course is more an invitation to do philosophy than an introduction. Introductions seek to map out a territory or lay the groundwork for more detailed study. There will be some of that here, but insofar as invitations beckon and introductions point, the course beckons students to the study of philosophy rather than points the way.

  8. The Syllabus for PHIL 1A: Introduction to Philosophy has been listed among the top ten most popular philosophy syllabi n the world for a number of years now. See the Ten Most Popular Philosophy Syllabi in the World.

The COURSE DESCRIPTION & REQUIREMENTS are available online. Course Requirements will also be handed out on the first day of class. Course requirements will remain more or less the same as in prior years, but this year we will be using a new introductory text: INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY: Classical and Contemporary Readings, 5TH EDITION, edited by John Perry, Michael Bratman and John Martin Fisher, Oxford University Press, 2009. See the (Table of Contents). Take a Virtual Tour of Oxford University. Copies of the text are available at the Brandeis University Book Store in Shapiro.

See the Online Resources from Oxford for the Introduction to Philosophy text.

The course meets on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10:40 to 12:00 NOON in the ROOM G-3 of the new Mandel Humanities Center .

You will also have the opportunity to meet in smaller discussion sections during the course of the semester. Section times will be posted. Sections are not required, but will be available to any of you who wish to take advantage of the opportunity to explore in greater depth some of the problems we will try to solve in the course this Fall.

So, too, a good many of the HANDOUTS and LECTURE NOTES are still ONLINE from the last time the course was taught.. You may wish to take a look at these, since they will give you some idea of the sorts of things we will tackle during the Fall semester.

Also on the HANDOUTS page you will find links to discussion of WHY STUDY PHILOSOPHY? and WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A PHILOSOPHY DEGREE? and HOW PHILOSOPHY PAYS OFF as well as some discussion about WHAT PHILOSOPHY IS.

A section on PHILOSOPHY GOES TO THE MOVIES is also linked from the HANDOUTS page. where you will find essays on such films as THE MATRIX and TWELVE MONKEYS and BLADE RUNNER

So, too, you will find sections on PHILOSOPHICAL HUMOR ("Yes. philosophers CAN be funny!") and PHILOSOPHY SONGS, including such down-loadable original "hits" as "I've been looking for Substance" and "I'm a Token Token, Non-Reductive Materialist." from the philosophy band, "THE MONADS."

Also on the HANDOUTS page are GUIDES TO READING AND WRITING PHILOSOPHY as well as a section with links to PHILOSOPHY TEXTS ONLINE including CLASSICS OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY that you may find useful.

Reading for the course will be handed out in class, broken down day by day with links to biographies of prominent Western philosophers as well as philosophy texts that are available on the Web and through the Brandeis Library System. The readings will also be posted online here.





The reading for the course will follow a trajectory that will be similar to the path taught at Harvard University in the summer of this year: INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY class at Harvard University.

Syllabus Handouts and Lecture Notes
Section Times Class Discussion

Contact Info

The course is taught by ANDREAS TEUBER. You may wish to take a look at the SHORT BIOGRAPHY and the CV which are online to learn a bit more about me. During the Fall you can reach me as follows:

  • Office: RABB GRADUATE CENTER (Room 303)
  • Office hours: Tuesdays from 3:30-4:00 PM
    and Fridays from 12:30-1:00
    and by appointment.
  • Office Phone: 1-781-736-2789
  • E-mail: or

    I have also been holding after-class "office hours" in the small Cafe or Snack Bar in the Schneider Building at the Heller School and this seems likely to continue throughout the Fall.

    If you are unable to meet at these times or would like to meet at some other time you can arrange to meet by appointment. Or you can send an email. I read my email about two or three times a day during the week, although not on the weekends, and usually respond right away.

    The Teaching Assistants assigned to this course to date are Jennifer Kessler and John Nosan.

  • Jennifer Kessler
  • Office hours: Wednesdays 12:30-1:30 PM
    (and by appointment)
  • Office: Rabb 216
  • Email: < >

  • John Nosan
  • Office hours: Tuesdays 1:00-2:30 PM
  • Office: Rabb 324
  • Email: <>


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    Last Modified: 11/20/11
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