Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2008
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 1A

Introduction to Philosophy

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber

FALL 2008
(Click on Calendar)

Course Description

  1. The course will seek 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, 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? 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.

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 summer will be the second year in a row that will be using a new introductory text: REASON AND RESPONSIBILITY: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, 13TH EDITION, edited by Joel Feinberg and Russ Shafer-Landau, Thomson, 2007. See the (Table of Contents). Copies of the text are available along with several used copies at the Brandeis University Bookstore .

The course meets on Mondays, Wednesdays from 2:10 PM to 3:30 PM., in LOWN 2 LECTURE HALL , at the top of the campus.

You will also have the opportunity of meeting in smaller discussion sections each week. The section times will be posted. Sections are not required, but will be available to anyone who wishes to take advantage of the opportunity to explore in greater depth some of the problems we will try to solve in the summer.

So, too, 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 various PHILOSOPHY RESOURCES "out there" on the world-wide web as well as some discussion about THE VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY and WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH A PHILOSOPHY DEGREE in the 21st century.

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" ( You Are My Everything) 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, broken down day by day, is also now Online 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 reading for the course follows a trajectory that will be similar to the path we took this summer in the INTRO class at Harvard University, although the main text for that course was different.

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: Wednesdays
    3:40-4:30 PM and by appointment.
  • Office Phone: 1-781-736-2789 (Sept 1 - Dec 21)
  • E-mail: or

    If you are unable to meet at this time or would like to meet at some other time, we can arrange to meet by appointment. Or you can email me. 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 fellow assigned to this course to date is Adam Rutledge:

  • Adam Rutledge
  • Office hours: Monday through Friday by appointment
  • E-mail:


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    Last Modified: 08/26/08
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