Oxford General Philosophy

Oxford General Philosophy

Part 1.1. Outlines the General Philosophy course, the various topics that will be discussed, and also, more importantly, the philosophical method that this course introduces to students.

Part 1.2. Gives a very brief history of philosophy from the ‘birth of philosophy’ in Ancient Greece through the rise of Christianity in Europe in the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance, the Reformation and the birth of the Modern Period.

Part 1.3. Describes briefly the Aristotelian view of the universe; the basis for natural science in Europe until the 15th century and its conflict Galileo’s theories.

Part 1.4. Outlines Galileo’s revolutionary theories of astronomy and mechanical science and introduces Descartes’ (the father of modern philosophy) ideas of philosophical scepticism.

General Philosophy Lecture 1

PDF slides from Peter Millican’s General Philosophy lecture 1.

Part 2.1. A brief recap on the first lecture describing how Aristotle’s view of the universe, dominant throughout the middle ages in Europe, came to be gradually phased out by a modern, mechanistic view of the universe.

Part 2.2. A brief introduction to Thomas Hobbes, ‘The Monster of Malmsbury’, his views on a mechanistic universe, his strong ideas on determinism and his pessimistic view of human nature: ‘The life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.

Part 2.3. An introduction to Robert Boyle’s theory of corpuscularianism and Isaac Newton’s ideas on mathematics and the universe.

Part 2.4. Introduction to the philosophy of John Locke, ‘England’s first Empiricist’, he also gives a very simplistic definition of Empiricism; we obtain knowledge through experience of the world, through sensory data (what we see, hear, etc).

Part 2.5. Focuses on Malebranche, a lesser-known French Philosopher, and his ideas on idealism and the influence they had on English philosopher George Berkeley.

Part 2.6. Introduces 18th Century Scottish philosopher David Hume, ‘The Great Infidel’, including his life, works and a brief look at his philosophical thoughts.

Part 2.7. Concludes a historical survey of philosophy with Immanuel Kant, who thought Hume was wrong in his idea of human nature and how we gain knowledge of the world.

General Philosophy Lecture 2

PDF slides from Peter Millican’s General Philosophy lecture 2.

Part 3.1. Briefly introduces the problem of induction: that is, the problem that it is difficult to justify claims to knowledge of the world through pure reason, i.e. without experience.

Part 3.2. Responses to and justifications of Hume’s argument concerning the problem of induction.

General Philosophy Lecture 3

PDF slides from Peter Millican’s General Philosophy lecture 3.

Part 4.1. Introduces the problem of how do we have knowledge of the world, how do we know what we perceive is in fact what is there?

Part 4.2. Investigates some of the possible solutions to Descartes’ sceptical problem of the external world, looking at G.E Moore’s response, among others, to the problem.

Part 4.3. Introduces Descartes’ idea of dualism, that there is a separation between the mind and the body, as well as some of the philosophical issues surrounding this idea.

Part 4.4. Looks at some of the modern responses to Cartesian Dualism including Gilbert Ryle’s and G. Strawson’s responses to the idea.

General Philosophy Lecture 4

PDF slides from Peter Millican’s General Philosophy lecture 4.

Part 5.1. Looks at the problem of knowledge; how can we know what we know, three types of knowledge and A J Ayer’s two conditions for knowledge.

Part 5.2. Explores the idea of conscious and unconscious knowledge (should a person know that they know something or does it not matter?) and the theory of justification of propositions and beliefs.

Part 5.3. The difference between internalist and externalist accounts of knowledge; whether we need external factors to justify knowledge or whether internal accounts are sufficient, and the Gettier cases.

Part 5.4. Looks at the role the concept of knowledge plays in life, the different levels of knowledge we require in certain contexts and the return of scepticism over knowledge.

General Philosophy Lecture 5

PDF slides from Peter Millican’s General Philosophy lecture 5.

Part 6.1. Introduces the problem of perception (and the distinction between the world and what we perceive), along with the concepts of primary and secondary qualities.

Part 6.2. Explores Berkeley’s and Locke’s arguments concerning the resemblance of qualities and objects; that the perceived qualities of objects exist only in the mind or whether secondary qualities are intrinsically part of the object.

Part 6.3. Criticisms of the resemblance theory of perception and an introduction to idealism – that perceptions of the external world are all within the mind as ideas.

Part 6.4. A brief overview of contemporary accounts of perception; including phenomenalism (that objects are logical constructions from sense data) and direct realism (that we perceive objects and the external world directly).

General Philosophy Lecture 6

PDF slides from Peter Millican’s General Philosophy lecture 6.

Part 7.1. Explores the problem of free will and the ideas of moral responsibility, determinism and choice; the need for a concept of freedom to allow free choice, the problems associated with this and asking whether we really have freedom of choice.

Part 7.2. Looks at Hobbes’ and Hume’s views of free will and the three concepts of freedom, and considers the idea of moral responsibility as dependent on free will.

Part 7.3. Looks at Hume’s views on liberty and its relationship to causal necessity; that we have free will but it is causally determined.

Part 7.4. A brief explanation of Hume’s argument for sentimentalism and Robert Kane’s views on free will and determinism.

General Philosophy Lecture 7

PDF slides from Peter Millican’s General Philosophy lecture 7.

Part 8.1. Introduces the concept of personal identity, what is it to be a person, whether someone is the same person over time and Leibniz’s law of sameness.

Part 8.2. Looks at John Locke’s view of personal identity; how consciousness and ‘personal history’ distinguish personal identity and the idea of memory as crucial for personal identity.

Part 8.3. Criticisms of Locke’s view of personal identity; if personal identity is dependent on memory then how does forgetting personal history and the concept of false memory change Locke’s view of personal identity.

Part 8.4. The final part of this series. Explores the distinction between mind and body and whether this makes a difference to the idea of personal identity.

General Philosophy Lecture 8

PDF slides from Peter Millican’s General Philosophy lecture 8.