Introduction to Philosophy

PH 101

Course Introduction To Philosophy Kris Sealey
Throughout this course, we will investigate some of the most fundamental principles of contemporary political thought. Our analyses will take a critical stance toward these principles, and as such, trace the source(s) of their legitimacy. Guiding our conversations will be some of the following questions:
  • What is justice, and how do we know what it is?
  • How should we think about the relationship between the citizen and the state?
  • Should political law take the rights of groups into consideration?
  • Should the state correct for historical injustice?
  • What are some of the pre-requisites for a political democracy?

We will treat these philosophically, which means that our focus will be on the rich complexity of the questions themselves, instead of solely on their answers. Thinkers like Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Angela Y Davis will guide our conversation. Our goal is to understand why such thinkers are relevant for the philosophical questions of our time. This is also a writing-intensive course. This means that we will use writing to help us think through these questions, and use different forms of writing to represent, to ourselves and to each other, our understanding of these ideas.

This course prepares students to:

1. Identify arguments and provide counter-arguments.
2. Critically engage with and question your assumptions.
3. Thoughtfully integrate your actions with your values.
4. Risk crisis and transformation through self-reflection.
5. Accept the invitation of philosophy to wonder at life’s “big questions.”

Unit 1: What is Justice?
  • Plato, The Crito
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail
  • Plato, Republic Bk I
Unit 2: What is the Social Contract?
  • Plato, Republic Bk IV
  • W.E. B. Dubois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings”
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
  • John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
  • Alexander Stephens, “Cornerstone Speech”
Unit 3: Who’s in the Social Contract?
  • Ava DuVernay (director), 13th
  • Butler and Yancy “What’s Wrong with ‘All Lives Matter’”
  • Angela Y. Davis, “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”
  • Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality
  • Iris Marion Young, “Polity and Group Difference: A Critique of the Ideal of Universal Citizenship”
Unit 4: In-class Group Presentations