Philosophy: Questions and Theories, HZT4U

Course Title: Philosophy: Questions and Theories

Course Code: HZT4U

Grade: 12

Course Type: University

Credit Value: 1.0

Prerequisite: Any university or university/college preparation course in Social Sciences and Humanities, English, or Canadian and World Studies.

Curriculum Policy Document: Social Sciences and Humanities, The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 to 12, 2013

Course Developer: Efi Pavlonov, c/o Jewish Virtual High School

Development Date: 2015

Course Description:

This course enables students to acquire an understanding of the nature of philosophy and philosophical reasoning skills and to develop and apply their knowledge and skills while exploring specialized branches of philosophy (the course will cover at least three of the following branches: metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, philosophy of science, social and political philosophy, aesthetics). Students will develop critical thinking and philosophical reasoning skills as they formulate and evaluate arguments related to a variety of philosophical questions and theories. They will also develop research and inquiry skills related to the study and practice of philosophy.

Unit Descriptions

Unit One: Metaphysics

Time: 20 h

The Metaphysics unit will begin by describing the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. Students will learn about his famous theory of the Forms and how it paved the way for all subsequent discussion regarding the mental and physical worlds or, more generally, the mind and body. Then the course will look at the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Students will learn about Aristotle’s particular conception of what is real in the world and how it corresponds and relates to Plato’s theory of the Forms. Third, students will study the medieval Italian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. By looking at Aquinas’ ideas they can see how he takes some of the views of Plato and Aristotle and combines them into a theory which he believes best explains the relationship between the mind (or soul, as he calls it) and body. Fourth, the course introduces the French philosopher, René Descartes, who is known to be the father of modern philosophy. In this section of the unit students will see how Descartes believed that he solved the question of whether to accept the existence of the mind or the body by accepting both as well as the serious problem that results from this position. Fifth, students will then look at the Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza. In particular, students will see how his views on the mind and body are dramatically different than Descartes’ and will learn about the important alternative theory within philosophy that Spinoza is known to defend. Sixth, students will examine Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s ideas; the German philosopher known for his rather peculiar theory about what really exists in the world. They will learn about the unique entity that he defends in particular as well as its relation to the mind and body in general. Finally, students will end the unit by studying the views of the Irish philosopher, George Berkeley, another philosopher known for his bold and very abstract views. They will learn about the specific theory that he defends as well as how his views are explicitly different than the other philosophers studied. The main aim of this unit will be to consider the metaphysical question of whether certain entities, such as the mind and body, really exist in the world. By studying each of the seven philosophers, all of whom are widely regarded as the greatest philosophers of all time, students should be able to gain an understanding of both their theories in general as well as how their theories relate to and address this important metaphysical issue. Additionally, students will learn about some unique perspectives on these topics, as taught by a number of traditional Jewish sages.

Unit Two: Epistemology

Time: 20 h

In the Epistemology unit students will take the time to learn about several areas of concern in the study of knowledge. The unit will begin by describing the epistemological theories of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. Students will learn about his distinction between belief and knowledge and how it paved the way for all subsequent discussion regarding the mental and physical worlds or, more generally, the mind and body. Then the course looks at the epistemological theories of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. In particular, students will discover that Aristotle is reluctant to totally reject the role of belief and will learn how this reluctance is ultimately related to his theory of sense perception. Third, they will study the epistemological theories of the medieval Italian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. By looking at Aquinas’s defence of the mental quality known as the phantasm they will learn how this quality plays a prominent role in his theory of how they can attain knowledge. Fourth, students will be introduced to the epistemological theories of the French philosopher, René Descartes. In this section of the unit students will be presented with the famous theory within philosophy that argues that knowledge comes from reason, namely, rationalism. Then they will go on to study the epistemological theories of the English philosopher, John Locke. In particular, students will learn about the famous theory within philosophy that argues that knowledge comes from experience, namely, empiricism and will learn how it differs sharply from the theory of rationalism. Students will then examine the epistemological theories of the Scottish philosopher, David Hume. Here they will learn about the theory of scepticism and how Hume is primarily sceptical of reason and the theory of rationalism. Finally, students will end the unit by studying the views of the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. In this final section they will learn about the high level of priority that Kant attaches to the role of reason and his consequent theory known as transcendental idealism. The main aim of this unit will be to examine some important epistemological theories as presented by some of the greatest philosophers of all time. By studying each of the above seven philosophers, students should be able to gain an understanding of their philosophy in general as well as how their philosophy relates to and addresses fundamental questions concerning the study of knowledge. Once again, students will also be connecting these topics with traditional works of Judaism.

Unit Three: Ethics

Time: 20 h

In the Ethics unit students will take the time to discuss some of the directions that philosophers can take within moral philosophy. For instance, the unit will begin by discussing the ethical theory of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. In particular, they will learn about how his famous theory of the forms is related to the branch of ethics in particular as well as his important conception of the Form of the Good. Then students will look at the ethical theory of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Here students will discover that, rather than following Plato’s theory of the forms, when it came to living ethically Aristotle was more concerned about choices and actions in life as well as the specific notion of virtue. Next, students will study the ethical theory of the third major philosopher to come out of ancient Greece, Epicurus. In particular, students will see how Epicurus’ ethical theory is distinct from that of Plato’s and Aristotle’s and students will pay close attention to the notion of pleasure, the concept at the foundation of all Epicurean philosophy. Fourth, students will be introduced to the ethical theory of the Italian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. Students will learn how his ethical views are related to the theory within philosophy known as objectivism and, in particular, students will examine the main idea behind natural law theory. Then students will go on to study the ethical theory of the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham. In this section of the unit students will be presented with the famous theory within ethics known as utilitarianism and will discuss Bentham’s founding role with respect the theory. The course will then examine the ethical theory of the British philosopher, Elizabeth Anscombe. Here students will learn about the famous theory within ethics known as consequentialism. Finally, students will end the unit by studying the ethical theory of the Canadian philosopher, G. A. Cohen. In this final section students will learn about the theory within ethics known as egalitarianism and students will learn about the ways in which Cohen is understood to be an egalitarian philosopher. The main aim of this unit will be to examine some important ethical theories as presented by some of the greatest moral philosophers of all time. By studying the ideas of the seven philosophers above, together with their parallels in Jewish thought, students should be able to gain an understanding of the fundamental questions concerning the study of ethics.

Unit Four: Political Philosophy

Time: 20 h

In the Political Philosophy unit students will take the time to discuss many of the different approaches to political philosophy as defended by some of the most famous and important political philosophers in the history of philosophy. For instance, the unit will begin by discussing the political philosophy of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. In particular, students will learn that a central part of Plato’s overall political theory was focused on outlining certain conditions that he believed would lead to what he viewed as the ideal state. Then students will look at the political theory of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Here students will discover that, rather than following Plato’s goal of establishing the perfect state, what mattered more to Aristotle was the establishment of the proper function of the state, for he viewed this as being the more important question. Next students will study the political theory of Thomas Hobbes. In particular, students will be introduced to the historical idea of the state of nature and will study exactly what the author of the famous idea had to say about it. As students will see, even today the concept of the state of nature is thought to provide the very reason why students should want government in their lives. For this reason it is an imperative concept to study in any course in political philosophy. In the next lesson students will go on to discuss the philosopher known as the father of liberalism, a theory which is easily said to be the most dominant political philosophy of the Western world, namely, John Locke. In particular, students will explore his ideas and learn how they are what provide the foundation of this massively influential political theory. Following that, students will discuss the philosopher regarded as the father of the important theory of conservatism, Edmund Burke. Students will learn about some of Burke’s main ideas and will see how they would become to be the founding principles within conservative thought. Then, students will discuss the philosopher who is the father of the major political theory known as Marxism, namely, Karl Marx. Students will learn about the basic principles that Marx stood for and will come to understand how all of his ideas eventually became referred to under the general heading of Marxism. Finally, in the last lesson of the unit students will discuss the philosopher considered to be a key representative of the major and increasingly popular political theory known as libertarianism, namely, Robert Nozick. The course will illustrate how his ideas are deeply rooted in libertarian thought as well as how they are related to a particular form of anarchism, the theory that states that society can and should exist without government. The main aim of this unit will be to examine some of the most important political questions and theories as presented by some of the greatest political philosophers of all time. By studying each of the above seven philosophers students should be able to gain an understanding of their philosophy in general as well as how their philosophy relates to and addresses fundamental issues concerning the study of political philosophy. As with the previous units, students will also be exploring the ideas of a number of traditional Jewish thinkers on these topics.

Unit Five: Existentialism

Time: 20 h

In this unit students will take the time to discuss many of the themes within existentialism as portrayed by some of the most famous and important existential philosophers. For example, students will begin the unit by studying the philosopher who is considered to be the father of existentialism, Soren Kierkegaard. In particular, students will consider the general belief of his works, namely, his notion of subjectivity, as well as some of his more specific beliefs such as the stages of life. Then students will look at some of the existential themes within the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Here students will be introduced to some key concepts within Nietzsche’s philosophy and will try to understand how they might all fit together to form a coherent theory about ourselves. Next, students will study the existential ideas found in the works of Martin Buber, particularly in relation to I-Thou and Zionism. Then students will go on to discuss the existential ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre. Students will study his concepts of freedom and choice as well as his idea that consciousness is really just nothingness. They will also explore Sartre’s take on anti-Semitism. Following that, students will discuss the works of Simone de Beauvoir and discover what specifically makes her an existentialist, and an existential feminist. Then students will discuss Joseph B. Soloveitchik and the existential themes found within his philosophy. In particular, students will learn about the “challenge of man” and some of the ideas within Jewish existentialism. Finally, in the last lesson of the unit students will discuss the concept of the “absurd”, and how it was dealt with by philosophers and scholars like Albert Camus, Lev Shestov, and Viktor Frankl. The main aim of this unit will be to examine some of the most important existential ideas and themes as presented by some of the greatest existentialists of all time. By studying the works of these philosophers, students should be able to gain an understanding of their philosophy in general as well as how their philosophy relates to and addresses fundamental issues within existentialism.

Final Assessment

Time: 10 h

Project

This project is worth 30% of the final grade. For the course’s culminating activity students will have the opportunity to consider and respond to a passage from a primary source either in book format or from an online source.

Total Time: 110 h

Teaching and Learning Strategies

The nature of the social science and humanities curriculum calls for a variety of strategies for learning. The social science and humanities curriculum is designed both to engage students in reflective learning and to help them develop practical skills. Students are expected to learn and apply the inquiry skills and research methods particular to the discipline, and to conduct research and analysis using both traditional and technological resources.

Since the over-riding aim of this course is to help students use language skillfully, confidently and flexibly, a wide variety of instructional strategies are used to provide learning opportunities to accommodate a variety of learning styles, interests and ability levels.

Resources

Note: This course is entirely online and does not require or rely on any textbook. Students may obtain appropriate textbooks to assist them as reference texts for this course but any text is entirely optional. Not optional however, is an internet connection.

No additional resources required

Curriculum Expectations

This course has clear and detailed provincial curriculum expectations which are made available to all students at:

Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 to 12, Social Sciences and Humanities

Copyright

Authors

Tara Ostner & Efi Palvanov

Content Development

Todd Dutchyn & Efi Palvanov Design

Dennis Pal

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