An introductory philosophy course can take many forms. Here is a very rough draft reading list – at least, a potential order of course topics and related readings – based mostly on essays from 1000-Word Philosophy. This document could be used to develop a syllabus for an introductory philosophy course. The second half of this syllabus could also serve as the start of a plan for an introductory ethics course. Two Introduction to Ethics readings lists are available here.
The general approach here is to begin with more abstract epistemological and metaphysical (yet practical and relevant!) issues and move towards more practical ethical and justice-related issues. Sometimes there are ways to include more potentially “lively” topics that are relevant to the more abstract ones: these are indicated by calling them “applications” and “extensions.” Of course, other instructors want to begin with more “concrete” topics and then move to more potentially abstract topics: there is no uniquely best way to organize a philosophy class.
These essays are useful to teach, or use in teaching, in many contexts because they are short: they can be read together in class, before class, or out of class. They can be read quickly or read with a closer eye. Since they are short, many readings can be assigned, but that’s of course not necessary: it all depends on the course goals and what will work.
Below is just a suggestion and anyone should modify any of this to fit their goals and what will be effective with their students. This document is also available as a Google Doc.
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1. What is philosophy? What is philosophy like? What is its value?
Philosophy by Thomas Metcalf
Something on the ethics of belief (which we don’t have yet) and/or “that’s just your opinion” can work well.
No, you’re not entitled to your opinion by Patrick Stokes
Allen Stairs’ “A Right To Be Wrong” is short and good.
Responding to Morally Flawed Historical Philosophers and Philosophies by Victor Fabian Abundez-Guerra and Nathan Nobis (which is related to “cancel culture” and responding to bad celebrities, etc.).
This can be thrown in, to think about the point of classes: Ethics and “Extra Credit” by Nathan Nobis
2. Arguments, logic and critical thinking.
Many online options here for basics about arguments.
Critical Thinking: What is it to be a Critical Thinker? by Carolina Flores
3. Knowledge and reasonable belief:
Epistemology, or Theory of Knowledge by Thomas Metcalf (a good overview of the issues)
Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” by Charles Miceli
al-Ghazālī’s Dream Argument for Skepticism by John Ramsey
“Extensions”: Epistemic Injustice by Huzeyfe Demirtas
4. What are we? Persons and personal identity
Some essential background knowledge on claims about possibility that are common in metaphysics:
- Possibility and Necessity: An Introduction to Modality by Andre Leo Rusavuk
Personal Identity by Chad Vance
An application (and some foreshadowing of Philosophy of Religion): Hell and Universalism by A.G. Hold
An application (and some foreshadowing of Ethics): The Ethics of Abortion by Nathan Nobis
Related: how is our race(s) related to who we are? The Ontology of Race by Abiral Chitrakar Phnuyal
5. What are we? Are we such that we have free will?
Free Will and Free Choice by Jonah Nagashima
Free Will and Moral Responsibility by Chelsea Haramia
6. Philosophy of religion: what should we think about religious beliefs?
Attributes of God by Bailie Peterson
Design Arguments for the Existence of God by Thomas Metcalf
The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God by Andrew Chapman
Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason by Marc Bobro
Because God Says So: On Divine Command Theory by Spencer Case
The Problem of Evil by Thomas Metcalf
Divine Hiddenness by David Bayless
The Problem of No Best World by Kirk Lougheed
Can We Believe in Miracles? by Tomas Bogardus
Hell and Universalism by A.G. Holdier
Is Immortality Desirable? by Felipe Pereira
Nietzsche and the Death of God by Justin Remhof
Hope by Michael Milona & Katie Stockdale
7.1. Arguably worse ethical theories and theories of justice:
- Needed: something on relativism. (in progress)
- Ethical Egoism by Nathan Nobis
- Because God Says So: On Divine Command Theory by Spencer Case
7.2. Arguably better ethical theories and theories of justice:
- Deontology: Kantian Ethics by Andrew Chapman
- Consequentialism by Shane Gronholz
- John Rawls’ ‘A Theory of Justice’ by Ben Davies
- Social Contract Theory by David Antonini
- The African Ethic of Ubuntu by Thaddeus Metz
- Mengzi’s Moral Psychology, Part 1: The Four Moral Sprouts by John Ramsey
- Mengzi’s Moral Psychology, Part 2: The Cultivation Analogy by John Ramsey
7.3. Practical ethical issues; some potential “units” include:
- 7.3.1. Death:
- Is Death Bad? Epicurus and Lucretius on the Fear of Death by Frederik Kaufman and then many of the essays related to that topic, such as these and many more:
- 7.3.3. Punishment:
- 7.3.4. Slavery & Reparations:
- Aristotle’s Defense of Slavery by Dan Lowe and Responding to Morally Flawed Historical Philosophers and Philosophies by Victor Fabian Abundez-Guerra and Nathan Nobis (which is related to “cancel culture), and Reparations for Historic Injustice by Joseph Frigault.
- 7.3.5. Feminism:
- There are timely:
- 7.3.6. Marxism and Socialism and Capitalism:
- 7.3.7. Animals:
- 7.3.8. The Moral Status of Animals by Jason Wyckoff and Speciesism by Dan Lowe. Other essays on ethics and animals are in development.
- Many other options: https://1000wordphilosophy.com/all-essays/#ethics
8. Course Conclusion?
There are many options, beyond what’s above.
8.1. Something on existentialism?
- Existentialism by Addison Ellis
- Is Immortality Desirable? by Felipe Pereira
- Camus on the Absurd: The Myth of Sisyphus by Erik Van Aken
8.2. Philosophy of Education?
- Philosophical Inquiry in Childhood by Jana Mohr Lone
8.3. Other units can be created from other essays or sets of essays; see “All Essays”
9. All Essays
See here for current list: https://1000wordphilosophy.com/all-essays/
9.1. Essay Categories
- Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
- African Philosophy
- Buddhist Philosophy
- Chinese Philosophy
- Historical Philosophy
- Islamic Philosophy
- Logic and Reasoning
- Phenomenology and Existentialism
- Philosophy of Education
- Philosophy of Mind and Language
- Philosophy of Race
- Philosophy of Religion
- Philosophy of Science
- Philosophy of Sex and Gender
- Social and Political Philosophy
* New categories are added as the project expands.
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