An “Introduction to Philosophy” Reading List for Syllabi Construction

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

Is it Wrong to Believe Without Sufficient Evidence? W.K. Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief” by Spencer Case

Bertrand Russell on the Value of Philosophy 

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

Descartes’ Meditations 1-3 and Descartes’ Meditations 4-6 by Marc Bobro

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: 

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

Origin Essentialism: What Could Have Been Different About You? by Chad Vance

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. Ethics

7.1. Arguably worse ethical theories and theories of justice:

  • Needed: something on relativism. (in progress)

7.2. Arguably better ethical theories and theories of justice:

7.3. Practical ethical issues; some potential “units” include:

8. Course Conclusion?

There are many options, beyond what’s above.

8.1. Something on existentialism?

8.2. Philosophy of Education?

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: 

9.1. Essay Categories

* New categories are added as the project expands. 

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