Course Objectives

PHL 202: Western Philosophical Traditions II

The principal aim of this course is to afford the student introductory exposure to the Western Philosophical Tradition from the first stirrings of scientific thought in the 16th Century to those figures and developments of the 20th Century that influence the discipline today. Our present-day ways of conceiving of the world and our place in it are influenced by many cultural streams. The history of democracy, science, and Christianity are all intertwined with the history of philosophy, but the principal cultural interlocutor with the philosophy of this period has been science. The chief preoccupation of philosophy has been with the relationship between language, thought, and the world. The successful student in this class will attain an understanding of the resulting conversation—not just in a “who did what when” sense, but with an eye to the overall narrative arc of the philosophic enterprise and its influence. Together as colleagues we will trace the progress of philosophers striving to give a true account of the relationship between thought, perception, language, and the world as it really is.


A principal goal of every undergraduate class is the enhancement of students’ abilities to read, write, and think critically and carefully about difficult problems that resist easy solution. Hence this course has a secondary objective of enhancing students’ critical thinking abilities through acquisition and application of the analytical and imaginative skills that form the core of the philosophical method. Because they are so widely applicable to concrete problems, development of the sort of critical thinking skills that make up the philosophical method is a fundamental part of general education, and one of the chief benefits of a course of this nature.

Finally, this course has been specifically designed to assist students in developing consistent routines and good habits for intellectual work. A student who completes the requirements will, in doing so, have cultivated not only these good work habits, but his or her intellectual discipline as well. Thus this course has the fourth objective of helping students become more effective, self-motivated and self-disciplined life-long learners.

Disclaimer: The professor will, of course, endeavor to help students achieve these outcomes, but real learning requires substantial effort on the part of the student. Students should therefore not expect to achieve these outcomes without engaging in the sustained, conscientious study and actual work necessary to complete all the class requirements at an adequate or better level and to observe all course policies.

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