A Basic Program
in Philosophical Studies must have several virtues. It
should give a good and reasonable idea of why and how philosophy
is different from science and from every other human intellectual
activity, including the arts. It should deal with at least
some of the major philosophical issues debated in the history
of philosophy. It should take into account at least some of
the most important philosophers in history, showing the basic
differences in their approaches, methodologies, and conclusions
about reality. It should take into account ancient Greek philosophy
because the best introduction to philosophy is the history
of its birth. As Jacques Maritain wrote, “an account of the
historical origins of philosophic thought is the best method
of acquainting beginners with the problems of philosophy,
introducing them into the world, entirely new to them, of
rational speculation, and furnishing them, incidentally, with
much extremely useful knowledge.” At the same time, a good
program in philosophical studies can never be just historical.
Rather, it should always show how every issue and historical
debate is related to, or can help the understanding of, the
problems of our contemporary world.
A program in
philosophical studies should focus on the differences between
philosophy, on the one hand, and physics, mathematics, history,
poetry, the arts, and other techniques, on the other. It should
touch upon several branches of philosophy such as metaphysics,
philosophy of nature, ethics, and logic. It should address
the birth of moral philosophy with Socrates, Plato’s philosophy
of ideas, Aristotle’s and Aquinas’ philosophical realism,
St Augustine’s view on creation, the birth of modern philosophy
with Descartes, Kant’s transcendental philosophy, etc.… These
are all key authors and ideas in the history of philosophy,
and their (sometimes very different and even conflicting)
achievements can help us better understand both ourselves
and the world around us. A program in philosophical studies
should start with the birth of philosophy in Ancient Greece;
but, even while studying historical issues and authors of
the past, it should always focus on the most important questions
of our contemporary culture and lives: the existence of God
and of the human soul, the concepts of person and freedom,
the concept of truth, the space and time issue, the point
of our duties and of our happiness.
not be approached as if it were just a technique to master.
On the contrary, learning philosophy is a matter of achieving,
from time to time, genuine insights into reality – insights
that will eventually (sometimes after many years and in unexpected
ways) reveal themselves to be very useful in our lives and
studies. This is what we should expect from this program:
to achieve some insight into the reality of our own being
and of the things around us.
Philosophy, the Beginning
1. 9/27: Birth of Philosophy. Naturalists and Eleatics. Purpose and Goal of Philosophical Studies.
2. 10/11: Sophists and Socrates. The Beginning of Moral Philosophy.
3. 10/25: Plato: Theory of Ideas, Second Navigation, and Knowledge as Remembering.. Myth, Faith and Reason.
4. 11/8 : Plato: Philosophy as “Training for Dying.” The Human Soul. The Meaning of Life.
5. 11/15: Aristotle: Logic, Physics, and Theory of Knowledge.
6. 11/29: Aristotle: Metaphysics, Ethics, and Politics.
7. 12/13: Hellenistic Philosophy (Epicureans, Stoics, Skeptics), and Neoplatonism.