Great Ideas in Philosophy

Subject 161-111 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 1 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 2, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Thirty-five contact hours per semester: two 1-hour lectures per week for the whole semester and a 1-hour tutorial per week beginning the second week of semester
Total Time Commitment: 3 contact hours/week, 5.5 additional hours/week. Total of 8.5 hours per week.
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Assoc Prof Christopher Donald Cordner


Assoc Prof Christopher Cordner

Subject Overview: This subject introduces and examines several famous ideas in Western philosophy, from various periods and traditions but with important recurring concerns including the scope of human reason, the case for religious belief, the nature of morality, and the freedom of the will. These ideas will include: (1) Plato's division of the human soul into three parts (Reason, Spirit and Appetite), and the parallel he draws with the structure of his ideal society; (2) St Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways of proving the existence of God; (3) Pascal's Wager, which recommends belief in God not as supported by any proof or evidence, but as a very wise gamble; (4) David Hume's view that 'reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions', and that it is 'not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger'; (5) A.J. Ayer's version of the 'emotive theory of ethics', which holds that moral judgements 'have no objective validity', but are 'pure expressions of feeling'; (6) Jean-Paul Sartre's 'existentialist' view that the non-existence of God gives us free will, which warrants 'anguish' because it carries our 'total and deep responsibility' for our lives and for those of everyone else; (7) the view of the 'compatibilists' that genuine freedom of the will is quite compatible with strict determinism, which sees all events as conforming to fundamental regularities or laws of nature; (8) Hume's claim that our confidence in the continuing operation of these regularities requires rational justification, which may not be easy to find.
Objectives: Students who successfully complete this subject will
  • acquire knowledge and understanding of the texts studied;
  • appreciate what is distinctive and of abiding interest in these texts;
  • be able to present accurate and well-expressed exposition of important issues and views arising in them;
  • be able to present informed and fair-minded philosophical evaluation of them.
Assessment: Best 4 (of 8) 200-word tutorial assignments 20%, an essay of 1200 words 30% (due mid-semester), and a 2-hour written examination (not open-book) 50% (due at the end of semester).
Prescribed Texts: A subject reader will be available.
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills: Students who successfully complete this subject will
  • be able to recognise philosophically important similarities and differences between views and issues arising in different texts and contexts;
  • be able to apply the analytical skills developed in this subject to other philosophical and non-philosophical studies;
  • be able to apply the critical skills developed in this subject to other philosophical and non-philosophical studies.
Related Course(s): Diploma in Arts (Philosophy)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Philosophy
Philosophy Major
Philosophy and Social Theory

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