Philosophy: The Great Thinkers

Subject PHIL10003 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

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

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

Semester 1, Parkville - 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: 2 one hour lectures per week for the entire semester and 1 one hour tutorial per week beginning in week 2.
Total Time Commitment: An average of 8.5 hours each week.
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: There is no specific background knowledge required for enrolment in this subject.
Non Allowed Subjects: This subject was previously taught as 'Great Ideas in Philosophy' 161-111, students who have completed Great Ideas in Philosophy are not permitted to enrol in this subject.
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website :


Assoc Prof Christopher Cordner


Associate Professor 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 account of the human ‘soul’ or mind as consisting of three elements (Reason, Spirit and Appetite), and the parallel he draws with the structure of his ideal society; (2) Ideas about the existence of God, including: Pascal's Wager, which recommends belief in God not as supported by any proof or evidence, but as a very wise gamble; and whether belief in God involves faith rather than reason or argument; (3) 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'; (4) Immanuel Kant’s view that moral values are derived from reason, David Hume’s different view that they express only our sentiments or feelings, and some contemporary descendants of Hume’s view (5) Jean-Paul Sartre's 'existentialist' view that human beings are ‘radically free’, and that this freedom warrants 'anguish' because it carries our 'total and deep responsibility' for our lives and for those of everyone else; and other views in the long-standing debate about whether we really do have free will.


Students who successfully complete this subject will

  • acquire knowledge and understanding of the texts studied.
  • appreciate what these texts have to show us about what it means to be a human being.
  • 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: Tutorial assignments 15%, an essay of 1400 words due mid semester 35%, and a 2-hour written examination (not open-book) 50% at the end of semester.
Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available from the University Bookshop at the start of semester.

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.
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Philosophy
Philosophy Major
Philosophy and Social Theory

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