Key Texts in Modern European Philosophy: The Monadology
This unit is devoted to a close reading of G. W. Leibnizs Monadology, a seminal text for modern European philosophy, with the aim of understanding not only Leibnizs doctrines and his arguments for them, but the context in which they were developed. It will introduce you to the advanced use of secondary literature.
Consists of a 12,000-15,000 word dissertation on a subject of your choice.
Likely Optional Units
Philosophy and Film
This unit explores the nature of film and how we understand our experience of film. The unit critically analyses 10 classic films made in various countries over the period 1945-2005. It enables students to address two basic questions: 1) Of the various ways of approaching films, what is peculiar to analysing them philosophically? 2) Of the various ways of doing philosophy, what is peculiar to doing it on and with film? These issues are worth exploring on their own because they influence how we appreciate and engage with film, one of the most popular and accessible forms of art. Instead of using film to illustrate or ornament preconceived positions, this course shows how film can be made both the subject and object of critical reflection.
The Philosophy of Habit
This unit is concerned with the spiritualist tradition in 19th century French philosophy and its approach to issues concerning the nature of the self. The unit is focused on the work of Félix Ravaisson, who, in the middle of the century, forms an influential vitalist metaphysics on the basis of a dynamic conception of habit as inclination. The unit contextualises Ravaisson's work and the 19th-century tradition more generally with regard to Aristotle, the Scottish philosophy of the 18th century and developments in 20th century French thought.
Contemporary Interpretations of Plato
This unit is concerned with contemporary interpretations of Plato, the Sophists and the Cynics within the tradition of European philosophy as a basis for reflection on the predicament of nihilism and its provocations for philosophical thinking. Famously, the philosophical tradition has been said to be a series of footnotes to Plato. By studying key interpretative writings on Plato by two major 20th century European philosophers, and in particular the relation between truth, art and style in Platos writings, the course will establish the essential link between the critical delimitation of the philosophical tradition and the interpretation of Plato. It will show how this delimitation is as a response to the historical phenomenon of nihilism, identifying the specific conception of nihilism offered by each philosopher and assessing its implications.
Jean-Luc Nancy: The Experience of Freedom
This unit takes a single text (either, The Experience of Freedom (1988), of Being singular plural (1996) by Jean-Luc Nancy, as the focus for discussing an embedding of questions of ethics in the wider context of analyses of meaning, and of ontological enquiry about what there is in the world, and how it can be experienced and known. Nancy's enquiries are framed by the double challenge to ethical enquiry which arrives in the absolute evil of the persecutory camps of Stalin and Hitler, as diagnosed by Hannah Arendt, and in the impact of bio-genetic technologies posing a challenge to conventional conceptions of the human, nature and history. This unit examines the resulting displacement within Jean-Luc Nancys thinking of the classical themes of phenomenology and of political theory in his concern for making sense of freedom, as the condition basic to human understanding and experience. The classical themes of freedom and sovereignty, from political theory, are brought together with the phenomenological method of detailed description and attention to repeating features of experience, leading to a transformation of both political theory and phenomenology.
Bergson and Neo-vitalist Thought
This unit will examine the philosophy of Henri Bergson in relation to developments in French philosophy and the life sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries. Bergson's thought has formed the basis for late 20th century revivals of interest in vitalism, the primacy of process and memory, and the fragmentation of traditional accounts of subjectivity. The main strands of Bergson's thought will be studied with particular reference to Matter and Memory (1896)and Creative Evolution (1907). We will also look at excerpts from some of his respondents and critics, such as Canguilhem, Foucault and Deleuze.