Available to: Grade 12 students

This class examines nearly every important philosophical school in what we know as the “western” or European tradition, as well as some non-western ideas, and primarily examines the areas of philosophy known as ontology, epistemology, and semantics: the quest for what is “really real,” what we can know about it, and what we can say about it. We concentrate on the use of logic, the nature of language, and how our ideas mirror reality – or don’t. You will come away from the course with heightened ability to detect logical flaws in arguments, and to understand that irresolvable differences of opinion often derive not from differences in fact but from different mental paradigms. Informally, we often say, “I disagree, but I understand your point of view”; you will be able to understand other points of view much more systematically. And you will be much more literate citizens of your culture. There is usually no final truth in philosophical issues; in fact, the truthfulness of positions in this field often depends on the skill and elegance of their presentation. For this reason, philosophers throughout history have commonly been derided as “sophists” – mere crafty manipulators of language. Nevertheless, there are philosophical arguments that have more meaning for us: these make the swarming confusion of the world more intelligible, or at least more tolerable. This may be the “wisdom” to which the Greek word sophia refers. Also, you will begin to see that there are mysteries about language itself that do much to control the way we think about even very simple concepts. You will also find that common sense is not the simple, objective thing we intuitively take it to be.