Introduction to Philosophy:

Who is a philosopher?

Professor: Bryce Huebner

You probably have some idea of what philosophy is, and what kinds of things philosophers do. But in different times and different places, philosophers have done their thing as artists and ascetics, court advisors and contemplatives, poets and political leaders, reactionaries and revolutionaries, scientists and sages. In this course, we will explore some of these ways of being a philosopher, and we will ask: what does it mean to do philosophy? And your primary goal as a student will be to work out what you think it means to philosophize!

Reading Schedule:

The philosopher as a curious investigator

1/14 - 1/16

Dag Herbjørnsrud, “Before the canon: The non-European women who founded philosophy”; Jonardon Ganeri, “The tree of knowledge is not an apple or an oak but a banyan

The philosopher as an ascetic


Selections from The sayings of the desert fathers

The philosopher as rational investigator

1/28 - 1/30 

Zär’a Ya’aqob, Hatata

(optional) Lawrence Shapiro, “A drop in the sea

2/4 - 2/6

Lara Buchak, “Can it be rational to have faith?

Sam Littlefiar, “Do you only live once?

The philosopher as a self-investigator

2/11 - 2/13

Unknown, “A dispute between a man and his ba”

Samir Chopra, “The usefulness of dread

Pema Chödrön & bell hooks, cultivating openness when life falls apart

*2/19 - 2/20

Rhonda McGee, “How Mindfulness Can Defeat Racial Bias

Bronwyn Finnigan, “Can we reinvent ourselves

Lisa Feldman Barrett & John Dunne, “Buddhists in love

The philosopher as an artist


Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock, “An open letter to the next generation of artists

Adrian Piper, “Ideology, Confrontation and Political Self-Awareness

The philosopher as a game player


C. Thi Nguyen, “Agency as art

Spring Break

The philosopher as scientist (or meta-scientist)

3/11 - 3/13

Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring” (heads up: this is a longer read, but it reads quickly)

Regina Rini, “The last mortals

Subrena Smith, “Why philosophy is so important in science education

3/18 - 3/20

Zeeya Merali, “How cosmic is the cosmos

Adam Frank, Marcelo Gleiser, & Evan Thompson, “The blind spot of science

John Dupré, “Metaphysics of metamorphosis

The philosopher as a science fiction writer

3/25 - 3/27

Watch: Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Octavia Butler, “The evening, the morning, and the night

Ursula K Le Guin, “Introduction to Left Hand of Darkness

The philosopher as a reporter

4/1 - 4/3

Ida B. Wells, The red record

The philosopher as revolutionary or a reactionary

4/8 - 4/10

Watch: the debate between William F Buckley and James Baldwin

Subcomandante Marcos, “Between light and shadow

The philosopher as a critical voice

4/15 - 4/17

Angela Y. Davis & Dylan Rodriguez, “The Challenge of Prison Abolition: A Conversation

Amia Srinivasan, “Does anyone have a right to sex?

Melanie Yergeau, “Clinically significant disturbance


Easter Break

Dialogues on Disability: Shelley Tremain Interviews Anne Waters


No reading: Summary discussion