Introduction to Philosophy


“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

“One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another.” – René Descartes

This course introduces the central problems of philosophy. It considers solutions proposed by the greatest thinkers of the Western philosophical tradition, and some from non-Western traditions as well.

We will ask what it is to be human, and reflect on the importance of this question for how we live our own lives. Are we minds and bodies? Just minds? Just bodies? What difference does it make? What is it to lead a good human life? What is a good person? How should we make decisions?

We will move on to questions in the theory of knowledge: What is knowledge? How do we get it? What can we know?

We will also raise some of the basic questions of metaphysics: What is there? What is a thing? Do things have essences? Is reality independent of our minds? Is there a God?

The course is organized according to three great philosophical traditions:

Classical Empiricism, which in the West begins with Aristotle;

Classical Rationalism, which in the West begins with Plato; and

Idealism, which in the West begins much later, with Berkeley.

A fourth group, the Skeptics, launch attacks against all three traditions. A picture of the course plan:

We will start with the empiricists, since their view is perhaps most familiar to us, and then move clockwise to the rationalists and the idealists.

Required Texts

Daniel Bonevac and Stephen Phillips (ed.), Introduction to World Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2009.






















Fall 2017          Unique Number 42170            MWF 1:00-2:00       JGB 2.324

PHL 301           Department of Philosophy       The University of Texas at Austin

Lectures from this course will be posted on a dedicated playlist on my YouTube channel.

You can also download a copy of the syllabus.

The Professor

Daniel Bonevac, WAG 403, 512–232-4333,

Office Hours: M 3–5

Daniel Bonevac is Professor of Philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin. His book Reduction in the Abstract Sciences received the Johnsonian Prize from The Journal of Philosophy. The author of five books and editor or co-editor of four others, Professor Bonevac's articles include “Against Conditional Obligation” (Noûs), "Sellars v. the Given" (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research), "Reflection Without Equilibrium," (Journal of Philosophy), "Free Choice Permission Is Strong Permission" (Synthese, with Nicholas Asher), "The Conditional Fallacy," (Philosophical Review, with Josh Dever and David Sosa), “The Counterexample Fallacy” (Mind, also with Dever and Sosa), “A History of Quantification” (Handbook of the History of Logic, Volume 11), “A History of the Connectives” (Handbook of the History of Logic, Volume 11, with Josh Dever), “Fictionalism” (Handbook of the Philosophy of Mathematics, Volume 4), “The Argument from Miracles” and “Two Theories of Analogical Predication” (Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Religion), “Heidegger’s Map” and “Heidegger’s Wrong Turn” (Academic Questions), “Arguments from Reference, Content, and Knowledge,” in T. Dougherty and J. Walls (ed.), Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project (Oxford: Oxford University Press), “Quantifiers Defined by Parametric Extensions” (Journal of Philosophical Logic, with Hans Kamp), “Defaulting on Reasons” (Noûs), and “Free Choice Reasons” (Synthese).

Course Description