Key Texts in Philosophy


Course Objective

In this course you will gain knowledge of, and insight into:
1. the larger developments in the history of philosophy, with a focus
upon the themes of time and history;
2. the ideas of key thinkers in the history of philosophy relevant for
historians (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Nietzsche, Gadamer,
3. philosophical concepts such as (true) knowledge and belief, subject
and object, time, interpretation.

And you will practice the skills to:
1. critically read and analyze primary philosophical texts;
2. take part in discussions about the texts;
3. develop a position in relation to a theme or a philosopher’s ideas;
4. you will improve your writing skills (on the basis of feedback).

Course Content

What is time? And what is the relevance of knowing our past and history?
Philosophers from antiquity until the present day have reflected upon
these questions. In this course, you will get an overview of the main
developments in the history of philosophy and will read key texts from
history of philosophy, with a special focus upon the notion of time and
the problem of understanding history.
In the first week, we start with the perception of time in antiquity
and early Christianity, and will read texts fragments of Plato and
Aristotle (on (true) knowledge and belief, and on history), and a part
of church father’s Augustine’s famous Confessions, in which he asks
“what is time?”, and claims that we can only perceive or experience what
is contained in a momentary present.
In the second week, the focus is upon the notion of history in the
modern period (17th-19th century). In Kant's text the prevailing notion
of history in the age of Enlightenment is exemplified: he views history
as aiming at a telos. At the end of the 19th century Friedrich Nietzsche
radically questions this view on history.
In the last week, we will concentrate upon the views of contemporary
philosophers, in particular Hans-Georg Gadamer and Michel Foucault.
Gadamer is the father of contemporary hermeneutics: he gives a novel
account of notions such as prejudice and tradition, and criticizes the
Enlightenment rejection of all prejudices. Finally poststructuralist
thinker Foucault radically questions ideas about continuity of the
past, and reinvents the notion of archeology and genealogy.

Teaching Methods

In introductions the larger timeline of
the history of philosophy will be presented; in the text-reading
seminars, original texts of philosophers will be discussed
in detail. Reading the original sources will give you a better
understanding of the specifics of the philosopher’s thinking about time
and interpretation. The text-reading seminars are mandatory (80%

Method of Assessment

- Weekly assignments about the primary texts (30%)
- Written exam with essay questions on the course materials (seminars
and literature) (70% of the final grade). Minimum required grade for the
exam: 5,5.
- Attendance of 80% (text-reading seminars)


- Passages of: A. Kenny (1998, 2006), An Illustrated Brief History of
Philosophy, Blackwell Publishing (available as e-book at UBVU)
- Passages of: R. Burns & H. Rayment-Pickard (2000) Philosophies of
History: From Enlightenment to Postmodernity. Wiley-Blackwell.
- Primary texts of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Nietzsche, Gadamer
and Foucault will be made available through Canvas.

Target Audience

Students BA1 History.

General Information

Course Code L_YABAALG008
Credits 6 EC
Period P6
Course Level 100
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator dr. J.M. Halsema
Examiner dr. J.M. Halsema
Teaching Staff dr. J.M. Halsema

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture, Seminar*

*You cannot select a group yourself for this teaching method, you will be placed in a group.

Target audiences

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