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Philosophy Summer School

Our lives and our world are full of mystery.

The nature of knowledge, how we perceive and understand the world around us, what is the meaning of our lives, what, if anything, happens when they are over, what are key moral values such as justice and fairness that we try to live our lives by, what is beauty in art and what is its appropriate role in society, what is the relationship between consciousness and action?

When one considers the number of such fundamental and fascinating, yet un-answered questions in our lives, one begins to understand the words uttered by Plato nearly 2500 years ago when he claimed that “Philosophy begins in wonder”. The Philosophy Summer School is an opportunity for students aged 15-18 to embrace and explore their wonderment about the world and our place in it, and to tackle intriguing and crucial questions about them.

Over 5 days students will learn about philosophical thinkers from as far back as Plato to modern figures like John Rawls, Jerry Cohen and Derek Parfit. In between, the works of Descartes, John Locke, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, AJ Ayer, Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell will all form part of the course.

Summer school students will get an insight into a wide range of philosophical subjects. We will engage in close textual analysis and exegesis (critical explanation and interpretation of a text), use thought experiments to isolate philosophical intuitions and ideas, and explore attempted solutions to philosophical problems. For example, we will be reading Edmund Gettier’s remarkably influential 3 page article from 1963, which revolutionised the way in which philosophers define knowledge. Through group work, discussion and debate we will assess the strengths and weaknesses of responses put forward by different philosophers to the problem which Gettier poses.

There will also be the opportunity to engage with meta-philosophical questions about the nature of philosophical enquiry as we examine different philosophical methods. Anglo-Saxon philosophy puts great emphasis on formal logic in the development and presentation of philosophical arguments, giving their systems of thought a rather timeless, dry and minimalist sense, whereas continental philosophy, as practiced by thinks such as Nietzsche, Sartre, Foucault and Schopenhauer, understands philosophy as being relevant principally within a specific historical and political context.

A key focus of the Philosophy Summer School will be justice – one of the key values we aim to live our lives by. Returning to the ancient Greek roots of Western Philosophy, we will examine Plato’s ideas as set out in his classic work The Republic on justice in an individual and in a state. We will also debate his  bold claim that justice is the same in different places and at all times in history, and compare this with both universalist and culturally relativistic attempts to define justice in the 20th century.

You can see a full schedule of the course here.


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