Philosophy 39L

Spring 2007

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
39L Freshman&Sophomore Seminar: Perception and Reality Ginsborg W 2-5 108 Wheeler

Perception and Reality

One of our main ways of finding out about the world is through perceptual experience of it: for example, through seeing, hearing and touching things. But there is a great deal that is puzzling about what perceptual experience is, and about how (or indeed, whether) it makes knowledge possible. Some of the puzzles are best dealt with in experimental psychology and physiology, for example by looking at how the sense-organs and brain function in perception. But some of the questions which arise about perception and its relation to knowledge are primarily philosophical, rather than psychological or physiological. Many important philosophers, including Aristotle, Descartes and Kant, have dealt with these questions, and indeed have treated them as central in understanding the nature of reality and our knowledge of it. Moreover, questions about perception remain central in contemporary philosophy of mind and theory of knowledge. In this seminar we will read and discuss a number of philosophical texts dealing with perception and knowledge, some classical and some more recent. Because the topic is a large one, we will not be trying to cover it comprehensively, but rather to study carefully a few selected texts. While the texts will be difficult and require careful reading, the class will not presuppose any prior knowledge of philosophy; it is intended to give students an opportunity to get acquainted with philosophy in a small class with a lot of emphasis on discussion. Students taking the course should be prepared to participate actively in class discussion. They will be required to write a short paper each week and a longer final paper at the end of the semester.

Admission to the course is by the consent of the instructor only, and is restricted to freshmen and sophomores. Those wishing to take the course will need to submit an application including a short essay (between one and two pages) on a topic set by the instructor. If you are interested in enrolling, you should contact the instructor by email before Friday, December 1. Emails should be addressed to and should include “Philosophy 39” in the subject line. Those sending emails before the deadline will receive an application form and the essay topic by email, and will have about a week to send back the application. Students will be informed by mid-December whether they are admitted to the course. Students who are admitted to the course and who attend the first class meeting will receive a class entry code and will be able to enroll through TeleBEARS during the first week of classes.