Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Philosophy Gym - Course Content

The Philosophy Gym is an online beginners philosophy course lasting 10 weeks from 28th January 2008. The next course is Wed 23 Apr to Fri 4 Jul 2008


Have you ever wondered where the universe came from? Whether time travel is possible? Whether its morally acceptable to genetically design babies? If God exists? If so then you have already started to do philosophy.


This course is based around some intriguing and exciting philosophical puzzles that have vexed philosophers through the ages. Designed to get you thinking for yourself by throwing you (and your course-mates) straight into the difficulties so you can puzzle out the answers for yourself (with the guidance of your tutor), the course will soon have you developing basic philosophical skills.


Dr Stephen Law

Role: Course Author

This course was written by Stephen Law (BSc, BPhil, DPhil). Stephen is a Lecturer at Heythrop College, University of London and also teaches summer schools for the University of Oxford's Department for Continuing Education. He is Editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy's journal THINK and author of a number of introductory philosophy books including The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking (Hodder-Headline, 2003), which is the textbook for this course.

Programme details

The course is divided into seven Units, with a different topic being covered in each one. Some of the Units will be studied over one week, but some will be studied over two weeks. The Units are:

  • Introduction to learning online (introductory)

  • What is philosophy? (1 week)

  • The existence of God (2 weeks)

  • Consciousness and the mind-body problem (2 weeks)

  • Scientific knowledge (1 week)

  • Is morality relative? (2 weeks)

  • Personal identity (1 week)

Course aims

To introduce philosophical thinking by marrying modern technology (computers, online discussion) with ancient philosophical puzzles.

Course Objectives:
1. To enable students to grasp a number of basic philosophical skills.
2. To enable students to grasp a number of classic philosophical puzzles.
3. To impart a critical understanding of some of the best-known attempted solutions to these puzzles.


This course is accredited and you are expected to take the course for credit. To be awarded credit, you must participate and complete written contributions satisfactorily. Successful students will receive credit, awarded by the Board of Studies of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. The award will take the form of 10 units of transferable credit at undergraduate level 1 of the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS). A transcript detailing the credit will be issued to successful students.

Assessment methods

In this course assessment is through a written report, essay or summary, of approx 1000 words.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books:

Stephen Law, The Philosophy Gym (London, Hodder-Headline, 2003)
Louis P Pojman, Introduction to Philosophy – classical and contemporary readings (New York, Oxford University Press, 2004)

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