An Introduction to Philosophy

Introduction to Philosophy

Teacher: Darren Sudlow

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Access the course community above. This is our place for communication, sharing, discussion and knowledge building.

About this course

Philosophy is the subject that specializes in exploring fundamental questions about the world and our place in it. For example: What is reality? What does it mean for me to ‘know’ something? What is reasoning? What is a Mind? Does God exist? How should I live, and who should decide? Philosophical discussion draws on imaginative speculation, scientific evidence, sustained reflection on lived experience, and the different histories, cultural perspectives and texts that shape current thought.

The aim of this course is to provide an overview of the key areas in the study of Philosophy and to get participants thinking philosophically. We will initially explore what philosophy actually is, some of the history and development of historical thought and then move into some key philosophical areas. The best way of studying philosophy is by doing it. This means there is a heavy emphasis on discussion and knowledge building with others in this course. Anyone enrolling should be enthusiastic about that prospect.


Philosophy cannot be done ‘solo’. In a philosophy course the participating students become a community with a shared interest in exploring and discussing ‘big’ questions. Anyone wanting to take this course will need to fully participate in ongoing online discussion, whether through social media type platforms or in the video conference. Discussion is a fundamental part of the course.


This is a multi-level course in which all students learn together. Students will be assessed at either L2 or L3 depending on what best meets their needs. NCEA Standards from the Religious Studies, History and/or Social Studies domain can be used for assessment. Alternative standards will be sourced for individuals where there is a clash with another course

Module One: Introductions

As has been mentioned before this is a discussion based course that also places a high value on curiosity, exploration and team-work. In such an environment it is vital that everyone feels they can trust each other, are comfortable expressing themselves without judgement by others and are willing to work with, and off others. The following two weeks are designed to build a feeling of community

Work through the following tasks (generally in order of priority)

    1. Ensure you have completed the Student Induction and Profile on the NetNZ website
    2. Introduce yourself by posting under the “General Discussion” category in the Philosophy Community. Make sure you provide enough information so others can ask questions. Share your interests, but also why you have taken the course / what you hope to get out of it. Add a photo that provides some insight into who you are and/or your interests. See if you can find something that provokes a bit of thinking and asks us to look beyond the obvious. Tell us what courses you are taking this year.
    3. Your profile: Ensure you add a photo to your google account profile (whether you or not). It gives you more “presence” online. This is important.
    4. Conversation: Ask at least TWO other students’ questions based on information they have provided in their Introductory post. Do this by “commenting” on the post. See if you can strike up conversations on areas of interest. Comment on the photo – can you work out what it says – look beyond the obvious
    5. Discussion: Why should we study Philosophy? Respond the post I make on this question with some ideas. See it as an ongoing discussion where we are working together to develop an understanding of why. When someone posts look to ‘build’ on what they say, especially if it contains similar ideas to your own. What can you add to what someone else says – how can you improve a really good idea or thought they have shared? Start with your own ideas, then see what you can find elsewhere.
    6. Timetable: So everyone knows when everyone else will be online. Fill in this google doc with the times you have this course. I know this won’t match perfectly, but do your best
    7. Where are we Map: Add where your town / city to the Community Google Map. Can you work out how to do it?
    8. Two Lies and a Truth: Make a post listing three interesting things about yourself. (I own two iguanas; I once shook hands with Tom Cruise; and I love to waterski.) Two must be lies and one must be true. Other class members  must vote to determine which interesting thing is the truth. The participant with the most incorrect votes wins.
    9. Reading List: Make a post sharing your favourite and most recent reading. Add the books as a series of photos. Read other students’ posts and make comment, develop some discussion. I recommend using the “Online Cafe” category which i have added as a place for off topic chat.

Module Two: The Eternal Questions

Objective: To explore key philosophical questions through discussion / To learn to engage in online discussion effectively
Time: Two Weeks

The next one to two weeks is entirely focused on discussion. I will post the following ‘big’ questions into the community as separate posts. Each of you then participates in each of them in whatever order or whatever time you want. The key is participation across the board. These two weeks are an important indicator of how willing you are to engage in discussion. It also serves as a valuable time to develop your ability to effectively engage in discussion.


  1. What is the ‘good life’?
  2. What is truth?
  3. What is happiness? How do we achieve it? What makes us happy?
  4. What do I want from life?
  5. What is the purpose of life?
  6. Imagine……What would happen to human behaviour if we could all read each other’s minds?


  • Don’t make your post too long. An initial paragraph of between 5-10 lines is more than enough.
  • Think about your answer and re-read it before you click “submit”
  • Be considerate of other people’s views. You don’t have to agree with them, but be constructive
  • Participation is the key to success and enjoyment
  • Don’t worry what other thinks of your views
  • Don’t write a post to impress everyone with your astounding intellect. Make it real.
  • Look to ‘build’ on other student’s posts, especially if you agree with a point they have made
  • Share you views but also, look to highlight interesting points others have made. Can you take their point further? Or ask a question? Play devil’s advocate?
  • The key to the success of any discussion is actually interacting, making comment on what other’s have said – not just sharing your views in isolation



The current ‘Eternal Questions’ module is set up as a two week module. We have done one week, and what has developed over that time has been extremely impressive.

Now you need to develop those discussions further

  • Find ideas, thinking that could be develop further. Bring some further ideas
  • Introduce a question (or questions) to a particular discussion thread. See if you can take things in a slightly different direction
  • So far you have relied on your own ideas and knowledge. Do some research on what other sources say on these topics. Look for ideas from recognised philosophers (both now and past). For example, what does Socrates say about truth? Don’t just bring content in though. Look to reflect on what you have found and to integrate into the thinking that is already in the discussion

As always, participation is key. This is your work for the week.


A part of the video conference next Thursday is an examination of the discussions. As you work through the week ensure you start taking note of some of the key ideas that have come out of them. We almost need to be able to create a small synthesis or summary of each main idea. For example one that has emerged is the whether or not suicide is acceptable. We will be pulling this out together and then assigning quick summaries. Be prepared. You will need to know the discussion well.

Module Three: What is Philosophy

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Module Four: Research and Curate

Objective: To research and curate useful philosophical sources on the eternal questions. To identify new questions Time: Two Weeks


Research and Curate

The next one to two weeks is focused on gathering and identifying relevant philosophical sources. To do this we…

  1. I have create a padlet wall as a central space to put sources, questions and research –
  2. Everyone has been invited to the wall, and I would prefer you accept the invitation and login when you access the wall so we know who has done what.
  3. Find useful sources (books, magazine articles, websites, documentaries, etc) that help us understand each question I have posted. Either post them with the link, an explanation of how they are useful and then ‘connect’ them to the relevant question  or add them as a comment to the question post.
  4. Let’s get some context. What do we know about philosophers and philosophical thinking over time? Post and connect to Oak’s post on the Eternal Questions wall  entitled “The Philosopher’s Directory” (Great idea Oak)
  5. Post new ‘big’ questions to this wall –
  6. Continue the discussions on the Eternal Questions. These are potentially never ending so keep discussing.

This is a very open approach to learning. I am not telling you what to do every day. It is up to you. You need to ensure you continue to participate and contribute to the community. It is not up to a select few.

Module Five: The Great Thinkers

Objective: To explore and develop our understanding of the most influential philosophers through the ages Time: Two Weeks


Over the next two weeks we will focus on building a broad foundational knowledge of the great philosophers and thinkers through the ages. In essence, some Historical Research. As our understanding of these thinkers grows we will use that knowledge to build up our wall of ‘Big’ Questions. This will provide us some direction for the rest of the year.


  1. Spend the first week researching and posting on influential philosophers and thinkers through the ages. Use the Great Thinkers padlet wall for this. Aim to do as many as you can. Minimum of three perhaps. For each post put the philosophers name as the title with the time they were alive. Give a brief paragraph summarising who they were and what thinking they contributed. The latter is most important. Highlight it. Provide an image on the philosopher in the post as well. Do not copy and paste content. In your own words please.
  2. As you research, post new ‘big’ questions you think would be worth exploring on the Big Question wall . Do not begin discussing these yet. We just want lots of possibilities.
  3. In the second week (so by the end of the first video conference next Tuesday) make sure you have chosen ONE philosopher / thinker you will do a seminar on. Post your choice on the community. You can choose earlier if you know who you will do. The seminar will be done in the video conference on Tuesday 27th March or you can video record yourself and post it to the community. Either way you will need supporting material of some sort – whether it is a slideshow, google doc with key points or something a little more out of the box.