Beyond IQ

Special Topics: Introductory Philosophy

Register for Special Topics: Introductory Philosophy here! 

Register for part 1, part 2, part 3, or the entire course!

Return to the list of classes for Spring 2020.

Sabrina Weiss
5-10 students
Suggested Age Ranges: 12+
Meets: Wednesdays, 4pm, starting January 29th, 12 sessions.

Students may register for individual parts or the entire class.

No class April 8th.

Course Description

These three mini-courses offer a quick overview of some introductory philosophical concepts that are relevant to our lives in society today.

Part 1: Ethical Philosophy Introduction - Starts February 12

What is right, and what is wrong?  These are questions that every society wrestles with every day.  Each of us makes decisions about the right thing to do, but we often don’t know why we do it. 

This course will explore Western ethical thought through a philosophical approach using case studies that are commonly taught at the college level.  We will discuss different ways that philosophers determine what is right and wrong, and connect those to current events, policy, and historical contexts. Discussion heavy course with recommended readings from online sources like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Sample Topics:

What is Ethics? What is Philosophy? 

Real world examples showing why ethics is needed 

Utilitarian Ethics, Part 1: Trolley problem 

Utilitarian Ethics, Part 2: Lifeboat 

Deontological Ethics, Part 1: Transplant 

Deontological Ethics, Part 2: Revisiting the Trolley and Lifeboat 

Virtue Ethics 

Care Ethics

Part 2:   Social Contract Theory: How did we stop stabbing each other? - Starts March 13

This course is an introduction to three Social Contract philosophical theories by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  We will use secondary sources to do an overview of each theory, compare-contrast them, and discuss how they influence how we think today.  Connections to historical, social, and political context will be included. This course could be considered an approachable introduction to philosophy.

Students will be expected to prepare for class and participate actively in our discussions (whether through voice or text chat).  Students will also be asked to maintain a thought journal throughout the course to aid reflection and discussion. 

Part 3: Public and Private: Understanding Government, Corporations, and Everything In-Between - Starts April 8th 

This course will explore the concepts of “public” and “private” in society and politics, with a focus on the United States, but comparing/contrasting to international examples.  We will begin with a current events brainstorm about ways that “public” and “private” are used in current discourse, along with expectations and moral implications. Then we will explore the history of the concepts of “public”  and “private”, starting with the Ancient Greeks and moving through the European origins of the corporation. Then we will return to the present day to critically examine how assumptions based in old history influence us today. Finally, we will explore some case studies that show that we need to come up with new ways of discussing public and private. 


  • Issue Brainstorm: why do “public” and “private” matter?  (e.g. parenthood, property, privacy, land)

  • Polis and Oikos: Public and Private in Ancient Greece (e.g. citizenship, gender, discourse)

  • Corporations are People Too!: the rise of the corporation as a public and private entity

  • The present and future of public/private

Register for Special Topics: Introductory Philosophy here! 

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