Faculty of Arts

PHIL 100

Mind, Knowledge and Reality

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for PHIL 100.


This course deals with fundamental philosophical problems and puzzles about the nature of the world and human beings. Examples include philosophical questions about the existence of God, the relationship between physical reality and mental life and the nature of identity and the self.

The theory of knowledge studies philosophical problems concerning the sources, limits and justification of human knowledge and understanding (particularly, as distinct from mere opinion or belief). The course will introduce students to a selection of such topics and to some of the important philosophical discussions and debates to which they have given rise.

The course is divided into three parts (1) Plato and Descartes, (2) Minds, Computers and Evolution, (3) What do we know and how do we know it?

The first part of the course (4 weeks), taught by Robert Wicks, will discuss critically the difference between mythology and philosophy, how Plato believes that the absolute truth is timeless and unchanging, Descartes’s quest for what cannot be doubted, his famous phrase, “I think, therefore I am,” and his proofs that God exists.

The second part (4 weeks), taught by Raamy Majeed, will discuss how the mind might fit into the natural world, whether computers can think and what role evolution might have played in shaping the human mind. 

For the third part of the course (4 weeks) Emily Parke will discuss historical and contemporary philosophical debates about knowledge: about how we understand cause-and-effect relationships in the natural world around us, about the nature of knowledge itself and about how philosophy and science intersect and interact.

Course outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will, at an introductory level, gain an understanding of epistemology (theory of knowledge) and leading metaphysical ideas in the Western tradition of philosophy, and be motivated to pursue philosophical studies at the advanced undergraduate level.

Students should be able to explain and critically assess the theories and arguments of the philosophers discussed in the course in their own words and in a way that shows good familiarity with the prescribed readings.

The teaching in the course will aim to encourage students to discover and develop the capacity to exercise their own philosophical imagination, creativity and critical judgment in thinking about the “big questions” concerning mind, knowledge and reality in response to the works studied.

In this introductory course there is an emphasis on reading primary sources rather than secondary literature and commentaries.


Coursework + exam

Availability 2020

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Dr Emily Parke
Associate Professor Robert Wicks



Recommended Reading



Coursework and exam


PHIL 100: 15.0 points

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