108 - 001 | CCN: 22172

Rhetoric of Philosophical Discourse

The Question of Truth

Instructor: Nancy Weston,

4 Units

Inquiry into the rhetoric of philosophical discourse, by way of an exploration of the history of philosophical engagement with the question of truth.

What is truth? How do we speak of it? What is in question, in the question of truth?

These seem odd questions to us now, when we speak of truth as such — if we do at all —with irony or scare quotes, when speech instead takes recourse to issues of power or instances of shifting truths, as truth’s intelligibility and very possibility are said to be in doubt. Yet for over two millennia philosophy was centrally occupied with the question of the nature and ground of truth. How has philosophy come to take the course that it has? Where has that course brought us, such that we now find the question of truth obscure, even dispensable? How might both the question of truth and our contemporary estrangement from it be illuminated by tracing that course and finding our place along it?

Course readings will be drawn from significant classic and contemporary works in Western thought on truth’s nature, ground, and possibility, including those of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Wittgenstein, Foucault, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. With their aid we shall enter into a sustained inquiry into the history of truth and its pursuit in philosophy, to the end of contemplating the course and ground of our understanding of thinking, of truth, of language, of history, and of who we are and have become that we think on truth as we do. Affording students the opportunity of immersion in the history and practice of Western philosophy in its enduring concern with the question of truth, this intensive seminar offers a course in (not simply "on") the rhetoric of philosophical discourse.

Prior exposure to philosophy is not required; an openness to its challenges is.

Please note: All students interested in taking this class — whether pre-enrolled, wait-listed, or neither — are to attend the first class meeting, 5-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 17 in Room 247, Dwinelle Hall.

In planning their schedules, students should be aware that wide-ranging collective discussions, often lasting an hour or more, will generally occur during office hours on Thursday afternoons. In past classes, students have found these informal but intense discussions to be of substantial help in coming to terms with difficult material encountered in the course. Students are strongly encouraged to plan their schedules so as to be able to attend these sessions.

Required texts:

José Medina and David Wood, eds., Truth: Engagements Across Philosophical Traditions (Blackwell, 2005). ISBN: 1-4051-1550-5.

David Cooper, ed., Epistemology: The Classic Readings (Blackwell Publishers, 1999). ISBN: 0631210881.

Martin Heidegger, Basic Questions of Philosophy, trans. By Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994) ISBN: 0253326850

A course reader of supplementary materials, to be made available for purchase at Copy Central on Bancroft Avenue.