This is a concise description of the under-graduate philosophy curriculum for 2020. While course titles will remain constant, the specific course content as described below may vary from year to year depending on our teaching capacity and the research interests being pursued by various staff members.
Metaphysics and epistemology: Mr Wehan Coombs
The two first year semester courses introduce students to the four main branches of philosophy as understood by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria, namely metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy. This module introduces students to two of these branches, namely metaphysics and epistemology. Students will engage with the nature of philosophy, the history of ideas and varied philosophical approaches towards metaphysics and epistemology by familiarising themselves with a wide range of philosophical traditions and thinkers. These will include: ancient Indian philosophy, ancient Egyptian philosophy, African Sage philosophy, Thales and the Pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Gautama Buddha, St Augustine, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Maimonides, St Aquinas, Francis Bacon, Giordano Bruno, Zera Yacob, St Teresa of Avila, Rene Descartes, Anton Wilhelm Amo, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Feminism, Epistemic Justice and Decolonisation. In practical tutorials, students will also take their first steps towards mastering the art of philosophical argumentation.
Ethics and political philosophy: Dr Jonathan Chimakonam Okeke
The two semester modules at first-year level introduce students to the four main branches of philosophy as understood by the department of philosophy at the University of Pretoria, namely metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy. This module explores the relationship between two of these branches, namely ethics, and political philosophy . It covers topics in the broad areas of meta-ethics, normative ethics, race, persons and community as well as diverse topics in social and political philosophy. The works of, among others, Louis Pojman, Hinman, Mogobe Ramose, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Kwame Gyekye, Sandel, Oyewumi, Mill, Gbadegesin, Appiah, and Robert Nozick will be studied.
Contesting modernities: Dr Malesela John Lamola
This semester course is in the domain of political philosophy and the history of ideas. It explores modernity as a both a cultural-historical phenomenon and as a philosophical category which is instrumental in explaining the encounter between the colonial European civilization and the native civilisations of the colonised, with particular reference to the African experience. We explore the nature of Euro-American modernity, African Colonial modernity, the linkages between these two modernities, as well as discontinuities and contestations within and between them. The epistemological and socio-ontological ramifications of these contestations are highlighted as we focus on the philosophic dimensions of the historical and political developments surrounding these contestations. Pivotal to our explorations is the nature of self-knowledge (subjectivity) of a postcolonial subject, his/her existence in the “twoness” of a world framed by the culturo-intellectual reality of the entanglement of Western and African modernities. The works of Emmanuel Kant, Georg W. F. Hegel, Jéan-Paul Sartre, WEB Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, Thabo Mbeki and Kwame A. Appiah serve as points of reference for the course.
Philosophy in context: Karabo Maiyane
This semester course explores the relationship between three main branches of philosophy, namely metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. The focus is on the new and rapidly developing field of ethics of artificial intelligence. Students are introduced to problems in machine ethics, data ethics, neuro ethics and robot ethics. Work by AI specialists such as Peter Asaro, Luciano Floridi, Noel and Amanda Sharky, Wendell Wallach, Colin Allen, Nic Böstrom, Eliezer Yudkowski, Drew McDermott, Solon Barocas, Kate Crawford, Reuben Binns, Miles Brundage, Michael and Susan Leigh Anderson, Vincent Müller, Anne Gerdes, James Moore, Andy Clark and many others will be studied. Their works are related to contextual questions such as, what does sustainable AI imply in Africa and how do we ensure trustworthy AI in an age of surveillance capitalism.
Self and subjectivity: Dr Mpho Tshivase
This semester course is situated at the intersection of metaphysics, ethics and political philosophy with particular emphasis on the question of ‘personhood’ as explored in debates concerned with issues of rights, equality, citizenship, and morality, among many others. We consider different conceptions of personhood that are relevant to the nature of persons, the criteria for personhood, the identity of persons, as well as the value of persons. Furthermore, we will answer questions relating to which beings belong to the category of persons, i.e. are artificial agents persons? Are foetuses persons? Considering some exclusionary conceptions of personhood, we will discuss the implications of gender and racial discrimination for a person. The works of thinkers such as Plato, Emmanuel Kant, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Bearnard Matolino, Marya Schechtman, Motsamai Molefe, Peter Singer, and Susan Moller-Okin will be used as reference points.
Philosophy in context: Prof Leonhard Praeg and Ms Keo Mbebe
In this module students will philosophically engage issues of socio-political relevance in contemporary (South) Africa, poised at the intersection of ethics, (African) political philosophy, and epistemology. While the first term of the module explores the De Sousa Santos’s work on ‘epistemologies of the South’ with a comparative emphasis on Ubuntu and Karmic theory, the second term explores the different meanings attributed to the concept of justice. What do we mean when by this concept? Which phenomena in human existence are correctly categorised and captured by this term? And is it one thing or is it different kinds of things? We will be looking at the work of a variety of authors including, among others, Amartya Sen, Steve Biko, Martha Nussbaum, and Mogobe Ramose.
The department also offers the following undergraduate courses to the Faulty of Economic Management Sciences and the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy
Lecturer: Ms Keo Mbebe and others
Because of the inherently moral and political nature of business decision-making, business and finance students all over the globe are required to take a course in ethics at some point during their tertiary education. At the University of Pretoria, The Department of Philosophy has been entrusted by the EMS Faculty to present such an ethics course to you, one tailored to the unique challenges you will face as future decision-makers in South Africa and abroad. This course illustrates the moral and political dimensions of business decision making, and provides students with the conceptual tools required to be able to reason effectively about the ethics of business decision-making.
Ethics for Accountants and Auditors (Faulty of Economic Management Sciences)
Lecturer: Ms Paige Benton
While it is tempting to think of actions in the business sector in economic terms alone, the reality is that the decisions businesses make affect almost every aspect of society. Economic activity should not be understood as separate from political and moral activity, and we intend to show why not. The field of moral philosophy has a long and intricate history, but the point of this course will not be to turn students into ethicists or to teach them a single, ‘best’ way to approach ethical issues. What we intend is to demonstrate how necessary it is for individuals in society to be aware of the ethical dimensions of their actions and decisions, especially professionals who are entrusted with highly important tasks and the skills to carry them out.
Science and Worldviews (Faculty of Health Sciences)
Lecturer: Ms Carla Turner
This enrichment course, which the philosophy department presents to all first year students in the faculty of Health Sciences, addresses, among others, the following questions: 1) What is the nature of Science and Medicine? 2) What is the role of evidence in Science and Medicine and is it always right? 3) What exactly is the meaning of disease? And, when we say someone is suffering from a disease, what exactly are we talking about? 4) What do we mean when we speak of someone as being healthy? And 5) Is it possible that medicine isn’t really a science at all? The course consists of two components: firstly, a Philosophy of Science component (which will address questions 1, 2 and 5) and secondly, a Philosophy of Medicine component (which will address questions 1, 2, 3, 4). The course is designed to introduce and show students of health sciences the important role philosophy plays in the way they view their future professions, in the way they reason about their professions, in the methodology of their science, and how critical reasoning skills will nurture successful problem-solving in their professions.