Introduction to Philosophy: People, Emotions, and Government

Department: Philosophy

Instructor:  Leonardo Moauro and Jacob Zellmer
Instructor's Email:;
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

An introduction to philosophy focused on understanding people by drawing on the work of famous thinkers such as Descartes and Locke. In the first part of the course, we will discuss central questions concerning what a person is and what makes people behave in the way that they do. These questions will focus on the first-person experience: What am I? What drives me? Where do my emotions come from? In the second part of the course, we will pivot to discussing the relationship between individuals and the state. This topic includes key questions about our experience as individuals living together with others: What is the proper function of the state? Where do individual rights come from? What does it mean to be a ‘member’ of a state, or even a wider community? Ultimately, our aim is to provide students with new tools to achieve greater self-knowledge and knowledge of others with whom they live in society.

Content and Evaluation

By the end of this course, students will understand:

  • Some of the most important arguments from the history of philosophy that are still relevant today.
  • Subtle distinctions between descriptive and normative questions concerning philosophical topics.
  • How to think about what we are, why we behave as we do, and what the state should do for us.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Read, analyze, and criticize a piece of argumentative writing about philosophy and other areas.
  • Author and present original arguments about important topics in philosophy and other areas.
  • Collaborate and debate with peers about complex issues in philosophy and other areas.

Course Outline

What is a person? Topics include:

  • What makes us human.
  • The relationship between the mind and the body.
  • How to think about personal identity, i.e. what makes someone the same person over time.

What drives us? Topics include:

  • The distinction between reason and passions (or emotions).
  • Where emotions come from, and how they are related to one another.
  • How to think about emotions and wellbeing.

What is the state? Topics include:

  • The proper function of a state, and its relation to its citizens.
  • What individual rights we have, and where they come from.
  • Whether membership in a state or a smaller community redefines us as individuals.


*Courses vary by experience and exposure to content. Instructors have the ability to change content and pace to serve the needs of students.


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