Introduction to Western Philosophy

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Western philosophy, like many other systems of philosophies, comprises many broad areas such as epistemology, ontology, ethics, aesthetics, linguistics, and so on. Upon these broad doctrines, every other philosophical doctrine is founded. This course covers only the topics surrounding epistemology and ontology. Other topics will be covered in the subsequent courses. Within epistemology, we will discuss two main doctrines, namely, Empiricism and Rationalism, and their various combinations and offshoots. Within ontology, we will discuss three main doctrines–Materialism, Idealism, and Dualism–and their various offshoots. This minimal but cohesive set of topics is the essential introduction to any philosophical system. Basically, we focus on two main questions: (1) What exists? and (2) How do we know?

In terms of methodology, there are several approaches. First, we take a historical approach, by describing which ideas came ahead of others. This is necessary to understand which problems were created and solved by which philosophy. Second, cutting across the succession over time, are some common themes, core ideas, and principles, which are modified in various ways. If we understand them, then we can get the motivation behind a particular kind of thought: not merely what it says but why it says it.

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Ashish Dalela has a M.Sc. in Chemistry from IIT Kanpur. He has over 20 years of professional experience working in various capacities in the technology industry. He was initiated into the Gaudiya Vaishnava spiritual order in 1995, and works avidly to spread the scientific understanding of Vedic philosophy.

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