First Things: The Power of Philosophy

Language and culture

About this minor

Please note this minor will end 12 November 2023.

Want a taste of the fascinating ways in which doing philosophy can change your view on science, society, history, and culture – and on all the rest of your lifeFirst Things explores philosophy in its four major dimensions: sociopolitical, historical, cultural, and theoretical. In four corresponding courses, we will discuss: the philosophy of the Early Enlightenment, contemporary challenges in politics and society, questions from philosophical anthropology, and philosophical thought experiments.
Philosophy has the power to light up the way you think and live. This course gives you a taste of the fascinating ways in which doing philosophy can change your view on science, society, history, and culture – and on all the rest of your life. Socrates already said: ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. As philosophy is about argument and the confrontation of perspectives, the four modules in this course represent four different perspectives in philosophy, offering four challenging introductions to core philosophical topics. We move from early thinkers on toleration through pressing societal dilemmas and ‘eco-philosophical’ concerns to the characteristic philosophical craft of the thought experiment.

The first perspective is historical; it surveys the rise of rational thought and the power of reason as produced by the early Enlightenment, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Second, we investigate contemporary social, moral, and political challenges and dilemma’s around emancipation, democracy, the environment, and public health. Third, we offer an overview of the key concepts of philosophical anthropology and of several approaches to the study of human nature and their philosophical implications. Finally, the power of thought itself is illuminated by delving into the philosophical counterpart to scientific investigation: the thought experiment.

Learning outcomes

  • Elementary acquaintance with the history of philosophy during the early Enlightenment.
  • Understanding how Enlightenment philosophy relates to contemporary philosophical and social issues.
  • Introduction to basic concepts and problems in social and political philosophy, and the ability to relate these to contemporary social problems
  • Ability to critically analyze and reflect on societal issues and identify philosophical arguments and positions with respect to them.
  • Acquaintance with the main subjects, concepts, and approaches in the domain of philosophical anthropology, as well as the skill to apply these in relevant contexts
  • The ability to critically approach the main presuppositions and - alleged - limitations of positions in the debate on the nature of human life and how it is understood
  • Being able to distinguish, recognize and compare the different kinds of thought experiments.
  • Being able to reflect critically on the respective assumptions, powers and limits of the different kinds of thought experiments.
  • Developing the academic skills to use one’s own imagination and creativity for scientific and philosophical purposes.

Good to know

Lectures will be scheduled in the (late) afternoon or evening.

Teaching method and examination


  1. Early Enlightenment
  2. Essential Contemporary Challenges
  3. Human Conditions I
  4. Thought experiments

Method of examination:
The ‘Early Enlightenment’ module, the ‘Essential Contemporary Challenges’ module, and the ‘Human Conditions I’ module all have a written examination.
The exam for the ‘Thought Experiments’ module consists of a written exam (60% of the final grade for the module), a co-creation assignment (20%) and a mini-essay(20%).

Composition final grade:
The final grade is the average of the grades for the four separate modules.

Link to more information

  • Credits
    ECTS 15
  • Level
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  • Selection minor
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