6/14/2021 HUMN 100 6981 Introduction to Humanities (2215) – HUMN 100 6981 Introduction to Humanities (2215) 1/5

Week 1: Philosophy

HUMN 100 6981 Introduction to Humanities (2215) OO

Introduction to the Humanities: Philosophy

“It is not a trivial question,”

Socrates said. “What we are

talking about is how one should

live.” —Plato (Republic, 352D)

Pagan Philosophy by Arthur Dove

Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access “The Met Collection”

People seeking to answer this question—really, the question of how to live a meaningful

life—may turn to cultural traditions, common sense, religion, and personal feelings. Is this

adequate? Philosophers as far back as the ancient Greeks have answered “no.”

The reason our normal understanding of the meaning of our lives can fall short is

illustrated by one of the most famous stories in Western philosophy. The Allegory of the

Cave is a kind of myth, a story filled with symbolic elements and complex meanings. The

author, Plato, attributed the story to Socrates, his teacher, although we can’t know if

Socrates told the story, or if Plato was simply honoring his instructor. The allegory

suggests that we live in a twilight world, plagued by illusion, confusion, and error. To

apprehend the true nature of reality, Plato suggests, we need a better approach, and this

is the task of philosophy.

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The word philosophy comes from two Greek roots, philos and sophos—love and wisdom.

In its broadest sense, philosophy is the search for wisdom and truth motivated by desire.

But how one seeks wisdom and truth has changed over the past two thousand years. In

the old days, philosophers might aim to know everything that could be known. Plato’s

student Aristotle was known for his wide-ranging curiosity about the human and natural

worlds. Today, the search for knowledge is highly specialized and disciplined. If you’re

curious about plants and animals, you start with the discipline of biology; to learn about

society, you study sociology. Today’s philosophers are intellectual clarifiers, seeking

insights into the human condition, including what people do and don’t know, in the hope

of cutting through confusions. These skills of careful, rigorous, systematic thinking can be

useful in many contexts.

Traditional philosophy has several main branches.

1. Epistemology which is the study of what we can know and how we achieve


2. Ethics which studies how to make morally sound decisions.

3. Logic which addresses reasoning and argumentation to help people think more

clearly and systematically.

4. Metaphysics which studies the fundamental nature of reality. Ontology, or the

study of being, becoming, and ultimate reality, is a subdivision of metaphysics.

5. History of Philosophy which studies the historical and philosophical origins of


6. Aesthetics which asks questions about the purpose and function of the arts, the

nature of beauty etc. and which is most relevant to this course.

Modern philosophers also focus on topical issues, including science, politics, language,

and religion.

This course is an introduction to classic fields in the humanities: the visual arts (painting,

drawing, photography, sculpture), architecture, music and dance, poetry and fiction,

theater and film, religion and myth. Much of this will involve questions of aesthetics—

judgments on the creation, representation, and expression of individual and collective

meaning. Before delving into the exciting world of arts and letters, we’ll explore the

questions of art as representation and the interpretation of symbols through “Plato’s

Allegory of the Cave.” Also beside the required material to review in the “Learning

Resources” area, be sure to read the required reading “What is Philosophy?” as an

overview of this complex humanities area.

Authors and Contributors

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Week 1 Checklist

This course was developed by Debra Rosenthal (philosophy and connections), Heidi

Nasstrom Evans (visual arts), Anita Hanawalt (music and dance), Anthony W. Lee (poetry

and fiction, drama, and film), Heather Hartel (religion and myth), and Jose Bourget-Tactuk

(conclusion), with inspiration and help over the years from numerous colleagues at UMGC

and elsewhere.

Learning Outcomes

Following is a list of the Week 1 outcomes, mapped to corresponding course outcomes.

The course outcomes give “the big picture,” and the weekly outcomes provide more

detailed information that will help you achieve the course outcomes.

Week 1 Outcomes

Explore philosophical approaches to knowledge, values, and persuasion (1).

Explore the connections between philosophy and the arts (1, 3).

Identify branches of philosophy (2).

Analyze and interpret an allegory (3).

Course Outcomes Met in Week 1

Describe and analyze the way human culture is expressed through works of

literature, performing and visual arts, philosophy, and religion in order to appreciate

the depth and breadth of the humanities disciplines.

Use basic vocabulary, concepts, methods, and theories of the humanities disciplines

in order to describe and analyze cultural and artistic expressions.

Identify and apply criteria in order to evaluate individual and collective cultural


Examine individual and cultural perspectives in the field of humanities in order to

recognize and assess cultural diversity and the individual’s place in the world.

71.43 % 5 of 7 topics complete

Review Syllabus & Assignment and Discussion Expectations

Read the Weekly Overview & Learning Goals

Read, View, Review all of the Learning Resources & Links

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Week 1 Study Guide
Web Page

Week 1 Learning Resources
External Learning Tool

SPECIAL Required Reading: “What is Philosophy?”
Web Page

Academic Integrity Pledge

Week 1: QUIZ

WEEK 1 DISCUSSION: Integrating Philosophy and Art
Discussion Topic

Participate in our Discussions

Take the Quiz

Complete & Submit the Academic Integrity Pledge

Take the quiz before you post to the discussions.

Please use the Learning Resources AND our SPECIAL Required Reading: “What is

Philosophy?” from this module to answer the quiz questions. You may take this quiz up to

five times. Questions you have answered incorrectly will be shown to you after each

attempt. Your best grade will be recorded in the grade book.

GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR DISCUSSIONS: Your contributions should be thoughtful

and developed. Answer all parts of the question and use concepts from the course

materials. Use a professional style of communication, with attention to grammar, spelling,

and typos; cite your sources.

Answer ONE of following questions and give a substantive response to at least two other



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For this discussion, we will reflect on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and relate this

philosophical story to our study of the arts. (Search YouTube to hear it narrated by the

great actor Orson Welles.)

An allegory is a story where the elements are symbolic. What do you see as the

symbolism of the cave, the shadows on the wall, the prisoners, the man who escapes, the

daylight outside? Do you know of other stories that make similar points?

The story assumes there are major difference between “appearances” and “reality,” and

that “reality” is superior. What does this mean for the arts? Arts and letters may present

“appearances” quite unlike what they are depicting. In short, the style of the arts is often

not “realistic.” Does this mean that what the arts convey is always more like illusion than

reality? Use an example and explain your thinking.

Have you ever accepted an illusion as reality? How did you recognize that you were

mistaken? Did that recognition change you in any important way, or was it more like a

minor correction to your perception? Do you think that people today live in a world of

“shadows”? Are we imprisoned in some way, with our minds shackled? Explain your



Read the first two-thirds of Book X from Plato’s Republic about art and imitation.

Describe how this conversation between Socrates and Glaucon relates to the Allegory of

the Cave? Given the information about reality, illusion and the arts from both sources,

what do you think Plato’s position on the arts is? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Now, provide an example from one of the arts that you think could be used to illustrate

Plato’s position on the arts and explain how it does.

You will not see any other postings until you post your own.

Initial posts are due by Saturday at 11:30PM ET and at least two responses to fellow

classmates are expected by the end of the academic week on Tuesday by 11:30PM ET.

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