Introduction to philosophical thought

Learning outcomes

The Introduction to Philosophical Thought module aims at giving a global historical and theoretical outline of philosophy from the Antiquity to the 20th century. In this module, foreign students will become familiar with numerous philosophical concepts, but most of all they will get an elementary idea of the complex framework where Western thought can be developed. The general aim of the course is therefore to describe the main historical and theoretical concepts starting from the Greek origins and following the evolutions and differentiations through the centuries.


No prerequisites are requested

Teaching methods

Each lecture will last three hours and will be divided into two parts. After an introductory presentation (historically and theoretically), a specific text will be read, analysed and commented. All the texts will be provided the session before, in order to let everyone follow and actively participate in each discussion.


Each lecture will last three hours and will take into account several aspects of philosophy: the evolution of Western thinking in European cultures from the Greek and Roman origins; The Middle Ages and Renaissance will be the subject of a general presentation whereas more attention will be given to the birth of the scientific thinking, which lasts and still characterises our postmodern society. The essential concepts of the French and European Enlightenment will be discussed as well as Kant’s Criticism and German idealism as theoretical heart of the changes of Modern Western thought, which was put “under suspicious” by Nietzsche, Marx and Freud. Finally, the course will introduce briefly the works of Heidegger and Gadamer and the French postmodernism.

The main topics of the module are:

  • The origins of philosophy form the Ancient Greeks to Renaissance: the dialogue as philosophical form; the question of God in the Middle Age; the question of human being during the Renaissance;
  • The Scientific revolution: Descartes and Bacon;
  • Modern Reasons: from the Enlightenment to the Criticism: Morality and Aesthetics as the Kantian non-scientific approach to knowledge;
  • The masters of suspicion: Nietzsche, Marx, Freud and the question of theSelf;
  • The differences between analytical and continental philosophy, with particular attention to the latter and its main streams: Phenomenology (Husserl and Mérleau-Ponty); Philosophical Ontology
    (Heidegger); Philosophical Hermeneutics (Gadamer and Ricoeur).


There are many interesting texts which introduce the history of philosophy. We do not suggest one specific textbook for this module. A selected bibliography on specific topics will be provided during the lectures as well as original works translated into English translation according to the necessity of the audience.
The texts that will be discussed during the sessions, are parts or chapters of the following classical works: Plato: Phaedrus (selected passages), Apology (selected passages