The Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths University of London

Research Centre based in Sociology and run jointly with the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University, London

Second Year Modules

Knowledge and Subjectivity (based in Sociology)

This module introduces students to key concepts and texts in modern European philosophy, taking the question of subjectivity as its guiding thread.

The first half of the module explores, in their historical sequence, some of the most influential understandings of the subject, and of the possibilities and limitations of knowledge, produced by modern philosophy. Beginning with a critical exploration of the way in which René Descartes’ ‘Cogito ergo sum’ (I think therefore I am) has been seen as the inauguration of modern philosophy, we will investigate different ways of posing the problem of the knowing subject: the empiricism of John Locke and David Hume, the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the dialectical phenomenology of spirit of G.W.F. Hegel and the contradiction between faith and knowledge in the thought of Søren Kierkegaard. Through a close consideration of these philosophers, students will be introduced to key notions in philosophy: epistemology, ontology, phenomenology, critique, and the distinction between the empirical and the transcendental. Each session will also consider contemporary perspectives on these modern authors.

The second half of the module will focus on the sustained reading of one major text in the philosophical understanding of knowledge and subjectivity, contextualising it within the historical moment in which its key premises and arguments emerged, isolating its major claims and interlocutors, and evaluating its contributions to fundamental debates on the subject, epistemology, ontology, and the nature of human action. For the academic year 2016/17 this text will be Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness.

Aesthetics (based in CCS) 

This module introduces students to key concepts and texts around the nature of aesthetics and the philosophy of art. The first half of the module offers a close engagement with fundamental topics in aesthetics with the aim of establishing a philosophical framework in which to understand and differentiate views on the field’s central issues. This part of the module explores topics such as: the nature of art in its relation to aesthetics; the question of representation in relation to the classical views of beauty and truth; the problem of expression and its logical underpinning; the nature of sensation and its relation to the aesthetic object; and the question of taste and judgement. Each session will also consider contemporary perspectives on classic authors, texts, and debates pertaining to the topic at hand.

The second half of the module focuses on a sustained and intensive reading of one major text in the philosophy of art and aesthetics, contextualising it within the historical moment in which its key premises and arguments emerged, identifying its major claims and interlocutors, and evaluating its contributions to fundamental debates on art, aesthetic experience, and the claims and limits to autonomy that the aesthetic implies. In the academic year 2016-17, this text will be the first part of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment (pertaining to aesthetic judgment). Alongside the main text, the sessions will also explore key texts that surround the historical development of the field of aesthetics as a science of sensation and judgments on taste, the ramifications for the theory of moral sentiments and the genesis of art criticism in early German Idealism, and contemporary interpretations of the significance of Kant’s argument for human freedom and the autonomy of reason.