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ACE2334 Philosophy of Everyday Life (Evening, UCC on-campus delivery only) is a Course

ACE2334 Philosophy of Everyday Life (Evening, UCC on-campus delivery only)

Starts Jan 31, 2023

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Full course description

Course Overview

This course introduces the most important topics in philosophy, drawing on current, everyday examples. We look at topics such as: 

1.   How can we argue well?

A philosophical dispute is not decided by showing your opponent something in the world. It is not won by bullying, intimidation, or even stirring speeches. It is settled through persuasive argument. Using some current claims (in the news and online), you learn how to construct a philosophical argument, including its basic elements – premises, deduction, induction, validity, and soundness. 

2.   What can we know? 

Everyone once thought the Sun was smaller than the Earth, and there were dragons and magic. No-one (or barely anyone) believes that now. But why? How do we know that is not the case? 

Some philosophers think you cannot. It is impossible to know anything. We might be perpetually misled. We might even be always dreaming. This question is important: false beliefs are abundant, as you can see with online conspiracy theories. But to separate genuine knowledge from false belief, we need to know the difference. So, how can we know that we are awake – that we know what we believe we know?

3.   How should we live and treat others? 

How can we do what is good, and persuade other people to do the same? Some philosophers hold that what is good is whatever turns out for the best – “the end justifies the means”. Others think what we do is more important - such as being generous or compassionate, and not just what happens as a result. How might we decide these views?To think about this, we ask what obligations we have to non-humans? Animal rights philosophers argue we have obvious obligations to animals. But do we have similar obligations to other possible non-humans, such as machines? Perhaps I ought to be kind to my dog but – given it is sophisticated enough – ought I be polite to my computer?

Lastly, even if we know what each of us ought to do, we must still live together as a society. But how should society be organized? Should it have as little organization as possible, each to their own, indifferent to everyone else? Or should it be highly structured, everyone knowing their place? We look at the various theories, from Plato to the modern world, and work on ways to tell which is best. 

4.   What makes something beautiful? 

A common saying is ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. But all of us are often astonished (even disgusted) by what other people like. Is there a way we can decide who is right? I believe coriander tastes good. Can I be wrong? Am I just ignorant of the beauty of my neighbour’s favourite TV show (or ballet)? Some philosophers say true beauty does not wear out – it “passes the test of time”. Yet, can we not tell what is beautiful now, without waiting for time to decide? (After all, my neighbour’s TV is very loud.)


Course Schedule 

Tuesday 7-9pm for 8 Weeks. 31 January to 21 March 2023

Location- Western Gateway Building, UCC. Room G13

Closing date for applications: Monday 23 January 2023


Week 1: How can we argue well?

The structure of any argument: the premise and conclusion. Types of argument: deduction, induction, and reductio. Common fallacies in argument: asserting the consequent, begging the question, and circular argument. 

Week 2: What can we know? 

The possibility we are dreaming (Descartes’ scepticism). Why it matters if we are dreaming or not. The ontological argument for God’s existence.

Week 3: What can we know?

Do we know what experts tell us is true? Modern science (including ‘big science’). Conspiracy theories. Pseudoscience. 

Week 4: How should we live and treat others?

Reasons to be good and bad from religion, evolution, and existentialism. Moral theories: utilitarianism; deontology. Nihilism – beyond good and evil. Anti-realist theories of ethics (arguments against the possibility of morality). 

Week 5: How should we live and treat others?

Animal rights. The argument from utilitarianism: Do we have as much obligation to adult rabbits as human babies? Machine rights: The ‘Sid from Toy Story’ problem: Is it bad to melt your Barbie, your Furby, your Terminator saviour? Politeness versus goodness: are obnoxious people bad people?

Week 6: What is beautiful?

The difference between what we like and what (if anything) we should like (“Tat versus the Tate”). The argument that beautiful art stands the test of time. The ‘afterlife’ of art. But how do we decide what work to protect from time? 

Week 7: What is beautiful?

Is beauty good? Is beauty merely another form of power? Aesthetics versus ethics. Weeds versus flowers. Being gardeners. Nature and aesthetic reasons to preserve it.

Week 8:

What do we do now? How to bring philosophy in the class into the world. 


Course Lecturer 

Dr Sean Enda Power is a philosopher, with a PhD from the University of Leeds. His specialty is the philosophy of time, a subject he has learned brings in almost everything else. 

Amongst other work, he is the author of the books An Introduction to the Philosophy of TimeThe Philosophy of Time and Perceptual Experience, and co-editor of The Illusions of Time. He has been an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Cork (UCC) and a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Time, Sydney. 

Along with teaching in UCC, he taught philosophy (including mature students) in Trinity College Dublin, University of Sydney, and University of Leeds, as well as being a guest lecturer at National University Galway, University College Dublin, and University of Aalborg. He has also given public talks at universities, galleries, and libraries, such as Trinity College Dublin, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), and Blackrock Library.

Sean lives in Cork with his wife, Mona, and their many plants. His hobbies include baking, pottery, and hiking the hills of Cork and his home county Waterford. 


Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.


Contact Details for Further Information