This course is an introduction to the many ways that language and philosophy come into contact. As something uniquely human, language serves as the easiest way to examine big questions about human nature. We will look through different lenses – anthropological, psychological, mathematical, humanistic, and more – to examine what language is, how it works, and the relationship it has to reality.
Topic 1. Language and Thought
Does language influence or constrain what we can think? Do people who speak different languages inhabit different worlds? Is the "Sapir-Whorf" hypothesis correct?
Whorf, Language, mind, and reality (1942)
Topic 2. Language and Human Nature
What can language tell us about human nature? How much of language is innate and how much is learned? Why should you care about the name “Chomsky” even if you’re not into politics?
Chomsky, A review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior (1959)
Topic 3. Meaning and Reference
What does logic have to do with the philosophy of language? How does language manage to hook onto reality? Can different sentences express the same meaning?
Frege, On Sense and Reference (1892)
Russell, Descriptions (1919)
Topic 4. Language and Truth
What is truth? Is it only an “illusion which we have forgotten is an illusion” as Nietzsche said? a source of self-deception about the world we live in?
Nietzsche, On Truth and Lying in a Non-moral Sense (1873)
The course will be co-taught by:
Mahmoud Rasmi (@decafquest): finished his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Salamanca Spain. Between 2013 and 2020, he taught philosophy and cultural studies at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University. Now, he has decided to venture into the virtual world in order to give affordable classes online to people who are interested in studying philosophy in a non-academic setting.
Here’s a sample class on Stoicism from an Introduction to Philosophy online course:
Philippe Caponis (@philippecaponis): Philippe holds an MS in Physics and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Paris. He taught philosophy at the American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University. He is interested in better understanding how scientific theories illuminate (and often reshape) philosophical debates about the nature of space and time, identity and material constitution.
Here’s a talk by Philippe titled: Three Philosophical Lessons from Modern Physics:
Colin Gorrie (@colingorrie): received his PhD in linguistics from the University of Arizona in 2014. Since the pandemic started, he has been teaching courses online on a mission to bring linguistics out of the ivory tower.
Here's a video by Colin discussing Beowulf: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31QbGLCVA7M
Previous guest lecturers
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb: https://twitter.com/Decafquest/status/1396852198496260096
- Trishank Karthik Kuppusamy
- Josh Hochschild
Dates and Schedule:
- 4 weeks, once a week, 2 hrs per session.
- The course will start on Thursday, December 2, 2021, and will end on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
- Course Schedule: Tuesdays at 8:30 pm Central European Time.
- Synchronous online course via Zoom.
- Asynchronous: if you can't attend, you will have the option to watch the recorded lectures.
- Price: USD 200 $
- Capacity: 40 seats
- Asynchronous option: USD 85$
You will receive the link to the sessions a few days before the course starts.
Those based in Lebanon can make the payment via Bank transfer (please contact me to provide you with the details).
Since we are not an institution, you will not be able to claim credits for the course. Many of you might also already be busy with your jobs and daily routine; as a result, we won’t be assigning any homework, exams, or papers. However, if any of you wishes to be assessed on the course material covered, we can arrange for the proper method and format in private.
The sessions will be recorded and uploaded to the DecafQuest YouTube channel as hidden. The links will be made available on google classroom to those registered.
Testimonials: Praise from others:
“Highly recommend to anyone interested in finding out (more or for the first time like me) about philosophy – selected readings and highly enjoyable discussions, interactive, live class sessions with participants from all over the world.” – Tan Erten, (@tanerten)
“This guy’s class could change your life. At least make you think.” – Stephen Schott (@StephenBSchott)
“But one thing I can say is that his class got me thinking.” – Assaad Elias Mrad (@mradassaad)
“I have never taken a class like this (am an engineer), so I was a little intimidated by my lack of knowledge on the subject matter. Mahmoud brought a very non-elite, bottom-up style to the discussions and I felt very free and compelled to comment and be a part of this class. His knowledge is exceptional, and his perseverance (despite significant constraints happening in Beirut) was an inspiration. Having Nassim Taleb as a guest lecturer was also a great start to the class. 10/10 would take another class!” – Tom Martin
“Interested in new learning? Curious about an ancient topic? @Decafquest philosphy course is a great use of 2 hours, 2x wk for 1 mo. You’ll be in company of a thoughtful, studied guide and likeminded others from across Earth globe asia-australia.
Appearing smart has never been easier: brag about your acceptance into DecafQuest’s “Intro to Philosophy”. Getting a little smarter has also never been easier either: join a knowledgable, inquisitive guide on discovering Philosophy, with contemporary collaboration of like-minded classmates across the globe.” – Peter Noble (@petewnoble)
“I highly recommend @Decafquest.” – Waël Atallah (@wael_atallah)
“I joined @Decafquest’s course and can say it’s thought-provoking and fun.” – Oussama Himani (@ohimani)
“Last month I signed up for @Decafquest’s course on the Pre-Socratics to help with a project I’m working on related to the Sophists. Today’s the class I’ve been waiting for, but I already learned BIGLY more than I’d imagined, incl. about patristics and Late Antique Christianity.” – Beyon Miloyan (@bmiloy)"