(Undergrad.) Intro to Philosophy: History of Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind, part 1

Undergraduate course, University of Cincinnati, Department of Philosophy, 2017

Course offered in Spring 2017 at University of Cincinnati, to undergraduate students of various backgrounds (philosophy majors were the minority).

Course Description

Some of what we learn in life comes through first-hand experience, as in the cases of knowing the taste of chocolate or how to ride a bicycle. But very often we learn from other people, be it what our parents and friends tell us, what we read in the news, or what we are taught by institutions like schools, religious organizations, and the scientific community. Some of what we think about the world seems to be beyond question (for example, 2+2=4), whereas other facts are subject to revision (for example, the number of planets in the solar system, or if coffee is good for your health). But what is the difference between the many sources and kinds of knowledge we have? Should we even think of all of them as “knowledge” or is that a special label that only a few of our thoughts deserve? In the face of uncertainty and conflicting information, how do we know who to trust and what to believe? And can this kind of conflict exist within the same person, for example between reason and passion, between the senses and the intellect, between body and mind? Throughout history, women and men have asked similar questions, attempting to determine what knowledge is and how (if at all) we can obtain it. This course is an introduction to some of their answers. By examining profound and enduring philosophical works spanning a period of almost two thousand years, from Ancient Greece up to the Middle Ages, students will gain a greater understanding of contemporary philosophical issues and will become better equipped to respond as critical epistemic agents.

Student work

  • weekly quizzes
  • six mini-tests
  • one midterm paper (on ancient period) and one final paper (on medieval period)


  • Pre-Socratics: excerpts by Heraclitus, Parmenides, Democritus, and Protagoras
  • Plato: excerpts from the Republic, Meno, and Theaetetus
  • Aristotle: excerpts from Physics, Posterior Analytics, and On the Soul
  • Hellenistic and Roman Period: excerpts by Epicurus, Seneca, and Sextus Empiricus
  • Augustine: excerpts from On the Free Choice of the Will
  • Christian Mystics: excerpts by Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, and Mechtild of Magdeburg
  • Muslim Commentators: excerpts from Concerning the Soul, by Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), and from Long Commentary on the Soul, by Ibn Rushd (Averroes)
  • Aquinas: excerpts from Summa Theologica, On the unity of the intellect against the Averroists
  • Toward Modernity – Observation and Measurement: excerpts from Opus Majus, by Roger Bacon
  • Toward Modernity – Skepticism: excerpts from First and Second Letter to Bernard, by Nicholas of Autrecourt

Sample of student comments:

  • “He was very respectful toward students and did his best to answer all questions. The format of his class was consistent and well-organized, and I felt that I learned a lot. His grading was also very fair if not outright generous at times.”

  • “Professor Gui was an excellent instructor. He clearly had an advanced knowledge of all the content material and he thoroughly communicated it to the class. His power points were very well organized and made each philosopher’s ideas and theories perfectly clear. I loved how he also related much of the content material to real-life situations to help us get a better understanding of it. Overall, he had a very positive attitude towards the students and was definitely eager to help us grasp the material as best as possible; it was certainly apparent that he has a passion for studying philosophical concepts. I loved the class overall and would definitely recommend it to anyone else!”

  • “He is a great professor! He makes the class really interesting and fun (with his occasional jokes) even when the topic gets dry sometimes. He’s always upbeat and loves his subject, and he encourages discussions which also get interesting. There are a lot of graded assignments spaced throughout the course, which keeps us on our toes and keeps us focused. Overall, a great professor, always willing to help out. Explains things clearly and does his best to remove any confusions we might have. I know he’s new to teaching, but I think he was an excellent professor in this course.”

  • “I thought Gui did a fabulous job explaining the material and helping us understand it. He was always polite and really helpful to all. I would love to take another class taught by him. Favorite class and teacher I have had in college so far.”