History of Philosophy


Western’s Philosophy Department has always been renowned for its wealth of resources in the history of philosophy, from the ancient Greek tradition down to our own time. We view the history of philosophy not only as history— fascinating in itself— but also as an endless source of insight into the nature, the purpose, and the possibilities of philosophical inquiry. Philosophical questions that might seem to be very abstract, at first glance, have actually been motivated by urgent problems arising in particular historical circumstances, bound up with the political, scientific, and social issues of the time.

By the same token, the central questions of philosophy have to be posed again and again, as those circumstances evolve through history and present new challenges. Developments in politics, science and medicine, and economics, and other profound changes of perspective— especially, the gradual inclusion of groups of people traditionally excluded from philosophical education and conversation— offer new ways of understanding the development of philosophy and its ongoing importance for the present and the future.

Our history courses offer a solid background in the canonical figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche. But we also reach beyond the canon through courses on, for example, women in early modern philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, and “Big Ideas” (a varied and changing collection of ideas from the history of philosophy that have made big differences in the world). 

There is a rich basket of courses from which students can choose, including but not limited to the following:

To see the full History of Philosophy course offerings list for each of our modules please visit the Academic Calendar