Doethineb Heb Atebion — Wisdom Without Answers (Y Gwanwyn/Spring 2015)

This page provides resources for Doethineb Heb Atebion — Wisdom Without Answers, taught for Cardiff University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning in collaboration with the School of English, Communication and Philosophy during spring 2015. The course assumes no prior knowledge of philosophy and is designed as the core philosophy module for Y Tu Mewn I Naratifau/Inside Narratives, a ‘pathway’ to degrees in Philosophy, English Language and English Literature.

Note that the official course page is on Learning Central and that all enrolled students should access content there.

Disgrifiad y Cwrs

Beth yw ystyr bywyd? Beth sydd mor ddrwg am farwolaeth? Ydych chi’n rhydd i gymryd y dosbarth hwn ai peidio, neu a oedd eich dewis wedi’i benderfynu hyd yn oed cyn ichi gael eich geni? Honnodd Socrates mai dim ond bywyd wedi’i archwilio oedd yn werth ei fyw. Ar y modiwl hwn, byddwn yn cychwyn ar daith athronyddol a fydd yn ein galluogi i ddechrau edrych ar ein bywydau a chwestiynu’n rhagdybiaethau.

Course Description

What is the meaning of life? What’s so bad about death? How do you know the world exists outside your mind? Can you know other people have minds? What are minds and how are they related to brains? How do our words get their meanings? Are you free to take this class or not, or was your choice determined even before your birth? Why is helping an old woman across the road morally right, but knocking her out and taking her money morally wrong? Are humans more valuable than chimpanzees, cats and cabbages? Does morality depend on god, or is rape immoral even if there is no god? Are there any good arguments for or against the existence of god? Is there any good reason to believe in god? What rights do individuals have? What makes a society just? Socrates claimed that only the examined life was worth leading. On this module, we will embark on a philosophical journey which will enable us to begin examining our lives and questioning our assumptions.


Note that this document is also included in the course packet but that the ‘live’ links will not work there as a consequence of its inclusion in a longer document. If you would like to use these links, please use this version.

Course Packet

  • Rhan/Part 1. Syllabus, Resources, Assessment.
  • Rhan/Part 2. §§1-5.
  • Rhan/Part 3. §§6-9. Warning: large file. This part of the course packet includes several large images and is many times the size of parts 1-2.
  • Y Cyfan/Whole. Warning: large file. Includes several large images.

Supplementary Handouts

Note that most handouts are included in the course packet.


Details of assessment are included in the course packet.

Note that all work must be submitted via Learning Central. This includes plagiarism detection. Please email me in case of difficulty.

Western Philosophy Timeline

Note that this can be used on a variety of levels. It can be used simply to get a sense of when different philosophers worked, or when different philosophical ideas emerged. It can also be treated as a series of symbolic clues to various philosophical ideas. While some of the solutions are included in the timeline itself and many others are straightforward, a few are positively obscure. The colours have no significance except to associate symbols with philosophers. In general, a symbol in a given colour belongs with the nearest philosopher named in a box of that colour.


§1 Offer yr Athronydd/The Philosopher’s Toolbox

What is an argument? What makes an argument good?

§2 Epistemology

How do we know anything? How do we know trees and planets exist when all the evidence we have is our experience of them?

§3 God

Does God exist? Can God’s existence be proved? Is Descartes’ reasoning circular?

§4 The Mind-Body Problem

What are minds? Are our minds identical with our brains? How could grey squidgy lumps experience the exquisite sound of Bach or the rich sensuousness of a chocolate truffle?

§5 Free Will

How free are we? Did you freely choose to take this class? What if your choice could be predicted before your birth? Could it still be free in that case?

Philosophy in the Headlines

§6 Morality

What makes acts morally right or wrong? Why is helping an old woman across the road morally right, but knocking her out and taking her money morally wrong?

§7 Death

What’s so bad about death? Is death a bad thing? If so, what exactly is so bad about it? Would immortality be better?

§8 Reason & Belief

Is faith wrong? Is it OK to believe what you like?

§9 Wisdom Without Answers

What is philosophy? Is the unexamined life really not worth living? If so, is the examined life any better?

Writing Workshop II

Resources / Links

I’ve posted some resources / links which may be useful, interesting or amusing. Since this collection was created some time ago, some of the links may be broken. I’ve already weeded out one but would welcome further corrections.

Careers for Philosophy Graduates

What can you do with a BA in philosophy? How do employers regard philosophy graduates? Can you really make a living after spending three years of your life studying the correspondence between Princess Elisabeth and Descartes? The answers to these questions may surprise you…

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