2023-2024 / PHIL0019-1

Introduction to contemporary philosophy


30h Th, 15h Pr

Number of credits

 Bachelor in modern languages and literatures : German, Dutch and English5 crédits 
 Bachelor in modern languages and literatures : general5 crédits 
 Bachelor in philosophy5 crédits 


Arnaud Dewalque

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The goal of philosophy is to describe the world. To put it with the american philosopher Wilfrid Sellars, philosophers aim to "understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term" (Sellars 1963, 1). This course is designed as an initiation to philosophy. It introduces the participants into six questions which are at the heart of of contemporary philosophical debates. (1) World: what are the various types of 'things' or entities that make up the world around you? (2) Mind: what distinguishes a mental state, such as the belief that it is raining, from a physical state or process, such as digestion? (3) Language: what are the various classes of sentences and speech acts by means of which you can communicate with others? (4) Action: what is the difference between an event that happens to you, such as sneezing, and an action that you do, such as raising your hand to attract someone else's attention? (5) Value: how to discriminate actions that are good from those that are bad? (6) Existence: more generally speaking, what makes you a human being capable of acting in the world and interacting with others? 

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • present the answers some philosophers have offered to the issues studied during class.
  • clearly explain, using examples, the arguments in favour of a particular philosophical position covered in class.
  • place authors studied during class into their contemporary philosophical setting.
  • explain the meaning of a few major philosophical concepts.
Particular attention will be given to the correct use of terminology.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills


Planned learning activities and teaching methods

The course is made up lectures (30h). For students in philosophy, lectures are suplemented with pratical exercices (15h). Each session of practical exercices introduces to one of the issues discussed during the lectures on the basis of a short reading that the students are asked to do beforehand. Students enrolled in Modern Languages and Information and Communication are exempted from the obligation to follow the practical part.

Repetition and Remediation Sessions:

Repetition sessions are organised during the first term (September-December). They are optional, but allow those who wish to do so to (i) revise the material covered, (ii) ask questions and (iii) test their knowledge by taking a "mock exam".

For those who have encountered difficulties during the January session, remediation sessions are organised in the second term (February-May), following the same principle. It is advisable to contact the student tutor in advance, indicating the subject areas requiring particular attention.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Blended learning

Additional information:

First term. Face-to-face is the default teaching mode. In case the course could not take place on site, we will switch to remote teaching mode.

Recommended or required readings

Part 1: Training (students in philosophy), compulsory reading:

  • Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987.
Participants are required to have the book for the guided-reading sessions.

Part 2: Theory (all students)

A bundle with excerpts from classical philosophical texts and bibliographic references will be made available under the "course support" tab.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( open-ended questions ) AND oral exam

Additional information:

Evaluation components:

- Students in philosophy: final grade = attendance (compulsory, non-graded, 0%) + written exam (30%) + oral exam (70%)

- Other students: final grade = attendance (compulsory, non-graded, 0%) + oral exam (100%)

Written examination (students in philosophy only):

Written exam. Philosophy students are asked to explicate one of the chapters of the set book by highlighting its main argumentative elements (theses, arguments, examples, etc.). Assessment criteria are (i) the relevance of the proposed explication, (ii) the clarity and logical articulation of ideas, and (iii) language quality (correct spelling, syntax, style).

Oral examination (all students):

Oral exam with a short preparation time. The oral exam will take the form of a short interview during which students should demonstrate their knowledge of the subject matter covered in class. Students will also be expected to clearly explain, using examples, the various sides of a philosophical problem or the meaning of a concept studied during the year. The exam is made up of three questions which are selected at random:

Question 1: explaining a philosophical problem in detail (10/20 = 50% of the final grade)

Question 2: explaining a philosophical notion (3/20 = 15%)

Question 3: explaining a philosophical notion (3/20 = 15%)

Skills: clarity and structure of replies; mastering of the presented content (4/20 = 20%) 

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

Schedule: see below, under the head of 'Online Items/course materials'.

Students enrolled in Modern Languages, Communication, etc., are most welcome. Extracts of philosophical texts will be made available both in original language (English and German) and in french translation.


Prof. Arnaud Dewalque Department of Philosophy 7, place du 20-août, Building A1/2nd floor B-4000 Liège Phone 0032 (4) 366 55 92

Association of one or more MOOCs

Items online

Syllabus (description, schedule, assessment modalities)
Syllabus (description, schedule, assessment modalities)