Topics in the Philosophy of Culture

From the nineteenth century onwards, the term "philosophy of culture" has been used to refer to the philosophical inquiry into the guiding principles of cultural phenomena, the validity claims of cultural values, as well as culture's relation to human nature and the social world. Thinkers such as Ernst Cassirer and Georg Simmel have laid the foundation of this field of study, by pursuing a way of doing philosophy that was in constant dialogue with both the humanities and the social sciences. Favoured topics in the philosophy of culture are the concepts of "symbol" and "expression", the problem of the interpretation of artworks, the value of cultural heritage, the dynamics of cross-cultural exchanges. The course aims at introducing students to this broad set of topics by selecting a number of readings that may vary from year to year. It also seeks to highlight the importance of keeping a properly philosophical perspective on culture even when one's interest lie in empirical research or in practice-oriented issues.