Knowledge, Reality, and Truth

Open to students entering grades 9 through 12 or freshman year of college in the fall

III - August 5th - August 9th, 2019 (Course Filled)

Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 10:10 a.m.–12:00 p.m. and 2:10–4:00 p.m.
Alex Rigas

Course Description

Is it possible that how things “really” or “truly” are is very different from how they appear to us? Could it be, for example, that we are living in a computer simulation, á la the popular science fiction film The Matrix? If not, how can we know that this is not the case – on what basis could such beliefs be justified? Does it really matter if we cannot, with certainty, rule out such skeptical scenarios? And would it make any difference to us, for better or worse, if we actually were living in the Matrix?

In attempting to answer these questions, we read selections from philosophical classics such as Plato’s Republic and René Descartes’ Meditations, as well as work by contemporary philosophers David Mitsuo Nixon, Carolyn Korsmeyer, and Jim Pryor.

This course has three aims: 1) to introduce students to key themes in philosophy, especially metaphysics and epistemology, and in so doing to show how an apparently abstruse discipline is of surprising relevance to our lives; 2) to provide students with essential tools for understanding the nature of logical reasoning and evaluating arguments; 3) to sharpen students’ abilities to express themselves clearly and cogently, in writing and especially in speaking.

Beyond thoughtful reading and active participation, students are expected to complete several very short and informal writing exercises, in part as a warm-up for a longer concluding reflection on key course themes.


Alex Rigas

Alex Rigas is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at Columbia University. His dissertation is about time, death, and the relation between the individual and the community in Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time. His research is mainly in 19th- and 20th-century European philosophy and in social and political philosophy, and he has teaching interests in ethics, philosophy of law, and philosophy of art. While at Columbia, he has taught or served as teaching assistant for numerous courses. He believes that philosophy is for everyone and continues to facilitate philosophical discussions with non-academic audiences as a participant in the Columbia Department of Philosophy’s outreach program, Rethink.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.