Spring 2016 Course Descriptions

  • 102Y: Introduction to Existentialism (Tue/Thu, 11:10-12:30; Sherman)

    Satisfies general education requirement—Group IX: American and European Perspectives. Although a varied bunch, the existentialists all shared a concern with the fate of the individual in the modern world. We begin with two short novels and an essay by Camus, which frame many of the issues in the course. We then briefly consider Hegel, examine some of the more important writings of the two most important existential philosophers of the 19th century, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and quickly look at two pieces by Dostoyevsky. We end by examining some of the more important writings of the two most important existential philosophers of the 20th century, Heidegger and Sartre.

  • PHL 110.01E: Intro to Ethics (Mon/Wed/Fri, 2:10-3; McGlynn)

    Satisfies general education requirement—Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values. This course will consist in an examination of the three dominant classical theories of Western ethics: Aristotle’s virtue ethics, Kant’s duty ethics, and Mill’s utilitarianism. In addition we will read Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals which examines the history of the meanings of “good/bad” and “good/evil” in Greek and Judeo-Christian ethics and the development of the notions of guilt and bad conscience in any society. This is a lecture course with student questions strongly encouraged. Grading will be based on the results of four essay examinations.

  • PHL 110.02E: Intro to Ethics (Mon/Wed/Fri, 10:10-11; Burke)

    Satisfies general education requirement—Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values. This course carefully examines the three major traditions of western ethics as expressed in the writings of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and J. S. Mill. Each of these traditions gives an account of right action, the good life and the possibility of enduring happiness that has profoundly influenced the ways in which we take up with ethical issues today. Throughout the course contemporary ethical issues will be discussed in light of these traditions with a particular emphasis on those issues surrounding our environmental crisis and global climate change. The strengths and possible inadequacies of each tradition will be discussed with the goal of enabling students to both understand the ethical arguments underlying controversial issues and express their own ethical convictions.

  • PHL 110.03E: Intro to Ethics (Tue/Thu, 8:10-9:30; Strohl)

    Satisfies general education requirement—Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values. This course is a broad introduction to moral philosophy. We will cover topics in metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. Readings will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources.

  • PHL 112E: Honors Introduction to Ethics and the Environment (Tue/Thu, 9:40-11; Preston)

    Satisfies general education requirement—Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values. This class is an introduction to ethics in the western tradition and, in particular, the consideration this tradition has given to animals and the natural environment. We will be approaching our study through the work of Holmes Rolston, III, a thinker widely regarded as the “father of environmental ethics.” In the course of familiarizing ourselves with some of the main ideas in animal and environmental ethics, we will also gain familiarity with the three main traditions in western ethical thought, Kantianism, Utilitarianism, and Aristotelianism. We will apply our reading to contemporary ethical issues of importance such as animal rights, global climate change, environmental justice, endangered species, and wildland preservation.

  • PHL 210E: Moral Philosophy (Tue/Thu, 2:10-3:30; Clarke)

    Satisfies general education requirement—Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values. Offered fall and spring. Required for philosophy majors and minors. Designated writing course. Our objective in this course is to develop an appreciation for three leading approaches to moral philosophy (or three types of moral ‘theory’) through a careful reading of classical texts in the Western tradition.

  • PHL 233: Intro to Logic (Mon/Wed/Fri, 9:10-10; Duwell)

    Offered fall and spring. Required for philosophy majors and minors. This course is an introduction to a formal language called First Order Logic (FOL). For people new to logic, this course is more akin to a mathematics course or computer science course than most philosophy courses. We will be doing a good deal of symbolic manipulation and proofs. That said, we will also be studying how FOL, as an abstract formal language is related to the natural language English. Juxtaposing the two highlights the interesting differences between the two, especially the context sensitivity and ambiguity of English in comparison to FOL. What you take away from this course will partly be a matter of your own interests. For mathematicians and computer scientists one will get a solid introduction to FOL that one can use as a basis for leaning the metatheory of FOL. For those with a more traditional philosophical bent, you will learn to tell good argumentation from bad, and sharpen your ability to analyze argumentation, and be able to better formulate arguments yourself.

  • 241H/N: History and Philosophy of Science (Mon/Wed/Fri, 10:10-11; Duwell)

    Satisfies two general education requirements—Group VI: Historical and Cultural Studies; Group XI: Natural Sciences. This is a survey course of the epistemological and metaphysical development of natural philosophy or science from the Greeks through Einstein, a course in intellectual history. We will outline Greek views on the ultimate nature of reality, with an emphasis on Greek physics. We will pay special attention to the developments in the Scientific Revolution including the metaphysical shift to corpuscularianism and mechanism, and the new emphasis on experimentation. We will look at the ontological change in the conception of space and time after Newton, as well as views about the nature of scientific theories. We will examine the history of evolutionary theory with an emphasis on the kind of evidential support Darwin mustered for his theory. Finally, we will discuss philosophical issues related to the history that we have learned.

  • 262Y: History of Modern Philosophy (Tue/Thu, 11:10-12:30; Le Bihan)

    Required for philosophy majors and minors. Satisfies general education requirement—Group IX: American and European Perspectives. This course will introduce you to seven of the major figures of 17th and 18th centuries in philosophy: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. We will focus on metaphysics (roughly concerned with the question of the nature and structure of reality) and epistemology (roughly concerned with the question of the nature and scope of knowledge), leaving aside moral and political matters. Very little emphasis will be put on the historical and social contexts. The 17th and 18th centuries are centuries of radical changes in the domains of philosophy, science and politics. Most of our modern western culture originates in these times. That said, in studying modern philosophy, you should expect to encounter and to learn to understand worldviews that are also alien to your own. Confronting radically different ways of thinking should shed new light on your own views, methods and prejudices. In analyzing competing views on a subject, you will not only learn some philosophy, but learn to do philosophy.

  • P311: The Art of Living (Tues/Thu, 9:40-11; Muench)

    In ancient Greece and Rome philosophy wasn’t simply an academic discipline; people chose to become philosophers and to engage in an art of living devoted to rigorous self-examination and the rational molding of the self. This course will examine this conception of philosophy as a way of life and explore some of the questions that often most concern us and that have seemed to many to have a particularly philosophical character to them: What is happiness? What is a good life? How should I live? Should I fear death? What role should reason play in my life? What role should the emotions play? What is friendship? What is love? What gives life meaning? Course materials will be drawn from a mixture of traditional philosophical works (including works by Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Seneca, and Thoreau) together with some philosophically challenging works of literature, film, and music. Students will be expected not only to examine these materials closely but also to reflect upon their own convictions about these matters and to try to adhere to the Delphic injunction to know thyself. “To be a philosopher,” wrote that great New England genius Henry David Thoreau, “is not merely to have subtle thoughts […] but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates. […] It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.” In this course we will seek to put Thoreau’s words to the test.

  • 321E: Philosophy and Biomedical Ethics (Tue/Thu, 2:10-3:30; Hanson)

    Satisfies general education requirement—Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values. This course examines the ethical and philosophical dimensions of medicine. After a review of major ethical theories and approaches to medical ethics, we will explore a variety of contemporary ethical issues, including the doctor-patient relationship, obligations to treat or not-treat, end-of-life decision-making and physician aid-in-dying, the fundamental goals of medicine, procreative choice, emerging biotechnologies such as stem-cell research, human subjects research, and medical resource allocation. Numerous cases and videos are used to highlight moral issues for discussion. Students will also learn skills of medical ethics case analysis.

  • 363: Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy (Tue/Thu, 2:10-3:30; Ausland)

    Examination of the thought of the philosophers of Greece and Rome as expressed in original works read in English translation. Ancient philosophy studied within its historical, linguistic and cultural setting.

  • 450: Justice (Tue/Thu, 12:40-2; Sherman)

    Upper-division core course in value theory. In this course we shall consider some of the most important works in 20th century Anglo-American political philosophy. We begin with a brief discussion of utilitarianism, which dominated political philosophy through the 1960s. We shall next consider liberal egalitarianism, and, in particular, John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. Motivated by the shortcomings of utilitarianism, A Theory of Justice revivified political philosophy in the early 1970s, and largely set the stage for all that came after it. Thus, it was in response to Rawls’s liberal egalitarianism that Robert Nozick published the next book that we shall consider, Anarchy, State and Utopia, which attempted to defend the market oriented (right) libertarian tradition on transfigured Lockean grounds. Yet, by the 1980s, both liberal egalitarianism and libertarianism were seen as problematical because of their tendency to view the subject primarily as a bearer of rights, and this concern gave rise to communitarianism. This is an umbrella term that reflects the concerns of such philosophers as Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and Michael Sandel, and we shall consider a number of their more important essays. Finally, we shall consider Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice. Motivated by Adam Smith’s moral theory, Sen rejects the abstractions of these approaches for his “capabilities approach,” which complements his pioneering economic work in social choice theory.

  • 464: Kant (Tue/Thu, 11:10-12:30; Borgmann)

    Upper-division core course in history. The intent of the course is to provide students with a thorough knowledge of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and of its philosophical and cultural contexts. In addition students’ knowledge of Kantian ethics will be extended into Kant’s social and international ethics. We will read the following texts: (1) Brittan, Kant’s Theory of Science; (2) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Cambridge ed.); (3) Kant, On the Proverb (coursepack). We will read the Critique for the first eleven weeks of the semester and On the Proverb for the last three. On the first eight Tuesdays of the semester, we will use the first part of each session to discuss one chapter each of Kant’s Theory of Science. It will be the students’ obligation to show through participation in the classroom discussion that they are keeping up with the reading assignments and are in command of the material presented in class. In particular, everyone is to take careful notes and, when called on, to present, on the basis of those notes, a ten-minute summary of the preceding session’s main points. It will be my obligation to make everyone feel welcome and encouraged to participate.

  • 465: Plato (Tue/Thu 9:40-11; Strohl)

    Upper-division core course in history. This course will focus on some of Plato’s middle and late dialogues, including the Protagoras, Gorgias, Theaetetus, and Philebus. We will divide our time between issues in ethics and politics on the one hand and metaphysics and epistemology on the other.

  • 467: Kierkegaard (Tue/Thu 2:10-3:30; Muench)

    Upper-division core course in continental philosophy. In this course we will read Kierkegaard’s first pseudonymous work, Either/Or. We will discuss, among other things, the difference between aesthetic and ethical views of life, and consider how both relate to a religious view of life. Other topics include the difference between erotic seduction and marriage, the relationship between melancholy and the failure to become a self, and why truly to become a self essentially takes time.

  • 499: Senior Seminar (Mon/Wed, 2:10-3:30; Clarke)

    Required for philosophy majors (senior standing). Satisfies upper-division writing requirement. Our topic is reasoning. We will sharpen our appreciation for its beauty, its importance, and its fragility by reading Anthony Laden’s Reasoning together with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

  • 502: Philosophy of Law (Johnstone/Huff)

    This course has not yet been approved.

  • 505: Issues in the Anthropocene (Tue/Thu, 3:40-5; Preston)

    Every drop of the ocean altered, every breath of the atmosphere transformed, every inch of the earth impacted. Welcome to the “Anthropocene”… the so-called age of humans. In the Anthropocene, there is no longer anything “natural” and no longer anything truly “wild.” “Thinking like a mall” (Vogel 2015) is more appropriate than “thinking like a mountain” (Leopold 1949). Environmentalism as a whole must be reexamined. This course dips into one of the most vigorous areas in contemporary environmental philosophy, one that questions the whole distinction between nature and culture. We will examine several dimensions of the Anthropocene focusing on the technologies and the thinking that are most propelling the current discussion. Topics to be covered include wilderness and rewilding, climate engineering, de-extinction, and synthetic biology.

  • 510: Philosophy Forum Colloquium (Mon, 3:10-4:30/Wed, 8:40-9:30; Borgmann)

    The purpose of the Colloquium is to give graduate students a wider understanding of the professional side of philosophy, of the current issues, the different schools of thought, the leading figures, the conceptions the profession has of itself, and of the profession’s relations to contemporary society and culture.