Syllabi Archive

Autumn 2014

PHL 101: Introduction to Philosophy (Tue/Thu 12:40-2; Sherman). Philosophy involves a “second-order” or reflective approach to various areas of human inquiry. While the empirical sciences (natural and social) try to formulate laws to explain the phenomena they observe, philosophy seeks to penetrate the appearances that give rise to these empirical laws to determine whether there is a deeper reality they fail to grasp and (if so) to explain its nature. We shall consider six central areas in the western philosophical tradition: (1) the essential nature of reality (metaphysics); (2) whether this reality includes God, and the challenges posed by reason and the subsistence of evil to religious belief (religion); (3) the nature of our knowledge and its relation to reality (epistemology); (4) the nature of “the self,” i.e., whether there is some aspect of who we are that is essential to our identity (self-identity); (5) whether we are free and responsible for our actions or determined like all other natural objects (freedom); and (6) whether there is conduct that is innately “good” and (if so) whether we are capable of it (ethics).  Syllabus.

PHL 110E: Introduction to Ethics. Satisfies general education requirement (Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values). Three sections:

(1)  Section 01 (Mon/Wed/Fri, 10:10-11; McGlynn).

(2)  Section 02 (Tue/Thu, 3:40-5; McGlynn).

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.

(3)  Section 03 (Tue/Thu, 2:10-3; Burke).

This course introduces students to the three great western ethical traditions: virtue ethics, deontological ethics and utilitarianism. In addition to a basic understanding of each tradition, the course examines each in light of its ability to respond to contemporary issues related to social justice and the environment.  Syllabus.

PHL 112E: Intro to Ethics &Environment (Hamilton College Mon/Wed, 6:10 pm - 7:30; Congdon)

An introductory-level ethics course with a special interest in the natural environment.  The course will (a) introduce students to the three classical traditions in ethics - virtue, Kantianism, and utilitarianism, (b) ground these theories in questions about the moral status of non-humans and our moral duties to non-humans, (c) include an applied section of the course that will cover animal welfare, biotechnology, and other current topics.  Syllabus.

PHL 114E: Introduction to Political Ethics (Tue/Thu, 12:40-2; Huff). Satisfies general education requirement (Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values). The purpose of this course is to help you understand and appreciate the sources, the premises, and the forms of reasoning that have shaped Western thinking about the nature and justifications for our political institutions. To that end, we will study three works, representative of the three great Western traditions of thought about politics. Our focus will be on the justifications which can be offered for, and the reasoning which is characteristically used in, modern, liberal, constitutional democracies of the sort familiar in modern industrial states (represented by John Rawls), and the ways in which those justifications draw upon, and contrast with, early modern political thought (represented by John Locke), and classical thought (represented by Plato).  Syllabus.

PHL 210E: Moral Philosophy (Mon/Wed, 9:40-11; Slicer). Required for philosophy majors and minors; satisfies general education requirement (Group VIII: Ethics and Human Values). This is an introductory course in ethics restricted to philosophy majors and minors. There are no prerequisites. We want to get at the bottom of the judgments we make about what is morally right and wrong. Specifically, what kind of reasons can we give for those judgments and prescriptions? We will study in depth three secular, western moral theories that we frequently appeal to in order to justify the moral claims we make: theories about virtuous character, Kantian and rights theories, and utilitarianism. We’ll also look at critiques of these three theories. In order to understand how these ideas are applied and how satisfying they really are, we will test their application to some contemporary moral issues: capital punishment, duties to the environment, and duties to rescue. In addition to our reading, we’ll watch three films that explore the application of these principles. By the end of the semester, if nothing else, you should be more conscious of and articulate about the moral judgments and prescriptions that you, family, friends, politicians, and religious authorities make.  Syllabus.

PHL 233: Introduction to Logic: Deduction (Mon/Wed, 11:10-12:30; Burke). Required for philosophy majors and minors. This course is an introduction to general principles of reasoning and the habits of clear and correct thinking. Our focus will be on the analysis of the logical structure of claims in natural language and the skills of elementary deductive inference.  Syllabus.

PHL 261Y: History of Ancient Philosophy (Tue/Thur, 9:40-11; Strohl). Required for philosophy majors and minors; satisfies general education requirement (Group IX: American and European Perspectives). This course will introduce you to some of the central writings of Plato and Aristotle, and will also include a brief overview of Presocratic and Hellenistic Philosophy. Topics covered in Plato will include Socratic definition, the examined life, Meno’s paradox, the theory of recollection, the theory of forms, the immortality of the soul, challenges to morality, the analogy of city and soul, the tripartition of the soul, and the famous metaphors of the sun, line and cave. Turning to Aristotle, topics covered will include change, nature, hylomorphism, the four causes, soul as first actuality, the Prime Mover, happiness (eudaimonia), virtue, responsibility, and the place of theoretical study in a happy life.  Syllabus.

PHL 406: Philosophy of Mind (Tue/Thur, 12:40-2; Strohl). Upper-division core course in analytic philosophy. The focus of this course will be the mind-body problem and related issues. The mind-body problem is the problem of saying what exactly the mind is, and how it is related to the physical world (particularly the human brain). Suppose that scientists arrive at a complete material description of the brain (a task that is nowhere near complete). Will they have thus provided a full accounting of the mind? That is, would a perfect physical description of the brain also be a description of every mental phenomenon, including desire, belief, memory, sensation—and especially the conscious aspects of these phenomena? The attempt to answer this question is a major part of the mind-body problem. Topics discussed will include physicalism, reduction, supervenience, qualia, epiphenomenalism, mental causation and mental content.  Syllabus.

PHL 412: Morality and War (Mon/Wed, 1:10-2:30; Slicer). Cross-listed with PSCI 450.  Upper-division core course in value theory. We begin with discussion of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and threats. Given what we know about Iran can we justify intervention on moral grounds? Ideas about just war will surface as we discuss these cases. From there we begin our in-depth readings in classical just war theory. Specifically, we look at issues concerning not only just cause (morally just reasons for going to war) but also just conduct (how one conducts a war morally— including the use of weapons, e.g., fire bombing, drones, or cyber attacks, the treatment of civilians during war, treatment of prisoners, and enemy interrogation, including torture). In additional to these classical questions we look at very contemporary issues on terrorism—what it is, if it’s ever morally justified, and how we should respond to terrorism. We also read essays about pacifism—what it is and whether it’s a theoretically consistent or practical response to aggression. Our final set of essays looks at what it might mean to assign post-war blame and at the notions of forgiveness and reconciliation toward a former belligerent.  Syllabus.

PHL 467: Hegel (Tue/Thu, 11:10-12:30; Sherman). Upper-division core course in continental philosophy. In this course we shall consider Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and his Philosophy of Right, which deal with “truth” and “right.” In these works, Hegel extends and transforms Kant's philosophy by rejecting his dualistic metaphysics, the fixedness of the categories on which his epistemology is based, and his abstract morality in favor of a non-metaphysical framework that argues for the fluid and social nature of the categories through which we come to know the world, and the collective, concrete nature of our ethical commitments. We shall consider these achievements both in terms of Kant's philosophy and in terms of contemporary issues in epistemology and value theory.  Syllabus.

PHL 501: The Worlds of Science and Technology (Tue/Thur, 9:40-11; Borgmann). The guiding question of the course concerns the ways science and technology have informed each other, our world, and our experience of the world. There are two major ways. (1) The first is well-known. Science has become the main source of the power of technology. Technology in this sense is applied science. Technology in turn has given science newly powerful instruments and procedures and so widened and deepened scientific insight. Technology, finally, has transformed the world we live in. The philosophical task that follows from all this is a basic understanding of science, technology, and the effects of technology on contemporary culture. (2) The second way is more concealed and harder to articulate. Physics gives us the simplest, most general, and most precise account of what the world is like. Physics is the successor of metaphysics, and metaphysics has traditionally articulated, if it has not shaped, our understanding of the world we live in. Can the same be said of physics today? And if the answer is yes, how does that understanding consist with the world that has been shaped by technology? To aid our understanding of science, we will read The Quantum Universe by Cox and Forshaw; to aid our understanding of technology, we will read The Bremen and Freiburg Lectures by Heidegger.  Syllabus.

PHL 510: Philosophy Forum (Mon, 3:10-4:30/Wed, 9:10-10; 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.  Syllabus.

PHL 599: Environmental Ethics (Wed, 5:10-7:50; Slicer). Are the moral traditions that we’ve developed to guide human relations also relevant to interspecies relations? If so, to what extent are they relevant? If not, is it because the theories are ultimately anthropocentric, as some critics argue? Or are they problematic for other reasons? If our traditions fail to justify the interspecies obligations we have gut feelings about, then what other moral visions can we appeal to? And, importantly, how is environmental philosophy—all this academic theorizing—relevant to our environmental crisis?  Syllabus.

PHL 102:  Introduction to Existentialism

PHL 110E:  Introduction to Ethics, Burke

PHL 110E:  Introduction to Ethics, McGlynn

PHL 110E:  Introduction to Ethics, Slicer

PHL 112E:  Introduction to Ethics and the Environment

PHL 233 Introduction to Logic: Deduction

PHL 262Y: History of Modern Philosophy

PHL311E: Moral Philosophy

PHL 324: Morality and the Law

PHL 423:  Feminist Philosophy

PHL 427: Topics in Philosophy of Film

PHL 464: Kant

PHL 467: Nietzsche

PHL 468: Contemporary Critical Theory

PHL 499:  Senior Seminar

PHL 501: The Duty to Understand Science and Technology

PHL 504: Topics in Environmental Philosophy

PHL 510: Philosophy Forum Seminar Colloquium