Course Descriptions – Spring 2012

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: Reflections on the Human Condition (HU)

LEC 402, MW 11:00 – 11:50, MER 131
LEC 403, MW 2:00 – 2:50, ENG 105
Instructor: Edward Hinchman,
Enrollment in one of the large lectures requires enrollment in a discussion section.

This course is an introduction to Western Philosophy. Students need not have any background in philosophy, or any plans for further study. The course has three broad aims:

  1. to introduce students to the tradition of philosophical argument in the West via primary texts,
  2. to teach students how in general to make and evaluate philosophical arguments,
  3. to demonstrate to any student who cares to participate actively how exciting and even fun philosophy can be.

Since philosophy is simply informed public reflection on what we're up to as we try to do and believe what we ought to do and believe – as Socrates put it, "What we are talking about is how one should live" – I hope that by the end of the term the third aim of the course will have taken priority over the other two.

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: Selected Topics & Issues (HU)

LEC 001, T 6:30 – 9:10, CRT 309
Instructor: TBA

We will look at a representative selection of topics from the history of philosophy and current philosophical debates: ethics, social and political philosophy, the scope and nature of our knowledge of the world, the nature of the self and mind.

Philosophy 111, Informal Logic: Critical Reasoning (HU)

LEC 001, MW 11:00 – 12:15, TBA
LEC 002, MW 2:00 – 3:15, TBA
LEC 203, Online Web
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

Logic is reason turned inward: it is the systematic study of correct and incorrect reasoning. As discursive creatures, we humans make assertions and back them up with reasons—we construct arguments. Since this activity is central to all fields of study, the tools that logic develops for identifying and analyzing good and bad arguments are universally applicable; anyone can benefit from a study of logic by becoming a more self-aware reasoner. It is possible to approach the study of logic more or less formally. A more formal approach to the subject abstracts from natural language and deploys sophisticated mathematical tools in the analysis of arguments. This course takes a less formal approach, focusing more on ordinary-language arguments found in everyday reasoning, and giving only a small taste of more formal techniques.

Philosophy 204, Introduction to Asian Religions (HU)

LEC 401, MW 1:00 – 1:50, END 103
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,
Enrollment in the large lecture (LEC 401) Philosophy 204 also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

We will examine various East-Asian religious traditions through the philosophical lens of Western metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. That is, we will try to situate their views on the nature of reality, our ability to know it, and what it means to live a good life, not only in relation to one another, but against the background of (presumably) more familiar Western religious and philosophical traditions.

Philosophy 211, Elementary Logic (HU)

LEC 001, T 6:30-9:10, TBA
Instructor: TBA

LEC 402, MW 10:00 – 10:50, MER 131
LEC 403, MW 12:00 – 12:50, MER 131
Instructor: Richard Tierney,
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (LEC 402/403) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

The Island of Knights and Knaves is a place where only Knights and Knaves live. A Knight is a person who always tells the truth. Knaves, on the other hand, never tell the truth. Harry, who lives on the island, says: "If I am a Knight, then I'll eat my hat." Did you know that you can prove from the above information that Harry will eat his hat? Did you know: 1) Given that Sarah loves either Jim or Tom and that if she loves Jim then she loves Tom, you can prove that she loves Tom? 2) that if everyone loves a lover and there is even one lover in the world, then everyone loves everyone? Learn how to solve these and other puzzles in Philosophy 211, where we will study formal deductive logic -- the science of what follows from what.

The concepts and techniques encountered in the study of deductive logic are of central importance to any analysis of argument and inference. They reflect fundamental patterns of proof found in science and mathematics, they underlie the programs that enable computers to "reason" logically, and they provide tools for characterizing the formal structures of language. This is an introductory course intended for students who have had no previous work in logic. There will be 3 exams and weekly homework assignments.

Philosophy 212, Modern Deductive Logic (HU)

LEC 001, TR 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Michael Liston,
Taught with Philos 712-001.
Prereq: grade C or better in Philos 211 (P)

The task of the first logic course - Philosophy 211 - was to develop a means for evaluating deductive arguments. This task involved the use of a formal language for expressing the logical structure of English sentences and the use of various formal techniques, including truth tables and deductions, for evaluating arguments. Once an English argument was translated into the formal language, formal techniques were used to solve an apparently informal problem, i.e., the problem of finding out whether it is possible for the conclusion of an argument to be false while all its premises are true. In Philosophy 212 we will continue this inquiry into the evaluation of deductive arguments. We will concentrate on two central areas. First, we will deal with statements and arguments that are more quantificationally complex than those studied in Philosophy 211. Second, we will address the issue of the adequacy of the formal system. Explicit definitions of validity of arguments and formal systems will be used for the investigation, via informal reasoning and proof, of what can be achieved by a deductive system. Philosophy 211 with a grade of 'C' or better is a prerequisite for this class.

Philosophy 217, Introduction to Metaphysics (HU)

LEC 001, MW 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori

The course deals with the nature of metaphysical thinking and the issues arising from such thinking. Representative philosophers from ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophy will be read and discussed: Plato (Parmenides); Aristotle on Plato’s Theory of Forms; Descartes (Meditations); Hume (Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding); Michael Dummett (on realism and anti-realism).

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: History of Science from Galileo to Einstein (HU)

LEC 001, TR 9:30 – 10:45, CRT 309
Hybrid Course Taught Partially Online.
Instructor: Stephen Leeds,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

This is a course on the history of science from the 17th to 20th centuries, concentrating mostly on physics, astronomy, and chemistry. The instructor believes that the great discoveries of this period should be accessible to everyone, not just scientists; for this reason, the course presupposes no background in physics. The student will however be expected to have, or anyway develop, a tolerance for a certain amount of mathematical argument, since so much of the reasoning by which Newton, Maxwell and the rest arrived at their discoveries was mathematical.

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Philosophy of Film (HU)

LEC 002, TR 11:00 - 12:45, TBA
Instructor: Aaron Schiller,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

Philosophical questions about film roughly divide themselves into two areas: value-theoretical (as a branch of aesthetics) and metaphysical (as separate branches of the philosophy of perception, on the one hand, and general ontology, on the other). In this class we will ask: 1) What are films? 2) What are the conditions under which any particular film be considered value-laden (i.e., art)? 3) What do we perceive when we watch a film? 4) How are different types of film (narrative and non-narrative) experienced by us (as persons, as animals, as rational)? No prior experience in philosophy is necessary in this topical introduction to the subject of philosophy through a consideration of film. A love of film—and an adventurous spirit—however, are prerequisites.

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Theories of Human Nature (HU)

LEC 203, Online Web
Instructor: Miren Boehm,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

What is this enigma called “human”? It is hard to imagine a subject more important than the study of human nature. What are we? What is our origin? What is our destiny? Different answers have been offered to these questions throughout human history and if we were to put together all of these answers into a single view we would have to say that we are part angel, part demon, part rational, part animal, part nothing, part infinite, and more. In this class we shall examine the main theories in Western philosophy and religion, and to a lesser extent in Eastern thought. We begin with biblical views of human nature and Greek conceptions of our nature. These two are the most important sources for our self-understanding in the Western tradition. We then look at Hindu and Buddhist views of human nature followed by an in depth study of the Western, modern philosophical and scientific tradition: Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Schopenhauer, Marx, Freud, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus and Darwin. Towards the end, we approach the question of human nature by examining the mind/body problem and here we discuss some of the most prominent positions on the relationship between the mind and the brain: dualistic interactionism, materialist monism and functionalism. And finally we raise the question of free will. Are we really free agents, or are we entirely determined by antecedent causes? And can determinism and free will be reconciled?

Philosophy 241, Introductory Ethics (HU)

LEC 401, MW 11:00 – 11:50, END 103
Instructor: Julius Sensat,
Enrollment in the large lecture also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

We’ll study three basic approaches in moral philosophy: ethical rationalism, which takes moral principles to describe an independent order of values fixed in the nature of things, the ideal-spectator approach, which takes morally wrong actions to be those an impartial sympathetic observer would disapprove of, and contractualism, according to which the correct moral principles are those which would be agreed to by all reasonable beings as a basis for their community. We’ll see how the second approach leads naturally to utilitarianism, while contractualism has important sources in Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. We’ll see how the three basic approaches get reflected in theories of social and economic justice.

Philosophy 243, Moral Problems (HU)

LEC 001: The Environment, TR 12:30 – 1:45, CRT 309 (1/23-2/25)
LEC 002: Sex and Marriage, TR 12:30 – 1:45, CRT 309 (2/27-4/7)
LEC 003: Pornography & Censorship, TR 12:30 – 1:45, CRT 309 (4/9-5/10)
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

Note: LEC 001, 002, & 003 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

Each section of the course will begin with the presentation of ethical tools that will be useful in our examination and discussion of particular moral problems related to the chosen topics: the environment; sex and marriage; and pornography & censorship. The goal of the course(s) is to come to a deeper understanding of the issues involved in complex moral problems and too be able to better assess and argue for one's position with regard to such issues.

243-001: The Environment

This five-week course will examine moral problems related to the environment. Questions that will be addressed will include: What is the moral value of non-human life? Does the moral value of non-human life depend on human wants and needs or is it independently valuable? What is our responsibility to the environment? What is the best philosophical grounding for caring about the environment?

243-002: Sex & Marriage

This five-week course will examine moral problems related to sex, sexuality, and marriage. Questions that will be addressed include: What is the purpose of sex? Why are some sexual encounters morally problematic and not others? What is adultery, and is it always wrong? Is homosexuality immoral? What is marriage? What is its purpose? Is marriage a right? If it is who has the right to marry?

243-003: Pornography & Censorship

This five-week course will examine issues related to free speech and censorship primarily through a discussion of pornography. In this course we will discuss issues such as: What is pornography? How is it different from art? Who should make such distinctions? Is the production or consumption of pornography morally wrong? If so, what explains why they are wrong? Even if they are wrong, is this a case in which people may have a right to do wrong? Is it moral for a government to pass laws restricting the production and consumption of pornography?

Philosophy 244, Ethical Issues in Health Care: Contemporary Problems (HU)

LEC 201, Online Web
Instructor: Kristin Tym,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

This course will provide a general overview of many of the challenging ethical issues faced in health care delivery today. We will begin the course with an introduction of ethical theories and other approaches to moral decision-making. These theories and approaches will then be applied to ethical problems currently confronting health care providers, patients and their families, and society at large. Issues we will consider include informed consent and confidentiality, futility and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, euthanasia and assisted suicide, assisted reproduction, genetics, allocation of scarce resources and research ethics.

Philosophy 250, Philosophy of Religion (HU)

LEC 401, TR 10:00 – 10:50, BOL B40
Instructor: William Bristow,
Enrollment in the LEC 401 also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

In this course we bring philosophical reasoning to bear on central questions concerning religious doctrine and faith. Some major questions we will address in this course are: What do (or should) we mean by "God"? Can the proposition that God exists be proved on the basis of unaided reason? Or does reason in fact support atheism? What is religious faith? Must one have religious faith in order to be moral? Or, alternatively, is there an irresolvable tension between the demands of morality and the demands of religious faith? Is the existence of evil compatible with the existence of an all-powerful, benevolent creator God? Is the hypothesis of an after-life reasonable or intelligible? -- We engage these and other related questions by studying and discussing texts from major philosophers and religious thinkers in various traditions.

Philosophy 332, Philosophical Problems: Moral Dilemmas

LEC 201, Online Web
Instructor: Luca Ferrero,
Prereq: jr st; & 3 cr in philos.

Moral dilemmas are cases where the agents are bound by conflicting moral obligations and cannot resolve the conflict by further deliberation. No matter what they do, they will do something wrong and feel guilty. This seems to be the case with tragic characters such as Agamemnon, who is led to sacrifice his daughter to please the gods, and then left with "the painful memory of pain, dripping before the heart". Ancient philosophers take moral dilemmas very seriously, as signs of human vulnerability to luck, which undermines happiness and shows the fragility of goodness. But moral dilemmas seem to be far more pervasive and ubiquitous than focus on tragic choices suggests. Some contemporary philosophers argue that dilemmas show the plurality of moral values and richness of moral life. Others argue that moral dilemmas threaten the agent's autonomy and are like contradictions. This course investigates the nature and philosophical consequences of moral dilemmas, with special attention to the issues of the role of coherence and emotions in ethics. Readings include Aristotle, Kant, Williams, Hare and Nussbaum.

Philosophy 341, Modern Ethical Theories

LEC 001b, MW 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,
Prereq: jr st; & 3 cr in philos.

This is a course in contemporary normative ethics (normative ethics is concerned with the question ‘what makes an action right or wrong?’). We will explore the five approaches to ethical thinking dominant in contemporary philosophy: consequentialism, Kantian ethics, contractualism, contractarianism, and virtue ethics. Consequentialism takes the establishment of certain outcomes – namely, the production or maximization of ‘good’ (e.g. ‘welfare’), and the prevention or minimization of ‘bad’ – to determine whether actions, rules, or policies are morally right or wrong. Kantian ethics understands morality to consist in those rules that autonomous agents could rationally will for all on the basis of ‘pure practical reason.’ Contractualism (which is closely related to Kantian ethics) refers to those normative ethical theories that understand morality to consist in principles that mediate relations of mutual respect between free and equal persons. Contractarianism is the view that morality should be understood as a set of social practices or rules adopted by self-interested rational actors. ‘Virtue ethics’ refers to those normative ethical theories that take considerations of ‘character’ as fundamental to ethical evaluation. Our discussion of all five moral views will involve some preliminary readings from historical sources, and more extensive consideration of the arguments of contemporary authors.

Philosophy 351, Philosophy of Mind

LEC 001 TR 3:30 – 4:45 CRT 309
Instructor: Aaron Schiller,
Prereq: jr st, 3 cr philos; or grad st.

The philosophy of mind is concerned with the nature of mind and thought. It is a branch of metaphysics; it is both constrained by, and itself constrains, epistemology; and its evidential bases lie in areas as diverse as phenomenology, psychology, sociology, and more. Some of its questions are: What is the mind? How does it fit into the rest of the universe? How can one tell that another has a mind? What is it to think? Could a machine think? When one thinks, what is it that one is thinking? How do the contents of thought relate to those of perception and action? By the end of the term, students will have solid foundation in one of the most fundamental areas of modern analytic philosophy.

Philosophy 358, Action, Will, and Freedom

LEC 001 TR 5:00 – 6:15 CRT 309
Hybrid Course Taught Partially Online
Instructor: Luca Ferrero,
Prereq: jr st, 3 cr philos; or grad st.

We are agents. Not only are we capable of acting, but considerable portions of our lives are taken up by our doings, by exercises of our agency. Our actions and doings are essential to much of what we cherish most in our lives; and our death can be identified with the permanent loss of our agency.

What is it to act? How do actions differ from things that merely happen to us? How does human agency relate to animal agency? What is the nature of intentional agency? Does intentional agency require a distinctive kind of awareness of what we are doing?

Are actions the products of the Will? If so, what is the Will? How can we explain weakness of will? Are we still full-fledged intentional agents when we act in pursuit of temptation or addiction? How can the Will manage to resist temptation and addiction?

What makes our actions and wills free? Is freedom compatible with the determination of our conduct by causal events outside of our control? What is the relation between freedom and the idea of the true or deep self?

Philosophy 432, History of Modern Philosophy

LEC 001, TR 11:00 – 12:15, TBA
Instructor: Margaret Atherton,
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos.

The philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries in Western Europe put a highly characteristic stamp on philosophical thought, one that is still influential today. The period, characterized as "Modern" because it ushered in a new approach to knowledge, particularly knowledge of the natural world, but also a knowledge of human nature. Philosophers of this period, starting with Descartes, struggled to find an understanding of the makeup of the natural world and of the way in which we can know this natural world while simultaneously struggling to find the place of religion within these new developments. The period is also called the Age of Enlightenment, reflecting widespread confidence in human ability to understand the natural order and human nature within that order. We will follow the leading philosophers of this period as they develop various and unique accounts of what there is, how we know it, and what we are like as knowers, tracing the implications of their respect for science, their increasing curiosity about the nature of the human mind and their struggles to understand the relationship between science and religion. We will hope to understand the work of these philosophers both as foundational to the development of the sciences of their time and as providing the framework within which we continue to address their issues. We will be reading selections from leading philosophers of this time, including Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume, but because this was also a period in which philosophy was carried out by many people in many different venues, we will also be reading brief excepts from some of the little known women philosophers of the period.

Philosophy 437, Phenomenology

LEC 001, MW 12:30 – 1:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos.

Phenomenology is a philosophical movement which was founded in the early years of the 20th century by Edmund Husserl. In Husserl’s conception, the primary concern of phenomenology is to create conditions for the objective study of topics which are usually regarded as subjective: consciousness and the content of conscious experience such as judgments, perceptions, and emotions. In this course we shall read Husserl’s Introduction to Phenomenology and a text which is regarded as his masterpiece – the Cartesian Meditations.

Philosophy 516, Language and Meaning

LEC 001, M 5:00 – 7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Aaron Schiller,
Prereq: jr st & Philos 101(P) or 423(P).

Language is deeply mysterious. Not only is it essential to the construction of our shared, social reality, it has shaped the human mind as deeply as any other force in the universe. Questions considered in this advanced survey of the philosophy of language since Frege include: What is the nature of language? How is meaning supported, communicated, and produced by language? How do the different elements of language (words and sentences, assertions and questions, etc.) work with one another?

Philosophy 554, Special Topics in the History of Modern Philosophy: Causation in Early Modern Philosophy

LEC 001, MW 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 607
Instructor: Miren Boehm,
Prereq: jr st, 3 cr in philos, Philos 432(R); or cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

We are interested the nature of causation because we want to understand the nature of Nature—how objects in nature are related to one another in the most fundamental way. This course examines different conceptions of causation in the Early Modern period with a special focus on Hume’s views. The first half of the semester examines the birth of the modern mechanistic conception of causation against the background of the rejection of the Aristotelian view and scholastic interpretations. We discuss several important figures, including Descartes, Malebranche, Boyle and Locke. In the second half of the semester we turn to Hume, to his views about causation in nature and the contribution of the perceiver to nature. We shall also engage with contemporary interpretations of “Humean” causation.

Philosophy 562, Special Topics in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Marx and Philosophy

LEC 001, MW 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Julius Sensat,
Prereq: jr st, 3 cr in philos. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

We'll study Marx's philosophical, political, and economic writings in an effort to understand and assess the critique they provide of capitalist society, their relation to Hegel's philosophy, and their significance for issues in contemporary moral and political philosophy, such as John Rawls's theory of justice, for example.

Philosophy 681, Seminar in Advanced Topics: Mental Representation

SEM 001, TR, 5:00—6:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Robert Schwartz,
Prereq: sr st & 12 cr in philos at 300-level or above; or grad st. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Consent required to audit.

Human thought and action are dependent on and mediated by the knowledge and mental skills we possess. Perhaps the core topic in the study of cognition is to explain how this knowledge and skill base is stored or represented by our mind/brain. This course will explore conceptual and theoretical problems that lie at the heart of current debates in philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and computer science over the nature of mentality and mental representations. We will consider such questions as: is there a language of thought?, can we really think in images?, in what way may our behavior be guided by rules?, may a significant part of knowledge base be innate? Issues concerning animal and machine intelligence will be examined in these contexts.

Philosophy 685, Senior Capstone Research Seminar: Contemporary Political Philosophy

SEM 001, MW 11:00—12:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,
Prereq: sr st; declared Philos major; or cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max. Consent required to audit. Satisfies L&S research requirement.

This course introduces the debate on freedom as it features in recent and contemporary political philosophy. Freedom is a central value in contemporary political thought. But freedom is also a complex idea, both conceptually and normatively, and political philosophers continue to debate its main properties. The course first discusses some core conceptual issues, namely, the positive/negative freedom distinction, and the difference between freedom and autonomy. We then will explore how freedom features in five important traditions in contemporary political philosophy: (a) ‘high’ (or ‘egalitarian’) liberalism; (b) ‘right’ libertarianism; (c) ‘left’ libertarianism; (d) ‘classical’ liberalism; and (e) ‘civic’ (or ‘neo-’) republicanism. We also may consider some criticisms of these traditions from communitarian and/or feminist authors.

Philosophy 712, Fundamentals of Formal Logic

LEC 001, TR 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Michael Liston,
Prereq: grad st.
Taught with Philos 212-001.

We will work through standard soundness, completeness, and other metatheoretic results for first order logic. (See also Philosophy 212.)

Philosophy 758, Seminar in Major Philosophers: Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment

LEC 001, TR 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 607
Instructor: William Bristow,
Prereq: grad st; cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

In this seminar, we will read the whole of Kant’s so-called “Third” Critique, the Critique of Judgment. Whereas the First Critique, the Critique of Pure Reason, examines the possibility of rational theoretical knowledge of nature, and the Second Critique, the Critique of Practical Reason, examines the possibility of our being governed by principles of pure practical reason in deliberative choice and action, the Third Critique examines the possibility of aesthetic judgments (judgments of the beautiful) and teleological judgments (as those occur in the context of empirical natural science, in particular biology). The pairing of Aesthetics and Philosophy of Biology within a single philosophical treatise may seem odd at first glance, but what unites these topics is the epistemological problem of how we apprehend objects as having purposive form or as having organic unity. Ultimately what is at stake in this investigation for Kant is the unity of reason itself, as expressed in both theoretical and practical knowledge. Kant’s Third Critique has been very influential in philosophical Aesthetics, and it is a very important text in the development of the tradition of German Idealism out of Kant’s Critical Philosophy.

Philosophy 960, Seminar in Metaphysics: Composition

SEM 001, W 5:00 – 7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Joshua Spencer
Prereq: grad st & cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

Composition is the relation that obtains between a thing and its parts. Our study of composition will begin with an introduction to the classical formal theory of parts. This classical theory, although elegant, has been challenged on many fronts. In this class, we will be particularly interested in challenges that arise when one begins to consider the interaction between the classical theory and our notions of identity, existence, and persistence. On the classical theory, one thing is identical to another if they have all the same parts. But, some have challenged this view on the ground that a statue and the lump of clay from which it is formed are distinct even though they have all the same parts. On the classical theory, for any things whatsoever, there exists something that has those things as parts. But, few of us believe that anything has both my cat and the pennies in my couch as parts. Finally, on the classical view, it seems that things cannot persist through the loss of their parts. But, things seem to lose their microphysical parts all the time. We will try to determine whether or to what extent the classical theory should be amended in response to these sorts of challenges.