Course Descriptions – Summer 2013

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

LEC 211, Online Web
Instructor: Edward Hinchman,
6 Weeks – 5/28/13 – 7/6/13

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 111, Informal Logic - Critical Reasoning (HU)

LEC 271, Online Web
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,
6 Weeks – 7/8/13 – 8/17/13

There’s an ancient view, still widely held, that what makes human beings special—what distinguishes us from the “beasts of the field”—is that we are rational. What does rationality consist in? That’s a vexed question, but one possible response goes roughly like this: we manifest our rationality by engaging in certain activities, chief among them the activity of making claims and backing them up with reasons—that is, constructing arguments.

This reasoning activity can be done well and it can be done badly—it can be done correctly and incorrectly. Logic is the discipline that aims to distinguish good reasoning from bad.

Since reasoning is central to all fields of study—indeed, since it’s arguably central to being human—the tools developed in logic are universally applicable. Anyone can benefit from studying logic by becoming a more self-aware, skillful reasoner.

It is possible to approach the study of logic more or less formally. A more formal approach abstracts from natural language and develops sophisticated artificial symbol-languages within which it’s possible precisely to identify the logically relevant features of arguments. This approach has many virtues, but it is only one among many, and it focuses on only one kind of argument (deductive). In this class, we explore a diverse collection of methods and principles for evaluating many different kinds of arguments. We take a very brief look at the formal techniques mentioned above, but spend most of our time studying arguments presented in natural language, as they occur in everyday reasoning.

Philosophy 204, Introduction to Asian Religions (HU)

LEC 351, Online Web
Instructor: Michelle Mahlik,
LEC 351 meets for 6 weeks – 6/24/13 – 7/20/13

This course will examine the central themes of the philosophical thought of the Asian religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. We will explore the metaphysical dimensions of these traditions with particular attention to the nature of Ultimate Reality, the difference between appearance and reality, the nature of the human self, the morally “good" life, and the role of reason in human religious life. The intent of this course is to acquaint the student with these topics as well as to assist the student in formulating independent opinions and beliefs about these issues. No philosophical background is necessary.

Philosophy 211, Elementary Logic (HU)

LEC 371, MWR 10:00 – 12:05pm, SAB G28
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,
LEC 371 meets for 6 weeks – 7/8/13 – 8/17/13

Sometimes we say things that support our conclusions and other times we don’t. An argument is any set of sentences that are supposed to support a particular conclusion. Logic is the formal study of arguments. In this course, we will learn how to symbolize English sentences in a formal language. We will also learn procedures for determining whether or not the arguments we symbolize are valid.

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Existentialism (HU)

LEC 291, Online Web
Instructor: William Bristow,
4 Weeks – 7/22/13 – 8/17/13

The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre argues that we human beings are “condemned to freedom”, by which he means that human beings cannot escape the responsibility of defining themselves and their fundamental values, even though we often try to cast our responsibility for self-definition onto external authorities, such as God or the state. Existentialist thinkers, writers, film-makers explore the human condition, as defined by this fundamental freedom and self-responsibility. All existentialist thinkers are struggling against a common set of threats that the modern western world makes pressing for human beings: the threats of meaninglessness, of despair, of nihilism, of pessimism, of the loss of self in “inauthenticity” or “conformity”. This course is an introduction to the varieties of existentialist interpretation of the human condition through study of both philosophical and artistic works. We will read literary and philosophical works of some of the main twentieth century French existentialists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, as well as works by the nineteenth century precursors, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard. We will also study two existentialist films.

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

LEC 231, Online Web
Instructor: Kris Tym,
6 Weeks – 6/10/13 – 7/20/13

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.