Course Descriptions – Summer 2014

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

LEC 201, Online Web
Instructor: Edward Hinchman,
6 Weeks – 5/27/14 – 7/05/14

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 201, Online Web
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,
6 Weeks – 6/23/14 – 8/02/14

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 211, Elementary Logic (HU, QLB)

LEC 301, MWR 10:00 – 12:05pm, CRT 219
Instructor: Richard Tierney,
6 weeks – 6/09/14 – 7/19/14

Humans are reasoning animals, and logic is the study of the rules and principles of correct reasoning. It’s a skill. It is probably the most important skill you will ever develop, both for your college career, and for your everyday life. It teaches you how to analyze concepts, ideas, arguments, and break them down into their simplest components. You are then in a position to recognize the relationships between those components, to see how they are connected together (or not), and thereby to understand how and why one thing follows from another. At the same time, it teaches you how to construct ‘paths of reasoning’, how to get from one idea to another, how, for example, to determine what is the best course of action in a particular situation.

Apart from its application in virtually every field of study, the study of logic will help you develop your analytical skills, your writing skills, your communication skills, and your day to day reasoning. You’ll become a better thinker, and a better reasoner (a better human?). You may not be aware that you are doing so, but you’ll use it every day, for the rest of your life. You’re using it now.

This course satisfies General Education Humanities and QLB requirements. The course also satisfies the L&S Formal Reasoning Requirement for the B.A. degree.

Philos 243: Moral Problems, (HU)

Lec 201, 202, & 203 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.

Lec 201: Abortion, Online Web
Instructor: Miren Boehm,
4 Weeks 5/27/14–6/21/14
243-201 Abortion: What would it mean for abortion to be morally wrong? What is the moral status of the fetus? Does it have a right to life? What is the concept of a person? What does it mean to have a right to one’s body? What does feminist theory say about abortion? What does religion have to say about the ethics of abortion? In this course we will address these and other difficult philosophical questions.
Lec 202: Same-Sex Marriage, Online Web
Instructor: Miren Boehm,
4 Weeks 5/27/14–6/21/14
243-202 Same-Sex Marriage: In this course we explore the legal, emotional, moral and religious dimensions of one of the most heated social questions of our society. We shall read from the Goodridge legal case as well as George W. Bush’s call for a Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage. Then we look at real, first personal accounts of gays and lesbians in order to understand their perspective better. We discuss philosophical arguments concerning the concept of marriage and the morality of same-sex marriage. Finally we look at what religion has to say about the morality of same-sex marriage.
Lec 203: Euthanasia, Online Web
Instructor: Miren Boehm,
4 Weeks 5/27/14–6/21/14
243-203 Euthanasia: Why would there by anything morally wrong with assisting someone in ending her life when she is suffering and wants to end her life? What is death? What is a person? What is personal dignity? What is ordinary as opposed to extraordinary medical treatment? What is the moral difference between killing and letting die? In this course we will address these and other difficult philosophical problems.

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

LEC 201, Online Web
Instructor: Kris Tym,
6 Weeks – 6/09/14 – 7/19/14

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 253, Philosophy of the Arts (HU)

LEC 201, Online Web
Instructor: Michelle Mahlik,
4 weeks – 6/23/14 – 7/19/14

Art differs from nature in being a human creation, and as our own creation art has something to say about how we view our selves, our world, and our relationship to the world. An objective of this course is to philosophically examine the nature of art and its relationship to individuals and their environment.

How do we distinguish works of art from natural objects? Is art merely an imitation of the natural world? Do works of art have intrinsic meaning, or do we project meaning onto them? Is the aesthetic value of a work of art merely a matter of subjective judgment or are there specific criteria by which to judge works of art? Is there a relationship between beauty and moral goodness? Will new discoveries in neuroscience and neuroaesthetics improve our understanding of our responses to artworks?

In this course, we will consider these questions and the answers provided by a variety of philosophers, both ancient and modern. Although an interest in art is recommended, this course requires no previous experience in art or philosophy.