Course Offerings (Spring 2018)

All Phil Courses

*PHIL 1000: Introduction to Philosophy

Credit will not be given for both this course and PHIL 1001. Major works on such themes as appearance and reality, human nature, nature of knowledge, relation of mind and body, right and good, existence of God, and freedom and determinism.

Section 1: MWF 9:30–10:20, Blakley
Section 2: MWF 10:30–11:20, Blakley
Section 3: MWF 1:30–2:20, Blakley
Section 4: TTh 3:00–4:20, Altamirano
Section 5: TTh 10:30–11:50, Parsons

*PHIL 1001: HONORS: Introduction to Philosophy

An honors version of PHIL 1000. Credit will not be given for both this course and PHIL 1000.
Philosophy starts from the position that we can live better and more worthwhile lives by thinking critically – both about the choices and long terms goals that are immediately present to us personally and about the deeper realities of human existence and reality itself. In this course you will be asked to think critically and write cogently about various positions – your own and those of others – on such problems as the nature of mind and intelligence, making moral decisions, the nature and limits of knowledge, and the existence of God.

TTh 1:30–3:00, Sirridge

*PHIL 2010: Symbolic Logic I

Classical propositional and first-order predicate logic; syntax and semantics of formal languages; translation between formal languages and English; formal methods of proof.

MWF 12:30–1:30, Roland

*PHIL 2020: Ethics

Classical and recent theories of obligation and value, including works of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, and Nietzsche; topics including freedom, rights, justification of moral judgments.

Section 1: TTh 9:00–10:20, Altamirano
Section 2: TTh 12:00–1:30, Altamirano
Section 3: TTh 4:30–6:00, Altamirano
Section 5: MWF 12:30–1:20 Blakley

*PHIL 2020: Ethics (Sarkar): TTh 3:00–4:30 p.m.

This course will be divided into three parts, each part will focus on a cluster of questions surrounding a central issue. Part One: We shall begin with a “love” letter that Bill and Melinda Gates wrote to Warrant Buffett. This will give us an idea of nobility, what humanity can accomplish when the will is good. It will also serve as an introduction to Peter Singer’s, The Most Good You Can Do. This book raises questions about how we should live and while living give altruistically (far more than what we normally do); what constitutes effective altruism; who should be the benefactors when we give; and, finally, how far should we be concerned about the prospects of human extinction. Part Two: ‘Dignity’ is of unparalleled significance in Kant’s moral philosophy. Rosen’s Dignity will take us through a brief history of that concept. Dignity plays a crucial role in determining our individual rights (and grants a State the right to protect and enforce those rights). But, says Rosen, much of this misses a very important sense of dignity, namely, the right to be treated with dignity, or proper respect. For example, if I am a dwarf can others throw me around for sport, gambling, or just plain fun – even with my consent? (A French court held that one could not do that; but, the dwarf in question disagreed!) Part Three: We have essential biological techniques for genetic enhancement: We can make designer babies. At the other end, a deaf couple wanted to have a deaf child. “Being deaf is just a way of Life,” they said. They found a sperm donor with five generations of deafness in his family and sure enough their son, Gavin, was born deaf. This caused an uproar. There is, clearly, a profound problem about how far we can go, without being unethical, to ensure human enhancement. Genetic engineering threatens to introduce unfairness (in athletics, for example), injustice (in academic and business worlds), and inequalities (both economic and otherwise). Michael Sandel argues that we ought only to go thus far and no further with genetic engineering. At some point, we simply should accept who we are as a gift from Nature. Nick Bostrom and Rebecca Roache disagree. They want to push those limits: We have a moral onus, they say, to make ourselves as perfect as we can possibly be.

Required Textbooks:
1. Nick Bostrom and Rebecca Roache, “Ethical Issues in Human Enhancement,” in Jesper Ryberg, Thomas Petersen, and Clark Wolf, editors. New Waves in Applied Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, 120-152. Available on line.
2. Bill and Melinda Gates, “A Letter to Warren Buffet.” 
3. Michael Rosen, Dignity: Its History and Meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012.
4. Michael Sandel, The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.
5. Peter Singer, The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

*PHIL 2024: Philosophy in Literature

There are two kinds of presence of philosophy in literature: poems, plays, and novels written to express philosophical ideas, and works of philosophy that have become literary classics. Roman antiquity produced works of both kinds. We will read Seneca’s shocking plays, Thyestes and Phaedra, as well as the Stoic classic, On Anger; selections from the mysterious and enormously influential Epicurean poem by Lucretius, On the Nature of Things; Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, which has probably been translated into more languages than any other work except the Bible.

TTh 10:30–11:50, Sirridge

PHIL 2025: Bioethics

This is a discussion based course which focuses on medical bioethics and begins by reviewing the history of bioethics in our country, presents various methods of analyzing ethical issues, and then moves on to discuss ethical issues including the concept of a person; the patient-physician relationship; abortion; euthanasia and assisted suicide; brain death; organ donation; reproductive ethics;  research ethics; human enhancement and genetic manipulation; health care reform and rationing or allocation of medical resources as well as the different approach to ethics during a crisis.

M 6:00–9:00N, Rolfsen   

*PHIL 2035: History of Modern Philosophy

An honors course, PHIL 2036, is also available. Introduction to philosophy through a study of some of the main writings of modern philosophy

TTh 1:30–3:20, Cogburn

PHIL 2036: HONORS: Tutorial in Modern Philosophy (1 hr)

To be taken concurrently with PHIL 2035. 1 hr. of tutorial instruction per week for honors students.


PHIL 2786: History & Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Mathematics (3)

The relationship between science, technology, mathematics, philosophy, and human values, as exemplified by important episodes from their histories. 

TTh 1:30–2:50, Pence

PHIL 3003: French Existentialism

The course is an exploration of French existentialism. After an introduction on the sources of existentialism with Arendt and Heidegger, we will investigate several key figures, including Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, De Beauvoir, Levinas, Nancy and Derrida. Themes addressed will include: existence and thought; existence and essence; the question of being; the being of things; the absurd; freedom and responsibility; the question of the body and perception; existence and gender; community and being-with; ethics and the other; forgiveness.

TTh 4:30–6:00, Raffoul

PHIL 3052: Moral Philosophy

This course will center round two books which are utterly irreconcilable – in temper, style, and substance. The first book we shall study, The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, is written by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), “the Chinaman of Konigsberg”. The other book, Beyond Good and Evil, is by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). We shall also study a handful of excerpts from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science.

Required Textbooks:
1. Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick, The Soul of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
2. Immanuel Kant, Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
3. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
4. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

MW 3:00–4:30, Sarkar

PHIL 4786: Kant’s Third Critique 

Simon Critchley infamously intoned that the differences between analytic and continental philosophy were entirely a function of which of Kant’s critiques was taken to be primary, with continental philosophers following his third, the Critique of Judgment. As a continental philosopher, he intended to conversationally implicate that analytic philosophers who neglect the third critique have missed out on something which should be central to our philosophical self-conceptions.

These are strange claims about a strange book, a book ostensibly about the power of judgment per se but actually about our judgments of beauty and teleology, or objective purposiveness. Why the bait and switch? And why think that accounts of beauty and teleology are necessitated by Kant’s other two critiques concerning, respectively, theoretical and practical reason? 

In this class we will answer these questions. No prior exposure to Kant is necessary. While closely reading the text we will contrast classic interpretations of the book by analytic philosophers such as D.W. Crawford with more recent reappraisals by figures such as Rebecca Kukla and Hannah Ginsborg. While we won’t be able to fully vindicate Critchley’s descriptive claim about all extant continental philosophy, we will be able to vindicate his normative endorsement of the centrality of Kant’s masterpiece. In the process we shall deepen our understanding of mind, world, and curious relationship between the two.

TTh 12:00–1:20, Cogburn

PHIL 4941: Philosophy of Mind

We’ll start with a solid grounding in 20th century classics of philosophy of mind: mind-body and mind-brain relations (monism, dualism, functionalism), consciousness, intentionality, personal identity, intersubjectivity, and the embodied and extended mind hypotheses. We’ll then survey new work in bacterial, plant, and non-human animal cognition. We’ll finish by examining human minds as social, emotional, and enactive. Course website: 

MW 3:00–4:20, Protevi

PHIL 4946: Philosophy of Law

Law surrounds us and structures our lives.  Few things are more familiar or ubiquitous.  Nevertheless, law raises many philosophical questions.  What are the essential features of law?  How do we come know law’s nature?  How is law made, if it is made at all?  Do we have any general reason to follow law?  Tackling these age-old, difficult questions is the project of this class.  By the end, we will come to a better, more defensible understanding of that familiar, ubiquitous thing we call law.

TTh 1:30–2:50 , Donelson

PHIL 4950: Advanced Epistemology

This course will focus on issues concerning a priori knowledge. A priori knowledge is typically understood as knowledge which can be acquired independent of experience (e.g., knowledge that 2 + 2 = 4 or that all bachelors are unmarried). This is somewhat simplistic. Independent in what way? What kind of experience? In addition to trying to get clearer on these questions concerning the nature of a priori knowledge, we’ll also consider such questions as: Is there any a priori knowledge? If there is, are there distinctive features of the objects of such knowledge that makes them suitable to be known about a priori? Is a priori knowledge restricted to knowledge of necessary truths, or analytic truths, or truths which are both necessary and analytic? Is a priori knowledge inconsistent with our contemporary scientific worldview? The first half of the course will introduce historically important accounts of a priori knowledge and challenges to them. We will then turn to more recent work on apriority.

Work for the course will consist of short (3–5 page) writing assignments and a term paper in two drafts. There is no prerequisite for this course.

TTh 3:00–4:20, Roland

PHIL 4951: Philosophy of Science

Philosophical issues related to concept formation and theory construction in the natural, behavioral, and social sciences.

MW 4:30–5:50, Pence

PHIL 7910: Graduate Seminar in History of Philosophy: Aristotle

TTh 4:30–5:50, Parsons