Fall 2011 Courses


  • 101–1 Introduction to Philosophy

    11:00 MWF

    Paul

    This course aims to introduce students to the general methodology of philosophical inquiry, through reflection on some of the classic questions in philosophy. What, if anything, can we know about the external world? Is there a single objective morality, or are moral codes simply social constructions that are true only relative to times and places? Is there any meaningful sense in which we have free will? What makes someone count as the same person over time? What is it to have a mind? We will read both classical and contemporary selections on these topics, and through our investigations, learn how to formulate rigorous philosophical arguments of our own and to critically evaluate those of others. Above all, the emphasis will be on questioning our assumptions and articulating reasons (if we can) for things we might already believe without knowing why.

  • 101–2 Introduction to Philosophy

    1–2:15 TR

    Lecturer

    No description available at this time.

  • 101–3 Introduction to Philosophy

    9:55 MWF

    Shapiro

    The goal of this class is to teach you how to think critically about fundamental issues. The issues we will discuss concern the justification for our claims to knowledge, the distinction between believing something for a reason and believing something on faith, the nature of mind and the possibility of free will and moral responsibility, and, finally, topics in political and ethical theory, including justice and euthanasia. Assignments include short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.

  • 101–4 Introduction to Philosophy

    11:00–12:15 TR

    Bengson

    Am I morally obligated to give money to the poor? Are there objective ethical truths? What is the meaning of life? Who or what am I –– am I a brain, a body, a soul? What can I know, and how can I know it? Does God exist? Is God dead? These are just a few of the questions we will discuss in this course. The overall aim will be to introduce students to some central problems of philosophy, and to their investigation.

  • 101–5 Introduction to Philosophy

    11:00–12:15 TR

    Soll

    Some of the topics we will discuss in this course are: What is philosophy? What is virtue? What is the appropriate attitude toward death? Could all of our beliefs be false? What is knowledge? What can we know with certainty? Does God exist? What makes actions right or wrong? What makes some statements meaningful and others non–sensical?

  • 101–6 Introduction to Philosophy

    9:55 MWF

    Nadler

    An introduction to the problems and methods of philosophy through the reading of classic philosophical works and the discussion of questions of existence, knowledge and value. The course is centered around the problem of the meaning of life, and we will consider a variety of different approaches: the “examined life”, the political life, the good life, the ethical life, the aesthetic life and the religious life, along the way looking at different conceptions of what makes a life and what makes it meaningful? Readings include Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Kant, Mill, Kierkegaard, Pascal and Sartre, along with some contemporary writings.

  • 104–1 Special Topics: Philosophy for Freshmen (Children, Marriage & Family)

    11–12:15 TR

    Brighouse

    The family is usually regarded as a cornerstone of society. But there are many families, some good, some bad, and any social institutions stands in some need of justification. In this course we shall look at philosophical criticisms and philosophical justifications of the family, and look at the kinds of families that those criticisms and justifications apply to. The family is usually justified by appeal to three different sets of interests: children’s interests, adults’ interests in being parents; and the interests of society as a whole. So we start by looking at children: what is a child, do children have rights, and if they do have rights, what rights do they have? We then look at adults: do adults have an interest in being parents, and if so why; how strong is that interest, and how should we weight it against the interests of children (for example, should we protect children by requiring that parents be competent in order to be allowed to parent)? Then we look at issues concerning the family. Is the traditional gendered division of labor unjust, and if so what, if anything, should governments do about that? You are probably familiar with the issue of whether same–sex marriage should be permitted, and we shall look at arguments for and against same sex marriage; but we shall also look at the less familiar issue of whether and why the state should promote marriage itself (whether hetero– or homo–sexual). We also look at society’s interests with regard to fertility: should democratic governments have a fertility policy, and if so what should it aim at?

    In order to explore the philosophical issues it really helps to have some empirical knowledge about society and the family, and about child development. This is why the course has been combined with courses in Ed Psych and in Sociology, and the learning you do in those classes will be directly relevant to the work we do in this class.

  • 104–2 Special Topics: Philosophy for Freshmen (Theories of Evil)

    1:00–3:30 W

    Card

    The topic of Philosophy 104 this Fall is evil, approached as an ethical concept and from secular points of view. The first half of the semester examines works that deal theoretically with the concept of evil. The second half examines more specific issues regarding torture, terrorism, and genocide, tying them to Abu Ghraib, the 9/11 bombings, and the Holocaust. Readings include classical and contemporary work by such thinkers as Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, Arendt, Jean Amery, Primo Levi, and some you may not have heard of. Written assignments will consist of three short essays in the first half of the course and one slightly more extended essay in the second half, focusing on an issue regarding torture, terrorism, or genocide. This is a Writing Intensive Course, and two Writing Fellows will also work with us. There is a required mid–term essay exam on core readings. The final exam is required only of those who did not do papers on time and get a B average on papers & midterm. The class, limited to 20 students, meets this Fall as a seminar for a long period on Wednesday afternoons. Attendance is very important, as is participation in discussions. Since this is a FIG (First Year Interest Groups) course (enrollment limited to 20),everyone enrolled will also enroll in two companion courses: Jewish Studies 202: The Holocaust and Genocide and Legal Studies 131:Introduction to Legal Studies.

  • 210–1 Reason in Communication

    9:30–10:45 TR

    Forster

    This course is about critical thinking. Some forms of reasoning are more persuasive than others, but many persuasive forms of reasoning are fallacious. We will critically examine various patterns of reasoning (arguments) commonly used in newspaper editorials, political speeches, classrooms, courtrooms, and advertisements with the aim of discerning the difference between good and bad reasoning. This skill in critical thinking may also improve your argumentative writing. This is not a course in formal, or symbolic logic like 211 although there will be some very elementary symbolic logic. We will look at simple examples of causal and statistical reasoning as well. For more information, browse through the required text: Critical thinking, 6th edition, by B.N. Moore and R. Parker, Mayfield Publishing Company.

  • 210–2 Reason in Communication

    8:50 MWF

    Lecturer

    No description available at this time.

  • 210–3 Reason in Communication

    4:30–5:45 MW

    Lecturer

    No description available at this time.

  • 211–1 Elementary Logic

    2:30–3:45 TR

    Titelbaum

    Suppose I say, "The cheese was in the fridge when you left. If no one removed the cheese, it's still in the fridge. I'm the only one who could've removed the cheese, and I didn't. So the cheese is still in the fridge." This argument concerning the whereabouts of the cheese contains some premises followed by a conclusion. The argument is structured so that if the premises are true, the conclusion is true as well. In this course we will represent arguments in symbols to reveal their structure, then study argumentative structures that guarantee a true conclusion from true premises. We will also learn how to prove that an argument with a particular structure is valid. The techniques we will learn are necessary for every area of contemporary philosophy, and are relevant to areas of economics, mathematics, computer science, rhetoric, and the law.

  • 211–2 Elementary Logic

    11:00 MWF

    Vranas

    A hotel manager put up a sign reading: "No one is permitted on these premises unless accompanied by a registered guest". Apparently the manager failed to realize that from the statement on the sign it follows that no unaccompanied registered guest is permitted on the premises! In general, the question of which statements follow from other statements is quite tricky. This course addresses this tricky question by (1) introducing a symbolic language into which one can translate a great many ordinary English sentences and almost all mathematical sentences, and by (2) using an automated proof procedure to show that certain sentences follow from other sentences.

  • 211–3 Elementary Logic

    11:00–12:15 TR

    Mackay

    This course is an introduction to formal logic, the study of valid reasoning. We will study methods for proving that an argument is either valid or invalid. Validity, as we will understand it, depends on the form of arguments rather than on their content; we will therefore work with a formal, symbolic language in which the form of sentences is made explicit. We will study both truth–functional and quantificational logic and use a deductive proof procedure for each.

  • 241–1 Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)

    1:00–2:15 TR

    Card

    This course introduces students to ethical theory through key works by four of the most influential philosophers in the history of moral philosophy: John Stuart Mill (19thC), Immanuel Kant (18th C.), Aristotle (4th C. BCE), and Nietzsche (19th C.) with brief selections from such lesser lights as Jeremy Bentham and Bishop Joseph Butler and some contemporary reflections from feminist and African American philosophers. Questions addressed by these writers range from “What is the good life?” and “What is the difference between right and wrong?” to “Is everyone basically selfish?” and “What is the importance of ethics, anyhow?” Course objectives are to offer a solid foundation in ethical theory for students who may wish to do further work in this or a related area and to develop skills in ethical reasoning for everyone who takes the course. No prior philosophy is presupposed. There will be three bluebook essay exams (review questions distributed in advance).

  • 241–2 Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)

    5:30–6:45 TR

    Lecturer

    No description available at this time.

  • 241–3 Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)

    12:05 MWF

    Lecturer

    No description available at this time.

  • 241–4 Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)

    8:50 MWF

    Lecturer

    No description available at this time.

  • 341–1 Contemporary Moral Issues

    9:30–10:45 TR

    Shafer–Landau

    This course, which presupposes no prior philosophical background, seeks to provide students with the tools needed to carefully analyze issues in five areas of topical ethical interest: euthanasia, the death penalty, war and terrorism, sexuality and marriage, and animal rights. The emphasis throughout will be on respectfully and sensitively appreciating the complexity and the argumentative structure of the various positions on these issues, allowing students to decide for themselves where they stand on these important matters.

  • 341–2 Contemporary Moral Issues

    2:30–3:45 TR

    Hausman

    Will focus on four contemporary moral issues: surrogate motherhood, abortion, health care, and affirmative action. This course will be writing intensive, with an introductory paper, a term paper, and an opportunity to revise the term paper. There will be two midterm examinations and a final exam.

  • 341–3 Contemporary Moral Issues

    12:05 MWF

    341–91: 9:55 MTWR

    341–92: 11:00 MTWR

    341–93: 12:05 MTWR

    341–94: 9:55 MTWR

    Hunt

    When are we justified in forcing people to do things that they might not want to do? In the first five weeks of this course, we will critically examine several "liberty–limiting principles" ideas which, if they are true, will tell us when it is right to use force. during the remainder of the course, we will apply these principles to contemporary issues in which the use of coercion is involved, including: abortion, gun ownership, legalizing drugs, the redistribution of wealth, and censoring hate speech. The point of the course will be to help the student to do his or her own thinking on these issues.

  • 430 History of Ancient Philosophy

    9:55 MWF

    Gottlieb

    We’ll be studying in depth, and with close attention to the texts, ancient Greek philosophers’ attempts to answer the following questions: What sorts of things are there in the world? Is a world of change consistent with a world of substances? What would be a satisfactory account of unity and diversity? What sort of knowledge, if any, can we have of the world in which we live? Why are reason and logic important? Why become a philosopher, and what’s the difference between the philosopher and the sophist?

    There will be three tutorials.

  • 432 History of Modern Philosophy

    11:00 MWF

    Nadler

    We will study issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophical theology in philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Philosophers include Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.

  • 433 19th Century Philosophers

    1–2:15 TR

    Soll

    No description available at this time.

  • 455 Recent Philosophy (American Pragmatism)

    1:00–2:15 TR

    Pearce

    The American pragmatist philosophers shaped many of the ideas and institutions that define American cultural life. As philosophers, they did extraordinary work in logic, ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of science; but they also published influential psychology textbooks (William James), inspired progressive educators (John Dewey), and designed one of the first randomized controlled experiments (C.S. Peirce). This course is an introduction to the central ideas of American pragmatism. In the first part of the course, we will examine the roots of pragmatism: Peirce’s account of the logic of science, James’s psychology, the idea of organism–environment interaction, Jane Addams’ social work, and the relation between evolution and ethics. In the second part of the course, we will focus on pragmatism as an explicit philosophical approach: Dewey’s instrumental logic, the link between philosophy and social practice, James’s radical empiricism and Pragmatism (1907), G.H. Mead’s account of the social self, and Dewey’s aesthetics and politics. Finally, we will discuss the influence of pragmatism on more recent analytic philosophy: the connection between pragmatism and logical positivism, critiques of the ‘God’s Eye’ view, and Richard Rorty’s anti–philosophy.

  • 464 Classical Philosophers (Kant)

    9:30–10:45 TR

    Gibson

    This course will consist in a detailed study of Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason. In the Critique, Kant develops a metaphysics of representation, arguing that an understanding of necessary conditions of the possibility of experience can provide us knowledge of the inner world of the self as well as the external world of objects. The focus of the course will be on that metaphysics of representation and its implications, from which Kant hopes to undermine both Humean skepticism about our knowledge of unified self and Cartesian skepticism about our knowledge of the existence of external objects. We will study Kant’s views about space, time, necessity, perception, understanding, judgment, and the self, his distinction between phenomena and noumena, and his vindication of the applicability of a priori concepts of the mind to objects in the world.

  • 503 Theory of Knowledge (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)

    2:30–3:45 TR

    Bengson

    This is a course on the sources, scope, and limits of human knowledge. We will reflect on (for example) the challenges raised by philosophical skepticism, the nature of perception and intuition, and the role of the intellect in theory and in practice.

  • 516 Language and Meaning (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)

    2:30–3:45 TR

    Mackay

    The course will cover some of the main themes in the philosophy of language. The human ability to communicate information about the external world through language is remarkable and raises a number of philosophical questions. Topics to be considered include: what it is for a linguistic expression to be meaningful; how it could come about that a linguistic expression – which is at some level just an arbitrary group of sounds or symbols – could have a meaning; how both the mind and the external world interact with language to determine meaning; how speakers use and manipulate language in different settings to communicate different kinds of information; and the way in which the meaning of a term depends on context.

  • 520 Philosophy of Natural Sciences (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)

    9:30–10:45 TR

    Sober

    The course will focus on large philosophical questions such as the following: What distinguishes science from nonscience? What does it mean for an observation to confirm a theory? What does it mean for one proposition to explain why another proposition is true? What is reductionism and does it describe what science is all about? Is science value–free? We will look at a variety of sciences and scientific theories in exploring these questions. There will be two exams and two essays in this course.

  • 541 Modern Ethical Theories (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)

    9:30–10:45 TR

    Brighouse

    This course is an advanced introduction to contemporary theorizing about ethics. We shall proceed by looking at debates about whether there are any moral truths, then by looking some contemporary versions of the three main strands of western ethical theory –– utilitarianism, Kantianism, and virtue theory. The bulk of the course will examine particular moral problems seeing whether they shed light on disputes among these main strands –– problems such as what it takes to be a good friend, whether loyalty to one's country is legitimate, what duties if any we have to distant others, and the ethics of killing. The central aims are to give students an overview of ethical theorizing in the past 50 year, and to equip them with the skills and understanding to think more rigorously about what is good.

    This is not a lecture course, but to be honest I will do some lecturing –– at least half the time in class should be taken up with students thinking and talking. Each student will have to participate in a presentation in class, and will have to write 3 papers and take 2 exams.

  • 551 Philosophy of Mind (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)

    1:20 MWF

    Shapiro

    This course is a survey of classical and contemporary issues in philosophy of mind. Among these issues are: physicalism (is the mind composed of physical stuff? If not, what is it?); conscious experience (why is an analysis of consciousness so hard?); extended minds (can parts of a mind exist outside the head?) personal identity (are you the same individual who existed yesterday?); non–human animal minds (do they have them and how could we know?) and artificial intelligence (will computers ever be capable of thought?). Assignments will include a few papers (roughly 5pp. in length) and a final exam.

  • 553 Aesthetics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)

    2:25 MWF

    Hunt

    In this course we will discuss a broad range of philosophical issues raised by film, mainly working out of an anthology of readings, Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures, ed. By Noel Carroll and Jinhee Choi (Blackwell’s, 2005). We will focus on fundamental issues about the definition of film, whether it is actually possible for films to be art, and the nature of film as an art form (supposing that is what it is), as well as the contribution (if any) that fiction film might make toward the improvement of human character and understanding. We will also view several classic films in the class, mainly as illustrations of the philosophical essays we will be reading. We will be asking students to keep the time slot of Monday, 7:00–10:00 pm open for this purpose. Required work for the course will include three short papers (which will focus either on discussing philosophical issues or on interpreting films) and a final exam (on the assigned readings for the course).

  • 555 Political Philosophy (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)

    1:00–2:15 TR

    Hausman

    I will aim to provide a historically based introduction to political philosophy. Philosophers to be read include Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Marx, and Mill. Issues to be discussed include the justification for the state and the obligations of citizens, the basis of legitimacy, the nature of social justice, the analysis of rights and liberty and the strength of their claims, and the relations between liberalism and democracy. There will be a term paper, two midterm examinations, and a final examination.

  • 565 Ethics of Modern Biotechnology

    2:25–4:55 R

    Streiffer

    This course is for graduate students and upper–level undergraduates. It is an in–depth study of a selection of ethical issues arising from the application of modern biotechnology to microorganisms, plants, animals and humans, and examines both agricultural and medical uses of biotechnology. In contrast to much of the public, academic, and industry discussion on these issues, we will aim at a discussion that is informed both by scientific research and by work done in ethical theory, political philosophy, and other relevant disciplines, and whose character is rigorous, clear, nuanced, and unbiased. I do not consider myself either generally for or generally against biotechnology. As a philosopher, however, I am against bad arguments wherever they are found.

  • 830 Advanced History of Philosophy: Aristotle’s Metaphysics

    1:15–3:15 F

    Gottlieb

    We’ll study Aristotle’s metaphysics, from the Categories to the central books of the Metaphysics, paying special attention to the way in which Aristotle aims to combine ontologies of change and of substance. Topics will include substance and essence, stuff, structure and function, the principle of non–contradiction, and the biological assumptions that support Aristotle’s views. How much time we spend on each topic will depend on the interests of the participants.

    At least half of each session will be devoted to discussion. There will be tutorials.

  • 838 Advanced History of Philosophy: Kant

    4:00–6:00 R

    Gibson

    This course will consist in a detailed study of Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason. In the Critique, Kant develops a metaphysics of representation, arguing that an understanding of necessary conditions of the possibility of experience can provide us knowledge of the inner world of the self as well as the external world of objects. The focus of the course will be on that metaphysics of representation and its implications, from which Kant hopes to undermine both Humean skepticism about our knowledge of unified self and Cartesian skepticism about our knowledge of the existence of external objects. We will study Kant’s views about space, time, necessity, perception, understanding, judgment, and the self, his distinction between phenomena and noumena, and his vindication of the applicability of a priori concepts of the mind to objects in the world.

  • 903 Epistemology: Self–Knowledge

    4:00–6:00 M

    Paul

    This course investigates the nature of self–knowledge: how we know our own minds. We routinely attribute mental states to ourselves, and take ourselves to have a certain authority in doing so – who are you to tell me I'm wrong about what I believe? But if this authority in self–attributing mental states is justified, we must ask in virtue of what. We will consider a range of views on the epistemology of mind with an eye to ascertaining whether there is anything essentially distinctive about the first–personal perspective. Is self–knowledge based on ordinary, third–personally available evidence that each of us simply has more of concerning our own case, as Gilbert Ryle contended? Is it the product of an "inner sense" or self–scanning module that is contingently private but available in principle to a third–personal observer, as the more empirically–minded hypothesize? Others deny that the distinctiveness of self–knowledge is a matter of having any kind of privileged epistemic access, locating it in some other feature of first–personal mental life. We will consider deflationary views on which first–personal authority is merely a social convention, as Wittgenstein is sometimes interpreted as claiming, or a kind of semantic authority – knowing what one's own words mean when one self–ascribes some content – as Davidson proposed. We will conclude by engaging with accounts such as Richard Moran's that emphasize the importance of mental agency and rationality, suggesting that we know our own minds by in some sense making up our minds. Questions about the nature of mental states and whether they are intrinsically normative in some sense will be central to our inquiry.

  • 920 Philosophy of Science: An Introduction to the Phil. Of Sci

    1:15–3:15 T

    Forster

    Case Studies in the Philosophy of Science

    The purpose of this seminar is to introduce a number of key concepts in the philosophy of science, including theory, evidence, explanation, prediction, and confirmation, and then apply them to a variety of examples from the history of science. The case studies may include Darwin’s argument for evolution, Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA, Boyle’s discovery of the ideal gas law, and Gibson’s arguments concerning the mechanisms of perception. The aim of the course is to understand how basic concepts in philosophy of science apply to a wide variety of examples in the history of science. Are there methodological principles that apply to all sciences, or do different sciences have different methodologies?

  • 935 Philosophical Analysis: Proseminar

    4:00–6:00 T

    Titelbaum

    No description available at this time.

  • 941 Seminar–Ethics: Moral Dilemmas

    1:15–3:15 W

    Vranas

    An unresolvable moral dilemma is a situation in which an agent is morally obligated to perform a given action but is also morally obligated to refrain from performing the action. Are such dilemmas possible? This question has potentially profound implications, both for moral philosophy and for everyday life. As far as moral philosophy goes, some ethical theories (for example, some forms of utilitarianism) preclude the possibility of unresolvable moral dilemmas. It follows that, if such dilemmas are possible, these ethical theories are nonstarters. As far as everyday life goes, in an unresolvable moral dilemma the agent is morally checkmated, to use an analogy from chess: the agent must move but no move is acceptable. It follows that, if such dilemmas are possible, we may sometimes find ourselves in hopeless predicaments.

    Philosophical opinion on the possibility of unresolvable moral dilemmas is divided. This seminar examines in detail the arguments in this debate. The seminar requirements consist of a term paper and weekly emails on the required readings (which never exceed 45 pages per week).