Spring 2008 Courses101-1 Introduction to Philosophy
Philosophy is both an area, with its own questions and history of discussion of these questions - What is knowledge? What goes into making an action right or wrong? What is it to live a happy (good/worthwhile) life? What is it to act rationally? Can we ever be responsible for our behavior? What is it for a sign to have meaning? Is having a mind the same thing as having a brain? - as well as a certain critical way of looking at things, approaching issues, clarifying concepts, and evaluating positions and arguments. The methods philosophers use in generating and conducting investigation in their own particular subject matter, as well as many of the issues philosophers concern themselves with, can be relevant to all sorts of subject matters, which are not, of themselves, particularly philosophical. Drawing distinctions, identifying underlying assumptions, generating puzzles, coming up with arguments and evaluating them, seeing what a disagreement is really about, distinguishing the letter from the spirit of positions, are among the many tools of philosophy, which can be used in other areas not only in critical evaluation, but in seeing possible issues and questions to raise. In this course, we will look at some quite general and fundamental philosophical issues, as well as some that are more particular, such as the rationality of emotions. We will be particularly concerned to bring out various sorts of philosophical tools and distinctions which are relevant not only to philosophy, but to philosophical reflection or consideration about other areas, and also to see how philosophical assumptions or claims may be present even when one is not 'doing philosophy'.
101-2 Introduction to Philosophy
This course will be an introduction to some of the main problems of philosophy, some of the proposed solutions to those problems, and the arguments that philosophers have advanced in defense of those solutions. Topics covered will include: epistemology (do you know that you are not inside The Matrix?); ethics (is there a single true morality?; are you morally required to donate $100 to charity this term?); metaphysics (how is the mind related to the body?; if a person's actions are determined by the antecedent physical state of world, are those actions free?). Readings will include both classical and contemporary sources.
101-3 Introduction to Philosophy
There is a popular misconception that you have to be dead to be a philosopher. But philosophy is a vibrant living subject and not merely of historical interest. Philosophy challenges us with questions that are directed to our most basic intellectual assumptions and forces us to think hard about ourselves and our position in the world. With its focus on arguments, philosophy also brings clarity and rigor to matters that may otherwise seem inherently obscure and perplexing. This course is designed as a general introduction to philosophy (no previous background in philosophy is expected) and is meant to help students develop the skills related to formulating and evaluating arguments. The course is divided into five units: Belief in God, Souls & Bodies, Free Will, Humans & Animals, and Challenges to Morality. Most of the readings are by contemporary authors and will be made available in electronic form.
101-4 Introduction to Philosophy
No description available
101-5 Introduction to Philosophy
No description available
210-1 Reason in Communication
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
No description available
210-3 Reason in Communication
No description available
211-1 Elementary Logic
This course provides an introduction to formal logic. We will study two formal languages and their interpretations. We will then introduce deduction systems for the two languages, i.e. formal rules for deriving conclusions from premises. Our goal is to characterize valid and invalid arguments and understand the notion of logical consequence.
211-2 Elementary Logic
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
No description available
241-1 Introductory Ethics (Satisfies category B for the major)
This course is an examination of some of the central topics in moral philosophy. We will identify possible reasons for holding certain views, which philosophers reconstruct in the form of arguments, and we will critically assess those reasons. We will start by considering particular moral issues, such as the debate over the permissibility of abortion and euthanasia. Then we will consider more general issues about morality, including two classical examples of moral theories, the question of whether moral responsibility is compatible with determinism, and the debate over the objectivity or relativity of morality.
241-2 Introductory Ethics (Satisfies category B for the major)
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 (19th C.), 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).
261 Philosophy of Religion
In a lecture-discussion format, we will consider the following questions: (i) what properties is God supposed to have, and can anything have them? (ii) what arguments are there for the existence of God, and how should they be assessed? (iii) what arguments are there against the existence of God, and how should they be assessed? - here we will be most concerned about arguments from evil (iv) is divine foreknowledge compatible with human freedom? (v) what view of being a person best fits monotheistic religion, what competing views are there, and how should these competing views be assessed? There will be two in-class essay exams during the semester taken from study questions passed out in advance, and a final exam held kat the time the timetable indicates, also taken from study questions passed out in advance.
341-1 Contemporary Moral Issues
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.
(W)341-2 Contemporary Moral Issues
This writing-intensive course will focus on four contemporary moral issues: surrogate motherhood, abortion, capital punishment, and affirmative action. In addition, it will introduce students to some moral theory to help address the issues. The emphasis in the course will be on developing student's abilities to formulate and criticize arguments so as to be able to make up their minds rationally. In addition to examinations and homework, there will be two essays, the second of which may be revised and resubmitted.
341-3 Contemporary Moral Issues
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.
341-4 Contemporary Moral Issues
We shall discuss a number of contemporary public moral issues, thorough the prism of sophisticated philosophical literature, but with some reference too to the contemporary political debates about some of them. The topics include: the morality of abortion; whether children have rights; whether children have rights; whether we have patriotic obligations, and whether we should teach patriotism; parental choice, educational vouchers, and privatization of schools. The format will be lecture/discussion, and you will be evaluated on class participation, 2 papers, and 2 in-class exams.
430 History of Ancient Philosophy
Metaphysics and Epistemology in Ancient Greek Philosophy
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
In the 17th and 18th centuries, there were an unusual number of very important and influential philosophers. In this course, we will focus on the Empiricist philosophers Locke, Berkeley, and Hume; the Rationalist philosophers Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz; and finally on Immanual Kant. We will read primary texts and will be studying such metaphysical issues as the nature of substance, the will, knowledge, causality, perception, and truth. Because of the number of important philosophers in this period, the course will be demanding and involve a lot of reading and writing. There will be take-home essay exams which require the student to study, analyze, and criticize the philosopher’s arguments.
441 Environmental Ethics
This course is an examination of attempts to understand our moral obligations towards nonhuman entities in nature and nature as a whole. Do we have obligations with respect to nonhuman animals? Plants? Inanimate objects such as stones and water? Ecosystems? If so, what are the natures and grounds for these obligations?
We will investigate traditional ethical theories insofar as they address these issues. Further, we will discuss recent attempts to extend the domains of traditional views so as to include within these theories all or some of the nonhuman beings noted above. Finally, we will turn our attention to views which hold that the fundamental objects of moral concern are not individuals but natural “communities” as such.
454-1 Classical Philosophers: Kant
This course will focus on Kant’s great work The Critique of Pure Reason. In the Critique, Kant will address such issues and questions as these: the nature of space and time, the extent and limitations of human knowledge, what we can know about the external world and ourselves from the nature of our representations, whether things really are the way we perceive them as being, the very general conditions necessary for the possibility of representation and experience, the nature of judgment, of self-consciousness experience, and basis for the distinction between realism and idealism.
454-2 Classical Philosophers: Aristotle’s Ethics
Every human being wishes to lead a happy life, according to Aristotle, but what sort of life is a happy one? In this course we’ll consider Aristotle’s answers to the following questions (among others): What is happiness? Is happiness the same as pleasure? What qualities contribute to a happy life? Are courage, justice, generosity, truthfulness, friendliness and wit all needed to lead a happy life? If so, how are these acquired? Is a special kind of thinking needed? Are friends needed? If so, what makes a good friend? What kind of society is necessary for the good human being to flourish?
The main text for the course will be Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in translation, but we’ll also look at passages from his other works, when appropriate. There will be tutorials.
481 Classical Philosophers: Kant
See 454-1 for description
482 Classical Philosophers: Aristotle’s Ethics
See 454-2 for description
501 Philosophy of Religion (satisfies Category A requirement)
Each discipline has its highly influential figures. Aquinas, Hume, and Kant have been enormously influential in the philosophy of religion. In a lecture-discussion format, we will look these three figures. In each case, we will study their actual views, and look at some of the contemporary influence these views have, what reasons can be given for thinking that these views (of Aquinas, Hume, and Kant, and their contemporary versions) are true, and what reasons can be given for thinking that they are false. Briefly: Thomas Aquinas attempted to take portions of Classical Greek thought (Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus) and baptize it into a theology that was philosophically defensible. Put another way: he give (in particular)Aristotle=s conceptual system a recasting as a version of monotheism. A famous slogan associated with his endeavor is All our concepts are abstracted from sensory experience. David Hume attempted to take portions of Ancient Skepticism and the Empiricism of his predecessors (suitably recast) and relentlessly drew secular conclusions from them. He is viewed as being the only really consistent Empiricist among his colleagues in the history of Modern philosophy. A famous slogan associated with his endeavor is All our knowledge derives from sensory experience. Immanuel Kant said he wanted to restrict reason in order to make room for faith, but he used both reason and faith in technical sense defined from within his own perspective. His philosophy of religion is commonly viewed as the most sophisticated attempt ever to reduce religion to morality, though this reading of Kant is disputed. A famous slogan associated with his endeavor is Even though all our cognition starts with experience, this does not mean that all of it arises from experience. We will discuss, and considers reasons for and against, the views that these authors, and their more recent fans, have offered.
511 Symbolic Logic
This is a course about (not in) first-order logic: although the course starts with a review of first-order logic, the review is at an abstract level and presupposes knowledge of the mechanics of first-order logic (in particular, knowledge of how to translate into logical notation English sentences like "there are at most two gods"). The bulk of the course covers the main metalogical results, both positive (namely the soundness, completeness, compactness, and Löwenheim-Skolem theorems) and negative (namely Gödel's two incompleteness theorems). The emphasis is on understanding the results and becoming able to apply them, not in proving them. The course concludes with an examination of some philosophical implications of Gödel's incompleteness theorems.
520 Philosophy of the Natural Sciences (Satisfies Category A for the Major)
The aim of this course is to address a simple question: What is the difference between good and bad science? We can point to examples of good science, like Newton's laws of motion. And we can point to astrology as bad examples of science, to the extent that they count as science at all. However, the task of philosophy of science is more ambitious than agreeing on examples of good and bad science. The aim is to tell the difference between good and bad science in general terms, which apply across many examples of science, in a way that could help us judge examples of new science. Science has produced theories about things we cannot see (like electrons) on the basis of what we do see (like television pictures). Another example is the theory of evolution, which makes assertions about common ancestries based the fossil record and other observational evidence. Another example is the atomic theory, which is based on observed regularities in the behavior of gases and the results of chemical reactions. Do we have good reason to believe that these theories are true, approximately true, in what they assert to exist, or are they merely accurate in their predictions? Is there an objective way in which we judge the true, approximate truth, or the predictively accuracy of scientific theories? If not, then our faith in science may in many instances may depend on prejudice, bias, or even fashion. Perhaps science is like religion--relying more on faith than reason?
526 Philosophy and Literature [ILS 254: Literature and Philosophy]
Plato's SYMPOSIUM is one of his finest dialogues, and certainly the most entertaining. We will spend the semester engaged in a close and contextual reading of this philosophical and literary masterpiece, looking at the metaphysical, epistemological, aesthetic, and moral issues raised within the work. We will also examine the philosophical, literary, historical, and political contexts of the dialogue. Readings, in addition to Plato, include Aristophanes, Thucydides, Xenophon, Sophocles, and Aristotle.
549 Greal Moral Philosophers (satisfies Category B requirement)
This course will be topic-oriented and it will draw on contemporary sources only. We will discuss several related moral questions that are the focus of philosophical discussion nowadays. They include: Is there a morally significant difference between making something happen and
allowing it to happen? Do a person's intentions affect the permissibility of her actions? And: Does a person have stronger moral obligations to those who are near than to those who are far away?
551 Philosophy of Mind (Satisfies Category A requirement)
This course provides a survey of philosophical theories of the mind. How is it that human beings are able to have conscious experiences? How is it that we are able to represent the world to ourselves in thought? Are experiences and thoughts simply neurological states and processes? If not, what else could they be? We'll look at a variety of answers to these questions and examine the most important theories that contemporary philosophers have to offer. Topics: substance dualism, logical behaviorism, the identity theory, functionalism, nonreductive materialism, eliminative materialism, mental representations, mental content, qualia, and representational theories of consciousness. We'll also look at ways in which disputes in the philosophy of mind reflect large-scale disputes about the nature of philosophy itself.
552 Aesthetic Theories - Philosophy and Film (Satisfies Category B requirement)
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 probably also be using a new, short, introductory text by Carroll. We will focus on fundamental issues about the definition of film, whether it is actually possible for films to be art, and the nature 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 (Satisfies Category B requirement)
This course will introduce the main concepts in contemporary political philosophy, focusing in particular on theories of justice. We shall read John Rawls's book Justice as Fairness, and a number of criticisms of Rawls from different perspectives (egalitarian, feminist, Libertarian, communitarian). We shall look in detail at two particular contemporary political issues: justice in the family; and justice in education. Authors we shall read include Susan Okin, Martha Nussbaum, Robert Nozick, Milton Friedman, and Amartya Sen.
560 Metaphysics (ESSENCE AND PERSONS) (Satisfies Category A requirement)
In this course, we will look at some traditional metaphysical issues in contemporary garb. In the first part of the class ('Essence'), we will study the 'new essentialism' as presented in Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity. While Philosophy has often been identified with the study of the essences - the necessary properties of things - for most of the 20th century, all claims about >essences= were viewed as either misleading ways of talking about the definitions of words, or as simply mistaken. But Kripke=s work completely reoriented this thought with his seeming discovery of necessary a posteriori truths. Are there truths about the essences of things, and other necessary truths, which are not simply true by definition? We will look at some candidates, and think about the nature of necessity and essence. In the second part of the class, we will look at the problem of personal identity through time - Each of you was once in the first grade: What makes it true that that first grader has persisted, is not dead? Under what conditions does a person continue, or cease, to exist? Various things of importance seem to hinge on facts about personal identity: desert or punishment for some earlier deed seems to require that you – not someone else – performed that deed. We seem to have special concern for our own future selves, but not necessarily for others. It seems to be irrational for me to do things that will make things worse for myself later on, like gambling away my retirement money, but if I do this with your money, it seems not irrational, but instead immoral. We will focus on theories of personal identity, and then move to Derek Parfit’s recent work which challenges the tie between personal identity and these other matters that seem to depend upon it. Perhaps we will also have time to look at Eric Olsen’s recent work, which argues, against preveleant psychological views, that persons are essentially animals.
565 The Ethics of Modern Biotechnology
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.
581 Philosophy and Literature
See 526 for description
582 Great Moral Philosophers
See 549 for description
903 The Epistemology of Disagreement
In this seminar we will discuss a cluster of questions relating to the epistemology of disagreement. Some of those questions are: What is it to consider someone as an epistemic peer? More generally, what is it to consider someone as having a certain level of epistemic competence relative to us? What should our reaction be when we find out that someone that we consider an epistemic peer disagrees with us? Can there ever be reasonable disagreements between epistemic peers? Is there a uniquely rational attitude that a body of evidence bestows upon a proposition? What is the role of higher-order evidence in the epistemology of disagreement? The readings will be from contemporary sources.
920 Scientific Explanation
This seminar will attempt to cover all the main approaches to scientific
explanation. It will begin with the influential views of Aristotle and Duhem, with a few
comments on the two millenia in-between, but most of the course will focus on the last half
-- that is the deductive-nomological model and various responses to its inadequacies and attractions. While not attempting anything like a thorough inquiry into theories of causation, particular emphasis will be placed on specifically causal accounts of scientific explanation. Authors to be read include Aristotle, Duhem, Hempel, Salmon, van
Fraassen, Humphreys, Kitcher, and Woodward.
930 Russell & Frege & Early Analytic
935 Meaning & Mental Representation
In this seminar we will be considering recent views about well-being and the good life. We will be reading five books and some recent articles to help us understand the central positions and arguments in this area of philosophy:
L.W. Sumner, Welfare, Happiness and Ethics (OUP 1996)
Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness (OUP 2001)
Fred Feldman, Pleasure and the Good Life (OUP 2004)
Stephen Darwall, Welfare and Rational Care (Princeton 2002)
Richard Kraut, What is Good and Why? (Harvard 2007)
Each student will be responsible for biweekly one-page reconstructions and critical assessments of central arguments from the reading. There will also be three five-page papers required.
941-2 Kant & Kantian Ethics
Most of the seminar will be devoted to intensive study of selected texts by Kant, beginning with the “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” (probably all of it) and including selections from some of the following: “Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone” (Bk I), “Critique of Practical Reason” (a little of this); “The Metaphysics of Morals/ (the general introduction and specific introductions to the “Doctrine of Law” and the “Doctrine of Virtue”, and selections from both) and miscellaneous other pieces, such as the infamous essay "On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives." We will also read selected chapters and essays by contemporary Kant scholars, such as Tom Hill, Christine Korsgaard, Barbara Herman, and Onora O'Neill. I don't anticipate lecturing for more than half the class period. Students will be expected to come to class ready to discuss in detail the texts for the day, with each other as well as with me, and to present short papers for discussion (probably about two of these per student, depending on enrollment) to be rewritten after class discussion and my comments, and to do a longer paper to be turned in near the end of the semester.