Spring 2011 Courses
101-1 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? - and 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 in some central areas of philosophy; it is important to realize that there are many other areas of philosophy, many other topics within these areas, and that even of the more particular issues we look at, we will only be making a start. We will be particularly concerned to bring out various sorts of philosophical tools and distinctions, 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'. By the end of the course, the hope is that you will have both an interest in and ability to think interestingly, critically and productively about not only the issues we discuss, but most anything
101-2 Introduction to Philosophy
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.
101-3 Introduction to Philosophy
In this course, we shall consider some central philosophical topics, such as: what is philosophy, what makes behavior morally right or wrong; what is the impact of our mortality ( the fact that we die) upon the meaning and worth of our lives; what reasons do we have (if any) to believe in the existence of a god; what reasons (if any) are there to believe that the world was created by a god, what is the nature of knowledge; how reliable is our experience of the physical world; what do we know about ourselves; what is valuable for its own sake and what is valuable simply as means to something else.
We shall explore these questions and others by studying the works of some of the most historically important thinkers in our tradition. We shall read these works in their historical order and attempt, through the readings and supplementary lectures, to acquire some idea of the broad sweep of the history of philosophy from the Greek thinkers of classical times to the 20^th century. Among the philosophers we study are: Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Mill, and Ayer.
You will be taught to understand the arguments that the philosophers we read put forward and how to critically evaluate these arguments.
There will be three in class exams and a final.
101-4 Introduction to Philosophy
The aim of this course is to introduce the student to philosophy. We will study some different areas in philosophy and the problems and questions addressed in those areas. But we will also study how philosophers go about answering these questions – what kinds of arguments they give, what reasons led them to their views. And we will evaluate whether their arguments are good ones. These are the different areas of philosophy that we will study: Epistemology or the theory of knowledge which is concerned with questions about the nature and extent of knowledge: Philosophy of Religion, where we will understand and evaluate arguments that try to prove God exists; Ethics, where we will be concerned with whether there really is such a thing as right or wrong, and if so, what makes something right or wrong: and finally, in the last section of the course, we will examine whether it makes sense to think that human beings have Free Will if their behavior I a part of the natural, causal order.
101-5 Introduction to Philosophy
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, when our senses might be radically misleading us? What makes someone count as the same person over time, through significant physical and psychological changes? Is there any meaningful sense in which human beings have free will, when we are also physical objects subject to the natural, causal order of things? What does morality require of us, and why should we conform to these requirements? 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.
210-2 Reason in Communication
No description available at this time
211-1 Elementary Logic
No description available at this time
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 he 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.
241-1 Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement 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 (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)
No description available at this time.
241-3 Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
No description available at this time.
304-1 Topics in Philosophy-Humanities
No description available at this time.
341-1 Contemporary Moral Issues
No description at this time.
341-2 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.
341-3 Contemporary Moral Issues
The purpose of 341 is to acquaint students with rigorous forms of reasoning concerning live contemporary moral issues, and to help them develop the skills necessary to evaluate and intervene in public debates in a way that is intellectually honest and well-informed. This section of 341 focuses mainly on issues relating to childhood, family life, and education; among the issues we discuss are the morality of abortion; the permissible regulation of parenthood; cloning human beings for reproductive purposes; the morality of school choice; the morality of educational inequality and whether parents should enroll their children in sports leagues(!). Attendance of discussion section is mandatory. Assessment of students’ work will be by papers, essay exams, and some short tests.
432 History of Modern Philosophy
“Modern” Philosophy has come to designate the period also described as “Descartes through Kant.” The central focus is on Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.
The course deals with the metaphysics and epistemology (including philosophy of religion, mind, and language) of these philosophers. Their views set much of the agenda for contemporary philosophy, both by way of development of, and revolt against, earlier perspectives. There is a long tradition of Greco-European philosophy that runs from the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle, through Medieval philosophy, into Modern philosophy, and on to contemporary Anglo-American analytic philosophy, and the Modern period is of enormous importance in its development. Among the issues discussed are the 3existence and nature of God, the freedom of the will, the nature of persons, what causality amounts to, the nature and sources of knowledge, theories of concepts and of meaning, individuation or what thought independently distinguishes one thing from another, perception, introspection, the nature of logic, necessity, possibility, and contingency, memory, what sorts of things are basic or primitive, skepticism, miracles, and laws of nature. The ethics and political philosophy of the period are dealt with in other courses the Department offers.
Nature and Scope of the Course:
This is a philosophy course, not a history course and not a history of ideas course. We will examine the views of the modern philosophers. In philosophy, you really understand a view to the degree that you understand the arguments for and against it. Since the course is intended to bring you to the point that you do to some considerable degree understand the views of the Modern philosophers, we will consider the arguments that they offer. The philosophers of this period were typically systematizers, and we will endeavor to see how their views, at least in intent, fit together into a coherent system. There are lots of interpretations on offer of the views of each of the Modern philosophers, and you will be given a reading list of books containing these interpretations. But our focus will be on the writings of the philosophers themselves.
We will read major works of the philosophers of the Modern period, in translation where they were not originally written in English. There will also be some strictly recommended reading fro those who wish to do it. By the time the course is over, you will have read some of the most important texts in the history of philosophy.
There will be three in-class essay exams, one around week five, one around week ten, and the final at the time designated in the timetable. You will be given a week or so before each exam a set of questions from which the actual exam will be taken. The exams are thus a sort of half-way house between a paper and an essay exam without questions passed out in advance. We will also look at some of the ideas and arguments of some more “minor” figures when doing so will aid in our understanding and assessment of the view of Descartes through Kant.
433 19th Century Philosophers
The purpose of this survey in nineteenth century philosophy is to explore the developments (the rise, and fall) of three ideas that were closely connected for post-Kantian philosophers: autonomy, unity, and history. Kant had put the notion of autonomy in thought and action at the forefront of his philosophy. To many of his immediate successors, however, Kant failed to secure the conditions of meaningful self-legislation because of the dualism and formalism of his system: Kant’s oppositions between duty and sentiment, on the one hand, and sensibility and understanding, on the other, seemed at odds with the unity of the self presupposed by practical and theoretical agency; and Kant’s universal system of human reason struck many as an empty formalism, out of touch with the historical and social conditions of agency. This course will take you through some of the great responses to (and criticisms of) the legacy of autonomy bequeathed by Kant, from his contemporaries to Nietzsche. The course begins with an overview of Kant’s Critical philosophy and his essays on history. We then consider how Hegel developed and expanded upon Kant’s insights to argue for a thoroughly socialized, historicized, but non-relativist account of reason’s development. Key Hegelian texts will be the Phenomenology of Spirit, the Encyclopedia Logic, the Philosophy of History, and the Aesthetics. Like Kant before him, Hegel’s system-building attracted a host of detractors. We begin with Marx (in The German Ideology), who opposed his dialectical materialism to Hegel’s purportedly “abstract” dialectical idealism to account for humankind’s historical development. Next, we turn to Kierkegaard (reading sections of Fear and Trembling and Concluding Unscientific Postscript), who voices the concern that Hegel’s system excludes the individual, rendering it insignificant to the great march of history. We conclude with Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morality), who questions not only basic assumptions of Kant’s Enlightenment project of autonomy, but also the very ideas of morality and the historical progress of rational agency.
441 Environmental Ethics
No description available at this time.
501 Philosophy of Religion (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
This course will discuss three topics. David Hume and Immanuel Kant are the two philosophers from the Modern Period who have most influenced contemporary philosophy of religon. They have a wide range of views and arguments concerning key topics in the field. One segment of the course will consider Hume's relevant views and argumrnts, and a second will consider Kant's relevant views and arguments. Together, the two are often said to have shown that natural theology - the attempt to justify religous beliefs by appeal to evidence and argument - is bankrupt. One issue we will consider is whether this is true. The third section of the course will consider views and arguments concerning what is arguably the basic problem in philosophy -- how do you relate a scientific account of the world and a personal account of the world; how do mechanistic accounts of things (whether deterministic or probabilistic), and agent accounts of things, relate? Can one be reduced to the other? Which sort of explanation is fundamental to the other, assuming that one is? Religious views assume various answers to these questions, as do views critical of religious perspectives. What can we say about all this?
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 gods”). The bulk of the course covers the main metalogical results, both positive (namely the soundness, completeness, compactness, and Lowenheim-Skolem theorems) and negative (namely Godel’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 Godel’s incompleteness theorems.
530 Freedom, Fate and Choice (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
This is a course on the freedom of the will. We will cover the following kinds of material or questions: classic arguments from fatalism and determinism to the effect that human beings do not have free will; ‘compatibilist’ accounts of the freedom of the will which maintain that we can have free will, even if past events and the laws of nature determine what we do; ‘reason-responsive’ accounts of the freedom of the will which tie the freedom of the will to the agent’s ability to make rational decisions, given her beliefs and desires; the sorts of cases that count as cases in which a person does not do what he does of his own free will— e.g., cases in which the impediment seems internal and psychological, (addiction or phobia) and cases in which the impediment seems external (coercion); whether is it possible to give a theory that accounts for all of our intuitions about when a person does or does not act his own free will. We will study some classic philosophers—Descartes, Locke, Moore— but most of the material will be from more contemporary sources—Van Inwagen, David Lewis, P.F. Strawson, Rogers Albrittion, Gary Watson, Harry Frankfurt and others.
543-1 - Special Topics in Ethics
This is a course for mid-level undergraduates. Much of the environmental ethics literature focuses on the related questions of whether nature has intrinsic value and whether humans have direct moral obligations to non-human entities, including plants, animals, species, ecosystems, and the biosphere as a whole. Indeed, some have argued that for an ethic to truly be an environmental ethic just is for it to answer those questions in the affirmative. But a growing number of philosophers are arguing that an anthropocentric (human-centered) ethic can justify environmental protections substantially equivalent to those justified by non-anthropocentric theories. This course focuses on anthropocentric environmental ethics approaches that address the connections between human health, both individual and public, and the natural environment. We will study representative examples and defenses of these perspectives, consider the extent to which they overlap and converge on a practical agenda, and explore several related areas of applied ethics, including: environmental justice, global climate change, intergenerational justice, and population ethics.
550 Philosophy of Moral Education
No description available at this time.
553 Aesthetics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
In this course we shall consider a number of questions about the nature of art and the role it plays in life as a whole. First we shall look at various traditional attempts to define what art is and assess its value (or lack of value) for life. Second we shall critically examine theories about the nature and importance of “aesthetic experience.” Third, we shall discuss problems revolving around the relationship of the artist’s intentions to the interpretation and evaluation of his or her works. We shall read a variety of texts on these issues by classical and contemporary authors, critically discuss them, and use this reading and discussion to develop our own ideas about these matters. Among the authors we shall read are: Plato, Tolstoy, Clive Bell, Roger Fry, Collingwood, Morris Weitz, George Dickie, Arthur Danto, Edward Bullough, John Dewer, Arthur Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley.
554 Philosophy of Artificial Sciences
This is a course about artificial intelligence and artificial life. Some of the topics we cover will concern problems within these sciences, e.g. What are the goals of AI and A-Life? How do symbolic representations differ from distributed representations? What are emergent properties and in what sense are they irreducible? We will also examine questions about what the artificial sciences might contribute to psychology and biology, eg. How do discoveries in the artificial sciences affect our conception of mind? What’s necessary/sufficient for life and mind? In discussing these topics, we will look at relevant work in a diversity of fields: robotics, simulation of adaptive behavior, embodied cognition, ethology, computer science, and, of course, philosophy.
555 Political Philosophy (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
This course will be an examination of the sort of liberalism that traces its lineage back to John Locke. This is a tradition that generally assumes that the basic question for political philosophy is whether the state is an institution that can be justified at all, and generally concludes that the only states that can be justified are ones that recognize limits on their just powers. Thus a just state must guarantee its subjects some measure of freedom. We will begin by spending two or three weeks reading Locke’s Second Treatise and possibly his essay on reforming the “poor laws.” We will then read Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. We will end by reading various critics of Nozick or Locke, including Michael Otsuka and G.A. Cohen. Requirements of the course will include two papers (one about five pages long and the other about ten) and a final exam.
558 Ethical Problems – Biomedical Technology
No description available at this time.
560 Metaphysics: (Issues in Identity and Modality) (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
In this course, we will be discussing and investigating a number of related issues in metaphysics: possible worlds and their nature, identity across possible worlds (closely related to the issue of essentialism), and identity across time. It is possible we will also look more briefly at another issue or two, such as the nature of causation and/or time.
Possible worlds have become a standard device in philosophical discussion of necessity (truth in all possible worlds) and possibility (truth in some possible worlds), counterfactuals (the truth of the consequent in the 'nearest' possible worlds in which the antecedent is true), contents of propositional attitudes (sets of possible worlds) and elsewhere. One question that arises concerns the nature of possible worlds - what are they? According to David Lewis, they are worlds, just like the one we live in, except (in a sense to be explained) very far away. Other philosophers have less robust conceptions of what these 'worlds' are. We will look at this debate. Another important question concerns the identity of individuals across worlds. When we say that Obama might have lost the election, we are saying, on the face of it, that there is some possible situation in which Obama lost. But to evaluate this, we need to understand what it is for someone in another possible world (situation) to be Obama. So this gives rise to the general question of under what conditions things in different possible worlds are identical, which, in more familiar English, is the question of the extent to which things could be different from, or have to be like, the way they in fact are - or in even more familiar English: What makes something the thing that it is? In effect, the question of identity across worlds is the question: What is the very nature of this thing? - What has to be the case in order for this thing to exist at all? We will be looking at various theories concerning this.
The rest of the course will be concerned with the nature of individuals and identity through time. We will start with an argument that seems to show that our ordinary views about objects commit us to both the possibility and actuality of there being two things in the exact same place at the same time. We will then look at various attempts to spell out what there is, or how things do (or don=t) persist through time, which can help solve this puzzle.
So while we will be focused on the nature of worlds and questions of identity, we will in fact be concerned with a variety of issues concerning essence, modality, reduction and most generally, the nature of (physical) objects.
562 Special Topics in Metaphysics: Action Theory (fulfills the Category A requirement for the major this semester)
What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm? It seems there must be some remainder, for not all events of arm-risings are intentional arm-raisings. Something must make some of the physical events in the world into intentional actions. In this course, we will begin by asking what that remainder is: what is it to be an agent? Is agency a matter of some special psychological cause preceding those events that are intentional actions? Or is there some other feature of the agent's relationship to the event in virtue of which it counts as intentional: the ability to provide a justifying reason for so acting, or the possession of a special kind of knowledge of the action? We will also investigate the nature of intention: what is it to intend to do something? How are intentions related to acting for reasons? Does agency have a "constitutive aim," or built-in goal, such as achieving the Good, acquiring self-knowledge, or constructing a Self? What does it mean for you and me to act together? Readings from contemporary sources. Class attendance is mandatory, and will involve a combination of lecture and discussion.
903 – Seminar-Epistemology: Objectivity of Reasons
We will consider whether reasons are objective, in the sense that what is a reason for you to do/believe something is also always a reason for me to do/believe the same thing. We will begin with readings in epistemology on Richard Feldman's "Uniqueness Thesis," then move to readings from metaethics about the objectivity of practical reasons. The last part of the seminar will concern peer disagreement, a hot topic in epistemology the correct response to which seems to depend on the objectivity of theoretical reasons.
920 – Seminar-Philosophy of Science: Parsimony
This course will mainly consider parsimony arguments in science, though there will be some attention to parsimony arguments in philosophy. We will look at scientific case studies as well as how parsimony arguments get represented within broader views of scientific reasoning. The case studies will include Morgan’s canon (roughly, the idea that you should explain an organism’s behavior by attributing to it only the most rudimentary mental abilities that are needed to explain the observations) and the use of parsimony in evolutionary theory to infer phylogenetic relationships. We will consider Bayesian and Popperian ideas about parsimony, and also the role of parsimony in frequentist statistics (e.g., in model selection theory). We may consider Aristotle’s principle that “nature does nothing in vain” and Ockham’s razor, as well as Newton’s ideas on parsimony in the Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy. The philosophical uses of parsimony that we’ll consider will include arguments against ethical realism in metaethics.
941-1 - Seminar-Ethics: Moral Epistemology
In this course we will investigate a variety of topics of recent interest within moral epistemology. We will confine ourselves to work done largely (perhaps entirely) within the last decade. Topics will include evolutionary and other genealogical debunking arguments against moral realism; challenges to the idea of moral perception; assessments of the merits of moral intuitionism. Biweekly one-page papers are required, as well as three 5-6 page papers.
941-2 – Seminar-Ethics: John Rawls on Social Justice
In this seminar, we will read large chunks of A Theory of Justice (the 1999 revised edition) , several essays from his Collected Papers, possibly all of The Law of Peoples, parts of Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, and parts of Political Liberalism. (These are the texts that students should acquire; supplementary volumes good to have but not required are Rawls's lectures on the history of moral philosophy and his lectures on the history of political philosophy). The focus will be Rawls's own writings, the development of his thinking about social justice over the course of half a century, and the relationships of his ideas to the history of moral philosophy. For contrast, we might also read a selection from his Harvard contemporary and critic, the late Robert Nozick. Students will be expected to present short papers in class for discussion (with copies for everyone in the class) and to write a longer paper to turn in near the end of classes. Everyone will be expected to contribute regularly to class discussions.