Summer 2010 Courses
3week session - May 24-June 13101/201 Introduction to Philosophy
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to philosophical questions and to the kind of thinking that philosophers use to address these questions. Philosophical questions are peculiar: unlike scientific questions, their solution typically does not depend on the collection of empirical data; unlike mathematical questions, there is no formulae that are guaranteed to produce a correct answer to them. An adequate answer to a philosophical question requires an argument, and so it is upon arguments that we will focus in this course. We will consider philosophical questions, such as “Are there ethical truths?”, “What, if anything, can we know about the world?”, “Are our actions free?”, and “What reasons, if any, are there to believe that God exists?”. We will then examine some classical answers to these questions and will try to devise answers of our own. There will be six short papers (1 page), two exams, and mandatory class attendance.
241 Introductory Ethics
This course introduces students to ethical theory through selected classics from some of the most historically influential contributors to moral philosophy, including John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and Aristotle. These classics will be supplemented with contemporary reflections by African American thinkers, a feminist philosopher, and a Holocaust survivor. Questions to be addressed range from "What is a good life?" and "What ought I to do?" to "Is everyone basically selfish?" and "Are there any universal standards of right and wrong?" Course objectives are to offer a foundation in ethical theory for students to do further work in ethics, political philosophy, or philosophy of law and to develop skills in ethical reasoning and sensitivity to the nuances of ethical argument and perception. There will be cumulative essay examinations at the end of each week. (review questions distributed in advance).
243 Ethics in Business
Profit-seeking business as we now know it came into existence after centuries of moral thinking which looked askance at any activity which is aimed solely at material gain. It is not surprising that some people think that most business activity is somewhat shady, while others think that business takes place in a peculiar world of its own where distinctions between right and wrong can have no meaning at all. In this course we will rethink our moral assumptions and apply them to business as it is actually done. We will discuss the moral legitimacy of corporate enterprise, the moral arguments for various sorts of business regulation, and some of the difficult decisions which people in business must sometimes face. Readings for the course illustrate and clarify the issues covered in the course.
Course requirements will include two written essays and a final exam.
341-1 Contemporary Moral Issues
How should we respond to terrorism? According to Noam Chomsky (who has been called by the New York Times@ arguably the most important intellectual alive@), the United States is Aone of the worst terrorist states in the world@, and there is an easy way to greatly reduce the amount of terrorism in the world: stop participating in it. This course critically examines Chomsky=s and others= ideas on terrorism, and also addresses the death penalty and abortion. A main objective of the course is to provide students with analytical tools that they can use to make up their own minds on controversial moral issues like the above.
341-2 Contemporary Moral Issues
Philosophy 341 will consider four contemporary moral issues: surrogate motherhood, abortion, capital punishment, and affirmative action. To provide some philosophical tools to address the issues, this course will also present some logic and some moral theory. There will be ten quizzes and a final examination.
First 4 week session - June 14-July 11
210 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.
211 Elementary Logic
This course covers the ‘propositional calculus’, in which one learns how to formulate arguments in ordinary English (and, by extension, other languages) in such a way as to express their logical form, and then to test whether they are valid or invalid. An argument is valid if and only if its premises (the support provided for a conclusion) entail its conclusion (what the premises are supposed to support or provide evidence for). Arguments are neither true nor false, but are either valid or invalid, In this part of the course, you learn to recognize the logical structure of everyday and technical arguments so as to make them accessible to a rigorous test for validity. The course also covers the ‘predicate calculus’, in which one learns to expose the internal logical structure of statements, In the first past of the course, we were concerned with statements as a whole. In this second part, we are also concerned with the logical form within an individual statement, and add quantifiers (all, some, none) to our symbolism. This makes possible a more fine-tuned expression of arguments than the propositional calculus alone provides. There will be quizzes and two exams. If time permits, we will extend the scope of our symbolism (and hence the degree to which we can accurately symbolize, and assess the validity of, arguments) by adding such things as identity and temporal predicates.
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.
Second 4 week session - July 12-August 8
341 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.