University of Wisconsin–Madison

Current and Upcoming Courses

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Fall 2018 Courses

Spring 2019 Courses

Jump to: Spring 2019 Graduate Courses

101-1 Introduction to Philosophy

1:00-2:15 TR
Bengson

This course is an introduction to central problems of philosophy and basic methods of philosophical inquiry. Students will learn and practice a variety of skills, including tools for analysis and argumentation. Students will also acquire a body of knowledge, concerning philosophical questions, as well as possible answers to them. Topics include: the ultimate nature of reality; the possibility of knowledge; the threat of illusion and bias; the foundation of morality; the identity of persons; the badness (or not) of death; the existence (or nonexistence) of God; and the scope of good and evil.

101-2 Introduction to Philosophy

11:00-12:15 TR
Shapiro

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 are 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 “What, if anything, can we know about the world?,” “Do you have free will?,” “Are you the same person now as the person who was born eighteen years ago?,” “What should a just society look like?,” and “Is abortion morally permissible?”. We will then examine some classical answers to these questions and will evaluate them critically. Graded assignments include a logic quiz, three exams, and three short papers.

101-6 Introduction to Philosophy

12:05 MWF
Lecturer

This course provides an overview of some central questions of philosophy, and explains how philosophers go about investigating them. We will cover questions concerning the relation between mind and body, the nature of knowledge, the existence of the universe, moral obligation and value (what makes an action right vs. wrong?), and belief vs. nonbelief in God. We will also learn logical reasoning skills, which we will apply when discussing these questions. Assignments include short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.

101-8 Introduction to Philosophy

9:55 MWF
Messina

In this course, you will gain a sense of what philosophy is, what it is good for, and how it is done. We will proceed by considering answers to philosophical questions like the following: What, if anything, makes me at 37 years old the same person I was when I was 16? Do I have an immortal soul? If death is the total and permanent annihilation of my existence, what attitude should I have towards it? Do I have free will? Does God exist? What is knowledge and what can be known? What kinds of actions are morally right and morally wrong? Is there even an objective morality? Is my life meaningful? Is it better to exist or not to exist? We will be reading a mixture of historical and contemporary sources. As will soon become clear, much of philosophy consists in formulating and evaluating arguments. Assuming you do the work, you can expect to emerge from this class with improved analytical skills and with an understanding of some fundamental philosophical issues.

101-9 Introduction to Philosophy

11:00-12:15 MWF
Southgate

This course is an introduction to philosophical thinking and the Western philosophical tradition from antiquity to modernity. Through reading classical and contemporary texts, we will be examining central topics in this tradition: proofs for the existence of God, the nature of morality, the meaning of life, and the nature of art and beauty. By exploring these topics and works, students will develop a conception of what philosophy is, become familiar with its history, and acquire the skills needed to identify, evaluate, and construct arguments. In so doing, they will be laying the foundations for a fruitful engagement with philosophy and for critical thinking generally.

104-1 Spec Topics: Philos-Freshmen

Goodness and Happiness
9:55 MWF
Lecturer

In one of Plato’s early dialogues, the Apology, the seventy-year old Socrates stands before the Athenian jury that is about to condemn him to death and defends the life he has led. In one of the most famous sayings in the history of philosophy, he tells his judges, who were annoyed by his constantly questioning the values and beliefs of his fellow citizens, that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. But what exactly is it to lead an “examined life”? What are the things that are supposed to be “examined” in such a life, and how are we supposed to examine them? And how do you know whether or not you are, in fact, leading an examined life?
In this philosophy seminar, we will look closely at what Socrates had in mind—and, more generally, at what philosophy is all about and the different ways of investigating the values that can inform a person’s life. There is no better way to do this than by studying some of history’s greatest philosophers as they inquire into the nature of goodness and happiness, and especially the relationship between the two. What is it to be good or to lead a good life? (Correlatively, what is evil?) What is a right action and what makes it right? What is happiness? Does being a good person insure that your life will be a happy one? We will read selections from ancient, modern and contemporary philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Kant, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Paul Sartre, and others.

210-1 Reason in Communication

1:00-2:45 TR
Masrour

The aim of this course is to help students develop their critical skills in recognizing, comprehending, evaluating, and engaging in reasoning. The course pays special attention to reasoning in mass communication media. Throughout the course the students will learn to recognize and analyze reasoning as it occurs in everyday discourse, to recognize and analyze the effect of rhetorical devices in everyday discourse and distinguish them from reasoning, and to follow basic logical principles and avoid common logical fallacies.

211-1 Elementary Logic

2:30-3:45 TR
Titelbaum

Suppose I say, “If no one moved the cheese since last night, it’s in the fridge. If I didn’t move the cheese, then no one did. I didn’t move the cheese. So it’s 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 must be 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

12:05 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.

241-1 Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)

11:00 MWF
Lecturer

Nature of moral problems and of ethical theory, varieties of moral skepticism, practical ethics and the evaluation of social institutions.

241-2 Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)

1:00-2:15 TR
Fletcher

In this course we will investigate the ethical dimension of human life. What makes an action right or wrong? What obligations do we have to other people or the community and what do we do when these obligations conflict? What makes someone a good or bad person? How do we make ethical judgments and can they be objective? We will examine three historically important theoretical approaches to ethics (virtue ethics, utilitarianism and Kantian ethics), as well as objections that have been raised against each of them.

304-2 Topic in Philosophy-Humanities

Appearance and Reality
11:00-12:15 TR
Bengson

This course examines the relation between appearance and reality. How things appear often diverges radically from how things really are. But how can we tell the difference? And what is the difference? To address these questions, we’ll discuss the nature of perception and the possibility of knowledge; the distinction between truth and falsity, or fact and fiction, as well as lies and bullshit; and the relation between “commonsensical” views of objects, people, and morals and the “modern scientific” conception of these things.

304-3 Topic in Philosophy-Humanities

Borders and Belonging: Immigration and Global Justice
11:00 MWF
Lecturer

In the U.S. and around in the world, questions about immigration and global justice are matters of great political controversy. Some of this political controversy reflects deep moral disagreements. In the first half of this class, we will use the tools of contemporary moral philosophy to formulate and evaluate arguments in support of various positions on immigration policy. We will examine such questions as:
1. May governments, if they wish to, refuse to admit any immigrants at all (even refugees or asylum-seekers)?
2. May governments select which immigrants to admit on the basis of their ability to make an economic contribution?
3. May governments deport immigrants who enter the country illegally?
4. May governments institute ‘guest worker’ programs (i.e., programs which allow immigrants to enter only for defined periods of time, without any possibility of becoming citizens or permanent residents)?
A country’s immigration policies are just one aspect of its relationship with non-citizens. Thus, in the second half of the class, we will zoom out to examine some related questions about global justice—i.e., the part of political philosophy that concerns justice among (rather than within) countries. We will examine such questions as:
1. Is it permissible to have a system of coercively enforced borders between countries?
2. Is it permissible for a wealthy country to give certain kinds of aid to other countries, rather than admitting immigrants from those countries?
3. What obligations, if any, do wealthy countries have towards poorer ones, and what is the basis of those obligations?
Students will graduate this class with a deeper understanding of the moral and political issues raised by immigration and global justice—and better able to formulate and evaluate moral and political arguments about these issues.

304-4 Topic in Philosophy-Humanities

Philosophy Through Science Fiction
9:55 MWF
Lecturer

Science fiction is a popular genre of storytelling that has entertained millions. Yet the value of science fiction does not stop at its ability to entertain, it can also be used to help highlight and explain important philosophical issues. In this course, we will examine some core philosophical questions by looking at some of these same issues raised in popular science fiction media. Some of the questions we will focus on include:
(1) Is time travel possible? If so, can you really change the past?
(2) How can I know that I am not in a computer simulation?
(3) Am I the same person I was 5 years ago? Is it possible to survive being sent through a transporter?
(4) Is it possible to develop artificial conscious beings? If so, would these beings have same rights as me?
Each of these questions will be examined by looking at central academic texts while exploring some of the science fiction stories that struggle with these interesting philosophical questions.

341-1 Contemporary Moral Issues

1:00-2:15 TR
Hausman

This course will give us the opportunity to think deeply about four controversial and difficult moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) inequalities of income, wealth, and health, and 4) health care. In addition, to provide some perspective and depth in our consideration of the particular issues, we shall spend some time with ethical theory. The last weeks of the course will put the skills developed in to the course to work in brief treatments of several other issues, to be chosen by the members of the class.

Course requirements will include homework (5%), quizzes (20%), Introductory Paper (10%), Term Paper (40%), Final examination (25%). There will also be an opportunity to rewrite your term paper, should you choose to do so, and there will be extra credit for section attendance and participation.

341-3 Contemporary Moral Issues

11:00-12:15 TR
Brighouse

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.

341 Contemporary Moral Issues (fulfills Comm B requirement)

Lec. 91 11:00 MTWR
Lec. 92 9:55 MTWR
Lec. 93 9:55 MTWR
Lec. 94 11:00 MTWR
Lec. 96 12:05 MTWR

A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status or consent of instructor. (Fulfills Comm B requirement).

432 History-Modern Philosophy

4:00-5:15 TR
Gibson

This course covers such major philosophers from the 17th and 18th centuries as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. This is one of the two greatest periods in philosophy, and work in these two centuries set the questions we still ask and the kind of theories we advance in contemporary philosophy. Topics will include the nature of perception, belief and knowledge, the extent of the knowledge we have of ourselves and of the external world (if there is an external world), whether the world is entirely physical or whether the mind is non-physical, what consciousness consists in, and whether humans can be free and have free will.

440 Existentialism

1:20-2:15 MWF
Southgate

Feeling like life is absurd, that existence is meaningless? Worried that you aren’t living authentically? Then a course in Existentialism is just what you need. Study the classic texts of this intellectual movement that expressed despondency about Western civilization, its decadence, and its values. Along the way you’ll meet the likes of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, and De Beauvoir.

441 Environmental Ethics

2:30-3:45 MW
Streiffer

The primary goal of this course is to prepare students to understand and critically evaluate various ethical perspectives on human beings’ interactions with nature and these perspectives’ applications to environmental issues. A secondary goal of the course is to familiarize students with the historical sources of these perspectives and with contemporary manifestations of them in the political arena. The principal ethical perspectives studied will usually include anthropocentrism, animal welfare and animal rights views, biocentric individualism, and environmental holism. We will study representative descriptions and defenses of these perspectives and consider their application to contemporary environmental issues such as hunting, the preservation of endangered species, the use of biotechnology, wilderness preservation and management, anthropogenic global climate change, and the place of the poor and the third world in the environmental movement. P: 3 cr. Philosophy envir studies, or Grad st. in IES.

454 Classical Philosophers

Platos Republic
2:30-3:45 MW
Fletcher

In this course, we will undertake a comprehensive study of Plato’s Republic. The stated topic of the dialogue is the nature and value of justice; however, the conversation that ensues touches on important questions in every major area of philosophy. What is human nature? How are human beings shaped by culture and education? What is the best political system? What are the most real things, and how can we distinguish between reality and illusion? The Republic challenges us to think about how what we usually consider distinct areas of philosophy are inextricably connected.

464 Classical Philosophers

Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
1:20 MWF
Messina

Immanuel Kant is perhaps the most important philosopher since Aristotle. His Critique of Pure Reason dealt a death blow to traditional “dogmatic” philosophy, whose proponents thought that it was possible to provide proofs of the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and the reality of human freedom. In addition to denying the possibility of proving these specific claims, Kant went further by denying us any knowledge of reality in itself. This “negative” (i.e. depressing) aspect of the Critique earned Kant the moniker “the all-destroyer.” And yet, Kant also saw his philosophy as constructive – indeed, he thought he was saving Reason and the Enlightenment. In this course, we will study Kant’s seminal book and the crucial philosophical issues raised by it. We will also consider some related texts, including works criticizing Kant’s claims.

512 Methods of Logic

11:00 MWF
Vranas

If mathematicians are necessarily rational but cyclists are not, is an individual who is both a mathematician and a cyclist necessarily rational or not? This is just one of the numerous puzzles associated with the notions of necessity and possibility, the notions that form the subject of modal logic. This course is a continuation of Philosophy 211 (Elementary Logic) and presupposes thorough familiarity with 211. The main object of the course is to enable students to (1) translate into logical notation English arguments involving the notions of necessity and possibility, and to (2) easily determine whether the translated arguments are valid or not. There is also a lot of philosophical discussion of issues related to modal logic.

515 Public Health Ethics

11:00-12:15 TR
Kelleher

This course focuses on ethical issues implicated in a population-level approach to disease prevention and health promotion. Students will explore prominent theoretical approaches to public health ethics and will engage with several ethical tensions. Issues discussed can include: rival concepts of health equity and their implications for public health priority-setting; the use of coercive or intrusive public health interventions that restrict individual freedom, infringe upon individual privacy, and/or invite individual harm (or risks of harm); the justification of paternalistic measures in societies or sub-populations that seemingly indulge in pleasurable yet unhealthy behaviors; choosing between the identifiable victims we can save with expensive measures here and now and the more numerous unidentifiable victims we could save in the future with the same monetary investment; the trade-offs between maximizing aggregate health benefits and addressing the special needs of vulnerable social sub-groups and individuals; ethical issues in international pharmaceutical research; ethical issues involving vaccination; and a special topic selected each semester. (Likely Spring 2019 special topic: public health, future generations, and climate change policy).

520 Philosophy of Science

11:00-12:15 TR
Hausman

The sciences (and particularly the natural sciences) appear to be by far the greatest human cognitive achievements. The range of the knowledge science has provided and the contribution the findings of science have made to human betterment stagger the imagination. Yet science is despised or ignored by many both here in the U.S. and around the world. Some of that contempt reflects the fact that science may threaten traditional beliefs; a great deal also derives from a failure to understand how science works and what it can achieve.

Philosophy 520 aims to give an overview of the methods of knowledge acquisition that characterize the sciences. We will accordingly consider the goals of the sciences, their conceptual structure (especially the roles of probability, causality, and mathematics), their modes of explanation and prediction, their testing and confirmation, their ability to transcend naive observation, and their limits. Examples to illustrate these discussions will be drawn largely from the history of physics and will not require any background in mathematics or the sciences.

Course requirements will include an introductory paper (10%), a term paper (40%), a midterm (15%), homework assignments (10%) and a final examination (25%).

551 Philosophy of Mind

1:00-2:15 TR
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?); mental causation (can minds cause things?); conscious experience (Why is an analysis of consciousness so hard?); extended minds (Can parts of a mind exist outside the head?); and artificial intelligence (Will computers ever be capable of thought?). Assignments will include four papers (roughly 3-4pp. in length). Classroom attendance and participation is mandatory.

558 Ethical Issues in Health Care (cross-listed with Medical History and Bioethics/Law 905)

11:00-12:15 T
Streiffer

Study of ethical issues arising from medical procedures and aspects of health care such as abortion, genetic screening, paternalism, informed consent, prenatal diagnosis, prolongation of life, treatment of severe birth defects, and human subjects research. (This course does meet the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s requirement for a writing-intensive course as described at https://www.med.wisc.edu/education/md-program/admissions/premedical-requirements/.)

560 Metaphysics

9:30-10:45 TR
Sidelle

This class is an advanced introduction to various topics in metaphysics. We will look at classic readings on topics including the nature of physical objects, possible worlds, time, causation, free will and personal identity. Among the questions we will consider are:
When does some matter constitute a material object? How does material objects persist through time? Can more than one material object occupy a given place at the same time? Is there something special about the present? Or is time best objectively viewed from an ‘eternal’ position, standing outside of time?
What is it for one event to cause another? Can two possible worlds be exactly alike in their pattern of events, but differ in what causes what?
Can free will co-exist with deterministic laws of nature? With any laws of nature at all?
Under what conditions will we still be alive tomorrow? That is, what needs to be the case for one of the people living in the world tomorrow to be me? If I am a dualist, does it have to reside in sameness of the soul? If I am a materialist, does it have to reside in sameness of body, or brain?
There will be regular reading responses, 2 papers, and a final exam.

701 Reading Seminars (combined with Graduate Seminars)

Instructor Consent

903 Seminar-Epistemology

Logic and Epistemology
4:00-6:00 T
Titelbaum

We’ll look at a number of overlapping ways in which logic intersects with epistemology. Topics considered will include: (1) Do truths of logic have any special significance for epistemology? (Are they more significant than truths of physics, of biology, of baseball?) (2) Should our beliefs be closed under logical entailment? (3) Does rationality require logical omniscience? (4) How do we come to know truths of logic? Readings will be almost entirely from the epistemology literature of the past 30 years.

951 Seminar-Philosophy of Mind

Reason and Mind
1:15-3:15 W
Masrour

This seminar focuses on the intersection between epistemology and philosophy of mind. The seminar is divided into two parts. Part one reviews some recent debates in philosophy of mind such as the internalism/externalism debate about mental content, the debate over the nature of perceptual experience and its content, the debate about the perception/cognition divide, and a related debate about the nature of concepts and animal cognition. The second part focuses on the epistemic implications of these debates. We will explore whether and how one’s position with respect to the topics discussed in the first part might have implications for issues concerning self-knowledge, rationality, skepticism and the role of perception in justifying beliefs.

955 Seminar-Social and Political Philosophy

Justice and Equality
1:15-3:15 M
Brighouse

This course will focus on contemporary philosophical literature about equality and distributive justice. We’ll do a crash course on Rawls’s theory of justice, and look at two kinds of criticisms: criticisms that the difference principle is insufficiently egalitarian, and criticisms of Rawls’s conceptualization of the subject of justice, the basic structure. . The remainder of the course will look at issues in ‘non-ideal’ theorizing: and will focus in part on what beneficiaries of structural injustice owe to victims of the injustices from which they benefit, when eliminating those injustices are not a realistic prospect.

960 Seminar-Metaphysics

Dispositions
4:00-6:00 R
Steinberg

Paradigmatic dispositions include fragility, elasticity, and solubility. Character traits like being humorous, affable, or short-tempered also seem to be dispositions. Philosophical discussions of dispositions occur in a wide range debates. Dispositions (also called “powers,” “propensities,” “capacities,” and “tendencies”) have been employed in, for example, analyses of free will, color properties, mental states, value, meaning, natural laws, and causation. We’ll spend the first part of this seminar on some of the more fundamental questions regarding dispositions. What, if anything, are they? How do they relate to non-dispositional properties–what some call, “categorical properties”? Could there be “bare dispositions” or powers that do not have any “causal base”? What relationship (if any) is there between dispositions and subjunctive conditionals? Do dispositions cause their manifestations? Once we’ve marched through these fundamental issues, we’ll consider various ways dispositions have been employed in philosophical theorizing. For example, we’ll discuss the merits of dispositional accounts of free will, mental states such as beliefs, modality, and causation.

Fall 2018 Courses

Jump to: Spring 2018 Graduate Courses

101-1: Introduction to Philosophy

9:55 MWF

Instructor

This course provides an overview of some central questions of philosophy, and explains how philosophers go about investigating them. We will cover questions concerning the relation between mind and body, the nature of knowledge, the existence of the universe, moral obligation and value (what makes an action right vs. wrong?), and belief vs. nonbelief in God. We will also learn logical reasoning skills, which we will apply when discussing these questions. Assignments include short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.

101-2: Introduction to Philosophy

11:00 MWF

Southgate

This course is an introduction to philosophical thinking and the Western philosophical tradition from antiquity to modernity. Through reading classical and contemporary texts, we will be examining central topics in this tradition: proofs for the existence of God, the nature of morality, the meaning of life, and the nature of art and beauty. By exploring these topics and works, students will develop a conception of what philosophy is, become familiar with its history, and acquire the skills needed to identify, evaluate, and construct arguments. In so doing, they will be laying the foundations for a fruitful engagement with philosophy and for critical thinking generally.

101-4: Introduction to Philosophy

1:00-2:15 TR

Instructor

This course provides an overview of some central questions of philosophy, and explains how philosophers go about investigating them. We will cover questions concerning the relation between mind and body, the nature of knowledge, the existence of the universe, moral obligation and value (what makes an action right vs. wrong?), and belief vs. nonbelief in God. We will also learn logical reasoning skills, which we will apply when discussing these questions. Assignments include short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.

101-6: Introduction to Philosophy

9:30-10:45 TR

Bengson

This course is an introduction to central problems of philosophy and basic methods of philosophical inquiry. Topics include: the ultimate nature of reality; the possibility of knowledge; the threat of illusion, bias, and bullshit; the foundation of morality; the identity of persons; the badness (or not) of death; the existence (or nonexistence) of God; and the scope of good and evil. Students will learn and practice a variety of skills, including tools for analysis and argumentation. They will also acquire a body of knowledge, concerning philosophical questions, as well as possible answers to them.

101-8: Introduction to Philosophy

12:05 MWF

Messina

The purpose of this course is to give you a better sense of what philosophy is, how it relates to other disciplines, and what it is good for. We will proceed by considering possible answers to a number of key philosophical questions: e.g. Do we have free will? What is knowledge and what sorts of things can we know? What is the fundamental nature of reality? Does God exist? Is truth relative or objective? Is life absurd and meaningless? What, if anything, determines that an action (for instance, intentionally killing an innocent person) is morally wrong? As will soon become clear, much of philosophy consists in formulating and evaluating arguments. Assuming you do the work, you can expect to emerge from this class with improved analytical skills and with an understanding of some fundamental philosophical issues.

141-1: The Meaning of Life

11:00-12:15 TR

Schechtman

This course is an introduction to philosophy through one of the best-known philosophical questions: what is the meaning of life? We will discuss the question itself (for example, what would it even mean for a life to have a meaning?) and various classical and contemporary attempts to answer it. Assignments may include short papers and exams. No prior background in philosophy is required.

141-4: The Meaning of Life (FIG Honors)

9:30-10:45 TR

Shafer-Landau

Does your life have any meaning? If so, why? In this course, we will explore these and related questions, such as: is God required to give meaning to life? What is the relationship between living a happy life, a virtuous life, and a meaningful life? Does death undermine life’s meaning, or is our mortality essential for life to have any meaning at all? Is a meaningful life within everyone’s reach, or are some people doomed to live a meaningless life? Does engaging in meaningful activities always enhance our well-being, or are we sometimes faced with a choice between being better off and living a more meaningful life?

210-2: Reason in Communication

11:00 MWF

Instructor

Argument in familiar contexts; emphasis upon developing critical skills in comprehending, evaluating, and engaging in contemporary forms of reasoning, with special attention to the uses of argument in mass communication media. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status.

211-1: Elementary Logic

12:05 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.

211-2: Elementary Logic

11:00-12:15 TR

Titelbaum

Suppose I say, “If no one moved the cheese since last night, it’s in the fridge. If I didn’t move the cheese, then no one did. I didn’t move the cheese. So it’s 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 must be 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.

211-3: Elementary Logic

1:00-2:15 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.

220: Philosophy and the Sciences

1:00-2:15 TR

Sober

This is a first course in philosophy of science, aimed at undergraduates who are interested in science. There are no prerequisites. The course is divided into four sections. The first concerns the ABCs of deductive logic and probability reasoning. The second addresses the question “what is science?” as it pertains to the on-going conflict between evolutionary biology and creationism/intelligent design. The third addresses some central questions in philosophy of science – the justification of induction, the nature of explanation, the question of whether scientific evidence ever supports claims about unobservable entities, and the difference between normal scientific change and scientific revolutions. The fourth topic concerns the role of ethical and political values in scientific practice.

241-1: Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)

1:00-2:15 TR

Instructor

Nature of moral problems and of ethical theory, varieties of moral skepticism, practical ethics and the evaluation of social institutions. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status.

241-2: Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)

11:00 MWF

Instructor

Nature of moral problems and of ethical theory, varieties of moral skepticism, practical ethics and the evaluation of social institutions. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status.

304-1: Topic in Philosophy-Humanities
Happiness and the Good Life

2:30-3:45 TR

Schechtman

We all want to be happy, but we disagree about what happiness is. Is it just a feeling, like the one you get when you spend a care-free day on the beach? Or is it a way of being, like the way you are when you’re morally virtuous? (Consider: is it possible to be happy even if you don’t feel happy? To feel happy even if you aren’t happy?) Similarly, we all want to lead the best lives we can, but we disagree about what it is for a life to be best. Is life best when it involves a lot of pleasurable things (like food, movies, art, sex, care-free days on the beach, etc.)? Or is life best when it involves loving relationships with family and friends, or perhaps the acquisition of knowledge, or instead a bounty of satisfying work? Can an evil person have a good life, or does living well require being good? And how does religion figure into a life well-lived? We’ll examine all these questions and others, through reading of classical and contemporary philosophical texts. Assessment will be based on attendance, regular participation (including in-class debates), and essays.

304-2: Topic in Philosophy-Humanities
Love, Sex, Friendship, and Partiality

11:00-12:15 TR

Brighouse

Love, sex, and friendship are at the center of what makes most people’s lives meaningful for them. We shall consider how to define love, what kinds of love are good, and whether love can sometimes be bad. We will examine how to define sex, the distinction between normal from abnormal sex, sexual identity, sexual exploitation and objectification, sexual consent, and the relationship between sex and the meaning of life. We shall ask whether sex is only good when accompanied by love, and whether it is always good when accompanied by love; and also what kinds of sexual relationship are morally permissible, and what kinds are not. We shall look at what a good friendship is, and what obligations friends have, both toward one another and toward those not in the friendship. We shall also consider the love that parents and children do and should have for one another, and the duties that hold in that relationship. Most of the readings will be philosophical, but we shall also read some history, sociology, and fiction.

304-3: Topic in Philosophy-Humanities

9:55 MWF

Schon

How to live well has been at the forefront of all philosophical traditions around the globe since their inception. In all of these traditions, the question of living well involves having wisdom and living by that wisdom. As any philosopher will tell you, no one person or culture has, or has had, any monopoly on wisdom or living well. This class will explore wisdom traditions from around the world with an eye toward learning how those traditions can apply to our lives as we live them now. We will begin the course looking at some of the ideas that form the backbone of the Western philosophical tradition, but we will quickly move on to other traditions, including those of East Asia, India, Africa, and the Americas. All of these traditions have a long history and so we will not be able to study any of them in the depth that they deserve. The hope is that by looking at them side-by-side we can not only compare their relative similarities and differences but that we can learn from them what they seek to teach us, how to live well by living wisely.

304-4: Topic in Philosophy-Humanities

11:00 MWF

Mund

As of 2018, there are 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States, and, in the past decade, 336 people have been executed by the state. These measures are prominent instances of criminal punishment: harmful government action aimed at those who have violated the law. Are these acts of punishment morally justified? Is criminal punishment in any form morally justified? If criminal punishment is sometimes morally justified, what conditions (e.g., a lack of racial bias, proportionality between the crime and the punishment, an aim at rehabilitation) must the punishment meet?

This is a class in applied ethics in which we will use philosophical tools to examine the ethical justifications that have been given in defense of criminal punishment, and then deploy that framework to evaluate how punishment is actually practiced in the United States. Topics in the theoretical half of the course include: Is it a morally good thing for those who have committed morally terrible crimes to suffer for what they have done? Is it morally permissible to “punish” innocent people if this will prevent future crime? If free will does not exist, can punishment ever be morally justified? Topics in the applied half of the course include: Is punishment in the United States proportional to the crimes committed? What percentage of those incarcerated in the United States have harmed others (rather than merely having harmed themselves)? How might racial bias be detected and eliminated from the practice of punishment?

The goal of the course is to help students develop an informed position regarding the moral tenability of criminal punishment in the United States and regarding the merit of proposed reform measures.

341-1: Contemporary Moral Issues

1:00-2:15 TR

Shafer-Landau

This course, which presupposes no prior philosophical background, seeks to provide students with the tools needed to carefully analyze a variety of timely ethical issues. 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

11:00-12:15 TR

Hausman

This course will give us the opportunity to think deeply about four controversial and difficult moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) inequalities of income, wealth, and health, and 4) health care. In addition, to provide some perspective and depth in our consideration of the particular issues, we shall spend some time with ethical theory. The last weeks of the course will put the skills developed in to the course to work in brief treatments of several other issues, to be chosen by the members of the class.

Course requirements will include homework (5%), quizzes (25%), Introductory Paper (10%), Term Paper (40%), Final examination (20%). There will also be an opportunity to rewrite your term paper, should you choose to do so, and there will be extra credit for section attendance and participation.

341: Contemporary Moral Issues (fulfills Comm B requirement)

Lec. 91 9:55 MTWR
Lec. 92 11:00 MTWR
Lec. 93 12:05 MTWR
Lec. 95 12:05 MTWR

A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status or consent of instructor. (Fulfills Comm B requirement).

430: History of Ancient Philosophy

11:00 TR

Fletcher

In this course, we will examine how ancient Greek philosophers approached fundamental questions about knowledge and reality. What is the nature and origin of the world? Did it come to be by chance, intelligence or some other cause? How do the senses and reason contribute to our understanding of the world? Is it possible to be certain about anything at all? What is the connection between language and reality? We will focus on Plato and Aristotle, but we will also study some of their philosophical predecessors, such as Parmenides and Heraclitus, as well as the post-Aristotelian philosopher Epicurus.

432: History of Modern Philosophy

9:55 MWF

Messina

In this course, we will read and discuss selections from the works of some influential 17th and 18th century philosophers: Galileo, Descartes, Princess Elisabeth, Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, Lady Masham, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Though these thinkers are a diverse bunch, one thing that unites them is their preoccupation with a set of philosophical issues connected with the scientific revolution ushered in by scientists like Galileo and Newton. The scientific revolution, which was closely associated with the so-called mechanical philosophy, raised troubling questions about free will, the mind-body relationship, God’s place in nature, the sources and limits of knowledge, and the ultimate nature of reality. The modern philosophers we will study in this class thought deeply about these questions, and though their answers often diverge widely from one another (and sometimes from common sense), they helped to shape philosophy as it is practiced today.

503: Theory of Knowledge (includes an honors section)

1:00-2:15 TR

Bengson

We will survey epistemology—the theory of knowledge—by focusing on state of the art work on knowledge, certainty, understanding, and epistemic justice. What does it take to know something? Can I be certain of anything? What is understanding, and why is it valuable? What sort of power does one accrue from knowledge, and how do power relations affect us in our capacities as knowers? We’ll explore these questions by reading three recent, and widely influential, books by eminent epistemologists: Linda Zagzebski’s On Epistemology, covering skepticism, testimony, and the nature and value of understanding and wisdom; Robert Pasnau’s After Certainty, which juxtaposes competing conceptions of the highest cognitive perfection, or ideal, for beings such as ourselves; and Miranda Fricker’s Epistemic Justice: Ethics and the Power of Knowing, on how various social and political relations engender cognitive prejudices and blindspots. Previous experience reading and writing philosophical papers is required.

504: Special Tops-Theory of Knowledge
Bayesian Epistemology

2:30-3:45 TR

Titelbaum

Traditional epistemology considers all-or-nothing beliefs: you either believe that it’s going to rain today or you don’t. Bayesian epistemology supposes that individuals assign degrees of belief to propositions: you might be less confident that it will rain, or more confident without being entirely certain. These degrees of belief can be represented by numbers (I’m 70% confident it will rain today), and then subjected to mathematical constraints (if I’m 70% confident that it will rain today, I should be 30% confident that it won’t). We will consider what degrees of belief are, how they relate to actions, what rational constraints on degrees of belief Bayesians propose, and why we should believe those constraints are rationally required. We will then apply Bayesian epistemology to better understand inductive reasoning, confirmation of hypotheses by evidence, and various puzzles and paradoxes. (Assignments include regular problem sets with both mathematical and philosophical questions, and a final paper. Prerequisites are Philosophy 211 or equivalent and a solid ability to work with high school-level algebra.)

516: Language and Meaning

1:00-2:15 TR

Gibson

Philosophy of Language was the dominant philosophical movement in 20th Century Philosophy. It is widely thought that what is distinctive about human beings is their representational capacity, their thought and language. Thoughts are private and are not physically accessible. By contrast, language is a publicly and physically accessible subject through which to understand the distinctive nature of human representation. Accounts of the semantic properties of language focus on such questions as these: What makes one thing a representation of another? How are thoughts and sentences different from other representations in nature, such as paw prints or stratified deposits’? How do words make reference to objects and properties? Do words have both a meaning and a reference? Is the meaning of a sentence dependent upon the context of its use? Aside from the particular things referred to by the various parts of the sentence, how is the sentence as a whole ‘unified’ in such a way as to say some single thing? In the course, we will study work of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Austin, Grice, Donnellan, Kripke, as well as more recent work.

523: Philosophy Problems-Biology Sciences

11:00-12:15 TR

Sober

In this course, we’ll examine several philosophical questions concerning the theory of evolution, probably including most of the following: What do common ancestry and natural selection mean and how can hypotheses about each be tested? How should the concepts of fitness and adaptation be understood? What does it mean to say that mutations arise “by chance?” Are there laws concerning natural selection? How can natural selection cause altruistic behaviors to evolve if altruists are, by definition, less fit than selfish individuals? Can natural selection help explain the origin of language, and of social norms? Does the theory of evolution undercut the idea that there are ethical truths? Does the theory undercut its own plausibility since it shows that our cognitive equipment evolved because it promotes survival and reproduction, not because it promotes the quest for truth?

524: Philosophy and Economics

1:00-2:15 TR

Hausman

Over the last few decades economics has undergone a methodological transformation. 40 years ago, the top journals were full of mathematic investigations with little laboratory experimentation, survey research, or field experiments. In contrast, here is a list of the first four articles in the most recent (February, 2018) issue of the American Economic Review: “The Effects of Pretrial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges;” “Implications of US Tax Policy for House Prices, Rents, and Homeownership,” The Welfare Cost of Perceived Policy Uncertainty: Evidence from Social Security;” and “The Economic Consequences of Hospital Admissions.” This transformation of the discipline calls for rethinking economic methodology and for explanation. This semester in Philosophy/Economics 524 we will examine the development and transformation of economic methodology in the light of philosophy of science. Unlike some of the previous offerings of this course, this semester will say little about ethics and welfare economics.

The course falls into six divisions: (1) An introduction to philosophy of science, (2) The early development of economic methodology, (3) The post World-War II methodological consensus, (4) Experimentation in Economics, (5) The Great Recession and its methodological implications and (6) New images of the discipline. In addition to articles and blogs, readings will include Samir Okasha, Philosophy of Science, A Very Short Introduction (2016), Dan Hausman, The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics (1992), and Dani Rodrik, Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science (2015).

The course will be taught in a discussion format, with students expected to come to class having done the readings and having completed frequent brief homework assignments. In addition to homework and short quizzes on the readings, there will be two papers and a final examination.

549: Great Moral Philosophers (includes an honors section)
Pleasure and Morality

9:30-10:45 TR

Fletcher

What does pleasure have to do with performing morally right actions, being a good person or living a good human life? Are there different kinds of pleasure, and if so, are some morally more valuable than others? Given the centrality of pleasure in our lives — and its ability to motivate us — every moral philosopher has something to say about how pleasure relates to morality. For some, pleasure is what makes an action morally right, whereas for others, the desire for pleasure undermines our ability to do the right thing. We will read some of the most influential moral philosophers, including Plato, Hume, Kant and Mill. One central question of the course is how, if at all, disagreements about the value of pleasure are related to disagreements about what pleasure is.

551: Philosophy of Mind

11:00-12:15 TR

Steinberg

Is your mind a physical thing? Could it be that your mind is an immaterial soul? Could we make a machine that had a mind (i.e., could think, be conscious, etc.)? Various philosophical theories of the nature of the mind will be examined in considering these questions.

555: Political Philosophy (includes an honors section)

9:30-10:45 TR

Brighouse

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a range of contemporary thinking about topics in political philosophy. We shall focus on contemporary theories of justice, and, in the first part of the course, shall read John Rawls’s restatement of his influential theory of justice as fairness. Then we shall look at a series of alternative views including libertarianism, communitarianism, a liberal group rights approach and look at a form of conservatism. We’ll then look at a series of more policy-oriented issues mainly concerning equality of opportunity, including how higher education should be funded, the role of markets in education, and the distribution of the costs of rearing children. The class is run through a combination of lecture and discussion, and you will be expected to write three papers, participate in online discussions, and in the second half of the semester groups will make in class presentations.

565: Ethics of Modern Biotechnology (cross-listed with AGR, C&E SOC, and MED HIST)

2:30-3:45 TR

Streiffer

Study of ethical issues arising from the application of modern biotechnology (including genetic engineering, CRISPR/CAS9, cloning, and stem cells) to microorganisms, crops, animals, and humans. Readings cover applied ethics, moral theory, political philosophy, the science used in biotechnology, and current regulations governing its use.

 

701: Reading Seminars (combined with Graduate Seminars)
Instructor Consent

835: Advanced History of Philosophy
Spinoza

1:15-3:15

Nadler

The semester will be devoted to a close study of Spinoza’s Ethics. We will consider the work’s metaphysical, epistemological and moral themes.

902: Proseminar in Philosophy

1:15-3:15 F

Mackay

This seminar for incoming students is required. It provides a background/refresher in central texts in core analytic philosophy across diverse specialties, and a common entry experience into graduate school. There will be a close reading of texts and an emphasis on writing skills.

916: Seminar-Philos of Language (Can satisfy the history requirement)
Early Analytic

4:00-6:00 T

Gibson

For graduate students, this course can count as satisfying one of the seminars needed to satisfy the history requirement. The seminar will about the foundations of analytic philosophy. We will study Frege, Moore, Russell, Wittgenstein (both the Tractatus and parts of the Philosophical Investigations), and perhaps their influence on later philosophers (e.g., Austin, Anscombe, and ‘Oxford’ philosophy). I know that most of you have studied some Frege, Moore and Russell in the pro-seminar. But we can select readings that need not overlap greatly with work you have already studied. So, for example, with Moore we can look not only at his rejection of idealism, but also the influence of his method, which is perhaps best illustrated in his work on free will and ethics. At any rate, I am flexible about crafting a syllabus that represents the interests of participants in the seminar, while focusing carefully and, hopefully, deeply on the work of these great philosophers.

941: Seminar: Ethics
Moral Dilemmas

1:15-3:15 M

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).

960: Metaphysics
Contemporary Big Pictures and Big Players

4:00-6:00 M

Sidelle

While it is not exactly like some of the system-builders of the past, recent metaphysics has seen more very smart people trying to take on what look like quite big questions about the basic structure of the world (at least, the physical world). In this class, we’ll delve a bit into some of that work. Some of the philosophers we will look at will be Ted Sider, Kit Fine, Eli Hirsch, Karen Bennett, Dan Korman and Jonathan Schaffer (David Chalmers?) (maybe that list will have to be cut back a bit, or maybe our readings will have to be less ambitious). The issues we will look at will mostly focus around the ontology of material objects – nihilism, universalism, essentialism, ‘the ordinary view’, deflationism, grounding, the ‘fundamental’ quantifier and the possibility of quantifier varience, ‘bottom up’ vs. other views. We will read at least some of Sider’s Writing the Book of the World; Korman’s Objects; Bennett’s Making Things Up and articles by Fine, Hirsch and Schaffer (Chalmers’ Constructing the World?). There is no guiding plan, except to introduce ourselves to these views and arguments and to play them off against each other to some extent – something of a high-level introduction to contemporary big players in metaphysics who are working on fundamental issues about the material world.