Current and Upcoming Courses

Fall 2021 Courses

Jump to: Fall 2021 Graduate Courses
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101-1 Introduction to Philosophy

9:55am – 10:45am MWF
Steven Nadler

An introduction to some of the major problems and methods of philosophy. We will consider topics from ethics/moral philosophy, political philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion. Among the questions we will discuss are: What is good and bad? What makes an action right or wrong? What is happiness? Must you be a morally good person in order to be happy? Are we obliged to obey the state and its laws? What is the nature of reality—what kinds of things are really real? What is knowledge and how do we acquire it? Are human beings free? Is the belief in God a matter of knowledge or only a matter of faith? Would immortality be desirable? And, of course, the best question of all: What is the meaning of life? The readings include Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Epicurus, Descartes, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Paul Sartre, and a number of contemporary philosophers.

101-2 Introduction to Philosophy

11:00am – 11:50am MWF
James 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 39 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.

101-3 Introduction to Philosophy

9:30am – 10:45am TR
Martha Gibson

The aim of this course is to introduce the student to philosophy, both the subject matter and the method. 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. We will evaluate whether their arguments are good ones, and try to understand what work needs to be done to build adequate theories. The different areas of philosophy we will study include the following : Epistemology or the theory of knowledge which is concerned with questions about the nature and extent of Knowledge; Philosophy of Religion, where we will examine arguments for and against the existence of God; Ethics, where the focus will be on whether there really is such a thing as right or wrong, and if so, what makes something right or wrong; and finally, Free Will, where we will examine whether human beings can have free will if their actions are a part of the natural, causal order.

101-4 Introduction to Philosophy

1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Lecturer

Open to all students but preference will be given to Freshmen & Sophomores who have had no previous philosophy course other than 210, 211, 253 or 254.

101-5 Introduction to Philosophy

12:05pm – 12:55pm MWF
Lecturer

Open to all students but preference will be given to Freshmen & Sophomores who have had no previous philosophy course other than 210, 211, 253 or 254.

101-6 Introduction to Philosophy

2:30pm – 3:45pm TR
Lecturer

Open to all students but preference will be given to Freshmen & Sophomores who have had no previous philosophy course other than 210, 211, 253 or 254.

104-1 Spec Topics in Philosophy for Freshmen

Topic: Altruism and Selfishness
1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Elliot Sober

This seminar will study work in evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and philosophy on altruism and selfishness. Is the human mind wired so that we care ultimately only about our own well-being, and consider the well-being of others only in so far as it affects our own well-being? Is natural selection always a process in which selfish traits increase in frequency in a population and altruistic traits decline? These scientific questions are fascinating in their own right, and they also raise a host of philosophical questions.

104-2 Spec Topics in Philosophy for Freshmen

Topic: Living with Artificial Intelligence
1:00pm – 2:15pm TR Honors Only
Hayley Clatterbuck

Machine learning algorithms have already surpassed human performance in many areas, including image recognition, performance at Go and chess, and even mathematical discovery. The rise of artificial intelligence raises many deep philosophical questions. In the metaphysical domain, we might wonder, what does it mean to be human in a world where computers can do much of what we have traditionally thought to be unique to us? What can machine learning tell us about our own minds? Ethically, we need to ask how ought to live with our machine peers. As we offload tasks to AIs, how do we make sure that their values align with ours? Do AIs deserve rights like us?

141-1 The Meaning of Life

11:00am – 11:50am MWF
Lecturer

This course enters the subject of philosophy through a question that is familiar to nearly every student: What is the meaning of life? This question will be approached through reading both classical philosophical works (by Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Tolstoy, Kant, etc.) and the works of contemporary philosophers (Wolf, Nozick, Nagel, Kazez, etc.).

210-1 Reason in Communication

9:55am – 10:45am MWF
Lecturer

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

12:05pm – 12:55pm MWF
Peter 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

11:00am – 11:50am MWF
John 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.

211-3 Elementary Logic

1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Bruno Whittle

Logic is the study of arguments. An argument, in this sense, is a bit of reasoning, that starts from certain assumptions, and extracts some piece of information from these. For example: Helen is a bear; all bears gamble; therefore, Helen gambles. There are two things that we can ask about an argument. (a) Are the starting points true? And (b) does the end point really follow from these? We will focus on (b). (Your other classes should all, in one way or another, help you with (a).) We will learn some general techniques for determining whether a claim follows from some others. These will allow us to evaluate arguments regardless of their subject matter—be it chemistry, politics, or where to go for dinner. We will use a precise artificial language that allows perspicuous representations of natural language arguments, and that also allows rigorous methods for determining what follows from what.

241-1 Introductory Ethics (Fulfills Category B)

9:55am – 10:45am MWF
Paula Gottlieb

In everyday life, we make a variety of ethical judgments, for example, that it is kind to help others or that it is wrong to break promises. What justifies us in making such judgments, can such judgments be objective, and why and how should we live up to them? To answer these questions, we shall examine various representative moral theories including Utilitarianism, Kantian Theory and Virtue Ethics, and we shall also consider the views of human nature that underlie them. The main readings for the course will be recognized classics from the history of ethics. However, we shall also be considering these in the light of contemporary philosophical developments and concerns, including those of African American philosophers and feminist thinkers.

241-2 Introductory Ethics

1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Russ Shafer-Landau

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

241-3 Introductory Ethics

12:05pm – 12:55pm MWF
Lecturer

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

243-1 Ethics in Business

11:00am – 11:50am MWF
Lecturer

Case studies of moral issues in business; types or reasons appealed to for settlement.

243-3 Ethics in Business

1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Lecturer

Case studies of moral issues in business; types or reasons appealed to for settlement.

304-1 Topics in Philosophy: Humanities

Topic: African Philosophy
11:00am – 11:50am MWF
Henry Southgate

This course is an introduction to the philosophical tradition of Africa and the African diaspora, which investigates that tradition on both its own terms and as a critical encounter with Western philosophy. Students will encounter a wide historical range of texts—from precolonial to postcolonial, from emancipation through the Civil Rights movement to postmodernism—spanning several areas of philosophy—ethics, politics, aesthetics, critical race theory, epistemology, and ontology. Our study of these texts will be guided by questions that are as historically influential as they are timely. Questions such as: What is Africana philosophy, and is there a distinctly Black philosophical tradition? What has counted as “knowledge” in the history of Africana philosophy? How should we understand the concept of race, and how ought the problems of racial divisions be overcome? What is the proper relationship between individuals and their community? This course is accessible to students from a wide range of academic backgrounds. Previous study of philosophy is not required.

304-2 Topics in Philosophy: Humanities

Topic: Love, Sex and Friendship
7:00pm – 9:30pm W
Harry Brighouse

Prerequisites: Consent of Instructor (must have taken 104 in Fall 2019 with Harry Brighouse)

This course is about love, sex, friendship and partiality. Philosophers spend a lot of time thinking about the structure of thought, language, and reasons. They have, at least in the western tradition, paid less attention to the more visceral and emotional aspects of human experience. In this course, we’ll use some of the tools developed in philosophy to examine questions central to most of our lives: what makes a relationship a friendship?; what do we owe our friends, and how can we be good friends?; what is love, and why is it such an important feature of human life?; when is love bad, and when is it good?; what is sex?; when is sex wrong, and when is it good?; can friends be lovers?

We’ll take our starting points as the readings that I have assigned. But this is primarily a discussion-based class; I want you to think hard about what we read and the issues that get raised, and to contribute to each other’s (and my) learning about them.

341-1 Contemporary Moral Issues

9:55am – 10:45am MWF
Lecturer

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.

341-2 Contemporary Moral Issues

9:30am – 10:45am TR
Lecturer

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.

341-3 Contemporary Moral Issues

1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Lecturer

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.

341-4 Contemporary Moral Issues

11:00am – 11:50am MWF
Lecturer

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.

341 Contemporary Moral Issues (Fulfills Comm B)

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.

Lec. 91 8:50 – 9:40 MTWR
Lec. 92 9:55 – 10:45 MTWR
Lec. 93 11:00 – 11:50 MTWR
Lec. 94 12:05 – 12:55 MTWR
Lec. 95 1:20 – 2:10 MTWR
Lec. 96 9:55 – 10:45 MTWR
Lec. 97 11:00 – 11:50 MTWR

430-1 History of Ancient Philosophy

1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Emily 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.

503-1 Theory of Knowledge (Fulfills Category A)

1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Michael Titelbaum

We will survey epistemology by focusing on three large epistemological problems and considering the issues that arise in attempting to resolve them. Readings will primarily be from academic articles written by contemporary philosophers. Topics covered will include: knowledge (what does it take to know something?), justification (how can our beliefs be justified?), skepticism (do we know a material world exists?), closure (do I know everything that’s entailed by what I know?), internalism vs. externalism (does the justification of my beliefs depend on anything besides my other beliefs?), and disagreement (should any two people with the same evidence draw the same conclusion?). Previous experience reading and writing philosophical papers is required.

511-1 Symbolic Logic

11:00am – 11:50am MWF
Peter Vranas

It is natural to assume that, given any mathematical conjecture, there is either a proof of the conjecture or a counterexample to it. A proof or a counterexample may take centuries to discover, or may even never be discovered, but the natural assumption is that either a proof or a counterexample exists. This assumption is shown to be false by Gӧdel’s celebrated First Incompleteness Theorem: some mathematical conjectures have neither a proof nor a counterexample (although they are still true or false). This revolutionary result is the focus of this course; the emphasis is on understanding the result and the concepts that are related to it, not on formal proofs. The course also examines some philosophical implications of the result, including the question: does Gӧdel’s result show that humans are not identical to machines?

516-1 Language and Meaning (Fulfills Category A)

9:30am – 10:45am TR
John Mackay

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

534-1 Ethics and the Brain

1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Karola Kreitmair

What is the mind? Today, most philosophers and neuroscientists believe it is, in one way or another, just the brain. Brain research is progressing at a staggering pace. Neuroimaging technology seems to be closing in on ‘thought identification’, i.e. determining an individual’s thought content merely by scanning the brain. Do we have a right to keep our thoughts private or is it permissible to use imaging technologies, perhaps in judicial settings, to identify someone’s thoughts? What happens to our concepts of moral responsibility when a brain scan reveals abnormalities in the brain? Do these findings have bearing on our understanding of free will? Simple drugs can prevent the forming of memories of painful events. Should we take these drugs to shield ourselves from traumatic memories or is it good for us to remember unpleasant events in order to learn and grow from them? Neurotechnology and pharmacology that enhances cognition is advancing rapidly. Is manipulating our brains into smarter, more efficient ones ethical? Neurowearables allow us to track and interfere with brain activity. What does this mean for how we live our everyday lives? And what happens to the massive amounts of brain data generated? Patients are surviving severe brain injuries with massive neurological damage and unclear levels of preserved conscious experience. What is the ethically appropriate decision regarding the use of technology and life-sustaining treatments for these individuals? Armed with a foundation in ethical theory and philosophical methodology, we will consider these questions and others like them. While this course requires no previous knowledge of philosophy or neuroscience, it is designed for advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

541-1 Modern Ethical Theories (Fulfills Category B)

Topic: Ethics
11:00am – 12:15pm TR
Emily Fletcher

This course will cover three main types of ethical theory: virtue ethics, consequentialism, and deontology. We will investigate their historical roots and how they continue to shape contemporary debates in normative ethics. In addition, we will discuss a variety of topics and concerns brought into contemporary ethical discourse by feminist philosophers. Topics include love, friendship, manipulation and deception, the value of anger (both interpersonal and political), disability, what constitutes a meaningful life, how to become a good person, and whether morality should be the primary value that structures one’s life.

549-1 Great Moral Philosophers (Fulfills Category B)

2:25pm – 3:15pm MWF
Paula Gottlieb

We will discuss the work of several great moral philosophers, for example, Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Mill and Kant, and some important contemporary moral philosophers, especially women, who develop or criticize these different approaches to ethics. The aim of the course is to gain a critical appreciation of the insights of each of these philosophers. How much time we spend on each philosopher and on each topic will depend on the interests of the participants in the course. There will also be tutorials. Class participants will be asked to write a series of 1500-word essays answering specific and challenging questions on assigned texts or particular topics. They will then come in pairs to see the professor for an hour or so, during which time they will read out and discuss their work. Grades will be assigned to the written work. The point of the tutorial is purely educational and fun.

555-1 Political Philosophy (Fulfills Category B)

2:30pm – 3:45pm MW
Harry Brighouse

This course is an advanced introduction to political philosophy as it is practiced today. We shall look at leading contemporary theories of distributive justice, such as egalitarian liberalism and libertarianism, and shall explore contemporary issues of interest to political philosophers, such as the rights and responsibilities of victims of injustice, justice and the family, justice in the education system, and how justice matters for personal and intimate relationships.

560-1 Metaphysics (Fulfills Category A)

Topic: Modality and Persons
11:00pm – 12:15pm TR
Alan Sidelle

In this class, we will be looking at a number of related issues in metaphysics, under two major headings: (1) Modality/Essence/Possible Worlds – The central claims of philosophy are often thought to be necessarily true, if true at all: Scientists can investigate what is actually true; philosophers are concerned with what must be true – essences, definitions, ‘accounts’, analyses, ‘natures’. Philosophers often describe and explain things in terms of possible worlds – something is necessary if it is true in all possible worlds; we test theories and definitions by asking ‘Is there a possible world where…?, and lots of others. What are we committed to with this possible world talk? Additionally, we particularly use possible worlds to talk about possibilities and essences for individuals –but this seems to involve/require that individuals exist in multiple possible worlds. What are the conditions for a given object to exist in another world? Do we need an account of this, to understand talk about alternative possibilities for given things, like ‘Joe might have gone to tech school?’ or ‘Would that apple have turned brown if you lemon juice on it?’? One particular idea that has been extensively discussed is that an object could not exist without the particular origin it actually had – perhaps you had to have the (biological) parents you had. We will look at some arguments for this view and puzzles that arise. If we have time, we will also look at how possible worlds have been put to use in a very influential account of causation. (2) Personal identity through time – Each of you was once in the first grade: What makes it true that that first grader has persisted, is not dead? Under what conditions does a person continue, or cease, to exist? Various things of importance seem to hinge on facts about personal identity: desert or punishment for some earlier deed seems to require that you – not someone else – performed that deed. We seem to have special concern for our own future selves, but not necessarily for others. It seems to be irrational for me to do things that will make things worse for myself later on, like gambling away my retirement money, but if I do this with your money, it seems not irrational, but instead immoral. We will focus on theories of personal identity, and then move to Derek Parfit’s recent work which challenges the tie between personal identity and these other matters that seem to depend upon it. We will look at Eric Olsen’s recent work, which argues, against prevalent psychological views, that persons are essentially animals.

562-1 Special Topics in Metaphysics (Fulfills Category A)

Topic: Consciousness
1:00pm – 2:15pm TR
Martha Gibson

In this course, we will focus on issues regarding whether consciousness can be accounted for in a purely physical world. We will begin studying classical and contemporary arguments for dualism and physicalism. (E.g., Descartes, Jackson, Kripke, Lewis, Chalmers). Then we will look at three different kinds of representational theories of consciousness that understand the ‘seeming’ or ‘awareness’ that is distinctive of conscious states in terms of a certain kinds of representational states. We will study both ‘first order’ theories (Tye and Dretske) and second order theories (e.g. Carruthers, Rosenthal, Lycan), which take consciousness to require a kind of apperceptive state wherein one is aware of one’s representational states. And finally, we will look at theories which are ‘self-representational’, maintaining that conscious states are ones that have a dual aspect, representing outwardly as first order theories maintain, but also inwardly, representing an aspect of the subject who is in the state (Gennaro, Harman, Van Gulick, etc.). (Some work will also be done on the nature of mental representation generally, and then as it applies to the issue of consciousness).

562-2 Special Topics in Metaphysics (Fulfills Category A)

Topic: Paradoxes
4:00pm – 5:15pm TR
Bruno Whittle

A paradox is an argument that leads from apparently innocuous starting points to an abominable conclusion. For example, consider this sentence: ‘this very sentence is false’. This is either true or false (it seems). Suppose first that it is true. Well, then what it says must be the case: i.e. it is false! So it can’t be true; rather it is false. But then it’s true after all! That is, the sentence would seem to be both true and false—but surely that is impossible! Such arguments are fun to think about, in and of themselves. But they are also connected to a broad range of philosophical issues. For example, versions of the (ancient) paradox just given have been used to argue that there are limits on what we can say or know; that classical logic must be changed; or even that there are different sizes of infinity. This class will consider a range of paradoxes, and the broader issues that they are connected to. Familiarity with Philosophy 211 will be assumed, but no logical knowledge beyond that.

565-1 Ethics of Modern Biotechnology

2:30pm – 3:45pm TR
Rob Streiffer

This course is for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students. It is an in-depth study of a selection of ethical issues arising from the application of modern biotechnology to microorganisms, plants, non-human animals, and human beings. Topics vary but will typically include: intrinsic objections to genetic engineering (GE); doomsday arguments and the precautionary principle; political philosophy and the regulation of GE foods; the ethics of labeling GE food; environmental ethics and GE crops; the humanitarian argument for agricultural biotechnology; animal welfare, animal rights, and GE animals; human/animal chimeras; human cloning; human enhancement; and intellectual property and biotechnology. We will aim at a discussion that is informed both by empirical research and by work done in ethical theory, political philosophy, and other relevant disciplines, and whose character is rigorous, clear, nuanced, and unbiased.

701 Reading Seminars (combined with Graduate Seminars)

Instructor Consent

701-001 Reading Seminars

Topic: Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy
3:30pm – 5:30 M
James Messina

701-001 meets with 835. Please see the description of 835 below.

701-002 Reading Seminars

Topic: ProSeminar
1:15pm – 3:15pm M
Alan Sidelle

701-002 meets with 902. Please see the description of 902 below.

701-003 Reading Seminars

Topic: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
4:00pm – 6:00pm R
Jesse Steinberg

701-003 meets with 941-1. Please see the description of 941-1 below.

701-004 Reading Seminars

Topic: Issues in MetaEthics
4:00pm – 6:00pm T
Russ Shafer-Landau

701-004 meets with 941-2. Please see the description of 941-2 below.

701-005 Reading Seminars

Topic: Greatest Phil Mind Hits of the 00s and 10s!
1:15pm – 3:15pm F
Larry Shapiro

701-005 meets with 951-1. Please see the description of 951-1 below.

701-006 Reading Seminars

Topic: Linguistic and Nonlinguistic Thought
1:15pm – 3:15pm W
Hayley Clatterbuck

701-006 meets with 951-2. Please see the description of 951-2 below.

835-1 Advanced History-Philosophy

Topic: Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy
3:30pm – 5:30 M
James Messina

We will work through key portions of some of the main works of Kant’s mature theoretical philosophy, including the Critique of Pure Reason, the Prolegomena, and the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. While we will try to get an overall sense of how the various parts of Kant’s theoretical philosophy fit together, I’d (selfishly) like for us to focus on topics that are central to the book I am writing. These topics include the nature of space and time; laws of nature; philosophical methodology; the nature of science and scientific knowledge; the relationship between metaphysics, physics, and geometry; and the existence and role of God.

902-1 Proseminar in Philosophy

1:15pm – 3:15pm M
Alan Sidelle

This is a class for all and only first year philosophy graduate students. This class is an advanced introduction to central concepts in analytic philosophy: a bit of history (Frege, Russell, Logical Positivism, Quine) and classic texts. There will be short, weekly writing assignments, and each student will be expected to give a presentation at some point during the semester. Active participation is also expected.

904-1 Teaching Philosophy

4:00pm – 6:00pm W
Harry Brighouse

Becoming a better teacher requires that you have good content knowledge, but it also involves the development and practice of complex skills. What we’ll do in this class is very preliminary: we’ll introduce you to some specific strategies that will help you induce your students to learn; we’ll develop a common language for discussing teaching and (by actually discussing specific instances of teaching and learning); and we’ll introduce you to some intellectual resources for considering and reflecting on the kinds of issues that will arise regularly throughout your career as a teacher.

Because we want to introduce strategies, because strategies can’t work without content, and because there is some literature we want you to think about, we’ll structure most classes by using the strategies we want you to learn to facilitate discussion of the literature we want you to think about.

941-1 Seminar-Ethics

Topic: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
4:00pm – 6:00pm R
Jesse Steinberg

We’ll wrestle with intertwined issues having to do with moral responsibility/appraisability, character traits/dispositions, and abilities. Some of this will have to do with traditional debates regarding free will and whether certain versions of compatibilism are true, whether principles like OIC (ought implies can) and PAP (the principle of alternate possibilities) should be accepted, and the extent to which things like overwhelming phobias, addictions, ingrained habits, or compulsions might impact our assessment of agents with respect to the moral status of their actions, whether such agents are rational, etc. As part of this discussion, we’ll wrestled with related cases having to do with agents who seem to play little causal role in bringing about certain harms (e.g., in group actions) and the extent to which such agents are morally accountable for their behavior, and cases in which agents seem to be causally impotent with respect to avoiding certain harms and whether this incapacity should be thought to free these agents from any sort of culpability or otherwise reduce their moral responsibility for what they’ve done. We’ll also investigate some recent work on dispositional analyses of what it is to be able to do something and how such accounts bear on these various issues.

941-2 Seminar-Ethics

Topic: Issues in MetaEthics
4:00pm – 6:00pm T
Russ Shafer-Landau

This seminar will focus on new work in metaethics. We’ll read book manuscripts and some recent articles on a variety of topics about the normativity, metaphysics, and epistemology of morality.

951-1 Seminar-Philosophy of Mind

Topic: Hits of the 00s and 10s!
1:15pm – 3:15pm F
Larry Shapiro

Following up on the immensely popular seminar I taught in 2017, “Greatest Phil Mind Hits of the 80s and 90s!”, comes this highly anticipated sequel. Who are the philosophers on the list and which of their articles will we read? Find out next fall! Topics will (probably) include multiple realization, perception, extended cognition, consciousness, and mental causation. So, this course is essentially a survey of some of the most important literature in philosophy of mind/psychology to be produced in the first decades of this century.

951-2 Seminar-Philosophy of Mind

Topic: Linguistic and Nonlinguistic Thought
1:15pm – 3:15pm W
Hayley Clatterbuck

It has long been argued that language changed human thought in radical ways and can explain many of our cognitive differences with other animals. We’ll investigate how thinking with words differs from thinking without words. Is abstract thought, understanding, or rational inference only available to linguistic creatures? For which cognitive tasks for which it is better to think with pictures or diagrams?

Summer 2021 Courses

101 Introduction to Philosophy

June 14– August 8
Online 8:55am – 11:35am MW
Instructor: Dylan Beschoner

In this class, we will ask and (attempt to) answer some of the most pressing questions in philosophy using philosophical standards of argumentation. Some of the questions we will be pursuing in this class include: “What is justice?”; “How can we achieve it?”; “How should we live our lives?”; “How should we treat other people?”; “How should we treat animals?”; “Is there a God?”; “Under what conditions are you the same person who was born approximately 20 years ago?”; “What is race?”; “What is gender?”; “Are there even objective answers to these questions?”; “If so, how can we know them?”; “What is knowledge?”; “Can we know anything at all?”; “Is the mind distinct from the brain?”; “Could you be living in a computer simulation?”; and “Does it matter if you are?”.  This course is an introductory level survey of philosophy. We will read contemporary and historical sources. The class is designed to expose students to philosophy and some of its history, and to equip students with the skills needed to comprehend and evaluate arguments for competing views according to philosophical standards. These skills will be useful inside and outside the philosophy classroom. They will make you a better advocate for the issues that you care about. The course will also help you decide what you think about difficult questions in the first place. You will get as much out of this class as you are prepared to put into it, so come prepared to engage critically and to discuss your point of view about important questions. Prerequisites: Open to Freshmen and Sophomores who have had no previous philosophy courses other than 210, 211, 253 or 254. Not open to Juniors.

210 Reason in Communications (Fulfills QR-A)

June 14 – August 8
Online Asynchronous
Instructor: Farid Masrour

Interested in improving your skills in recognizing, evaluating, and engaging in reasoning with the added bonus of satisfying a QR-A requirement? If so, this course is for you. Throughout the course you will learn to recognize and analyze reasoning as it occurs in everyday discourse, to recognize and analyze the effect of rhetorical devices, and to follow basic logical principles and avoid common logical fallacies. We will pay special attention to reasoning in mass communication media. The course is entirely online. So, you can take it in an environment of your choice and with a timetable that fits your schedule.

211 Elementary Logic (Fulfills QR-B)

May 17 – June 13
Online 1:10 – 3:50pm MTWR
Instructor: John Mackay

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

241 Introduction to Ethics

July 12 – August 8
Online 1:00-2:30pm MTWR
Instructor: Hayley Clatterbuck

In this course, we will ask fundamental ethical questions—how ought we treat one another? what makes for a good human life? what rights do I have? how should I think about controversial moral problems? —examine answers that philosophers have given, and develop the tools to answer these questions ourselves. Course requirements will be met through a combination of synchronous meetings and asynchronous lectures. We will meet for synchronous online discussion Monday-Thursday from 1-2:30. Asynchronous lectures will be posted online.

243 Ethics in Business

May 17 – July 11
Online 1:10 – 3:50pm TR
Instructor: Camila Flowerman

This class will cover the ethical dimensions of businesses and commercial activities. The topics we will consider include corporate social responsibility, corporate culture, the meaning and value of work, marketing ethics, the environmental responsibilities of firms, international business and globalization, and more. We will also discuss more general questions about firms as social entities, including the nature of collective responsibility and shared agency. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status.

341-001 Contemporary Moral Issues (Fulfills COMM-B)

May 17 – June 13
Online Asynchronous
Instructor: Peter Vranas

Under what circumstances, if any, is abortion morally permissible? Should the death penalty be abolished? What causes terrorism, and is it ever morally permissible to torture terrorists? This course teaches students how to think systematically about these fascinating questions. The emphasis is not on defending particular answers, but is instead on providing students with the tools they need to reach their own answers.

341-002 Contemporary Moral Issues (Fulfills COMM-B)

July 12- August 8
Online 1:10 – 3:50pm MTWR
Instructor: Hunter Gentry

Is human cloning morally justified? Is life absurd or does it have meaning? What is the value of labor? Is sex work morally permissible? Are jokes morally evaluable? This class will survey a variety of ethical questions and provide students with the resources to answer them.