Jump to: Fall 2012 Graduate Courses
101-1: Introduction to Philosophy
This course aims to introduce students to the general methodology of philosophical inquiry, through reflection on some of the classic questions in philosophy. What, if anything, can we know about the external world? Is there a single objective morality, or are moral codes simply social constructions that are true only relative to times and places? Is there any meaningful sense in which we have free will? What makes someone count as the same person over time? What is it to have a mind? We will read both classical and contemporary selections on these topics, and through our investigations, learn how to formulate rigorous philosophical arguments of our own and to critically evaluate those of others. Above all, the emphasis will be on questioning our assumptions and articulating reasons (if we can) for things we might already believe without knowing why.
101-2: Introduction to Philosophy
Philosophy is both an area, with its own questions and history of discussion of these questions – What is knowledge? What goes into making an action right or wrong? What is it to live a happy (good/worthwhile) life? What is it to act rationally? Can we ever be responsible for our behavior? What is it for a sign to have meaning? Is having a mind the same thing as having a brain? – as well as a certain critical way of looking at things, approaching issues, clarifying concepts, and evaluating positions and arguments. The methods philosophers use in generating and conducting investigation in their own particular subject matter, as well as many of the issues philosophers concern themselves with, can be relevant to all sorts of subject matters, which are not, of themselves, particularly philosophical. Drawing distinctions, identifying underlying assumptions, generating puzzles, coming up with arguments and evaluating them, seeing what a disagreement is really about, distinguishing the letter from the spirit of positions, are among the many tools of philosophy, which can be used in other areas not only in critical evaluation, but in seeing possible issues and questions to raise. In this course, we will look at some quite general and fundamental philosophical issues, as well as some that are more particular, such as the rationality of emotions. We will be particularly concerned to bring out various sorts of philosophical tools and distinctions which are relevant not only to philosophy, but to philosophical reflection or consideration about other areas, and also to see how philosophical assumptions or claims may be present even when one is not ‘doing philosophy’.
101-4: Introduction to Philosophy
Am I morally obligated to give money to the poor? Are there objective ethical truths? What is the meaning of life? Who or what am I — am I a brain, a body, a soul? What can I know, and how can I know it? Does God exist? Is God dead? These are just a few of the questions we will discuss in this course. The overall aim will be to introduce students to some central problems of philosophy, and to their investigation.
101-5: Introduction to Philosophy
The aim of this course is to introduce the student to philosophy. We will study some different areas in philosophy and the problems and questions addressed in those areas. But we will also study how philosophers go about answering these questions – what kinds of arguments they give, what reasons led them to their views. And we will evaluate whether their arguments are good ones. These are the different areas of philosophy that we will study: Epistemology or the theory of knowledge which is concerned with questions about the nature and extent of knowledge: Philosophy of Religion, where we will understand and evaluate arguments that try to prove God exists; Ethics, where we will be concerned with whether there really is such a thing as right or wrong, and if so, what makes something right or wrong: and finally, in the last section of the course, we will examine whether it makes sense to think that human beings have Free Will if their behavior I a part of the natural, causal order.
101-6: Introduction to Philosophy
The goal of this class is to teach you how to think critically about fundamental issues. The issues we will discuss concern the justification for our claims to knowledge, the distinction between believing something for a reason and believing something on faith, the nature of mind and the possibility of free will and moral responsibility, and, finally, topics in political and ethical theory, including justice and euthanasia. Assignments include short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.
101-7: Introduction to Philosophy
This course is an introduction to philosophical questioning and the Western philosophical tradition. Through reading classical and contemporary texts, we will be examining central topics in this tradition: proofs for the existence of God, the meaning of life, the nature of art and beauty, and the nature of morality. 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: Special Topics: Good, Beauty and the Meaning of Life
In this course, we will look at some important questions and problems about the kinds of life we can do lead, as they are addressed in classic philosophical works by Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Kierkegaard, Sartre and others. As we consider the political life, the ethical life, the religious life and, above all, the good life, we will discuss a number of core values that have traditionally been the focus of philosophical concern: beauty, goodness, right, virtue, friendship and duty. We will ultimately focus on the variety of ways in which a life can become meaningful (or, in the view of some, essentially lacks meaning).
210-1: Reason in Communication
This course is about critical thinking. Some forms of reasoning are more persuasive than others, but many persuasive forms of reasoning are fallacious. We will critically examine various patterns of reasoning (arguments) commonly used in newspaper editorials, political speeches, classrooms, courtrooms, and advertisements with the aim of discerning the difference between good and bad reasoning. This skill in critical thinking may also improve your argumentative writing. This is not a course in formal, or symbolic logic like 211 although there will be some very elementary symbolic logic. We will look at simple examples of causal and statistical reasoning as well. For more information, browse through the required text: Critical thinking, 6th edition, by B.N. Moore and R. Parker, Mayfield Publishing Company.
210-2: Reason in Communication
No description available at this time.
210-3: Reason in Communication
No description available at this time.
211-1: Elementary Logic
Suppose I say, “The cheese was in the fridge when you left. If no one removed the cheese, it’s still in the fridge. I’m the only one who could’ve removed the cheese, and I didn’t. So the cheese is 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 is 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
No description available at this time.
211-3: Elementary Logic
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.
241-1: Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
This course introduces students to ethical theory through key works by four of the most influential philosophers in the history of moral philosophy: John Stuart Mill (19thC), Immanuel Kant (18th C.), Aristotle (4th C. BCE), and Nietzsche (19th C.) with brief selections from such lesser lights as Jeremy Bentham and Bishop Joseph Butler and some contemporary reflections from feminist and African American philosophers. Questions addressed by these writers range from “What is the good life?” and “What is the difference between right and wrong?” to “Is everyone basically selfish?” and “What is the importance of ethics, anyhow?” Course objectives are to offer a solid foundation in ethical theory for students who may wish to do further work in this or a related area and to develop skills in ethical reasoning for everyone who takes the course. No prior philosophy is presupposed. There will be three bluebook essay exams (review questions distributed in advance).
241-3: Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
In everyday life, we make a variety of ethical judgments, for example, that it is kind to help others or that it is right to keep promises. What justifies us in making such judgments, can such judgments be objective, and why should we live up to them? To answer these questions we shall examine in detail 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.
241-4: Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
No description available at this time.
241-5: Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
This course concerns the fundamental questions of ethics. Why does it matter to be moral? Should we judge people by their motives, their characters, or the consequences of their actionis? Should we, indeed, judge them at all? We shall look at three rival approaches to moral evaluation, and shall examine them giving special focus to questions about the moral standing of intimate relationships – between lover, between parents and children, and between friends. The course will be taught in lecture/discussion format, and you will be assessed through papers and a final exam.
341-1: Contemporary Moral Issues
This course, which presupposes no prior philosophical background, seeks to provide students with the tools needed to carefully analyze issues in five areas of topical ethical interest: euthanasia, the death penalty, war and terrorism, sexuality and marriage, and animal rights. The emphasis throughout will be on respectfully and sensitively appreciating the complexity and the argumentative structure of the various positions on these issues, allowing students to decide for themselves where they stand on these important matters.
341-2: Contemporary Moral Issues
This course will focus on four controversial and difficult moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) affirmative action, and 4) health care. In addition, to provide some perspective and depth in our consideration of the particular issues and to hone the skills of making and criticizing moral arguments, we will spend some time studying basic logic and the fundamentals of moral philosophy.
341-3: Contemporary Moral Issues
This course will provide students with the opportunity for an in-depth exploration of four areas of contemporary moral controversy. (1) Just war theory: when, if ever, is it just to engage in a war? Is war simply “Politics by other means,” is pacifism correct in thinking that violence is never justified, or is the truth somewhere in between? And once at war, what kind of tactics are permissible? Blockades, economic sanctions, nuclear weapons, terrorism? (2) Exploitation: What kinds of practices are exploitative, and why does it matter that they are? Are student athletes, surrogate mothers, or biomedical research subjects exploited? If they are being exploited, but they have consented, does that mean it should be allowed? (3) Abortion: what is the moral status of the fetus? Is it possible to justify abortion even assuming that the fetus has a right to life? What should the law be about abortions? (4) Biotechnology: does the use of recombinant DNA techniques to modify microorganisms, plants, animals, or even humans, violate fundamental moral constraints on how we should respect nature or persons? Are genetically engineered foods safe to eat, and for the environment? Is it permissible to use animals as disease models for the benefit of human beings? Is it permissible to clone human beings, or to do research on embryos?
341-4: Contemporary Moral Issues
The purpose of 341 is to acquaint students with rigorous forms of reasoning concerning live contemporary moral issues, and to help them develop the skills necessary to evaluate and intervene in public debates in a way that is intellectually honest and well-informed. This section of 341 focuses mainly on issues relating to childhood, family life, and education; among the issues we discuss are the morality of abortion; the permissible regulation of parenthood; cloning human beings for reproductive purposes; the morality of school choice; the morality of educational inequality and whether parents should enroll their children in sports leagues(!). Attendance of discussion section is mandatory. Assessment of students’ work will be by papers, essay exams, and some short tests.
341-91: Contemporary Moral Issues
No description available at this time.
341-92: Contemporary Moral Issues
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341-93: Contemporary Moral Issues
No description available at this time.
341-94: Contemporary Moral Issues
No description available at this time.
430: History of Ancient Philosophy
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
In this course, we will read and discuss selections from the works of some influential 17th and 18th century philosophers: Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. 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 Galileo, Boyle, Newton, and others. 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, the nature of substance, and the proper analysis of some concepts that were central to the new science, for example, matter, space, time, cause, and law of nature. The philosophers we will study in this class offer wildly divergent and often quite compelling answers to these questions. Their ideas and arguments remain an essential reference point for much contemporary philosophy.
435: Jewish Philosophy: Antiquity-17th C.
In this course, we will consider some classical Jewish philosophers, particularly those in the rationalist tradition, and their approach to two different sets of issues: 1. Providence, Theodicy, and the Problem of Evil, and 2. The Law: its origin, justification, and rationality. Readings include the Book of Job, Philo of Alexandria, Saadya ben Joseph, Maimonides, Gersonides, and Spinoza.
441: Environmental Ethics
This course deals with moral issues related to our environment. We will begin with a brief survey of various ethical theories about how we can determine what sorts of things are moral/immoral. With these theories in hand, we will consider a variety of issues, including: animal rights and whether we ought to be vegetarians; what we should do about population growth and increases in human consumption; and whether capitalism is environmentally sustainable.
454: Classical Philosophers (Plato on Pleasure & Desire)
What types of pleasure and desire are there? What is the relationship between pleasure and the good? What happens when desires conflict, and what does this tell us about the nature of human motivation and the unity of the individual who undergoes such conflict? How do health and disease affect what a subject desires and enjoys? What about virtue and vice? Are some pleasures and desires more valuable or beneficial than others, and if so, is there such a thing as expert knowledge concerning them? In this seminar, we will explore these and related questions in Plato’s Gorgias, Symposium, Republic, Phaedrus, Timaeus and Philebus.
503: Theory of Knowledge (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
This is a course on the sources, scope, and limits of human knowledge. We will reflect on (for example) the challenges raised by philosophical skepticism, the nature of perception and intuition, and the role of the intellect in theory and in practice.
516: Language and Meaning (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
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.
520: Philosophy of Natural Sciences (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
The aim of this course is to address a simple question: What is the difference between good and bad science? We can point to examples of good science, like Newton’s laws of motion. And we can point to astrology as bad examples of science, to the extent that they count as science at all. However, the task of philosophy of science is more ambitious than agreeing on examples of good and bad science. The aim is to tell the difference between good and bad science in general terms, which apply across many examples of science, in a way that could help us judge examples of new science. Science has produced theories about things we cannot see (like electrons) on the basis of what we do see (like television pictures). Another example is the theory of evolution, which makes assertions about common ancestries based on the fossil record and other observational evidence. Another example is the atomic theory, which is based on observed regularities in the behavior of gases and the results of chemical reactions. Do we have good reason to believe that these theories are true, approximately true, in what they assert to exist, or are they merely accurate in their predictions? Is there an objective way in which we judge the true, approximate truth, or the predictively accuracy of scientific theories? If not, then our faith in science may in many instances depend on prejudice, bias, or even fashion. Perhaps science is like religion—relying more on faith than reason.
521: Philosophy of Social Sciences
What are the social sciences? Do they have different methods and aims than the natural sciences? In this class, starting with these questions, we will explore a series of philosophical and methodological issues in the social sciences. The course begins with a short overview of some classic work in philosophy and social theory by Mill, Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. Next, we tackle one of the central questions in more recent philosophy of social science: what counts as an explanation of a social phenomenon, and is there some privileged level at which such explanations should be given? The second half of the course consists of two disciplinary case studies. In the first of these we examine the concept of culture, its influence on communication, and how this influence affects one of the central methods in social science—the interview. In the second, we analyze some central notions of modern economics and their relation to policy and human welfare.
543-1: Special Topics in Ethics (Rawl’s Philosophy of Justice) (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
In this course we will read chunks of Rawls, A Theory of Justice, some essays from Rawls’s Collected Papers, his short book The Law of Peoples, parts of his later Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, and about half of his Political Liberalism. The focus is on Rawls’s own writings, the development of his thought, and the relationships of his ideas to the history of moral philosophy, not on the voluminous body of contemporary commentary that has grown up around his books. For a contrasting approach to justice, we will also read selections from Part II of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, by Robert Nozick, Rawls’s libertarian colleague. The course will be Writing Intensive and will make use of the Writing Fellow Program. This means there will be several short papers. There will also be a midterm exam required of everyone. Those whose attendance is good (to be defined), whose papers are on time, and who maintain a “B” average on papers and the midterm will be excused from the final exam.
543-2: Special Topics in Ethics (Animal Bioethics)
This course is for graduate students and upper-level undergraduates. It is an in-depth study of the main philosophical theories in animal ethics and a survey of the ways that empirical research is important for evaluating the truth of those theories as well as for understanding their implications. Although the exact content will vary from year to year, topics covered will include the moral status of animals, different conceptions of animal welfare, empirical and conceptual research on animals’ mental lives, the use of animals in research, and the use of animals in agriculture. Additional topics could include disobedience on behalf of animals and the legal and regulatory aspects of animal use oversight.
549: Great Moral Philosophers (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
We will discuss the work of several great moral philosophers including Aristotle, Hume, Mill, Kant, Hobbes and Rawls, and some important contemporary moral philosophers 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 be three 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 Professor Gottlieb 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. The final grade will be based on the grades for the three tutorials, attendance and good participation in class discussion.
555: Political Philosophy (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
This course will introduce the main concepts in contemporary political philosophy, focusing in particular on theories of justice. We shall read John Rawls’s book Justice as Fairness, and a number of criticisms of Rawls from different perspectives (egalitarian, feminist, Libertarian, communitarian). We shall look in detail at two particular contemporary political issues: justice in the family; and justice in education. Authors we shall read include Susan Okin, Martha Nussbaum, Robert Nozick, Milton Friedman, and Amartya Sen.
562-1:-Special Topics in Metaphysics (Agency & Action) (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm? It seems there must be some remainder, for not all events of arm-risings are intentional arm-raisings. Something must make some of the physical events in the world into intentional actions. In this course, we will begin by asking what that remainder is: what is it to be an agent? Is agency a matter of some special psychological cause preceding those events that are intentional actions? Or is there some other feature of the agent’s relationship to the event in virtue of which it counts as intentional: the ability to provide a justifying reason for so acting, or the possession of a special kind of knowledge of the action? We will also investigate the nature of intention: what is it to intend to do something? How are intentions related to acting for reasons? Does agency have a “constitutive aim,” or built-in goal, such as achieving the Good, acquiring self-knowledge, or constructing a Self? What does it mean for you and me to act together? Readings from contemporary sources. Class attendance is mandatory, and will involve a combination of lecture and discussion.
562-2: Special Topics in Metaphysics (Consciousness) (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
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. Then we will spend some time studying accounts of mental representation and content. In the last section of the course, we will look at accounts of consciousness that understand the ‘seeming’ or ‘awareness’ that is distinctive of conscious states in terms of a certain kinds of representational states. We would study both ‘first order’ theories (Dretske’s and others) and second order theories (e.g. Carruthers’), which take consciousness to require a kind of apperceptive state wherein one is aware of one’s representational states.
838: Advanced History of Philosophy: Kant
One of the goals of this seminar is to gain an understanding of some of the central doctrines of Kant’s mature theoretical philosophy (that is, his metaphysics and epistemology). We will do this by reading a mixture of primary sources (for example, selections from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Lectures on Metaphysics) and recent works of Kant interpretation. We’ll focus in particular on Kant’s views on philosophical method; a priori knowledge; space, time, and geometry; intuitions and concepts; self-knowledge; skepticism; the mind-body relationship; and the relationship between things-in-themselves and appearances. Another goal of this seminar is to critically examine some recent attempts to defend Kantian views on these topics. Towards this end, our readings will also include selections from works of (what one might call) Kant appropriation * for example, Strawson’s Individuals.
The seminar for incoming students is required. It provides a background in core analytic philosophy across diverse specialties. There will be a close reading of texts and an emphasis on writing skills.
951 Seminar-Philosophy of Mind (Embodied Cognition)
Embodied Cognition has been hailed as a new paradigm for understanding the human mind, but what are its claims and to what extent does it diverge from more traditional theories of mind? We’ll begin this course with an examination of computational and connectionist theories of mind, taking care to isolate some of the methodological and ontological commitments of these approaches. We’ll then turn to theoretical and empirical work in embodied cognition. Our first task will be to identify themes that unify this work, paying special attention to the explanatory goals that those who advocate embodied cognition set for themselves. We’ll be trying to equip ourselves with the resources necessary to decide whether embodied cognition genuinely competes with traditional cognitive science, and, if so, whether it does so successfully, or whether embodied cognition offers new explanatory tools that might complement the methods of traditional cognitive science.
955: Political Philosophy (Social Theory & Policy: Problems & Methodology)
These seminars, which will meet together, will explore central methodological questions that arise in theorizing about human behavior and its social consequences and that arise in attempting to put social theory (both positive and normative) to work to guide policy. Roughly the first half of the seminar will be devoted to exploring methodological problems that arise in attempting to explain, predict, and guide social behavior. The seminar will then turn to the special problems that arise when one attempts to use social theories to devise policies that will promote normative goals. During the second half of the seminar, students in groups of fours will study works by social scientists on the faculty here at UW and carry out videotaped interviews with the faculty members whose work the students have studied concerning methodology. The last meetings of the seminar will be devoted to viewing and discussing the videotapes.
960: Metaphysics Seminar (Personal Identity)
This seminar will investigate metaphysical and normative issues surrounding personal identity. After a little historical background, we will focus on Derek Parfit’s work on identity and survival, and its aftermath. This will include looking at whether, and if so, in what ways, his metaphysical results about identity and survival have consequences for rationality and morality. We will then turn to more recent developments in the literature, both associated with Eric Olson – (1) the rise of animalism, also known as the biological view of personal identity, and (2) his book What Are We?, which focuses on personal ontology rather than identity per se.