Summer 2013 Courses

(ACC) 3 week session: May 28, 2013 – June 16, 2013

243: Ethics in Business

1:10-3:50 MTWRF


Profit-seeking business as we now know it came into existence after centuries of moral thinking which looked askance at any activity which is aimed solely at material gain. It is not surprising that some people think that most business activity is somewhat shady, while others think that business takes place in a peculiar world of its own where distinctions between right and wrong can have no meaning at all. In this course we will rethink our moral assumptions and apply them to business as it is actually done. We will discuss the moral legitimacy of corporate enterprise, the moral arguments for various sorts of business regulation, and some of the difficult decisions which people in business must sometimes face. Readings for the course illustrate and clarify the issues covered in the course. Course requirements will include two written essays and a final exam.

(DDD) 4 week session: June 17, 2013 – July 14, 2013

101/201: Introduction to Philosophy

8:55 – 11:35 MTWR


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.

141: The Meaning of Life

8:55 – 11:35 MTWR


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: Reason in Communication

1:10 – 03:50 MTWR


Paraphrasing H. G. Wells, the president of the American Statistical Association said in 1951: “Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write”. That day has long arrived, but most people are still unfamiliar with statistical thinking and are confused by probabilities. This course provides students with the tools that they need to evaluate and use probabilistic and statistical reasoning. The course also deals with reasoning about causes and effects, and provides a brief introduction to formal logic.

211: Elementary Logic

8:55 – 11:35 MTWR


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.

304: Topics in Philosophy (The Greatest Debate: Science and Religion)

7:00 – 09:00 TR


Science and religion have a long history of antagonism. As science chips away at questions once thought to demand religious answers (the origins of the universe, the creation of life), religion has responded with a list of phenomena purportedly inexplicable by scientific means (consciousness, free will, morality), or has sought to place religious dogma in a scientific framework (intelligent design theory, the historicity of the resurrection and other miracles). This course will consider a number of topics in which science and religion face off, e.g. the origin of species, morality, consciousness, miracles, immortality, and will assess the strengths of the opposing positions. We will also consider whether these debates must have winners and losers, or whether diverging scientific and religious answers might not be in competition after all. Renowned researchers from with the UW system and elsewhere will be invited to present their views on these topics.

341: Contemporary Moral Issues

8:55 – 11:35 MTWR


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.

(HDD) 4 week session: July 15, 2013 – August 11, 2013

241: Introductory Ethics

1:10 – 03:50 MTWR


In deciding how to act, we frequently guide ourselves by principles, which forbid or require various kinds of action. Moral philosophy is the attempt to systematically explore a number of questions which arise in connection with such principles. We may ask, for example: What is it for a principle to be a moral principle? Is morality a matter of personal or cultural preference? Is God the source of morality? Why should I be moral? Is there any way for us to know what one ought to do in a given circumstance? We also ask questions related to how we ought to conduct ourselves, like whether it’s morally permissible to eat meat or whether capital punishment is ever justified. This course will examine several of these questions and the answers suggested by various moral philosophers.