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Fall 2014

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Introduction to Philosophy

PHIL 100 - Verhage (Multiple Sections)

The course provides a broad historical survey of Western Philosophy. Students read selections from the work of a number of great women and men from the ancient to the contemporary period, dealing with questions of ethics, knowledge and reality, and social and political philosophy. Starting with Socrates who stands trial for questioning his fellow citizens, we consider how philosophy can be way of life and how we can pursue wisdom through careful argumentation and analysis of the foundations of our beliefs about the world, god(s), mind and body, truth and falsehood, morality, human nature, good and evil, government and society, justice, and equality.

Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 110 - Mahon

An examination of the metaphysics of the pre-Socratic philosophers, especially the Milesians, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, and the Atomists, and the ethics and political philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Topics include the origin and nature of the kosmos , the nature and existence of the god(s), the trial and execution of Socrates, theories of virtue, the nature of knowledge and truth, justice and the ideal state, the nature of eudaimonia (happiness, flourishing), and the possibility of akrasia (weakness of the will).

Contemporary Moral Problems

PHIL 145 - Bell (Multiple Sections)

Philosophical consideration of some of the main moral and political issues we confront in society and the world today, such as war, terrorism, global climate change, poverty, capital punishment, affirmative action, abortion, the treatment of animals, and hate speech. Topics vary.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - Goldberg, Gregory (Multiple Sections)

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

FS: First-Year Seminar

PHIL 180 - Smith

A seminar for first-year students.

Fall 2014 topic:

PHIL 180: FS: Race and Justice in America (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. Over the last four decades, there has been a great deal of discussion and debate over the proper role that considerations of race should play in the formation of public policy and in related efforts on the part of individuals and institutions to achieve a more just and fair society. While some argue that we have transcended race and should aspire to ideals of color-blindness, others argue that race is still a significant determinant of unjust social and economic outcomes and that we cannot adequately deal with these injustices without addressing issues of race. The main goal of this course is to make sense of and to critically evaluate moral and political ideals of color-blindness, and to see what practical implications these ideals would have in our non-ideal world. (HU) Smith. Fall 2014

Seminar in a Philosophical Topic

PHIL 195 - Burstein

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2014 topic:

PHIL 195-01: Seminar: Philosophy and Film (3). Film is popular and ubiquitous, but is it worthy of serious consideration? Or is it merely the detritus of consumer culture? In this seminar, we take film seriously, and we submit it to the variety of inquiry that we would give any artistic, literary, or philosophical text. To that end, we begin by looking at the ways in which film is philosophical, how film makers have explored traditional questions in philosophy (truth, knowledge, and mindedness) as well as how the film medium can itself be a mode of philosophical inquiry. In the second part of the class, we examine the more literary elements of cinema, including the nature of authorship, adaptation, and genre; we also look, if only briefly, at the role that gender and race can play in film. We close with "metacinema", or what happens when filmmakers make films about films. (HU) Burstein

Existentialism: Meaning and Existence

PHIL 238 - Verhage

Overview of existential thought in the 19th and 20th centuries. The course presents core existentialist thinkers and their critics - e.g. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Fanon, Heidegger, Camus - and explores important existential themes such as human experience, anxiety, freedom, authenticity, and absurdity.

Philosophy of Sex

PHIL 246 - Bell

This course explores questions related to contemporary conceptions of sexuality and its proper role in our lives. Questions addressed include: What is the purpose of sex? Are sexual practices subject to normative evaluation on grounds of morality, aesthetics, and/or capacity to promote a flourishing human life? We consider the relation between sex and both intimacy and pleasure, viewed from the perspective of heterosexual women and men, and gay men and lesbians. What are our sexual practices and attitudes toward sex? What should they be like?

Philosophy of Law

PHIL 252 - Mahon

An examination of topics in the philosophy of law, such as the concepts of a law and of a legal system; Natural Law theory; legal positivist and legal realist theories of law; the nature of the relationship between law, morality, and religion; civil disobedience; rights in the U.S. Constitution; freedom of speech and pornography; abortion and the right to privacy; punishment and the death penalty; and different forms of legal liability. Readings include United States Supreme Court opinions.

American Pragmatism

PHIL 288 - Goldberg

Pragmatism is America's most distinctive contribution to philosophy. In the 19th century, Pragmatists, inspired by the horrors of the Civil War and hopes of Darwinism, argued that truth is linked to concrete consequences, meaning is a social phenomenon, and the line between philosophy and social action is permeable. In the 20th and 21st centuries, philosophers developed these themes, so that today Pragmatism is a force to be reckoned with in philosophy. 

Seminar on Philosophical Topics

PHIL 295 - Burstein

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2014 topics:

PHIL 295: Seminar: Moral Dimensions of Power (3). This class examines how power works, both in theory and in everyday practice. Many political philosophers have distinguished license (the ability to do as one wishes) from liberty (the legitimate right to so act); yet, there has been little in the way of discussion about the way in which power serves to make license appear to be liberty. We draw on the philosophical analyses of power provided by various  philosophers, among them Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault.  Subsequently, we apply the insights of these philosophers to various contexts, beginning with a discussion of wealth, a highly concentrated form of power and examining the way uses of wealth (America's classic form of license) are morally constrained. We also consider philosophical accounts of more subtle and diffuse forms of power, including some familiar contexts and some perhaps surprising ones. (HU) Burstein.

PHIL 295-02: Seminar: Queer Theory (4). No prerequisite. In this seminar, we analyze conceptions of gender and sexuality, with a special focus on the efforts societies make in creating and enforcing conditions that are supposed by those societies to be "natural." We make a first go of analyzing the gendering project by examining the ways in which both men and women are the product of robustly normative systems. Subsequently, we examine the role that sexuality plays in the gendering process, highlighting the normative privilege that heterosexual identity brings with it. In the final meetings, we consider how the lives of transgender and intersex persons complicate theories of sex, gender, and sexuality, and examine what might constitute the proper moral and political responses to deeply ingrained practices based upon compulsory heterosexuality. Due to the subject matter of the course, we considering, in addition to philosophical texts, work in biology, sociology, history, and psychology. Additionally, we draw on the resources of mass culture, including television and film, as source materials for inquiry and discussion. (HU) Burstein.

Seminar on Philosophical Topics

PHIL 295 - Burstein

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2014 topics:

PHIL 295: Seminar: Moral Dimensions of Power (3). This class examines how power works, both in theory and in everyday practice. Many political philosophers have distinguished license (the ability to do as one wishes) from liberty (the legitimate right to so act); yet, there has been little in the way of discussion about the way in which power serves to make license appear to be liberty. We draw on the philosophical analyses of power provided by various  philosophers, among them Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault.  Subsequently, we apply the insights of these philosophers to various contexts, beginning with a discussion of wealth, a highly concentrated form of power and examining the way uses of wealth (America's classic form of license) are morally constrained. We also consider philosophical accounts of more subtle and diffuse forms of power, including some familiar contexts and some perhaps surprising ones. (HU) Burstein.

PHIL 295-02: Seminar: Queer Theory (4). No prerequisite. In this seminar, we analyze conceptions of gender and sexuality, with a special focus on the efforts societies make in creating and enforcing conditions that are supposed by those societies to be "natural." We make a first go of analyzing the gendering project by examining the ways in which both men and women are the product of robustly normative systems. Subsequently, we examine the role that sexuality plays in the gendering process, highlighting the normative privilege that heterosexual identity brings with it. In the final meetings, we consider how the lives of transgender and intersex persons complicate theories of sex, gender, and sexuality, and examine what might constitute the proper moral and political responses to deeply ingrained practices based upon compulsory heterosexuality. Due to the subject matter of the course, we considering, in addition to philosophical texts, work in biology, sociology, history, and psychology. Additionally, we draw on the resources of mass culture, including television and film, as source materials for inquiry and discussion. (HU) Burstein.

Philosophy of Language

PHIL 372 - Gregory

A survey of central topics in the field, including some or all of the following: reference, meaning, truth, analyticity, speech acts, pragmatics, verificationism, indeterminacy, innateness, metaphor, and development of language in the species and in the individual.

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Goldberg

Honors Thesis.


Spring 2014

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Beauvoir and The Second Sex

PHIL 235 - Verhage

The Second Sex (1949) is Simone de Beauvoir's most well-known work in philosophy. It is a deep and urgent meditation on a true hope that is still elusive for many of us: to become, in every sense. one's own. It weaves together philosophy, history, social studies, economics, and biology to analyze the notion of "woman" and to explore the making and the power of gender and sexuality. Newly translated, The Second Sex is an important philosophical and political document about inequality and enforced otherness. In this course, we read this text together with recent work in the field and discuss it both as an important historical document and as a still relevant work on our gendered being in the world.

Philosophies of Life

PHIL 250 - Bell

This course provides opportunities to explore philosophies of life held by influential philosophers and by ordinary people, focusing on what it means to live a good or worthwhile life. It also gives students a chance to clarify and develop their own vision of what a good life is for them. Projects include conducting interviews with members of the community outside the classroom.


Winter 2014

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Modern Philosophy

PHIL 120 - Mahon

An examination of the metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion in the rationalist philosophers Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Willhelm von Leibniz, and the empiricist philosophers John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. Topics include skepticism about the external world, mind-body dualism, the existence and nature of God, theories of substance, free will and determinism, personal identity, and causation.

Ethics and the Environment

PHIL 150 - Cooper (Multiple Sections)

This course is a philosophical exploration of one's responsibilities to the natural world. It has three main objectives: first, to provide an understanding of different dominant ethical theories and their application to animals, plants, and ecosystems; second, to provide an understanding of major environmental issues in current political debates, such as climate change, species preservation, and sustainable development; and third, to facilitate the development of a student's own ethic towards the environment.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - Goldberg, Gregory (Multiple Sections)

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

FS: First-Year Seminar

PHIL 180 - Renault-Steele

A seminar for first-year students.

Winter 2014 Topic:

PHIL 180: FS: Philosophers, Sophists and Other Liars (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing. Plato targets Sophistry as classical philosophy's most sinister adversary. Our course begins at the crux of this bitter dispute: the problem of the nature of reality and its relationship to appearance. We track this debate as it manifests in pre-Socratic and classical Greek philosophy, right up to its resurgence in contemporary French thought. Throughout, we ask how this problem of reality and appearance might matter for the political, cultural and aesthetic dimensions of our own time? Given that our world is shaped by continually developing virtual possibilities, Plato and the Sophists have laid the groundwork for a discussion that is all the more pressing today. (HU) Renault-Steele. Winter 2014

Seminar in a Philosophical Topic

PHIL 195 - Burstein

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2014 topic:

PHIL 195: Seminar: Philosophy and Film (3). Film is popular and ubiquitous, but is it worthy of serious consideration? Or is it merely the detritus of consumer culture? In this seminar, we take film seriously, and we submit it to the variety of inquiry that we would give any artistic, literary, or philosophical text. To that end, we begin by looking at the ways in which film is philosophical, how film makers have explored traditional questions in philosophy (truth, knowledge, and mindedness) as well as how the film medium can itself be a mode of philosophical inquiry. In the second part of the class, we examine the more literary elements of cinema, including the nature of authorship, adaptation, and genre; we also look, if only briefly, at the role that gender and race can play in film. We close with "metacinema'', or what happens when filmmakers make films about films. (HU) Burstein.

Fall 2013 topic:

PHIL 195: Seminar:Honor Beyond the Classroom (3).

Social Inequality and Fair Opportunity

PHIL 242 - Bell

An exploration of the different range of opportunities available to various social groups, including racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and the poor. Topics include how to define fair equality of opportunity; the social mechanisms that play a role in expanding and limiting opportunity; legal and group-initiated strategies aimed at effecting fair equality of opportunity and the theoretical foundations of these strategies; as well as an analysis of the concepts of equality, merit and citizenship, and their value to individuals and society.

Intermediate Logic

PHIL 270 - Goldberg

An examination of alternative formal logics and issues in the philosophy of logic. Topics include formal ways of modeling possibility, actuality, and necessity; obligation and permissibility; pastness, presentness, and futurity; and others. They also include informal considerations of topics like conditionals, counterfactuals, intuitionism, and others.

Seminar on Philosophical Topics

PHIL 295 - Burstein

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2014 topic:

PHIL 295: Seminar: Queer Theory (4). No prerequisite. In this seminar, we analyze conceptions of gender and sexuality, with a special focus on the efforts societies make in creating and enforcing conditions that are supposed by those societies to be "natural." We make a first go of analyzing the gendering project by examining the ways in which both men and women are the product of robustly normative systems. Subsequently, we examine the role that sexuality plays in the gendering process, highlighting the normative privilege that heterosexual identity brings with it. In the final meetings, we consider how the lives of transgender and intersex persons complicate theories of sex, gender, and sexuality, and examine what might constitute the proper moral and political responses to deeply ingrained practices based upon compulsory heterosexuality. Due to the subject matter of the course, we considering, in addition to philosophical texts, work in biology, sociology, history, and psychology. Additionally, we draw on the resources of mass culture, including television and film, as source materials for inquiry and discussion. (HU) Burstein.

Metaethics

PHIL 342 - Mahon

This course focuses on contemporary issues in metaethics. For example, we address questions such as the following: Do moral judgments express truths that are independent of our feelings and conventions? Are "goodness" and "wrongness" real properties of things, or do we simply use these terms to express our subjective preferences toward states of affairs? Can we reason about morality? Do moral considerations provide practical reasons for all rational agents, or does the normative force of these considerations depend upon an agent's subjective desires? We also consider some meta-theoretical questions about the aims, methods, and authority of moral theory.

Medical Ethics

PHIL 346 - Burstein

An examination of the issues arising out of the human impact of modern biomedical research and practice. Specific issues are selected from among the following: abortion, contraception, death and dying, experimentation/research, genetics, in vitro fertilization, mental retardation, public health/community medicine, science/technology, transplantation and patients' rights.

Legal Ethics

PHIL 348 - Cooper

An examination of the issues associated with lawyers' roles in society and their impact upon and obligations to the client, the court, and the legal profession. The course also addresses questions of the role and function of law and the adversary system.

Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 375 - Gregory

A consideration and assessment of dualism and materialism and of various theories of the relation between the mental and the physical, such as the identity theory, functionalism, and supervenience.

Seminar on A Living Philosopher

PHIL 399 - Verhage

Philosophy has a long and distinguished history. It is also an amazingly lively and active area of current research. In this seminar, students engage in an in-depth examination of the work of a major contemporary philosopher, including relevant material from other authors. Toward the end of the term, that philosopher visits campus for a few days to meet with students in class and give a lecture open to the university at large. Students have the opportunity to exchange ideas with, and critique the ideas of, someone at the forefront of the field. This course may be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different. Majors who are pursuing Honors may also chose to take PHIL 399 in place of one of their 10 courses in philosophy.

Winter 2014 topic:

PHIL 399: Seminar on A Living Philosopher: Knowlefge and Identity (3). In the heated debates over identity politics, few theorists have looked carefully at the conceptualizations of identity assumed by all sides. Linda Alcoff's work fills this gap. Drawing on both philosophical sources as well as theories and empirical studies in the social sciences, Alcoff makes a strong case that identities are not like special interests, nor are they doomed to oppositional politics, nor do they inevitably lead to conformism, essentialism, or reductive approaches to judging others. Identities are historical formations and their political implications are open to interpretation. But identities such as race and gender also have a powerful visual and material aspect that eliminativists and social constructionists often underestimate. (HU) Verhage.

Directed Individual Study

PHIL 403 - Bell, Gregory (Multiple Sections)

May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Bell

Honors Thesis.