Winter 2017 Philosophy courses (undergraduate and graduate)

Click here to see the class schedule for Winter 2017

PHIL 1000, Introductory Philosophy: Major Texts (Ken Dorter)
An examination of three primary texts: Plato’s Republic, David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”. The 20th century philosopher Whitehead compared Western philosophy to a series of footnotes to Plato. This is especially true of the Republic, which is one of only two or three truly encyclopedic books on philosophy, and the only one written in an accessible style. It includes discussions of the nature of good and evil, political states, art and beauty, knowledge, ultimate reality, etc. within an investigation into the nature of justice. Unlike anthologies the Republic enables us to see how our answers to specific questions depend on an underlying world view, as much as on the specific arguments we formulate to justify them. Most of the course will be devoted to the Republic which is by far the longest of the three texts, but Hume and Sartre will show us major alternatives to the philosophy of the Republic.

PHIL 1010-01, Introductory Philosophy: Social and Political Issues (John Hacker-Wright)
This course introduces philosophy through an examination of important issues in politics and society, such as punishment, animal rights, discrimination, war and violence, equality and property. These issues may be introduced through contemporary or historical philosophical writings.

PHIL 1010-02, Introductory Philosophy: Social and Political Issues (Karyn Freedman)
This course is an introduction to philosophy through the study of social and political issues. Our aim will be to become familiar with the central theories in contemporary political philosophy, such as liberalism, communitarianism, feminism and multiculturalism. We will examine these theories in an effort to help us better understand and respond to a variety of social problems facing us today; in particular, we will try to find an answer to the question “what does it mean for governments to show ‘equal concern and respect’ to their citizens?” Other issues to be addressed include the balance between rights and freedoms, the relationship between citizenship and group diversity, and the ‘capabilities approach’.

PHIL 1050, Introductory Philosophy: Basic Problems (Andrew Wayne)
This course introduces students to philosophy through the exploration of basic perennial philosophical problems and questions, such as whether there is free will, a God, objective right and wrong, genuine knowledge of the world, and other topics. The readings for the course will consist primarily of 20th century philosophical writing.

PHIL 2000, Philosophy of Biology (Stefan Linquist)
This course explores some of the most pressing philosophical issues raised by the attempts of biologists to explain living systems. Some of these issues emerge as controversies within particular biological disciplines. For example, evolutionary biologists disagree about whether natural selection acting on “selfish” genes can explain the evolution of altruism. Ecologists disagree about whether ecosystems can be explained in terms of general laws. And molecular biologists disagree about what it means to identify a genetic sequence as “functional.” By evaluating arguments on both sides of these debates, students will develop an understanding of what makes certain biological discoveries theoretically significant. Another set of issues surrounds the use of biological results to inform public policy. Are the social expectations placed on biology too high? Or, are biologists perhaps overly conservative in their training? By reflecting on these sorts of issues, students will come to understand the significance of biological science within a broader social context. Assessment will be based on four short writing assignments (2-4 pages each) and a final. This course is designed for students majoring or minoring in any of the biological sciences, who have little or no background in philosophy.

PHIL 2060, Philosophy of Feminism I (Karen Wendling)
This course provides an introduction to philosophical issues in feminism and feminist issues in philosophy. In the first part of the course, philosophical issues in feminism, we look briefly at some philosophical issues in the history and development of feminist theory and movements. Following that, we look at second-wave feminist theory and philosophy. The second part of the course covers feminist issues that arise in the discipline of philosophy. Here we focus on what feminist philosophers have said about sex, gender, and ethics. Textbook: Lindeman, An Invitation to Feminist Ethics (McGraw-Hill, 2006).

PHIL 2070, Philosophy of the Environment (Stefan Linquist)
Environmental Philosophy asks questions such as: How has `nature' been conceptualized in the Western philosophical tradition, in aesthetics, science, and ethics? What arguments have been offered for the view that humans are superior among creatures? What connections might there be between the ways that nature, humankind, and animals have been conceptualized and the ways that humans have tended to act toward the non-human natural environment? This course may cover such topics as: climate change, resource extraction and justice, biotechnology, obligations to future generations, risk assessment and discount rates, species lost, conservation vs. preservation.

PHIL 2100 DE, Critical Thinking (Don Dedrick)
This course is designed to develop clarity of thought and method in the analysis and construction of arguments. By contrast to PHIL 2110, the emphasis here is upon informal principles of critical thinking and arguments stated in terms of ordinary language. Topics include the nature and methods of arguing, classification, definition and fallacies.

PHIL 2110, Elementary Symbolic Logic (Instructor TBA)
This course studies the basic principles and techniques of formal logic. The analysis of the logical structure of sentences and arguments is explored, together with the fundamental principles of elementary sentential logic and quantification.

PHIL 2120, Ethics (Instructor TBA)
Philosophical ethics is the attempt to systematize, explain, and justify the standards by which we evaluate our conduct as persons. The course may include treatment of controversial ethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, war, and the treatment of animals and will cover many of the following questions: can we expect to find a single, universal code of ethics that applies to all human beings, or do such codes vary for each society or even for each individual? What are the roles of reason and emotion in ethics? Is morality grounded on a principle, and if so, what is it? Are there any traits of character that one must have to be a good person? Given that traditional ethical codes have been almost universally sexist, how must ethics be refashioned in order for women to achieve equal recognition?

PHIL 2160, Modern European Philosophy to Hume (Christopher Jordan-Stevens)
In this course we will examine some of the central figures of modern thought, focusing in particular on the unique theoretical problems arising from their philosophies. From the side of rationalism, we will focus on the issues of mind/body dualism, a priori knowledge, ontological arguments, idealism, monism, and occasionalism. From the empiricist side, we will explore matters of a posteriori knowledge, subject/property relations, primary/secondary qualities, phenomenalism, necessary conjunction, and skepticism. In order to orient ourselves historically, we will begin by looking at the general metaphysical picture of the Scholastic period. From there, we will witness the development of the ‘modern mind’, reading selections from the most interesting thinkers of that period (e.g. Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Spinoza, Berkeley, and Hume).

PHIL 2170, Existentialism (Instructor TBA)
Existentialism is a philosophy built around the experience of human freedom. This course focuses on the character of the subject who makes choices, and on the personal and political responsibilities that attach to the making of decisions. The course will examine this and other themes associated with Existentialism through nineteenth and twentieth century representatives, which may include Kierkegaard, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus and others.

PHIL 2600 DE, Business and Professional Ethics (Instructor TBA)
This course examines ethical and evaluative issues relating to business and professional practices, and is intended for students registered in a science or professional program, but without a background in philosophy. Topics to be explored include the nature of values and ethical systems, duties and rights, private and public goods, the consumer movement, social marketing, corporate social accounting, private right and professional responsibility.

PHIL 3050, Philosophy of Art (Jeannette Hicks)
This course considers various philosophical questions concerning art such as the nature of a work of art, the nature of beauty, the relationship between the artist and the audience, the task of the art critic, the social function of art.

PHIL 3200, Contemporary European Philosophy (Instructor TBA)
A survey of philosophical movements mainly centered in continental Europe from the late 19th-century to the present.

PHIL 3230, Issues in Social and Political Philosophy (Instructor TBA)
Social or political philosophy is the area of philosophy concerned with the morality of major social institutions such as the state, the economy, and the family. This course may engage in the detailed examination of one or more of the following questions: what justifies the state's claim to authority? What are the proper dimensions of individual liberty? What levels of material and social equality are required for a society to be just? These questions will be pursued through reading historical and/or contemporary philosophical texts.

PHIL 3450, Ethics in the Life Sciences (Instructor TBA)
This course is an advanced introduction to the ethical implications of values and practices guiding research in the life sciences. Fields of discussion may include ethics in health care, genetics and human reproduction, environmental sciences, agriculture, animal husbandry, animal welfare, and food technologies. Material covered will be drawn from current books and articles by philosophers in this rapidly expanding area.

PHIL 3920, Chinese Philosophy (John Hacker-Wright)
This course analyzes selected primary sources of Chinese philosophy, in translation, from the Ching to Mao Tse-tung. Emphasis will be on the foundational works of Confucianism, Taoism, Ch'an (or Zen) Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism, concerning such issues as the ultimate nature of being, non-being and human destiny, proper government of the self, the family and society, and the principles and practice of enlightenment.

PHIL 4310, Applied Ethics (Maya Goldenberg)
There is a standing tension between science and justice, specifically, whether scientific research enables or hinders social justice efforts. Our investigation into the ethics of scientific research will begin with feminist science studies’ damning investigations of gender bias in even rigorous scientific thinking and the means by which scientific thinking regarding women’s “natural” inferiority has been historically used to justify women’s oppression. This line of research into scientific bias has made social justice activists weary of science’s knowledge pursuits and claims. It has even circumvented efforts to improve health care by investigating the ties between race and treatment efficacy (“race based medicine”). More recently, there have been efforts to align scientific work with justice initiatives by (1) employing science as a means for disavowing harmful thinking about, say, racial inferiority and the (naturalness) of rape; (2) reframing the goals of science towards social justice (“socially responsible science”). We will read key texts addressing both the criticisms and reparations for science and justice. Finally, we will end with a recent damning moral charge that scientific research is being subverted by identity politics—that is, scientific research is being suppressed when findings do not align with current social justice efforts. While the course readings are not finalized yet, they will include: A. Dreger, Galileo’s Middle Finger (2015); EF Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science (1996); A Fausto sterling, “Hormones and Aggression: An Explanation of Power?” in Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men (1992); N. Risch et al., “Categorization of humans in biomedical research: Genes, Race and Disease,” Genome Biology 3; J Kourany, Philosophy of Science after Feminism (2010); EA Wilson, Gut Feminism (2015).

PHIL 4360, Theory of Knowledge II (Karyn Freedman)
This course (cross-listed with PHIL 6220) will be an investigation of the idea of epistemic injustice, which is a distinctive kind of epistemic harm that arises when someone is wronged in her capacity as a knower. This idea has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, in large part due to Miranda Fricker’s Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing (2007). We will be particularly concerned with testimonial injustice, which occurs when we give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s say-so, and other forms of epistemic silencing. We will prepare to read Fricker’s book by brushing up on some familiar themes in contemporary epistemology, paying special attention to testimony as a source of knowledge. Then we will read Fricker’s book and explore its significance in the context of recent work that both expands on and critiques its central themes, including work by Kristie Dotson, Gail Pohlhaus Jr., and José Medina.

PHIL 4390, Selected Topics in Philosophy III (Mark McCullagh)
The topic of this seminar course (cross-listed with PHIL 6940) is vagueness (in language). We will work through Timothy Williamson’s much-discussed book Vagueness (1994) and the recent book by one of the most prominent writers in this area, Diana Raffman’s Unruly Words (2014), and perhaps some recent articles on the topic. (No expertise in formal logic is required beyond that of an introductory course.)

PHIL 4410, Major Texts in Philosophy (Ken Dorter)
The importance of Spinoza’s Ethics lies not only in its distinctive and powerful interpretation of reality, but also in its insistence that our understanding of ethics is inseparable from our understanding of reality as a whole. The course will be primarily structured around seminar presentations.

PHIL 6000, Value Theory (Karen Wendling)
This offering of the course will be on the ethics and political philosophy of JS Mill.

PHIL 6200, Problems of Contemporary Philosophy (Karen Houle)
In this course, we will read Hume’s Treatise in order to orient ourselves to his ontological system, and then focusing on the moral philosophy (“An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals”) he derives from his ontological premises. Then, we will study two contemporary philosophers who have taken up Hume in important and distinct ways: Annette Baier (A Progress of Sentiments) and Gilles Deleuze (Empiricism and Subjectivity).

PHIL 6220, Epistemology (Karyn Freedman)
This course (cross-listed with PHIL 4360) will be an investigation of the idea of epistemic injustice, which is a distinctive kind of epistemic harm that arises when someone is wronged in her capacity as a knower. This idea has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, in large part due to Miranda Fricker’s Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing (2007). We will be particularly concerned with testimonial injustice, which occurs when we give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s say-so, and other forms of epistemic silencing. We will prepare to read Fricker’s book by brushing up on some familiar themes in contemporary epistemology, paying special attention to testimony as a source of knowledge. Then we will read Fricker’s book and explore its significance in the context of recent work that both expands on and critiques its central themes, including work by Kristie Dotson, Gail Pohlhaus Jr., and José Medina.

PHIL 6940, Selected Topics II (Mark McCullagh)
The topic of this seminar course (cross-listed with PHIL 4390) is vagueness (in language). We will work through Timothy Williamson’s much-discussed book Vagueness (1994) and the recent book by one of the most prominent writers in this area, Diana Raffman’s Unruly Words (2014), and perhaps some recent articles on the topic. (No expertise in formal logic is required beyond that of an introductory course.)

PHIL 6950, MA Seminar (Andrew Wayne)
A seminar course in which students work on developing a range of academic skills for doing professional philosophy. This course is pass/fail and is mandatory for all incoming MA students. Please refer to the Philosophy Department website for a comprehensive description of this course.

PHIL 6960, PhD Graduate Seminar (Andrew Wayne)
A seminar course in which students work on developing a range of academic skills for doing professional philosophy. This course is pass/fail and is mandatory for all second year PhD students. Please refer to the Philosophy Department website for a comprehensive description of this course.