FALL 2013 COURSE DESCRIPTIONS
PHI 100-B Concepts of the Person (II) Main Focus
An historical introduction to philosophy through readings and discussions on topics such as human identity, human understanding, and human values.
This is a historical introduction to philosophy. By reading and discussing some of the great works of Western thought, we will try to get a sense of what philosophy is and what philosophers do. We shall focus on three main areas of philosophical inquiry: truth and reality; knowledge and its limits; how to live. You will be introduced to key philosophical problems, terms, and debates. Through class discussion and essay-writing, you will try your own hand at philosophizing.
L. Gallegos Di Castillo
This course will call on you to engage philosophically with the question of what it means to be a person. Sometimes taken up by philosophers explicitly and other times operating implicitly in social relations, the notion of personhood has been at the core of how we treat one another and ourselves. To guide our exploration, the course will be divided into three categories. To begin, we will analyze the ways in which emotion and reason have been utilized to define the nature of personhood. Then, we will consider the boundaries between human and animal. Lastly, we will investigate the idea and practice of dehumanization by focusing on issues of race and gender. Throughout the semester, we will engage in a substantial amount of reading of both historical and contemporary philosophical texts. The major goals of this course are (1) to introduce you to the historical development of the concepts of personhood and humanity in the field of philosophy; (2) to develop your capacity to engage in critical reading, writing and argumentation; and, in doing so, (3) to encourage you to reflect on the ways that the concept of personhood operates historically, culturally, ethically, and politically.
This course is intended to introduce the different ways in which the concept of the person has been understood throughout the course of intellectual history. In particular, we will focus on three pivotal moments in each epoch within this history: ancient, modern, and post-modern personhood. In looking to each of these we will discern how the sense of self—which we often take for granted—has in fact changed over time. This critical engagement with the transformation of personhood may afford us the opportunity to reshape our own character with more self-awareness.
“Zombies, Ghosts, or Robots? Mind and Embodiment in the Western Tradition"
The focus of this course is personhood as it is treated in philosophy of mind—the discipline that inquires into the nature of mind, soul, and consciousness. We will trace the problematic relation of mind and body through the Ancient, Medieval, and Modern periods. In the Ancient and Medieval worlds, the problem pertained to the relation of soul and body. The Modern problem, however, pertains to the relation of mind and body. After charting this development, we will explore possible solutions to the problem. Broadly-speaking, these solutions are either dualistic or monistic. In dualism, the mind is something distinct from and independent of the body, while in monism (e.g. materialism) the mind is only a part of the body. The former runs the risk of turning persons into mental ghosts inhabiting machine-like bodies, but the latter risks treating the person into a bio-mechanical zombie, no different in principle than any other (unconscious) physical system.
PHI 104-B Moral Reasoning (II) Main Focus
An historical introduction to philosophy through inquiry into the formation justification, and evaluation of moral judgments. Students introduced to the major theories and problems of ethics, such as utilitarianism, Kant's categorical imperative, ethical relativism, egoism and classical conceptions of the good and virtue. Against this background students engage in discussions of contemporary moral issues.
In this course we will read historical and contemporary writings on morality in the Western philosophical tradition. We will oppose two main traditional types of moral theories, rational vs. empirical, Plato and Kant vs. Mill, and we will consider some current moral problems in the light of those two kinds of theories.
Students will be introduced to some of the most influential moral theories in the history of philosophy, including virtue ethics, sentimentalism, utilitarianism, and deontology. Readings include Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, and Immanuel Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. During the second part of the semester, we will focus on ethical crises and dilemmas in which the importance of the role of moral reasoning becomes especially apparent. Some themes during this part of the class will be punishment, imprisonment, criminality, and war. Readings will include Victor Hugo’s The Last Day of a Condemned Man, Emmanuel Levinas’ Existence and Existents, and Plato’s Apology.
How might we live? What kinds of relations should we cultivate toward ourselves and others? These are the central questions of ethics as we will approach it in this course. As Socrates says in Plato’s Republic, “the argument is not about just any question, but about the way one should live.” Taking up this inquiry, we will explore ethics as the practice of crafting livable lives where self and others can flourish. To this end, we will examine different accounts of goodness and virtue in the history of philosophy, and consider whether and to what extent happiness is the aim of ethical living.
PHI 105-G Politics and Society (ll) Main Focus
An historical introduction to philosophy through an analysis of political theories, theories of action, and styles of political life. Main themes will include the relation of the individual to the state, the scope of social responsibility, and the nature of human freedom.
Politics in the Classical Age of the Greeks. A close reading of Plato's Republic supplemented with sections of Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics that started political philosophy and Western Civilization off, from the people who invented democracy, but often practiced tyranny, oligarchy or timocracy, and had seen it all. Mandatory reading—in-class quizzes, mandatory attendance—in-class handouts, two exams, two short papers.
Political philosophy begins with the claim that the human is a political animal, based on three connected insights: first, humans come into existence only in and through societies; second, we have the special capacity to alter those societies and thereby ourselves; and third, we strive to know whether, how, and in what ways we should alter our societies through political action. Understanding politics is thus a key to understanding ourselves, cultivating more self-aware beliefs, and helping to create a better world. Towards such ends, this course offers a historical introduction to political philosophy with readings from Greek and medieval political thought to contemporary social and political theory. Some authors we will read include: Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Marx, Foucault, and Habermas. The two main objectives are to understand the questions and methods of political philosophy as well as to practice applying them to current issues and debates. Success will involve extensive reading and participation in class discussion. Assessment will involve reading responses, exams, and a final paper.
What is the relationship between how society is and the way it should be, and how have different thinkers proposed that we get from one to the other? This course will explore the question of political power and the possibility of change by looking at how justice and political personhood have been thought about by Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Utilitarianism, Marx, Rawls, Feminist philosophers and others. Through a critical discussion of these authors, we will ask: What is political power, and what principles should justify or guide it? What do these notions of power presuppose about members of society—who we are and who we should be as political actors? These questions will require us to think about the nature of political freedom and responsibility in relation to the state, and the connection between who we are and how we might best live together in society. Students will be encouraged to relate the arguments discussed in class with current political issues and their own political context.
Many of us claim to possess rights – rights to life, to political participation, to education, etc. But what exactly do we mean by rights? Where do they come from, and how do we know they exist? Similarly, it is commonly held that all people ought to be free. But what does such freedom consist of? What makes freedom possible, and what conditions threaten its existence? Likewise, many take justice to be the most important political goal today. But what is justice, and what does it mean for a political community to be just? In this course, we will grapple with these pervasive and important questions by exploring their classical articulations in several key texts in the history of political philosophy. Students will be expected to engage core ideas in the history of philosophy through close textual analysis and to develop original philosophical essays on the basis of these readings.
This course will provide a broad overview of the history of Western political philosophy, from ancient Greece to the present, but will concentrate primarily on Enlightenment and Modern era political and social thought. The question of social freedom – what it is and how it has been or might be achieved – will provide a guiding thread over the course of the semester, as we address issues such as equality, democracy, revolution, capitalism, communism, and liberalism. In considering these and related issues it is hoped that we will become better able evaluate our own political assumptions and views. Requirements for the course will include mandatory attendance of every course session, intensive weekly reading, regular writing assignments, a midterm and a final.
PHI 108-B Logical & Critical Reasoning (II) Main Focus
The principle aim of this course is to help a student acquire the skills of thinking, reading, and writing critically. The student develops a sensitivity to language and argumentation that is applicable to a wide range of situations and subject matters.
What makes an argument convincing? How do I know when an argument is flawed? And how can I make a lie sound more convincing than the truth? By practicing the deceptive art of sophistry, you will not only sharpen your logical faculties for reading and writing, but you will improve your ability to argue convincingly, both logically and fallaciously. It seems that learning how to persuade others with fallacious arguments entails a deeper understanding of how logical arguments operate. To this end, you will learn how to disguise the truth in a convincing lie, and by crafting a lie as more convincing than the truth you will learn how to construct arguments that merely seem the strongest and arguments that are the strongest. Lastly, by learning the subtleties of manipulation you will be in a better position to spot the flawed arguments of others.
There will be two components to this course: (1) logical tools and fallacies, and (2) the application of these tools. The course itself will follow a narrative in which each subplot involves mastery of certain argumentative tools. The class will be assigned short weekly writing assignments and will participate in group activities that advance the storyline of the course. There will also be a midterm and a final exam. You will become a better rhetorician by applying these argumentative tools to topics in the news and media, science and pseudoscience, politics, and law.
This class is intended to help you identify, analyze and construct valid and persuasive arguments. We will study the anatomy of an argument, formal and informal logic, and the role of expertise in persuasion. Please note, this is not a class on symbolic logic, students will be expected to read and understand complex arguments touching on a broad range of controversial issues. We will apply everything we learn to contemporary political and ethical problems, with special emphasis placed on issues dealing with race and gender. Topics may include affirmative action, pornography legislation and the First Amendment, and representations of women in the media.
In this course we will treat critical thinking as a tool citizens need for successful democratic self-government. We will explore what that means and what's involved in it, and we'll attempt to develop and hone critical reasoning and problem-solving skills. We will address the value of rational argumentation, discursive norms and etiquette, the anatomy of an argument, and basic formal and informal logic. We will develop critical reading skills and media savvy by investigating the roles of evidence, justification, and expertise in persuasion. And we'll use these skills to assess popular debates about social, political, and ethical questions.
PHI 200-Introduction to Ancient Philosophy (DEC I)
This course is a survey course designed to provide the background in ancient philosophy requisite for more advanced work in philosophy. It will cover all of the major figures from Thales at the start of the 6th century B.C. to Plotinus of the 3rd century A.D. Four exams will test a very large body of factual and historical knowledge as well as philosophical understanding.
PHI 206-Modern Philosophy (DEC I)
This course provides an overview of key developments in Western philosophy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We will begin by examining modern thinkers' concern to reshape the problem of knowledge and reassess the moral foundations of political life. We will seek to understand this in connection with the religious and social conflicts of early modern Europe and in view of the rise of natural science. Against this background we will go on to survey important developmental aspects of modern philosophy between Descartes and Kant.
PHI 247-Existentialiasm (DEC G)
This course will follow the development of the philosophical movement known as the Counter-Enlightenment of which Existentialism proper is a part, although all counter-enlightenment philosophers are in some measure existentialists, broadly understood. It will begin with an analysis of the difficulties that enlightenment philosophers found themselves in towards the end of the 18th Century and then trace the responses and reactions to these difficulties from Harman, Jacobi, and Herder in the 18th century to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in the 19th to Sartre and Heidegger in the 20th.
PHI 264-Philosophy and the Arts (DEC D)
A study of the arts focusing on the nature of the creative process, methods of interpretation, essential differences among the various arts, and the relation of performance to text.
PHI 277-Political Theory (DEC G)
In this course we will examine major works in political theory, from ancient Greece through the twentieth century. We will reflect critically on these works. And we will consider how (and to what extent) the theories developed in them apply to the contemporary world. Readings will include works by Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Marx, Rawls and Nozick.
Upper Division Courses
PHI 325-Contemporary Philosophies of Language (DEC G)
PHI 332-Theories of Knowledge (DEC G)
This course will survey topics in epistemology. We will consider philosophical questions such as, What does it mean to say that I “know” something? How do I have knowledge of the world? Can I really know anything? We will cover works by historical figures, including Plato, Sextus Empiricus, Descartes and Locke, as well readings by more recent authors, such as Moore, Chisholm, Gettier and Quine.
PHI 336 - Philosophy of Religion (DEC G)
What exactly do we mean by 'God'? Can the existence of God be demonstrated by argument? Should the fact of evil in the world lead one to deny the existence of a benevolent and all-powerful being? What is the relationship between religious belief and morality? Can religious belief be rational? These philosophical questions are among the most important that we can ask and attempt to answer. This course is devoted to their proper clarification.
PHI 340-Philosophical Traditions of East Asia (DEC J)
Philosophy has sprung from at least three different sources: Greek, Chinese, and Indian. This course will focus on ancient Chinese philosophy, with occasional comparative forays into classical Greek and Indian thought.. In addition to studying the texts themselves, we will be especially interested in understanding how early philosophy is related to religion and in interpretive problems raised by comparative study of philosophy.
PHI 344-Japanese Philosophy (DEC J)
The first segment of the course will survey representative philosophical forms in Japanese cultural history through a selection of the “historical fiction” of Mori Ogai (1862-1922) set principally in the Tokugawa period (though two in T’ang China) that reprise the cultural symbolic of Japan’s past in Shinto, Buddhist, Confucian, and Bushido terms, while providing his own artistic perspective. The second segment will focus upon philosophic issues involved in the initial wave of the modernization (Westernization) of Japan, centering on the “Civilization and Enlightenment” writings of Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901) of the early Meiji period. The third segment will survey some of the “war-time” philosophical issues of the Kyoto School in the 1930s and 1940s (Nishida Kitaro, Kuki Shuzo, Watsuji Tetsuro, Nishitani Keiji, and others).
PHI 368-Philosophy of Science (DEC H)
A course in the philosophy of science using both historical and contemporary materials. Methodological issues discussed include scientific explanation and prediction, the structure of theories, the nature of scientific revolutions, and the role of laws in science.
Philosophic problems in understanding specific sciences and their relation to each other are also considered, as are their relations to other areas of philosophic concern, such as metaphysics.
PHI 370-Philosophical Psychology (DEC G)
This course, designed for serious and advanced students in psychology and philosophy, will attempt to develop a viable theory of the whole person by exploring the bodily, psychological and spiritual dimensions of our existence. In particular we will take a look at five interrelated areas: (a) what is the relationship between the body as a neuro-biological organism and the body as it functions in our experience of the world; (b) does consciousness have a structure and, if so, how can we get at it; (c) what are actions and how do they introduce normative values; (d) how can we move from a theory of the subject to a theory of the person; and (e) is there a spiritual aspect to person? We will conclude the course with an exploration on the nature of love.
Course requirements: attendance at all classes, preparation of assigned readings, three examinations, and class participation. Prerequisites for the course will be enforced. If you are not a philosophy and/or psychology major, or not a junior (U3) who has already taken at least two courses in philosophy and one in psychology, you should not enroll in this course.
PHI 372-Ethical Inquiry (DEC G)
This course will use short fiction to help students explore and think carefully about the influential ethical concepts in three famous texts in ethics: Mill's Utilitarianism, Kant's Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Students will do frequent quizzes and two take-home essay exams.
PHI 375-Philosophy of Law (DEC G)
Where does the authority of law come from? What is the relationship between law and morality, law and politics, law and gender, law and the economy? Is law prior to right, or do rights call forth law? Is there a divine law or law of nature that undergirds all law? These are only some of the questions that this class will address. The class will also cover some classical and contemporary philosophies of law: natural law, legal positivism, functionalism, normativism, decisionism, and the discourse ethical theory of law. We will also explore the relationship between constitutionalism and rights, and cosmopolitan law and human rights.
PHI 381-Aesthetics (DEC G)
What is artistic expression, meaning, culture? How are the arts situated and mediated in historical, political, cultural experience and understanding? In what way do the arts mediate and become the media themselves? What are the limits to what is called “art?” And does it even make sense to talk about “works of art” today? This course will focus on contemporary European aesthetic theory (since the early 20th century). Emphasis will be placed on the role of aesthetic theory in phenomenology, existentialism, critical theory, hermeneutics, poststructuralism, deconstruction, postmodernism, and continental feminist theory. The task will be to understand the writings of major theorists (such as Heidegger, Benjamin, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Dufrenne, Gadamer, Barthes, Foucault, Deleuze, Lyotard, Derrida, Kristeva, Perniola, Nancy, and Rancière), and to show how they relate to issues such as: the nature of the work of art and writing, problems of criticism and aesthetic understanding, strategies for reading and interpretation, the status of texts and textuality, questions surrounding the beautiful and the sublime, the role of re-presentation and the unpresentable in art, the differences between the avant-garde and the postmodern, and the role of the arts in contemporary society.
PHI 382-H Quantum Mechanics in Philosophy (DEC H)
R. Crease, A. Goldhabet
This course explores the implications and influence, real and alleged, of quantum mechanics on fields other than physics. What does quantum mechanics mean, if anything, for philosophy, ethics, and social behavior? At the same time, we shall look into how social and cultural influences may have affected the way that quantum mechanics was formulated, and how it has evolved. We shall review the early history of quantum mechanics, and discuss some of the important debates at the founding of quantum mechanics. Students will not be expected to learn the mathematics in depth, only the introduction provided by the instructors aimed at non-science students. Besides readings, the course will also involve plays, films, and guest speakers. Students will be expected to work on a final project, to be presented in class.
PHI 395-Junior Seminar- Psyche and Nature
In this seminar we will take a concerted look at major ways in which Psyche (soul, mind) relates to Nature (the natural world, including the environment). In a first phase, our texts will range from passages in Plato’s Timaeus and Aristotle’s De Anima in the ancient world to claims by Descartes in his Principles of Philosophy regarding the division between extended substance (“matter”) and thinking substance (“mind”). Poised on the sharp edge of this forced dichotomy, in a second phase we shall seek for ways of overcoming, or at least softening, the Cartesian divide, which has had such fateful consequences in the modern world. Here we shall turn to texts of American naturalists who point in a very different direction: Thoreau (in his essay “Walking”) and Emerson (in his “Nature”) in the nineteenth century, and Gary Snyder (The Practice of the Wild) and Paul Shepard (Coming Home to the Pleistocene). Topics to be taken up in this part of the seminar will include place vs. space, wildness vs. wilderness, and the character of landscape painting and photography. In a final part of our work, we will consider implications of the re-conception of nature for feminism and environmentalism, especially the question of failing water resources on the planet. Likely reading here will be Susan Griffin’s Women and Nature and Vandana Shiva’s Water Wars. Each student will present a report on the reading for the week, or else an issue closely related to it, in addition to a term paper (one essay of 15-18 pages, or two shorter essays of 8 – 9 pages each). A reading journal will be kept during the course.
PHI 402-Analysis of Philosophic Texts-MARX (DEC G)
A. de Laurentiis
This seminar focuses on the nineteenth-century work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Overall objective is to gain a foothold in a philosophically substantial analysis of capitalism that may help illuminate current aspects of globalization.
- early letters and manuscripts by Marx (on history, on class, on alienation)
- mature works by Marx: ‘Wage, Labor and Capital’; selections from Capital; selections from ‘Theories of Surplus Value’
- public addresses and speeches
- mature works by Engels: ‘Socialism: Utopian and Scientific’ and selections from ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State’.
Textbook: The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed., Robert C. Tucker, ed. (Norton & Co, 1978 or later)
PHI/AAS 472 - Buddhism and Early Vedanta (DEC J)
In India between the 5th century BCE and 8th century CE, Hindu and Buddhist philosophers debated one another on questions that many of us continue to ponder today: Who are we? Is there an eternal “soul” or “self,” or is all existence impermanent and fleeting? What should we do with our lives? Is the world real or just an illusion? The answers they gave frequently disagreed. Yet recent scholars have argued that there is a deep connection between Buddhist philosophy and the philosophy of Vedanta, the most famous of all the Hindu philosophical schools. Through careful reading of some of the arguments of these Buddhist and Vedanta philosophers we will seek to understand the complex web of historical interrelationships between the two schools, and also begin to appreciate how their insights can help us find meaning in our lives today.