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Academics

Future Undergraduate Courses

Please consult SPIRE for the latest information, including meeting times and places. For course descriptions, see below.

Undergraduate courses: Spring 2019
  Course name Instructor Meeting Room
100 Introduction to Philosophy Graham MW 10:10–11:00 ILC S240
100H Introduction to Philosophy (Honors) Kornblith MW 2:30–3:45 South College W205
105 Practical Reasoning Eddon TTh 1:00–1:50 Lederle 123
110 Introduction to Logic Klement TTh 1:00–2:15 ILC S131
160 Introduction to Ethics Perez Carballo MW 12:20–1:10 ILC S240
160H Introduction to Ethics (Honors) Miller TTh 11:30–12:45 TBA
163 Business Ethics Koon MWF 1:25–2:15 South College E470
164 Medical Ethics Meacham MW 11:15–12:05 ILC S131
164H Medical Ethics (Honors) Shea TTh 10:00–11:15 South College W211
170 Problems in Social Thought Ma MWF 10:10–11:00 South College E470
197S Special Topics: Sexual Ethics Wilson TTh 1:00–2:15 TBA
310 Intermediate Logic Hardegree TTh 1:00–2:15 South College W211
335 20th Century Analytic Philosophy Bricker MW 2:30–3:45 TBA
336 Existential Philosophy Garcia TTh 2:30–3:45 South College E470
341 Introduction to Metaphysics Markosian TTh 1:00–2:15 TBA
343 Introduction to Philosophy of Art Olsen MWF 11:15–12:05 South College E470
383 Introduction to Philosophy of Religion Gibbs MWF 12:20–1:10 South College E470
391E Seminar: Philosophy in Public Schools Grafton-Cardwell F 12:20–2:50 Dickinson 214
500 Contemporary Problems Antony TTh 11:30–12:45 South College E301
543 Topics in Philosophy of Art Markosian W 4:00–6:30 TBA
555 Topics in Philosophy of Mind Levine T 1:00-3:30 TBA
592J S-Topics in Early Modern Philosophy Garcia M 12:20-2:50 TBA
595S S-Formal Semantics Hardegree TTh 10:00–11:15 South College E301

 

Course Descriptions


100 | Introduction to Philosophy

The goals of this course are two-fold: to develop and hone students’analytical skills and to look at a number of the central issues in philosophy. Crucial to doing and understanding philosophy is an ability to present, explain, and evaluate arguments; throughout the course we will refine these abilities. By way of an introduction to a number of core philosophical issues we will take an in-depth look at one of the greatest works of philosophy of all time, Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy. In it we will encounter skeptical arguments, arguments for the existence of God, and an argument for mind-body dualism. We will grapple with these issues in addition to questions about free will and ethics.

Gen Ed: AL | Credits: 4

100H | Introduction to Philosophy (Honors)

This course will cover questions about the place of mind in a world of matter; the nature of free will, and whether it is so much as possible; a variety of questions about knowledge, including self-knowledge; and a number of moral questions, including questions about our responsibility to others less fortunate than ourselves. Readings will be primarily from contemporary philosophers. There will be no exams; all written work will be in the form of take-home essays. All readings for the course will be available on Moodle.

Gen Ed: AL | Credits: 4

105 | Practical Reasoning

This course covers methods for understanding and evaluating reasoning, arguments and inferences, of the sort found in daily life, political speeches, academic writing and beyond. We address such questions as: What is the structure of an argument? What considerations are relevant for determining its strength and cogency? What sorts of appeals to quantitative and scientific data are appropriate, and what sorts aren’t? How can we understand and overcome cognitive biases?

Gen Ed: R2 | Credits: 4

110 | Introduction to Logic

An introduction to symbolic logic, including sentential and predicate logic. Its purpose is to familiarize you with certain formal methods for representing and evaluating arguments and reasoning. These methods can be used not only for philosophy, but for any subject matter. The focus is on translating English statements into symbolic notation, and evaluating arguments for validity using formal proof techniques.

Gen Ed: R2 | Major: Logic | Credits: 3

160 | Introduction to Ethics

This course is an introduction to normative ethics. More specifically, we will focus on questions about what to do and how to live from a moral point of view. We will spend a large portion of the course discussing specific moral questions—e.g. Is it ever permissible to kill someone? How much of our income should we donate to charity? What are our obligations to animals? But we will also look at proposals to give unified answers to all moral questions. Inevitably, we will pause to reflect on the moral questions themselves: What are we asking for when we ask whether something is morally wrong? Is it reasonable to expect a fully general answer to those questions? What makes for a ‘correct’ answer to moral questions?

We will not focus on giving particular answers to specific moral questions, but rather on learning how to give reasons for or against such answers. In addition to introducing you to the major moral theories and giving you some tools to answer specific moral questions, our goal will thus be to sharpen your ability to analyze, evaluate, and craft your own philosophical arguments.

Gen Ed: AT | Major: Value | Credits: 4

160H | Honors Introduction to Ethics (Honors)

Description forthcoming

Gen Ed: AT | Major: Value | Credits: 4

163 | Business Ethics

This course takes a look at ethical issues surrounding Big Data, the use of data collection on a wide scale for profit and research. Big Data gives rise to a number of important moral questions: does it violate consumers’ right to privacy?  Does it lead to discrimination?  

Does it result in unfair pricing and monopolies?  What impact does it have on society at large, and on the democratic process?  The course begins by introducing students to three prominent moral theories, utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Ross’s ethics of prima facie duties. We will then use these theories to try and grapple with some of the ethical questions that arise in connection with Big Data. The course will also give students an opportunity to develop their skills in critical thinking, clear writing, and rigorous argumentation, skills in high demand in just about any field of work.

Gen Ed: AT | Major: Value | Credits: 4

164 | Medical Ethics

Description forthcoming

Gen Ed: AT | Major: Value | Credits: 4

164.02 | Medical Ethics

Medical treatment is typically used to do two things: prolong life and treat disease or injury. In this course we will look at three broad themes, two centering on times when medicine departs from its usual purpose, and the last focusing on a more general concern with the medical resources needed for that purpose. First: when should medicine be used not to avoid death, but to bring it about? We will look at two issues: abortion and euthanasia. Second: when should medicine be used to change our physical condition, in non-disease or non-injury contexts? We will again look at two issues: the nature of disability and questions concerning whether and when we may cause or remove disability and the permissibility of performance-enhancing drugs in sport. Finally, we will end the semester by looking at the question of how we should distribute medical resources. This is, first and foremost, a philosophy course, and specifically a course in ethics. While scientific and technological questions will be relevant to our inquiry, they will not be our focus. Our primary concern is with whether certain actions (or lack thereof) in medical contexts are morally permissible. These questions are complex and arise in both public discourse and likely in your own personal lives, regardless of whether you continue on in medicine. This class is an opportunity to think about these issues from multiple points of view.

Gen Ed: AT | Major: Value | Credits: 4

164H | Medical Ethics (Honors)

There is a broad range of difficult moral questions that can arise in medical and public health contexts. For example: Is abortion ever okay? Is it morally permissible for a government to interfere with its citizens’ self-regarding decisions for the sake of their health? When considering having offspring, do we have a moral obligation to use biotechnologies (like in vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic diagnosis) to produce children with the best chance at a good life? After a brief introduction to some of the main normative ethical theories that have been proposed for evaluating what one ought and ought not do, we will attempt to thoroughly examine a handful of controversial issues in medical ethics. By developing your ability to think clearly, carefully, and critically about such issues, you will be in a better position to produce and defend principled, reasoned answers to the above questions (and those like them).

Gen Ed: AT | Major: Value | Credits: 4

170 | Problems in Social Thought 

Participating in a functioning democracy requires engagement with a variety of sociopolitical questions. Here are some currently relevant examples. Should the Westboro Baptist Church be allowed to protest military funerals? What is the right balance between toleration and religious freedom? Should undocumented immigrants be allowed to become citizens? Do all citizens have a right to health care? Are preventive drone strikes in foreign soil morally permissible? Are whistle-blowers heroes or traitors? This course provides the opportunity for a careful examination of these complex questions about liberty, justice, and security.

Gen Ed: SB | Major: Value| Credits: 4

197S| Special Topics: Sexual Ethics

What is required for someone to count as having consented to sex? Is it possible for someone who is intoxicated to consent? What’s going on when power relations seem to undermine consent? Is consent all you need for sex to be permissible, or can it sometimes be impermissible even with consent? Is there anything wrong with prostitution? Pornography? What is sexual harassment, and what makes it so bad? These are some of the questions we’ll be discussing in this course, and we’ll be looking for answers through frequent readings (some philosophical, and some not); short, weekly writing assignments; three short papers; and lots of class discussion. The goals of this course are not only for you to learn more about some of the nuances in the discussion of sexual ethics, but also to become better at reading technical, philosophical work; to become better at expressing your own ideas (both verbally and in writing); and to find new ways of thinking about and understanding your own experiences and relationships by applying the ideas we discuss to your life.

Major: Value | Credits: 3

310 | Intermediate Logic

Continuation of Philosophy 110. Three logical systems are examined: (1) Function Logic, (2) Identity Logic, (3) Description Logic. Work is equally divided between translating English sentences into symbolic notation, and constructing formal derivations.  

Requirements: seven exams.

Prerequisites: Philosophy 110, or consent of the instructor.

Major: Logic | Credits: 3

335 | 20th Century Analytic Philosophy

Consideration of the major trends in British and American philosophy in roughly the first half of the 20th century. Topics include philosophical analysis, logical atomism, logical positivism and “the linguistic turn”in philosophy. Texts: works by Russell, Wittgenstein, Ayer, Kripke and/or others.

Prerequisites: Two philosophy courses.

Major: M&E | Credits: 3

336 | Existential Philosophy

An introduction to the main themes of Existentialism through seminal writing by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre.

Gen Ed: AL | Credits: 4

341 | Introduction to Metaphysics

Metaphysics is sometimes defined as the branch of philosophy that addresses fundamental questions about the nature of reality. In this course we will consider five main topics: (1) causation, (2) freedom and determinism, (3) personal identity, (4) time, and (5) material objects. The aim of the course will be to educate students about some of the main issues, theses, and arguments concerning these topics, so that the students may arrive at their own considered opinions on these matters. 

Prerequisites: PHIL 110 and one additional philosophy course.

Major: M&E | Credits: 3

343 | Introduction to Philosophy of Art

Can eating candy make you part of an artwork? Can art physically force you to cry? Can it be art to nail yourself to a car? In this course, we’ll engage with questions like these and with the definition of art more generally. We’ll also consider other questions, like: Are artworks physical objects, or something else? Is art (non-monetarily) valuable, and if so what is the nature of that value? Finally, we’ll focus on topics in the philosophy and aesthetics of music, such as: What value does live performance have in an age dominated by recordings, sound engineering, and digital distribution?

Prerequisites: One philosophy course.

Gen Ed: AT | Major:Value | Credits: 4

383 | Introduction to Philosophy of Religion

A common, central, feature of many religions is a belief in some sort of entity called ‘God’. This feature appears in the Bahá’í Faith, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism, among others. Many who don’t participate in organized religion also believe in God; e.g. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Historically, many important philosophers have held, or at least taken seriously, the idea that God exists; e.g. Confucius, Kant, and Plato. As philosophers of religion, we will ask general and foundational questions about God. What sort of being is God? What sorts of properties does God have? For example, is God a person? Morally perfect? Further, do we have any good reason to believe that God exists? Is the amount of evil in the world a good reason to think that God does not exist? Philosophers have considered these questions; providing rival answers to them. We’ll take a look at these answers and the reasons for accepting them.

Major: M&E | Credits: 3

391E | Seminar: Philosophy in Public Schools

In this course, we will strike a balance between discussing a variety of philosophical topics, thinking about what philosophy is and how best to practice it, and putting our theoretical work to practice by doing philosophy with kids in a school together. We’ll begin the course by focusing on metaphilosophical and pedagogical readings, putting together a picture of what it is we’re doing when we do philosophy and how we can do that best with children. Then we’ll take that picture and put it to work, going into an elementary school together to do philosophy with children. A distinctive part of our pedagogical approach will be to use narratives as a guide to stimulating discussion. Students will discover just how much children are doing philosophy already and will learn how to be effective partners in that activity.

Major: | Credits: 3

500 | Contemporary Problems

We will discuss several key topics in moral psychology from both historical and contemporary perspectives, including weakness of will; autonomy; moral responsibility; moral motivation; and the nature of reactive attitudes such as resentment, blame, guilt, regret, and forgiveness. In addition to reading historical figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Hume, and Kant, we’ll also discuss various influential recent philosophers including Davidson, Frankfurt, Nussbaum, Strawson, Watson, Williams, Wolf, and others.

This course is open to Philosophy majors only

Prerequisites: Three philosophy courses.

Note: this course satisfies the Integrative Experience requirement.

Gen Ed: IE | Major:Value | Credits: 3

543 | Topics in Philosophy of Art

This is a course on some of the central topics in the philosophy of art, including (i) The Demarcation Problem (what is art?), (ii) The Existential Problem (what is art for?), (iii) the ontology of art objects (are novels and musical compositions created or discovered?), and (iv) the nature of aesthetic value.

Major: Value | Credits: 3

555 | Topics in Philosophy of Mind

This course will investigate theories that attempt to characterize the nature of conscious experience, with a special emphasis on the question of whether or not it is grounded in the physical features of the world. Among the specific topics to be covered are:  Anti-materialist arguments, particularly the Conceivability argument; Representationalism; Higher-Order theory; Panpsychism.

Prerequisites: Three philosophy courses.

Major: M&E | Credits: 3

592J | S-Topics in Early Modern Philosophy

Aristotelians held that there is a necessary connection between cause and effect. Medieval philosophers sought ways to make this picture of causation compatible with God’s power to sever (as well as ground) any such connections. With respect to the early modern era, Kant famously wrote in the 1781 Critique of Pure Reason: “The three usual systems that have been thought about [causality], really the only possible ones, are those of physical influx, preestablished harmony, and supernatural assistance [i.e., occasionalism]” (A390). On the influx account, a property (or its copy) is transmitted from one substance to another; occasionalism takes God to be the sole cause in nature; on harmony accounts, one type of event is regularly followed by another type of event—-without influx and without an action by God that goes beyond the natures of things that he has created. In this course we will examine these three traditional metaphysical accounts of causation, along with Hume’s skepticism about all such accounts of causality, and Kant’s response to Hume’s skeptical worries. Among the questions we will explore are these: Is Descartes committed to a physical influx theory, as Malebranche and Cavendish charge? What are the mechanistic versus vitalistic accounts of nature, and does commitment to one of these determine which system of causation a philosopher will embrace? Do mechanists such as Descartes, Malebranche and Berkeley hold any type of causal likeness principle? Are Malebranche and Berkeley both occasionalists? How can Cavendish account for nature’s harmony, if she has excluded God from any explanatory role in nature? Has Cavendish eliminated all necessary connections by way of her ‘occasional causes’? How should we understand both similarities and differences between the various critiques of the idea of ‘necessary connexion’ as found in Malebranche, Berkeley, and Hume? Finally, what does Kant mean when he claims that causation is a ‘synthetic a priori’ concept, which is necessary for the possibility of any objective experience at all?

Prerequisites: Three philosophy courses.

Major: Hist(B) | Credits: 3

595S | S-Formal Semantics

We usually understand novel sentences—e.g., this one—with little or no hesitation. How do we accomplish this? According to the received opinion, our linguistic knowledge divides into two modules—roughly, words and rules—which in turn correspond respectively to Lexical Grammar and Compositional Grammar. The present course concerns Compositional Grammar, more specifically Compositional Semantics—the study of how the meanings of compound expressions are derived from the meanings of their parts. We pursue this enterprise within the framework of Categorial Grammar—more specifically, within the framework of Type-Logical Grammar. Topics will include: set theory, type theory, lambda-calculus, categorial syntax and semantics, type-logical syntax and semantics. 

Prerequisites: Phil 310, or graduate status, or consent of the instructor. 

Requirements: homework assignments.

Major: M&E | Credits: 3