Spring 2011 Courses
PHI 111 – Basic Problems of Philosophy – Freshmen Only
TR – 3:00-4:15pm – Tribble Hall A306
Students will be introduced to the subject of philosophy through the careful study of representative writings from three different periods: ancient Greek (Plato), early modern European (Descartes and Hume), and contemporary American (Frankfurt, Nagel and Searle). The goal is not only to study what some great philosophers of the past or influential philosophers of the present think about certain subjects, but also to help students, through the examination of these philosophers’ work, develop skills to philosophize and think critically for themselves. The topics discussed will include the existence of God, the relation between the mind and the world, skepticism and the nature of knowledge, free will and determinism, responsibility, the nature of moral and value judgments, the mind-body problem, and the nature of the self.
PHI 111 –Basic Problems of Philosophy
MWF – 11:00-11:50 – Carswell Hall 208
This course offers a survey of the central problems and questions in philosophy. After motivating the subject (i.e. What is philosophy? Why study philosophy?), we will consider perennial philosophical questions like: Can we know anything? What does it mean to say we know something? Does God exist? Is the existence and widespread distribution of pain and suffering evidence against God’s existence? What are faith and reason, and are they compatible? How are the mind and brain/body related? Do we have free will and, if so, what is its nature? What, if anything, makes actions moral or immoral? How should we understand the question, “What is the meaning of life?”? Is it coherent? Does it have an answer(s)? The goal of our studies will be at least threefold: (1) to promote a fuller understanding of the central issues in western philosophical history, (2) to deepen your appreciation of how your current beliefs about the world are set within the larger context of this history, and (3) to further develop your capacity to think and write critically, which will profit you regardless of your field of study and vocational goals.
PHI 112 – Introduction to Philosphical Ideas
MWF – 11:00-11:50am – Tribble Hall A306
This course, after examining the common sense and religious background of the first scientific thinkers or philosophers, turns to the study of Plato and Aristotle, the major shapers of pre-modern scientific, theological, and philosophical thought. Then the course turns to Descartes, the first great architect of the modern scientific and philosophical ways of thinking. An examination of the new Cartesian science of nature and its momentous departure from pre-modern belief in the teleology of all natural processes is followed by the study of Hume, one of Descartes’ major critics, who takes modern skepticism to a new level. Twentieth-century existential nihilism is introduced along the way in order to consider its place in modern thought and its radical rejection of conventional assumptions about the meaning or purpose of human existence. Attention is given throughout to how an examination of modern and pre-modern ways of thinking can help us to understand contemporary conceptions of self and world.
PHI 114 – Philosophy of Human Nature
TR – 9:30-10:45 – Tribble Hall A306
TR - 1:30-2:45 – Tribble Hall A306
TR - 4:30-5:45 – Tribble Hall A306
Humans seem (at least to themselves) to be beings of a quite special kind, markedly different from any others. In this course we will consider some of the ways in which the human condition has been thought to be unique. Do we, for instance, have free will? Can we sometimes be genuinely morally responsible for our actions? What role do emotions play in our lives? Could we be immortal?
PHI 115 – Introduction to Philosophy of Religion
MWF - 11:00-11:50 – Greene 313
MWF – 1:00-1:50 – Tribble Hall A306
We shall examine philosophical arguments concerning the existence and nature of God to see how far reason can establish and defend various beliefs about God. Among the topics we shall explore are: Is it rational to believe in the existence of God, understood as an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving being? Is it reasonable to believe in miracles? Can we reconcile human freedom with divine foreknowledge, and the existence of evil with God’s perfect goodness?
PHI 161 – Medical Ethics
MW – 3:00-4:15pm – Tribble Hall A306
Biomedical ethics is the application of the theories, arguments and concepts of moral philosophy to ethical issues in medical practice and research. Among the issues to be discussed in this course are: end of life, assisted reproduction, genetics, and research using human subjects, organ donation, physician-patient relationships, scarce resources, and public health.
Written assignments will consist of four short papers (one of which will be a substitute for a final exam) on assigned topics.
Each student will also take part in a group presentation of a discussion of selected episodes of House, M.D.
PHI 164 – Contemporary Moral Problems – Freshmen Only
MWF – 3:00-3:50pm – Tribble Hall A203
Study of pressing ethical issues in contemporary life, such as abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, affirmative action, marriage, cloning, pornography, and capital punishment.
PHI 164 – Contemporary Moral Problems
MWF – 11:00-11:50am - Wingate 209
MWF – 12:00-12:50pm – Wingate 209
A study of pressing ethical issues in contemporary life, such as abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, affirmative action, marriage, cloning, pornography, and capital punishment.
PHI 220 - Logic
TR – 9:30-10:45am – Manchester 125
We will learn some very basic logic in this course. That should improve your reasoning skills or at least your ability to detect errors in the inferences that people make. About two-third of the course will be focused on deductive arguments. We will learn about what makes a valid deductive argument. We will also learn some basic formal techniques for proving the validity of an argument. A number of subjects will be covered, including syllogistic arguments, truth-functional logic, and basic quantification. The remaining one-third of the course will be devoted to inductive logic and decision theory. Probabilistic reasoning and inferences will be the focus.
PHI 221 - Symbolic Logic
MWF – 12:00-12:50pm – Tribble Hall A306
Symbolic logic is the application of formal methods in the study of reasoning. In this course, we will study techniques for constructing formal deductive proofs in a symbolic language and for evaluating such proofs as valid or invalid. No prior study of logic or mathematics will be assumed. Requirements: completion of regular homework assignments; three chapter exams; one final exam.
PHI 241 – Modern Philosophy
MWF – 3:00-3:50pm – Tribble Hall A307
Modern Philosophy. Our main focus will be on four works: Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), by René Descartes; Discourse on Metaphysics (1686), by G.W. Leibniz; An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1748), by David Hume; and Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779), by Hume. In addition, we shall discuss selected topics from Nicolas Malebranche (causation, evil), John Locke (innate ideas, personal identity), and George Berkeley (causation, and evil).
PHI 332/632 – Aristotle
MWF – 10:00-10:50am – Tribble Hall A307
Aristotle’s works are notoriously difficult, yet they have been extremely influential throughout philosophy’s history, and remain so today. In this class, we will read several of Aristotle’s central works (in whole or part), including the Physics, Metaphysics, De Anima, Ethics, Poetics and Politics. In an attempt to help us come to grips with the material, we will study three controversies in Aristotle interpretation. We will start with the dispute over the soul in the Latin Averroism controversy of the 13th century. Next, we will read some of Brentano’s unusual take on Aristotle’s theology. Last, we will study some contemporary disputes about Aristotle’s Ethics, focusing particularly on whether Aristotle is an egoist.
PHI 352/652 – Hegel, Kierkegaard, & Nietzsche
TR – 3:00-4:15 p.m. – Tribble Hall A307
Is there a way to think about the natural world that also makes sense of human life and history? Is anything gained, or lost, by thinking holistically about the world as a whole? Is a life dedicated to thinking about the world (and living accordingly) a way of avoiding an authentic human life? What does it mean to live authentically? Does nihilism provide the answer or is it a form of avoidance? What motivates avoidance and is there a remedy? *Note: Officially, this class meets from 3:00 to 4:15, but in fact the class generally lets out considerably later than 4:15. If you cannot stay for the entire class, Professor Lewis will work with you outside of class time so that you do not miss any of the material.
PHI 353/653 – Heidegger
TR – 9:30-10:45am – Tribble Hall A307
Heidegger early and late. Early Heidegger: the contrast between conformism and authenticity achieved through ‘being-towards-death’; meaning through communal tradition. Late Heidegger: critique of modernity’s reduction of everything to ‘resource’; the ethics of ‘dwelling’ as our proper way of being in the world.
PHI 360/660 –Ethics
MWF – 12:00-12:50pm – Tribble Hall A307
Ethics is concerned with the way we should live our lives and the type of person we should become. This course will focus, not on applied topics in ethics like famine relief, abortion, or the death penalty, but rather on ethical theory itself. We will look at such questions as: Which actions are right and which are wrong? Which outcomes should we promote? What kind of character should we attempt to cultivate? Our approach will be both historical and contemporary, and will focus on the four major ethical traditions:
Divine Command Theory, where the commands of a loving and just God are central to ethical theorizing. Authors will include Robert Adams and Philip Quinn.
Kantian Deontology, where categorical imperatives and respect for others are central to ethical theorizing. Authors will include Kant, Christine Korsgaard, and Fred Feldman.
Utilitarianism, where maximizing good outcomes is central to ethical theorizing. Authors will include Mill, Michael Stocker, and Robert Nozick.
Virtue Ethics, where virtuous character traits are central to ethical theorizing. Authors will include Aristotle, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Robert Louden.
I envision requiring 4 moderately sized papers and no exams.
PHI 362/662 – Social & Political Philosophy
TR – 12:00-1:15pm – Tribble Hall A307
The main theme of the course is: liberalism and its critics. We will begin with John Rawls's influential account of the liberal conception of justice. While some attention will be paid to his methodology, the main focus will be on Rawls's substantive view on political, social and economic justice and his attempt to reconcile our concerns for liberty and equality. The rest of the course will be devoted to the study of criticisms of the liberal conception of justice, especially those directed specifically at Rawls’s account. Our study of the critics will begin with Robert Nozick's libertarian account of the origin of the state, the moral limits of the exercise of state power and the role of free market in distributive justice. In addition to discussing whether Rawls’s theory of justice can meet the challenges posed by Nozick’s libertarian view, we will also examine the adequacy of Rawls’s theory in dealing with a number of other issues – issues such as virtues, the good life, class and gender inequalities, culture, citizenship, and community – which are the focus of some of Rawls’s feminist, Marxian, and communitarian critics. Besides Rawls and Nozick, readings for this course will include works by Plato, John Locke, Karl Marx, Charles Taylor, G. A. Cohen, Susan Okin, and Will Kymlicka.
PHI 368/668 – Concepts of Health & Disease
T – 5:00-7:30pm – Tribble Hall A307
PHI 376 - Epistemology
TR – 1:30-2:45pm – Tribble Hall A307
Epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, is the systematic reflection on such questions as the following: If you believe something that just happens to be true, do you know that thing? If not, what more is required? Some have thought that the additional requirement is justification and have accordingly thought of knowledge as justified true belief. Is this correct, and is a person always necessarily in a position to be able to tell whether her beliefs are justified? What does it take for a belief to be genuinely justified?
Additional questions include: Why do we value knowledge? Where does it come from? Does it all come from sense experience or are there other sources as well? What role does the testimony of others play in our coming to know things? What role does reason play? Can we have genuine knowledge about the future, the past, the minds of others? Can we have knowledge of the “external” world – the world beyond our own minds – at all? Descartes notoriously thought that our knowledge of our own minds was knowledge of an especially secure sort. Is this true?
Most of our readings will be from the last 100 years or so, but we will also consider readings from the ancient Greeks and from philosophers of the modern period (17th and 18th centuries).
PHI 379 – Feminist Philosophy
MWF – 2:00-2:50pm – Tribble Hall A307
In this course, we will examine feminist challenges to the traditional categories and methods of mainstream western philosophy, along with responses that have been offered to those challenges. We will also consider topics that have been of particular interest to feminist philosophers, including the categories of sex and gender, the structure of family and society, and whether certain words and ways of using language are ‘sexist’ (and, if so, what (if anything) ought to be done about it).