Spring 2012 Courses

FYS 111 - Death
Emily Austin
TR – 9:30-10:45 – Carswell 205

Given that we will all someday die, it seems reasonable to spend at least a little time thinking about it in a structured manner. In this class, we will examine the topic of death from philosophical, historical, and sociological perspectives. Philosophical questions will include: is death always bad, and if so, what makes it bad? Are we immortal, and should we even desire immortality? Does death give life meaning, or rob it of meaning? Historical topics will include the rise of the hospital and the invention of the undertaker after the Civil War, both of which drastically changed the way Americans die and grieve. Since some sociologists think that Americans are the most death-denying culture in the history of the world, it might be interesting to determine whether they have a case. The instructor encourages you to not be turned away by the darkness of the topic, since she thinks it really will be fun and intellectually rewarding.

FYS 111 – Philosophy of War
Clark Thompson
WF – 3:30-4:45pm – Tribble Hall A201

This course studies the implications of moral theory for the determination of when war is morally permissible and of how war is to be conducted if it is to be waged in a morally acceptable way. Questions to be studied will include the following: To what extent is military intervention justified when used to address humanitarian concerns, promote liberal or democratic values, or head off a potential threat? Can a meaningful distinction be drawn between combatants and noncombatants? Should a defense of superior orders shield military subordinates from accountability for illegal or immoral acts they commit in war?

FYS 111 – Information Technology Ethics
Adrian Bardon
WF – 2:00-3:15pm – Tribble Hall A307

PHI 111 – Basic Problems of Philosophy
Patrick Toner
MWF – 8:00 - 8:50am – Tribble Hall A306

This is a historical introduction to philosophy. What makes it historical is that the readings shall, for the most part, be drawn from the works of the great dead philosophers. But what makes it philosophical is that our objectives are to take seriously the questions these great dead philosophers asked, to think carefully about the answers they offered, and to critically analyze the arguments the used in supporting their answers. We will ask whether it can be shown that God exists, or that he doesn’t exist; whether we have a soul; whether we can be certain that there really is an external world; what kind of life we ought to live; and other central philosophical questions. Our main readings will be drawn from Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes, George Berkeley and David Hume.

PHI 111 – Basic Problems of Philosophy
Win-chiat Lee
WF – 9:30-10:45am - Tribble Hall A306
WF – 12:30 – 1:45pm – Tribble Hall A306

PHI 111 – Basic Problems of Philosophy - Freshmen Only
Stavroula Glezakos
MWF – 11:00 - 11:50am – Carswell 302
MWF – 12:00 – 12:50pm – Carswell 018
In this class, we will consider important philosophical questions, including: Is it possible to know anything for certain? Do we possess free will? How is the human mind related to the human body? Is morality relative? Students will develop their ability to discern sound reasoning, improve the clarity of their writing, and gain a better understanding of their own views and commitments.

PHI 111 – Basic Problems of Philosophy
Joshua Seachris
MW – 5:00-6:15pm – Tribble Hall A306

This course offers a survey of the central problems and questions in philosophy. After motivating the subject (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? Why do some believe that God exists and others do not? Are the presence, widespread distribution, and horrendous kinds 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
Charles Lewis
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 
Patrick Toner
MWF – 9:00 – 9:50am – Tribble Hall B117

This is a study of human nature from the standpoint of philosophy.  Some might wonder whether philosophy has anything to say about human nature: aren’t all of the really important questions about humans answered in the various sciences?  We shall pay particular attention to just that question.  Our main text will be Janet Radcliffe Richards’s Human Nature After Darwin.

PHI 115 – Introduction to Philosophy of Religion
Clark Thompson
WF - 11:00 – 12:15pm - Greene 313
WF – 12:30 – 1:454pm – Tribble Hall A301

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
Hannah Hardgrave
WF – 3:30 – 4:45pm – 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.

PHI 164 – Contemporary Moral Problems
Anabella Zagura
TR – 9:30 – 10:45am – Tribble Hall A306
TR – 12:30 – 1:45pm – Tribble Hall A306
TR – 3:30 – 4:45pm – Tribble Hall A306

Study of pressing ethical issues in contemporary life, such as abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, affirmative action, marriage, cloning, pornography, and capital punishment.
This course contributes towards satisfying the Division I requirement.

PHI 164 – Contemporary Moral Problems
Earl Crow
MWF – 1:00-1:50pm – 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 237 – Medieval Philosophy
Patrick Toner
MWF – 10:00-10:50am – Tribble Hall A307

This class will focus on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, especially his views on God and human nature. 

PHI 331A/631AG - Plato
Emily Austin
TR – 2:00-3:15pm – Tribble Hall A307

Detailed analysis of selected dialogues, covering Plato’s most important contributions to moral and political philosophy, theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and theology.

PHI 331A/631AG - Plato
Emily Austin
TR – 2:00-3:15pm – Tribble Hall A307

PHI 341A/641AG - Kant
Adrian Bardon
WF – 3:30 – 4:45pm – Tribble Hall A307

In this course we study Immanuel Kant’s critical analyses of claims to mathematical, scientific, metaphysical, and moral knowledge, via a close examination of his Critique of Pure Reason. Kant's philosophical engagement with his precursors (such as Descartes, Newton, Locke, Leibniz, and Hume) will be emphasized.

PHI 352A/652AG – Hegel, Kierkegaard, & Nietzsche
Charles Lewis
TR – 3:30 – 4:45pm – 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 3:30 to 4:30 but in fact the class generally lets out considerably later than 4:30. 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 360A/660AG –Ethics
Christian Miller
TR – 12:30-1:45pm – 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 364A – Freedom, Action, Responsibility
Stavroula Glezakos
MW – 2:00 – 3:15pm – Tribble Hall A205

What is it to act (or to choose) freely? What is it to be morally responsible for one’s actions? These two questions, and the connections between them, will be our focus in this class.  In particular, we will consider whether free will is compatible with determinism, how (or whether) a person could be the cause of an event, and what (if anything) justifies our practices of praising, blaming, rewarding, and punishing. 

PHI 367A – Philosophy Theories in Bioethics
Ana Iltis
TR – 9:30 – 10:45am – Tribble Hall A307

A study of the main philosophical approaches to contemporary bioethics. Each approach will be examined critically and students will explore how each approach informs analysis of contemporary issues in bioethics.
Objectives

  • Understand the main philosophical approaches to contemporary bioethics
  • Compare and critically evaluate the main philosophical approaches to contemporary bioethics
  • Understand how the main philosophical approaches to contemporary bioethics inform analysis of issues in bioethics

PHI 374A/674AG – Philosophy of Science
Ralph Kennedy
TR – 11:00 – 12:15 – Tribble Hall A307

What is science? How is it distinguished from non-science and especially from pseudo-science? There seems to be nothing particularly “rational” (or irrational) about the development over time of such fields as art, music, and literature, but science appears to be different. Is change in science distinctly rational, and if so, what accounts for that? Science is held by some to be “gendered” but by others to be objective in a sense that would conflict with its being gendered. Which view is to be preferred? What is objectivity? What are laws in science? How are laws and theories related? How are laws and theories confirmed by the evidence cited in support of them? What is hoped for in theories -- deep truth about the way the world really is in itself or merely a useful map or model that helps us predict the course of future experience? These questions convey a sense of the exciting landscape of the philosophy of science. Our course will touch on all of them and pursue some in depth. There are no specific prerequisites other than the usual “one philosophy course or POI,” though the course may be found more valuable and interesting by students who take an active interest in science including, of course, those who have taken some science courses in college.

 PHI 385A/685AG – Seminar: Nietzsche    
Julian Young
MW – 12:30 – 1:45pm – Tribble Hall A307
 
We shall attend mainly to two of the major texts of Nietzsche's maturity: Beyond Good and Evil and The Gay Science. Among others, we shall try to answer the following questions: what is the role of 'the eternal return' in Nietzsche's thought (the thought of one's exact life infinitely returning throughout infinite time)? What is the role of 'the will to power'? What are Nietzsche's objections to Christianity? Does Nietzsche think that society should exist for the sake of the exceptional individual (the 'superman') or does he rather think that the exceptional individual should exist for the sake of society?      

PHI 385B/685BG – Seminar: Tragic Effect: Philosophy
Julian Young
MW – 5:00 – 6:15pm – Tribble Hall A307

What is tragedy? How does it differ from melodrama? How does it differ from narratives of martyrdom? And what is it that draws us to the fictional portrayal of events which in real life would appal and horrify us? What pleasure or other kind of benefit do we derive from tragic drama? We shall try to answer these and other questions  with the help of, among others, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Hegel, Hölderlin, Schelling, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, Camus, Arthur Miller, Slavoj Žižek, Sophocles and Shakespeare.