Course Offerings (Fall 2017)

All Phil Courses

PHIL 1000: Introduction to Philosophy

Credit will not be given for both this course and PHIL 1001. Major works on such themes as appearance and reality, human nature, nature of knowledge, relation of mind and body, right and good, existence of God, and freedom and determinism.

Section 1: MWF 9:30-10:30, Blakley
Section 2: MWF 12:30-1:30, Blakley
Section 3: MWF 1:30-2:30, Blakley
Section 4: TTh 3:00-4:30, Altamirano
Section 5: TTh 1:30-3:00, Parsons

PHIL 1001: HONORS: Introduction to Philosophy

An honors version of PHIL 1000. Credit will not be given for both this course and PHIL 1000. Philosophy starts from the position that we can live better and more worthwhile lives by thinking critically – both about the choices and long terms goals that are immediately present to us personally and about the deeper realities of human existence and reality itself. In this course you will be asked to think critically and write cogently about various positions – your own and those of others – on such problems the nature of mind and intelligence, making moral decisions, the nature and limits of knowledge, the existence of God.

TTh 3:00-4:30, Sirridge

PHIL 1021: Introduction to Logic

No special background presupposed. Formal and informal reasoning; introduction to propositional logic; formal and informal fallacies; scientific reasoning.

TTh 3:00-4:30, Roland

PHIL 2020: Ethics

Classical and recent theories of obligation and value, including works of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, and Nietzsche; topics including freedom, rights, justification of moral judgments.

Section 1: TTh 12:00-1:30, Altamirano
Section 2: TTh 4:30-6:00N, Altamirano
Section 3: TTh 9:00-10:30, Altamirano
Section 5: MWF 9:30-10:20, Donelson

This course will be divided into three parts, each part will focus on a cluster of questions surrounding a central issue. Part One: We shall begin with a letter that Bill and Melinda Gates wrote to Warrant Buffet. This will give us an idea of nobility, what humanity can accomplish when the will is good. It will also serve as an introduction to Peter Singer’s, The Most Good You Can Do. This book raises questions about how we should live and while living give altruistically (far more than what we normally do); what constitutes effective altruism; who should be the benefactors when we give; and, finally, how far should we be concerned about the prospects of human extinction. Part Two: ‘Dignity’ is of unparalleled significance in Kant’s moral philosophy. Rosen’s Dignity will take us through a brief history of that concept. Dignity plays a crucial role in determining our individual rights (and grants a State the right to protect and enforce those rights). But, says Rosen, much of this misses a very important sense of dignity, namely, the right to be treated with dignity, or proper respect. For example, if I am a dwarf can others throw me around for sport, gambling, or just plain fun – even with my consent? (A French court held that one could not do that; but, the dwarf in question disagreed!) Part Three: We have essential biological techniques for genetic enhancement: We can make designer babies. At the other end, a deaf couple wanted to have a deaf child. “Being deaf is just a way of Life,” they said. They found a sperm donor with five generations of deafness in his family and sure enough their son, Gavin, was born deaf. This caused an uproar. There is, clearly, a profound problem about how far we can go, without being unethical, to ensure human enhancement. Genetic engineering threatens to introduce unfairness (in athletics, for example), injustice (in academic and business worlds), and inequalities (both economic and otherwise). Michael Sandel argues that we ought only to go thus far and no further with genetic engineering. At some point we simply should accept who we are as a gift from Nature. Nick Bostrom and Rebcca Roache, on the other hand, want to push those limits: We have a moral onus, they say, to make ourselves as perfect as we can possibly be.

Required Texts:
1. Nick Bostrom and Rebcca Roache, “Ethical Issues in Human Enhancement,” in Jesper Ryberg, Thomas Petersen, and Clark Wolf, editors. New Waves in Applied Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, 120-152.
2. Bill and Melinda Gates, “A Letter to Warren Buffet.”
3. Michael Rosen, Dignity: Its History and Meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012.
4. Michael Sandel, The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.
5. Peter Singer, The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

Section 4: TTh 3:00-4:30, Sarkar

PHIL 2025: Bioethics

Defining health and disease; deciding on rights, duties, and obligations in the patient-physician relationship; abortion and the concept of a person; defining and determining death; euthanasia and the dignity of death; allocation of medical resources, both large-scale and small-scale; experimentation with fetuses, children, prisoners, and animals; genetic testing, screening, and interference.

M 6:00-9:00N, Rolfsen

PHIL 2033: History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

Introduction to philosophy through a study of some of the main writings of classical and medieval philosophy.

TTh 10:30-12:00, Sirridge

PHIL 2050: HONORS: Ethics

The course is an investigation into ethical responsibility and how it has been conceived of in contemporary French and German philosophy. Ethical theories in the continental European tradition have developed against the background of Nietzsche's critique of morality, and as a result have often been described as a nihilistic enterprise of destruction of values. We will see how they instead elaborate anew the very meaning of ethics, re-engaging its philosophical basis, possibilities and limits. This appears in the question of responsibility, cornerstone of such ethics: Reconstituting a history of the concept of responsibility, we will begin by analyzing how the concept of responsibility has traditionally been identified with accountability, that is, in terms of will, causality, freedom or free-will, and subjectivity. We will then wonder whether there might not be other ways to think responsibility, once the categories just-mentioned are put into question or challenged, in particular in Nietzsche’s work. What would responsibility mean if not thought as the consequence of free-will? If it no longer designates the capacity of a subject to "own" its thoughts and acts? If the category of causality is no longer operative or, at least, rendered problematic? Thus, for example, Sartre finds the origin of ethics and responsibility in the disappearance of a theological foundation for values; Heidegger rethinks the ethical by way of a critique of the metaphysical tradition of ethics and a meditation on human beings’ sojourn on the earth as ethos; Emmanuel Levinas breaks with Kantian universalism and situates ethics in the encounter with the singular other; Derrida questions the limits and aporias of ethics, reconceiving them as the very possibility of ethical decision. We will explore these post-metaphysical senses of ethical responsibility in the works of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Levinas, and Derrida.

TTh 4:30-6:30N, Raffoul

PHIL 3001: Existentialism

Basic themes of existentialist philosophy; the works of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, and Heidegger.

MWF 12:30-1:30, Schufreider

PHIL 3062: Introduction to Political Philosophy

Many of the most important debates in political philosophy and in everyday political discourse center around what the government ought to do. Should it raise taxes or lower them? Should it subsidize healthcare or allow people to buy it themselves? Should it intervene in the domestic affairs of other nations or remain isolationist? Answering any of these questions is made (slightly) easier once we have an answer to a broader question: what is government for. In this class, we will try to answer this question by examining and critiquing answers offered by various political thinkers over the past two millennia in the West.

MWF 1:30-2:20, Donelson

PHIL 3090: Friedrich Nietzsche

Also offered as GERM 3090. Knowledge of German not required. Major works of Nietzsche studied in the context of the three periods of productivity and evolution of his thought.

MWF 10:30-11:30, Blakley

PHIL 4010: Symbolic Logic II

Prereq.: PHIL 2010 or consent of instructor. Syntax and basic model theory of classical first order logic; soundness and completeness.

MWF 12:30-1:30, Roland

PHIL 4098: Politics and Ethics

Also offered as POLI 4098. Ethical theory and its application to politics, domestic and international; ethical issues of public policy and conduct will be examined.

MWF 12:30-1:30, Eubanks

PHIL 4922: Plato

This course is devoted to the study of Plato’s works and thought. The prerequisite is PHIL 2033. The content of the course varies from year to year—in the Fall of 2017 we will focus on the following three themes: (1) knowledge, (2) justice, and (2) the good human life. In investigating these topics, students will also become acquainted with central Platonic doctrines such as the theory of tripartition and the theory of the Forms. We will read a number of dialogues (or excerpts thereof), including the Euthyphro, Meno, Phaedo, Crito, Republic, and Theaetetus.

TTh 10:30-12:00, Parsons

PHIL 4935: Kant

Basic topics and arguments of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

TTh 12:00-1:30, Cogburn

PHIL 4943: Problems in Ethical Theory

On January 1, 2017, Derek Parfit – arguably, the greatest moral philosopher of the last hundred years – died. I want to teach this course as a homage to Professor Parfit. 

This course will focus on Parfit’s On What Matters, Volume One. (We shall also read two chapters from Volume Two. Volume Three comes out this month together with the companion volume, Does Anything Really Matter?: Parfit on Objectivity, edited by Peter Singer.) We shall focus on Parfit’s revolutionary claim that he can derive consequentialist conclusions from purely deontological and contractualist premises. I call this The Ultimate Derivation thesis. In producing that argument, Parfit has brilliantly covered the vast ground spanned by Kant’s deontological theory, the doctrines of ethical egoism, impartialism, and consequentialism, and the contractualist theories of David Gauthier, John Rawls, and Thomas Scanlon. We shall study them all. If that argument – that crowns the first volume – is sound, Parfit has delivered us an astonishing achievement in moral philosophy. I shall argue that Parfit’s Ultimate Derivation may be in need of defense.

Required Textbooks:
1. Derek Parfit, On What Matters. Volumes One and Two. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
2. Husain Sarkar, Kant and Parfit: The Groundwork of Morals, pp.xvi+487. (Unpublished Manuscript, 2017).

MW 3:00-4:30, Sarkar

PHIL 7903: Philosophy of the Event

The course will develop a continental philosophy of the event. The event has traditionally been enclosed within a metaphysics of causality, subjectivity and reason. Beginning with Nietzsche’s claims that the deed has no doer, and that the event exceeds causality, we will explore the phenomenological senses of the event, its very eventfulness: event as innocence of becoming, as excess (to reason and subjectivity), as impersonal happening, as groundless existence, as the interruption of otherness, as the very advent of the world, ultimately as the coming into presence of being. Authors include: Kant, Arendt, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, Derrida, Levinas, Marion, and Nancy.

TTh 1:30-3:00, Raffoul