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The College Catalogue

Philosophy – Courses

First-Year Seminars

Topics in first-year seminars change from time to time but are restricted in scope and make no pretense to being an introduction to the whole field of philosophy. They are topics in which contemporary debate is lively and as yet unsettled and to which contributions are often being made by more than one field of learning. For a full description of first-year seminars, see the First-Year Seminar section.

1035 {15} c. Altruism. Fall 2014. Lawrence Simon.

1039 c. Existentialism. Fall 2014. Sarah Conly.

[1040 {14} c. Personal Identity.]

Introductory Courses

Introductory courses are open to all students regardless of year and count toward the major. They do not presuppose any background in philosophy and are good first courses.

[1252 {152} c. Death.]

1320 {120} c. Moral Problems. Spring 2015. Kristi Olson.

Our society is riven by deep and troubling moral controversies. Examines some of these controversies in the context of current arguments and leading theoretical positions. Possible topics include abortion, physician-assisted suicide, capital punishment, sexuality, the justifiability of terrorism, and the justice of war.

1321 c. Philosophical Issues of Gender and Race. Fall 2015. Kristi Olson.

A philosophical exploration of contemporary issues of gender and race. Possible topics include the social construction of race and gender, implicit bias, racial profiling, pornography, the gender wage gap, affirmative action, race and incarceration, transgender issues, and reparations for past harms. Readings drawn from philosophy, legal studies, and the social sciences. (Same as Gender and Women’s Studies 1321.)

[1435 {145} c. Truth and Morality: One, Many, or None?]

1436 c. Strange Worlds. Fall 2014. Matthew Stuart.

Philosophy challenges us to justify the beliefs that we ordinarily take for granted. Some philosophers argue that commonsense beliefs cannot meet this challenge—that reality is very different from how things seem. Parmenides argues that there is only one thing. Sextus Empiricus tries to convince us that nobody knows anything (not even that nobody knows anything!) Gottfried Leibniz argues that only minds exist. J. M. E. McTaggart contends that time is unreal. C. L. Hardin denies that anything is colored. Examines these and other strange conclusions, as well as the arguments offered in support of them.

1442 {142} c. Philosophy of Religion. Spring 2016. Scott Sehon.

Does God exist? Can the existence of God be proven? Can it be disproven? Is it rational to believe in God? What does it mean to say that God exists (or does not exist)? What distinguishes religious beliefs from non-religious beliefs? What is the relation between religion and science? Approaches these and related questions through a variety of historical and contemporary sources, including philosophers, scientists, and theologians. (Same as Religion 1142 {142}.)

Intermediate Courses

2100 {200} c. History, Freedom, and Reason. Spring 2015. Lawrence H. Simon.

What are the causes of historical development? Is history progressive? Do freedom and reason manifest themselves in history? A study of the development of political philosophy and philosophy of history in nineteenth-century German philosophy from Kant through Hegel to Marx.

2111 {111} c. Ancient Philosophy. Fall 2014. Sarah Conly.

Studies some of the most important works by Plato and Aristotle, two of the greatest western thinkers and major influences on western thought. Explores questions in ethics, politics, art, psychology, the concept of knowledge, and the nature of reality.

2112 {112} c. Modern Philosophy. Spring 2015. Matthew Stuart.

A survey of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European philosophy, focusing on discussions of the ultimate nature of reality and our knowledge of it. Topics include the nature of the mind and its relation to the body, the existence of God, and the free will problem. Readings from Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and others.

2223 {223} a - MCSR. Logic. Every fall. Fall 2014. Kristi Olson.

The central problem of logic is to determine which arguments are good and which are bad. To this end, we introduce a symbolic language and rigorous, formal methods for seeing whether one statement logically implies another. We apply these tools to a variety of arguments, philosophical and otherwise, and demonstrate certain theorems about the formal system we construct.

2233 {233} - MCSR. Intermediate Logic. Spring 2016. Scott Sehon.

Investigates several philosophically important results of modern logic, including Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, the Church-Turing Theorem (that there is no decision procedure for quantificational validity), and Tarski’s theorem (the indefinability of truth for formal languages). Also includes an introduction to modal logic, the logic of necessity and possibility.

Prerequisite: Philosophy 2223 {223} or permission of the instructor.

2320 {220} c. Bioethics. Spring 2016. Sarah Conly.

Examines issues central for physicians, biological researchers, and society: cloning, genetic engineering, biological patenting, corporate funding for medical research, use of experimental procedures, and others.

2321 {221} c. History of Ethics. Fall 2014. Lawrence H. Simon.

How should one live? What is the good? What is my duty? What is the proper method for doing ethics? The fundamental questions of ethics are examined in the classic texts of Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill.

2322 {222} c. Political Philosophy. Fall 2015. Lawrence H. Simon.

Examines some of the major issues and concepts in political philosophy, including freedom and coercion, justice, equality, and the nature of liberalism. Readings primarily from contemporary sources.

2358 {258} c. Environmental Ethics. Spring 2015. Lawrence H. Simon.

What things in nature have moral standing? What are our obligations to them? How should we resolve conflicts among our obligations? After an introduction to ethical theory, topics include anthropocentrism, the moral status of nonhuman sentient beings and of non-sentient living beings, preservation of endangered species and the wilderness, holism versus individualism, the land ethic, and deep ecology. (Same as Environmental Studies 2448 {258}.)

2359 c. Ethics of Climate Change. Spring 2016. Kristi Olson.

Examines moral questions raised by climate change, including: What would constitute a just allocation of burdens? What do we collectively owe to future generations? If collective action fails, what are our obligations as individuals? When, if at all, is civil disobedience justified? Readings drawn primarily from contemporary philosophy. (Same as Environmental Studies 2459.)

[2410 {210} c. Philosophy of Mind.]

[2425 {225} c. Philosophy of Science.]

2427 {227} c. Metaphysics. Spring 2015. Matthew Stuart.

Metaphysics is the study of very abstract questions about reality. What does reality include? What is the relation between things and their properties? What is time? Do objects and persons have temporal parts as well as spatial parts? What accounts for the identity of persons over time? What is action, and do we ever act freely?

2429 {229} c. Philosophy in the Twentieth Century. Fall 2014. Matthew Stuart.

An examination of some key figures and works in the development of analytic philosophy. Particular attention is given to theory about the nature of physical reality and our perceptual knowledge of it and to questions about the nature and function of language. Readings from Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, W. V. O. Quine, Gilbert Ryle, and others.

2430 {226} c. Epistemology. Spring 2015. Matthew Stuart.

What is knowledge, and how do we get it? What justifies us in believing certain claims to be true? Does knowing something ever involve a piece of luck? Is it possible that we lack knowledge of the external world altogether? An introduction to the theory of knowledge, focusing on contemporary issues. Considers various conceptions of what it takes to have knowledge against the background of the skeptical challenge, as well as topics such as self-knowledge and the problem of induction.

2970–2973 {291–294} c. Intermediate Independent Study in Philosophy. The Department.

2999 {299} c. Intermediate Collaborative Study in Philosophy. The Department.

Advanced Courses

Although courses numbered in the 3000s {300s} are advanced seminars primarily intended for majors in philosophy, adequately prepared students from other fields are also welcome. Besides stated prerequisites, at least one of the courses from the group numbered in the 2000s {200s} is a helpful preparation.

3347 c. Morality of War. Spring 2015. Kristi Olson.

Under what circumstances, if any, is war morally permissible, and what are the moral constraints on what it is permissible to do? Is there a moral difference between intending to kill civilians and merely foreseeing that they will be killed? When, if ever, is terrorism morally permissible? Topics addressed in this course may include: the doctrine of double effect, the morality of self-defense, the permissibility of torture, noncombatant immunity, and collaborating with wrongdoers.

3348 c. Metaethics. Fall 2015. Lawrence H. Simon.

Are there moral facts? Are value judgments like factual judgments in that they admit of truth or falsity? Does morality have a subject matter that exists independently of knowers? In moral thinking, are we constrained to certain conclusions, or can we think anything we like about any (moral) phenomenon and not be open to rational criticism? What kinds of reasons for action does morality give us? Metaethics attempts to understand the metaphysical, epistemological, and psychological presuppositions of our moral discourse and practice.

3350 c. Theories of Equality. Spring 2016. Kristi Olson.

What do we really want when we advocate for equality? Should we equalize income or something else? If everybody had enough, would we still have a reason to pursue equality? What should we do in those cases in which individuals are responsible, through their choices, for having less? We seek answers to these and other questions by examining theories of equality in contemporary political philosophy. Readings will be drawn from the work of Elizabeth Anderson, G.A. Cohen, Ronald Dworkin, Susan Okin, Michael Otsuka, Derek Parfit, John Rawls, and others.

[3392 {392} c. Advanced Topics in Environmental Philosophy. (Same as Environmental Studies 3992 {392}.)]

[3434 {334} c. Free Will.]

[3450 c. Ryle and Dennett.]

4000–4003 {401–404} c. Advanced Independent Study in Philosophy. The Department.

4029 {405} c. Advanced Collaborative Study in Philosophy. The Department.

4050–4051 c. Honors Project in Philosophy. The Department.

Online Catalogue content is current as of August 1, 2014. For most current course information, use the online course finder. Also see Addenda.