Course Offerings (Spring 2023)

All Phil Courses

Philosophy Courses 

Spring 2023
Courses marked with * contribute to satisfying General Education Requirements 

*PHIL 1000: Introduction to Philosophy

Note that credit will not be given for both this course and PHIL 1001, which is the honors version of this course.

Section 1: MWF 10:30 - 11:20, 209 Coates, Wells

This course provides an introduction to philosophy through the lens of the concept of “enlightenment.” What we call “the Enlightenment” was a period of intellectual and philosophical development in 17th and 18th century Europe. However, more broadly speaking but in the spirit of that movement, we can describe enlightenment as a series of commitments: Commitment to the idea that humans are by nature rational things, to the idea of truth and that such truth is discoverable through objective and rational inquiry, to the idea that individual liberty and individuality are paramount, and to the idea that the use of our reason is the engine for human progress. Our course traces these commitments through a survey of a number of figures in the history of philosophy. It does so in (roughly) three sections. First, we sketch an argument in defense of the concept and the project of enlightenment. Next, we consider some challenges to the foundations of this enlightenment project: Is what we call progress really progress? Are we really transparently rational selves? Are we really free? What if all of this is simply a story we tell to justify control and conformity? Finally, we take up the critical tools of enlightenment to examine our own context, specifically with an eye toward gender, race, disability, and oppression. Throughout this course, we will keep three connected questions in mind: What is a self? What is the relationship between this self and rationality? How do the answers to these first two questions inform how we ought to act, as individuals and as communities?

Section 2: MWF 11:30 - 12:20, 209 Coates, Wells

This course provides an introduction to philosophy through the lens of the concept of “enlightenment.” What we call “the Enlightenment” was a period of intellectual and philosophical development in 17th and 18th century Europe. However, more broadly speaking but in the spirit of that movement, we can describe enlightenment as a series of commitments: Commitment to the idea that humans are by nature rational things, to the idea of truth and that such truth is discoverable through objective and rational inquiry, to the idea that individual liberty and individuality are paramount, and to the idea that the use of our reason is the engine for human progress. Our course traces these commitments through a survey of a number of figures in the history of philosophy. It does so in (roughly) three sections. First, we sketch an argument in defense of the concept and the project of enlightenment. Next, we consider some challenges to the foundations of this enlightenment project: Is what we call progress really progress? Are we really transparently rational selves? Are we really free? What if all of this is simply a story we tell to justify control and conformity? Finally, we take up the critical tools of enlightenment to examine our own context, specifically with an eye toward gender, race, disability, and oppression. Throughout this course, we will keep three connected questions in mind: What is a self? What is the relationship between this self and rationality? How do the answers to these first two questions inform how we ought to act, as individuals and as communities?

Section 3: TTh 9:00 - 10:20, 220 Stubbs, Blakley

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 4: TTH 10:30 - 11:50, 220 Stubbs, Blakely

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 5: TTH 12:00 - 1:20, 220 Coates, Ardoline

This course introduces students to the study of philosophy. We will examine some influential works of philosophy from ancient Greece to the present that raise meaningful questions about the self, reality, happiness, morality, knowledge, justice, law, and God. Students will gain an appreciation for the history, scope, and influence of philosophy as well as acquire the skills needed for critical reflection on their own lives and the world around them.

Section 6: TTH 1:30 - 2:50, 220 Coates, Wells

This course introduces students to the study of philosophy. We will examine some influential works of philosophy from ancient Greece to the present that raise meaningful questions about the self, reality, happiness, morality, knowledge, justice, law, and God. Students will gain an appreciation for the history, scope, and influence of philosophy as well as acquire the skills needed for critical reflection on their own lives and the world around them.

 


*PHIL 1021: Introduction to Logic

Section 1: TTh 12:00 - 1:20, 5 Lockett, Roland

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

 


*PHIL 2020: Ethics 

Section 1: MWF 2:30 - 3:20, 209 Coates, Wells

In this course we examine major positions in the history of ethical theory, as well as their applications and challenges to them. In the most basic sense, this course asks: What is right? How ought we act? How ought we live? In considering these primary questions, we will ask further: How ought we treat, and what do we owe, each other? Where do these obligations and responsibilities come from, i.e., what are their foundations? Our aim will be not only to understand these questions in theory, but to grapple with how they challenge us to live our lives, give us meaning, and determine what we value. Our task is to consider who we are and who we want to (or, perhaps, who we ought to) become. In pursuing this task, we will consider virtue ethics, stoic ethics, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and care ethics. We will also consider critiques of morality. In the final portion of the course we will examine the concept of oppression and its relation to ethics.

Section 2: MWF 3:30 - 4:20, 209 Coates, Wells

In this course we examine major positions in the history of ethical theory, as well as their applications and challenges to them. In the most basic sense, this course asks: What is right? How ought we act? How ought we live? In considering these primary questions, we will ask further: How ought we treat, and what do we owe, each other? Where do these obligations and responsibilities come from, i.e., what are their foundations? Our aim will be not only to understand these questions in theory, but to grapple with how they challenge us to live our lives, give us meaning, and determine what we value. Our task is to consider who we are and who we want to (or, perhaps, who we ought to) become. In pursuing this task, we will consider virtue ethics, stoic ethics, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and care ethics. We will also consider critiques of morality. In the final portion of the course we will examine the concept of oppression and its relation to ethics.

Section 3: TTH 12:00 - 1:20, 214 Coates, Kelley

What am I morally obligated to do? What should I care about and pursue for its own sake? This course introduces students to the philosophical study of ethics by investigating these fundamental and perplexing questions of human existence. The course is divided into three parts. First, we’ll investigate the normative ethics of behavior by asking questions such as whether the rightness or wrongness of an action depends solely on its consequences or whether the intentions of the person performing the action also matter. Second, we’ll focus on well-being and ask what kind of life would be best for you to lead. The third part of the course examines controversial topics such as immigration, affirmative action, and abortion. More generally, the course is designed to help the student become a better thinker and writer, especially as it relates to the utilization of ethical concepts, terms, and reasoning. 

Section 4: TTh 1:30 - 2:50, 220 Stubbs, Blakley

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 5: TTH 1:30 - 2:50, 220 Stubbs, Blakley

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.

 


PHIL 2025: Bioethics

Section 1: TTh 12:00 - 1:20, 155 Coates, Bacon

Bioethics is the examination of the ethical issues of having/being a biological body, the ethics of medicine, public health, life sciences, and ethical issues of biological life. The study of medical/biological ethics may seem relevant only to those pursuing medical professions, but we all are living, biological, embodied, beings. We live in a society and in ethical relation to others who are also living, biological, embodied, beings and so we all must make bioethical decisions individually and collectively in terms of how we care for and treat others. This course will give you an overview of bioethics, paying special attention to reproductive issues, care ethics, disability ethics, philosophy of illness, and ethical issues of end of life, death, and dying, We will also consider the ethical implications of theoretical medical advances such as cloning humans or unnaturally extending human life. By the end of the course, students will be able to apply various ethical frameworks to bioethical issues and discuss, think through, debate, and respond to bioethical issues with nuance, respect, and complexity.


*PHIL/REL 2028: Philosophy of Religion

Section 1: MWF 3:30 - 4:20, 220 Coates, Felty

This course will be a philosophical introduction to some of the integral questions about the nature of religion. What are the essential attributes of the divine? What is the role of philosophical/rational inquiry when it comes to religious belief? Are there any good reasons to believe that God exists? Does the existence of evil undermine belief in God’s existence? What is a miracle and what would be a means of knowing that one occurred? What is the relevance of the existence of God to moral values and duties? We will primarily focus on the way in which Western philosophers (both classical and contemporary) think about these questions.


PHIL 2035: History of Modern Philosophy

Section 1: TTH 1:30 - 2:50, 212 Coates, Ardoline

This course is a survey of Early Modern European philosophy (roughly, 1580-1800 A.D.). The modern period is a time of great intellectual, social, and political upheaval that, or at least believed it had, rejected the authority of ancient wisdom and that birthed ideas and institutions on which contemporary science and society still stand. Modern thinkers undertook an intellectual revolution by changing the fundamental question of philosophy from “what is the nature of existence?” to “what can I know?” We will pay particular attention to this question, and we will see how it helped make modern science possible as well as how it led to radical new ideas in metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics. We will read major figures such as Descartes, Spinoza, Newton, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant as well as their critics and less appreciated but no less fascinating and innovative contemporaries such as Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, Margaret Cavendish, Robert Boyle, Émilie du Châtelet, and Anton Wilhelm Amo. Required Text: Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources, 3rd Edition, eds. Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins, Hackett, 2019. (Must be 3rd edition; previous editions will not have all the readings needed for the course).

 


PHIL 2036: Honors Tutorial in Modern Philosophy

Section 1: TBD, Ardoline

To be taken concurrently with PHIL 2035.1 hour  of tutorial instruction per week for honors students.


PHIL 3020: Special Topics in Philosophy: Feminism, Philosophy, & Literature

Section 1: TTh 3:00 - 4:20, 023 Allen, Cogburn

In this course, we will study women’s selfhood and agency in relation to race, disability, and trauma. We will do so by discussing classic and contemporary works of literature such as Medea, Mrs.Dalloway, and Beloved, in conjunction with key feminist texts. We will cover feminist philosophy by Simone de Beauvoir, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Judith Butler, and bell hooks, among others, will be covered in the class. Here are some of the questions we will explore in the course: What is gender? In what ways, is a woman limited in her ability to exercise agency? How is her personhood affected by disability? In what ways does trauma, oppression, and slavery affect or transform a woman’s self? 

 


PHIL/LING 4010: Symbolic Logic II

Prereq: PHIL 2010 or consent of instructor

Section 1: W 2:30 - 5:20, 155 Coates, Roland

Having some facility with intermediate level symbolic logic is extremely useful in understanding contemporary debates in nearly every area of analytic philosophy (e.g., metaphysics, epistemology, philosophies of mind, language, and science, and metaethics). Areas such as philosophy and foundations of mathematics, philosophical logic, philosophy of logic, and of course logic proper require a familiarity with symbolic logic beyond the intermediate level. This is an intermediate level symbolic logic course. It will benefit not only graduate and advanced undergraduate students in philosophy, but also students in computer science, linguistics, and mathematics. Our goals will be to develop (i) a deeper understanding of the syntax and semantics of first-order logic than is normally attained in a first course in quantificational logic (such as PHIL 2010) and (ii) a serious appreciation for some of the main results in the metatheory of classical first-order logic, in particular, soundness, completeness, and compactness. Time permitting, we will have a look at some additional metatheoretic properties of classical first-order logic (e.g., the downward Löwenheim–Skolem theorem) as well as some consequences of compactness (specifically, the existence of non-standard models of arithmetic and the non-categoricity of first-order arithmetic).

 


PHIL 4786: Selected Topics: Foucault

May be taken for a max. of 6 hours when topics vary.

Section 1: MW 4:30 - 5:50, 424 Hodges, Protevi

The course will be a sustained interrogation of Michel Foucault’s concept of biopower and its relation to “neoliberalism.” Among the topics covered will be race, mass incarceration, and disability. We will first read books by Foucault, then dive into secondary literature. Discussion will be in English for most sessions, but we will have a French session periodically throughout the semester for those Francophone students enrolled in either FREN 7410 or PHIL 4786. (I suspect most of the PHIL students will be Anglophone only, but I don’t want to rule out the possibility that some will also have French language skills.) I will order the French original version of books as well as English translations. All students will make 2 presentations to the seminar. Undergraduate students will write a 15-page paper. Graduate students will write a 15-page paper (in French if desired) as well as the following supplemental assignments: (i) an annotated bibliography of at least 15 pieces of secondary literature to be handed in three weeks before their term paper is due and (ii) a syllabus of a course they might teach on Foucault someday. Reading list: Discipline and Punish; History of Sexuality, volume 1; “Society Must be Defended”; Security, Territory, Population; Birth of Biopolitics. A tentative list of secondary literature readings is available at the following G-Doc location: https://bit.ly/35oqdzf.

 


 

PHIL 4943: Problems in Ethical Theory

Prereq: two courses in philosophy or consent of the instructor. May be taken for a max. of 6 hours of credit when topics vary.

Section 1: TTH 10:30 - 11:50, 127 Coates, Kelley

Much of ethical theorizing concerns our duties to other people who currently exist. But what about our duties to ourselves or to people who do not currently exist but who will exist in the future? In this course, we will investigate the question of what we owe to ourselves and the questions of what we owe to future generations. The first part of the course concerns the non-identity problem, in which we will try to resolve the apparent paradox of there being moral reasons not to bring into existence individuals with unavoidably flawed lives that are nonetheless worth living. The second part of the course concerns whether and to what extent the constraints on what morality can demand of us are set by the duties we owe to ourselves. Our investigation of these two main topics will give rise to various side issues that are of no less importance, such as whether harming a person is just to make them worse off than they otherwise would have been and whether there are any genuinely supererogatory acts (i.e., acts that are optional but better than a permissible alternative). The two main texts for the course are David Boonin's The Non-Identity Problem & the Ethics of Future People and Daniel Munoz's forthcoming book What We Owe to Ourselves.

PHIL 4947: Topics in Philosophy of Law

Section 1: TTH 3:00 - 4:20, 127 Coates, Bacon

What does it say about the nature of human beings that we ‘need’ or ‘want’ laws? Why do we have laws? What are they for? Are the laws we have just? What do we do if they are not? In this class, we will consider the philosophical, ethical, and theoretical underpinnings of the law and legally structured society. The course will be broken up into two sections 1. Law and Order and 2. Anarchy and Abolition. The first section will focus on the justification for laws, their origin, and their purported necessity and use. The second section will attend to the critiques of the law and discuss alternatives. This class will take a curious approach, not trying to land on any particular position, but rather playfully consider the ways in which laws are justified. The aim of the course will be to question the legal social structures and institutions that are so ingrained that we rarely even consider why they exist.  We will also interrogate the understanding of the human being and society on which our laws are based.

 

PHIL 7910: Graduate Seminar: Well-Being

May be taken for a max. of 6 hours of credit when topics vary.

Section 1: W 12:30 - 3:20, 211 Coates, Kelley

What is of ultimate benefit and harm to beings like us? What is it for a life to go well for the person who lives it? Is it always good for you to get what you want? Could something be good for you in the most basic and fundamental way even if you were not at all interested in it? Is a life that starts out poorly but gets better over time better than one that starts out well but gets progressively worse? These are some of the central questions of well-being—or quality of life or welfare—that we will investigate in this course. We may also examine related topics concerning the nature of happiness and the meaning of life, depending on student interest. Our main aim will be to use the tools of philosophy (e.g., clarifying concepts, making distinctions, crafting thought experiments, formulating arguments, presenting objections) to understand and evaluate the main theories on this cluster of topics and for each student to formulate, argue for, and defend their own views on the subject matter.