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Fall 2017 Philosophy Courses

IMPORTANT NOTICE: 100 and 200-level courses are without prerequisites and open to first year students. 300-level courses presume some previous exposure to philosophy or a related field of study. If there is any question in your mind about whether you have the right background for any particular philosophy course, talk to the instructor before you enroll.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophical Problems and Arguments
Three sections: MW 10:30-11:45 am – McDaniel; WF 12:00-1:15 pm; 1:30-2:45 pm – Staff
This course is an introduction to some of the major texts, problems and methods in Western philosophy. Potential topics include: free will and determinism, the “mind-body” problem, the existence and nature of God, and skepticism. Readings will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources. Emphasis will be placed on the careful interpretation, analysis, and comparison of these texts, as well as the ability to extract arguments and theories from these texts. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Literary Studies. (1 unit) 

PHIL 120- Contemporary Moral Issues
Three sections: MW 1:30-2:45 pm; McCormick; TR 10:30-11:45 am; 1:30-2:45 pm von Platz
This is an introductory level course concerned with contemporary, controversial, moral issues. We will examine and evaluate a variety of views about such issues as the justice  of war, capital punishment, same-sex marriages, and euthanasia. No previous background in philosophy is required, but participants should have an interest in thinking critically about how we live. (1 unit)

PHIL 251 Elementary Symbolic Logic
Three sections: MWF 9:00-9:50 am; 10:30-11:20 am – Goddu; TR 9:00-10:15 am – McDaniel
A non-mathematical introduction to symbolic reasoning: translating arguments from English into a symbolic language, and demonstrating which ones are good (valid) and which ones are bad (invalid). Working with truth tables, formal rules of substitution and inference, and simple quantifiers, the course covers both sentence logic (If P then Q, etc.) and class logic (All S are P, etc.). There is frequent written homework, at least two midterm tests and a final examination. Grades will be based on performance. The techniques learned transfer readily to technical tasks such as programming, analyzing contracts, getting ready for the LSAT and debating, and also to everyday tasks such as understanding what one reads, arguing with authority figures, and evaluating editorials, sermons, advertisements and political speeches. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Symbolic Reasoning. (1 unit)

PHIL 265 – Bioethics
Two sections: TR 12:00-1:15 pm; 3:00-4:15 pm – Boxer
This course includes a survey of prevalent topics in recent bioethics, the study of ethical discussions surrounding the sciences of biology and medicine. Its primary aim is to help students improve their ability to think critically and to argue from the standpoint of a certain moral theory in the ethical evaluation of problems concerning the human body, health care, doctor-patient relationship, life and death, food, and animals. (1 unit) 

PHIL 271 – Ancient Greek Philosophy
Two sections: TR 10:30-11:45 am; 12:00-1:15 pm – Schauber
An introduction to ancient Western philosophy, with special attention to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Our aim will be to understand some of the key views and arguments of these philosophers, and to engage critically with them and their historical context. This will require close reading of the ancient texts, and discussion of the issues they raise. Topics may include questions about the nature of knowledge and reality, and about the nature of human action, such as: What is the difference between knowledge and belief? What are definitions? Must someone who understands a notion be able to define it? What sorts of things is it possible for a person to know? What is the connection between virtue and knowledge? How is morality connected to being human? Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Historical Analysis. (1 unit)

PHIL 364- Philosophy of Law
MW 1:30-2:45 pm- Lefkowitz
This course will address three central questions in the philosophy of law. First, what is law? What, if anything, distinguishes law from morality, etiquette, religious customs, or mafia threats? Second, under what conditions, if any, do people have a moral duty to obey  the law? Law claims the authority to tell us what we ought to do, but is this claim ever morally justified? If there is a moral duty to obey the law, how can we make sense of the intuition that civil disobedience and conscientious objection are sometimes morally justifiable?  Third, how should judges interpret the law, and in particular, constitutional norms? Should judges exercise their own moral judgment when applying the law to novel cases, or should they defer to the moral judgment  of the legislators who enacted the law? If the latter, should judges seek to discern the legislators' intention in enacting the law, or focus only on the meaning of the words that comprise the actual legislation? How might judges determine the meaning of those words? Is one of these approaches to statutory and constitutional interpretation more democratic than another, and if so, is that a reason to favor it over the others? Prerequisite: One previous philosophy class or permission of instructor or PPEL 261 or PPEL 262. (1 unit)

PHIL 365 – Action/Responsibility & Free Will
TR 3:00-4:15 pm – Schauber
This course provides an introduction to the problems of free will and moral responsibility. Broadly speaking, if determinism is true, then it can seem that nothing we do is genuinely “up to us,” and so it might seem that no one is fairly blamed or praised. On the other hand, if indeterminism is true, doesn’t that imply that everything we do is a matter of chance or luck, so that again, no one can be fairly praised or blamed or, more generally, be responsible? In short, while we tend to think that we are free, responsible agents, can this conception of ourselves be justified? We will investigate some prominent contemporary theories regarding the relationships between free will, moral responsibility, and determinism, and consider questions such as, What is free will?  What is the significance of determinism for free will and moral responsibility? Is free will compatible with determinism? To what extent is control significant for moral responsibility? Would praise and blame make sense if we lack freedom? (1 unit)

PHIL 381 – Topics Seminar: Metaphysics
TR 1:30-2:45 pm – McDaniel
Description Coming Soon. Departmental approval required. (1 unit)

PHIL 390 – Independent Study
M 8:00-8:50 am – Goddu
Limited to philosophy majors and minors.  Departmental approval required. (1 unit)

Other Important Courses Offered by Philosophy Faculty

FYS 100-43 – Moral Philosophy: Meaning, Value and Virtue
MW 10:30-11:45 am – McCormick
This class is an introduction to central questions of moral philosophy through the study of classic and contemporary writings. Some of the questions we will investigate through these readings are the following: What things are worth pursuing? What constitutes a good life? What constitutes a moral life? What is the relation between the two? Are humans essentially self-interested or are they naturally sympathetic?  Is there any meaning or purpose in human existence and can such meaning be found without a faith in God or religion?(1 unit)

Visit the major/minor page for complete details on curriculum and major/minor requirements.