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Spring 2019 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
Two sections: TR 9:00-10:15 am; 10:30-11:45 am – McDaniel
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
Two sections: TR 1:30-2:45 pm; 3:00-4:15 pm – McCormick
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, terrorism, hate speech and abortion. 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 – Goddu; WF 12:00-1:15 pm; 1:30-2:45 pm – Mahlan
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 260 – Philosophical Problems in Law & Society
Two sections: TR 10:30-11:45 am; 1:30-2:45 pm – Schauber
This course will examine the purpose and justification for legal limits on individual liberty, with special attention to problems of liability and punishment. Topics include strict liability, good Samaritan law, and capital punishment. (1 unit)
PHIL 265 – Bioethics
WF 10:30-11:45 am – Mahlan
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 272 – Modern Western Philosophy
Two sections: MW 12:00-1:15 pm; 1:30-2:45 pm – Reckner
The “modern” period in western philosophy includes European thought from roughly the years 1600 through 1800. Bookended by the works of René Descartes and Immanuel Kant, the modern period in Europe is characterized by its special interest in understanding the developments of the Scientific Revolution, as well as by its focus on the nature and powers of the human mind, specifically with regard to our capacity (or lack thereof) for knowledge that can be proved without relying on the senses. In ethical theory, the modern period marks the development of moral sense theory, utilitarianism, the social contract tradition in (classical) liberal political theory, and Kant’s moral theory. This class will be a discussion-driven survey of this period, and it will include, besides Descartes and Kant, figures such as Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, George Berkeley, Gottfried Leibniz, Adam Smith, David Hume, and Jeremy Bentham. The class will also include work by overlooked women philosophers of the modern period, such as Elisabeth of Bohemia and Margaret Cavendish. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Historical Studies. (1 unit)

PHIL 353 – Philosophical Methods
TR 3:00-4:15 pm – Boxer
This course is required of all philosophy majors and limited to philosophy majors and minors. Its main purpose is the development of philosophical skills related to critical reading, writing, and evaluation. For example, we will work on extracting the author's goal, overall strategy for achieving that goal, and specific arguments, from a wide variety of philosophical texts. In general, we will closely read, discuss, and argue the merits of numerous writings with a wide array of content, including the very nature of philosophy itself.
Seminar format. Departmental approval required. (1 unit)

PHIL 370- Philosophy of Mind
MW 10:30-11:45 am – Goddu
In this seminar we shall carefully analyze, compare, and evaluate numerous philosophical attempts to determine the nature of mental phenomena such as thinking and consciousness. In the process we shall discuss answers to such questions as: How can we tell if something has a mind or is capable of thinking and not just a mindless zombie? What is thought and consciousness? Do machines think? Do non-human animals have consciousness? What is the relationship between the mental and the physical? Between thought and action? Prerequisite: One previous philosophy course. (1 unit)

PHIL 365 – Action and Responsibility
W 3:00-5:30 pm – Boxer
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? Would praise and blame make sense if we lack freedom? One previous philosophy course or instructor permission required. (1 unit)

PHIL 382 – Economic Justice
TR 1:30-2:45 pm – von Platz
Some of the most vexing political questions of our time are questions of economic justice: Is economic inequality unjust? How should we think about poverty? Should the state regulate the market? Should we tax the rich? To what extent, why, and how? In this course we focus on the philosophical dimensions of these questions and investigate and discuss some of the answers that philosophers have proposed. One previous philosophy course or instructor permission required. (1 unit)

PHIL 390 – Independent Study                                                                                                                                  
T 9:00-9:50 am – Goddu
Limited to philosophy majors and minors.  Departmental approval required. (1 unit)

Other Important Courses Offered by Philosophy Faculty

FYS 100 – Ethics and International Affairs
Two sections: MW 9:00-10:15 am; 10:30-11:45 am – Lefkowitz
This course will focus on ethical issues raised by war, international economic inequality, and immigration. Among the questions we will discuss are: What makes people morally liable to attack in time of war? What, if anything, justifies so-called collateral damage?  Can terrorism ever be morally justifiable? Are the enormous economic inequalities between states morally justifiable? Is it just to treat as more important the economic wellbeing of our co-nationals or fellow citizens than the economic wellbeing of foreigners? Finally, what if anything justifies states in placing restrictions on immigration? Are there any criteria for restricting immigration that are morally impermissible? 

FYS 100 – Meaning & Value
TR 9:00-10:15 am – McCormick
Have you ever wondered what makes a person's life go well? Or have you ever wondered how you might make your own life go well? This course is a quest to identify the features of a good human life. In our quest to unravel the components of such a life, we will also gain some insight into how we can improve our own lives by, for instance, instilling our lives with greater meaning and finding ways to become happier. Some more specific questions we will consider are the following: What things are worth pursuing?
What is the relationship between a good life and a life of pleasure, happiness and virtue? What are some barriers to living a good life? Is there any meaning or purpose in human existence and can such meaning be found without a faith in God or religion?

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