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Spring 2023 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: TR 9:00-10:15 am – McDaniel; TR 1:30-2:45 pm; 3:00-4:15 pm - Reckner
This course is intended as an introduction to a number of related problems in philosophy. Can I know anything? Does God exist? What is the relationship between the mind and the body? Am I the same person now as I was in the past? Am I free? In discussing these questions, we will examine a variety of responses, ranging from those given by Descartes and his early modern critics to 20th and 21st-century responses to these philosophical problems. Throughout the course, special attention will be paid (a) to extracting precise arguments from the authors we read and (b) to evaluating these arguments. This procedure will reveal ambiguities and other flaws in many arguments that appear convincing at first; other times and it will show that often an “obvious” assumption stands in need of outside justification and/or has questionable implications. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Literary Studies. (1 unit) 

PHIL 251Elementary Symbolic Logic
Two sections: MWF 9:00-9:50 am; 10:30-11:20 am – Goddu
This course is an introduction to symbolic (or mathematical) logic. The focus is on the formal structure of arguments, their logical properties and the formulation and evaluation of proofs. We will be studying structure at different levels, beginning with sentential logic and then advancing to monadic and polyadic predicate logic. In each case, we will familiarize ourselves with the relevant logical grammar and (truth-functional) semantics and use these to provide translations of English sentences. We will also learn how to construct proofs of valid arguments and how to provide counterexamples to invalid arguments. In the study of sentential logic, truth-tables will be used to test for validity and other logical properties such as contingency and equivalence. 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; 12:00-1:15 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
Two sections: MW 10:30-11:45 am; 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 269 – Environmental Ethics
Two sections: MW 10:30-11:45 am; 1:30-2:45 pm – Bondurant
This course considers environmental justice internationally, within the United States, and in the local Richmond community. Students will explore potential duties that people have to other people including those in the future not yet born, marginalized and exploited communities such as Indigenous tribes, animals, plants, and the Earth. These relationships serve as the basis for conversations on topics such as environmental racism and classism in agriculture and healthcare. The course takes an intersectional, interdisciplinary approach which draws from philosophy, sociology, feminist and queer theory, indigenous narratives, history, business, law, and science. Assigned materials seek to amplify voices and experiences of diverse cultures, races, and identities especially those fighting on the “front lines” alongside philosophical examinations of historical and current controversies. Besides course materials, students have a range of assignments including writing an Op-Ed, presenting independent research, and leading discussions. Questions will include those such as whether technology is harmful or helpful, “consumer activism” is effective, and animal consumption can be ethical. (1 unit)

PHIL 272 – Modern European Philosophy
Two sections: TR 9:00-10:15 am; 10:30-11:45 am – McCormick
The “modern” period in European philosophy includes, roughly, the years 1600 through 1800. This period in is characterized by its special interest in understanding the developments of the Scientific Revolution, and also by its focus on the nature and powers of the human mind. This class will discuss some of central figures of  this period, such as René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Émile du Châtelet,  Margaret Cavendish, Gottfried Leibniz, David Hume, Thomas Reid, Mary Shepherd,  and Immanuel Kant. Some of the topics we will discuss include the nature and scope of knowledge, questions about free will and freedom, the nature and importance of emotions, and the role of reason and passions in figuring out right and wrong. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Historical Studies. (1 unit)    

PHIL 351 – Kant's Metaphysics: The Critique of Pure Reason
WF 1:30-2:45 pm – Reckner
Widely regarded as the greatest single work in European philosophy, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is a seminal work in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. Reason, Kant says, sets itself three unavoidable problems: Does God exist? Are we free? Do we have an immortal soul? Yet metaphysics—which is supposed to be the science of such questions—has always been a “battlefield of endless controversies”. Other sciences, such as physics and mathematics, proceed apace, making sure and steady progress, but metaphysics has never advanced even a single step, Kant alleges. To see whether metaphysics can ever be put on “the secure path of science”, the Critique of Pure Reason sets out to examine the faculties of the human mind, in search of the limits of human knowledge. This seminar will be a focused study of this seminal text. Departmental approval required. (1 unit)

PHIL 353 – Philosophical Methods
TR 10:30-11:45 am – McDaniel
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 365 – Action, Responsibility and Free-Will
T 1:30-4:15 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 permission of instructor. (1 unit)

PHIL 370 – Philosophy of Mind
TR 12:00-1:15 pm – 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 390 – Independent Study                                                                                                              TBD – McCormick
Limited to philosophy majors and minors.  Departmental approval required. (1 unit)



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