Spring 2018 Courses
In addition to PHIL 100 (Introduction to Philosophy), PHIL 102 (Ethics), and PHIL 106 (Logic), the following courses are offered in the Spring of 2018 by the Department of Philosophy. (For more information, see NEST.)
Phil 291 Fields of Philosophy: The Philosophy of Race
The aim of this course is to cover the major debates and areas of inquiry in philosophy of race. Some of the debates concern (1) whether race is real, (2) whether, if so, it is socially real, biologically real or psychologically real, (3) whether society should abolish the use of the idea or category of race because of its relation to racism and racial injustice, (4) whether humans have a natural disposition to categorize by race, (5) how race can affect the flow of knowledge in society, the production of ignorance and the justification of individually held beliefs, and (6) how race affects the distribution of wealth and opportunities in the United States. We will study authors and influential texts from the 15th century to the early 20th century, from theorists such as Bartolomé de las Casas to W.E.B. Du Bois, to Alain Locke. These debates and areas of inquiry in the philosophy of race will be taken up by engaging not only with philosophers of race but also with philosophers of biology, sociologists, metaphysicians, epistemologists, and political philosophers.
Phil 292 Fields of Philosophy: Philosophy in Science Fiction
Science fiction – in literature, TV, movies and other cultural products – obviously focuses on the impact of current or speculative scientific and technological developments. But a key part of what makes Sci-Fi interesting is that those speculations allow authors and readers to explore science and technology as a way to ask enduring questions about the human experience: philosophical questions. The fictional possibilities opened up by the real or imagined science often frame classic philosophical issues in newly-engaging or truly novel ways. This course will allow students to explore their favourite science fiction, to develop a deeper understanding of the philosophy it assumes, questions or confronts. Course content will be substantially driven by student interests, as the scope of the subject matter and the philosophy it engages with is too great to fit in one course.
Phil 333 History of Philosophy: Modern Philosophy
Phil 339 Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Fall 2017 Philosophy Courses
PHIL 212 Social and Political Philosophy
This course will examine core issues in social and political philosophy in the western tradition—such as justice, authority, freedom and equality—in order to reflect on the nature of the political state, and the relationship between the state and the individual. Taking a broad historical approach, we will examine foundational works in political philosophy by thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, as well as contemporary thinkers such as Rawls and Foucault. In so doing, we will consider philosophers’ points of disagreement on these issues, and examine their respective underlying reasoning.
PHIL 290 Fields of Philosophy: Happiness and Meaning
Is happiness simply maximizing pleasure? Is happiness just getting what you want? Can a person become happy by accumulating wealth? Is being happy the same as living a good life? What is a good life? What makes a life fulfilling? What makes it meaningful? In what ways are the following related to happiness: freedom, ethics, politics, identity, authenticity, technology? In considering these questions, we will read from several different areas of philosophy—existentialism, phenomenology, ancient Greek philosophy, contemporary analytic philosophy, and contemporary continental philosophy. One task in this project is to analyze happiness and related concepts, but we will also continually attempt to describe, to flesh out the underlying phenomenon that philosophers aim to pick out with such concepts. The underlying phenomenon is something like the ultimate goal of life or what Aristotle calls “the chief good.”
PHIL 293 Fields of Philosophy: Philosophy of Biology
This course will be organized around answering one apparently simple question: “Is evolutionary biology a science?” Students will explore this question through independent research, group projects and class presentations, using their own expertise and interests to focus their activity. As we research this, and evaluate alternative accounts (the various creationisms, intelligent design, etc.), some of the issues we will discuss are the demarcation problem (what counts as ‘scientific’?), the nature of scientific knowledge and explanation, the relationship between the sciences and other ways of knowing (such as religion), the role of politics in science and science education, and the value-neutrality or impartiality of science.
PHIL 331 Ancient Philosophy
Spring 2017 Philosophy Courses
PHIL 233 Contemporary Philosophers: The Philosophy of Technology
We are steeped in technology. The philosopher David Kaplan puts it this way: "Our world is largely a constructed environment; our technologies and technological systems form the background, context, and medium for our lives." The Philosophy of Technology is a relatively new sub-field of philosophy, which is exciting because the sub-field is still in flux—philosophers of technology are still in disagreement about precisely what should be their focus. The philosophy of technology should at least attempt to clarify what technology is. But is technology a particular domain of human activity? Is it a particular way of knowing? In this course we will study some of these attempts to make sense of the nature of technology, but we will focus on the ways in which technology affects us—as individual selves, socially, and politically.
PHIL 264 Critical Reasoning and Arguments
This course addresses the philosophical side of reasoning, inference, and decision-making. The emphasis is on key themes from formal logic, paradoxes, inductive reasoning, probability, and rhetoric. The goal will be to develop skills necessary to critically read scholarly, scientific, and even political texts. Students will also get practice in logically presenting their views, and challenging those that others express. In this course, the goal is to explore the connection between philosophical theory and practice, in a way that gets at the basic need that we have to make informed choices in a range of disciplines and situations.
PHIL 310 Knowledge, Belief, and Truth
The major issues and theories concerning the relationship between knowledge, experience and reality.
PHIL 424 Seminar in Philosophy: Theories of Action
Cooperative research seminar in major movements, problems, philosophers or works.
Fall 2016 Philosophy Courses
PHIL 200 History of Ethics
This is a survey course of the major developments in moral philosophy. We will trace a selective history, from the ancient Greeks to the 21st century. Along the way, students will become acquainted with the most important theories and concepts in ethics, such as utilitarianism, deontology, and natural-law theory. These theories will be set against the parallel history of ethical skepticism. The course will also focus on the improvement of the two main skills in philosophy, reading and writing. In that sense, the class serves as a bridge between Introductory level classes and the more advanced ones that you might take in philosophy.
PHIL 295 Periods and Movements: Living Machines in Descartes and Hobbes
Hobbes and Descartes are often criticized for putting forth ‘lifeless’ conceptions of life that reduce living creatures to artificial machines or dead matter. Descartes and Hobbes accept the ‘new’ scientific notion of nature as physical motion governed by universal, causal laws, and reject the ‘old’ approaches which conceive of life in terms of divine purpose or natural teleology. Each elaborates his concept of life with reference to automata or ‘engines that move themselves’, to use one of Hobbes’ formulations. From this ‘machine metaphor’, however, they draw very different conclusions. We will examine these two influential conceptions of life in order to discover the ways that each philosopher conceives of the human being as a living, moving, creature. In so doing, we will explore key issues in early modern philosophy that pertain to the relationship between nature and human experience (such as the connection between the human body and the human mind), and those concerning the free will-determinism debate.
PHIL 312 Existence and Reality
An examination of major philosophical theories concerning the nature of reality.
PHIL 339 Contemporary Continental Philosophy
This course will survey the four main movements of the continental (European) philosophical tradition: (1) 19th century German philosophy, (2) Marxism/critical theory, (3) phenomenology/existentialism, and (4) post-structuralism/post-modernism. This philosophical tradition runs from the 19th Century to the present day. Continental philosophy stands in contrast to the dominant, Anglo-American, "analytic" philosophical tradition. This course gives students the opportunity to examine the ways in which continental philosophers approach issues in the core subfields of philosophy, such as epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Students will also have the opportunity to explore similarities to and differences from the analytic philosophical tradition.