Course Descriptions Fall 2012

CAS PH 100 A1 – Introduction to Philosophy
Professor Farkas
MWF, 2:00-3:00

Introduction to the nature of philosophical activity through a careful study of selected great works such as Plato’s Apology, Descartes’ Meditations, Lao Tze’s Tao Te Ching, Pascal’s Pensées, and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 100 B1 – Introduction to Philosophy
Professor Elpidorou
TR, 12:30-2:00

Introduction to the nature of philosophical activity through a careful study of selected great works such as Plato’s Apology, Descartes’ Meditations, Lao Tze’s Tao Te Ching, Pascal’s Pensées, and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 110 A1 – Great Philosophers
Professor Sreedhar
MWF, 11:00-12:00

A comparative introduction to the life and thought of six preeminent philosophers from classical times in both the Western and Eastern traditions

CAS PH 150 A1 – Introduction to Ethics
Professor Star
MWF, 10:00-11:00

Who ought we to be, what ought we to do, what ought we to strive for? Examination of our obligations to ourselves, to other humans, and to the natural world in light of ethical theory and contemporary problems. Readings from a wide range of texts in philosophical ethics.

CAS PH 150 B1 – Introduction to Ethics
Professor Soyarslan
TR, 9:30-11:00

What should I do? How should I live? What is happiness? What is it to lead a good life? What’s the difference between good and evil? By addressing these questions, this course will enable us to reflect on the meaning of “being moral.” We will start by looking at some of the first moral questions that were raised in the history of morality by Plato. Next, we will explore the main tenets of three important approaches in ethical theory: first, Virtue Ethics that is based on a consideration of happiness and virtue; second, Utilitarianism i.e. the view that an act is justified by its consequences for the happiness of the greatest number; third Ethics of Deontology, i.e. the view associated with Immanuel Kant that being moral is to be understood as a requirement of reason. After looking at these theoretical approaches together with their significance for contemporary ethical theory, we will turn to some practical applications of these views. More specifically, we will focus on contemporary real-life problems including poverty, cloning, abortion, euthanasia, and the treatment of animals.

CAS PH 150 C1 – Introduction to Ethics
Professor Kuehn
TR, 2:00-3:30

Who ought we to be, what ought we to do, what ought we to strive for? Examination of our obligations to ourselves, to other humans, and to the natural world in light of ethical theory and contemporary problems. Readings from a wide range of texts in philosophical ethics.

CAS PH 155 A1 – Politics & Philosophy
Professor Griswold
TR, 11:00-12:30

Our themes in this course are expected to include the following: What is justice? Is the free market necessarily part of a free society, or may economic and political liberties be divorced? What makes government legitimate? Are anarchism and utopianism defensible political positions? Can politics be conducted philosophically, and must philosophers be involved in politics? While special attention will be given to the Modern Enlightenment (figures such as Adam Smith, Rousseau, and David Hume, for example), the work of a number of contemporary authors will also be read, along with passages from the classics (Plato and Aristotle in particular). Throughout, we will cultivate fundamental philosophical skills of analysis and argumentation as we delve into issues of great contemporary relevance.

Prerequisites: None. This course carries Humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 160 A1 – Reasoning & Argumentation
Professor Webb
MWF, 10:00-11:00

Knowing how to talk, reason, and argue well is essential for success in all disciplines and in everyday life. The aim of this course is to strengthen and develop your critical thinking skills; you will learn how to make good arguments and how to critically evaluate the arguments of others. This course will emphasize both real everyday examples, such as those drawn from newspaper articles, as well as examples drawn from the sciences. Required Textbook: Merrilee Salmon Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, 6th Edition. Carries a humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 160 B1 – Reasoning & Argumentation
Professor Floyd
TR, 11:00-12:30

A systematic study of the principles of both deductive and informal reasoning, calculated to enhance students’ actual reasoning skills, with an emphasis on reasoning and argumentation in ordinary discourse. Carries a humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 170 A1 – Philosophy of Science and Pseudoscience
Professor P. Bokulich
TR, 3:30-5:00

What is the difference between legitimate science and quackery dressed up as science? Is it rational to believe in astrology, psychokinesis, or communication with the dead? Should we trust homoepathy, or the big pharmaceutical companies? Are humans causing climate change, or is it just a politically driven scare tactic dressed up as science? In this class we will discuss how to distinguish between legitimate scientific debated and arguments that are put forward by denialists and conspiracy theorists. We will explore how science progresses, and how a non-expert can reasonably evaluate surprising claims that claim to be “scientific.”

CAS PH 223 A1 – Philosophy of Sport
Professor Kestenbaum
MWF, 11:00-12:00

A philosophical investigation of sport. Questions include: What is sport? What is play? Is competition morally defensible? Should athletes take performance-enhancing drugs? Should women compete against mean? Is sport beautiful? Readings from contemporary and classical philosophers.

CAS PH 244 A1 – Applied Ethics
Professor Powell
TR, 3:30-5:00

This course will explore topics in practical ethics, such as poverty, the right to healthcare, killing in medicine, killing in war, capital punishment, the treatment of non-human animals, and the biomedical enhancement of human capacities and human nature.

CAS PH 248 A1 – Existentialism
Professor Kestenbaum
MWF, 1:00-2:00

Analysis of existentialism as a movement or orientation in contemporary philosophy. Topics include contingency and the grounds for belief and value; depth, superficiality, and the intense life; commitment and openmindedness; tragedy and the healthy self; boredom, anxiety, and adventure; and existentialism as a philosophy of the possible.

CAS PH 251 A1 – Medical Ethics
Professor Powell
TR, 11:00-12:30

This course will survey moral philosophical issues that arise in connection with medicine and emerging biotechnologies. It will examine topics such as the right to healthcare, research ethics, euthanasia, abortion, concepts of death and disease, and assisted reproductive technologies.

CAS PH 251 B1 – Medical Ethics
Professor Elpidorou
TR, 11:00-12:30

This course will survey moral philosophical issues that arise in connection with medicine and emerging biotechnologies. It will examine topics such as the right to healthcare, research ethics, euthanasia, abortion, concepts of death and disease, and assisted reproductive technologies.

CAS PH 254 A1 – Political Philosophy
Professor Michalski
TR, 3:30-5:00

Examination of some classic texts of modern political philosophy in Europe: of Hobbes, Kant, Marx, and Carl Schmitt. Discussion will focus on the concept of “liberalism” and its criticism, in the context of the intellectual landscape of the time as well as some more recent interpretations.

CAS PH 259 A1 – Philosophy and the Arts
Professor Speight
TR, 12:30-2:00

What makes something beautiful? How do different arts (music, dance, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, drama) relate to different aspects of our aesthetic experience of the world? In this course, we will explore several famous philosophical theories of art and discuss them in connection with numerous specific examples of artwork in the various genres.

CAS PH 261 A1 – Puzzles and Paradoxes
Professor Liebesman
TR, 2:00-3:30

Some of our most basic beliefs, when scrutinized, lead to absurd conclusions. For example, using only beliefs that seem uncontroversial, we can conclude that motion is impossible, that everyone is bald, and it is impossible to give a surprise exam. Carefully scrutinizing the reasoning that leads to these absurdities often yields substantial philosophical insight. In this course, we will examine a number of such puzzles and paradoxes in detail.

Prerequisite: PH 160 or instructor permission

CAS PH 266 A1 – Mind, Brain, and Self
Professor Elpidorou
MWF, 9:00-10:00

Philosophical introduction to cognitive science. A consideration of the historical and intellectual background from which cognitive science has emerged, as well as the philosophical issues concerning the mind, brain, and self that arise from contemporary scientific research.

CAS PH 300 A1 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Professor Roochnik
TR, 12:30-2:00

Ancient Philosophy will begin with a study of the pre-Socratic philosophers, move next to several Platonic dialogues, and conclude with a reading of Aristotle’s POLITICS.

CAS PH 300 B1 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Professor Marrin
MWF, 12:00-1:00

Our focus will be on the two giants of Ancient Greek Philosophy, Plato and Aristotle. Our main texts will be Plato’s Apology, Euthyphro, and Republic and selections from Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Physics, and (especially) Nicomachean Ethics. We will examine and compare Plato’s and Aristotle’s answers to such questions as: What is virtue? What is knowledge? What is the fundamental nature of reality? What is the good life?

CAS PH 310 A1 – History of Modern Philosophy
Professor Kuehn
TR, 9:30-11:00

An examination of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy from Descartes to Kant, with emphasis on the nature and extent of knowledge. Readings include Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Berkley, Hume, and Kant.

CAS PH 310 B1 – History of Modern Philosophy
Professor Dahlstrom
MWF, 1:00-2:00

An examination of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy from Descartes to Kant, with emphasis on the nature and extent of knowledge. Readings include Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Berkley, Hume, and Kant.

CAS PH 340 A1 – Metaphysics & Epistemology
Professor Liebesman
TR, 3:30-5:00

Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge. Key issues in epistemology include our knowledge of the external world, knowledge of our own mental states, and inductive knowledge. Metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality. Key issues in metaphysics include free will, personal identity, and the nature of existence. This course will consist of a survey of issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and their intersection.

Prerequisite: PH 160 or instructor permission.

CAS PH 350 B1 – History of Ethics
Professor Soyarslan
TR, 2:00-3:30

The goal of this course is to encourage students to reflect on the meaning of “being moral” within the context of the development of ethical thought in the West. What is happiness? What is a good life? What does the life of a virtuous person consist in? How does the nature of the distinction and/or relationship between reason and emotion bear on moral theory? These fundamental questions, posed by the ancients but persisting in their relevance, will be our starting point. Next we will explore the ways in which the questions of morality have changed over time as a result of the interplay between culture and ethical theory. In particular, we will see how and to what extent the ancient contemplation of the good life is replaced in modern ethical theory by different sorts of moral questions, such as “How should we live?” and “On what principles should we act?” We will explore the similarities and differences between the ancient and modern approaches to ethics, covering a variety of great philosophers in the process, ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Nietzsche, Hume, Kant, and Mill.

CAS PH 360 A1/GRS PH 633 A1 – Logic
Professor Webb
MWF, 11:00-12:00

Study of methods characteristic of modern deductive logic including use of truth tables, Boolean normal forms, models, and indirect and conditional proofs within the theory of truth-functions and quantifiers.

CAS PH 410 A1/GRS PH 610 A1 – Continental Rationalism
Professor Garrett
MWF, 11:00-12:00

In this course we will explore the major writings of three of the most important philosophers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. All of these philosophers were linked by the shared methodological premise that we have a priori access to fundamental metaphysical facts about the world and the structure of minds.  We will focus on their philosophical methodologies, metaphysics and theories of mind through their accounts of substance, cause, explanation (particularly the principle of sufficient reason), and mental representation. We will begin with a close reading of major works by Descartes who was viewed by his contemporaries as having ushered in a novel way of making philosophical sense of the world consistent with the development of the new sciences (in which he was also a central figure). The course will then turn to a the most important work spawned by the Cartesian revolution, Spinoza’s Ethics, which was viewed by many contemporaries as the most controversial and philosophically rigorous book of the early modern period. Spinoza argued that there is only one substance (i.e., monism), that everything is determined in relation to this substance, and that everything – whether space dust slug or human — has a mind. Spinoza’s views were enormously influential on many philosophers from Leibniz to Hegel to philosophers of the present day. We will conclude with a reading of some essays by Leibniz who appropriated Spinoza’s basic insights about substance, causes, and reasons while leveling powerful criticisms of determinism and monism and arguing for infinitely many simple substances and a theory of possible worlds. Leibniz’s views have also proven to be extraordinarily influential.

Although the works we will read are demanding there are no prerequisites and the course is suitable for anyone who has taken an introductory philosophy course.

CAS PH 412 A1 – Philosophical Enlightenment
Professor Griswold
TR, 2:00-3:30

Shortly before his death, Rousseau opened his last work with these words: “I am now alone on earth, no longer having any brother, neighbor, friend or society other than myself…But I, detached from them and from everything, what am I? That is what remains for me to seek” (trans. Butterworth). A common thread through Rousseau’s oeuvre is the question of the self: what we are by nature, who we have become, and how self and other are related. That question provides the general focus of the seminar, and leads us into the heart of debates about “the Enlightenment.”

More specifically, we will focus on four interconnected issues: freedom (both “natural” or of self, and economic as well as political); the loss of freedom and authenticity, and the ensuing “theatricality” of self; “pitié” (compassion, pity)  and sympathy as rival means of understanding as well as identifying with self and other, and the challenge of self-love or egoism; and narrative as a way of understanding, explaining, and unifying. Rousseau’s famous polemic against commercial society as well as the arts, sciences, and letters, which are commonly thought of as high achievements of “the Enlightenment,” is closely tied to his reflections about the self in all four of these respects, and will demand our attention as well. For these achievements of the Enlightenment both express and further the degradation of self-or so his polemic claims.

Throughout, we will counterpoise Rousseau’s thought to that of his near contemporary, Adam Smith, as well as take up recent philosophical work on these issues, the better to work out our own position.

PH 412 is open only to undergraduate students, and will emphasize discussion.

CAS PH 419 A1/GRS PH 619 A1 – Nietzsche
Professor Michalski
TR, 11:00-12:30

Examination of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” The interpretation will focus on the concept of “eternal recurrence of the same”- in the context of the development of Nietzsche’s philosophy, from “The Birth of Tragedy” to “Will to Power” as well as in the context of continental philosophy of the nineteenth century and XX centuries.

CAS PH 422 A1/GRS PH 622 A1 – Analytic Philosophy
Professor Floyd
TR, 2:00-3:30

An investigation of the philosophical aspects of perception, with an emphasis on the early twentieth century analytic tradition as a basis for understanding contemporary work in the theory of knowledge. We shall begin discussing claims that have been made about the role of skepticism in early modern philosophy, reading classic texts by Descartes and their recent interpretations by Williams, McGinn and Wilson. Next we focus on the legacies of these interpretations in contemporary epistemology, especially with regard to issues surrounding contextualism. Readings include G.E. Moore’s essays “Proof of an External World,” “Certainty,” and “A Defense of Common Sense,” Russell’s Our Knowledge of the External World, J.L. Austin’s “Other Minds,” Quine’s Word and Object, Wittgenstein’s On Certainty, and related works by such contemporary philosophers as Anscombe, Grice, Clarke, Putman, Cavell, McDowell, Williams, Travis, and Wright.

CAS PH 427 A1/GRS PH 627 A1 – Heidegger
Professor Dahlstrom
M, 3:00-6:00

The aim of this seminar is to understand and examine critically Heidegger’s rationale for and manner of posing and addressing the question of what, in the case of human beings, it means to be. Heidegger pursues this question in his early, but unfinished work, Being and Time, and, hence, the seminar is thematically organized around this work. After an opening lecture, based in part on the introduction to Being and Time, the seminar is devoted to close scrutiny and discussion of the “existential analysis” in the text itself. An effort will be made to understand the interpretation of human existence given in Being and Time as a whole, despite its unfinished character. To this end, the seminar will take pains to cover the sweep of the entire text, including such themes as the analysis of the concept of world and the ontological significance of the use of tools in the workplace; the interpretation of the emotionally disposed understanding and discursiveness fundamental to being-here (Dasein); the challenges to being genuine, rooted in our need to conform; the care that defines our being-here, especially as disclosed in moments of Angst; our being “about to die” and conscience’s call as a testimony to our genuine mortal potential; and the timeliness and historicity that provide the constitutive horizon or sense of an existence defined as care.

CAS PH 443 A1/GRS PH 643 A1 – Philosophy of Mind
Professor P. Bokulich
TR, 12:30-2:00

This course will focus on arguments for and against the claim that consciousness is physical. Questions we shall address include the following: Is cognition computational? What does it mean for something to be physical? What is the ontology of information? Does physicalism imply reductionism? Does physics give a complete account of the casual structure of the world? Can physics account for the subjective nature of conscious experience? Authors we shall read include Chalmers, Jackson, Kripke, Searle, Shoemaker, and Stalnaker.

CAS PH 450 A1/GRS PH 650 A1 – Ethical Theory
Professor Star
W, 1:00-4:00

This course will focus on philosophical papers in contemporary ethics published during the past 40 years (with one or two exceptions). We will be concerned with critically exploring different types of ethical theory, both in metaethics (where we will consider various accounts of wellbeing, various accounts of what makes for right action, and arguments for and against giving virtue a central role to play in answering substantive moral questions). We will also briefly explore the following theoretical topics: the trolley problem and non-consequentialism, rule-consequentialism, contractualism and ethical particularism.

CAS PH 455 A1/GRS PH 655 A1 – Legal Philosophy
Professor Lyons
MW, 11:00-12:30

This course will critically examine ideas about the nature of law, duties of obedience and resistance, and legal interpretation, with an emphasis on modern theories.  Written work will consist of three short papers, one on each segment of the course.

(The course originates in the Law School as LAW JD853 and follows that school’s calendar.)

CAS PH 456 A1/GRS PH 656 A1 – Topics in Philosophy & Religion: God and the “End” of Art: Aesthetics, Value and Transcendence in the Modern Age
Professor Speight
W, 5:00-8:00

This course will examine the relation between aesthetic and other forms of value in the modern world, including the question of whether art has come to an “end” (Danto) and what consequences (philosophical, religious, or otherwise) might follow for our experience of art. The course will parallel a series of interdisciplinary lectures by visiting and BU professors next fall in the Institute for Philosophy and Religion (IPR), which will b incorporated in the course design. For more information, contact Professor Allen Speight, casp8@bu.edu

CAS PH 458 A1 – Crime & Punishment
Professor Sreedhar
M, 5:00-8:00

Study of fundamental issues in criminal law, including the theory and definition of crime; economic, utilitarian, and retributivist justifications of punishment; exculpating circumstances; the death penalty; and the relationship between law and politics.

CAS PH 461 A1/GRS PH 661 A1 – Mathematical Logic
Professor Kanamori
TR, 11:00-12:30

The syntax and semantics of sentential and quantificational logic, culminating in the Completeness Theorem. The Incompleteness Theorem and its ramifications for computability and philosophy.

GRS PH 684 A1 – Topics in Speculative Philosophy: Philosophical Cosmology
Professor Neville
T, 2:00-5:00

This is a doctoral seminar originally designed for students in the science, philosophy, and religion program but open to others. It quickly reviews modern western philosophical cosmological ideas in Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel and then at more leisure studies such ideas in Charles Peirce, Alfred North Whitehead, John Dewey, and the instructor’s work. Seminar presentations and a term paper required.

CAS PH 485 A1 – Topics in Philosophy of Value
Professor Lobel
TR, 2:00-3:30

What is happiness? How can we achieve a balanced, healthy, flourishing life? Classical thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Chuang Tzu; Stoic, Epicurean, Confucian, Buddhist paths; comparison with contemporary happiness studies.

GRS PH 801 A1 – Ancient Philosophy I
Professor Hyland
F, 1:00-4:00

Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus: The general theme of this seminar will be Plato’s account of eros.  We will begin with a careful study of Plato’s Symposium, and if time allows, turn to the Phaedrus as well.  Emphasis will be placed on the significance of the dialogue form in the interpretation of Plato.

GRS PH 870 A1 – Seminar in the Philosophy of Science – The impact of science on metaphysics
Professor Cao
T, 5:00-8:00

The constitutive role played by symmetry in physics and information in biology and cognitive science will be analyzed within the framework of structural realism. The implications of this analysis for metaphysics will be explored. In particular, I would argue, the foundations of descriptive metaphysics, as elaborated by P.E. Strawson, has to be radically revised by taking constructivism, which is implied by one version of structural realism, seriously. Scientific examples taken from quantum chromodynamics, contemporary genetics and cognitive neuroscience will be handled in non-technical way so that students without professional scientific background can understand while those with certain background would also benefit from special ways of conceptualizing them.

GRS PH 880 A1 – Topics in Philosophy I. Advanced Systematic Theology I: God
Professor Neville
T, 9:30-12:30

This is a doctoral seminar on the philosophy of ultimacy and the conditions for finite existence. The main texts are in the genre of philosophical theology and they include explorations of the concepts of persons, of primordial consciousness, and spontaneous emergence, based on cross cultural comparative studies. The course deals with Christian symbols and theories of God in detail, in comparison with other traditions. Seminar presentations and a term paper required.

GRS PH 881 A1 – Proseminar for First Year Graduate Students
Professor Garrett
W, 5:00-8:00

This seminar is open only to first year PhD students in philosophy, all of whom are required to enroll. The seminar is designed to help incoming students hone several invaluable philosophical skills, including those needed for effective presentation and defense of one’s ideas. Topics vary by semester.

GRS PH 993 A1 – Philosophy Proseminar 1
Professor Rorty
M, 3:00-6:00

This workshop seminar offers advanced graduate students the opportunity to present and discuss work-in-progress (dissertation chapters, papers for job applications, journal submissions). A serious commitment to regular and continuing attendance is expected.