Course Descriptions Fall 2013

Course Descriptions Fall 2013

CAS PH 100 A1 – Introduction to Philosophy

Prof. Hopp

MWF, 10:00-11:00

This class will cover three major philosophical topics. The first is happiness. What is it? How, if at all, is it connected with virtue? With pleasure? The second topic is knowledge. What are the limits of our knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? Do we have any direct access to a mind-independent world? Should we be skeptics? The third is the existence of God. What reasons are there for supposing that God exists? Does the widespread presence of both natural and moral evil provide a good reason to think that God does not exist?

CAS PH 100 B1 – Introduction to Philosophy

Prof. Grey

TR, 12:30-2:00

This class will cover three major philosophical topics. The first is happiness. What is it? How, if at all, is it connected with virtue? With pleasure? The second topic is knowledge. What are the limits of our knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? Do we have any direct access to a mind-independent world? Should we be skeptics? The third is the existence of God. What reasons are there for supposing that God exists? Does the widespread presence of both natural and moral evil provide a good reason to think that God does not exist?

CAS PH 110 A1 – Great Philosophers

Prof. Sreedhar

MWF, 12:00-1:00

“To think and to be fully alive are the same thing.” – Hannah Arendt

Is there a God? If so, how is his (or her) existence compatible with the pervasive evil and suffering in the world? What is knowledge, and can we know anything for certain? What is human nature, and, given that nature, how should people organize themselves into social and political groups? What is philosophy, and why should we bother asking philosophical questions? And, last but certainly not least, what, if anything, is the meaning of life? In this class, we will approach these questions by studying the writings of a number of ‘great’ figures in the history of western thought.

CAS PH 150 A1 – Introduction to Ethics

Prof. Grey

MWF, 11:00-12:00

What is morality? What does morality require of us in our daily lives, if it requires anything at all? Is morality universal? Or, is it relative or subjective? What is the relationship between morality and religion? What will make my own life go well? Answering such questions will help us to understand what the most important features of morality are. We will look both at moral theories that attempt to specify what morality requires of us, and at some specific moral issues to which these theories apply.

CAS PH 150 B1 – Introduction to Ethics

Prof. Grey

TR, 9:30-11:00

What is morality? What does morality require of us in our daily lives, if it requires anything at all? Is morality universal? Or, is it relative or subjective? What is the relationship between morality and religion? What will make my own life go well? Answering such questions will help us to understand what the most important features of morality are. We will look both at moral theories that attempt to specify what morality requires of us, and at some specific moral issues to which these theories apply.

CAS PH 150 C1 – Introduction to Ethics

Prof. Meketa

TR, 2:00-3:30

Who we ought 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.

PH 155 A1 – Politics and Philosophy

Prof. Griswold

TR, 11:00-12:30

This course is an introduction to several major themes and questions in political philosophy, such as: What is justice? Is the free market necessarily part of a free society, or can economic and political liberties be divorced? What, if anything, legitimizes the exercise of governmental power? Are anarchism and utopianism defensible? What are the foundations of property rights, liberty, and equality? Can and should politics be conducted philosophically? While special attention will be given to the modern European Enlightenment (and so to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, and Adam Smith, for example), we will also examine works by a number of contemporary authors as well as by Plato. Throughout, we will cultivate the 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.

PH 160 A1 – Reasoning and Argumentation

Prof. Webb

MWF, 9:00-10:00

A systematic study of both deductive and informal reasoning, with an emphasis on reasoning and argumentation in ordinary discourse and their strategies.

PH 160 B1 – Reasoning and Argumentation

Prof. A. Bokulich

TR, 11:00-12:30

Knowing how to think, 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, and examples of scientific reasoning drawn from various science journals.

PH 170 A1 – Philosophy of Science and Pseudoscience

Prof. P. Bokulich

MWF, 2:00-3:00

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 homeopathy, 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 debates 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 239 A1 – Philosophy of Emotion

Prof. Griswold

TR, 2:00-3:30

We feel emotions throughout our lives, yet in many ways they are mysterious. What are emotions? Do they have place in a good life? This course will explore these complex questions philosophically, while drawing on both historical and contemporary work in several disciplines.

Specifically, our first cluster of questions concerns the nature of the emotions. What is an “emotion” (for example, do jealousy, shame, empathy, happiness, and anxiety count as emotions)? Are emotions the same as feelings? How does an emotion differ from a mood, an attitude, or a disposition? Are some emotions more basic than others (that is, are some emotions building blocks for others or even universal to all humans)? Are they natural or somehow socially constructed? Do emotions have cognitive dimensions (do they require understanding, belief, judgment)? Can they accurately track qualities or events in the world? Are emotions normally or necessarily opposed to reason? Do they have a narrative structure?

Our second cluster of questions concerns the role of emotion in the good life. Should emotions be an important part of human flourishing, as Aristotle and his followers maintain, or should they be extirpated as far as possible, as the Stoics and their followers argue? Can they be assessed ethically, in terms of their moral appropriateness?

A third cluster of questions focuses on several emotions (or candidates for the honor), such as love, anger, grief, anxiety, and such. Our discussion will consider personal, social, and political contexts.

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

CAS PH 241 A1 – Philosophy of Personality

Prof. Kestenbaum

MWF, 10:00-11:00

The central focus of the course will be a consideration of the nature and problems of self-understanding and self-realization. With the help of ancient and modern philosophical texts, we will explore general issues related to growth, maturity, and disturbance in personality. Particular attention will be given to anxiety, importance, depth, happiness, identity, and the tension between action and reflection.

In short, what can philosophy contribute to, and learn from, selected theories of personhood and personality?

[Likely] Texts:

(Five will be chosen from the following):

Plato, Five Dialogues

Karen Horney, The Neurotic Personality of Our Time

Robert Nozick, The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations

C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics

Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul

Henry Bugbee, The Inward Morning: A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form

CAS PH 245 A1 – Philosophy and Religion

Prof. Kuehn

TR, 12:30-2:00

This is a course in the philosophy of religion. We will not just investigate what philosophers have thought about God, but also consider the place that religion can and should have in our lives. We will critically discuss such questions as: “Who or what is God?” “Can we know whether God exists?” “How do we talk about God?” “What is the nature of the belief in God?” and “How does Western religion differ from Eastern religion?” Some of the philosophers we will discuss are Augustine, Maimonides, St. Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and William James. We will also take a closer look at Buddhism and Confucianism.

CAS PH 248 A1 – Existentialism

Prof. Dahlstrom

MWF, 11:00-12:00

The aim of this course is to introduce students to basic themes of existentialist thought, a philosophical movement that rose to prominence in Europe in the decades between the First and Second World Wars. In particular, the course will discuss existentialist approaches to anxiety, death, decision, language, truth, ethics, nothingness, freedom, possibility, “bad faith,” and history. The course focuses on the views of the movement’s prominent figures-especially Sartre-and on the views of nineteenth century thinkers-Kierkegaard, Nietzsche-who anticipated and heavily influenced the movement of the twentieth century.

CAS PH 251 A1 – Medical Ethics

Prof. Meketa

TR, 11:00-12:30

A survey of moral philosophical issues in connection with medicine and emerging biotechnologies. Examination of 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

Prof. Meketa

MWF, 11:00-12:00

A survey of moral philosophical issues in connection with medicine and emerging biotechnologies. Examination of topics such as the right to healthcare, research ethics, euthanasia, abortion, concepts of death and disease, and assisted reproductive technologies.

CAS PH 253 A1 – Social Philosophy

Prof. Cao

TR, 2:00-3:30

Through a reading of some selected texts we will examine modern and contemporary theories of society, concerning its nature and the direction of its evolution. The philosophical and sociological discussions are framed in terms of the complicated relationship between individuals and society, and between civil society and the sovereign power.

CAS PH 261 A1 – Puzzles and Paradoxes

Prof. Floyd

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 that it is impossible to give a surprise exam. Carefully scrutinizing the reasoning that leads to these absurdities often yields substantial philosophical insight. This course examines a number of such puzzles and paradoxes in detail.

CAS PH 266 A1 – Mind, Brain, Self

Prof. Webb

MWF, 12:00-1:00

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

Prof. Rabinoff

MWF, 10:00-11:00

Classical Greek philosophy, with a concentration on the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.

CAS PH 300 B1 – History of Ancient Philosophy

Prof. Speight

TR, 12:30-2:00

When and how does philosophy begin? What makes it different from science, religion, or art? What can we learn from ancient thinkers about the nature of inquiry and the good life? This course starts (arguably) at the very beginning, with a look at pre-Socratic thinkers like Thales, Parmenides, and Heraclitus, and then examines the development of philosophy from Socrates and Plato to Aristotle and the Hellenistic schools of Stoicism, Skepticism, and Epicureanism.

CAS PH 310 A1 – History of Modern Philosophy

Prof. Dahlstrom

MWF, 2:00-3:00

The aim of this course is to introduce students to European philosophical thinking from 1600 to 1900. To this end the course surveys central intellectual traditions while focusing particularly on representative works of Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche, with a view to determining their philosophical legacies.

CAS PH 310 B1 – History of Modern Philosophy

Prof. Kuehn

TR, 11:00-12:30

An examination of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy from Descartes to Kant, with emphasis on metaphysics and epistemology. Readings will include Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. We will not just consider their metaphysical views on “what holds the world together in its innermost being,” but also discuss the question of what and how much we can know in the first place. Since an acquaintance with the theories of early modern philosophers is essential to understanding contemporary philosophy, this course will give you a good background for the further study of philosophy.

CAS PH 340 A1 – Metaphysics & Epistemology

Prof. Liebesman

TR, 12:30-2:00

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 consists of a survey of issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and their intersection.

CAS PH 350 A1 – History of Ethics

Prof. Rabinoff

MWF, 3:00-4:00

A critical and comparative examination of the ideas of representative moral philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche.

CAS PH 403/603 A1 – Plato I

Prof. A. Fussi

TR, 2:00-3:30

A careful study of Plato’s Republic, with special attention paid to the issue of nature and convention.

CAS PH 412/612 A1 – Philosophical Enlightenment-The Rise of Rights

Prof. Garrett

MWF, 11:00-12:00

“Rights” are ubiquitous in our contemporary political and moral culture. In fact it may be argued that they are the central concept in contemporary political philosophy and political theory. But the ways in which we invoke rights are of relatively recent vintage. For example, animal rights seemed to most early modern philosophers who entertained them to be incoherent. Consequently the development of a concept like animal rights was a significant philosophical achievement and took a variety of innovations in thinking about what rights were, who (or what) could be a bearer of rights, and how they were to be justified. The same goes for many other familiar concepts such as women’s rights and human rights, as well as particular rights like the right to free expression or the right to health care. In this course we will examine the rise of different conceptions of natural rights first in their connection to natural law, and then the rise of different particular ways of framing rights such as property rights, rights of conscience and free speech, human rights, women’s rights, and animal rights. We will also consider criticisms of natural rights, most notably those associated with Jeremy Bentham. Authors discussed will include Hobbes, Pufendorf, Spinoza, Locke, Hutcheson, Rousseau, Kant, Wollstonecraft, and others such as Olympe de Gouges ( the author of an important text on the Rights of Women) and John Oswald  (an animal welfare revolutionary) who are today much less well-known.

CAS PH 413/613 A1 – Kant

Prof.  A. Ferrarin

TR, 12:30-2:00

An in-depth reading of Kant’s Critique of Judgment.  We will try to reconstruct the genesis of the book out of issues internal to the Critique of Pure Reason. Our key problems will be reflection, the capacity to judge, the relation between reason and imagination, the form of purposiveness, the regulative function of judgment and the concept of analogy.

In order to make this course accessible to those who don’t have a strong background in Kant, it will begin with a brief discussion of three sections of the first Critique: the Architectonic, the Introduction to the Power of Judgment, and the Appendix to the Dialectic. We will then examine the text of the third Critique closely.

CAS PH 418/618 A1 – Marx & Marxism

Prof. Cao

R 5:00-8:00 p.m.

In this introductory course, Marxism will be treated mainly as a conceptual framework for understanding history and society (including economy, politics, and culture), and also as a critique of capitalism and a program of transforming the capitalist society for human emancipation, with an analysis of both its philosophical and ethical presuppositions and its conceptions of a post-capitalist society. The evolution of its theoretical bases, through its three stages (classical Marxism of Marx and Engels; the Soviet orthodoxy and its critics; and contemporary Marxisms) will be critically examined, and its practical (political, economic and cultural) impacts on the historical course since its inception briefly outlined.

CAS PH 422/622 A1 – Analytic Philosophy

Prof. Floyd

TR, 11:00-12:30

An investigation of the philosophical skepticism and philosophy 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 essays by Frege, 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 work by such contemporary philosophers as Anscombe, Grice, Clarke, Putnam, Cavell, McDowell, Williams, Travis, and Wright.

CAS PH 426/626 A1 – Phenomenology

Prof. Hopp

MWF, 2:00-3:00

Corresponding to any type of object of which we can be conscious—individuals, properties, events, relations, values, states of affairs, universals, meanings, and so forth—there are conscious acts in virtue of which we can be conscious of them in the precise ways (perceptually, conceptually, imaginatively) that we are. The task of phenomenology is to describe those acts and their features as they present themselves in “phenomenological reflection.” In this course we will examine concrete phenomenological analyses of various sorts of conscious phenomena, and critically assess the merits of phenomenology itself as a discipline and a methodology.

CAS PH 443/643 A1 – Philosophy of Mind

Prof. P. Bokulich

MWF, 1:00-2:00

This course will focus on emergence and reduction. What is the relationship between higher-level features, like consciousness and life, and the molecules and atoms that make up bodies and brains? Does the emergence of complex entities require something “extra” to be added? What could that “extra” ingredient be? How is information instantiated in the material world? Can physics account for the subjective nature of conscious experience? Is free will compatible with physicalism? The correct answers to all these questions, and more, will be provided.

CAS PH 446/646 CA RN 450/750 A1 – Philosophy of Religion

Prof. Olson

M, 3:00-6:00

An examination of principle issues, problems, and topics in the philosophy of religion. The course develops in three stages: (1) Historical overview of the development of philosophy of religion as a discipline or sub-discipline of philosophy, theology, and metaphysics, with special attention to the problems and challenges facing this discipline within the context of comparative and inter-cultural approaches to philosophy of religion. (2) Analysis and discussion of traditional source materials in the philosophy of religion, viz., proofs for existence of God, the problem of evil, mysticism and religious experience, faith and reason, revelation and authority, immortality and enlightenment, etc. (3) The final part of the course will consist of a close reading and discussion GWF Hegel’s 1827 Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, and its influence on the field, especially the 20th century work of Karl Jaspers, Paul Ricoeur, and Hans-Georg Gadamer, and JN Findlay.

Requirements: Position papers based on readings (2-3 pages each), research paper or final take-home examination (undergraduate students), research paper (graduate students) prospectus due at mid-term

Books for purchase: (many e-texts provided)

Gary Kessler, Philosophy of Religion: Toward a Global Perspective, Wadsworth, 1999

G.W.F. Hegel, 1827 Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, California, Oxford 1988

CAS PH 450/650 A1 – Types of Ethical Theory

Prof. Star

TR, 2:00-3:30

In this course we will be concerned with critically exploring different types of ethical theory, both in metaethics and in normative ethics. We will consider various accounts of wellbeing, moral skepticism and realism, 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. Although this is not an applied ethics course, topics of practical importance, such as poverty, abortion, infanticide, and organ transplantation also feature.

CAS PH 455/655 A1 – Legal Philosophy

Prof. Lyons

TR, 11:00AM-12:30PM

Day and times for this course will be determined by the Law School

This course will critically examine theories about the nature of law and moral issues under and about law.  Undergraduates will write three short papers, one on each segment of the course; graduate students will write a term paper on a topic to be determined.

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

CAS PH 456/656 A1 – Topics in Philosophy & Religion: The Contemporary Face of Suffering

Prof. Speight

W, 5:00-8:00

This course will explore several important philosophical, religious and literary aspects of the contemporary face of suffering. Recent attention to issues such as physician-assisted suicide and other end-of-life choices as well as global issues such as poverty and development call for contemporary philosophical attention to the nature of suffering. The course will parallel a series of interdisciplinary lectures by visiting and BU professors next fall in the Institute for Philosophy and Religion, which will be incorporated in the course design: speakers will focus not only on traditional topics in the philosophy of religion but also on work in emerging fields such as bioethics, narrative medicine and development ethics. For more information, contact Professor Allen Speight, Institute for Philosophy and Religion, casp8@bu.edu. (Meets with RN 397/697 and STH TT819.)

CAS PH 461/GRS PH 661 A1 – Mathematical Logic

Prof: Kanamori

TR 11:00-12:30

The syntax and semantics of sentential and quantificational logic, culminating in the Gödel Completeness Theorem. The Gödel Incompleteness Theorem and its ramifications for computability and philosophy. Also offered as CAS MA 531.

CAS PH 487/687 A1 – Topics in the Philosophy of Science

Prof. A. Bokulich

TR, 2:00-3:30

Could all of the scientific theories we are taught today turn out to be false? How does a scientific theory come to be rejected and a new theory take its place? Why, for example, did astronomers decide that Pluto is not a planet? Could all of human behavior be ultimately explained by the laws of physics? What distinguishes a good scientific explanation from a bad one? How can idealized scientific models that make all sorts of false assumptions nonetheless make true predictions? Has our scientific understanding of the world forced us to revise our philosophical conception of natural kinds? This course is a discussion-based introduction to core issues in the philosophy science, focusing on the topics of scientific realism, theory change, reductionism, explanation, models, and natural kinds.

GRS PH 881 A1 – Proseminar for First Year Graduate Students

Prof. Liebesman

T, 3:30-6:30

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

GRS PH 882 A1 – Topics in Philosophy 3

Prof. A. Ferrarin

W, 5:00-8:00

In this course we will try to understand what Hegel means by thinking. We will begin with the problem of intersubjectivity and an analysis of the chapter on Recognition from the Phenomenology of Spirit. We will then study Hegel’s critique of Kant regarding reason and the unity of concept and objectivity. To this end we will closely read sections from the Encyclopaedia and the Science of Logic. Finally, we will try to understand the relation between thinking, language and subjective-finite knowledge from the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit of the Encyclopaedia as well as from select passages from the Phenomenology and the Science of Logic. According to Hegel the movement of the Concept rests on the link between spontaneity and reification. Our aim will be to reconstruct that link.

GRS PH 993 A1 – Philosophy Proseminar 1

Prof. Sreedhar

M, 6:00-9:00

A workshop seminar offering 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.