Course Descriptions Fall 2016

Course Descriptions Fall 2016

CAS PH 100 A1 – Introduction to Philosophy
Professor Hopp
MWF, 10:00-11:00

In this class we’ll examine a number of seminal texts by some of the most significant figures in the history of philosophy: Plato, René Descartes, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Iris Murdoch. We will pay special attention to how these philosophers address certain ultimate philosophical questions. What, ultimately, exists? What is the nature and the scope of human knowledge? What is the nature of truth? What sort of life is the best for us? We will also pay close attention to the methods of philosophical inquiry employed by each thinker. Exactly what is philosophy, and how and why should we to go about doing it?

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

We will read selections from some of the great books that have been written in the history of Western Philosophy: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Descartes’ Discourse on Method, Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Saint Augustine’s Confesssions, to mention a few. We will confront extraordinarily basic questions, among them, what is a good life? Are human beings naturally social, or are we individuals at our core? What is knowledge? Does everything pass away?

CAS PH 110 A1 – Great Philosophers 
Professor Sreedhar
MWF, 12:00-1:00

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 ever 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.

1) Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings (Sixth Edition). Edited by John Perry et al. Oxford University Press, 2013. Custom textbook available at BU bookstore.

2) Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hackett.

3) No Exit and Three Other Plays. Jean-Paul Sartre. Vintage.

4) Leviathan With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668. Thomas Hobbes. Edited by Edwin Curley. Hackett.

CAS PH 150 A1 – Introduction to Ethics
Professor TBA
MWF, 11:00-12:00

What is morality? What does morality require of us in our daily lives? We look both at theories that specify what morality requires of us and at specific moral issues to which these theories apply. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

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

Many of us want to lead meaningful lives. But what is it for a life to be meaningful? What makes some lives better or more meaningful than others? Can life as a whole have some significance or meaning? In exploring these questions, we’ll ask whether the happy life is different than the meaningful life; we’ll study the nature of happiness and satisfaction; and we’ll look at the way in which questions about meaning relate to questions about value. Readings will be drawn from both ancient and contemporary sources, and will include works by Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Mill, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, Thomas Nagel, Robert Nozick, Samuel Scheffler, and Susan Wolf.

CAS PH 150 C1 – Introduction to Ethics
Professor TBA
MWF, 1:00-2:00

What is morality? What does morality require of us in our daily lives? We look both at theories that specify what morality requires of us and at specific moral issues to which these theories apply. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 155 A1 – Politics and Philosophy
Professor 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? Does a free and fair society include a free market? What, if anything, legitimizes the exercise of governmental power? What are the arguments for and against the “social contract”? Are anarchism and utopianism defensible? What are the foundations of property rights, liberty, and equality? Can and should politics be conducted philosophically? While quite a bit of attention will be given to modern European thought (and so to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Marx, for example), we will also examine works both by contemporary authors and by Plato. Current topics (likely concerning immigration and global justice) will be discussed as well. Throughout, we will cultivate the fundamental philosophical skills of analysis and argumentation as we delve into issues of great contemporary importance.

CAS PH 160 A1 – Reason and Argumentation
Professor Webb
MWF, 9:00-10:00

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 humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 160 B1 – Reason and Argumentation
Professor 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 drawn from the science literature.

Required Textbook:

Merrilee Salmon Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, 6th edition.

CAS PH 242 A1 – Human Nature
Professor TBA
MWF, 2:00-3:00

Consideration of how questions about human nature receive philosophical formulation through analyzing depth, courage, authority, intensity, possibility, transcendence, tradition, adventure, unity, sex, struggle, and peace. Discussion of past and recent work in philosophical anthropology. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 245 A1 – Philosophy and Religion
Professor Lobel
MWF, 1:00-2:00

Investigates the meaning and purpose of human life, the significance of God or an Absolute, the role of contemplation and action in the spiritual quest, relationships between philosophy and religious thought, East and West. Also offered as CAS RN 245.

CAS PH 248 A1 – Existentialism
Professor Dahlstrom
TR, 9:30-11:00

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the 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 such themes as anxiety, death, decision, authenticity, truth, ethics, nothingness, freedom, possibility, “bad faith,” and history. The course focuses on the most prominent elaboration of those themes in the first half of the twentieth century and on the views of those nineteenth century thinkers who anticipated and heavily influenced the movement in the twentieth century. The course combines lectures with class discussions, based upon readings of classic existentialist treatises.

CAS PH 251 A1 – Medical Ethics
Professor Powell
TR, 12:30-2:00

Explores moral philosophical issues that arise in connection with medicine and emerging biotechnologies. Examines topics such as the right to healthcare, research ethics, euthanasia, abortion, concepts of death and disease, and assisted reproductive technologies. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 251 B1 – Medical Ethics
Professor Powell
TR, 3:30-5:00

Explores moral philosophical issues that arise in connection with medicine and emerging biotechnologies. Examines topics such as the right to healthcare, research ethics, euthanasia, abortion, concepts of death and disease, and assisted reproductive technologies. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

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

Our basic beliefs, when scrutinized, can yield absurd conclusions. For example, using seemingly uncontroversial beliefs, we can conclude that motion is impossible and that everyone is bald. This course examines many puzzles and paradoxes. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 266 A1 – Mind, Brain, and Self
Professor Cao
TR, 2:00-3:30

Philosophical introduction to cognitive science. Considers the historical and intellectual background from which cognitive science has emerged, as well as philosophical issues concerning the mind, brain, and self that arise from contemporary scientific research. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 300 A1 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Professor Gasser-Wingate
MWF, 10:00-11:00

A survey of ancient Greek philosophy, with an emphasis on Plato and Aristotle. Topics will include: the fundamental nature of reality, how we know anything about it, wisdom, virtue, and human happiness.

CAS PH 300 B1 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Professor Roochnik
TR, 9:30-11:00

This course will focus on two dialogues by Plato, the Meno and the Phaedo, and selections from Aristotle’s De Anima (his “psychology”) and Physics. Its unifying thread will be the concept of the “soul” or psyche. For this reason, we will begin with much earlier Greek conceptions of the psyche, such as those found in Homer’s Odyssey and the writings of Pythagoras.

CAS PH 310 A1 – History of Modern Philosophy
Professor Webb
MWF, 11:00-12:00

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 TBA
TR, 11:00-12:30

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 350 A1 – History of Ethics
Professor Sreedhar
M, 6:00-9:00

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

CAS PH 422 A1/GRS PH 622 A1 – Analytic Philosophy
Professor Floyd
TR, 12:30 – 2:00

A study of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus with some attention to Russell’s theories of logic and judgment, 1910-1913. We shall read some articles in contemporary analytic metaphysics that rework Tractarian themes.

CAS PH 427A1/GRS PH 627 A1 – Heidegger and Existential Philosophy
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 (Da-sein); 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 436 A1/GRS PH 636 A1 – Gender, Race, and Science
Professor Bokulich
TR, 2:00-3:30

This course is an examination of issues arising at the intersection of feminist philosophy, philosophy of race, and the history and philosophy of science. We shall examine questions such as the following: How have views about gender and race changed over the history of science and the history of philosophy? Is ‘race’ a genuine scientific category or just a social construct? Why are there still so few women and minority scientists? Has the content of science been affected by the fact that it has been carried out almost exclusively by white men? The primary goal of this course is to come to a deeper and more critically reflective understanding of both the history of the concepts of race and gender and the various roles that these concepts continue to play in contemporary science.

Required Texts:

  • The Idea of Race edited by Bernasconi and Lott (Hackett 2000); readings indicated [IR]
  • Philosophy of Science and Race by Naomi Zack ( Routledge2002); indicated [PSR]
  • The Gender of Science edited by Janet Kourany (Prentice Hall 2002) ; indicated [GoS]

CAS PH 450 A1 – Types of Ethical Theory
Professor TBA
R, 5:00 – 8:00

A survey of basic ethical theories including those in the Kantian, utilitarian, and virtue-ethics traditions.

CAS PH 453 A1 – Theories of Political Society
Professor Joo-Hee Suh
TR, 8:00 – 9:30

Considers philosophical subjects relevant to politics, such as human nature and reason; qualifications of leadership; aims and means of civic education; and conceptions of law (man-made, natural, divine). Focuses on texts by Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Al-Farabi, and Machiavelli. Also offered as PO391 Classical to Early Modern Political Theory.

CAS PH 456 A1/GRS PH 656 A1 – Topics in Philosophy and Religion
Professor Eckel
W, 5:00 – 8:00

Topic: Hope and Despair

This course is designed to run side by side with the Institute for Philosophy and Religion’s fall lecture series on the topic of “hope and despair.” Is it natural for human beings to have hope? Is there even a duty to have hope? What is the relationship between hope and a happy life? What happens if we despair of ever finding hope? These questions, and others like them, will be examined in a wide range of settings drawn from the religious, philosophical, and literary traditions of both East and West.

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 Gödel Completeness Theorem. The Gödel Incompleteness Theorem and its ramifications for computability and philosophy. Also offered as CAS MA 531.

CAS PH 463 A1/GRS PH 663 A1 – Philosophy of Language
Professor Floyd
TR, 11:00 – 12:30

A survey of classic and contemporary issues and debates in the philosophy of language. Topics include the nature of propositions and the nature of truth; literal vs. figurative uses of words; meaning, describing, and referring; speech act theory and communication pragmatics; gender in language, lying, bullshitting, misleading, and the uses of testimony.

CAS PH 465 A1/GRS PH 665 A1 – Philosophy of Cognitive Science
Professor Cao
T, 5:00 – 8:00

The course begins with a review of the computational understanding of intelligence and various challenges to it raised by psychologists, roboticists, neuroscientists and mathematicians, based on an in-depth philosophical analysis of some key concepts in cognitive science: information (representation) and its processing (computation), a dynamical understanding of the emergence of (localized or distributed) intelligence. Then the course moves to a substantial discussion of the idea of the embodied, embedded and evolved cognition, and will end with an exploration of the bearings of cognitive science to the mind-body problem

CAS PH 472 A1/GRS PH 672 A1 – Philosophy of Biology
Professor Powell
W, 2:00 – 5:00

This course will explore conceptual and ethical problems in evolutionary science. We will examine questions such as: Are there laws in biology and if so, how might these laws differ from those in other sciences? Do biological species describe objective entities in the world, or are they simply convenient constructs of our theories? Can evolutionary principles be used to explain cultural change or the origins of uniquely human traits, such as language, morality and religion? Should ethical theory be grounded in our biology? How have values shaped evolutionary science? How should our concept of human nature be revised in light of our best current understandings of evolution? No particular background knowledge of philosophy or biology is presupposed, but some experience in writing and thinking critically would be an asset.

CAS PH 485 A1/CAS RN 452 A1 – Topics in Philosophy of Value
Professor Lobel
TR, 2:00 – 3:30

What is mysticism? In this interactive seminar, we will engage in close reading and analysis of texts describing direct communion with a divine or absolute reality. Texts drawn from Chinese, Indian, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Neoplatonic traditions.

GRS PH 801 A1 – Ancient Philosophy 1
Professor Gasser-Wingate
W, 12:00 -3:00

An examination of non-ideal epistemology in Plato & Aristotle, with a focus on perception, memory, imagination, and experience. We’ll investigate how each author conceived of these states and the relationships between them, and what role they played in their broader epistemology.

GRS PH 881 A1 – Proseminar for First-Year Graduate Students
Professor Hopp
M, 11:00 – 12:00

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 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 993 A1 – Placement Proseminar

Professor Katsafanas
R, 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.