Course Descriptions Spring 2013
Course Descriptions Spring 2013
CAS PH 100 A1 – Introduction to Philosophy
In this course we will discuss three topics of immense philosophical importance. The first is happiness. What is happiness? How is it achieved? What is the connection between happiness and pleasure? Happiness and virtue? Is happiness a state of mind? Do we, and ought we to, make happiness our chief end? The second topic is free will. What is it, and do we have it? Must an agent be free if she or he is to be held accountable for his or her actions? Is freedom of the will compatible with the thesis that all events are caused? The third topic is personal identity. What is a “self”? This the self identical with an immaterial mind? A material brain? A body? What, if anything, makes a person at one time-you at 20, say –identical with a person as some other time-you fifteen years ago? What roles do consciousness, memory, and character play in the contribution of self?
CAS PH 100 B1 – Introduction to Philosophy
A general introduction to Western Philosophy that will address questions such as the following: What is the relationship between our ideas and the material world? Might the world be a computer-generated illusion (like in The Matrix)? Can we prove or disprove the existence of God? What is the foundation of morality? Do facts about right and wrong depend on our particular culture? Do they depend on God? How is the mind related to the brain? Could a computer think? What is consciousness? Do we have free will?
CAS PH 150 A1 – Introduction to Ethics
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 problems. Carries a humanities divisional credit in CAS.
CAS PH 150 B1 – Introduction to Ethics
This course is an introduction to the philosophical study of morality and will be divided into three main sections: I. Normative Ethics; II. Applied Ethics; and III. Moral Psychology.
Normative Ethics is the part of a moral philosophy that articulates and justifies criteria that allow us to determine whether something is morally right or wrong. In this part of the course, we will examine in a systematic and rigorous manner three canonical approaches to normative ethics: (a) utilitarianism – the view according to which right actions are those that bring about the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness for everyone involved; (b) deontology – the view according to which the rightness of an action is determined by whether the action is in agreement with (or more strongly, stems from) our moral duty; and (c) virtue ethics – the view according to which the achievement of moral life requires the development of virtues and character of moral agents.
In the second part of the course (applied ethics), we will turn our attention to the practical application of the ethical theories that we considered in the first section. We will focus on two timely and pressing topics: (a) our treatment of animals; and (b) neuroethics. Questions of interest include: What is the moral status of animals? What are our rights towards animals? Are animals rational? Are they persons? What is the moral status of neurocognitive enhancements? What ethical issues arise out of the practice of brain surgery? Should the use of functional neuroimaging in marketing research be permitted?
The final part of the course will be devoted to moral psychology – i.e., the field that studies how humans actually think about moral issues, draw moral conclusions, and behave in moral situations. Moral psychology does not only aim to study and understand moral decision-making and behavior, but also to examine how the findings of such a study impact both our assumptions and philosophical theories about morality. Given the interdisciplinary nature of moral psychology, we will critically assess recent work in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience in order to address the following issues and questions: (a) Altruism/Egoism: are we fundamentally selfish beings? (b) Moral reasoning: How do we draw moral conclusions? Are moral judgments rational judgments or are they influenced and shaped by our emotions? (c) Virtue Character: What are character traits? Do humans have persistent and robust character traits?
CAS PH 150 C1 – Introduction to Ethics
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 155 A1 – Politics and Philosophy
“There is the question what renders it just to exercise force in, say, requiring what is just. The parent may in effect say, “Don’t hit your little brother, or I will hit you.” What is the difference – is there a difference – between his threat and the threat of the child he so threatens? After all, the little brother may have been doing something quite unfair. The same question arises about the violence of the state. I judge that this is the fundamental question of political theory.” – G.E.M. Anscombe, “On the Source of the Authority of the State”
In this course we will explore some of the central themes in the philosophical study of political society. Among the questions we will address are: Why and how do people form political societies? Under what conditions is a person obligated to obey the rules or commands of the state? What makes a government legitimate or illegitimate? What is justice? What is human nature? What is freedom? What is equality? What rights do citizens have? What, if any, are the restrictions on the legitimate exercise of government power? These questions and others will be approached through studying the writings of a number of major figures in the history of political philosophy and several contemporary political philosophers.
CAS PH 159 A1 – Philosophy of Film
An introduction to central issues in philosophy, aesthetics, and the philosophy of film through watching and thinking about film. Weekly films will be assigned for viewing as part of the class.
CAS PH 160 A1 – Reasoning and Argumentation
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.
CAS PH 160 B1 – Reasoning and Argumentation
The course is designed to introduce students to the principles of reasoning and the argumentation, and to formal models for eliciting underlying patterns and structures of reasoning and argumentation, which can be used to develop skills in actual life reasoning and argumentation in different fields of inquiry and in different walks of life. These skills, including argument analysis, argument pattern recognition, argument construction, argument evaluation and the writing of argumentative essays, are crucial for success in everyday life and in all academic disciplines. Particular attention will be paid to how to avoid mistakes (“fallacies”) and how to make good arguments, that is how to reason more reflectively and effectively, with careful analysis of examples taken from everyday life and from various academic disciplines.
CAS PH 234 A1 – Wealth, Ethics, and Liberty
Controversy about the morality of wealth and the drive to acquire wealth has been lively since antiquity. Recent global economic problems have only intensified the debate. This course will examine several of the issues at stake in the controversy, drawing on ancient as well as modern sources. The questions to be discussed include: Is the pursuit of wealth ethically neutral, or is it a sign of greed and thus moral corruption, or is it a commendable effort to improve life? Is the drive to attain wealth “natural”? Given that the free market produces or at least sometimes co-exists with vast inequalities of wealth, is there a duty to remedy them (for example, through redistribution of wealth)? Is significant inequality of wealth morally bad? What are the basic philosophical views about distributive justice? Is a society that is structured so as to promote the creation of wealth especially liable to such ills as the objectification and commodification of the workers, alienation, and social division? What are the fundamental arguments in favor of a free market in classical political economy (Adam Smith in particular) and what are some of the fundamental criticisms of those arguments? Readings from Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Rousseau, Marx, and Mandeville, as well as from classical sources such as the Bible, Plato, and Aristotle, and from contemporary authors.
Prerequisites: none. In SMG, the course will fulfill a Level A Humanities elective, a Level B liberal arts elective, a Level C elective, or a Free Elective.
CAS PH 242 A1 – Philosophy of Human Nature
Academic disciplines (and professions) make assumptions about human nature and they also attempt to modify our understanding of human nature through inquiry and research. Stated differently, ideas about human nature are central to the arts, humanities, social sciences, and many of the professions, either as the taken-for-granted foundation of their respective practices or as the focus of their practices (and research involved in those practices). Whether as foundational assumption or object of research, we say “it’s human nature.” Yes it is human nature. How, though, is human nature to be thought?
In Moby Dick, Ahab says:
All visible objects, man are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event-in the living act, the undoubted deed-there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its feature from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike through the mask!
Is human a “visible” object, a mask concealing “some unknown but still reasoning thing?” Can it be known like any other “visible” object? If there is something necessarily invisible about human nature, how is it to be known or thought? What part of human nature exists, in the words of William James, “beyond the surface of the sensible world?” Is everything about human nature in principle knowable? Is there any remainder?
The course will examine selected ideas-and experiences-that might help to make human nature more visible while at the same time respecting its tendency to withdraw from inspection, to remain invisible. These are attention and the good, illness, work, and meaning.
Plato, Five Dialogues
Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good
Richard Selzer, Letters to a Young Doctor
Ernest Becker, The Birth and Death of Meaning
Lars Svendsen, Work
CAS PH 244 A1 – Applied Ethics
How important is work? What matter more and less than our job? Along the spectrum of our commitments, where does work stand?
The course will consider in depth some of the ethical issues involved in the relationship between living, working, and working for a living.
Robert Nozick, The Examined Life
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (selections)
Lars Svendsen, Work
Pier Benn, Commitment
Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
CAS PH 245 A1 – Philosophy and Religion
Explored the aims of human life, the place of God in the good life, the role of contemplation and action in the spiritual quest, interactions between philosophy and religious thought. The course is textual and interactive, using Socratic method: a collective search for truth and understanding. We will read and discuss key passages of each text and explore the larger questions they raise; students will have study questions to guide each reading. Participants will also write short (1 ¼ page) reflection papers, including a final paper reflecting upon the trajectory of the semester: insights, conclusions, new questions to explore. The class will thus engage in an ongoing dialogue about the central questions of the course. Readings will include Plato, Aristotle, the Bible, Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Augustine, Maimonides, Ghazali.
CAS PH 247 A1 – Chinese Philosophy
“The Introduction to Chinese Philosophy” examines the development of Chinese philosophy from its ancient beginnings to its modern transformations. The primary focus will be on the development of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism in China (with additional discussion of Korea and Japan). The course will emphasize the great thinkers of the classical period, the Neo-Daoists of the Wei-Qin, the philosophy of the Chinese schools of Buddhism, and the Neo-Confucians (the Song, Yuan, Ming, Choson Korea, Tokugawa Japan, and Qing masters), and contemporary developments. We will demonstrate that the various traditions have an illustrious history and continue to play an important role in the development of global cultures influenced by East Asian philosophies.
CAS PH 248 A1 – Existentialism
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. The course focuses on the views of the movement’s prominent figures – especially Sartre and de Beauvoir – and on the views of nineteenth century thinkers – Kierkegaard, Nietzsche – who anticipated and heavily influenced the movement in the twentieth century. The course combines lectures with class presentations by the students, based upon readings of classic existentialist treatises.
CAS PH 253 A1 – Social Philosophy
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 256 A1 – Philosophy of Sexuality and Gender
An analysis of the notions of gender and sexuality, with readings from Plato, Rousseau, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Sartre, Levinas, Scruton, Bloom. Questions include: are gender and sexuality natural, or are they social constructions? How are they related to sex and desire?
CAS PH 258 A1 – Philosophy and Literature
This course will consider a wide range of questions concerning the relationship between philosophy and literature, with particular stress on the dramatic arts from Beckett and Sartre to Sophocles. How should philosophy divide and compare genres of performance? Do the notions of the “tragic” and the “comic” have a wider philosophical significance beyond their existence as dramatic genres? How does drama relate to other performing genres (dance, music, performance, art) and to film?
CAS PH 265 A1 – Minds and Machines
An examination of the efforts of artificial intelligence to model the human mind and explain human thought by means of suitably programmed computers. Attention is given to the historical and mathematical origins of such efforts, as well as the main psychological assumptions on which they depend.
CAS PH 270 A1 – Philosophy of Science
In this course we will study issues pertaining to the nature and methodology of science. We will do so by examining how three particular sciences – cognitive science, psychology, and biology – demarcate the boundaries of mind. We will ask ourselves: Where do minds begin and where do they end? Do minds extend beyond our brains? Do they even extend beyond our bodies? Are certain technological tools such as smartphones, literal parts of our minds? What types of entities, organisms, or subjects have minds? Do groups have minds? Can a nation be sad? Can a corporation be greedy? Does a swarm of bees think? By thinking together through these fascinating but difficult questions our goal will be to gain a better understanding of how explanations in cognitive science and psychology work; how evolution operates; how biological explanations are different from other types of scientific explanations; how minds, bodies, and environment relate to each other; how technology has shaped our selves and our culture; and finally, how social and biological groups behave.
In addition to Andy Clark’s Supersizing the Mind (OUP, 2010) and Edwin Hutchins’ Cognition in the Wild (MIT, 1995), we will read works by the following authors: F. Adams and K. Aizawa, R. Dawkins, S. Mitchell, P. Pettit, M. Rowlands, R. Rupert, E. Sober, R.A. Wilson, and S.D. Wilson.
CAS PH 300 A1 – History of Ancient Philosophy
We shall concentrate of ancient Greek and Roman moral and political philosophy, reading Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in their entirety, as well as selecting from early Epicurean and Stoic authors. Our general aims:
…to understand and engage with ancient moral and political theories
…to see how Plato’s and Aristotle’s discussions of justice, virtue, and the good life presuppose and imply views on psychology, education, epistemology, and metaphysics (Philosophy is always systematic: there are no isolate questions, no piecemeal solutions.)
…to join Plato, Aristotle, the Epicureans and Stoics in discussing and pursuing the questions they raise. (Philosophy is not a spectator sport: it is always active and collaborative.)
CAS PH 300 B1 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Classical Greek philosophy, with a concentration on the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.
CAS PH 310 A1 – History of Modern Philosophy
An examination of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy, with emphasis on the nature and extent of knowledge (including our knowledge of the existence of the external world), the nature of personal identity, the problem of free will, and the theological problem of evil.
Prerequisites: one philosophy course or sophomore standing.
CAS PH 310 B1 – History of Modern Philosophy
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
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/GRS PH 633 A1 – Logic
An introductory survey of the concepts and principles of symbolic logic: valid and invalid arguments, logical relations of statements and their basis in structural features of statements, analysis of the logical structure of complex statements of ordinary discourse, and the use of a symbolic language to display logical structure and to facilitate methods for assessing discourse, and the use of a symbolic language to display logical structure and to facilitate methods for assessing the logical structure of arguments. We will cover the analysis of reasoning with truth-functions (“and”, “or”, “not”, “if…then”) and with quantifiers (“all”’ “some”), attending to formal languages and axiomatic systems for logical deduction. Throughout, we aim to clearly and systematically display both the theory underlying the norms of valid reasoning and their applications to particular problems of argumentation. The course is an introduction to first-order quantificational logic, a key tool underlying work in foundations of mathematics, philosophy of language and mind, philosophy of science and parts of syntax and semantics. It is largely mathematical and formal in character, but lectures will situate these structures within the context of questions raised in contemporary philosophy of language and mind.
CAS PH 406/GRS PH 606 A1 – Aristotle II
A close reading of Aristotle’s POLITICS. A theme we will keep in mind for the entire semester is the difference between the Ancient and Modern conceptions of politics. To that end we will also read brief selections from Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Rawls.
CAS PH 408 A1 – Medieval Philosophy. Mysticism and Philosophy: Medieval Jewish Perspectives
A thematic introduction to mysticism and philosophy, with a focus on the philosophical interpretation of religious experience. Readings drawn from medieval Jewish philosophy, Kabbalah, Biblical interpretation, Sufi-inspired mysticism, poetry form the Golden Age of Muslim Spain. Attention to interactions with Islamic philosophy and mysticism.
The class will be conducted in seminar format. We will begin each session by highlighting key issues and themes, and suggesting interesting topics for exploration. The remainder of the class will focus on these central texts and issues. Our aim will be to balance close textual reading with synthetic discussion.
CAS PH 411/GRS PH 611 A1 – British Empiricism
A close reading of Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Berkeley’s Dialogues, and selections from Hume’s Treatise. Topics addressed will include the theory of ideas and the relation between ideas and the world, personal identity, causation, and belief.
CAS PH 412/GRS PH 612 A1 – Enlightenment and its Critics
Born in a period of controversy, the Enlightenment has remained controversial. It has been hailed for its defense of the dignity of the individual, its commitment to the ideal of religious toleration, and its role in laying the theoretical foundations for the modern, liberal state. But it has also been criticized for fostering a nihilism that undermines the moral foundations of society and a naïve confidence in progress that culminates in the excesses of modern totalitarian states. This course will explore the work of both friends and foes of the Enlightenment – including Martin Heidegger, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Leo Strauss, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Michael Foucault, and Jurgen Habermas – and assess their arguments.
Some familiarity with eighteenth-century thought is desirable.
CAS PH 413/GRS PH 613 A1 – Kant
An in-depth reading of several of Kant’s works.
CAS PH 418/GRS PH 618 A1 – Marx and Marxism
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 PH420/GRS PH 620 A1 – Contemporary Philosophy
Where is philosophy going? A famous jazz musician was once asked “Where is jazz going?” He replied “Man if I knew where jazz is going I’d be there already.” An instructor teaching a course in Contemporary Philosophy easily is tempted to give an analogous answer.
Notwithstanding the difficulty of giving an informed answer Jaakko Hintikka, who has been striving to get “there” in philosophy for more than half a century, will be trying to say more in his class PH 420/620 in Spring 2013. Is philosophy dead? Is it in a crisis? Is it in a threshold of revolution? Who are the right role models for us “contemporary” philosophers? Kant or Husserl or Wittgenstein, perhaps? But do not overlook Socrates – or Frank Ramsey.
Hintikka will be raising such questions in his lectures. He is interested in the reaction, and in the views of others, especially the younger generation. He also hopes that his attempted answers will provoke discussion and further questions.
CAS PH 424/GRS PH 624 A1 – Wittgenstein
An intensive study of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, with special attention to the distinction between showing and saying. Rival construals of this distinction will be discussed in a variety of contexts, and will span a variety of themes including the nature of the concept-possession, the scope and character of logic, the notion of truth, the notion of a paradox, Wittgenstein’s criticisms of mentalism and various forms of psychologism, questions about what it is to follow a rule, to understand a language, and to express a thought. We will discuss texts from each part of Wittgenstein’s life, including the Tractatus, middle period works such as “Lectures on Ethics” and “Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough”, and Philosophical Investigations. A Wittgenstein Workshop will take place concurrently with the seminar, where experts present works-in-progress and discuss their recent work. Invited guests include Antonia Soulez (University of Paris VIII) speaking on philosophy and music; Sanford Shieh (Wesleyan University) speaking on modality in the Tractatus, and possibly others.
CAS PH 440/GRS PH 640 A1 – Metaphysics
A constant struggle for contemporary metaphysicians is to figure out how relatively high-level facts about, for example, value and mind, can be related to fundamental material facts. We’ll focus on this struggle especially as it arises in conjunction with causation, modality, and color. Our main readings will come from the work of David Lewis, not only one of the greatest contemporary metaphysicians, but also on the most exciting and engaging.
CAS PH 451/GRS PH 651 A1 – Contemporary Ethical Theory
The course this semester will focus on the topic of reasons. Contemporary moral philosophers are very interested in the fact that ordinary practical decisions generally turn on the consideration of reasons for acting in one way or another (as captured by the sentence, “Jack’s two main reasons for taking more philosophy courses were that studying more philosophy would help him substantially improve his critical reasoning skills and that these courses would enable him to think about some particularly interesting topics”). Very generally, one might ask: What acts do I have reasons to do? Do I have any reason to be moral? How one goes about providing general answers to such questions will depend on what exactly reasons are, so our primary focus will be on trying to figure out what reasons are. It will also be interesting to think about the relation of reasons to practical reasoning and to desires, the relation between reasons for action and reasons for belief, and how we are able to know which particular reasons apply to us. We will use a collection of papers edited by Setiya & Paakkunainen, “Internal Reasons” (MIT Press), as well as some recent papers not included in that collection.
CAS PH 452/GRS PH 652 A1 – Ethics of Health Care
Medicine and health care offer a unique opportunity to explore the nature of humanity and the world and to ask fundamental questions concerning the nature of birth, life, and death, and what it is to be a person. Readings from both classical and contemporary writings in ethics, medicine, law, and public health policy.
CAS PH 457/GRS PH 657 A1 – Action, Interpretation, and Narrative
What is the role of story or narrative in human understanding? This seminar will explore the revivified contemporary debate among philosophers, literary theorists and others about the importance of narrative for issues in moral psychology, agency and personal identity. Readings will include works by MacIntyre, Ricoeur, G. Strawson, Carroll, Velleman, Goldie, Currie, among others, as well as literary texts and films of relevance.
CAS PH 458/GRS PH 658/JD 787 A1- Crime and Punishment
This seminar will explore a broad range of issues concerning the philosophy of punishment and the substantive criminal law. Topics may include: retributivist and utilitarian justifications for punishment; what should be criminalized; what mens rea or mental state should be required for criminal liability; the moral and legal relevance of the distinction between purposely and knowingly causing harm (not only in criminal law, but also in just war law and theory); whether fortuity or “moral luck” justifies punishing completed crimes more than attempts; justification (e.g. self-defense and necessity) and excuse (e.g. duress and provocation); the meaning and significance of consent in sexual assault and other crimes; the so-called “cultural defense”; the insanity defense (with attention to the free will/determinism debate); and feminist perspectives on some criminal law topics. The seminar is open both to law students and to graduate and senior undergraduate philosophy students. For law students, no prior background in philosophy is presupposed; for philosophy students, no prior background in criminal law is presupposed. Students will be asked to submit brief written reaction papers concerning the readings on a weekly basis, and a 15-page paper at the end of the semester. For those law students wishing to satisfy the writing requirements, a 25-page paper is required.
CAS PH 460/660 A1 – Epistemology
This seminar will be devoted to examining three of the central issues in contemporary epistemology: foundationalism, skepticism, and the internalism/externalism controversy. We will pay particular attention to how these three issues are interrelated, and which positions, if any, conform to our commonsensical platitudes about knowledge.
CAS PH 462/GRS PH 662 A1 – Foundations of Mathematics
Axiomatic set theory as a foundation for, and field of, mathematics: Axiom of Choice, the Continuum Hypothesis, and consistency results.
CAS PH 470/GRS PH 670 A1 – Philosophy of Physics
Philosophical issues raised by contemporary physics. No background in physics is required (some elementary physics using simple algebra will be presented). Questions we will address include the following: Is time travel possible? Does relativity theory show that the past and future are just as real as now? What is the nature of space and time? Does quantum mechanics show that determinism is false? Are there parallel universes where alternative realities play out? Can everything be reduced down to physics?
CAS PH 472/GRS PH 672 A1- Philosophy of Biology
Conceptual problems in biology; unity or pluralism of science; hierarchy theory; biological explanation; evolutionary theory, teleology and casuality, statistical explanation; the species problem; mind and the brain; and language in animals and humans.
CAS PH 482/GRS PH 682 A1 – Topics in Modern and Contemporary Philosophy: Heidegger
The course will focus on a careful reading of Heidegger’s major work, Being and Time. However, toward the end of the semester, we will also look at some of Heidegger’s shorter works written later in his career, so that we may consider some of the directions of his famous “turn.”
CAS PH 486/GRS PH 686 A1 – Topics in Knowledge, Language, and Logic
Critical examination of the history of a number of central philosophical concepts, including being and its varieties, existence, identity, logic, world, creation, form, function, law of nature, chance, induction, intuition, and the so-called principle of plentitude.
GRS PH 683 A1 – Topics in the Philosophy of Religion
This course provides a generally accessible introduction to modern philosophical and theological approaches to religion(s). Topics covered include Enlightenment critiques of religion and the concept of a religion of reason; German idealist and romantic concepts of religion; theological liberalism; psychology and phenomenology of religion; post-liberal theology; hermeneutical approaches; political theology; gender theory and religion; theism and atheism.
GRS PH 827 A1 – Heidegger
From the mid-1930s through the 1950s, Heidegger attempts to think being historically through examinations of art, science, European nihilism, and poetry. The aim of this course is to understand and critically evaluate this attempt, including its motivations and implications. The course will focus on five readings: Heidegger’s 1936 lectures “The Origin of the Work of Art,” the 1938 essay “The Age of the World Picture,” his 1940 Nietzsche lectures on “European Nihilism,” his 1946 Rilke essay “What Are Poets For?” and, time permitting, his 1950 lecture “Language.”
GRS PH 883 A1 – Topics in Philosophy