Course Descriptions Fall 2009

CAS PH 100 – Introduction to Philosophy

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.

CAS PH 110/MET PH 110 – Great Philosophers
Prof: Kuehn, Webb

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

CAS PH 150/MET PH 150 – Introduction to Ethics
Prof: Star, Speight, Finholt

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 160 – Reasoning and Argumentation
Prof: Corsentino, Webb, Liebesman

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 248 – Existentialism
Prof: Kestenbaum

Analysis of existentialism as a movement or orientation in contemporary philosophy. Possible topics include contingency and the grounds for belief and value; depth, superficiality, and the intense life; finitude and tragedy; courage; existentialism as a philosophy of the possible.

[Likely] Textbooks:

The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, ed. by Robert Denoon Cumming
Jean-Paul Sartre, The Words
Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom
Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be
Rollo May, The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology

CAS PH 251 – Medical Ethics
Prof: Fialova

Examination of a number of value problems arising within the context of medicine and health care. Particular ethical problems of euthanasia, abortion, human experimentation, reproduction, and allocation of scarce resources; critiques of contemporary medicine as an institution.

CAS PH 254 – Political Philosophy
Prof: Sreedhar

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 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 several major figures in the history of political philosophy (likely including Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Mill), as well as some contemporary figures (likely including Rawls and Nozick).

CAS PH 259 – Philosophy of the Arts
Prof: Kestenbaum

Introduction to aesthetics, considering such questions as: What is a work of art? How does one know whether it is good or bad? What is aesthetic experience? Is it possible for art and aesthetic experience to be bad for us?

These general questions will contextualize a consideration of topics such as imagination, feelings, truth, and appreciation.

[Likely] Textbooks:

R. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art
John Hospers, Introductory Readings in Aesthetics
Susan Sontag, On Photography
Joseph H. Kupfer, Experience as Art

CAS PH 266 – Mind, Brain, and Self
Prof: Hopp

This course is devoted to considering some of the philosophical problems that arise when we consider the nature of the human person. What is a “self”? Is the self identical with an immaterial mind? A material brain? A body? How are mind and body related to one another? And what, if anything, makes a person at one time—you at 20, say—identical with a person at some other time—you fifteen years ago? What roles do consciousness, memory, and character play in the constitution of the self? In this class, we will carefully examine what some of philosophy’s best and brightest historical and contemporary figures have to say about these issues.

CAS PH 271 – History of Science
Prof: Cao

The origin and development of modern science, including Galileo, Newton, and the new physics; Lavoisier and the birth of modern chemistry; Darwin and evolution; Mendel and genetics; Einstein and relativity; and Watson, Crick, and the double helix.

CAS PH 272 – Science, Technology, and Values
Prof: A. Bokulich

The goal of this course is to come to a deeper and more reflective understanding of the nature of science and technology, their ethical implications, and their impact on society. As citizens, business people, and policy makers we cannot afford to be ignorant of the developments in science and technology. As scientists, engineers, or healthcare professionals-or even simply as consumers-we cannot afford to be ignorant of the ethical, social and political implications of our practices. In this course we shall examine some of the important ways in which science, technology, society, and values are interconnected. The course will include case studies of particular technologies such as nuclear technology, prescription drugs, GM crops, and computers.

CAS PH 300 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Prof: Rorty

Concentrating on ancient Greek moral and political philosophy, we shall read Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in their entirety, as well as some selections from early Stoic authors.
Our general aim:
1) to read, understand and engage with ancient Greek moral theorists
2) to see how Plato’s and Aristotle’s discussions of justice, virtue and the good life presuppose and imply views on psychology, education, epistemology, metaphysics. (Philosophy is always systematic: there are no isolated questions, no piecemeal solutions.)
3) to join Plato and Aristotle in discussing and pursuing the questions they raise. (Philosophy is not a spectator sport: it is always active and collaborative.)

CAS PH 300 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Prof: Brinkmann

A survey of the seminal ideas of ancient Greek philosophers from the Pre-Socratics through Aristotle. We will discuss the cryptic aphorisms of Heraclitus and the enigmatic pronouncements of Parmenides along with other texts from the Pre-Socratics during the opening weeks of the semester. This will be followed by a close reading of a selection of Platonic dialogues (Apology, Meno, Phaedo, Republic) and a discussion of the major ideas in Aristotle’s thought as developed in the Posterior Analytics, the Physics, On the Soul, and the Metaphysics. Two take-home papers and a written exam.

CAS PH 310 – History of Modern Philosophy
Prof: Webb

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 – History of Ethics
Prof: Star

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

CAS PH 405/GRS PH 605 – Aristotle I
Prof: Roochnik

A careful study of Aristotle’s ON THE SOUL (DE ANIMA). We will also read a good bit of other material from the PHYSICS and the METAPHYSICS.

CAS PH 409/GRS PH 609 – Maimonides
Prof: Zank

A comprehensive study of the thought of Maimonides. Close attention is given to topics in his logic, ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion.

CAS PH 412/GRS PH 612 – Philosophy of the Enlightenment
Prof: Kuehn

A critical examination of that family of philosophical and political movements that called itself “the Enlightenment.” Students analyze key texts by Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, Jefferson, Madison, Kant, and Hegel.

CAS PH 419/GRS PH 619 – Nietzsche
Prof: Michalski

An examination of main concepts of Friedrich Nietzsche´s thought on the basis of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, 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 European philosophy of the nineteenth century (Hegel, Marx). Reception of Nietzsche’s ideas in contemporary philosophy (Heidegger, Jaspers, Deleuze, Foucault) will also be discussed.

CAS PH 424/GRS PH 624 – Wittgenstein
Prof: Hintikka

A critical examination of the main ideas of Wittgenstein’s philosophy in light of their development.

CAS PH 426/CAS GRS 626 – Phenomenology
Prof: Hopp

The central concern of phenomenology is consciousness. Most conscious experiences are of or about things other than themselves—the consciousness of a cat is not itself a cat, but is of a cat. Corresponding to any type of object whatsoever (a cat, a color, a number, a philosophical argument, etc.) there is an account to be given concerning the experiences in virtue of which we can become conscious of it. Phenomenology’s task is to provide such an account by examining the essential features of conscious acts as they are given in phenomenological reflection. How is it possible, if it is, for consciousness to reach beyond itself to a world of independent objects? How can it “take hold” of those objects in knowledge and cognition? In this class, we will tackle some of the main questions of phenomenology by examining works by Edmund Husserl, Brian O’Shaughnessy, and others. We will pay special attention to questions surrounding the nature of perception, meaning, and knowledge.

CAS PH 436/GRS PH 636 – Gender, Race, and Science
Prof: A. Bokulich

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 the history of the concepts of race and gender and the various roles that these concepts continue to play in contemporary science.

CAS PH 440 – Metaphysics
Prof: Tauber

A study of the themes of Being, God, Space, Time, and Eternity as they should be treated for a contemporary philosophy.

CAS PH 456/GRS PH 656 – Topics and Philosophy and Religion
Prof: Speight

Narrative Wisdom: What is the role of story or narrative in human understanding? What specific human cognitive or imaginative capacities are required for the construction and discernment of narrative patterns in our lives? This course will involve classical and contemporary readings and will parallel a series of lectures by visiting and BU professors next fall in the Institute for Philosophy and Religion, which will be incorporated in the course design. For more information, contact Professor Allen Speight, Institute for Philosophy and Religion,

CAS PH 457/GRS PH 657 – Action, Interpretation, and Narrative
Prof: Olson

Examination of basic issues in the philosophy of interpretation, phenomenology and hermeneutics, including mytho-symbolic language, narrative discourse, metaphoric propositions, testimony, and various truth and value claims in religious and philosophical texts. Close readings of Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Schleiermacher’s Hermeneutics, Gadamer’s Truth and Method, and Ricoeur’s Interpretation Theory, and excerpts from the works of Heidegger, Jaspers, and Bultmann, among others.

CAS PH 461 – Mathematical Logic

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/GRS PH 663 – Philosophy of Language
Prof: Liebesman

Critical survey of the main issues in the philosophy of language and the foundations of linguistics, including the ideas of logical form and the universality of languages as well as the basic ideas of generative grammar, possible-worlds semantics, Wittgenstein, and speech-act theories.

CAS PH 470/GRS PH 670 – Philosophy of Physics
Prof: Cao

Philosophical problems concerning the interpretation of physical discoveries. Elementary particles, the anomalies of quantum mechanics, some modern problems of space and time, and the problem of wholes and parts.

CAS PH 483/GRS PH 683 – Topics in the Philosophy of Religion
Prof: Michalski

A discussion of basic questions of rationality of religion, based on a careful examination of Kant´s „Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone“. Later interpretations of the text (Hegel, Jaspers, Ricoeur, Habermas) will be referred to. Familiarity with Kant´s other writings would be helpful.

Required texts: “Philosophical Logic” by John Burgess, forthcoming from Princeton University Press (preprint available online at and articles by Lewis, Dummett and Tennant.

GRS PH 820 – Contemporary Philosophy
Prof: Dahlstrom

What is (can or should be) philosophy’s relation to its history? What, if anything, do philosophy and its history have to do with our form of life today and with the way we view our world? Here, too, we can enlarge the question by asking what bearing philosophy and its history can or even should have on how we live. Or do these questions suppose too much, namely, that we are able to differentiate philosophy from its history or differentiate philosophy, whatever its historical status, from the form of life or the world-view of the philosopher? Heidegger repeatedly struggled with these questions, pondering the significance of Western thinking’s roots and development for its contemporary condition. This course investigates Heidegger’s struggle with these themes, from the early 1930s to early 1950s, against the backdrop of his readings of Plato and Nietzsche. The aim of the course is to understand and critically evaluate Heidegger’s distinctively historical way of thinking during this period, its motivations as well as its implications. Readings will include: “Plato’s Doctrine of Truth,” “The Age of the World Picture,” “European Nihilism” (Heidegger’s 1940 Nietzsche lectures), “The Letter on Humanism,” and the Bremen lectures (including “The Question Concerning Technology”).

GRS PH 881 –ProSeminar for First Year Graduate Students
Prof: Garrett

Required of all First Year Graduate Students.

GRS PH 993 – Philosophy Proseminar I
Prof: Sreedhar

Offers continuing support and opportunities for professionalization for students as they complete dissertations and present their research in professional settings. Class meetings involve workshops on a graduated series of placement tasks and mock paper presentations by each student.