Course Descriptions Fall 2014

Course Descriptions Fall 2014

CAS PH 100 A1 – Introduction to Philosophy
Professor TBA
MWF, 1:00-2:00

In this course, our goal will to learn how to do philosophy through examination of some of the central problems of the philosophical tradition, what are sometimes referred to as the “Big Questions” of human existence. We will be particularly interested in the methods of argumentation that people have used in attempting to grapple with these questions. While we will not consider all of the “Big Questions,” we will look at those falling under the following five topics:

Truth and Paradox: What is it rational to believe? What counts as good evidence?
Justice and Injustice: What makes an action morally right? What would a just society look like?
Freedom and Slavery: Do we have free will? What would such freedom, or its absence, involve?
Past and Future: What connects us to our past and future selves? What changes can be survived?
Life and Death: Should we fear death? Should we desire immortality?

CAS PH 100 B1 – Introduction to Philosophy
Professor TBA
TR, 9:30-11:00

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 110 A1 – Great Philosophers
Professor TBA
MWF, 11:00 – 12:00

An approach to philosophical questions through great figures of western thought. Is there a God? What is philosophy? Should we bother asking philosophical questions? What is the meaning of life? Includes Aristotle, Hobbes, Descartes. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 150 A1 – Introduction to Ethics
Professor Griswold
TR, 11-12:30

This course is an introduction to major questions and themes in moral thought, including these: is moral value “relative”? What does it mean to offer a “moral reason” for an action? What are the central moral theories? What are virtue, duty, and utility, and what role might they play in ethics? We will discuss differences between secular and religious moral outlooks, and such questions as: if God exists, how to explain evil? If God does not exist, what foundation is there for goodness? In the last section of the course, we will also examine issues in “applied ethics” (these may include such topics as vegetarianism, the environment, terrorism and war, and the ethics of revenge). Throughout, we will work to sharpen reasoning and argumentation skills, and more generally to develop an understanding of what it means to inquire philosophically.

Prerequisites: none.

CAS PH 150 B1 – Introduction to Ethics
Professor Star
TR, 12:30-2:00

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
Professor Star
MWF, 10:00-11:00

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 159 A1 – Philosophy and Film
Professor Garrett
MWF, 3:00-4:00
Optional film viewing Thursday 6:00-9:00

An introduction to philosophy via reflecting on philosophical issues connected with film as a medium. Topics include general aesthetics, representation, emotion and narrative, genre, fictionalism, and whether film can be immoral. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 160 A1 – Reason and Argumentation
Professor Webb
TR, 11:00-12:30

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

CAS PH 160 B1 – Reason and Argumentation
Professor Cao
MWF, 12:00-1:00

The course is designed to introduce students to the principles of reasoning and argumentation, and to formal models for eliciting underlying patterns and structures of reasoning and argumentation, which can be used to develop skills in actual 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 170 A1 – Philosophy of Science and Pseudoscience
Professor P. Bokulich
MWF, 11:00-12:00

How do legitimate science and quackery differ? We distinguish legitimate scientific debates from arguments by dubious sources. We explore how science progresses, and how non-experts can evaluate surprising arguments that claim to be “scientific.” Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 245 A1 – Philosophy and Religion
Professor Kuehn
TR, 12:30-2:00

This is a course in the philosophy of religion. We will investigate not just what philosophers have thought about God, but also about 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?” and “How does Western religion differ from Eastern religion?” Some of the philosophers we will discuss will be Augustine, Maimonides, St. Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and William James will be among the authors we will read. But we will also take a closer look at Buddhism and Confucianism.

CAS PH 247 A1 – Introduction to Chinese Philosophy
Professor Berthrong
TR, 11:00-12:30

An introduction to the Chinese philosophical tradition, including a study of classical Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Mohism, Legalism, and modern developments. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.

CAS PH 251 A1 – Medical Ethics
Professor TBA
MWF, 12:00-1:00

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 TBA
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 Liebesman
TR, 12:30-2:00

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 Hopp
MWF, 2:00-3:00

This course is devoted to considering some of the philosophical problems that arise when we consider the nature of the human mind. How are mind and body, or mind and brain, related to one another? Is there something special about consciousness that cannot be explained in physical terms? What are some of the available methodologies for studying consciousness? 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 270 A1 – Philosophy of Science
Professor A. Bokulich
TR, 11:00-12:30

What is science and how does it work?  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? This course is an introduction to core issues in the philosophy science, focusing on the topics of scientific realism, theory change, reductionism, explanation, and natural kinds.

CAS PH 300 A1 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Professor TBA
MWF, 3:00-4:00

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

CAS PH 300 B1 – History of Ancient Philosophy
Professor TBA
TR, 12:30-2:00

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

CAS PH 310 A1 – History of Modern Philosophy
Professor 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, Berkley, 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 310 B1 – History of Modern Philosophy
Professor Dahlstrom
MWF, 12:00-1:00

What, if anything, makes it appropriate to designate a certain kind of thinking “modern”?  With this question in mind, this course begins by tracing the rise of modernity in Europe in terms of five rubrics: art (e.g., Flemish primitives, the Italian Renaissance), religion (e.g., the Reformation), science and technology (e.g., Galileo’s telescope), economics (e.g., Marco Polo, trading companies, the banking system, the concentration of capital, and the development of colonialism), and politics (e.g., the distinction of public and private in the work of Machiavelli, Montaigne, and Hobbes).

Against this historical backdrop, we examine the following representative studies in modern philosophy:

Descartes’ meditations on first philosophy, with its accounts of radical doubt, the proofs for the existence of God, the difference between imagining and thinking, and the real distinction of body and soul;

Hume’s enquiry concerning human understanding, with its account of impressions and ideas, belief and causation, the verbal dispute over liberty and necessity, and the advantages of a mitigated skepticism;

Kant’s prolegomena to any future metaphysics, with its account of pure intuitions and concepts, analytic and synthetic as well as a priori and a posteriori judgments, and what makes mathematics and physics possible; and

Nietzsche’s genealogy of morals, with its account of the origins of “good,” “bad,” and “evil,” the role of resentment in traditional morality, and the link between conscience, guilt, and cruelty.

CAS PH 340 A1 – Metaphysics and Epistemology
Professor Liebesman
TR, 2:00-3:30

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 405 A1/GRS PH 605 A1 – Aristotle I (Aristotle’s Bio-psychology for Today)
Professor Miller
W, 4:00 -7:00

Aristotle developed the first systematic “paradigm” (basic conceptual and causal-explanatory framework) of bio-psychology. The key concepts and relations that he established still provide the core framework of today’s sciences. His original paradigm integrated and reconciled the competing approaches of Plato’s dualism and presocratic materialism. This successful synthesis was misinterpreted and handed down as a problematic mixture of the two primary sources. Today comparable dilemmas emerge in reconciling competing approaches to the biological and neurosciences. Aristotle’s original synthesis can be helpful in understanding — and perhaps even in resolving these modern difficulties.

The course examines development of the original paradigm in De Anima, together with parts of Motion of Animals, On the Senses and On Memory. Some limited sections of the Physics and the Metaphysics are surveyed as the basis of the underlying ontology. Aristotle’s analysis will be compared with corresponding modern problems throughout. Greek is not required (but any familiarity would be helpful).

Students of biology or neuroscience are welcomed and have the option of concentrating on using Aristotle’s approach to elucidate current problems.

CAS PH 408 A1 – History of Medieval Philosophy
Professor Lobel
MWF, 2:00 – 3:00

Mysticism and Philosophy: Jewish and Islamic Perspectives

Thematic introduction to mysticism and philosophy, with a focus on the dynamics of religious experience.  Readings from Jewish and Islamic philosophy and mysticism, Sufi mysticism and philosophy, Kabbalah, Biblical interpretation, Sufi poetry, Hebrew poetry from the Golden Age of Muslim Spain.

CAS PH 410 A1/GRS PH 610 A1 – Continental Rationalism
Professor Garrett
MWF, 10:00-11:00

In this course we will explore the major writings of three of the most important philosophers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. All of these philosophers were linked by the shared methodological premise that we have a priori access to fundamental metaphysical truths about the world and about minds.  We will discuss their philosophical methodologies, metaphysics and theories of mind, through their accounts of substance, cause, explanation (particularly the principle of sufficient reason), and mental representation. We will spend the bulk of the course on Spinoza’s Ethics, which was viewed by many contemporaries as the most controversial and philosophically rigorous book of the early modern period. Spinoza argues among other things that there is only one substance (i.e., monism), that everything is determined in relation to this substance, and that everything – whether space dust slug or human — has a mind. Other texts we will focus on will include Descartes’ Meditations and “Correspondence with Princess Elizabeth” and Leibniz’s “Monadology” and “Primary Truths”.

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

CAS PH 422A1/GRS PH 622 A1 – Analytic Philosophy

Professor Floyd
TR, 12:30- 2:00

Can truth be perceived? An investigation of the concepts of truth, scepticism and perception, with an emphasis on the early twentieth century analytic tradition as a basis for understanding contemporary work in the theory of knowledge and truth.  We shall read works by Plato, Frege, Moore, Russell, Wittgenstein, Austin and Quine, along with contemporary philosophers who have thought deeply about what the analytic tradition has to teach us about truth and perception:  Anscombe, Cavell, Putnam, McDowell, and Travis.

CAS PH 426 A1/GRS PH 626 A1 – Phenomenology
Professor Hopp
MWF, 11:00-12:00

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. We will be especially concerned with the relations among knowledge, consciousness, and intentionality.

CAS PH 427A1/GRS PH 627A1 – 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 (Dasein); the challenges to being genuine, rooted in our need to conform; the care that defines our being-here, especially as disclosed in moments of Angst; our being “about to die” and conscience’s call as a testimony to our genuine mortal potential; and the timeliness and historicity that provide the constitutive horizon or sense of an existence defined as care.

CAS PH 443 A1/GRS PH 643A1 – Philosophy of Mind
Professor P. Bokulich
MWF, 1:00 – 2:00

The topic is sentience, embodiment, and the brain. The aim is to develop a “neurophenomenological” approach to consciousness and embodied experience in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind.

CAS PH 450 A1/GRS PH 650A1 – Types of Ethical Theory
Professor Star
TR, 3:30 – 5:00

This course will focus on well-known papers in contemporary ethics, most of which were published during the past 40 years. 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, 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 interest, such as abortion, infanticide, organ transplantation, and famine also feature in some of the papers we will read.

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

This course will explore a number of philosophical and conceptual issues that are central to thinking about the contemporary place and practice of religion.  Drawing on figures in both analytic and continental philosophical traditions, as well as scholars in the fields of psychology, theology, religious studies and literary theory, the course will explore such questions as the possibility of religion without God, the contemporary grounds for debate about naturalism and belief, and the prospects for interfaith exploration and religious tolerance.  The “future of religion” has, of course, also been the frame of a number of notable attempts in the past—the turn of the previous century gave us both Freud’s Future of an Illusion and William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience, for example—that themselves are worth re-examination in the contemporary context.  The seminar parallels the IPR lecture series on this topic and incorporates visiting lectures in the course design.  For more information, contact ipr@bu.edu.

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.

Prereq: (CASMA293) or consent of instructor.

CAS PH 468 A1/GRS PH 668 A1 – Philosophical Problems of Logic and Mathematics
Professor Webb
TR, 2:00 – 3:30

Selected traditional metaphysical and epistemological problems in the light of modern logic and various studies in the foundations of mathematics, including the nature of the axiomatic method, completeness in logic and mathematics, and the nature of mathematical truth.

CAS PH 477 A1/GRS PH 677 A1 – Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Professor Cao
M, 5:00 – 8:00

After the introduction of some basic concepts in social sciences (sociology, anthropology, economics, and political science), such as structure, agency and action, explanation and understanding, we will move to an illuminating examination of two of the most popular approaches in social sciences in recent decades: the rational choice approach (based on game theory) and the functionalist approach in economics, sociology and political science. The enduring philosophical questions, such as prediction and progress, reductionism and holism, rationality and relativism, facts and norms, will also be examined in the context of social sciences.

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

Topic for Fall 2014: Happiness, East and West.

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

GRS PH 828 A1 – Philosophical and Theological Approaches to Religion
Professor Zank
MWF, 5:00 – 8:00

An introduction to the philosophical and theological approaches to the study of religion(s) as distinct from other humanities-based and social-scientific approaches.  Provides a common vocabulary for students pursuing historical, constructive, or interdisciplinary projects related to religions thought.

GRS PH 871 A1 – Philosophy of Science
Professor Cao
W, 5:00 -8:00

This seminar will examine, from four perspectives (scientific realism, positivism, pragmatism and epistemic relativism), the contemporary philosophical debate on the nature and limits of scientific knowledge, centered around such issues as (i) the underdetermination and incommensurability versus representation and cumulativity of scientific theories; (ii) social interests and perspectives versus objective facts and evidence as well as scientific rationality in theory acceptance. The aim of the course is to clarify the credentials and implications of each position, (thus provide students a solid ground for participating in wider cultural debates on rationality and relativism), and to have a better understanding of the recent history and current status of philosophy of science, (which is part of necessary training for a professional philosopher), through a careful examination of the structure of the arguments adopted by each position in dealing with various issues.

GRS PH 881 A1 – Philosophy Proseminar
Professor Floyd
T, 9:30 – 12:30

An investigation of truth and perception, based upon contemporary and historical works.  The nature of the interplay between truth and knowledge will be our focus.  We build the course around the recent issue of the Aristotelian Society online virtual issue on truth (April 2013, http://www.aristoteliansociety.org.uk/category/online-conference/), where a variety of recent theories are canvassed with reference to figures such as Frege, Ramsey, Austin, Quine and Wittgenstein, McDowell, Sher and Heal.  We will also discuss specific theories of truth from the point of view of logic and reference (Tarski and Davidson), essence (Putnam, Kripke), being (Heidegger), and value (aesthetics, ethics, and emotion).  Discussion and weekly papers will ensure development of analytic, philosophical, and writing skills.

GRS PH 993 A1 – Placement Proseminar
Professor A. Bokulich
T, 3:00 – 6:00

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.