This course is intended as a general introduction to the discipline of philosophy through an examination of various attempts throughout history to answer the very fundamental question, “What does it mean to be human?” Topics discussed include happiness, the soul, virtue, good and evil, and the like. Readings from classical sources include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hume, Mill, Nietzsche, Sartre and others.
This course provides an examination of philosophical concepts and ideas that address questions regarding the problem of knowledge (epistemology), methods of reasoning and the nature of reality (metaphysics). Special attention will be given to applying these topics to an introduction to the philosophy of natural science. Readings include classical sources such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Hegel, as well as contemporary works.
A discussion and critical analysis of leading contemporary ethical theories, including utilitarianism, intuitionism, and virtue theories, among others. In addition, some consideration of criticisms by feminist philosophers of these traditional approaches to ethics will be given.
A study of the relation of the individual to society and the state. Major issues to be examined include the nature of freedom, justice and equality, alienation, and political authority. Also includes an analysis of political models such as liberalism, socialism, conservatism, and anarchism, as well as alternative conceptions of democracy.
Theories, tactics, goals, and impact or organized minorities and how they relate and transform the American political sphere; groups studied include African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Indians, and other politically marginalized minorities. Court decisions and legal precedents of mentioned groups in case law are closely examined in this course.
A comprehensive examination of the disciplines of Epistemology and Metaphysic; topics addressed include being and reality, logic and language, the concept of truth, skepticism, causality, and knowledge. Readings are both historical and contemporary in nature.
An exploration of theories of art and of aesthetic experience. Questions addressed include the following: Are judgments of taste objective? What are the roles of form, expression, and representation in the arts? How is art related to society? What is the nature of creativity in art and science? What is the relationship between creativity and madness? Examples are drawn from the various art forms, including painting, literature, music, dance, and film.
A comprehensive study of Ancient and Medieval philosophers beginning with the Greek Pre-Socratics, through Plato and Aristotle, the post-Aristotelian schools of Epicureanism, Stoicism and Skepticism, through Plotinus, Augustine, and major Medieval thinkers such as Anselm, Avicenna, Averroes, and Thomas Aquinas.
This course investigates the history of the opposition of science and religion, beginning with the emergence of philosophy as an alternative to mythology, through the scholastic dominance of the Aristotelian world-view, to the Scientific Revolution, the emergence and acceptance of evolution, and beyond. Special attention will be given to current attempts at reconciling and/or harmonizing these traditionally antithetical disciplines.
Time is one of the fundamental problems in philosophy. It poses specific challenges for any analysis or definition. Many philosophers have even denied the existence of time. Others have pointed at the difference between the linear time of nature and the non-linear time of human experience. The class will discuss classical and modern texts. It will raise questions such as: why is there only one direction of time? Does time have a beginning? Is time travel possible? Is time real or a product of our understanding? Is a timeless existence possible?
An examination of basic positions in the field of environmental ethics with emphasis on principles of sustainability, whether there are legal and moral rights for nature, human treatment of animals, and environmental policy and decision-making.
The resurgence of nationalism, ethnicity, and the affirmation of cultural difference in the contemporary world has created problems for older conceptions of citizenship and universal rights. Philosophical arguments underlying alternative conceptions of social, political, and cultural identity and the conflicts that have emerged recently concerning claims to national recognition and cultural group rights. A related theme is the tension between the diversity of cultures on the one hand and increasing global interconnectedness on the other.
A philosophical examination of the mind and mental functioning. Some questions addressed include the following: Can we know what it is like to be a bat? Could it be that everyone (other than oneself) is a robot? What is the relationship between mind and brain? Can computers think? Readings include the work of Nagel, Wittgenstein, and Freud, among others.
A consideration of the historical development of the western philosophical tradition, beginning with the pre-Socratics, up and through contemporary thinkers. The course will examine the recurrence of perennial problems in the history of intellectual thought.
A study of major thinkers and movements in the nineteenth century including Kant, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Mill, James, and Freud. Issues discussed will include the nature of scientific knowledge, political and moral right, and the emergence of psychological theory.
What is the basis for the authority of the law? What are the competing theories of crime and punishment? What are the grounds of legal rights and duties? What are the relations among justice, liberty, and equality in the law? We will also consider such current legal issues as the insanity defense, the death penalty, the rights of unborn children, regulation of the internet, and affirmative action.
This course will focus on some of the new ethical issues that face social and political actors in the current period of globalization. We will examine the value questions that arise in relations among nation-states in such contexts as human rights, distributive justice, economic development, and the preservation of the environment. Among the topics to be discussed are just war theory and the analysis and response to terrorism; hunger, welfare, and global distributive justice; immigration and refugees; international business ethics; racism and sexism in national and international contexts; and democracy and the Internet. To illuminate these issues, we will consider alternative contemporary perspectives in political philosophy, including liberal, communitarian, and feminist approaches, and will examine their implications for politics in the context of emerging global frameworks. Emphasis will be placed on oral presentations and intensive discussion.
Consideration of such issues as the ethical responsibility of scientists and technologists for the uses of their knowledge, the ethics of scientific research, and truth and fraud in science and engineering. We will study such contemporary moral questions as those concerning the uses and abuses of nuclear energy, environmental pollution and the preservation of natural resources, and the impact of new technologies on the right to privacy.
The course is intended as an introduction to the key issues and methodologies of bioethics. It refers to the central problems in bioethics (autonomy of the patient, organ transplantation, stem cell debate, cloning, etc.), as much as to newer developments, such as genetic enhancement and the commercialization of the body. A main focus is to explore the field of bioethics in an interdisciplinary way and to bring not only ethical, legal, or scientific criteria into play, but also those from an existential, social, or cultural background. A short introduction to the moral theories used in applied ethics is given. The course helps to develop a responsible and sensitive conduct in future studies or occupations.
This course examines the conceptual foundations of such disciplines as economics, sociology, anthropology, and political science. Readings include excerpts from Smith, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Winch, among others.
This course is a general introduction to both the history and present concerns of feminist philosophy. Readings include classic essays of feminist thought by Wollstonecraft, Mill, Engels, and others as well as contemporary writings in philosophy and feminism. This course serves as a foundation for a minor in Gender Studies. No prior courses in philosophy are required.
This course examines the popular philosophical movement known as “Existentialism.” In addition to reading such seminar thinkers as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus, attention will be given to works outside the rubric of philosophy proper, including literature and cinema.
The primary aim of this course is to introduce students to the medium of film as a possible vehicle for the presentation and examination of key philosophical concepts and ideas such as the nature of reality, time, and the question of the good life. Special consideration will be given to the ways this mode of presentation might differ from more traditional methods such as the philosophical treatise or essay. Throughout this course we will analyze classical as well as more recent films.
This course follows the work of the following Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Iris Murdoch, Simone de Beauvoir, Hannah Ardent, and Ayn Rand. These are all seminal thinkers who began their philosophical work in the first half of the twentieth century and went on to influence the course of intellectual thought for a generation to come. And yet, more often than not, these women tend to be omitted from the traditional canon of twentieth-century philosophy. One goal of this course is to consider why that is the case.
This course introduces students to environmental policy and ethics, with special attention to the importance of economic considerations. Specific issues to be covered may include: the equity-efficiency contrast, different decision-making structures, the role of narratives in policy-making, externalities, public goods, property rights, market-failure, benefit-cost analysis, justice, the choice of categories in quantifying policy problems, the relationship of formal and informal rules, propaganda versus information, and the normative idea of rights. This course is an introduction to the interplay of politics, economics, and ethics as they enter into policy-making in the environmental arena.
The Seminar in Philosophy is intended to provide students with an in-depth examination of the work of either one specific philosopher (or pair of philosophers), or a particular work in the history of philosophy that has had a profound impact on the development of intellectual thought. Special attention will be given to how the philosopher or work in question influenced work outside philosophy.