Spring 2015 Upper Level Courses

PHL 241:  Philosophy of Art

WF 1:00 – 2:20 pm – Elaine Miller
In this course we will read historical and contemporary texts in the philosophy of art and consider such questions such as: What counts as a work of art? What distinguishes art from craft?  Why do we have/need art at all? What does it mean to call something beautiful?  Is there a proper way to appreciate beauty in nature and art?  What philosophical criteria can be used to interpret, and judge works of art?  Does art need to be beautiful? Is THAT really art, and why? (usually asked of contemporary art, and maybe answerable by philosophy)  Finally, we will consider some individual artists and artworks and the ways in which they are considered in philosophical arguments about art.

PHL 245:  Writing Philosophy

WF 10:00 - 11:20 am – Elaine Miller
This course will explore and practice the reading, writing, and reasoning skills necessary for philosophy majors in achieving the successful presentation of philosophical ideas in written work.  Students will practice writing oriented toward both specialized (philosophically experienced and disciplinarily appropriate) and non-specialized (non-philosophical) audiences. The topic of this year's course will be aesthetics and the philosophy of film; readings will be structured in such a way as to give exposure to all traditions of philosophy, and the course will be writing intensive.

PHL 263:  Informal Logic

MWF 10:00 - 11:15 pm - William McKenna
This course is devoted to developing attitudes and skills for critical thinking. Students will learn theories, concepts, and methods pertaining to understanding and producing reasoned discourse. They will learn how to analyze and access the strengths and weaknesses of speech and writing from a logical point of view. They will develop the ability to construct good arguments and learn how to best communicate them to others. Throughout the course the emphasis will be on practice, practice in applying the methods of interpreting and producing arguments.

PHL 273Formal Logic

MWF 11:30 – 12:45 pm – Michael Hicks
It is tempting to characterize a really good argument this way: if you accept its premises you must accept its conclusion. This course begins by analyzing this “must"—in what sense can one be logically compelled? What is it for an argument to be valid?  A simple trick called “formalization” allows us to focus on certain structural features that are often relevant to the validity of an argument. In this course, we consider two formalizations, sentential logic and a first-order quantification-theory that builds on it, and figure out how to use them to show the validity of arguments. The primary task will be to master these mathematical representations of argument.  As such this class is very different from other philosophy classes: homework will often be pseudo-mathematical, and there is very little writing.

PHL 302: Modern Philosophy

TR 10:00–11:50 pm - Keith Fennen
Philosophic activity in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries is generally referred to as Modern Philosophy.  During this time, philosophic activity, both in terms of the critique of traditional concepts and the development of new ideas, was exceptionally high.  New conceptions of science, nature, political association, and morality, for example, were put forth.  In this course we will mainly study works by Descartes, Pascal, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant but we will also read brief excerpts from other thinkers. While we will discuss each thinker’s overall philosophical system, some guiding themes throughout the semester will be the self and its constitution, self-knowledge, judgment, agency, immanence, and transcendence.

PHL 311:  Ethical Theory

MWF 1:00 – 2:15 pm – Michael Brodrick
Virtue ethics flourished during the time of Aristotle and became one of the great visions of the good life. But ancient Greek society was relatively small and homogenous, compared to the large and diverse societies we see now. Aristotle’s world was so closed, in fact, that he was able to say that virtue is defined by agreement. Today, some philosophers worry that virtue is in short supply in modern societies. A few go as far as to say that the very institutions that structure modern civil societies are at odds with virtue. This course consists of a careful study of virtue ethics as understood by Aristotle and of its promise or lack of promise in the context of today’s diverse liberal democracies. In addition to Aristotle, we will read Adam Smith, F. H. Bradley, Alasdair MacIntyre, H. B. Acton, Deirdre McCloskey and others.

PHL 355:  Feminist Theory

TR 4:00 – 5:20 pm - Gaile Pohlhaus
In this course we will investigate feminist theories not as one comprehensive system, but rather as varying ways in which feminists have attempted to speak about the category, position(s), and treatment of women given particular social and historical contexts.  What does it mean to be a woman?  Is it a biological concept?  A cultural one?  A political position within the social?  What happens to the concept when we take into account other ways in which people are positioned in society such as race, class, sexuality, and nation?  Is sex/gender a conceptual system we can do without?  Emphasis will be placed on the dialogue and critique among a wide spectrum of feminist theorists.  Throughout the semester we will return to questions regarding the role of theory for feminist politics as well as what the effects of bringing feminism to theory may have on the very nature of theory itself.

PHL 375:  Medical Ethics

TR 2:30 – 4:20 pm – Michael Brodrick
This is an intermediate-level study of ethical problems arising in the context of healthcare. While students gain a firm grasp of bioethical principles, including permission, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice, our method is less theoretical than clinical. We assess the medical, legal, social, political, and economic dimensions of real-world cases. Topics covered include informed consent, disclosure and confidentiality, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, allocating organs for transplant, research on human subjects, using one baby for another, and financing healthcare. Although this course provides more than an introduction to the subject, no prior knowledge of ethics or medical ethics is required. 

PHL 404: What is Philosophy? Senior Capstone Seminar

MW 1:00 – 2:20 pm – Pascal Massie
In this course students will spend the semester investigating the meta-philosophical question: “What is Philosophy?” Meta-philosophy has the strange peculiarity of being both a branch of philosophy (alongside epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, etc.,) and an overarching inquiry that takes the very nature of philosophy into consideration independently of its traditional branches.
Examples of meta-philosophical questions include: Is philosophy a kind of knowledge? Are philosophical claims cognitive in the sense that they can be said to be true or false? If philosophy is cognitive are the apparent disagreements between philosophers a sign of failure? Are the various methodologies practiced by different philosophers attempting to achieve the same goal?  And what is the relationship between philosophy and other kinds of pursuits (both intellectual and practical)?
This course aims to engage students on two different (but related) levels: a meta-level of reflection on the nature of philosophy and a concrete level of thinking about how philosophy might matter in relation to the world in which we live.  In doing so, it should help students to reflect not only on the liberal education they have completed so far, but also to develop the capacity to continue to bring philosophical thinking to their lives long after they have left the classroom.
You can take this class for credit, but in order to take it as a senior capstone; you must have senior status at the time of enrolment.
Prerequisite: minimum of 9 hours in philosophy or permission of the instructor. 

PHL 410C/510C:  Contemporary Democratic Theory

4:30 - 8:10 pm – Chris King
As a type of political morality, democracy promises workable solutions to the problems of efficiently satisfying human desires and meeting the requirements of justice. Yet, when these promises and the proposed means to satisfying the mare scrutinized, conflicts of a theoretical nature appear. A familiar theoretical puzzle – the problem of the minority voter– illustrates one difficulty. As a substantive matter, democracy typically holds to the principles of the freedom and equality of citizens. As a procedural matter, however, democracy regards only the outcome endorsed by the majority to be legitimate. Thus, democracy grants the right of the voting majority to create obligations for minority voters on the shaky ground of numerical superiority. But this grant seems to undermine the substantive freedom and equality of the minority. These dystopian doubts might make one wary of familiar and persistent calls to globalize democracy in the names of peace, prosperity or some other end. By examining various proposals reconciling the substantive and procedural concerns of democracy this course tries to frame and answer the following questions: What is democracy, and what justifies it? Can one consistently defend democracy and pursue truth? Is democracy a form of domination by political means? Is it capable of expressing or tracking justice? Does democracy create obligations to obey it?

PHL 493/593  Phenomenological Method

MW 4:30 - 6:20 pm - William McKenna
This course will be an introduction to phenomenology, a philosophical movement founded by the German Philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) at the beginning of the 20th century.  Since its origination, phenomenological philosophy has been practiced by many people throughout the world, especially in Europe (where it was a dominant influence in the 20th century), the United States Latin America and more recently East Asia.  This activity has resulted in the development of many offshoots, variants, and applications.
Phenomenology consists of a diverse body of thought unified by a common method.  We will learn what this method is and what it can yield chiefly through the study of some of Edmund Husserl’s writings.  These writings of Husserl will cover such topics as:  verbal expression and meaning; verification of thought through experience; the basic structures of the consciousness of the world; intersubjectivity and the experience of other persons; consciousness of the human body and of space; awareness of time. Some readings from J-P. Sartre, M. Merleau-Ponty, and M.Heidegger will also be included.

PHL 494/594  Philosophy of Mind

MW 2:30 – 4:20 pm – Michael Hicks
This is an upper level course centered on John McDowell's influential 1994 book, Mind and World.  McDowell takes up the traditional question how minds (and minded beings) could fit into the natural world, but with an idiosyncratic twist.  His fundamental concern is to understand why there seems to be a problem in the first place.  Blending themes from Wittgenstein, Kant and Aristotle, he urges us to recognize mindedness as a reflection of our “second nature” and thus as philosophically unproblematic.  We will consider Hubert Dreyfus’s phenomenology-inspired accusation of “intellectualism” and a set of critical commentaries on the so-called “McDowell-Dreyfus” debate. Other potential topics include McDowell’s Wittgensteinian “quietism,” his relation to German Idealism, his view of perceptual content, his debate with Robert Brandom, and his Gadamer-inspired conception of language, thought, and culture