Spring 2019 Upper Level Courses

Rene Descartes Rene Descartes

PHL205: Science, Culture, and Society

TR 2:50pm – 4:10pm - Dr. Suzanne McCullagh

This course explores the relationship between science, technology, and society through philosophical texts that variously consider science and technology as an expression of human greatness, the means of human progress, a mode of cultural decline, and a dangerous or problematic attitude towards the world. While science and technology undoubtedly alter the world and our ways of living in it, there are competing ideas about what scientific knowledge is and how it works. For instance, does science simply provide us with objective facts about the material world? Or, are scientific ideas shaped by the social and cultural contexts from within which society they are developed? IN order to explore the complexity of this issue we will consider contemporary, scientific, and social ideas about immunity. The concepts of immunity and defense are found in both contemporary biomedical discourse about health and disease and in social and political discourse about selfhood and political community. By examining the complex interplay between social and scientific discourses, we will gain an understanding of how science has shaped culture and society and the ways the culture shapes science. Throughout the course, we will critically analyze different conceptions of and attitudes towards scientific and technological progress, and we will put these ideas to work in analyzing cultural depictions and expressions of science and technology in painting and film. In the last part of the course, we will explore the contemporary emergence of the ideas posthumanism and the Anthropocene and consider how, through science, humans alter their nature and way of being in the world.

PHL245: Writing Philosophy

TR 8:30am - 9:50am - Dr. Gaile Pohlhaus

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.

PHL273: Formal Logic

MWF 10:05am - 11:20am - Dr. Michael Hicks

This course will focus on the patterns of reasoning that characterize good arguments. Since it is a course in formal logic, we are primarily concerned with understanding good in terms of logical validity. A valid argument is one where if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. In other words, if the premises are true the conclusion is necessarily true. We will begin the course by developing an understanding of why this is necessary and then learning the tools that enable us to focus on the formal dimensions of arguments. One of these tools is symbolization, the translation of sentences into symbols so that we can focus on the form of arguments (rather than their content). A major aspect of this course will be working with symbols, argument forms, and rules in doing proofs to show the validity of arguments.

PHL302: Modern Philosophy

TR 10:05am - 11:55am – Dr. 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 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, judgment, agency, immanence, and transcendence.

PHL321: Problems of Metaphysics and Knowledge

MW 11:40am – 1:00pm – Dr. Pascal Massie

This class offers a critical examination of the nature of reality and our knowledge of it. Metaphysics investigates the most basic and general feature of reality. Aristotle called this inquiry “first philosophy” – the study of being qua being. In this course, we will approach metaphysics from this more general perspective then shift to some more specific issues: freedom and determinism, time, change, and identity, possibility and actuality, universals.

Epistemology is concerned with the nature and extent of our knowledge of the world. As such, it is concerned with the following questions: what are the necessary conditions of knowledge? What are its sources, its structure, and its limit? What justifies a belief? Sample epistemological topics include knowledge and opinion, truth, skepticism, perception, and justification.

PHL331: The Social Contract and Its Critics

WF 11:40am - 1:00pm – Dr. Christopher King

Political institutions can seem at once remote relative to ordinary life and as powerfully influential in shaping what human lives are like in the present and in the future. Indeed, they sometimes claim to have the right to take our lives, our liberty, or our property. Sometimes they even claim a right to “educate” us in certain ways. It is natural to ask, then, what justifies these claims and whether or not persons can morally resist the institutions that make them. What, if anything, makes them authoritative (capable of creating duties), legitimate (permitted to enforce their requirements), and stable (capable of persisting under a variety of unfavorable conditions)? This course examines these questions through the idea of the Social Contract. It then examines and evaluates several criticisms the Social Contract from points of view discovered in the works by liberal democrats, fascists and race theorists.

PHL355: Feminist Theory

TR 11:40am - 1:00pm – Dr. Gaile Pohlhaus

Feminist theory within a philosophical context offers us the opportunity to think about the conceptual schemas that organize our social lives as gendered and sexed beings. Moreover, because the concepts of sex and gender are simultaneously inflected with other categories such as race, sexuality, (dis)ability, and class, feminist theorists must consider how these ways of organizing the world make a difference in the lives of women as well as our understanding of the category to which they are said to belong. In this class we will take the conceptual as our focus – how have feminist theorists understood ‘women’ as a conceptual category as well as other concepts such as ‘equality,’ ‘difference,’ ‘freedom,’ and/or ‘solidarity’? And what difference does our understanding of these concepts make with regard to both theory and activism? There is no one agreed upon answer to these questions among feminists. Throughout the course of the semester, we will spend time differentiating among a number of views articulated in historical and contemporary work by feminists. In addition, students will have the opportunity to consider the implications of how we understand particular concepts in relations to feminist theorizing and activism.

PHL375: Medical Ethics

MWF 2:50pm - 4:05pm – Dr. Benjamin Rossi

This course considers a range of ethical issues in their intersection with the medical field with the aim of enhancing students’ abilities to think through the morally difficult medical decisions that frequently confront patients, doctors, and citizens. In exploring theoretical texts and case studies, we will discuss topics such as the moral principles of bioethics, patient autonomy, informed consent, truth-telling, confidentiality, care at the beginning of life, issues surrounding the end of life, disability, distributive justice, and the increasing role of technology in diagnostic contexts.

PHL 402/502: Nineteenth Century Philosophy – Hegel

R 2:50pm – 6:10pm – Dr. Elaine Miller

This course will tackle a major work of nineteenth century philosophy, Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit”. In this work Hegel accounts for the progression of human consciousness from its earliest attempts to point out and name the external world around it to the recognition that it is embedded in the natural and historical order and that what it indicates and knows is not something alien over and against it, but an order reflected in its own mind or “spirit.” The sheer scope of the undertaking recalls Kant’s critical project, but it covers in one volume what for Kant took at least three. An understanding of Hegel’s dialectical idealism is crucial for understanding both Marx and critical theory, and much of contemporary continental philosophy after it that wrestled against it. We will spend the semester reading this classic text carefully and critically in a new translation that promises to be clearer and more accurate than anything that came before. We will begin the course reading Fichte’s “The Vocation of Man” as an intermediary text between Kant and Hegel.

PHL 404: What is Philosophy? Senior Capstone Seminar

MW 1:15pm - 2:35pm  – Dr. Michael Hicks

This course investigates the metaphilosophical question: “What is Philosophy>” Metaphilosophy 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 metaphilosophical questions could be: 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? To what extent are philosophers such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Marx responsible for the subsequent use (and misuse) of their works? How can we tell whether a particular philosophy is “good”? Do the criteria we assume come from the philosophy we are judging? (Note: whether you answer yes or no, a paradox occurs).

The aim of this course is to take student to a ‘meta-level’ of reflection by analyzing various philosophical understanding of what it means to philosophize and on the way, philosophy relates to other disciplines and practices (e.g., science, art, literature).

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 420/520: Freud as Philosopher

T 2:50pm - 6:10pm – Dr. Emily Zakin

This seminar will introduce Freud as a theorist who grappled with complex philosophical questions, including especially those concerning subjectivity, the unconscious, death, and sexual difference. The primary aim of the course will be to follow the intricacy and itinerary of Freud’s own thinking through a critical (and more or less chronological) reading of some of his major writings, but we will also consider subsequent projects that take Freud as their point of departure. Throughout his work, Freud engaged in processes of revision and self-questioning, modifying established concepts in light of subsequent analyses, discoveries, and difficulties, and moving in his writing back and forth between case histories, aetiological analysis, and metapsychology. The course material will include both an extensive array of Freud’s writings across these genres, as well as work by French psychoanalysts Jacques Lacan, Jean Laplanche, Julia Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray, among others.

PHL 493/593: Heidegger, Being and Time

MW 5:00pm-6:50 – Dr. Pascal Massie

Heidegger is one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. The edition of his complete work (GA) will include, when it is completed, 102 volumes. Yet, this corpus is concerned with only one single question: ‘What is being?’ There is nothing new to this question. In fact, it can be traced to the most ancient texts of Western philosophy (e.g., Heraclitus, Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle). However, Heidegger begins his inquiry with the idea that (a) we do not understand this question anymore (maybe we never did), and (b) that this, more than anything else, is the question we need to ask anew.

Over the last 60 years, Heidegger’s texts have increasingly become ‘sensitive’ material. Heidegger is many things to many people: e.g., a continuator of the phenomenological project initiated by Husserl, the founder of modern existentialism, a mystic, an irrationalist, a nihilist, an innovator in the discipline of hermeneutics that gave rise to post-structuralism and deconstruction or, perhaps, a covert defender of National Socialism…

In this course, we will explore these various reinterpretations through a close reading of Being and Time (1927) followed by some representative texts of the latter period. This seminar will focus on the way Being and Time draws on the history of Western philosophy. I will emphasize Heidegger’s engagement with the history of philosophy in order to (a) clarify the so-called critique of the ‘metaphysics of presence’ that Heidegger is said to have initiated and (b) demonstrate the (despite common assumption) Being and Time is not concerned with a philosophical anthropology. Students will gain a deeper understanding of a crucial thinker whose influence is visible on a broad variety of contemporary discourse (aesthetic, theology, psychoanalysis,) and develop their reading and analytic skills.

Other Available Courses

PHL 103: Society and The Individual

PHL 105: Theories of Human Nature

PHL 131: Introduction to Ethics

Honors Courses

PHL 105H: Theories of Human Nature

PHL 355H: Feminist Theory