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Instructor-specific Course Descriptions

Please See Banner/Timetable for Further Information about Sections, Times, Locations, and Instructors for Multiple Section Courses.

Spring 2018

Lower Division Courses

PHIL 200 Philosophy and Film
A. Cureton

This course will examine a variety of philosophical topics that arise in contemporary films, including Minority Report, The Matrix, Memento, Fight Club, The Big Lebowski and Crimes and Misdemeanors.  We will watch these and other films and then read and discuss philosophical texts that highlight interesting philosophical issues that these films raise, such as ones about freedom, consciousness, reality, value, love, self-respect, gender, race, and ethical dilemmas.

P255S: Sustainability Ethics
M. Pamental

Sustainability Ethics is an experience learning course designed to give students the opportunity to learn about the ethical issues involved in the goal of sustainability, by working with local environmentally-oriented change organizations here in the Greater Knoxville area. Each student will be placed alongside a group of other students in a local partner organization, and will be required to commit 4-5 hours per week, outside of normal class-related time, to work with that organization for the period of the course. Experience learning at the community partner organization will be parallel to, and in conjunction with, deep and sustained reflection on both their experiences and the philosophical works on the conceptual and ethical issues raised by the goal of a sustainable culture. The goal of the course will be to contextualize the philosophical material students are exposed to through the experience learning component of the course, enabling students both to better understand the reality of the issues raised by the philosophical literature, as well as to be better able to articulate and defend their own views about sustainability, thus developing a deeper and more thoughtful environmental citizenship.

Upper Division and Graduate Courses

PHIL 420/542 History of Modern Moral Philosophy
Adam Cureton
This course is a survey of moral philosophy in the Modern period.  We will be concerned with the following basic questions:  What ought we to do?  What is valuable in life?  How should we treat others and ourselves?  What counts as a happy or fulfilled life? We will read canonical texts from figures such as Thomas Hobbes, Joseph Butler, David Hume, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill.

PHIL 441  Global Justice & Human Rights
A. Feldt
By recent estimates, over 800 million people live in extreme poverty, with nearly 80% of these people living in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. If current trends continue, climate change and persistent environmental degradation will have serious impacts on human well-being and will disproportionately impact the poor. In the past decade, uprisings in the Middle East and Northern Africa, have lead some countries to intervene to end the violence in some cases, but not others. How are we to make sense of what we ought to do, given the social and economic interconnections that exist in today’s society? Do national borders matter morally? Do we need a world state? Are we obligated to make changes in the way we conduct trade and international relations? We often appeal to an idea of human rights to answer these questions, but what kind of work can human rights really do for us? Do we even know what they are? Over the course of the semester, we will take up these questions, carefully considering the key philosophical issues that are at the heart of the global justice debate.  While cross-listed with GLBS 441, this is an upper-division philosophy course, more specifically one in political philosophy.  While we will be looking at matters with clear practical implications, our focus is on the underlying conceptual issues and normative theories.  Thus, we will not be directly focused on matters such as human rights activism, particular aid practices, and so on.  Previous experience with philosophy is not required to succeed in the course.

PHIL 480/573—Free Will
D. Palmer

Do we have free will?  Why exactly is free will important or significant?  What would be lost if we don’t have it?  Is free will compatible with determinism?  More generally, what conditions must obtain in order for a person to act freely?  This course is an advanced introduction to contemporary issues about free will.  We will focus primarily on two recent books—Derk Pereboom’s Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life (2014), which develops a skeptical incompatibilist view, and Carolina Sartorio’s Causation and Free Will (2016), which defends a non-skeptical compatibilist position.  Topics to be covered along the way include: determinism, causation, alternative possibilities, luck, and the significance of free will.  These issues are tough; and deciding what to think about them is not obvious (at least not to me!).  Hence, the aim for the class is for each of us (me included) to develop and defend answers to these questions.  Given this aim, the class will be run ‘seminar-style’ – emphasizing student involvement and discussion.  I will encourage you, through class discussion and written work, to develop your own critical take on the material.


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