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Instructor-specific Course Descriptions

Summer 2016 Session 1

PHIL 101 Intro/Philosophy
Dr. Edward Falls

In this course we will focus on developing the basic skills of philosophical thinking, writing, reading, and conversation. These methods can be applied to a very wide range of important questions in human life. In our course, we'll develop these skills by practicing thinking, reading, writing, and talking about some of the difficult questions about knowledge and reality, moral life, and religion:

  • What can we know?
  • What keeps us the same through time and change?
  • Is the mind distinct from the body?
  • How should I live my life?
  • What is right and what is wrong?
  • Does God exist?
  • What is the nature of mystical experience?

After practicing philosophical ways of thinking about these and other questions, you will then be able to apply these philosophical skills in any context you choose—whether that's in subsequent philosophy classes, in your other courses, or in the "real world" of your daily life.

Phil 244-303 Professional Responsibility
Don Dillard

Course description: Critical analysis of selected classic texts from philosophy, religious studies, and social sciences dealing with responsibility and the nature of professionalism. Theoretical principles and analytical skills applied to selected case studies and other detailed descriptions of professional practice from engineering/architecture, business/accounting, and at least one of law/politics, the helping professions (social work, human services, ministry), or teaching. Writing-emphasis course. Satisfies General Education Requirement: (AH) (OC)

Philosophy 252 Contemporary Moral Problems
Marlin Sommers

Contemporary Moral Problems. You might wonder whether the problems concern knowing what is right or wrong or doing things that are wrong. We will be concerned with both problems, but the primary task we will set ourselves in the classroom is understanding disputes about moral issues. Hopefully, understanding the arguments given for various positions will be of some help in knowing what is right and wrong and in conducting our lives in a better way. We will begin with a brief introduction to moral philosophy and moral concepts such as love, respect, rights, and concern for the welfare of people and animals. We will discuss moral issues surrounding sexual relations and concerning killing (such as abortion, assisted suicide, and war). We will think about the similarities and differences between humans and other animal to help us consider the proper treatment of animals and the ethics of eating meat. In our final unit, we will focus on moral issues in our day to day lives such as self-control, courtesy, and issues concerning the language we use.

Phil 252 Contemporary Moral Problems
A. "Nolan" Hatley

Course Description:  In the light of ethical theory, this class will explore primarily the issues of abortion, euthanasia, the treatment of animals, and global warming.  Focusing on these issues, in particular, will allow for substantive discussion of the moral status or statuses of life.  More precisely, these issues will serve as a testing ground to weigh in on what capacities human beings and other non-human forms of life, including future generations of both, require to warrant moral status and what kinds of obligation such a status engenders for moral agents.  The class will emphasize the students' own reflections explored both through writing and classroom discussions with specific attention given to the scientific context of these issues, including evolution, medicine, and climate change.

Phil 252 Contemporary Moral Problems
Dr. Mark Fagiano

This course explores a number of contemporary moral problems for the purpose of helping students to make informed decisions throughout their lives. One needn't search too long to find a great deal of disagreement revolving around these problems and throughout this course we will have the chance to discuss and analyze them.
Here are the contemporary moral problems we will explore:

  1. Gun Control
  2. Wealth Distribution/Taxes
  3. Climate Change
  4. Student Debt
  5. Healthcare  
  6. Euthanasia 
  7. Abortion     
  8. Capital Punishment 
  9. Race
  10. Immigration

PHIL 346 Environmental Ethics
Dr. Alex Feldt

With the rise of "eco-friendly" and "sustainable" products, going green has become more common.  However, do common "green behaviors" really cover our obligations to the environment and other species?  Is it really enough to simply buy a Prius in the face of climate change?    It can be easy at times to over-simplify or do things so we can feel better, even if we aren't really engaging the complex issues at play.  This course will be an attempt to move beyond the popular notions of "being green" and engage the difficult questions at the core of environmental ethics: What are we responsible and accountable for as individuals, or as parts of collectives, with respect to the environment?  What do we owe not only each other, but also potentially animals and the biosphere itself?  To do this, we will start the class with some background in environmental science and the facts we must face.  We will then engage common ethical theories and reasoning, before examining how these can inform our thinking about anthropocentric, sentiocentric, and biocentric views.  We will also spend time looking at specific applications and policy prescriptions, with particular attention to climate change.  No prior background or knowledge of philosophy is expected or required for the course, and the textbook is available for free on-line via the library's webpage.

Summer 2016 Session 2

PHIL 101 Introduction to Philosophy
Alex Richardson

Course Description: "What is real?", "What can we know?", "What does it mean to be a good person?", "How should we structure our society?". We all have probably asked ourselves some of these at some point or another. They are among the most fundamental questions one can ask, and countless thinkers have proposed answers to them for centuries. This course will serve as a topical introduction to the discipline of philosophy, its central questions, and its methodology. By the end of the term, you will have engaged with some of the most prolific thinkers in history and developed your own critical reasoning and writing skills such that you can make your own contributions to answering these pressing questions and more. If you approach your assignments with care, you will do well enough in this course. If you apply the knowledge you acquire, I hope you will flourish as a more thoughtful, critical, and fulfilled human being. For more information, please visit

Phil 244  Professional Responsibility
Dr. Sam Duncan

Description:  We will critically analyze selected texts from philosophy and other fields dealing with responsibility and professionalism, and apply theoretical principles and analytical skills to selected case studies from engineering, architecture, accounting, law, politics, and the helping and teaching professions. 

Philosophy 340 Ethical Theories
Michael Ball-Blakely

Philosophical ethics can be broken down into three main component parts. The most familiar branch is applied ethics. Here we try to reach reasoned conclusions on contentious moral problems. Second, we have ethical theory. In ethical theory we investigate the theoretical foundation for moral obligations. Often this involves looking for objective, universal, and exceptionless theories or principles that will tell us what makes an action wrong, and that can be used to guide our ethical deliberations. A third branch, much less familiar, is metaethics. Here we look into the metaphysical and epistemological status of morality, and moral claims themselves. A major problem here is trying to determine the role that intuitions and ethical theories should have in moral deliberation.

One prominent answer to this question in metaethics is to say that we should first seek ethical theories, and that we should use them as a guide. According to this view, our intuitions are themselves unreliable, and that without being grounded and tied down by a universal ethical theory that explains why something is right or wrong, we will be left with nothing but blind prejudice. In this class we will briefly consider why many have held this view, and why ethical theories have become the dominant mode of discourse in philosophical ethics. We will then proceed to look into some of the major ethical theories in philosophical history, as well as some of their contemporary iterations and practical applications.

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