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Instructor-Specific Course Descriptions for Special Topics, Upper Division, and Graduate Courses

Please see Banner/Timetable for further information about sections, times, locations, and instructors.

Fall 2022

PHIL 300 - Classical Chinese Philosophy - Shaw
In this course we will study selections from the most important Chinese philosophers and philosophical texts from the 6th-3rd centuries BCE: the Analects, Daodejing, and writings associated with Mozi, Mengzi, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi. We will reflect on the notion of philosophy as a way of life, the relationship between philosophy and politics, and more generally the nature and methodology of philosophy. The course will especially emphasize developing skills in reading and analyzing philosophical texts, and in learning how to learn a new topic or field.

PHIL 420/622 - Marx - Eldridge
This class will survey selections from major works by Marx in largely chronological order, including: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, The German Ideology, the 1859 Preface, and Volume 1 of Capital. Particular attention will be paid to the following thematic ideas: Marx’s relations to Hegel and Feuerbach, Marx’s humanist materialism, alienation and exploitation, class conflict, the nature of economic theory, capitalist crisis theory, and the theory of ideology. We will engage with Marx’s works systematically, sympathetically, and critically. The class will conclude with a brief look at two contemporary theorists who have modified, extended, and adapted some elements of Marxist analysis: Jeffrey Reiman on Marxian liberalism, and Thomas Piketty on inequality.

PHIL 441 - Global Justice/Human Rights - Reidy
This is an upper-division philosophy course focused on central philosophical issues that arise in our effort to understand the nature and defensibility of the international and/or global practices and institutions, especially those emerging over the last 75 years or so, that increasingly shape our lives. These include the state system, non-intervention, the international legal order, the international financial order, just war theory, fair and free trade norms, human rights, international development, humanitarian intervention, and much else. With respect to the issues that arise in trying to understand the nature and defensibility of these practices and institutions, we will focus mainly on those currents and schools of thought most influential over the last 75 years or so (e.g., forms of realism, forms of liberal internationalism, forms of cosmopolitanism). Of course, where appropriate we will touch also on currents or schools of thought influential during earlier historical periods as well as on some current policy debates. Class meetings will be devoted to lecture and discussion. Assigned texts vary but will include some monographs. Assessments will be in the form of take home examinations which will include an essay component.

PHIL 480/573 - The Nature and Value of Thought - Garthoff
In this course we investigate the nature and value of thought, a sub-domain of psychology that includes belief and knowledge. We begin by observing that thought is constitutively representational (therefore also functional) and by distinguishing thought from less sophisticated representational capacities such as perception, memory, and anticipation. We then discuss whether consciousness, or even emotion, is constitutive of thought as such. Next we distinguish thought in general from critical reason in particular, observing that many actual animals who possess the former capacity lack the latter. Within the category of sub-critical thought we examine distinctions that are often overlooked, exploring relationships among propositional representation, comprehension, appreciation, inference, reasoning, and interpretation. Following these extensive inquiries into the nature of thought, we turn to questions about the value of thought. This includes discussion of ethical phenomena plausibly grounded in non-critical thought, distinguishing these from phenomena grounded more specifically in critical reason or personhood. Thus we distinguish humiliation from contempt; rationality from reasonableness; decency from justice; assent from consent; and accountability from specifically moral responsibility.

PHIL 480/574 - Social Epistemology - Gardiner
This course surveys intersections of epistemology and ethics. We ask whether and how ethical facts affect what one may or must assert, believe, suspect, doubt, infer, consider, remember, assume, suppose, imagine, daydream, and attend to. This includes how one should inquire and what one should learn about. We examine whether the ethical status of evidence can affect its epistemic value and, if so, how. This includes evidence stemming from profiling, stereotypes, and invasions of privacy. Ethical facts also affect which concepts, conceptions, explanatory frameworks, and cognitive traits a community ought to cultivate. We consider the distinctive moral and epistemic powers of attention, interpretation, and doubt; and we pay special attention to social contexts, especially testimony and criminal investigations. We will perennially return to the haunting question: Recent social changes, such as social media and the pandemic, have influenced cognitive habits and character. In what ways have these cognitive changes degraded our moral character?

PHIL 601/640 - Contemporary Ethical Theory - Cureton
This will be a seminar on contemporary moral theory in which we read and discuss some of the seminal papers in moral theory over the last 100 or so years, including ones by G.E. Moore, W.D. Ross, Philippa Foot, Bernard Williams, and Susan Wolf. Questions we will address include: What is the nature of value, right action, virtue, ideals, and reasons? What are moral judgments and how, if at all, can we justify them? What, if any, role can moral theory add to our understanding of morality and how, if at all, should we go about formulating ethical theories? And what are some of the main objections to utilitarianism and what can they tell us about various aspects of the moral life, such as friendship and integrity?


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