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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 2023

PHIL 400/528 - Philosophy & Literature - Eldgridge
This course will survey and assess accounts of the cognitive and ethical functions of literature in its varying sociohistorical settings, as those accounts have been developed by Aristotle, Wordsworth, Hegel, Nietzsche, Lukács, de Beauvoir, Felski (and some other contemporary theorists). What is 'serious' literature? Why do we read (it)? Why should we?

PHIL 420/520 - Aristotle's De Anima - Shaw
In the first part of the semester, we will read and outline the entirety of Aristotle's De Anima (On the Soul), paying particular attention to books II and III, along with some supplementary primary sources. In the second part of the semester, we will read T. K. Johansen's 2012 book, The Powers of Aristotle's Soul, which will provide a unified interpretive account of the De Anima, and which will help to further orient us towards additional primary and secondary sources that may be helpful in understanding our main text and its place in Arisotle's corpus.

PHIL 450/540 - Decision & Strategic Interaction - Thalos
A great deal of human life, from beginning to end—much more of the everyday than we acknowledge—is awash in strategy and strategic engagement with other humans. To live well, we must engage in strategic interaction whether we like it or not.
Here's an example: How will you dress for work today? Your answer will be steeped in strategic reasoning: perhaps your work involves interacting with people in such a way that you must, to be effective, appear authoritative; or perhaps it is the reverse—you must appear compliant and even servile. If you dress the part, you can be successful in your work life context; otherwise, not so much. Your thinking on the subject, when the time comes to dress, may not be explicitly in terms of appearances in relation to an authority or status hierarchy, but it is most assuredly informed by it. For you will have ruled out—implicitly of course, rather than explicitly—options (swimwear, for instance) over which you must not deliberate as live. Somewhere in your depths of thought, whether or not your conscious mind has plumbed them on any given occasion, is an inkling that people at your place of work whose dress is not appropriately informed by strategic considerations are treated with some suspicion.
How is strategic reasoning integrated into our lives, and how does it figure into our theoretical frameworks about reasoning? We will examine some areas of research that try to integrate strategic reasoning in modeling human behavior (philosophy, sociology, economics, game theory) and ask whether they do it in a faithful and theoretically—strategically—satisfying way.

PHIL 460/560 - Feminist Philosophy of Science - Berenstain
Science is embedded in society, and scientific research influences and is influenced by social values, including those forged in historical and contemporary structures of oppression. This course will analyze the relationship among social values, structures of oppression, and the scientific study of sex, gender, and sexuality, as well as their intersections with colonialism, race and racism, class and capitalism, and disability and ableism. The course will consider the role that systemic biases, values, and ideologies related to sex and gender have played and continue to play in hypothesis formation, data interpretation, and theory evaluation in science. We will address questions such as: What can science tell us about categories of sex, gender, and sexuality? What role has racism played in the scientific construction of sex and gender? How does science narrate sexuality as a biological category? What might an intersectional feminist scientific methodology look like? Additional topics may include the neuroscience of purported sex differences, the medicalization of non-normative bodies, sexualities, and genders, Indigenous and decolonial scientific methodologies, the history and contemporary legacies of scientific racism, and adaptationism in evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology its relationship to hypothetical explanations of human sexual behavior.

PHIL 480/574 - Epistemic Dimensions of Agency - Coffman
We’ll explore three important questions at the intersection of Epistemology and Philosophy of Action: What are the cognitive conditions for intentional action? What are the cognitive conditions for morally appraisable action? What’s required for knowing, or having justification to believe, claims about blameworthy behavior? The course divides into five parts. In the course's first two parts, we'll acquire epistemological and action-theoretical background required to participate fruitfully in critical discussion of the above questions. The course’s third part will center on what we can call the ‘Problem of Intentional Action’—namely, the fact that the following three claims seem individually plausible but also jointly inconsistent: (1) You perform an action intentionally only if that action is under your control; (2) An action is under your control only if you know you're performing that action; (3) You can perform an action intentionally without knowing you're performing that action. In the course's fourth part, we'll explore the cognitive side of morally appraisable action. After considering Susan Wolf’s statement and defense of a “sanity requirement” for morally appraisable action, we'll scrutinize a provocative recent argument for the conclusion that we’re only rarely (if ever) blameworthy for behavior we didn’t deem wrong when it occurred. The course’s fifth part will center on what we can call the ‘Problem of Knowledgeable Culpability’—namely, the fact that the following three claims seem individually plausible but also jointly inconsistent: (I) We can have wholly non-scientific knowledge that we’re blameworthy for some of our actions; (II) We’re blameworthy for some of our actions only if some of our actions aren’t predetermined; (III) If practical blameworthiness requires indeterminism (= II is true), then we can’t have wholly non-scientific knowledge that we’re blameworthy for some of our actions (= I is false).

PHIL 601/626 - Naming and Necessity - Garthoff
This seminar is a graduate-level survey of metaphysics and epistemology, using Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity as a principal text. We begin by looking at the book’s background in the work of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, as we discuss reference and thought in general; this includes a comparison of, as well as a contrast between, names and descriptions. In the next section we focus on knowledge and understanding, as we investigate memory, warrant, and personhood. In the concluding section we discuss the relationship between mind and body by examining both consciousness and mental causation; this includes a broader discussion of the role of empirical psychology in philosophical inquiry. Along the way we examine several important essays by Tyler Burge, who developed and extended many of Kripke’s most important insights about metaphysics and philosophy of language into the domains of epistemology and philosophy of mind.

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