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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 2019

Lower Division Courses

PHIL 320/327 (HONORS) ANCIENT WESTERN PHILOSOPHY :: SHAW
This course explores the roots of Western philosophy through careful engagement with classic texts from ancient Greece and Rome. Our topics range across ethics (how to live well), metaphysics (the fundamental nature of reality), and epistemology (whether and how we can understand such matters). This semester, the course focuses especially on accounts of knowledge and value found in Plato, Epicurus and the Epicureans, and Sextus Empiricus.

PHIL 324/328 17TH/18TH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY :: WATSON
The early modern period (roughly, 1600 to 1800) is one of the most exciting, revolutionary times in the history of science and philosophy. In this class we will discuss its most significant developments and the thinkers behind them. We will focus primarily on six figures: Descartes, Leibniz, Emilie du Chatelet, Spinoza, Locke, and Hume. In the course of the semester we will interpret and critically evaluate their views on a variety of topics, including human nature, knowledge and certainty, space and time, causation and induction, free will and determinism, contingency and necessity, and the relationship between the mental and the physical."   

PHIL 340 ETHICAL THEORY :: GEHRMAN
Ethical theories usually try to do two things. First, they give a comprehensive explanation of what makes actions right and wrong. Second, they usually give some sort of guide to deliberation: a reliable method for reaching the morally right decision, and acting on it. In this course, we will look closely at several ethical theories in the Western philosophical tradition, focusing mainly on the following schools of thought: Aristotelian, Humean, Utilitarian, and Kantian. Our emphasis will be on philosophical methods and on rigorous, critical reading of texts. At the same time, with the help of a series of film screenings, we will ask whether (and how) each type of theory can answer the basic questions of ethics for us, here and now.

PHIL 346 Environmental Ethics :: FRANK
This course introduces ethics through an engagement with environmental issues. Topics will include: the emergence of environmental ethics and its relation to traditional Western moral philosophy; pollution and environmental justice; population ethics; sustainability and obligations to future generations; animal ethics in agriculture and wildlife management; the value of non-human organisms, species, ecosystems, and biodiversity; ethics of biological conservation and ecological restoration; the value of wilderness; and ethical dimensions of global climate change. No prior experience with philosophy is required.

PHIL 371 Epistemology :: GARDINER
This course is an introduction to epistemology. We first examine what makes beliefs rational and how we ought to inquire. We survey influential ideas about justification and knowledge. We then turn to the skeptical challenge, which claims that knowledge is impossible. We explore what the skeptical challenge is, and how we should respond to it. Finally, we consider some topics at the intersection of epistemology and law: what does ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ mean? Do criminal investigations aim at the truth, or at some other epistemic values? When and why should the courts exclude probative evidence?

PHIL 391 SOCIAL/POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY :: REIDY
This is an undergraduate survey course focused on central philosophical issues that arise in our effort to understand the nature of our social and political institutions, their interactions, and our relationships to them.  We and our text will focus on the main currents or schools of thought in contemporary social and political philosophy.  Though lecture, I will often provide historical context for and explore the more determinate policy implications of these currents or schools of thought.  Our text will be Will Kymlicka's Contemporary Political Philosophy, 2nd. Ed., Oxford University Press.  Class meetings will be devoted to lecture and discussion.  Assessments will include take-home examinations and short essays.

Upper Division and Graduate Courses

PHIL 441 GLOBAL JUSTICE/HUMAN RIGHTS :: REIDY
This is an upper-division philosophy course focused on recent work concerning the norms, if any, that govern and/or ought to govern the international and global order. These norms include state sovereignty, non-intervention, the rule of law, jus cogens, the voluntarist nature of international law, just war theory, fair and free trade, human rights, humanitarian intervention and R2P (responsibility to protect), and much else. This is not a class focused on international or global politics or institutions, though of course both will be relevant. Nor is it a class on particular problems such as global climate change, though again such problems will be relevant. It is a philosophy class, though perhaps a bit more interdisciplinary than other philosophy classes, the aim of which is to move students closer to understanding the possibilities for and merits of a defensible normative order international or global in reach and scope. Class meetings will be devoted to lecture and discussion. I will not merely summarize readings during course lectures; you are expected to have read assigned readings in advance of attending lecture. Required readings will include John Rawls, The Law of Peoples, Harvard UP, 1999; Jim Nickel, Making Sense of Human Rights, 2nd Ed., Blackwell, 2007; and David Held and Pietro Maffetone, eds., Global Political Theory, Polity, 2016. Students wanting to get a feel for course material in advance may find it helpful to consult either Jon Mandle, Global Justice, Polity, 2006; or Mathias Risse, Global Political Philosophy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; but these are not required texts. Required assessments will include exams and papers.

445-545 Long-Term Environmental Ethics :: NOLT
Environmental ethics is the attempt to expand ethical thinking in two directions:  into the distant future and beyond the human species to the natural world.  This course will survey current work in both directions, with particular attention to two interrelated problems: anthropogenic climate change and humanity’s potential to precipitate Earth’s sixth mass extinction.  Grades will be based on three short critical papers, a final term paper, and (for graduate students only) a seminar presentation on a current journal article or book chapter.

PHIL 480/574 Social Epistemology :: GARDINER
This course surveys topics in social epistemology. We begin with our reliance on others. We examine the epistemic significance of testimony and deference, focusing on whether there are distinctive challenges for moral and aesthetic testimony. We then turn to the ethics of belief. We investigate whether we should be epistemically partial towards our friends, and whether and how ethical considerations bear on the epistemic properties of beliefs. Finally, we consider topics in legal epistemology, including the epistemic significance of profiling and the epistemic contours of the rules of evidence.

PHIL 480/574 EPISTEMIC DIMENSIONS OF AGENCY :: COFFMAN
This course will introduce you to important current debates at the intersection of Epistemology and Philosophy of Action.  Topics covered will include the nature of factual knowledge and rational belief; the nature of intentional, free, and morally appraisable action; epistemic requirements for morally appraisable action; knowledge of intentional action; and knowledge of free and morally appraisable action.

445-545 Long-Term Environmental Ethics :: NOLT
Environmental ethics is the attempt to expand ethical thinking in two directions:  into the distant future and beyond the human species to the natural world.  This course will survey current work in both directions, with particular attention to two interrelated problems: anthropogenic climate change and humanity’s potential to precipitate Earth’s sixth mass extinction.  Grades will be based on three short critical papers, a final term paper, and (for graduate students only) a seminar presentation on a current journal article or book chapter.

PHIL 480/574 Social Epistemology :: GARDINER
This course surveys topics in social epistemology. We begin with our reliance on others. We examine the epistemic significance of testimony and deference, focusing on whether there are distinctive challenges for moral and aesthetic testimony. We then turn to the ethics of belief. We investigate whether we should be epistemically partial towards our friends, and whether and how ethical considerations bear on the epistemic properties of beliefs. Finally, we consider topics in legal epistemology, including the epistemic significance of profiling and the epistemic contours of the rules of evidence.

PHIL 480/574 EPISTEMIC DIMENSIONS OF AGENCY :: COFFMAN
This course will introduce you to important current debates at the intersection of Epistemology and Philosophy of Action.  Topics covered will include the nature of factual knowledge and rational belief; the nature of intentional, free, and morally appraisable action; epistemic requirements for morally appraisable action; knowledge of intentional action; and knowledge of free and morally appraisable action.

PHIL 601/626 Naming and Necessity :: GARTHOFF
This seminar is a graduate-level survey of metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind, using Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity as a principal text. We begin by explaining this book’s background in the work of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, including the evolution of conceptions of apriority, analyticity, necessity, and essence. We then consider a series of topics, including names, descriptions, reference, propositional attitudes, sensation, perception, memory, and personhood. We will seek to unify this array by exploring each topic with an eye to the relationship between mind and body.


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