The Dennes Room

Summer 2010 1st 6wks

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Kohl. MTuWTh 12-2, 156 Dwinelle.

We will survey some basic questions of moral and political philosophy, as well as some influential attempts to answer them. The course consists of two sections. In the first section, we are concerned with the authority and the objectivity of morality. We will ask: Why should I care about what morality tells me to do? Are there objective moral truths, or is what one morally ought to do dependent on God, on one’s feelings, or on one’s society? In the second section, we will consider what morality is all about. Are we morally required to produce the best outcome? What is the best outcome? Is there something wrong with thinking of morality as aimed at producing the best outcome, and is there an alternative? Is being a morally good agent compatible with pursuing personal projects and with having deep relationships? We will relate these questions to concrete political issues such as warfare, distributive justice, toleration of alien practices, and respecting the majority vote in democratic states.

Readings for the class will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources (among others, we will engage with the views of Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, and Kant). A course reader containing most of the texts will be available in the week before classes start.

7  Existentialism in Literature&Film. Tsai. MTuWTh 10-12, 215 Dwinelle.

In this course, we will examine responses to the threat of nihilism—that is, the threat that life is meaningless—in works of philosophy, literature, and film. To do so, we will grapple with a number of questions including: What is our relation to the divine? How can life be worth living after the death of God? How can one live a meaningful life? What makes an individual person or life authentic? What is the significance of death? We will read works by Schopenhauer, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kafka, Sartre, Camus, and others, and view films including Crimes and Misdemeanors, Groundhog Day, The Big Lebowski, American Beauty, and Talk to Her.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Fitelson. TuWTh 1-3:30, 9 Lewis.

Logic is about reasoning, the difference between good and bad reasoning, and how to tell the difference between good and bad reasoning.

In this course, we will develop techniques for laying bare the structure of arguments (“reasonings”). This will enable us then to characterize, in some precise ways, the difference between good and bad reasoning, and to formulate rules of correct reasoning. These three things — a conception of structure of arguments, a precise characterization of good and bad arguments in terms of their structure, and a system of rules of correct reasoning — constitute a “system of logic.” We will actually consider several systems of logic. After all this, students should be in a better position to properly formulate and evaluate logical arguments.

The course will focus on deductively correct reasoning. That is, we will consider “good reasoning” to be reasoning in which the truth of the premises absolutely guarantees the truth of the conclusion (as in typical correct mathematical reasoning). This will briefly be put into perspective in relation to inductively good reasoning, in which the premises give significant, but not conclusive, support for a conclusion.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. de Harven. MTuWTh 12-2, 229 Dwinelle.

This course is designed as an introduction to philosophical thinking generally, and ancient philosophy in particular. Those new to philosophy will learn the landscape by reading and writing about knowledge, the nature of reality, psychology, and ethics as the ancients saw it. The ancient perspective is an excellent starting point not just for its historical role in philosophy, but for its contrast to many of our modern instincts. Those with experience in philosophy will get acquainted not just with the striking differences between ancient and modern thinkers, but with the very elements for which Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are considered the founders of Western philosophy.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Schnee. MTuWTh 10-12, 109 Dwinelle.

This course will focus on the major philosophers of the 17^th and 18^th centuries: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. We will examine the metaphysical and epistemological views of these philosophers that arose as rejections of the Aristotelian philosophy of the Scholastic tradition. Particular attention will be given to the relation between philosophy and the scientific revolution as well as to philosophical theories of our knowledge of the external world, the relation between mind and body, the existence and attributes of God, and the nature of physical matter, causation, space and time. Readings will from primary sources (translations in most cases).

109  Freedom & Responsibility. Wallace. TuWTh 1-3:30, 130 Wheeler.

The goal of the course is to provide a comprehensive introduction to historical and contemporary debates about the issues of freedom and responsibility. We will look at the following questions (among others): What is freedom of will? What is it to be a free agent, or to have freedom of thought? What kind of freedom do we require to be morally responsible for what we do? Are freedom and responsibility possible if what we do is ultimately governed by deterministic laws? Can moral agency be realized in the natural world?

Readings will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources. Prerequisite: at least eight units in philosophy.


G. Watson, ed., Free Will (Oxford, 2003): 0-19-925494-X Anselm, Three Philosophical Dialogues (Hackett, 2002): 0872206114 V. Chappell, ed., Hobbes and Bramhall on Liberty and Necessity (Cambridge, 1999): 0521596688 R. Jay Wallace, Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments (Harvard, 1994): 978-0674766235

132  Philosophy of Mind. Flanagan. TuWTh 10-12:30, 130 Wheeler.

Humans, and possibly certain other creatures, are conscious. Life would have no personal meaning, it wouldn’t matter one bit (to each of us individually, at any rate), if it were not for consciousness. But what is consciousness? Does possession of consciousness require possession of a non-physical soul or does mind = brain in which case it will eventually be explained by neuroscience? Did some deity endow us with consciousness or is consciousness just one quirky outcome of the blind force of evolution by natural selection? Does my possession of a mind equip me with a free will that allows for personal responsibility, as well as blame and praise, for my actions? If my mind is just my brain then in what sense, am I free – the brain after all is just a 3 lb. piece of tissue and biology is thought to be governed by natural laws. Indeed, some have suggested that the idea of free will is an illusion.

The course will introduce students to the main problems in the philosophy of mind: the nature of consciousness, the mind-body relation, free-will vs. determinism, the nature of personal identity. Nothing less that the meaning of life and the nature of morality rest on our understanding of our minds. No prior background in philosophy is required. Students interested in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, medicine, religion, and law will find much to interest them.

178  Kant. Ginsborg. TuWTh 2-4:30, 223 Dwinelle.

We will discuss central themes in Kant’s metaphysics and epistemology, focussing mainly on the first half of the Critique of Pure Reason. Prerequisite: Philosophy 25B (History of Modern Philosophy) or equivalent. Texts: Kant, “Critique of Pure Reason” (Cambridge); Allison, “Kant’s Transcendental Idealism” (Yale)