Summer 2010 2nd 6wks

Undergraduate courses

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

This course is an introduction to moral and political philosophy. We will consider a range of ethical issues regarding individual conduct as well as social arrangements, policies, and practices. We will begin by considering whether there are objective ethical truths, examining several arguments for the view that ethics is not objective as well as responses to those arguments. Next we will consider what, if anything, well-off individuals are obligated to do to aid the very poor. We will then examine the ethics of meat consumption, abortion, and euthanasia. Next we will look at two influential views of distributive justice, and consider whether equality is a moral ideal that we should endorse and seek to achieve. We will then examine the ethics of affirmative action, and the issues of free speech, tolerance, and multiculturalism. We will conclude by considering some ethical issues regarding war and terrorism.

3  The Nature of Mind. Bezsylko. MTuWTh 2-4, 223 Dwinelle.

The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to philosophy by doing philosophy of mind. We will begin by taking up the traditional question: What kind of thing is the mind? In connection with this question, we will engage with philosophers who think of the contents of the mind, things such as ideas, perceptions, beliefs, dreams, and imaginings, as something like pictures. We will focus on dreams in particular. From there, we will move on to an enormous question in the philosophy of mind which brings together a number of fascinating issues: Are human beings free? And if so, to what extent are they free and in what areas of our mental life does our freedom lie? In connection with this question, we will look at some writings in psychoanalysis and spend some time thinking about one particularly important domain of our freedom, namely: love. Throughout the course, we will learn how to read, think, speak, and write critically and with great precision and rigor.

6  Man, God, and Society in Western Literature. Beattie. MTuWTh 10-12, 215 Dwinelle.

In this course, we will read major works of literature with a philosophical eye. In particular, we will examine how works drawn from the Ancient, Medieval, and Modern periods offer different viewpoints on issues including (but not limited to!) the following: humankind’s place in the world, the form of ‘the good life’, freedom and responsibility, the status and content of morality, the value of different social relationships…and the nature of the divine and how it relates to all of the foregoing.

The texts for the course are Homer’s The Odyssey, Dante’s The Inferno, and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. It should be noted that there will be quite a lot of reading for this course – usually 50-70 pages a night, with no real breaks. There will be several in-class writing assignments designed, in part, to reward those who keep up with the reading schedule.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Rieppel. TuWTh 1-3:30, 136 Barrows.

What is it for an argument to be deductively valid? Intuitively, what’s required is that the conclusion “follow from” the premises, or that the truth of the premises “guarantee” the truth of the conclusion. In this course we will look at how to make this intuitive notion of validity formally precise. To this end, we will learn how to represent the logical form of English arguments in increasingly more fine-grained ways, and how to use semantic and syntactic methods to demonstrate the validity of arguments given such formal representations. Upon completing the course, students can expect to be familiar with the basic concepts of symbolic logic and to be in a better position to formulate and evaluate arguments in natural languages like English.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Barnes. MTuWTh 10-12, 209 Dwinelle.

Ancient Greek philosophy unearthed a number of enduring philosophical problems. In this class we will look at some of those problems in their original context, with an eye to understanding not only what the problems are, and why they arose, but also why many of them persist.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Bruce. MTuWTh 12-2, 229 Dwinelle.

The course will survey some of the main metaphysical and epistemological positions of five important early modern philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. We will be concerned with their views regarding the structure of reality (the existence of God; the nature of the human mind and its relation to the body; the nature of bodies; causation) and with how we relate to the world around us (perception; the possibility of knowledge about the external world; induction). We will consider these views in light of the scientific developments of the 17th and 18th centuries, as reactions to Aristotelian doctrine, and in their own right.

108  Contemporary Ethical Issues. Kolodny. TuWTh 1-3:30, 175 Barrows.

NOTE: For Summer 2010, this course may be taken to satisfy the Department’s ethics requirement for the major.

As a thoughtful person, living in this country, at this time, you have at some point asked yourself some of the following questions. Are you allowed to buy yourself an iPod when you could use the money to save people from starving? Should you buy a hybrid, rather than an SUV, when your individual choice is just “a drop in the bucket” and won’t really affect global warming? Is there any difference between terrorism and “collateral damage”? May we kill enemy soldiers or even civilians to protect ourselves? Is abortion wrong? Is it wrong to kill yourself to spare yourself a future of pain and debilitation? Is it wrong for a doctor to help you to do this? What is the point of punishing criminals? Is there any point in it? What do we owe to future generations? Is it wrong to bring children into this world?

These questions can be difficult for many different reasons. Self-interest, prejudice, and fear can cloud our judgment. Religious authorities that we accept on faith, such as the Bible, can give unclear or conflicting directions. Finally, it can be hard to be sure of relevant facts: for example, whether the justice system applies the death penalty consistently, or whether burning fossil fuels leads to climate change.

This course, however, is about another set of difficulties, which persist when we set aside our personal feelings, we see how far we can get without relying on faith, and we assume that we know the relevant facts. We may not be able to decide, by our own reflection and reasoning, which answers are correct, and even when we are sure that certain answers are correct, we may not be able to justify them. Our ethical ideas may seem not up to the task. Our aim in this course is to come to terms with these difficulties and to see to what extent they can be overcome.

153  Chinese Philosophy. Tiwald. TuWTh 10-12:30, 136 Barrows.

This course will introduce students to the major schools of philosophy in classical China, including Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism. Although the course is meant primarily as a survey of the most important Chinese thinkers, a prominent theme will be their views on moral cultivation and moral agency. Philosophers of this era were greatly interested in the development of good character and the key features of proper moral knowledge and motivation. All Chinese texts will be in translation.

187  Special Topics in the History of Philosophy: Plato’s “Republic”. Gelber. TuWTh 3:30-6, 123 Wheeler.

This course will explore a number of perennial problems through a close reading of Plato’s literary and philosophical masterpiece, “The Republic”. While examining the ways these problems arise and the answers that Plato gives to them in this influential text, we will be asking ourselves whether these are answers we could endorse. The issues that we will examine will include: What does being a just or good person involve? Why do we want to be good or just? How should our social institutions be structured in order to promote a just state? What should education be like, and what is it for? Is it ever permissible for the government to lie to the people? Is censorship ever justified? What role should women have in society?

In order to understand Plato’s answers to these questions, we will delve into his moral psychology (the nature of the soul, of virtue, of moral beliefs, and the relation between reason and emotion) as well as the metaphysical and epistemological aspects of Plato’s Theory of Forms.

Prerequisite: At least 8 units of philosophy or the instructor’s consent.

Set translation:“Republic”, translated by Grube, revised by Reeve (Hackett).