Summer 2013 Session D

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Berkey. MTuWTh 12-2, 170 Barrows.

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. Sethi. MTuWTh 10-12, 3109 Etcheverry.

This class is an introduction to the fundamental issues in the study of mind. What is a mind? What are mental states such as beliefs and desires and perceptions? Should we explain what they are in terms of behavior, their connections to other mental states or the way it feels to be in that mental state? How is the mind related to the body? What is consciousness? Is there room for consciousness within a scientific worldview? What must our mental states be like if they are to allow for genuine knowledge of the external world? In this class, we will learn about Dualism, Behaviorism, Identity Theory, Functionalism, and also look at powerful challenges that have been posed to each of these views. This is an introductory class in philosophy and so we will also learn the basic tools of philosophical thinking and writing. No prerequisites.

7  Existentialism in Literature & Film. Chislenko. MTuWTh 2-4, 215 Dwinelle.

In the modern era, a tradition of philosophers and artists began to question the meaning-giving status of social custom, and eventually of rationality and religion. The breakdown of rational and religious authority raises the threat of nihilism, the total absence of meaning or value. It also calls for a new kind of thinking, a new vocabulary and an alternative to rational argumentation to find meaning independently of God or reason. This course follows the development of existentialism from its religious beginnings in Pascal and Kierkegaard, through Dostoyevsky’s masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov and Nietzsche’s atheistic affirmation of life, and into the 20th century.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Klempner. TuWTh 1-3:30, 3111 Etcheverry.

Logic is about reasoning. People reason well or reason poorly; people’s arguments are good or bad. Logic is concerned with telling the difference; specifically, we will look at formal systems for characterizing and evaluating the structure of arguments. A good, or valid, deductive argument is one in which the conclusion follows from the premises—one in which true premises would guarantee a true conclusion. Our study of formal systems will yield methods for figuring out when arguments are valid.

This class is in many ways like a math class: the work will primarily involve doing logic problems. It should, however, give you a greater appreciation for the structure of arguments in ordinary English.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Berkey. MTuWTh 10-12, 9 Evans.

This course is an introduction to ancient philosophy, and to philosophical thinking more generally. It will focus in particular on the work of Plato and Aristotle. We will carefully examine the views of these philosophers, their arguments for those views, and the ways in which their work has helped to shape contemporary philosophical debates.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Crockett. MTuWTh 12-2, 166 Barrows.

In this course we will study the philosophical views of the most important and influential thinkers in early modern philosophy (roughly, the 17th and 18th centuries). This period in western thought was nothing short of extraordinary in that it saw the overthrow of a philosophical and scientific worldview that had dominated the west for over one thousand years. Prior to the 17th century, philosophy had been a blend of church doctrine and classical philosophy, and its methodology had been quite narrowly defined. The unfortunate effect of both the church’s influence on scholarly endeavors and the strictly defined methodology was that philosophical and scientific creativity was largely stifled.

By the 17th century, however, the medieval worldview was beginning to crumble due in large part to a variety of subversive scientific discoveries. Advances in physics, astronomy and chemistry undermined central assumptions of classical science, which resulted in the wholesale abandonment of medieval philosophy more generally. Thus the scientific revolution of the 17th century set off an explosion of inspiration and creativity in the world of philosophy. It forced thinkers to make a new start in answering fundamental questions about the world such as: What is the nature of mind? What are the limits of human knowledge? What is a person? What is the basic stuff in the world?

These thinkers were the radicals of their day, and their views have shaped the way we practice contemporary philosophy. In fact, many of the philosophical questions we ask today could not have been formulated before these thinkers began to challenge philosophical orthodoxy. For that reason, studying the moderns is of central importance for understanding contemporary philosophy, and for understanding the nature of philosophical revolutions more generally.

115  Political Philosophy. Grosser. TuWTh 10-12:30, 3111 Etcheverry.

This introductory class will examine the works of four classical protagonists of Western political thought – Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, and John Rawls. It is meant to provide students with a basic understanding of paradigmatic ancient, early-modern, and contemporary political theories: An understanding of the underlying metaphysical, ontological, and anthropological assumptions that essentially inform these theories; of the relevance and specific meaning of concepts such as justice, freedom, or power; and, most importantly, of differing argumentative strategies of justifying the existence of the state philosophically. Thus, based on a careful reading of their politico-philosophical writings, it is to be considered how Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes and Rawls aim at finding a balance that resolves the inescapable tension between (stately) authority and (individual) autonomy. Additionally, the course aims at identifying the concepts of the political that, implicitly or explicitly, organize the political theories discussed.

133  Philosophy of Language. Strelau. TuWTh 1-3:30, 136 Barrows.

This course will focus largely on three interconnected areas: what is it for a person to know the meaning of a language? How is language related to the world? How is language used in communication, and how does this use impact meaning?
We’ll begin with the ‘classical’ accounts of Frege and Bertrand Russell, which influence much of the discussion that follows. We’ll then consider Searle’s broadly Fregean account; it explains linguistic meaning in terms of the mental states (intentions, beliefs, desires) that underlie speech acts. As do many Fregeans, Searle holds that “what’s in the head” is sufficient to determine a unique referent for proper names and general terms. This view is vigorously attacked by Putnam, Kripke, and Burge, who argue that unique reference requires an external causal chain. Searle’s reply turns on his analysis of demonstratives and indexicals (‘this’, ‘you’); we’ll compare this with standard accounts of demonstratives by Kaplan and Strawson.
Quine approaches meaning from the point of view of ‘radical translation’ of a completely unknown language. He argues that alternative translations are always possible (“indeterminacy of translation”), and therefore there is no matter of fact about meaning. Davidson makes similar use of a 3rd person ‘interpreter’, but concludes that meaning is what is common to all possible interpretations. Davidson’s theory of meaning makes central use of Tarski’s theory of truth, so we will read Tarski. Davidson uses Tarski’s theory as a framework for a truth-conditional semantics for natural language. We’ll also discuss the possible worlds approach to semantics (Lewis’ version). McDowell charges that Davidson’s combination of holism and causal theory leaves us “spinning in the void” and unconnected to the world; we’ll take steps towards evaluating both McDowell’s argument and his positive account.
Other topics will include: Wittgenstein and Kripke on following a rule; refinements of the causal theory of reference by Dretske and Fodor; Grice’s theory of meaning; non-literal uses of language (implicature, metaphor, fiction, literary theory). Many of our readings discuss holism and normativity.