Summer 2014 Session A

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Gibson. MTuWTh 10-12, 123 Wheeler.

When we think about how we ought to live it is perfectly natural to ask what features of the world make claims on us and give us reasons to do certain things rather than other things. Some of these features of the world seem to have a special importance, and to give rise to special reasons: that there is gratuitous suffering; that there are people we can help at very little cost to ourselves; that some are worse off than others through no fault of their own. These observations seem to give rise to special moral reasons for acting. But what is the nature of these reasons, and what sorts of facts about the world give rise to them? Is it even correct to think that there are such facts and reasons? If there are, how can this be? In virtue of what are right actions right, wrong actions wrong? This course is an introduction to philosophical investigation of these questions. No previous experience in philosophy is required or will be assumed. The course will begin by examining a historically central question in the domain – Why be moral? – and then proceed to ask questions about the nature of moral discourse: Are there objective ethical truths, or are all ethical claims personally or socially relative? Are ethical claims true or false like ordinary claims about the way the world is? What is the nature of moral disagreement? Then we will move on to to discuss particular theories about the content of morality. What make right actions right? What is the relationship between what is right and what is valuable? Is there one supreme duty? Lastly, we will extend this investigation into the political domain, focusing on the value of equality. What is the nature of equality? Is there some understanding of it according to which it is valuable that people be made equal, even if it imposes costs on others? Or can our aversion to great inequality be accounted for by other values? Other issues in the applied and political domains will be addressed, time permitting.

3  Nature of Mind. Khatchirian. MTuWTh 12-2, 130 Wheeler.

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of mind. It is divided into three parts. In the first part, we will ask: what is it to have a mind? What kinds of properties are so-called mental properties? Can they be satisfactorily explained in terms of physical, behavioral, or functional properties of organisms? If so, how? If not, why not?

In the second part of the course, we will examine the nature of our knowledge of mental states. What is the connection between knowledge of one’s own mental states and knowledge of the mental states of others? What is the connection between knowledge of one’s own mental states and knowledge of the world around us?

The third part of the course concerns psychological explanation. What are we doing when we explain people’s behavior in terms of their beliefs, desires, and other contentful states? How is such explanation different from ordinary explanations of the behavior of other animals? How is it different from explanations of the behavior of inanimate objects?

12A  Introduction to Logic. Rieppel. TuWTh 1-3:30, 123 Wheeler.

What is it for an argument to be deductively valid? Intuitively, the conclusion must “follow from’’ the premises, or the truth of the premises must “guarantee’’ the truth of the conclusion. In this course we will look at how this notion is made formally precise in three systems of logic: sentential logic, monadic predicate logic, and full first-order logic. We will learn how to represent the logical forms of English arguments in each of these systems, and then develop a semantics as well as a system of natural deduction in each system to assess 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. Gooding. MTuWTh 12-2, 220 Wheeler.

This course is an introduction to ancient Greek philosophy, focusing primarily on Plato and Aristotle. The ancient Greeks formulated many of the problems that continue to occupy philosophers, and so the course also provides an introduction to philosophical thinking in general. But the study of ancient philosophers is exciting not only because we share many of their philosophical concerns: We will be attempting to understand a way of thinking that is, in some respects, deeply alien to our own. By doing so, we can come to see our own philosophical assumptions and prejudices in a new light.

As taught this session, the course will center on ethics (How should I live? What is the good life?) and political philosophy (How should we live together? What political arrangements are best?). However, the systematic character of Greek philosophy — the way in which these philosophers base their ethical views on an understanding of the natural world and our place within it — means that we will also consider questions concerning the nature of reality and human knowledge.

We will spend the bulk of our time examining the views of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle — and, especially, their reasons for holding those views. We may occasionally look at certain ancient Greek poets, historians and Sophists, in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of the problems that these philosophers were addressing. If time permits, we will also consider later Hellenistic philosophy (including the Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics). This course presupposes no prior work in philosophy.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Crockett. MTuWTh 10-12, 130 Wheeler.

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.

110  Aesthetics. Noë. TuWTh 1-3:30, 200 Wheeler.

This course will explore topics in the philosophy of art. What is art? What makes art valuable? Is art really valuable? What is a picture? Why are some pictures works of art, but not others? What is performance? What makes performance art? What does art reveal about human nature? What does art tell us about the mind? We will seek to answer these and other questions. We will read writings on these and related topics by a range of philosophers (mostly from the 20th century).

Many of the readings for this course will come from an anthology entitled Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, published by Blackwells and edited by Cahn et al.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Noë. TuWTh 10-12:30, 229 Dwinelle.

This is a course on the nature of mind. The central question we ask: Can we give make sense of mind as a natural phenomenon? We will read widely in philosophy and cognitive science as we seek to answer this fundamental question. Among the topics we will cover: the nature of perception and consciousness, the possibility of machine minds, neuroscience as the basic science of human experience, our knowledge of each other.

178  Kant. Corcilius. TuWTh 3:30-6, 122 Wheeler.

In this course we will examine some of the main themes in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. This rather demanding text gives a systematic account of the nature of our cognitive capacities with a special focus on the resulting limitations for human knowledge. We will examine Kant’s project by looking at his account of the possibility of experience, his conception of a priori knowledge, space and time, appearances vs. things in themselves, and more. Students are required to give a short in–class presentation, and to write three short papers and a longer term paper. Philosophy 25B is highly desirable. Required text: Immanuel Kant, “Critique of Pure Reason”, Cambridge 1999.