Summer 2015 Session A

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Vildostegui. MTuWTh 10-12, 156 Dwinelle.

How should I live? What is worth valuing? What does justice demand of us? These are among the most difficult, and often disconcerting, questions that we face. In this course, we will try to face them philosophically, by considering the answers proposed by some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the subject: Plato, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Sidgwick and Nietzsche.

This course presupposes no prior work in philosophy — only a willingness to think carefully, critically, and in an open-minded spirit.

3  The Nature of Mind. Andrews. MTuWTh 12-2, 156 Dwinelle.

When we focus on certain facts about ourselves, e.g. that we bleed and sneeze and have to eat, it is easy to think of ourselves as purely physical beings. This is because sneezing, bleeding and eating are all able to be understood as purely physical processes. When we think of ourselves this way we understand ourselves as, in a certain sense, ultimately the same as the tables, chairs and other things able to be purchased at Ikea: we are just hunks of matter.

Other things that we do resist this sort of understanding. We feel pain, we see the light change from green to red and decide to bring the car to a stop, we have pangs of sadness, of anxiety and of jubilation. In short we have a conscious mental life the variety and quality of which is difficult to put in to words. From this perspective it is very difficult to see ourselves as merely hunks of matter, as a bunch of atoms banging around in the void. How could pain just be a bunch of atoms banging around? How could the joy I feel be a purely physical process? When we focus on our mental lives it becomes extremely puzzling how we could be purely physical in nature.

Here is the question we will ask in this course: can we acknowledge the fact that we have a conscious mental life within a theoretical understanding of ourselves according to which we are purely physical in nature? Another way of asking this question is: what is the relation between the mind and the physical world? Is the mind a part of the physical world? Is our mental life just another physical process like digestion? Or is it rather that the mind is non-physical in nature and hence that it cannot be accounted for in physical terms?

12A  Introduction to Logic. Kocurek. TuWTh 1-3:30, 103 Moffitt.

An introduction to formal logic and deduction. The course is focused around formalizing arguments, recognizing common argument forms, and systematically testing whether an argument is logical valid. We will cover the syntax, semantics, and proof techniques for propositional and first-order logic. Topics include formalization techniques, truth tables, natural deduction proofs, quantification, and model construction.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Lawrence. TuWTh 10-12:30, 103 Moffitt.

This course is an introduction to the philosophical thought of ancient Greece. We will approach a broad range of philosophical questions by examining and writing about the philosophy of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient authors. Among the questions we will ask are: What does reality consist in, and how do we know about it? What is the nature of knowledge? What is the structure of the soul? What is virtue, and how does one acquire it? And what is required to lead a good life? We study these foundational questions of metaphysics, epistemology and ethics through the eyes of ancient philosophers because they were the first to ask these questions, and the first to devise methods for answering them which are continuous with our philosophical practice today. For this reason, the course serves as a good introduction to philosophical thought and method generally.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Crockett. TuWTh 1-3:30, 209 Dwinelle.

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.

135  Theory of Meaning. Khatchirian. TuWTh 10-12:30, 534 Davis.

What distinguishes meaningful sounds and marks from meaningless ones? Are the meanings of our words to be explained in terms of the intentions with which we use them? Or are meanings determined in some other way? In what ways, if any, do the meanings of our words depend on features of our environment? Is the meaning of a word a thing in the world for which it can be said to stand? What is the relation between the meaning of a word and the meanings of sentences in which it occurs? What role, if any, should the notion of truth play in explaining what it is for our sentences to mean what they do?

All of these questions presuppose that there are facts of the matter about what our words mean, or at least a difference between meaningful utterances and meaningless noises. But we will also examine arguments questioning these assumptions. Are there any determinate facts of the matter about what our words mean? If not, is there, after all, any real difference between meaningful utterances and meaningless noises? Readings will include work by Frege, Grice, Putnam, Burge, Quine, Kripke, Davidson, Searle, Strawson, Lewis, and others.

160  Plato. Buckels. TuWTh 3:30-6, 223 Dwinelle.

This course will be an intensive reading of Plato’s Republic, examining the dialogue as a unified work, held together by its focus on and defense of justice. We will pay special attention to Book I and its resemblance to Socratic dialogues and to the metaphysics and epistemology of Books V – VII. We will also see how these features of the Republic, along with its ethical and political themes, connect with other works in the Platonic corpus.