Summer 2016 Session D

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Khokhar. MTuWTh 10-12, 209 Dwinelle.

This course will be an introduction to some important questions in moral and political philosophy as well as some influential attempts to answer them. It will be organized into three units. In the first unit, we’ll consider questions concerning the nature of morality such as: Are moral truths objective or rather personally or culturally relative? Why should I act morally? What does morality require of me? In the second unit, we’ll look at some contemporary moral questions including: Is abortion morally wrong? What do we owe to future generations? How demanding are our obligations to help strangers? In the final unit, we’ll consider some questions in political philosophy including: Why should I do what the state tells me to do? What’s the nature and importance of toleration? Why is free speech important in a political society?

3  The Nature of Mind. Bradley. MTuWTh 12-2, 229 Dwinelle.

Out of all that exists in the universe, out of all of the rocks, stars, galaxies, and protons, almost nothing has any kind of mental life at all. As far as we now know, the only things in the entirety of the universe that have minds are some animals on planet Earth, ourselves included. This observation raises at least two serious questions. First, could things other than living animals like ourselves have minds, or be conscious? That’s one question, about the possible extent of mental features in the universe. A second, even deeper question, is why anything in our universe has any kind of inner mental life at all. Since so much of the universe operates in compete unfeeling darkness, why does anything in it have a mind? We are incredibly lucky to be among the things that have minds, that are conscious, that can think, feel, love, and reflect. But we, like everything else in the universe, are complex physical systems composed of mindless sub-atomic particles. Why do the mindless particles that compose my brain and body produce a conscious experience, while the mindless particles that compose a table, or a hurricane, or a galaxy generate nothing of the kind? These are both fundamental questions about what it takes for something to have a mind, which is the main them of this class.

In the course we will examine some of the most fundamental questions about the nature of the mind. Topics that we will cover include the relationship between the mind and our physical bodies and brains (The Mind-Body Problem), and in particular the status of conscious experience in the physical world (The Problem of Consciousness). We will also look at the nature of perceptual experience, and the question of whether it accurately presents the world to us (The Problem of Perception), as well as the nature of the self, or the question of what a person is (The Problem of the Self). Readings will be drawn from classic and contemporary sources. Philosophers we might discuss include Descartes, Hume, Russell, Putnam, Smart, Byrne, Nagel, Chalmers, Locke, and Williams. This is an introductory philosophy course with no pre-requisites.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Jerzak. TuWTh 1-3:30, 223 Dwinelle.

An introduction to the basic tools of deductive logic. You’ll learn how to represent the basic structure of arguments in a formal language, and then assess these arguments for correctness. We’ll cover the basic syntax and semantics of propositional logic and first-order logic, and develop a proof system for both. Metalogical results will be discussed but not proved. The emphasis is on using logical tools to hone everyday and philosophical reasoning.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Gibson. MTuWTh 10-12, 215 Dwinelle.

This course is an introduction to ancient Greek philosophy. It provides an overview of the classical currents of ancient Greek philosophical thinking from its pre-Socratic beginnings through the works of Aristotle. The course will be divided in to four sections: We will read, discuss, and write about the views of [1] an important group of pre-Socratic thinkers, [2] Socrates (469 – 399 BC), [3] Plato (427-347 BC), and [4] Aristotle (384-322 BC) on a wide variety of topics including: the nature of the universe, how to investigate reality, the nature of knowledge, the structure of the soul, the nature of virtue, and what is required to lead a good life. Since these issues are foundational for the Western philosophical tradition, the course may also serve as an introduction to philosophical thinking generally. This course is required for the philosophy major, but has no prerequisites, and no prior philosophical experience will be presupposed.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Crockett. TuWTh 1-3:30, 105 Latimer.

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, 3111 Etcheverry.

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.