Summer 2018 Session A

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Rudolph. MTuWTh 12-2, 103 Moffitt.

In this course, we will follow the development of philosophical thought about morality and social justice in the Western tradition, through the works of philosopher such as Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Hobbes, Kant, and Mill. We will discuss questions such as: What makes an action right or wrong? Does morality depend on one’s culture or religion? Should we always do what has the best consequences, or are there some kinds of actions that we ought never to perform, no matter the consequences? What is the best kind of life a human being can live? Do the answers to any of these questions change depending on whether we begin from a male or a female perspective? In addition to learning about prominent views from the history of philosophy, we will also draw connections to some important contemporary issues, such as abortion, race relations, and free speech. No prior experience in philosophy is required.

3  The Nature of Mind. Suarez. MTuWTh 10-12, 103 Moffitt.

When we focus on certain facts about ourselves, e.g. that we bleed, sneeze and digest, it is easy to think of ourselves as purely physical beings. This is because sneezing, bleeding and digestion are all able to be understood as purely physical processes. When we think of ourselves this way we come out as 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. 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. This is because it seems incredible that our conscious lives, our pains, thoughts, emotions and so on, are just a bunch of atoms banging around in the void of space. How could that be? Thus, when we think about ourselves in terms of our conscious mental lives it becomes very difficult to think of ourselves as purely physical beings.

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?

In asking these questions about the nature of the mind we will also be concerned with questions pertaining to our knowledge of the mind. How do we know what is going on in the minds of other people? Can we even know that other people have minds? What about non-human animals? Do they have minds? Can we be sure? Do we even know that other humans have minds? And how do you know about your own mind?

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Lawrence. MTuWTh 10-12, 174 Barrows.

This course is an introduction to ancient Greek philosophy, focusing primarily on Plato and Aristotle. This session, we will focus especially on questions of ethics (How should I live? What is the good life?) and political philosophy (How should we live together? What kinds of political arrangements are just?). 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 and how (or whether) we can have knowledge of it.

The ancient Greeks formulated many of the problems that continue to occupy philosophers, and so the course will provide 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.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Crockett. TuWTh 10-12:30, Hearst Field Annex B5.

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.

108  Contemporary Ethical Issues. Crockett. TuWTh 1-3:30, Dwinelle 235.

This course will be devoted to in-depth discussion of a variety of problems in moral philosophy raised by real-life questions of individual conduct and social policy. Its contents will vary from occasion to occasion. Possible topics include philosophical problems posed by affirmative action, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, terrorism, war, poverty, and climate change.

Note: As taught this semester, Philosophy 108 will satisfy the Ethics requirement.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Khatchirian. TuWTh 10-12:30, 140 Barrows.

In this course, we will take up central problems concerning the nature of mind and examine contemporary approaches to these problems. We will ask the following questions: Can science explain consciousness? If not, can we still make sense of consciousness as part of the natural world? Can we make sense of thought as part of the natural world? What are we doing when we attribute thoughts to ourselves and to others? Are beliefs and desires real? Are they genuine causes of behavior? What role, if any, does our environment play in fixing the contents of our thoughts? And where is the mind anyway? Is it located where our brain or body is located, or does it extend beyond our body?