Summer 2019 1st 6wks

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. STAFF. MTuWTh 12-2, 220 Wheeler.

This is an introductory course in ethics or moral theory, and we will read both historical and contemporary texts that will focus on questions that are largely influenced by the Western philosophical tradition. The material will not be arranged chronologically, but topically. Here is a sample of some of the topics we will discuss: What constitutes a good life? how should we live? Should I preference my interests over the interests of others?

In this class, we will look at three major moral theories: virtue ethics, deontology, and consequentialism. We will examine arguments for and against these theories. And then we will see how these moral theories answer certain applied questions. The overall aim of this course is to introduce students to philosophical questions that have had great historical influence, and to help students cultivate critical reasoning skills so that they can develop their own answers to these questions.

3  The Nature of Mind. STAFF. MTuWTh 12-2, 120 Wheeler.

What is it like to be a roomba, humming across the floor? Nothing. Of course, the little vacuum cleaner detects things—walls, for example. And it reacts accordingly—by turning, for example. This is, to be sure, a cute dance. But there is nothing it is like to be the dancer. The roomba doesn’t, for example, feel itself bump against the wall, or see itself turn away from it. (Go ahead and try to put yourself in the roomba’s shoes—try to imagine what it is like to be the roomba. There is nothing there to be imagined.) What is it like to be you? Here there is more to say. Of course, like the roomba, you detect things and react accordingly. But, unlike the roomba, you also experience what’s around—you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. What’s more, you have a rich inner life, full of thoughts, moods, and bodily sensations. You are, in short, conscious. The roomba is not. This difference between conscious and unconscious things seems deep and important. But how does it arise? What exactly is it about you that makes you conscious? And what’s missing in unconscious things, like the roomba? In this course, you will grapple with these and related questions about consciousness, and learn about philosophical (and some scientific) attempts to answer them. Along the way, you will learn how to read and write philosophy. This is an introductory course, with no prerequisites.

12A  Introduction to Logic. STAFF. MTuW 1-3:30, 140 Barrows.

This is an elementary course on symbolic logic. We will cover a range of topics including symbolization, truth tables, the syntax and semantics of basic formal languages, and the construction of proofs. The course is a requirement for philosophy majors, but will be useful to anyone interested in the principles which underlie sound reasoning.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. STAFF. MTuWTh 10-12, 104 Wheeler.

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. STAFF. TuWTh 10-12:30, 136 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.

117AC  Philosophy of Race, Ethnicity, and Citizenship. STAFF. TuWTh 1-3:30, 120 Wheeler.

This course explores philosophical questions of race, ethnicity, and citizenship, with special attention to the experiences of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and indigenous peoples of the United States. Topics include the meaning of “race,” “ethnicity,” and “citizenship,” border control and immigration, reparations for past wrongs, discrimination and affirmative action, civic obligation and group solidarity, and the right to vote.

135  Theory of Meaning. STAFF. TuWTh 10-12:30, 30 Wheeler.

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?