Summer 2019 Session D

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. French. MTuWTh 10-12, 136 Barrows.

What’s involved in living a good life? What makes an action right or wrong, good or bad? What does a just society look like, and how should we respond to injustice? In this course we will try to answer these questions through interrogating classic texts in the Western philosophical tradition, as well as some contemporary work. The first part of the course focuses on questions about how individuals ought to live; the second part of the course focuses on questions about the justice of social arrangements. The goals of the course are (1) to introduce students to philosophical methods of inquiry, and (2) to familiarize students with some of the major thinkers, views, and questions in the Western tradition of moral and political philosophy. No prior experience in philosophy is required.

3  The Nature of Mind. Bradley. MTuWTh 12-2, 220 Wheeler.

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?

12A  Introduction to Logic. Klempner. TuWTh 1-3:30, 20 Wheeler.

This course is an introduction to symbolic logic. We will explore the structure of increasingly complex formal languages that allow us to define the concept of a valid deductive argument: i.e. an argument in which, if the premises are all true, the conclusion must be true as well. We will also see how these formal languages can be used to express the logical structure of ordinary English arguments. In its focus on the structure of formal languages and systems of proof for arguments in those languages, the class is in many ways like a math class. It should, however, give you a greater appreciation for the structure of arguments in ordinary English.

Effective March 26, 2019, this class satisfies the Philosophy and Values breadth requirement.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Gooding. MTuWTh 10-12, 200 Wheeler.

This course is an introduction to ancient Greek philosophy, focusing especially on Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, with occasional glances at the Presocratics and the Hellenistic Schools.

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.

This semester the course will be divided into two thematic subsections. In the first sub-section (“Knowledge of Nature”), we will consider the accounts given by various ancient philosophers of the natural world and our knowledge of it. In the second (“Ethics and Politics”), we will consider how they addressed questions in moral and political philosophy – questions like, “How should we live?” and “What does justice demand of us?”

25B  Modern Philosophy. Ryan. TuWTh 1-3:30, 200 Wheeler.

This course explores some of the major metaphysical and epistemological views of four of the most important early modern philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, and Hume. Time permitting, we will conclude with an extremely brief introduction to Kant. Descartes and Spinoza have traditionally been grouped together under the label “Rationalist” because of their willingness to rely upon rational reflection as guide to the very nature of the world and our place in it. On the other hand, the British “Empiricists,” Locke and Hume, have a rather more deflationary estimation of the powers of the human mind. In particular, they argue that all knowledge must derive–in some way or other–from sensory experience. We will examine and evaluate the conclusions drawn by each group from these fundamental presuppositions. These conclusions will often be surprising: even the relatively innocent-sounding assumptions of the Empiricists, to which many may be sympathetic, lead to rather radical theses about the nature of reality. In addition to asking how such conclusions are reached, we will ask whether they are plausible and in fact so radical. We will also examine to what extent this rather coarse division in philosophical camps (Rationalist vs. Empiricist) is a helpful or accurate one. Particular topics will include: philosophical method, skepticism, the nature of substance and matter, the relationship between mind and body, causation, and induction. Finally, we will attempt to understand the relationship between the various philosophical positions presented and their historical context, especially that of the scientific and mathematical revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries.

110  Aesthetics. Noë. TuWTh 1-3:30, 151 Barrows.

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).

132  Philosophy of Mind. Noë. TuWTh 10-12:30, 150D Moffitt.

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.