Summer 2020 Session A

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Haddow. MTuWTh 12-2, 20 Wheeler.

In this course, we will address the basic questions of ethics. How should we live? What is a good human being like, and what kind of life so they lead? We’ll address these big questions by focusing on some slightly smaller ones: by what standard are some actions right and other wrong? Is a moral life (necessarily) a free and authentic one? Or does morality present some kind of threat to our freedom or authenticity? To what extent is living an ethical life under our control? What kinds of emotions and desires do ethical people have, and what role do they play in their lives? Throughout the class, we will connect our discussion of these general questions to contemporary ethical issues concerning race and gender. Our readings will be drawn from a wide variety of philosophical traditions: among others, we will read Simon de Beauvoir, John Stuart Mill, Iris Murdoch, Aristotle, Marth Nussbaum, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Confucius.

3  The Nature of Mind. Beattie. MTuWTh 1-3, 104 Wheeler.

In this course, we will be asking two interlinked questions: what kind of thing is a mind, and who has a mind? We will first consider some reasons for thinking that science alone cannot answer the first question, and then go on to examine the plausibility of the most powerful philosophical theories of the mind. Is the mind just a physical thing, or is it a spiritual thing? Or is thinking of the mind as any kind of thing a mistake? Does having a mind just mean that you are behaving a certain way or executing a complex program?

In asking these questions, we will confront two further questions and see the difficulty in giving a response that satisfies them both. How do we know about the minds of other people, and how can we ever doubt our own mental states? In light of these difficulties, can we say that robots have minds, or that animals do, or babies? Is there such a thing as a “hive” mind, or an extended mind?

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

Introduction to propositional and first-order logic. Syntax, semantics, formal deduction.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Gooding. MTuWTh 10-12, 1041 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. Crockett. TuWTh 10-12:30, 151 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. Crockett. 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.

122  Theory of Knowledge. Winning. TuWTh 1-3:30, 200 Wheeler.

By any reasonable account, human beings have more knowledge today than ever before due to the progress of science, but there is still philosophical disagreement about what knowledge and justified belief are, how we should respond to radical skepticism, and how much science itself can tell us about knowledge. In this course we will study contemporary classics of epistemology (a.k.a. the theory of knowledge) on the topics of skepticism, justification, foundationalism, the relation between epistemology and other areas of philosophy, tracking, closure, reliabilism, internalism, and externalism, among others.