The Dennes Room

Summer 2020 2nd 6wks

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Strelau. MTuWTh 10-12, 200 Wheeler.

An introduction to fundamental issues in moral and political philosophy. This course will focus on three interconnected topics: C1. What determines whether a particular action is morally good? What are the most fundamental sources of right and wrong? Is moral correctness, a matter of objective truth? C2. What is it to be a morally good, or virtuous, person; and how does one become such a person? C3. And what is the optimum political and economic structure of a society?

We will examine several standard classic accounts, and the reasons that have been given for their correctness, as well as some influential contemporary theories; each spans C1-3 but they differ in emphasis. These include: Aristotle on virtues, practical reason, and human flourishing; Confucius on ritual and ‘the ideal moral agent’ = junzi; the ‘Exodus’ chapter in the Bible on the moral law; Locke on basic rights, the state of nature, and the social contract; Kant on pure reason as the source of moral principles, and on free will; Mill on utilitarianism and liberty. The contemporary theories include John Rawls’ broadly egalitarian view arrived at from ‘the original position’; individual rights-centered approaches such as Nozick’s; and recent work on virtue ethics.

We will apply these general accounts to prominent real-life issues of the present day, eg: law enforcement agencies some of whose members have developed biases (racism) and therefore do not treat all citizens equally; and massive unexpected economic disruptions caused by disasters such as pandemics. Throughout we’ll apply the accounts to a range of ordinary life examples, including difficult borderline cases.

Other readings will include Plato, Marcus Aurelius, and Hannah Arendt. Issues we’ll examine include: The nature of universal human rights (eg freedom of speech); what grounds them? A variety of definitions of equality, and the arguments given for them. Accounts of the transition from a state of nature to a civil government, especially the role of ‘protective associations’.

3  The Nature of Mind. Levac. MTuWTh 12-2, 20 Wheeler.

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of mind. You and I are conscious; we have experiences. In this respect among others we differ from such things as rocks, bicycles, planets, or waterfalls. But in some ways we are not so different from them. We have bodies composed of matter, subject to the laws of physics; the same is true even of our brains.

What explains the fact that some of the things in the world have conscious experiences, while others do not? What is the nature of the mind and the self we often associate with it, and how do these connect up with our scientific picture of the universe? What is it to be conscious, exactly? How and to what extent do the perceptual experiences of a subject put her in touch with a mind-independent world? Drawing primarily — but not exclusively — on readings from the Analytic tradition, we’ll consider these questions and others. In the process, we’ll work on developing philosophical reading and writing skills

12A  Introduction to Logic. Khokhar. TuWTh 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. Perry. MTuWTh 10-12, 220 Wheeler.

This course is an introduction to ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, and will cover a broad range of figures and philosophical issues. We will take as our central theme the characteristically Greco-Roman view of philosophy as the medicine of the soul. So doing will prompt us to ask questions like: What is the mind, and how is it related to the body? to the natural world? What is it for the mind to be healthy (or sick), and does its health (or sickness) bear on one’s ability to lead a good life? How did the ancient Greeks and Romans conceive of philosophy, and why did they think it was suited to perform a therapeutic function? Canonical philosophical readings will be supplemented with texts on Greco-Roman conceptions of mental health and disease (philosophical, medical, and – time permitting – poetic), as well as texts by Greek doctors (especially the Hippocratic doctors).

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

In this course we will survey the works of philosophers writing during the Early Modern period of the 17th and 18th centuries. We will begin by studying the emergence of the so called “New Science” and its break from the “Old” scholastic Aristotelianism which had been the dominant philosophical school of thought throughout the Medieval period. Starting with the ‘rationalists’, we will read the pioneering works of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, before turning to the equally landmark ‘empiricist’ works of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. We will learn how each of these philosophers broke with tradition and answered the hotly debated philosophical questions of their day, including metaphysical questions such as: what are the fundamental building blocks or ‘substances’ that comprise our reality? How many ‘substances’ are there? What are the relations between these substances, bodies, minds, and God? And epistemological questions, such as: what sorts of truths can we know, and how is it possible for us to know them? What is the relation between knowledge derived through reason and our knowledge of the external world? To what extent, if any, can we trust our senses, or beliefs formed on the basis of experience? Finally, we will end the course with an introduction to Kant, who, responding to each of these authors, attempts to pave a new path forward for philosophy – critiquing the very possibility of metaphysics, while nevertheless aiming to salvage some of its principles, as well as empirical knowledge, from an array of skeptical worries introduced by his predecessors.

115  Political Philosophy. Grosser. TuWTh 1-3:30, 120 Wheeler.

This course examines central issues and concepts in political philosophy: freedom, equality, justice, authority, and citizenship. Drawing on the works of main representatives of social contract theory (Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Rawls), the first part of the course analyzes key principles of modern and contemporary political thought including basic liberties and human rights. The second part of the course is devoted to a discussion of critical responses to the framework of the social contract that seek to modify it, to expand its scope, or to develop conceptual alternatives to it. In light of current challenges like climate change, migration, or populism such responses have been formulated from the vantage points of, for instance, democratic theory, critical race theory, and recognition theory.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Winning. TuWTh 10-12:30, 120 Wheeler.

This is a course on the nature of mental entities (such as minds), mental states (such as beliefs and desires), and their properties. What is the nature of the mental? What is the relation between the mental and the non-mental? This course addresses attempts by philosophers and scientists to answer these questions in a systematic and rigorous way. Along the way we will discuss a number of debates that arise from these questions, such as the nature of mental content, the nature of consciousness, and what kinds of organisms or machines can have minds and mental states.