Summer 2021 Session A

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality and Social Justice. French. MTuWTh 11:30-1:30, TBA.

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  Nature of Mind. Dolan. MTuWTh 1-3, TBA.

Beliefs, perceptions, intentions, feelings: we recognize these states of mind in ourselves and other people. But what is it to have a mind, or to be a subject of conscious experience? What is it to have a perspective on the world, as opposed to merely existing in it? In this class we’ll study these questions and related ones, looking at how they have been treated by philosophers in the past, and evaluating them by our own lights. Topics may include: the metaphysical nature of consciousness, the relationship between mental states and overt behavior, our knowledge of others’ mental states, how the content of our beliefs is determined by aspects of our physical or social environment.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Khokhar. MTuW 1-3:30, TBA.

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

19  Arabic Philosophy. Abid. MTuWTh 9:30-11:30, TBA.

In this introductory survey of Arabic philosophy, we will focus on the philosophical works of al-Kindi, al-Razi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Ghazali, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) produced during the “Islamic Golden Age,” traditionally dated from the 9th to the 12th century CE.

Through a combination of primary and (to a lesser extent) secondary sources, we will explore topics relevant to several branches of philosophy. Within metaphysics, we will discuss time, eternity, causation, modality (e.g., the distinction between necessity and possibility), and the existence of God. Within the philosophy of mind, we will consider the problem of how in thought—as opposed to in perception—we can grasp an object without coming into direct contact with it and whether a creature receiving no sensory inputs can be self-conscious. Within epistemology, we will discuss the conditions for absolute certainty and whether philosophical knowledge is compatible with religious knowledge. Finally, we will discuss the important issue of whether one should, as al-Razi puts it, confine oneself to “eating dry herbage, wrapping himself in a threadbare robe, and taking shelter in a barrel in the wilderness.” In other words, we will discuss ethical issues surrounding asceticism, on one extreme, and excess indulgence, on the other.

This course has no prerequisites and counts for the broader history requirement for the philosophy major. In addition to providing an introduction to Arabic philosophy, this course will give students ample opportunity to reconstruct and critically assess arguments extracted from dense pieces of text.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Fakhri. MTuWTh 10-12, TBA.

This is an introductory course in ancient philosophy. The bulk of the course will focus on three main ancient philosophers: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. We will discuss the so-called pre- Socratic philosophers at the beginning of the course, but the majority of the time will be spent on the three major figures. History will be an important component of this class, but this class is a philosophy class first and foremost. It is designed to introduce students to philosophy through primary texts written by important ancient philosophers from the western tradition. As such, there are no required prerequisites.

We will begin the course by drawing a contrast between the way the ancient poets and the philosophers explained reality. The ancient poets claimed that finite humans could not come to learn ultimate truths about the cosmos on their own. How can we come to know what happened at the beginning of the cosmos if we weren’t there? The poets claim that we need to learn these truths from the testimony of the gods who were there from the beginning, and who have been around long enough to understand the mysteries of the cosmos. By contrast, the philosophers sought to explain the world around them not through the traditions and the testimony of the gods, although they had things to say about those things, but through naturalistic means. They begin to develop views that aim to answer two questions: (1) what is the basic stuff? And (2) what explains change? In the first part of the course, we will look at the answers that ancient philosophers gave to these two questions, and the reasoning for their answers.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Crockett. TuWTh 10-12:30, TBA.

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, TBA.

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.