Summer 2023 Session A

Undergraduate courses

3  The Nature of Mind. Lane. MTuWTh 10-12, Wheeler 204.

Human beings have minds, and probably so do many non-human animals. But things like rocks and rugs do not. Why are minds distributed throughout the world in this way? The course will explore different answers to this question. In the first block, we will ask whether the mind is its own substance, distinct from the physical world; and we will subsequently consider what kinds of configurations of physical substance might be correctly identified with the mind. In particular, we will ask whether the mind is most plausibly identified with physical, behavioral, or functional states. In the second block, we will first focus on questions of personal identity and its relation to the mind. Are you (just) your mind? Could your mind be uploaded to a virtual platform or would the upload not really be you? Then we will discuss whether and how far the mind extends beyond the body—does it extend, e.g., to your smartphone?—and the ethics and metaphysics of neuroenhancement. The final topic will be animal minds, and discussion will center around animal consciousness and self-awareness

12A  Introduction to Logic. Klempner. TuWTh 10-12:30, Giannini 141.

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.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Grosser. MTuWTh 12-2, Wheeler 102.

This introductory course will cover major developments in ancient Greek philosophy. While we will primarily examine works of Plato and Aristotle, we will also look at Presocratic as well as Stoic and Epicurean thought. Topics will include the nature of knowledge and the nature of the soul. The focus of this course, however, will be on themes in ethics and political philosophy. What does it mean to live a “good life,” and what are essential internal and external conditions for achieving such a life? What is the role of knowledge and of virtue in developing a good character, and how can both be acquired? How are we to relate to ourselves, to our emotions such as anger, shame, and fear, or to the fact that we sometimes do and desire what is bad for us? And how are we to relate to others who we encounter within and outside our communities? In light of these questions, we will discuss differing understandings of “the best political order” proposed by ancient thinkers, an order that enables human happiness and flourishing. What does justice consist in, and how is it related to equality? What is the meaning of citizenship—and who has access to the special political, juridical, and moral status it entails? How can friendship and love be relevant in the realm of politics? And what possibilities are there to express dissent with one’s community and to critique one’s polis (city-state)—for instance, with reference to the idea of a cosmopolis, a universal community that transcends particular forms of belonging and of which all humans are members?

25B  Modern Philosophy. Crockett. TuWTh 10-12:30, Dwinelle 243.

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.

108  Contemporary Ethical Issues. Crockett. TuWTh 1-3:30, Hildebrand B56.

This course will be devoted to in-depth discussion of a variety of problems in moral philosophy raised by real-life questions of individual conduct and social policy. Its contents will vary from occasion to occasion. Possible topics include philosophical problems posed by affirmative action, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, terrorism, war, poverty, and climate change.

Note: As taught this semester, Philosophy 108 will satisfy the Ethics requirement.

135  Theory of Meaning. Khatchirian. TuWTh 10-12:30, Wheeler 120.

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?

185  Heidegger. Grosser. TuWTh 3:30-6, Wheeler 130.

In this course, we will trace the development of Heidegger’s philosophical work from his early attempt to work out a “fundamental ontology” to his late projects of formulating a “history of Being” and of elaborating a new, “poetic” way of thinking. Based on close readings of selected texts including Being and Time, The Origin of the Work of Art, and “The Question Concerning Technology,” we will analyze key concepts such as “Being” and “beings,” “temporality” and “historicity,” or “enowning” and “enframing.” Led by these texts, we will explore how Heidegger seeks to reconceive subjectivity, intersubjectivity, cognition, and language by dissociating his own approach from the philosophical tradition (in particular, from Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche, and Husserl). This will allow us to examine Heidegger’s understanding of what it means for humans to live “authentically” in the face of their mortality, to act creatively, or to develop a “free relation” to technology; it will also give us the opportunity to critically analyze the often problematic political and ideological implications of his thinking. While all required and recommended readings as well as all other materials relevant for this course will be available through bCourses, you might consider purchasing a hard copy of Being and Time. The edition we will be working with is Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York et al.: Harper Perennial, 2008).