Philosophy Department

Fall 2000 Undergraduate Courses




Non-Major Introductory Courses



Introduction to Philosophy

T/Th 9:30-10:45

Instructor to be announced


The most basic questions about human life and its place in the universe. Topics may include free will, the relation of the mind to the body, and immortality; skepticism, self-knowledge, causality, and a priori knowledge; religious and secular ethical codes and theories; and intuition, rationality, and faith. Includes classic and current philosophers (e.g., Plato, Descartes, Hume, Russell, Sartre).




Ethics & Society

M/W 11-12:15

Instructor to be announced


Examines grounds for moral judgment and action in various social contexts. Typical topics: public versus private good and duties; individualism and cooperation; inequalities and justice; utilitarianism and rights; regulation of sexual conduct, abortion and family life; poverty and wealth; racism and sexism; and war and capital punishment.




Intensive Introductory Courses



Life & Death

T/Th 11-12:15



The course introduces students to a range of philosophic issues focused on the nature, value, and meaning of human life and death. Questions include: What if, anything, distinguishes human from animal life and death? How are the beginning and end of life determined? Does "sanctity of life" have secular, as well as religious grounds? Is disembodied personal life after death an intelligent possibility? Do human lives have aesthetic as well as moral value? Can the value of meaning of a human life be altered by post-mortem events? Is death an evil? Are there things worse than death? Is suicide ever morally permissible? Infanticide? State execution? Readings from Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Hume, Kant, Heidegger, Sartre, H.H. Price, A.J. Ayer, and contemporary philosophers. Frequent writing.




Group I:  History of Philosophy



History of Ancient Philosophy

M/W 11-12:15

Instructor to be announced


Examination of the major figures and movements in Greek Philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle.




From Hegel to Nietzsche

T/Th 9:30-10:45



The course will focus on works by Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. We'll begin by tackling parts of Hegel's (very difficult), The Phenomenology of Spirit, then turn to parts of Schopenhauer's, The World as Will and Representation, before concluding with a selection of Nietzsche's works, including especially, On the Genealogy of Morals.

Requirements: Two short papers, and perhaps a final exam.




Group II:  Ethics, Value, and Society




M/W 9:30-10:45

Instructor to be announced


Examines fundamental questions of moral philosophy: What are our most basic values and which of them are specifically moral values? What are the ethical principles, if any, by which we should judge our actions, ourselves, and our lives?




Group III:  Metaphysics, Epistemology, Mind, Language




M/W 2-3:15

Instructor to be announced


Introduces the techniques, results, and philosophical import of 20th century formal logic. Principal concepts include those of sentence, set, interpretation, validity, consistency, consequence, tautology, derivation, and completeness.




Belief, Truth, and Knowledge

M/W 12:30-1:45



This course is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of inquiry. We often seek answers to questions (e.g., Who killed Jon Benet? 736+9768=? Is there a God? Will the Knicks win tonight?) and we often take ourselves to *know* the answer, or to have a *rational* opinion, or *justified* belief, or take our view to be well *supported by the evidence*, and so on. Rather than seek answers to these questions, we will examine such notions as knowledge, rationality, justification, and evidential support, with a view to better understanding how rational inquiry should proceed.

We will begin by examining the case for some pessimistic views about inquiry: External World Skepticism: we can know nothing beyond the contents of our own minds. Inductive Skepticism: all reasoning from the observed to the unobserved is unjustified. Having (hopefully) overcome these skeptical worries. We will survey the main themes in the theory of knowledge and justification: Foundationalism, Coherentism, and Reliablism. Finally, we will see how fruitful the suggestion is that we ought to accept the theory which provides the *best explanation* of our total evidence.




Philosophy of Mind

M/W 11-12:15



In this course we'll be thinking about immaterial spirits, futuristic computers and robots, fake computers with little people inside, Martians who behave like us but have an internal structure very different from ours, brains in vats, 'swampmen' who are formed by random aggregation of molecules. We will ask whether these strange characters have thoughts and feelings, and whether, if so, they are like us in what they think and feel. We will consider how we might know the answers to these questions, and whether they even have right answers. The point is not to consider bizarre cases just for the sake of it, but to see what light we can shed on our own nature as beings with mental lives.




Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology

T/Th 2-3:15



We will look at the notion of objectivity, and at the role that it plays in our conceptions of knowledge and of truth. What is it for something to be objective? Why does it matter if knowledge and truth are objective? How do we tell whether they are? Assigned authors will include Plato, Kant, Nagel, Stroud, Kuhn and others. Requirements for the course will include two medium-length papers.




Topics in Mind and Language

T/Th 11-12:15



The two aims of this course are (1) to provide an introduction to current issues about the relations between meaning, intentional content, understanding and truth; and (2) to discuss the relation between metaphysics, conceptions of objectivity, and the nature of understanding in several more specific domains. According as time and demand permits, these more specific domains will include: thought about the objective spatio-temporal world; the infinite; and the normative. This is not at all a technical course, but a background in first-order logic is needed for appreciation of the material on truth-condition.





Honors Seminar

F 11-12:30