UNDERGRADUATE COURSES:
SPRING 1997


Each of the following descriptions was provided by the faculty member teaching the course. Where no description is offered, or for additional information, please consult the N.Y.U Bulletin.

 

Note: "A83.0001 Satisfies LEP 3"
:001 Intro to Philosophy 4.0 LEC MW 08:30-09:45 COADY
:002 Intro to Philosophy
4.0 LEC MW 11:55-01:10 COADY
:003 Intro to Philosophy
4.0 LEC TR 09:55-11:10 DANISI

 

(A83.0015) Ethics and Society
Professor Ruddick
T/R 11:55 - 01:10 (LEP AREA 3)

The course surveys moral issues posed by personal and family life; education, work, and medical choices; and community support and political obligations--especially in the context of legal and other social regulations. Specific topics include: reproductive and marital options; private sexual activity; classroom curriculum and teacher conduct; racial, gender and age discriminations in school admissions and hiring; censorship of speech and the arts; euthanasia, untested therapies and voluntary risks of infection; distributions of wealth and power; civil disobedience and military service.

There will be short essays and reports, as well as several examinations.

 

(V83.0010) Ethics
Professor Unger
M/W 1:20 - 2:35 (LEP AREA 3)

Requiring no previous instruction in philosophy, the course will introduce students to central aspects of philosophical ethics, from abstract questions of how to think about moral issues to some concrete moral issues themselves. Toward this end, we will read material from three recent books, James Rachels' The Elements of Moral Philosophy, Peter Singer's Practical Ethics, and my own Living High and Letting Die, as well as from a few shorter recent pieces. While we'll be most concerned with the philosophical subject matter itself, a strong effort will be made to help students write very clearly and reasonably well. Toward that end, students will be required to write at least four short papers, writing several drafts of each of the papers. Since there won't be any examinations, a student's grade will be determined primarily by her performance on these papers and, secondarily, by the quality of her classroom participation.

 

(V83.0012) Logic
Professor Walden
T/R 2:50 - 4:05 (LEP AREA 9)

Introduces the techniques, results, and philosophical import of twentieth-century formal logic. Principal concepts include those of sentence, set, interpretation, validity, consistency, consequence, tautology, and derivation. Philosophical problems discussed include the nature of natural language, the nature of mathematics and the importance of logic paradoxes, and the contrast between human minds and computers.

 

(V83.0013) History Of Ancient Philosophy
Professor Piacente
M/W 11:55 - 01:10 (LEP AREA 3)

In this course we will trace the development of certain problems from their genesis in pre-socratic philosophy to their culmination in Plato and Aristotle. Plato and Aristotle will be treated as systematic philosophers who give us views on the nature and extent of knowledge, the Nature of Reality and the Nature of The Good Life.

 

(V83.0014) History Of Modern Philosophy
Professor Piacente
T/R 01:20 - 02:35 (LEP AREA 3)

The first half of the class will be spent examining the two central movements in early modern philosophy: Rationalism and Empiricism. We will examine these by studying in detail a philosopher from each movement (Descartes for Rationalism, Hume for Empiricism). The second half of the class will be spent examining reactions to the Rationalism vs. Empiricism debate. First will be Kant's attempt at a synthesis of the two, and second will be the rejection of the debate in Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche (if time permits).

 

(V83.0020) Philosophy of Biology
Professor Richardson
T/R 9:55 - 11:10

This course covers a network of philosophical problems that arise concerning life and its scientific study. We'll approach these problems in topic-by-topic fashion, through recent analytic discussions by both philosophers and biologists. I think the central question is the role (if any) of teleological explanations in biology. In particular, are the parts of organisms explained by their functions, or their behaviors by their goals? We'll examine the main analyses that have been offered for such teleology. But evaluating them requires a closer look at the logic of evolutionary theory, and at some important problems about its components, especially the notions of fitness, adaptation, the unit of selection, and species. We'll weigh the consequences of this theory for teleology, and for several other large issues: the explanatory approach called 'essentialism', the principles for 'classification' or 'systematics', and the project of 'reducing' biology to chemistry or physics, or parts of biology to other parts. Finally, we'll consider how far that evolutionary theory is extendable from biology into certain 'human' studies. Does it help to explain our cognitive and moral practices? Or do these practices perhaps develop through another order or kind of evolution, 'cultural evolution', with a logic related to that in biology? Requirements: two papers of 5 - 8 pages each, and a final exam.

 

(V83.0037) Medical Ethics
Professor Dwyer
T/R 6:10 - 7:25

In the first part of the course we will consider a number of problematic cases and issues in medical practice. We will discuss cases and issues that deal with confidentiality, informed consent, competency, refusal of treatment, assisted suicide, decisions for children, abortions, gestational conflicts, and professional obligation. In the second part of the course we will consider questions about social justice and health care. We will discuss questions about unequal access, rationing, responsibility, solidarity, community, family support, civic engagement, and health care systems. Throughout the course we will reflect on different philosophical approaches to the problems and questions of medical ethics. We will discuss consequentialism, non-consequentialism, pragmatism, casuistry, communitarianism, and the role of moral imagination. Course work will include two midterm exams, a paper, and a final exam.

 

(V83.0057) Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Professor Sorensen
M/W 01:20 - 02:35

Prerequisite: Introduction to philosophy or two social science courses.

Addresses questions raised by the "social sciences". What makes a field a social science (anthropology, economics, sociology) rather than a natural science (physics, chemistry, biology)? Are the social sciences inferior? Are they too subjective and interpretive? Should they be reformed to emulate the rigor and predictive power of physics? Or can the social sciences progress with distinct methods and forms of understanding?

 

(V83.0072) Existentialism
Professor Deckel
T/R 1:20-2:35

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of the instructor.

It is a major theme of Existentialism that as human beings we must "create ourselves" Moreover, existentialists hold that if we do not recognize and embrace this task, we will not lead "authentic" lives. For example, consider the realm of values (moral and non-moral). Despite all of philosophers' ingenious efforts, existentialists deny that philosophy can tell us which values we should accept. Thus, it is up to each of us to "choose" our own values. This is a situation of great freedom, but also of great responsibility. Indeed, many people shy away from the responsibility and the anguish it can induce. They find comfort in the idea that some source outside themselves--religion, philosophy--can tell them for certain what is right and what is wrong, and that the best way to live is to follow the commands of the external source.

In this course, we will examine the themes of self-creation, authenticity, and value in the writings of three major existentialist figures: Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Sartre. Course requirements will be two papers of approximately 8 - 10 pages.

 

(V83.0076) Aesthetics
Professor Mothersill
T/R 2:50 - 4:05PM

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of the instructor.

An introduction to the theory of criticism and the philosophy of art. Topics include interpretation, meaning, truth, make-believe, intention, the validations of critical judgments, art and morality. Readings from classical and contemporary sources. Two short papers, one long paper (10-15 pages) no exam.

 

(V83.0077) Philosophy and Literature
Professor Gurland
T/R 11:55 - 01:10

This course will employ fictional works, the novel and the play, as a vehicle for exploring philosophical themes and issues. Great works of literature endure on the strength of their ability to address the human condition and my intention is to exploit the power of the selected writings to place significant philosophical issues within vibrant concrete contexts.

The traditional philosophical dualism's of mind and body, appearance and reality, along with issues concerned with truth, personal identity, and values, both moral and aesthetic, will provide the central concerns of the course. Camus, Kafka, Faulkner, Hemingway, Kesey, and Kundera, will be among the authors whose works will be read and analyzed from a perspective which will employ philosophical rather than literary criteria.

 

(V83.0089) Philosophy Of Language
Professor Sorenson
M/W 11:55 - 01:10

Prerequisite: one course in philosophy.

We'll start from 'a', go on to 'the', then eventually to 'that' and maybe even (time permitting) 'I' and -'ish'. In other words, we will study how the variables used in existential quantification are exploited by Bertrand Russell's theory of definite descriptions and how analysis of demonstratives and indexicals generate the contemporary account of direct reference by David Kaplan and Saul Kripke. To this foreground we will add background topics that are prominent in philosophy of language: the relationship between thought and language, ideal language, Frege's doctrine of sense, the analytic/synthetic distinction, presupposition, speech acts, conversational implicature, self-reference, and vagueness. Grades will be determined by performance on two 5 to 10 page papers and an essay final.

 

(V83.0090) Philosophy Of Mind
Professor Nagel
M/W 2:50 - 4:05

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy

The course will be concerned largely with the mind-body problem, and the distinctive character of mental phenomena and mental concepts. Readings from historical and contemporary sources. Three short papers, no exam. Prerequisite: at least one philosophy course.

 

(V83.0096) Topics In Metaphysics & Epistemology: Action Theory
Professor Gibbons
T/R 01:20 - 02:35

Prerequisite: One course in theory of knowledge or metaphysics.

This course will focus on various questions concerning the nature of intentional action. What is the difference between doing something (e. g. raising your arm) and something happening to you (e.g. your arm going up)? What is the best way to individuate actions? If you turn on a light by flipping a switch, have you performed two actions or one? Finally, can beliefs, and desires cause actions, or is the relation between reasons and actions non-causal. Most of the readings will be from fairly recent sources rather than historical sources. Requirements include two five to seven page papers and several short papers over the course of the term.

 

(V83.0998) INDEPENDENT STUDY
STAFF
(Hours to be arranged.)

 

(V83.0100) HONORS SEMINAR
Professor Schiffer
(Hours to be arranged.)

See description of the Honors Seminar in the General Departmental Information section.



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