Philosophy Department

Undergraduate Courses Summer 2003

 

 

First Session

 

Ethics and Society

V83.0007-001

Alex Guerrero

First Session/3:30-5:05

 

Everyone must address certain fundamental questions: How should I live?  What should I care about?   What sort of society should we have?  Which laws should I support, obey?  Which actions are (and why are they) obligatory, permissible, impermissible?  The aim of this course is to enable those enrolled to think about these questions using the tools and resources of analytic philosophy.  This course will introduce and promote the careful use of a certain style of thought and argument through (1) the study of historical and contemporary written works in ethics and moral philosophy, (2) in-class discussion of these works and contemporary ethical issues, and (3) written assignments.  The first half of the course will present and discuss several contemporary ethical theories.  The second half of the course will focus on the application of these various theories to particular ethical issues, including some but not all of the following: abortion; euthanasia; just war theory and terrorism; global poverty; animal rights and human rights; affirmative action; reparations; moral responsibility; and punishment

 

 

Minds and Machines

V83.0015-001

Declan Smithies

First Session/1:30-3:05

 

This course will focus on the nature of psychological explanations. We will consider not only ordinary, commonsense psychological explanations, but also the kinds of explanations provided by scientific, information-processing psychology, and the relationships between them. Some of the topics that we will cover include functionalism, the computer model of the mind, the language of thought hypothesis, tacit knowledge, consciousness, attention and rationality.

 

 

History of Ancient Philosophy

V83.0020-001

Helena Wright/Karl Schafer

First Session/6:00-7:35

 

What is the best possible sort of life? What is knowledge? Is it rational to fear death? Do I have an immortal soul? The study of these and other central philosophical questions is heavily indebted to the ancient Greek philosophers. This course will focus on major works of Plato and Aristotle. We will both ask methodological questions (how should a philosophical inquiry be conducted? What is philosophy aiming to achieve?) and discuss topics including the emergence of philosophical ethics, theories of the soul, Plato’s political philosophy and Aristotle’s philosophy of nature. Texts will include Plato’s Apology, Crito, Laches, Theaetetus, Meno, Phaedo and Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Physics. The course will end with a survey of philosophy in the Hellenistic period (Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics).  All texts will be read in the English translation.

 

No background knowledge of philosophy is required for this course.

 

 

Medical Ethics

V83.0050-001

Winston Chiong

First Session/11:30-1:05

 

This course will focus on ethical issues and principles in medical practice; if time permits, we may also discuss related issues in biomedical research. Topics will include professionalism, patient autonomy, life and death, killing and letting die, organ transplantation, access to healthcare, and the use of patients in medical teaching and training. We will discuss these issues in light of philosophical ethical theories such as utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, and virtue ethics, using clinical cases for illustration and discussion. No prerequisite.

 

 

Logic

V83.0070-001

Yuval Avnur

First Session/1:30-3:05

 

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.

 

 

Metaphysics

V83.0078-001

Brad Skow/Pete Graham

First Session/3:30-5:05

 

We will survey some traditional metaphysical questions, including: Does God exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? Do we have free will? Could we survive teletransportation? Or a brain transplant? What is the nature of space and time? Coursework will include weekly writing

assignments and a term paper.

 

 

Philosophy of Language

V83.0085-001

Ray Buchanan/Dana Evan

First Session/6:00-7:35

 

This course will focus on various philosophical issues concerning the nature of language with an emphasis on meaning and reference.  Readings will include classic selections from Frege, Russell, Grice, Quine, Davidson, and Kripke as well as contemporary articles.

 

 

Philosophy of Biology

V83.0091-001

Erica Roedder

First Session/11:30-1:05

 

We’ve all heard the debates over nature-versus-nurture and creationism.  In addition to these popular contemporary debates, evolutionary biologists themselves also have deep questions about how natural selection works and even what species are!  However, it’s often unclear what’s really at issue in these questions, which is where philosophy can help.  This course will discuss some of the foundational questions of current biology (units of selection, adaptationism, species), and clarify several contemporary debates (creationism, nature-versus-nurture, sociobiology, and the human genome project).   We’ll focus mostly on evolutionary biology and how it applies to human beings.  A background in biology is not required.

 

 

 

Second Session

 

Life and Death

V83.0017-001

Ryan Preston

Second Session/1:30-3:05

 

This course will examine topics concerning the meaning and value of human life, the value of death, and the significance death should have for the living of one's life.  We will also explore related issues in applied ethics, including the ethics of war and our obligations to people in Third World nations.  Among the authors whose work we will discuss are Frankl, Nagel, Tolstoy, Velleman, and Williams.

 

 

History of Modern Philosophy

V83.0021-001

Karl Schafer/Anne Barnhill

Second Session/1:30-3:05

 

The course provides an introduction to central themes in Modern Philosophy, focusing on the writings of Descartes, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume and Kant.  Some issues that are likely to be discussed include skepticism and the limits of human knowledge, the existence of God (and other beings), free will, the relationship between mind and body, the nature of consciousness, and the self.

 

No background knowledge of philosophy is required for this course.

 

 

Ethics

V83.0040-002

Peter Graham

Second Session/6:00-7:35

 

This course will be an examination of central topics in moral philosophy. Among the questions we will consider are: Is pleasure the only ultimate good? In what does a person's well-being consist? What makes an action right or wrong, and to what extent is the rightness of an action determined by its consequences? What are the roles of harm and consent in the determination of the rightness of an action?

 

 

Philosophical Perspectives on Feminism and Gender
V83.0055-001

Anne Barnhill/Liz Vlahos

Second Session/3:30-5:05

 

In this course, we will investigate contemporary feminism, both as a political movement and as a collection of theoretical perspectives, through the exploration of a number of pertinent topics.  These topics will likely include reproductive rights, pornography, violence against women, motherhood, transgender and transsexual identities, and the relationship between sexism and racism.  We will examine the theoretical perspectives as found in academic writing on these issues, as well as their application to images of women in popular culture: in novels (such as Kate Chopin's “The Awakening”), in film (such as “Boys Don't Cry”) and television (such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).  Thus, we will examine both explicitly philosophical perspectives--that is, the perspectives of writers who are identified as philosophers--as well as perspectives that, though not obviously identifiable as philosophical perspectives, nonetheless express or presuppose theoretical positions, and thus are usefully illuminated by philosophical analysis.  No background knowledge of philosophy or feminist theory is required for this course. 

 

 

Logic

V83.0070-002

Matthew Kotzen

Second Session/6:00-7:35

 

An introduction to the basic techniques of propositional and predicate logic.  The students will learn how to translate arguments from ordinary language into formal logic, how to construct derivations within a formal system, and how to ascertain validity using truth-tables or models.  No previous experience with philosophy or logic will be presupposed.

 

 

Belief, Truth and Knowledge

V83.0076-001

Peter Kung/Greg Epstein

Second Session/3:30-5:05

 

We often pose questions — e.g., What percentage of Iraq is Kurdish? Will the Sixers win tonight? 68+57=? — and take ourselves to know the answers, or to have rational opinions, or to have good evidence for our views. Rather than answer these questions directly, we will take a step back and investigate the nature of evidence, and what it is to know something, or to be rational. The course will begin by considering some well-known skeptical challenges to much of what ordinarily take ourselves to know and/or have justified beliefs about. For instance, some have thought that our apparent inability to rule out the sort of scenario described in the movie The Matrix, shows that we don't know (or even have rational views about) anything in our surroundings. We will then look at a number of related questions concerning the structure and nature of knowledge and justification. Does knowledge or justification have to rest on foundations? Is the standard for what counts as knowing or being justified higher in, say, the courtroom or epistemology classroom than in more normal contexts? To know or to be justified in believing something, do you always have to be in a position to say how you know or what your grounds are?

 

 

Philosophy of Mind

V83.0080-001

Declan Smithies

Second Session/11:30-1:05

 

This course will focus on the nature of psychological explanations. We will consider not only ordinary, commonsense psychological explanations, but also the kinds of explanations provided by scientific, information-processing psychology, and the relationships between them. Some of the topics that we will cover include functionalism, the computer model of the mind, the language of thought hypothesis, tacit knowledge, consciousness, attention and rationality.