Philosophy Department

Undergraduate Courses Fall 2001



Non-Major Introductory Courses



Introduction to Philosophy

TR 9:30-10:45 AM

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 and Society

TR 3:30-4:45 PM

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.



Group I: History of Philosophy



History of Ancient Philosophy

MW 9:30-10:45 AM

Instructor to be announced


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



Group II: Ethics, Value, and Society




MW 3:30-4:45 PM

James Dwyer


We will begin the course by discussing some ethical problems that we encounter as citizens and human beings.  Then we will consider philosophical approaches to ethical problems.  We will discuss and evaluate deontological theories, utilitarianism, existentialism, and pragmatism.  Readings will include Plato, Mill, Rawls, Dewey, Sartre, and Foucault.  Course work will include two midterm exams, a term paper, and a final exam.



War and Morality

TR 9:30-10:45 AM

Robert Gurland


This class will begin by examining some problems in just war theory -- when it is morally permissible to begin war, in what ways it is morally permissible to conduct it, what we may do to avoid it. Specific topics may include the doctrine of proportionality in the use of force, the distinction between innocents and combatants, foreseeing versus intending harm, use of threats as deterrents, duties of soldiers. Then we will consider some particular moral problems raised by the Holocaust in World War II. Readings will be drawn from classical and contemporary sources.



Group III: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Mind, Language, and Logic




TR 2:00-3:15 PM

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.



Set Theory

MW 12:30-1:45 PM

Kit Fine


This course is an introduction to the fundamentals of set theory. 


Topics to be covered will include: the standard axioms of set theory; the basic operations on sets (union, intersection, power set etc); the theory of ordinal and cardinal numbers (basic properties, transfinite induction, ordinal and cardinal arithmetic); the axiom of choice and its

equivalents; the cumulative hierarchy; and (if there is time) large cardinals and the proofs of independence. 




TR 3:30-4:45 PM

Roger White


We will examine a number of classic metaphysical questions about the nature of ourselves and our place in the universe. Questions to be considered include, Do objects exist outside of our minds, and to what extent are their features mind-independent? Can our nature be fully described and explained in purely physical terms? Could you survive a brain transplant, the transfer of your thoughts and memories to another brain, or destruction of your brain and body and creation of a perfect replica? Are our actions causally determined like the rest of nature, and if so, does this have implications for our responsibilities and attitude to life? Do we occupy any special place in the universe? Is our existence an accident, or were we meant to be here?



Philosophy of Language

MW 11:00-12:15PM

Instructor To Be Announced


Examines various philosophical and psychological approaches to language and meaning and their consequences for traditional philosophical problems in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.  Discusses primarily 20th Century authors including Russell, Wittgenstein, and Quine.



Philosophy of Biology

TR 11:00-12:15 PM

John Richardson

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.




Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology

TR 2:00-3:15 PM

Hartry Field


This course will deal with the idea that for certain questions, there is no uniquely correct answer: conflicting answers are equally good, there is no fact of the matter as to which is right.  We will discuss a number of examples where this seems plausible, ranging from the seemingly trivial case of the application of vague terms to irresolvable disputes about taste and morality; and we will also discuss some arguments that seem to show that the idea makes no sense.



Topics in Language and Mind

R 3:30-6:00 PM

Paul Boghossian


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 whether knowledge and truth are objective? How do we tell whether or not they are? Assigned authors will include Plato, Kant, Nagel, Kuhn and others. Requirements for the course will include two medium-length papers.




Honors Seminar

T 5:00-6:30 PM

Peter Unger