Fall 2019 Upper Level Courses

PHL 245: Writing Philosophy

WF 10:05am - 11:25am - Dr. Gaile Pohlhaus Jr.

This course will explore and practice the reading, writing, and reasoning skills necessary for philosophy majors in achieving the successful presentation of philosophical ideas in written work. Students will practice writing oriented toward both specialized (philosophically experienced and disciplinarily appropriate) and non-specialized (non-philosophical) audiences.

PHL 265: Confronting Death

T R 10:05am - 11:25am – Dr. Suzanne McCullagh

This course begins by considering the significance of death to human life, specifically in terms of the relationship of the individual towards their own death. Is death always an evil? Is death meaningless? Is it because we die that we are able to live well? We will then turn to literature on grief and mourning to consider the significance of the death of others (friends, family, and compatriots) to one’s life and to the constitution of one’s identity. While the first part of the course will focus exclusively on human death, the second part of the course will consider whether or not some of the ways of thinking about human death also apply to nonhuman deaths. Here, we will explore literature on animal mourning practices, the death of languages, and species extinction. Lastly, we will consider contemporary arguments that the extinction of the human species is being hastened by anthropogenic climate change and consider the consequences of this for thinking the relationship between death and the meaning of human life. In exploring ideas about death we will engage with philosophy, film, poetry, and literature.

PHL 273: Formal Logic

MWF 10:05am - 11:20am - Dr. Michael Hicks

This course will focus on the patterns of reasoning that characterize good arguments. Since it is a course in formal logic, we are primarily concerned with understanding good in terms of logical validity. A valid argument is one where if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. In other words, if the premises are true the conclusion is necessarily true. We will begin the course by developing an understanding of why this is necessary and then learning the tools that enable us to focus on the formal dimensions of arguments. One of these tools is symbolization, the translation of sentences into symbols so that we can focus on the form of arguments (rather than their content). A major aspect of this course will be working with symbols, argument forms, and rules in doing proofs to show the validity of arguments.

PHL 301: Ancient Philosophy

TR 10:05am - 11:55am – Dr. Pascal Massie

To be concerned with ancient Greek philosophy is to be concerned with philosophy’s beginning. It is commonly acknowledged that philosophy, as it developed in the Western tradition, originated in Greece, about 2,400 years ago. Our task, however, is to move beyond this commonplace in order to think about the problem raised by the ascription of such a beginning. The Greeks themselves understood the beginning as archē. In this sense, a beginning is not a starting point left behind in subsequent developments, nor does it refer to some archaic, primitive or outdated stage of thought; rather, archē constitutes the living source, the basis, and the guiding principle that endures throughout what has grown out of it. Thus, to study ancient philosophy is to be concerned with what initially and still today motivates philosophy.

The leading question throughout this course will be: ‘what is philosophy?’ In order to articulate it, we will begin with the Pre-Socratic conception of the cosmos and being raised by Parmenides and Heraclitus in particular; then, we will focus on the works of Plato and Aristotle (the main part of the semester) and conclude with a representative text from the Hellenistic period (Epicureanism, Stoicism or Skepticism).

PHL 312: Contemporary Moral Problems

MWF 2:50pm – 4:05pm – Dr. Benjamin Rossi

Is torture ever morally permissible? How about abortion? Capital punishment? Is health care really a moral right? Is there anything morally wrong with using drugs? Are we permitted, or even obligated, to use rapidly advancing genetic technologies to "enhance" our children? This course will explore, topically and in-depth, a range of problems in contemporary moral philosophy. Many people have beliefs about these issues, but it can be difficult for individuals to subject their beliefs to rational assessment. The goal of this course is to rationally engage with, and acquire a better understanding of, both sides of these challenging debates. In addition, wrestling with these practical issues will help students gain a deeper understanding of moral theory.

PHL 335: Philosophy of Law
PHL 335H: Philosophy of Law (Honors) MWF 1:15pm-2:30pm

MWF 11:40am - 12:55pm – Dr. Christopher King

It is often said that constitutional democratic societies are unique insofar as they rule themselves by law. Yet, such societies manifest deep conflicts about which laws are correct, what their guiding constitutional laws mean, and whether or not they have a duty to obey them. In short, citizens do not agree about what the laws should be or what gives them authority and legitimacy. Philosophers and theorists have tried to make these disputes tractable by addressing very basic questions like “What is a law?” or “What is the basis for a so called ‘legal system?” This course in the philosophy of law aims to shed light on the more evident conflicts by shedding light on the nature and content of law, the relationship(s) between law and morality, problems of constitutional interpretation, the nature of rights, and the source(s) of legal authority. We will examine the main theoretical proposals on these topics and we will examine and practice instances of legal reasoning in applying them.

PHL 373: Symbolic Logic

MWF 11:40am - 12:55pm – Dr. Michael Hicks

This course is an examination of the acceptability and usefulness of various logical systems, with attention to the question what it could mean to criticize or think about logic itself. We'll focus especially on first order predicate logic, and conclude with an outline of Godel's first incompleteness theorem. (Though this course does not have official prerequisites, students who have not taken PHL 273 are advised to consult with Prof. Hicks before registering.)

PHL 410T: Time and Temporality in Philosophy, Literature and the Arts (Cross-listed with FRE410T)

MW 1:15pm - 2:35pm  – Dr. Elaine Miller and Dr. Jonathan Strauss

Humans' relation to time is one of their defining characteristics – the facts that we have a concept of time, that we constantly think in and of time, negotiate with it, worry about, and try to manipulate it. But, as St. Augustine wrote around 400 CE, though we speak of time with the utmost familiarity, if we begin to really think about it, it is very difficult to express exactly what time is. We may describe time as the measure of continuity or change across a linear sequence of instants, but this definition cannot capture the ways in which human consciousness easily and non-linearly sweeps from past to future and back again. Past memories and future desires constantly interrupt consciousness of the present, sometimes called up intentionally, and at other times erupting involuntarily. And to the extent that our experience of time is plastic, to the extent that it is a construction of our perception and thought, it is malleable, aesthetic, and artistic. Time is also, however, a commodity, something we constantly trade, exploit, and accumulate. Unequally distributed, whether in the availability of free time, in life spans, or in prison sentences, time is deeply implicated in social differences, oppressions, and injustices. This course will consider philosophical, literary, and aesthetic approaches to the question of time and temporality.

PHL 420D/520D: Philosophy of Action

T R 5:00pm - 6:50pm – Dr. Facundo Alonso

In this course we will reflect on some basic philosophical questions about agency. These include: What is it for one to be an agent? What is it to act intentionally? What is it to act for a reason? Are the reasons for which one acts causes of one’s action? What is intention? Is intention a special kind of belief? What kind of knowledge, if any, does one have of one’s own actions? What conditions must one’s intentions and actions meet in order to be rational? What does the study of intention tell us about the relation between practical and theoretical rationality? What is weakness of the will? What is it for one to be an autonomous or self-governing agent? Is autonomous agency a condition for moral responsibility? The aim of this course is to introduce students to basic philosophical questions about agency and to recent debates on the topic.

PHL 440A/540A: Seminar in Modern Philosophy - Descartes and Spinoza (Transcendence and Immanence)

T R 2:50pm-4:40pm – Dr. Keith Fennen

This course will focus on transcendence and immanence in the works of Descartes and Spinoza. As a way into these themes, the course will begin by investigating Descartes’ remarks on the creation of the eternal truths and the implications his position has for how to approach his corpus and for topics such as agency, materiality, and to a degree political association. We will then turn to Spinoza and consider how he takes over and augments Cartesian thought. Our aim is to see how such changes affect not only his position on transcendence and immanence but also the themes stated above.  Interwoven throughout the semester will be readings from several 20th century and contemporary figures.

PHL 450B/550B: Philosophy of Disability

W 2:50pm-6:10pm – Dr. Gaile Pohlhaus Jr.

This seminar will examine work in the fairly recent and growing field of philosophy of disability. In particular, work in this field challenges assumptions by considering disability as a central human experience. Key themes that will be covered in the course include: the social model versus the medical model of disability, definitions of impairment, disability, and well-being, disability as a social position that intersects with other social positions such as race, gender, and class, challenges to the imperative to cure, and epistemic questions that arise with respect to cognitive and mental disability.

PHL 620C: Seminar in Ancient Philosophy: Aristotle Metaphysics

MW 11:40am-1:30pm – Dr. Pascal Massie

“There is a science that studies being qua being, and also the properties of being in its own right. It is not the same as any of the so-called special sciences” (Metaphysics IV, 1003a1-3).

When Aristotle articulated the central question of the group of writings we know as his Metaphysics, he said that the question concerning being would never cease to raise itself. The science that is concerned with this question he called “first philosophy” (by which he meant philosophy properly speaking) but it came to be known as “metaphysics.”

In our time, the question of being is for the most part hidden. The purpose of this course is to take Aristotle’s work as our guide in order to raise it anew. To do so we will focus on the basic concepts of Aristotle’s ontology (e.g., substance, form, end, essence, potentiality and actuality, nature, and principle). This will lead us to consider: logic, ontology, theology, epistemology, and philosophy of language.

To understand Aristotle’s project, we will begin with the Categories and De interpretatione. Although placed among his logical works, these treatises are concerned with a general account of the things that are (to onta). In addition to the Metaphysics, we will also read sections of the Physics, Generation and Corruption, and take into account some major interpretations of Aristotle (e.g., Avicenna, Aquinas, and Heidegger).

Other Available Courses

PHL 103: Society and The Individual

PHL 105: Theories of Human Nature

PHL 131: Introduction to Ethics

Honors Courses

PHL 105H: Theories of Human Nature

PHL 131H: Introduction to Ethics

PHL 335H: Philosophy of Law