Fall 2022 Courses

PHL 245: Writing Philosophy

TR 10:05am -- 11:25am - Dr. Keith Fennen

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 that is oriented toward both specialized (philosophically experienced and disciplinarily appropriate) and non-specialized (non-philosophical) audiences. 


PHL 273: Formal Logic

MWF 1:15pm – 2:30pm – Dr. Michael Hicks 

It is tempting to characterize a really good argument this way: if you accept its premises you must accept its conclusion. This course begins by analyzing this “must”—in what sense can one be logically compelled? What is it for an argument to be valid? A simple trick called “formalization” allows us to focus on certain structural features that are often relevant to the validity of an argument. In this course, we consider two formalizations, sentential logic and a first-order quantification-theory that builds on it, and figure out how to use them to show the validity of arguments. The primary task will be to master these mathematical representations of argument. As such this class is very different from other philosophy classes: homework will often be pseudo-mathematical, and there is very little writing. (Philosophy and Law minor)


PHL 301: Ancient Philosophy

TR 11:40am – 1:30pm – 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is not a starting point left behind in subsequent developments, nor does it refer to some archaic, primitive or outdated stage of thought; rather, archē constitutes the living source and guiding principle that endures throughout what has grown out of it.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 310S: Philosophy of Race

TR 1:15pm – 2:35pm – Dr. Tony Chackal

This course will approach the subject of race through a philosophical lens. We first examine racial formation, i.e., how the concepts of racism and race are socially constructed and metaphysically theorized. From there we explore how metaphysical differences posited across races produced differences in moral status and epistemology. Conception affects perception, which affects moral treatment. We will examine the nature of racism cast as a political system of white supremacy, examining how the social contract operated as a different, racial one for nonwhites, and enabled institutional advantages of privilege for whites. We then examine the nature of racial identity, particularly at the intersections of gender and class, including the meaning of African and Africanism. We move to discuss how certain “isms of domination” are mutually constitutive, particularly sexism and racism and how eradicating one must accompany eradicating the other. We then discuss issues of indigenous identity and sovereignty.


PHL 311: Ethical Theory

MWF 10:05am – 11:20am – Dr. Facundo Alonso

In this course we will (a) focus on central general questions in normative ethics (What do we have reason to promote or pursue? What are our moral obligations?), (b) investigate the concepts such questions presuppose (What is a normative reason for action? What is it to be morally obligated?), and (c) apply such concepts to the discussion of specific moral problems –e.g., the moral significance of intention, promissory obligation, implicit bias, consent. Special attention will be paid to attempts to integrate the cited concerns in normative ethics and metaethics into a coherent systematic view.


PHL 321: Problems of Metaphysics and Knowledge

MW 11:40am – 1:00pm – Dr. Pascal Massie

This class offers a critical examination of the nature of reality and our knowledge of it. Metaphysics investigates the most basic and general features of reality. Aristotle called this inquiry, the study of being qua being, “first philosophy” by which he meant: philosophy properly speaking. In this course we will approach metaphysics from this general perspective then shift to some more specific issues: freedom and determinism, time, change and identity, possibility and actuality, universals.

Epistemology is concerned with the nature and extent of our knowledge of the world. As such it is concerned with the following questions: what are the necessary conditions of knowledge? What are its sources, its structure, and its limit? What justifies a belief? Sample epistemological topics include knowledge and opinion, truth, skepticism, perception, and justification.


PHL 335: Philosophy of Law

MW 1:15pm - 3:05pm – Dr. Chris King

It is often said that constitutional democratic societies are unique insofar as they are ruled by laws, not by persons. Yet such societies manifest deep conflicts motivated by differing views about morality, religion, the significance of economics, et. al. From these conflicts stem disputes about the nature of law, its proper interpretation, the relation between morality and law, the conditions under which it is legitimate, and whether there is a duty to obey. This course in the philosophy of law aims to discuss ways in which philosophers have tried to make these conflicts tractable by shedding light on the nature and content of law, the relationship(s) between law and morality, problems of constitutional interpretation, and the nature of rights. We will examine the main theoretical proposals on these topics, and we will practice applying them to particular cases. (Ethics, Society, and Culture minor; Philosophy and Law minor)


PHL 410J/510J: Philosophy of the Body

T 2:50pm – 6:25pm – Dr. Elaine Miller

How is the self related to the body? Is a body something we have, or something we are? Can philosophical inquiry be rooted in first-person, embodied, lived experience? What importance does the body have for accounts of human nature and history? In this class, we will read classical texts from phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty) as well as recent texts on critical phenomenology (Ahmed, Guenther, Ortega, Salamon), inquiring into the possibilities (and failures) of this kind of philosophy both in describing human experience in general and in accounting for historically marginalized, stigmatized, and oppressed experiences of embodiment.


PHL 440K/540K: Kant

Thurs 2:50pm – 6:25pm – Dr. Keith Fennen

It’s hard to overstate Kant’s influence on philosophy. In fact, much of 19th and 20th century philosophy cannot be understood unless it’s viewed against the background of Kant. This course will be a careful reading of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. We will aim to understand the problems that Kant seeks to address and how his “transcendental idealism” is supposed to resolve these problems. Topics will include but are not limited to: The nature of space and time, the constitution of experience, the relationship between self-knowledge and knowledge of objects, free will and determinism, the relationship between appearance and reality, and the possibility of metaphysics. Reading the entire Critique in a single semester isn’t easy. We will balance working through the entire book, so that we can see Kant’s unified and complex argument, and an in-depth analysis and discussion of key sections and arguments.


PHL 494/594: Philosophy of Mind

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

This is an advanced seminar in the philosophy of mind, centered around the guiding question: why is the mind of such perennial interest? (Why, for instance, not the foot, or digestion?) Part of the answer has to do with perplexities involved in thinking about mind, including the nature of consciousness, the relationship between mind and body, personal identity, the possibility of empirical knowledge, freedom of the will, the status of non-human intelligence, and the role of language in thought. Guided in part by critical reading of a contemporary classic--John McDowell's 1994 Mind and World--we will consider all of these topics over the course of the semester. McDowell blends themes from Wittgenstein, Kant, Gadamer, and Aristotle, to conceive mindedness as a reflection of our “second nature” and thus as philosophically unproblematic. In addition to evaluating McDowell's specific arguments, we will ask whether his strategy can address everything that matters about the mind.

PHL 496/596: Epistemology

W 2:50pm – 6:25pm – Dr. Gaile Pohlhaus, Jr.

This course will focus on critical epistemology, which studies the social and political aspects of knowing. It differs from traditional epistemology insofar as it questions the individualist approach often found in traditional theories of knowing and it differs from contemporary analytic social epistemology insofar as it begins investigation from the standpoint of knowers who are disempowered and oppressed. We will start the course with some texts that have shaped the field in order to ground ourselves in the literature and then look at some current work taking place in what is a robust and vibrant conversation among epistemologists about the politics of knowing and knowledge production.