Department of Philosophy


Spring 2021

Upper Division

Table of courses, times, days and faculty for upper division
Course Number Course Title Instructor Day Time
PHIL 2970 Truth, Fiction, and Bullshit: Thinking carefully and critically about much that we hear and read requires both skill and character. Many of those skills we will develop in this class, and we will think about the traits of character important for thinking critically. Whether you have or ever develop those traits is up to you. Along the way we will discuss several relevant concepts about which even very educated people are often confused -- e.g., the relationships between fact, opinion, truth; the relationship between lying and bullshitting; the relationship between fiction and falsehood. As we will see, even truthful information will often leave less us well informed, whereas fiction can often be revealing. Watkins TR 9:30
PHIL 3050 Aesthetics: Engagements with aesthetic value pervade human life. We choose to wear these shoes because they beautifully match the pants; we invest money and time to travel to Yosemite or Rome on account of their beauty; we spend time and mental energy reading all of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment on account of its excellence, or recommend Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Marriage Story, as a deep and moving film about divorce. We take such aesthetic engagements to matter to us so much that it’s often jarring to learn that our best friend hates the album we love most. Engagements with aesthetic value appear to be so significant to our lives that a life without any of them seems virtually unrecognizably human. But why is that so? What is aesthetic value and why does it matter to us, human beings? The course is dedicated to exploring these questions, by reading historical and contemporary, philosophical and literary texts on the nature of aesthetic value and its role in our individual lives and social communities.  Gorodeisky TR 2:00
PHIL 3110 Symbolic Logic: This course is an introduction to the tools of symbolic logic, with the goal of using them to evaluate arguments. We will cover the syntax and semantics of truth-functional and first-order logic, and develop proof systems for both. This will give us the tools to symbolize natural language arguments in both formal languages, assess arguments for validity, and give deductive proofs. Overall, we will be developing resources to think precisely about what makes for good and bad reasoning, in both everyday and philosophical contexts. This is the required logic class for all philosophy or law and justice majors. Rudolph MWF 2:00
PHIL 3340 Early Modern Philosophy: The 17th and 18th centuries were a pivotal era in the history of Western philosophy, as developments in the Scientific Revolution – along with the new cultural pluralism fostered, in different ways, by the Renaissance, the Reformation, the dissemination of printing technology, and the European discovery of the New World – led both to a sense of anxiety and skepticism with regard to traditional claims to knowledge, and to an enthusiastic flowering of intellectual creativity and exploration.           

As is customary in courses on “early modern philosophy,” we will focus on issues in metaphysics and epistemology, not value theory (although some metaphysical issues, such as the nature of responsible agency and the theological problem of evil, will inevitably draw in ethical considerations as well).  We will think with and through the arguments of major historical thinkers of this period, on such topics as:  the nature and possibility of knowledge; the reliability of, and relation between, reason and sense-perception; the nature of sense-perception (direct or indirect?) and of perceptible objects (objective or subjective?); the existence and nature of God; the nature of the soul or self and its relation to the body; the problem of free will and determinism; the nature of space, time, matter, and motion (e.g., objective or subjective? relative or absolute? infinite or finite? infinitely divisible or only finitely so?); the persistence of identity (of persons and other things) over time; the nature of causality; the structure of thought; empiricism vs. rationalism; and the problem of induction.           

Readings will include selections from such works as René Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy and Passions of the Soul;  Thomas Hobbes’s Of Liberty and Necessity; Nicolas Malebranche’s Search After Truth; Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order (which is mostly not about ethics); John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Catherine Trotter-Cockburn’s Defense of Mr. Locke’s Essay; Gottfried Leibniz’s Discourse on Metaphysics, Monadology, and New Essays on Human Understanding;  George Berkeley’s Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous; David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; Mary Shepherd’s Essays on the Perception of an External Universe and Essay on the Relation of Cause and Effect; George Campbell’s Dissertation on Miracles; Thomas Reid’s Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man and Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind; and Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Come Forward As Science

Long MWF 1:00
PHIL 3500 Epistemology: Much of what we know is known on the basis of perceptual experience, whether our own or that of others.  However, on philosophical reflection it can seem impossible that we can gain knowledge, or even reasonable belief, about the world around us in this way.  What is remarkable about these reflections is that they seem perfectly natural and utterly compelling, and yet we also know that the skeptical conclusions they arrive at cannot be right.  We will study these skeptical arguments and assess the adequacy of the responses that have been made to them.  Responding to skeptical arguments requires addressing a host of fundamental questions revolving around how we should understand the nature of experience, thought, reality and their interrelations - questions like: what are the immediate objects of perceptual experience?  What is knowledge?  And how can we explain its possibility?  What is the relation between experience and belief?  What explains our ability to think about objects in our environment?  What explains the special first-person authority we have with regard to our own mental states?  How does first-person authority bear on what it is to have knowledge of the mental states of other selves?  What is the basis of our reliance on the word of others?  We will take up these, and other, questions by reading works by, among others, J. L. Austin, J. J. Valberg, Barry Stroud, P. F. Strawson, Donald Davidson, John McDowell, Charles Travis, Gilbert Ryle, and Richard Moran.   Hamawaki TR 11:00
PHIL 3550

Philosophy of Language: Philosophers dating back to Plato have been interested in language and how it works. However, since the turn of the twentieth century, the analysis of language has occupied a central place in philosophy. This intense work in philosophy of language has given rise to new fields, like that of formal semantics. In this class, we will read and discuss some of the foundational papers from the main figures in philosophy of language, i.e. Frege, Russell, Quine, Kripke, Kaplan and Donnellan, with a special focus on how ordinary proper names like “John” and quantifier phrases like “a philosopher”, “every philosopher,” “The philosopher drinking a martini” work. 

Capuano MWF 11:00
PHIL 3640 Philosophy of Law: This course aims to provide a broad survey of the philosophy of law.  We will be concerned with foundational issues such as the nature of law, its relationship to morality and the special character of legal reasoning.  We will also examine the philosophical underpinning of specific areas of the law: property, torts, crimes, contracts and constitutional law.   Marcus TR 12:30
PHIL 3970

Issues in Applied Ethics: In this class, after a brief recap of the main philosophical position in ethics, we will work on several applied cases. Students will analyze the central ethical tensions of each case, crafting arguments and illustrations to support their claims about what ethical duties the relevant parties face, who is to praise or to blame morally for actions described in the case, and how relevant ethical goods such as utility, justice, autonomy, and integrity might be maximized.

Capuano MWF 12:00
PHIL 4970 Jane Austen and the Grammar of Moral Life: This course will read features several of Austen's novels.  We will read them in concert with some Aristotle, some Aquinas, some Samuel Johnson, and some of the best of Austen criticism, particularly Stuart Tave's *Some Words of Jane Austen*.  Our focus will be on the dialectical presentation of the moral life in Austen's novels.   Jolley MWF 10:00

Philosophy Course Listing: AU Bulletin

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Last Updated: October 15, 2020