Descriptions - Spring 2020

UK Department of Philosophy

Course Descriptions for Spring 2020
 
 
PHI 100-001-004   Introduction to Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality-Wallace  
TR  2:00-2:50
 
These words you are reading are not real. You have no free will. There are no tables or chairs. You do not know you have hands. You are a ghost in a machine. Everyone around you is a robot. You do not exist. But don't worry: these words you are reading are not real.
 
Think some of these claims are false? Me, too. But which ones and why? In this course, we will investigate some big questions about the nature of the world around us and our knowledge of it. We will learn how to analyze arguments both for and against claims we accept or reject, and to recognize when we might change or withhold our beliefs in light of new reasons.
 
 
PHI 205-001 Food Ethics –Sandmeyer   MWF   10:00-10:50
 
Students will analyze different philosophical arguments relevant to individual food choice, e.g., vegetarianism, veganism, Kashrut, Halal, freeganism, localvorism, etc. At the systems level, we will study what makes up a food system locally, regionally, and globally as we examine the socio-political and cultural determinants underlying the production, distribution, and consumption of “food.” So, this course gives students the resources necessary to think ethically about their own food choices in the context of socio-economically defined food systems. More generally, this course equips students with the analytical skills necessary to recognize and assess philosophical arguments.  
 
This course fulfills the UK General Education Requirement:  Community, Culture and Citizenship in the USA.
 
 
 
PHI 245-001 Introduction to Philosophy of Religion – Staff  TR   9:30-10:45
 
What does it mean to believe in God?  What are the challenges to such belief?  Is religious belief still credible in light of challenges such as the rise of modern science, the problem of evil, and the plurality of world religions? 
 
This course will examine some of the best contemporary thinking on these topics.  We will begin with selections from sacred texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, and the Qu’ran.  We will then proceed to a variety of contemporary readings on topics such as the being or non-being and nature of God; the problem of evil; the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom; the nature of the afterlife; evolution and creation; and the plurality of world religions.
 
There are no prerequisites for this course, and no prior knowledge of philosophy is required.
 
 
 
 
PHI 260-001 History of Philosophy I:  From Greek Beginnings to the Middle Ages - Rabinoff
                               MWF  11:00-11:50
This course is a study of the early history of philosophy. We will study the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, and other thinkers whose ideas have shaped our understanding of ourselves and our world. These thinkers addressed questions and themes of abiding importance and relevance concerning human life, reality, knowledge, morality, and politics. In this course, we will focus on the themes of love, friendship, knowledge, and our place in the world. Among the questions we will address are: what is the nature of love? Does love give us insight into the world around us or does it blind us and obscure our reason? Is it possible to know that the world around us is as it appears or is there a limit to what we can know? How, more generally, do knowledge and emotion interact? Ancient and medieval philosophers provide uniquely fruitful insights into these matters, some that are deeply familiar because they continue to inform modern perspectives, and some that are deeply challenging and new. In both cases, we will learn something both about ancient ideas and about our own.
 
PHI 270-001 History of Philosophy II: From the Renaissance to the Present Era –Staff             
                          TR  11:00-12:15
 
This course is an introduction to modern philosophy (i.e. the philosophy of the 16th to the 18th Centuries) and will feature the usual suspects: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz on the rationalist side; Locke and Hume on the empiricist side. We will end by reading a substantial portion of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. The emphasis of this course will be on understanding the peculiar nature of the idea that our relation to the world is primarily one of (theoretical) knowledge rather than that of having to act in the world, i.e. that knowledge somehow precedes action rather than knowledge is subordinated to what needs to be done. Accordingly, we will spend quite a bit of time discussing the implications of the philosophies we are considering on the notion of freedom. What would it mean to claim that knowledge of how the world is can make us free, for instance; or what does it mean to claim, as Hume does, that reason is the slave of the passions? 
 
 
PHI 300-001 Special Topics-A Philosopher’s Guide to Conspiracy Theories – 
                                                             Cunningham     TR  2:00-3:15
 
This course is designed as an introduction to philosophical inquiry by way of conspiracy theories. “A Philosopher’s guide to Conspiracy Theories” will aim to equip students with the tools they need to seek out the truth in a “post-truth” world.  The course will include a survey of the basics of epistemology (the study of knowledge), philosophical argumentation, and good research practices.
 
We will focus on improving students’ skills in three practical areas:
1. Research: students will learn good practices of research, which apply to everything from popular news articles to advanced works of scholarship.  Students will receive constant coaching on their research from both the instructor, and members of the staff of W. T. Young Library
2. Analytical Writing: students will receive instruction in good writing. Through weekly practice, students will develop skills in writing concise analyses and evaluations of complex texts, including the ability to distill the main argument of the text into a few short sentences.
3. Argumentation: students will gain a basic introduction to philosophical argumentation.  Through practice over the course of the semester, students will be able to construct, analyze and evaluate sophisticated arguments.
As a class we w address two major conspiracy theories:  the Flat Earth theory and Holocaust Denial.  In conjunction with each conspiracy theory, the class will read pivotal thinker from the history of philosophy who ask similar questions in different ways.  Over the course of the semester, we will address the following questions:
(How) do my beliefs affect others?
What is an echo chamber and how is it similar to the psychological practices of cult leaders?
What is required for thorough testing/research on a claim?
What is a conspiracy theory?
Is the world around me exactly as it appears?
Can I truly know anything about the past?
How can I question “facts” in a sophisticated, logically responsible way?
 
 
PHI 305-001   Healthcare Ethics – Staff   TR   12:30-1:45pm 
PHI 305-002   Healthcare Ethics -  Staff   MWF   11:00-11:50 
PHI 305-003   Healthcare Ethics – Staff   MWF   10:00-10:50  
PHI 305-004   Healthcare Ethics – Staff   TR   9:30-10:45
 
In this course, students will study a number of ethical issues commonly faced by people working in health care, including related areas of research.  The course will cover a number of professional issues, such as informed consent, decision-making for incompetent patients, fair access to health care, and an extended treatment of end-of-life issues.  The course will also include a strong emphasis on techniques for carrying on discussions about ethics, both in person and in writing.
 
 
PHI 310-001 Philosophy of Human Nature – Bradshaw   TR   11:00-12:15
 
Have you ever wondered what kind of thing you are? Are you an elaborate machine that responds to environmental stimuli in ways determined by your genetics and upbringing? Are you an animal that happens to have evolved reason, as other animals have evolved the ability to fly or to build nests? Do you have free will, a conscience, and an immortal soul? Or are these simply ideas instilled in you by society or evolution because they have survival value?
We will attempt to consider some of the most prominent answers that have been given to these questions. We will begin with luminaries such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Darwin, and Nietzsche and continue with a range of contemporary views. Along the way we will consider other topics that bear on the fundamental question of human identity, such as the nature of morality, the methods and limitations of science, and the importance (or lack of it) of social categories such as race, gender, and ethnicity. As always in philosophy, the value of our inquiry will lie not just in whatever answers we may find, but in learning to think about difficult and important questions with depth and rigor.
 
PHI 310-002 Philosophy of Human Nature - Staff    MWF   9:00-9:50
 
A course introducing philosophy at the upper division level which studies various issues involved in analyzing what it means to be human, in the interest of developing a coherent conception of man.  Answers will be sought to questions like these: Is there a human nature?  What would differentiate the properly human from the nonhuman?  What kind of relations tie a human being to environment, society, and history?
 
This course fulfills the UK General Education Requirement: Intellectual Inquiry in the Humanities.
 
 
PHI 315-001 Philosophy and Science Fiction –Staff   MWF   1:00-1:50pm
 
The aim of this course is to address some of the fundamental questions of metaphysics, epistemology and ethics through a comparison of works of philosophy and science fiction.  This course will provide an entrance to the world of philosophy for undergraduates who enjoy this literary genre and desire an opportunity to reflect upon and discuss the issues therein.  
 
 
PHI 317-001 Existentialist Thought and Literature – Staff   MWF  11:00-11:50  
 
This course is a survey of existentialism as a literary movement as well as a philosophical one, with emphasis upon their intersection and interaction. The course will trace the emergence of existentialist themes in modern thought and culture, and will analyze and assess the movements’ continuing significance.
 
 
PHI 330-001 Ethics –Superson  TR   12:30-1:45
 
This course is on theoretical, not applied (e.g., medical, business, professional), ethics.  It deals with some of the main issues in both normative ethics (ethical theory) and metaethics (abstract issues about ethics).  It is designed to give the student the requisite background for advanced study in ethics (i.e., PHI 530).  For this purpose, it is aimed at philosophy majors, though students who want to learn more about theoretical ethics may also be interested.  We will examine some of the following topics:  moral and cultural relativism, subjectivism, the connection between morality and religion, ethical egoism, social contract theory, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, the ethic of care, virtue ethics, moral nihilism, moral skepticism, moral objectivity, and why be moral.
 
TEXTS:  The Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels/Seventh Edition by Stuart Rachels (McGraw Hill, 2012)
Whatever Happened to Good and Evil?, Russ Shafer-Landau (Oxford, 2004)
 
GRADING AND ASSIGNMENTS:  Each student will write three essay-type assignments on assigned topics, each counting for 25% of the final grade.  The remaining 25% will be based on class participation.  Class format will likely be a combination of lecture and some kind of presentation from students (to be decided). 
 
PHI 334-001  Business Ethics -  Staff  MWF  9:00-9:50 
PHI 334-002  Business Ethics -  Staff  MWF  10:00-10:50
 
An introduction to moral problems that arise in contemporary business practice and the ethical frameworks proposed to resolve them.  Topics will include areas such as truth-telling and integrity; social responsibility; property rights and their limitations; and justice in personnel and labor practices.
 
PHI 334-003 Business Ethics – Chambers  TR  11:00-12:15
 
This course is an introduction to business ethics. We will examine some of the ethical issues that arise through commercial activity. We will consider what moral obligations bear on corporations (their purposes and actions), equality in the workplace, and the global market. We will ask questions like: What is the purpose of work? To whom or to what do corporations have duties? Is deception permissible in negotiation? What responsibilities, if any, do business have to addressing the climate for women in the workplace? What obligations do business have to the works and citizens of other countries in which
 
 
PHI 343-001(H)   Asian Philosophy - Sanday  TR   11:00-12:15 
 
 In this course, we will dig into questions of identity and selfhood. By reading major texts from the Hindu tradition, Buddhism (Pali texts), Confucianism, Daoism, and Zen Buddhism, we will sort out what is demanded of us at the level of personal identity, interpersonal experience and obligation, family, politics, all the way out to the ultimate nature of reality. In the process of asking and answering these questions, we will be guided by a couple principles. First, we will pay special attention to the principle of “letting be” (wu-wei, lit. “in the absence of/without doing or exertion”) as it crops up with different inflections in these historical contexts. Second, we will be on the lookout for the ways in which the assumptions of various Asian texts challenge basic Western assumptions, exploring the unfamiliar ideas we encounter both on their own terms but also in light of our own experience. There will be a major project, which will involve producing a podcast in small groups, in which you interview people of your choosing on topics of general importance, such as fitting in, letting go, love, dreams, lying, money, gender, etc., and then relate the testimony of your interviewees to themes we have discussed in class. There will be weekly writing exercises and intensive in-class discussion, placing students in the spotlight as leaders driving class discussion.
 
 
PHI 343-002 Asian Philosophy - Leaman   TR   9:30-10:45   
 
The course on Asian philosophy will concentrate exclusively on issues in Buddhist theory. The range of issues that arise in Buddhist philosophy will be examined, including the attack on the notion of the self, meditation, enlightenment, the role of suffering and importance of compassion. 
 
The course will be assessed through examination, essay and presentation.
 
This course fulfills the UK General Education Requirement:  Global Dynamics
 
 
PHI 380-001 Death, Dying and Quality of Life – Leaman    TR   11:00-12:15
 
One thing we can be sure of is that we are going to die, and there are various ways to understand this fact. This course will examine a range of issues that arise when we reflect on our mortality. We will consider some of the understandings of death in a variety of religious philosophies both Eastern and Western, including immortality, rebirth, the nature of the soul and so on. What attitude should we adopt to death and how far can it be said to be evil? Are suicide, euthanasia and abortion wrong, and in what circumstances is it acceptable to kill someone? Is there are a quality of life so low that it would be better not to be alive, or not to have lived? We shall also examine some of the cultural features of death and dying. The course will be assessed through examination, essay and presentation.
 
 
PHI 380-002 Death, Dying and Quality of Life - Rabinoff    MWF  1:00-1:50
 
A philosophical and interdisciplinary investigation of a cluster of prominent issues about the meaning of life and death, caring for dying persons, and the quality of life of the terminally ill.  Among topics included are: death definitions and criteria; allowing to die versus killing; euthanasia and suicide; life prolongation; ethics of care of the terminally ill; and rights of the dying.
 
 
PHI 393-001 Philosophy of Film – Look   TR   11:00-12:15
 
This course will examine the aesthetics of film from the early 20th Century to the present. Instead of using films to discuss philosophical issues, we will discuss the philosophical issues that film as an aesthetic medium raises. The aesthetic—for us, medium of film— is thus understood as irreducible to the traditional division in philosophy between practical philosophy (ethics, political philosophy) and theoretical philosophy (epistemology, metaphysics). The aesthetic brings with it its own set of rules, chief among them is the idea that its rules cannot be set out in advance of its product. 
 
This course fulfills the UK General Education Requirement:  Arts and Creativity.
 
 
PHI 509-001 Topics in Modern Philosophy: A Survey of Western Marxism
 Farr   TR  2:00-3:15  
 
The objective of this course is to familiarize the student with the thought of one of the most important philosophers and political theorist of the western world (Karl Marx).  Although most people know the name, Karl Marx, many know very little about the content of his philosophy.  Marx’s name is so well known because of the enormous impact that he has had on our social, political, and philosophical landscape.  However, one of the consequences (for better or for worse) of such an impact is a type of confusion produced by a brilliant and creative thinker who opens many paths for further thinking and political as well as philosophical engagement.  
In this course we will focus on the development of what is called “western Marxism” which is more philosophical in nature than Classical Marxism.  Western Marxism (sometimes called Hegelian Marxism) is characterized by its reading of Marx through the lenses of traditional western philosophy.  For example; the problem of consciousness or subjectivity (which in some ways has been the bread and butter of western philosophy) played an important role in this movement whereas in Classical Marxism traditional philosophical questions were minimized.  Classical Marxism is better known in political circles because of its greater emphasis on political activity than philosophical problems.  However, Western Marxism was also concerned itself with political activity but it recognized that political activity should be guided by proper theory.  Also, Western Marxism is guided by what Paul Ricoeur calls a hermeneutics of suspicion.  Marx himself represents a form of the hermeneutics of suspicion but a new form of suspicion arises after Marx when Marxist philosophers have to grapple with resistance to social change by people who would benefit most from social change or revolution.    An engagement with this tradition of Marxist thought might provide us with new possibilities as we attempt to understand contemporary social and political problems.  
 
Western Marxism is a very rich tradition filled with interesting and complicated thinkers that range from structuralists such as Louis Althusser, to Karl Korch, Georg Lukacs, and the Frankfurt Shcool to phenomenological/existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.  Therefore, this course is at best an introduction to a trajectory of thought that cannot possibly be exhausted in a semester or a few years for that matter.  It is my hope that students will develop an appreciation for the complexity and richness of this version of the Marxist tradition.  I hope that this mere introduction will inspire you to continue to engage this rich tradition. 
 
 
PHI 520-001   Symbolic Logic II – Wallace  TR  11:00-12:15
 
This is an advanced course in symbolic logic. The primary aim is to introduce you to non-classical logic, including extensions of classical logic, as well as rival non-bivalent systems. We will begin with a quick review of classical propositional logic, then introduce and explore possible worlds semantics, setting us up to learn various normal and non-normal systems. We will explore systems with truth-value gaps (sentences that are neither true nor false) as well as truth value gluts (sentences that are both true and false). We will delve into meta-theory (soundness and completeness) relevant to the various systems introduced, time permitting. 
 
 
PHI 540-001 Feminist Philosophy –  Superson    TR  9:30-10:45
 
Since roughly the 1980s, feminist philosophers have critiqued traditional philosophy.  In this course, we will study some of the latest critiques that have been offered by feminist philosophers working within the analytic tradition.  The papers we will read aim to show some of the advances that feminism has made on traditional issues in mainstream analytical philosophy, and argue that traditional philosophy ignores feminist insights and critiques of traditional philosophy at its own peril: it remains stagnant and risks leaving out certain groups of people.  The papers cover a multitude of areas in philosophy, including social and political philosophy, normative ethics, virtue theory, metaethics, philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science.
 
Text:  Out from the Shadows:  Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy, eds. Sharon L. Crasnow and Anita M. Superson (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2012).
 
*This course meets the 20th Century Value Theory requirement for graduate students in philosophy.
 
 
PHI 550-001 Philosophical Problems in Knowledge and Reality – Sundell
                                                                    MWF  11:00-11:50
Critical examination of issues regarding the foundations of knowledge, the nature of reality and the relation between the two. Evidence, belief, certainty, perception and justification will be among problems considered. Understandings of truth, existence, causality, freedom, time, space and matter will also be attended to. Prereq: PHI 100, 260, 270, or 350 or the consent of the instructor.  
 
                                
PHI 630-001 Seminar in Value Theory-The Problem with Procreation – Chambers   
                                                                              T   4:30-7:00
Procreation is not like anything else we do to other persons – it results not only in the creation of a new physical being, but also in the creation of a new moral being. In this seminar, we will look at the different philosophical puzzles that arise when we procreate. We will ask: is it possible to harm someone by creating her? Do future persons have moral claims on us? May we shape the persons we create by selecting for certain genes? How do procreative choices affect the parent-child relation? Is a pregnant women making decisions for one person or for two? Do fetuses have any moral claims on their gestational mothers? The seminar will use the case of procreation, and the questions it raises, as an introduction to the landscape of contemporary moral philosophy.
 
 
PHI 700-001 Seminar in Ancient Philosophy: Aristotle’s Metaphysics - Bradshaw  
                                                                                                            R  4:00-6:30
 
Aristotle’s Metaphysics is a book that is rarely read cover to cover. Unlike, say, Plato’s Republic or Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, it has neither narrative unity nor a single continuous line of argument. Many scholars consider it a piece of nachlass stitched together after Aristotle’s death from treatises he wrote for various purposes at various stages in his development. As a result, it tends to be “mined” rather than read, as many of us have often done.
Such a procedure, although it may often be justified, has two disadvantages. First, it prejudges negatively the question of structural unity. Whatever coherence may or may not be present in the Metaphysics, we will certainly not find it if we do not look for it. Second, it creates a gulf between our way of reading Aristotle and that of most of the history of western philosophy. Prior to the 1920’s, it was simply assumed that Aristotle wrote the Metaphysics (as he wrote all of his books) at more or less a single time and with a single overarching purpose in mind. There is some value in approaching it that way today, even if only for the sake of understanding the incredible prestige and influence it had over previous generations.
With these thoughts in mind, we will march through the whole Metaphysics, skipping only the parts that are obviously meant as an appendix (Book V) or repeat earlier material (Book XI). We will also regretfully stop short at the end of Book XII, leaving for future enjoyment Books XIII and XIV. This will enable us to spend the last few weeks looking at some contemporary applications of Aristotle’s metaphysics, so as to get some sense of how this magnificent and complex work continues to influence philosophy today.
                                                                                          
PHI 715-001  Seminar in Recent Philosophy: Reading Marcuse: Reading Hegel, Marx,  and
 Heidegger  – Farr   M  4:30-7:00
 
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was one of the most important members of the Frankfurt School for Social Research and one of the most influential social/political of the 20th century.  Marcuse’s early work assisted Max Horkheimer in laying the philosophical foundation for critical theory. In recent years there has been a worldwide resurgence of interests in Marcuse’s work.  
The purpose of this course is to familiarize the student with the critical theory of Marcuse in its earliest development.  Although Marcuse is known for his unique synthesis of Hegel, Heidegger, Marx, and Freud; we will not deal with Freud in this seminar since Marcuse did not really begin to engage and write on Freud until the 1950s.  In this seminar our focus will be on Marcuse’s quest for and discovery of a philosophical foundation for Marxism (which he thought that he had found in Heidegger).  
Already influenced by Marxism, Marcuse read Heidegger’s Being and Time in 1928.  He was so inspired by this work that he went to Freiburg to study with Husserl and Heidegger in 1928.  Marcuse studied with Heidegger from 1928-1932.  We will study the writings of Marcuse from this period when he was trying to develop what has come to be called “Heideggarian Marxism”.  We will also study his first writings on Marx which were written while studying with Heidegger and Husserl.  We will also study Marcuse’s two books on Hegel.  The first book Hegel’s Ontology and Theory of Historicity was his second dissertation which was written for Heidegger.  In this book we have an interesting synthesis of Hegel, Heidegger, and Dilthey.  We will also study Marcuse’s second book on Hegel “Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory.  This book was instrumental in saving Hegel from the accusation of political conservatism and it traced the history and development of social theory from Hegel to Marx.  
Very little Marcuse scholarship has focused on his early philosophical development.  Understanding Marcuse’s later works is enhanced by engaging his early work.  His later work is the coming to fruition of many of the issues, themes, and problems grappled with in his early work.  Toward the end of the semester we will read some of Marcuse’s later work and discuss the traces from his early that remains.  
 
This course will satisfy the contemporary course requirement for PhD students, Value Theory.
 
 
UKC 182-001  Philosophy, Law and the #Me Too Movement – Nenadic  TR  3:30-4:45
 
The #Me Too Movement has recently captured the public consciousness as years of unpunished incidences of sexual harassment and assault by high profile figures have come to light and triggered a social media tsunami by scores of other victims coming forward with similar experiences. The course will examine this social and political phenomenon and the implications that it might have on our own lives. We will address questions such as: What are sexual harassment and assault? How has our understanding of them changed over time? What are their relation to civil rights? What impediments are there to seeking justice? What is the role of law in this pursuit? The course explores this issue through focusing on its philosophical dimensions, which also introduces students to what philosophy is and to is central relevance to such problems. We will address philosophical topics such as existentialism, phenomenology, concept formation, human oppression, freedom, human nature, and ethics, among others. Throughout, we will explore the role and limits of law in seeking justice for these violations. 
 
 
 
 
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