Spring 2011 Philosophy Class Schedule

Spring 2011
click on course title to view course description

Logic 110-01A (CRN # 15094)
Days 2/4/6, 9:40-10:50 a.m., Quad 347, Professor Timothy Robinson

Great Issues in Philosophy 121-01A (CRN # 15095) {HM}
Days 1/3/5, 2:40-3:50 p.m., Quad 353, Assistant Professor Emily Esch

Great Issues in Philosophy 121-02A (CRN # 15096) {HM}
Days 2/4/6, 2:40-3:50 p.m., Simons Hall G10, Associate Professor Dennis Beach, OSB

Philosophy of Human Nature 123-01A (CRN # 14760) {HM}
Days 1/3/5, 11:20 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Quad 353, Associate Professor Rene McGraw, OSB

Philosophy of Human Nature 123-02A (CRN #14940) {HM}
Days 1/3/5, 1:00-2:10 p.m., Quad 339, Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Farnham

Social Philosophy 125-01A (CRN # 14761) {HM}
Days 1/3/5, 11:20 a.m-12:30 p.m., HAB 106, Associate Professor Charles Wright

Political Philosophy 326-01A (CRN #14862) {ES}
Days 2/4/6, 9:40-10:50 a.m., ASC 127, Associate Professor Charles Wright

Ancient Philosophy 331-01A (CRN # 12316) {HM}
Days 1/3/5, 9:40-10:50 a.m., Quad 361, Professor Timothy Robinson

Analytic Philosophers 337-01A (CRN # 15099) {HM}
Monday evenings, 6:00-9:00 p.m., Quad 344, Assistant Professor Emily Esch

Chinese Philosophy 339-01A (CRN # 15100) {HM}
Days 2/4/6, 11:20 am - 12:30 pm., HAB 117, Associate Professor Charles Wright

Philosophy of Law 358-01A (CRN # 15176) {ES}
Days 1/3/5, 2:40-3:50 p.m., Quad 361, Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Farnham

Philosophy of Law 358-02A (CRN # 15177) {ES}
Monday evenings, 6:00-9:00 p.m., Quad 353, Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Farnham

Metaphysics 365-01A,  (CRN # 15093) {HM}
Days 1/3/5, 1:00-2:10 p.m., Quad 353, Professor Rene McGraw, OSB

Philosophy Capstone 388-01A (CRN # 14863)
Days 1/3/5, 9:40 a.m.-10:50 a.m., Quad 341, Professor Stephen Wagner

 

PHIL 110-01A
This in an introductory course in philosophical logic.  Theory is kept to a minimum.  The emphasis is on practice.  Much of the work is problem solving.  The basic structure of logical procedure is used to sort out the coherence of arguments in ordinary language, and in symbolic and quantified language.  This course carries a quantitative flag.

PHIL 121-01A
This writing intensive course introduces you to philosophy through the examination of some of philosophy's biggest questions.  The course may include the following topics: the relationship between the mind and body, personal identity, morality, free will, and the nature of knowledge.  In respective order, these are some of the questions which fall under each topic.  Is the mind an immaterial soul or is it identical to the brain?  What makes it possible that you are the same person now as you were ten years ago, given that all sorts of facts about you have changed?  What makes an action right or wrong, or a person good or bad?  What does it mean to act freely?  What are the reasons for thinking that we actually aren't free agents?  What is knowledge and do we have any?  In particular, do we have knowledge of the external world or is it possible that we're in some Matrix-like scenario? 

PHIL 121-02A
Is the way things appear to us the way they really are? If not, do we have any access to the way things really are? How? And if we don't, how could we ever know or even suspect that the way things appear to us isn't the way they really are? These questions have been with philosophers ever since humankind began to wonder about themselves and the world they live in. And when the questions change from "What is true about the physical nature of the world?" to "What is beauty?" "What  is goodness or virtue?" or "Is there a God and can we know anything about this God?" the problem becomes yet more urgent. We will explore the relation of our knowing to the world first through a contemporary introduction to the problem, and then by looking at the stands taken by representative philosophers on the question of human knowing: Plato and Socrates, Rene Descartes, Bertrand Russell, and José Ortega y Gasset.

PHIL 123-01A
We find ourselves these days in so many small units:  men are divided into one camp, women into another; hyphenated Americans rightly demand recognition of their ethnic and racial origin; gays and straights draw a line between each other; rich and poor live on opposite sides of a great economic divide; young and old live in vastly different universes; individuals feel themselves swallowed up by communities and communities experience a shattering of common concerns.  So we ask, is there anything that unites us?  Can we find a common something or other which describes what unites all of us, rich and poor, young and old, individuals and communities?  If there is a common human nature, what is it like?  Is human life just nasty, brutish and short?  Or are we naturally loving?  Are we free to do good or to do evil?  Can we understand each other at all or are we locked in our own human prison?  I have not yet chosen the texts to be read, but these will be the questions that occupy the class during the semester.  Three tests.  Daily writing.  One final paper. 

PHIL 123-02A
What are we?  Are we just very complicated animals, or is there something special about humans?  If there is something special about humans, what is it?  Is it our reason, our emotions, our capacity for imagination, our presumed freedom of will, our souls, something else, or a combination of some or all of these?  We will consider different answers to these questions and their implications for what it means to be human and for our relationships with each other, nature, and the divine.  We will read some of the most influential philosophical thinkers and schools in history -- such as Plato, Aristotle, the Buddha, Aquinas, Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Marx, and Sartre -- along with contemporary philosophers and psychologists.  We will also watch a couple movies that address these topics.  But the focus will be on you articulating and developing your own philosophical view on these matters.  Short writing assignments, final exam, and two papers.

PHIL 125-01A
This class will introduce students to philosophical sources for modern conceptions of freedom and equality, to conflicting ideas about current threats to the freedom of American citizens, and to dramatically opposing proposals for political reform.  We start with Plato's Republic - a philosophical work that supposes equality to be unnecessary for a well-ordered society, that endorses a conception of freedom which modern Americans have mostly forgotten, and that has shaped our modern institutions in surprising ways.  After Plato we examine two philosophical sources for the political ideals of modern Western civilization:  John Locke's Second Treatise on Government and Jean Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract.   But we will also learn about problems with freedom in the modern world as well.  Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels will argue that capitalist private property is inherently oppressive, at least to workers.  Joseph Pichler and Irving Kristol (along with Locke) will insist that free enterprise and private property are the best guarantors of individual freedom.  These traditional ideas will be brought up to date in the work of investigative journalist Erik Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), contemporary Marxist theorist David Schweickart, (After Capitalism), and libertarian Charles Murray (What It Means to be a Libertarian).   Students will have to decide for themselves whether or not the freedoms of American citizens are adequately secured.

PHIL 326-01A
This course will engage in the close reading, discussion, and written analysis of texts crucial for a developed understanding of the Western political tradition and the political institutions of the United States and Western Europe.  The class will start with canonical texts in the history of Western political philosophy - Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, Jean Jacques Rousseau's Social Contract, and Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.   Topics of discussion based on these texts shall include:  the nature of political justice; the justification of democratic political procedures and obstacles to their realization; the justification of coercive state power; appropriate limits, if any, to the power of the state; and the tension between individual rights and the common good.  Along with these canonical texts, we shall read contemporary philosophical essays and news reports highlighting features of these classical theories that are especially relevant today:  in particular, the topics of executive prerogative and public deliberation.  The class will then consider a series of noted feminist commentaries on this tradition of political thought - essays by Friedrich Engels, Carol Pateman, and Virginia Held, in particular - that draw attention to unacknowledged assumptions of female subordination built into these canonical theories.  The course will finish with an examination of Joan Williams' book Unbending Gender, a contemporary feminist analysis of institutional constraints upon men's and women's freedom and equality that currently coexist with democratic political freedoms.

PHIL 331-01A
The first chapter in the history of Western philosophy defines most of the issues that dominate subsequent thought and sets forth most of the methods that can be used for addressing these issues.  The period is dominated by the intellectual giants Plato and Aristotle, who were both friends and philosophical adversaries.  Between them they can be said to have created philosophy as a new thing upon the earth.  But what was this new thing, which they touted as the most meaningful of human activities while some of their fellow-citizens considered it useless if not actually criminal?  With the help of these philosophers we explore the place of reason in human life and the nature of the world in which it is lived.

PHIL 337-01A
This upper level course introduces you to analytic philosophy through the study of three classic books by some of the preeminent philosophers of the twentieth century.  The three books are: Bertrand Russell's Problems of Philosophy (1912), Wilfred Sellars' Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (1956) and Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity (1972).  In addition to these books, we will also devote substantial time to a topical section on the philosophy of language.

The topics we'll discuss vary widely and include issues in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language.  We'll also pay special attention to the methodology of analytic philosophy.  Some of the questions we will consider include: what is the nature of linguistic meaning?  Are the ways things appear to us an accurate reflection of the way things are? What does this tell us about the nature of perception?  What is conceptual analysis, and is it a worthwhile philosophical method?  What is the relationship between meaning and metaphysics?  How should we understand the nature of concepts and what is their relationship to each other and the outside world?

PHIL 339-01A
This course will explore the human condition through a close reading of selected foundational texts in the Chinese Philosophical traditions of Confucianism and Taoism. 

Central themes will include:

The Confucian emphasis on individual cultivation of virtuous character as the preeminent goal in human life; the value and function of political authority as well as the risks inherent in its exercise; and the conditions under which cultivation of character would help assure the appropriate utilization of government authority.

The Taoist analysis of humanity's dysfunctional propensity to augment individual selves through the competitive pursuit of social goods; their conclusion that conventional aspirations create unnecessary conflict and undesirable difficulty both in individual as well as social life; and their proposed logic of "non-action," according to which a genuinely satisfying life can only be obtained through disentangling one's "strivings" from the conventional priorities and institutions of human society.

We will also examine Confucian and Taoist perspectives on:

the tension between individual freedom and obligations to community;

the problematic relation between cultivation of moral virtue and possession of worldly goods (wealth, power, prestige); and

the nature of the human being - as a socially constructed person, as a lifelong project in self-cultivation, as a tadpole vainly trying to live on land, as an impermanent product of anonymous forces, and as an opportunity to move through life as a swallow flies through air.

In this course students will also study and discuss early Chinese philosophical teachings in relation to the following two contemporary social issues:

the nature of male and female and their appropriate social roles; historical analyses of the role of Confucian teachings in constructing these gender categories and institutions; philosophical discussions of the compatibility of Confucian teachings with contemporary egalitarian gender sensibilities;

the compatibility of Confucian social and political teachings with modern Western conceptions of universal human rights, the obligation of governments to secure these rights for citizens, and limits to government authority built around constitutional protection of human rights.

Study of the Chinese philosophical tradition will equip class participants with:  (a) a detailed understanding of moral and political concepts central to Chinese culture, as well as to all cultures influenced by Confucian or Chinese Buddhist concepts (e.g. Japan & Korea); (b) better developed interpretive skills necessary for building a global community based on mutual understanding; (c) practice in the skill of reaching understanding through the collaborative search for common meanings and shared moral & political convictions; (d) an understanding of how Western culture appears from Confucian & Taoist perspectives; and (e) an understanding of whether or not, (and if so, how) indigenous Chinese philosophical teachings can be made compatible with Western conceptions of individual freedom and rights (for women in particular).

PHIL 358-01A, 358-02A
What is law?  What is its proper role in society?  What is the relation between law and morality?  These are some of the big questions this course will address, by looking at both general issues in the philosophy of law and particular ethical issues that come before the Supreme Court.  We will consider different ethical perspectives on contested issues and the relation between these views and the law. Some of the issues we will examine are  abortion, gay marriage, religious expression, slavery, affirmative action, freedom of speech, campaign finance, and private property.  For each of these we will look at both moral and legal arguments and examine where these perspectives justifiably converge or diverge.  The overal goal is for students to develop and defend their own views toward the law and what it requires.

PHIL 365-01A
The defining moment for most philosophers is their response to the question, "What is the meaning of Being?"  Some philosophers will claim that the question is all important.  Others will say that the question is nonsense.  This year we will look only at the text of Aristotle's Metaphysics and Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics to explore the question of the meaning of Being according to two thinkers who feel the question is central to the life of the thinker. Two exams . One major paper.

PHIL 388-01A
We will read Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.  When it was published in 1979, this book evoked intense reactions from philosophers and scholars in other fields.  The book has now become a classic of 20th century philosophy.  Rorty argues that contemporary philosophers have been held captive by the image of the mind as a mirror which can represent the world more or less accurately.  He traces this image back to the work of Descartes, Locke and Kant and tries to show that contemporary analytic philosophers have retained this deceptive model.  Rorty calls us to abandon that image along with the questions in the philosophy of mind and epistemology which it promotes.  To support his proposals, Rorty takes us through critical evaluations of the work of Quine, Sellars, Davidson, Kuhn, Habermas, Dewey, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, among others.  Participation is restricted to senior philosophy majors.