Spring 2013 Courses

* Courses with an (ES) count for Ethics Common Seminar Requirement

PHIL110-01A, Logic   CRN # 15094
Days 2/4/6, 9:40-10:50 am, Quad 343, Assistant Professor Erica Stonestreet

Logic was developed to make the principles of good reasoning explicit and to systematize inquiry in mathematics and the physical sciences.  The underlying notion of good reasoning we'll work with is that it is "truth-preserving." ('Truth-preserving' reasoning cannot fail to take one from true premises to true conclusions.)
This course is intended to introduce you to the basics of formal symbolic logic.  It differs from an introduction to informal logic in that it will deal mostly with symbols; it is thus more like a mathematics course than a course in critical thinking, though there will be some of both.
We will study two main approaches to reasoning: deductive and inductive.  We'll begin by learning how to transcribe arguments from English sentences into symbols.  Then, thinking deductively, we'll develop two ways of assessing the arguments: syntactically (in terms of the forms of argument) and semantically (in terms of preserving truth).  Thinking inductively, we'll discuss probability and arguments by analogy.

PHIL 121-01A, Great Issues in Philosophy   CRN # 15388 (HM)
Days 2/4/6, 9:40-10:50am, Quad 361, Professor Stephen Wagner

Throughout the ages, several issues have been central to the quest for philosophical insight about human existence.  This course examines a number of those issues - free will vs. determinism, the making of moral judgments, the grounds for religious belief and other topics as time allows.  Through careful reading of texts and class discussion, we will critically analyze the ideas that philosophers have offered and strive to formulate our own philosophical views on these issues. 

PHIL 123-01A, Philosophy of Human Nature   CRN #15846  (HM)
Days 1/3/5, 9:40-10:50am, Quad 339, Assistant Professor Erica Stonestreet

What are humans like?  What is the purpose of human life?  These basic questions can be answered from different points of view, and focused on different aspects of being human.  What does it mean to be a human animal?  Are we fundamentally selfish?  How should we live?  What is the connection between body and mind, or body and soul?  This course is a survey designed to introduce philosophical ideas and modes of thought, with a central focus on problems arising from human nature.  We will analyze and criticize topics that fall under four major aspects of the human condition: body, mind, soul, and society.  We'll raise questions and discuss the implications of each topic for the meanings of our own lives, for how we ought to behave as individuals, and for how we should treat one another in order to build the best lives possible for ourselves.

PHIL 125-01A, Social Philosophy   CRN # 15847 (HM)
Days 1/3/5, 11:20am-12:30 pm, Quad 353, Professor Rene McGraw, OSB

This course will introduce students to a philosophical way of thinking through the study of power and its relationship to social groupings, through the study of the use of violence and nonviolence, through the study of authority, strength, power and civil disobedience within communities.  The course raises issues of concern both for peace studies majors as well as students interested in neither philosophy studies nor peace studies.  Texts:  Aristolte, Arendt, Gandhi, Remarque and Camus.  Daily writing; discussion; three exams and one final paper.

*PHIL 321-01A,  Moral Philosophy   CRN # 15393 (ES)
Days 2/4/6, 11:20am-12:30pm, Quad 361, Professor Stephen Wagner

We will first consider some of the most prominent moral theories in the tradition of western philosophical thought, such as the views of Aristotle, John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant. We will analyze their views to see if they provide adequate guides for living a good life. We will then turn to a number of contemporary moral views which claim to offer variations or alternatives to the classical models-such as feminist ethics, virtue ethics, and the use of literary texts to develop moral points of view. Most of our work will be through class discussion of our readings. Our focus throughout will be to consider whether we can find guidance for our own lives in the moral views we will consider.

*PHIL 322-01A, Environmental Ethics   CRN # 15829 (ES)
Days 2/4/6, 8:00-9:10 am, Quad 347, Associate Professor Charles Wright

The impact of industrial human civilization on the earth's living systems is enormous and still growing. Until about fifty years ago few people gave much thought to the matter. Now, however, in the face of global warming, collapsing ecosystems, species extinctions, dead zones, toxic waste sites, and a variety of other ecological ills, modern humans have begun to reconsider their relationship with the biosphere. From one perspective, such rethinking is simply a matter of self-interest. Modern humans understand better now that our own health depends on having healthy living systems around us. But is there more to it than self-interest? This class will introduce students to the question of the ethical dimensions of our relationship to animals and living systems. We will first examine the origins of the problem of environmental ethics in the philosophical thought of the European enlightenment. Following this review we will study the work of pioneering thinkers who seek to radically revise traditional human-centered conceptions of morality and who offer a vision of a human life rooted in ethical consideration for all living beings.

*PHIL 325-01A, Feminist Ethics   CRN # 15477 (ES)
Days 2/4/6, 2:40-3:50 pm, Quad 341, Associate Professor Jean Keller

The U.S. women's movement is deeply indebted to the values of western liberalism.  The Declaration of Independence's assertion that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" provided feminists with the intellectual grounds to argue that women, too, should be equal, thereby allowing them to argue for and, after 70 years of struggle, to win the right to vote. In the 1960s and 70s, the concept of equal rights fueled feminist activism with regard to a range of diverse issues-from ending gender segregated job ads, eliminating quotas limiting the number of women who could go to college, ensuring that boys' and girls' sports received equal funding, activism to ensure that men and women would receive for equal pay for equal work, and working to end violence against women.

Despite these and other ways in which the women's movement has been predicated on the concepts of equality, individual rights, impartiality, autonomy, freedom, and fairness embedded in the justice tradition of western liberalism, in the past 30 years the field of feminist ethics has increasingly challenged the basic premises of this tradition.  Feminist ethicists have argued that the conceptual tools of this tradition are inadequate to bring about the fundamental conceptual and social changes necessary to eradicate the oppression of women.

In this course, we'll first familiarize ourselves with the basic presuppositions of feminist thought and the premises of the liberal justice tradition.  Then we'll engage and critically examine a range of feminist ethical perspectives that fundamentally challenge and provide alternatives to this tradition.  These feminist ethical approaches include: multiculturalism, care ethics and the dependency critique, global feminist concerns, and masculinity itself.  As we'll see, while there are a few common presuppositions to these feminist ethical theories, they are also marked by conflict and disagreement, allowing us to develop a rich and complex understanding of the state of feminist thinking today.

PHIL 331-01A, Ancient Philosophy  CRN # 12316 (HM)
Days 1/3/5, 11:20am-12:30pm, Quad 361, Associate Professor Dennis Beach, OSB

We speak of ancient Greece as "the cradle of civilization" and of Athens as "the birthplace of democracy" even though democracy was criticized as "mob rule" by both Plato and Aristotle. What is beyond dispute is that in ancient Greece and especially in Athens, human thinking blossomed like never before. The flower of this thinking was Philosophy, the love of wisdom, which Plato speaks of as the most noble of the arts. This course will center on reading and discussing key works of both Plato and Aristotle, with side excursions into Pre-Socratic and Stoic thinking, as well as the contextualization of this thought in the culture of ancient Greece.

*PHIL 339-01A, Chinese Philosophy  CRN # 15100 (ES)
Days 2/4/6, 9:40-10:50am, Quad 247, Associate Professor Charles Wright

Through the close reading and discussion of texts foundational for Chinese civilization students will explore alternative approaches to thinking about the world, ordering social relations, and defining ethical obligations to others. The class will consider whether these alternatives can serve as a mirror with which to critically examine Western beliefs and habits of mind. We start with The Geography of Thought in which psychologist Richard Nisbett presents experimental evidence documenting the different approaches to understanding life and reality characteristic of East Asian and Western European societies. We then turn to foundational statements of the Chinese point of view as found in the moral and political teachings of the Analects of Confucius and in the writing of Mencius. Contemporary American political theorist Daniel Bell will then show how this Confucian point of view lives on in parts of East Asia and that it may represent a viable alternative to the liberal democratic tradition of the West. The class will finish by taking up the work of ancient Chinese Daoist tradition - Laozi's Tao Te Ching and the Zhuangzi. These texts will introduce us that individualism is an obstacle to wisdom and that insight into the true nature of reality cannot be achieved through logic or language

PHIL 365-01A, Metaphysics  CRN # 15830 (HM)
Days 1/3/5, 1:00-2:10pm, Quad 353, Professor Rene McGraw, OSB

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.


Ethics Courses taught by Philosophy Faculty Members

*ETH 390,  Adoption, Ethics, and the Family  
390-03A, CRN # 15151 Days 1/3/5, 1:00-2:10 pm, Quad 347, Associate Professor Jean Keller
390-04A, CRN # 14780  Days 1/3/5, 2:40-3:50 pm, Quad 346, Associate Professor Jean Keller

Nearly 6 out of 10 Americans have a personal experience with adoption-meaning that they, a family member, or a close friend were either adopted, adopted a child, or placed a child for adoption (Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute).  This widespread and increasingly accepted social practice nonetheless raises a number of ethical questions.  Should adoptees have the legal right to access their original birth records, or should such records be sealed, as a way to protect the privacy of birthmothers? Is international adoption a benevolent practice that serves the best interests of children, or an exploitative practice in which privileged (usually white) first world persons selfishly satisfy their desire to have children? Why are so many African American children in foster care and do present day social policies in the U.S. serve the well-being of these children or perpetuate a history of U.S. racism? Should gay and lesbian couples have the legal right to adopt? 

This course will address these questions and more. Rather than understanding adoption as "good" or "bad", adoption will be examined as a complex and multifaceted social practice informed by deeply entrenched systems of power, privilege, and disadvantage.  Using adoption as our lens, we will investigate some of the legacies of gender inequality, racism, and global inequality and how they structure the modern day family.  Adoption will be studied from a range of personal, theoretical, historical, and ethical perspectives, highlighting the voices of adoptees, but also addressing the perspectives of birthmothers, adoptive parents and adoption researchers. 

*ETH 390, Business Ethics
390-09A, CRN # 15590 Days 2/4/6, 240-3:50 pm, Quad 347, Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Farnham
390-11A, CRN # 15591  Mondays, 6:00-9:00 pm, Quad 353, Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Farnham

While American businesses have brought tremendous benefits to our society, they have also on occasion brought ethical disasters, harming many people in the process.  How, and why, do these ethical problems arise?  Can they be prevented?  In this course we will examine how business decisions go ethically wrong, and how they might go better.  We will look at different contexts in which ethical issues arise in business, and the nature of our responsibilities to one another when involved in market transactions.  We will consider more broadly how a life in business can be part of a life well-lived.  Finally, we will ask what role law should or should not play in enforcing or incentivizing ethical decisions in business.  Prerequisite: students are strongly encouraged to have taken at least one previous course in management, accounting, philosophy, or economics.

*ETHS 390-12 Reading for Life (ES) CRN #15858
Mondays, 6:00-9:00 pm, Quad 349, Professor Tony Cunningham

Everyone loves a good story.  Great stories can provide us with far more than mere recreation.  Stories can provide us with rich character portraits that can reveal the subtleties and nuances of what it means to live well and responsibly.  In this course we'll use novels and films to address Socrates' most basic ethical questions, "How should one live?" and "What sort of person should I be?"  We'll do so by attending to all the concrete, particular details of real life and fictional characters thoroughly embroiled in the "business of living."  Reading well offers the possibility of vicarious experience and ultimately, ethical insight.  Our readings will include The Crucible (Arthur Miller), Ransom (David Malouf), The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro), Beloved (Toni Morrison), How To Be Good (Nick Hornby), Reading in the Dark (Seamus Deane), and Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston).