Fall 2017

PHIL 110-01A Logic
 in Quad 343 with Professor Erica Stonestreet
CRN # 14114

Logic was developed to make the principles of good reasoning explicit and to systematize inquiry in mathematics and the physical sciences.   This course is intended to introduce you to the basics of formal symbolic logic, and to help you see logical structure in arguments from the real world.  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. This course will be conducted as a flipped-classroom, self-paced course with both online and in-class components.

PHIL 121-01A Great Issues in Philosophy (HM)
 in Quad 361 with Professor Steve Wagner
CRN # 12534

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 121-02A Great Issues in Philosophy (HM)
 in Quad 353 with Professor Joseph Desjardins
CRN # 15007

This course will trace four of the “great issues” of philosophy through a survey of western philosophy.  We will enter into a conversation with some of the greatest minds in human history to examine questions of Ethics (How should I live my life?), Social Justice (How ought we live together in community?), Epistemology (How do we distinguish knowledge from mere opinion?), and Metaphysics (what is the nature of human beings? Is it rational to believe in a God?). 

We’ll begin with Plato and consider what his philosophy (and, more briefly, Socrates and Aristotle) thought about these four great issues.  We’ll then consider how Thomas Aquinas’ natural law philosophy integrated Greek philosophy with Christianity to provide a philosophical and religious perspective on these four issues.  Next, by reading Hobbes, Descartes and Hume, we will examine how these issues were answered with the rise of science in the modern period.   We’ll end the semester by reading some contemporary philosophers who address one or more of these issues.

PHIL 123 Philosophy of Human Nature (HM)
123-01A at 12:45-2:05p.m. in Quad 344 with Professor John Houston
CRN # 12785
123-02A at 9:35-10:55a.m. in Quad 339 with Professor John Houston
CRN # 14115

No subject has occupied western philosophy more than that of human nature. And none is more controversial.  This is not surprising, since who and what we think we are will determine a great deal about how we understand the world and our place in it.  If we wish to pursue happiness, we would do well to first have an idea of what we are, from whence we came, and to what end our existence is directed. Some say God, others oblivion.  What do you say?  In this course we will read selections on the philosophy of human nature from classical, Christian, and contemporary sources.  Special attention will be given to human rationality, sexuality, and mortality. Finally, we will seek to develop a view concerning the prospect of discovering (or creating) ultimate meaning and purpose for our lives.   

PHIL 150-01A Philosophy in Literature (HM)
11:30a.m.-12:25p.m. in Quad 344 with Professor Dennis Beach, OSB
CRN # 15003

Stories, poems and plays have been a means for philosophical reflection on profound human questions: How should we live our lives? How free are we? Do we have a moral or ethical duty to other persons? What is truth and is it always necessary for life? Is imagination the opposite of truth or a means of discovering it? Is the meaning of life contained in this world, or does life’s ultimate meaning point beyond the world of fact? Or does life have a meaning at all? We will read novels, stories and plays, ranging from Tolstoy to Tim O’Brien to Henrik Ibsen and Sophocles, to Margaret Atwood, Albert Camus and Milan Kundera, seeking to discover how imaginative writing is related to serious philosophical thought. (This course may be able to be taken for 2 credits—either AB mod or CD mod—approval pending. Please monitor registrar’s updates to see if PHIL150A and PHIL150C are added as 2-credit options.)


PHIL 156-01A Asian Philosophy  (HM) (IC)
8:00-9:20a.m. in Quad 344 with Professor Charles Wright
CRN # 14445

We will study the Confucian, Buddhist, Hindu and Daoist traditions of religious philosophy.   From these traditions we will learn about:

-moral ideals that emphasize restraint of desire and disentanglement from worldly attachments;
-conceptions of a well-lived human life that emphasize a quiet mind, cooperation and service to others;
-the ideas that competitive status-seeking is self-defeating and individualism is an illusion;
-meditative disciplines believed to lead to genuine self-understanding, a balanced and harmonious mind, insight into the nature of reality, and a direct experience of the divine; 
-the idea that insight into the true nature of reality and divinity can neither be achieved nor conveyed through logic or language.

This course requires one hour of contemplative practice (prayer or meditation) per week outside of class meetings.

PHIL 321 Moral Philosophy (ES)
321-01A at 10:20-11:15a.m. in Quad 349 with Professor Erica Stonestreet
CRN # 12784
321-02A at 11:30a.m.-12:25p.m in Quad 349 with Professor Erica Stonestreet
CRN # 14442

The questions of ethics--of how to live and what to do--are continually confronting us in public and private life. Philosophical ethics tries to organize ethical experience, presenting theories of good and bad, right and wrong to help guide us. In this course we will use significant Western philosophical texts from ancient times to the last few decades to study different approaches to the classic questions of ethics. The theories we'll discuss include virtue, Kantian, utilitarian, and care ethics. We’ll examine the different ways each framework can contribute to arriving at answers to ethical questions, noting strengths and weaknesses, with an eye to understanding how these theories might guide us in our own ethical decision making.​


PHIL 322 Environmental Ethics (ES)
322-01A at 8:00-8:55a.m. in Quad 347 with Professor Charles Wright
CRN # 13784
322-02A at 9:10-10:05a.m. in Quad 347 with Professor Charles Wright
CRN # 14117

What does it mean to have an ethical relationship with the Earth and its living systems?    The class starts with the question:  how did we get where we are?  “Where we are” is a condition where it is difficult for people living in the modern developed societies of the Western world even to imagine what it might mean to interact with the Earth and its living systems with moral concern and respect.  We will start the class by examining deep roots that the current failure of ethical recognition has in the philosophical and religious traditions that gave rise to the modern world.  Once we have considered these roots, we will turn to philosophical and religious efforts to reconceive the relation between humans and the other than human world.  The religious reflections of theologian Sally McFague, farmer and poet Wendell Berry, and his holiness Pope Francis will introduce us to contemporary religious perspectives on the right relation between humans and the Earth.  The writing of Aldo Leopold and indigenous activists will offer us philosophical reflections on the nature and possibility of ethical relations between humans and the other than human world.  Finally we will consider the role consumer culture plays by encouraging us to maintain an exploitative and destructive relationship with the natural world.  Economist Juliet Schor will dissect for us the cultural and economic dynamics of consumer culture.  We’ll then finish with the memoir of a family living in the heart of New York City that tried to re-order their lives in a way respectful of the Earth.

PHIL 324 Business Ethics (ES)
1:50-3:10p.m. in Quad 361 with Profesor Joe Desjardins
CRN # 15005

The course is divided into four topical sections. We begin the first section by thinking about the place of business in a democratic market system.  We’ll get familiar with the vocabulary of ethics and corporate social responsibility, and think about the relations between business, democracy, and market capitalism.  In the second part, we consider ethical issues that arise when we look to business as a place of employment.  What are the rights and responsibilities of employees?  Part three turns to consumers and considers the ethical responsibilities of businesses to the people who buy their products and services.  In the final section we look more generally at broader social responsibilities.  We will think about diversity in the workplace, business’ responsibility towards the environment, and issues concerning international ethics and globalization.

The goal of this course is to help students develop the ability to make good moral judgments about crucial issues that affect our lives.   This course asks students to reflect on the role of business institutions within a democratic society.  Throughout the semester, students will be asked to take the point of view of employees, consumers, managers and, perhaps most importantly, citizens.  No matter what your future holds, your lives will be greatly influenced by decisions made within business institutions.  As a citizen in a democratic society, you have both the right and the responsibility to be informed about, and to participate in, those decisions.

PHIL 325 Feminist Ethics (ES)
325-01A at 12:45-2:05p.m. in Quad 339 with Professor Jean Keller
CRN # 13169
325-02A at 2:20-3:40p.m. in Quad 339 with Professor Jean Keller
CRN # 13170

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, to eliminating quotas limiting the number of women who could go to college, ensuring that boys’ and girls’ sports received equal funding, and activism to ensure that men and women would receive equal pay for equal work.

Despite these and other ways in which the women’s movement has been predicated on the concepts of equality, individual rights, 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 fundamentally misunderstand key aspects of women’s lives and experiences and are inadequate to bring about the conceptual and social changes necessary to eradicate the oppression of women.

While feminist ethics has been developed in many different directions, in this course our primary focus will be multiple variants of care ethics, tracing its development from a "women’s" ethic of interpersonal relationships to a critical tool for examining global inequalities.

PHIL 333-01A Medieval Philosophy (HM) Cross listed to THEO 329B
2:20-3:40p.m. in Quad 361 with Professor John Houston
CRN # 15006

What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?  What does such a question have to do with this course?  The answer to both of these questions is “Much!”  Medieval philosophy was characterized by the development of Greek philosophical thought and its synthesis with the principle doctrines of Christianity.  This synthesis was not always a happy one.  There is surprising variability between the philosophers who undertook this project.  We will study major figures from several continents, spanning over one thousand years, who attempted to offer a systematic account of the relation of philosophy to Christian doctrine.  If you have ever sought a systematic and sustained treatment of the relation between faith and reason, this is your course.  Our journey begins with Augustine, from whom eventually emerge both the monastic and scholastic philosophical traditions of the Middle Ages.  Boethius, Anselm, and Aquinas will receive the lion’s share of the remaining time in the course.  We will give special attention to what each of these figures has to say about the relation of faith and reason; arguments for the existence of God; the nature and ‘knowability’ of God;  and the ultimate end of human life. 


PHIL 334-01A Modern Philosophy (HM)
9:35-10:55a.m. in Quad 361 with Professor Steve Wagner
CRN # 10795

We will look at the writings of some of the most important philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries.  We will start with Descartes’ investigation of the Rationalist foundations of human knowledge, and then look at the response of the Empiricists to the Cartesian project. We will then look at Kant’s attempt to reconcile the two traditions.  The course will involve careful, critical examination of the central texts of these philosophers.  The writing for the course will involve two major papers and a number of short analytical papers of the assigned readings.


PHIL 355-01A Philosophy of Violence/Non-Violence (HM) Cross listed to PSCT 343
10:20-11:15a.m. in Quad 361 with Professor Rene McGraw, OSB
CRN # 15004

Classical and modern philosophy did not, in general, make the subject of violence and nonviolence an explicit theme of research.  Contemporary philosophers have begun to investigate the structure of violence and nonviolence on both an ethical and metaphysical level.  The first two thirds of the course will concentrate on the way that violence in the contemporary world is related to our love affair with technology.  The last third of the course will shift focus:  forgotten very often is our relationship to the other person, especially if the person is poor or the nation is of a different race or religion – an outsider.  At the heart of the first part of the course will be a long essay by Martin Heidegger, entitled Question Concerning Technology.  Surrounding that main text will be a magazine article by James Der Derian, which gives an overview of the philosophical terrain. The final third of the course will use Emmanuel Levinas’ text Totality and Infinity to examine the place of the outsider, the Other and its implications for violence and non-violence.  Two exams.  One final paper.  Twice weekly writing of a paragraph.  


HONR 350S-01A Philosophy of Knowledge (HM) (GE)
11:10a.m.-12:30p.m. in Quad 341 with Professor Emily Esch
CRN # 15059

What do you think you know and how do you think you know it? In this course we’ll explore the idea that acquiring knowledge is not as straightforward as it appears. We’ll be looking at the foundations of the academic experience and the different methods scholars use to support and maintain their research, including, among others, biologists, philosophers, historians, and economists. Two topics will guide our readings and discussions: one, the relationship between power and social inequity and two, the impossibility of conducting research free of social and ethical values. This course should be of interest to all majors and especially to those interested in thinking critically about implicit assumptions underpinning the professional pursuit of knowledge.           


Ethics Common Seminar (ES) Others
03A at 12:45-2:05p.m. in Quad 343 with Professor Tony Cunningham
CRN # 12609
02A at 2:20-3:40p.m. in Quad 343 with Professor Tony Cunningham
CRN # 14218

We share our lives by both necessity and design with others.  Born utterly dependent, we rely entirely upon the care and kindness of others for our very survival.  Even when we no longer depend upon others to feed, clothe, and protect us, we must figure out what sorts of responsibilities we bear to others and what responsibilities they have to us.  Some people may seem relatively distant, bound to us only in the basic sense that we share in some common humanity.  Others can seem so important to us that we might not wish to go on without them.  In this course we’ll examine the responsibilities we bear to each other in various respects—as human beings, as friends, as family, as brothers and sisters in common causes.  We’ll also look at the ways in which people turn their backs on others and misuse them in cruel and oppressive ways.  Using sources drawn from philosophy, literature, history, memoir, and the social sciences, we’ll put our minds to what we owe others and what others owe us.

Ethics Common Seminar (ES) ETHS 390-06A Reading for Life
6:15-9:15p.m. in Quad 344 with Professor Tony Cunningham
CRN # 12566

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)
The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro)
Beloved (Toni Morrison)
How To Be Good (Nick Hornby)
Glengarry Glen Ross (David Mamet)
Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier)   
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Anthony Marra)