Fall 2018

Courses to be taught by philosophers fall 2018:

PHIL 110-01A Logic
Monday/Wednesday/Friday
1:50-2:45pm 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)
Tuesday/Thursday
11:10am-12:30pm 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 123-01A Philosophy in Human Nature (HM)
Monday/Wednesday/Friday
10:20-11:15am in Quad 343 with Professor Erica Stonestreet
CRN #12785

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 role of reason in defining humanity?

What is a soul? How can human life be meaningful? This course is a survey designed to introduce philosophical ideas and modes of thought, with a central focus on problems arising from human nature.

​Using a textbook that contains sources from "classic" European philosophy as well as ​from outside that tradition, we will analyze and criticize topics that fall under three major aspects of the human condition: body, mind, and spirit. 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 (HM)
Monday/Wednesday/Friday
12:40-1:35pm in Quad 353 with Professor Rene McGraw, OSB
CRN # 15341

This course will begin by looking at the communal description of the human according to Aristotle, a description and definition that show humans are from the very beginning of their existence already in community. Then as we move into the work of Hannah Arendt, we will see how John Locke and Thomas Hobbes started out differently with the humans as individuals in a state of nature. For Locke and Hobbes, the state of nature was a state of war or at least of discomfort. So people come together to create communities for the purpose of security. But whether it is Aristotle’s communitarian human or the individualistic human of Hobbes and Locke, the humans end up in a community. And there in the community, they find conflict, inevitable conflict. How do they deal with that conflict and try to resolve it?  Arendt sees two possibilities: civil disobedience or violence. With Gandhi and Camus, we reflect on the way that the human community needs to respond morally to violence. The novel of Remarque gives a picture of the way that violence can destroy a community. Texts: Aristotle, Arendt, Gandhi, Remarque and Camus. Daily writing; discussion; three exams and one final paper.

PHIL 155-01A Philosophy of Race & Ethnicity (HM)
Tuesday/Thursday
12:45-2:05pm in Quad 339 with Professor Emily Esch
CRN # 15338

This course explores philosophical questions surrounding race and ethnicity with special attention on how race and ethnicity relates to questions of citizenship in the United States. The course will examine both the historical evolution of racial concepts and contemporary debates around topics like racial disparities in wealth, immigration policies, and barriers to political participation. Questions to be explored might include: Is race biological or is it a social construct? What does it mean to have a racial identity? How has race and ethnicity influenced how we understand citizenship on the United States? What moral obligations might we have to rectify past wrongs?

PHIL 156-01A Asian Philosophy (HM) (IC)
Tuesday/Thursday
9:35-10:55am in Quad 341 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 321-01A Moral Philosophy (ES)
Monday/Wednesday/Friday
11:30am-12:25pm in Quad 361 with Professor Dennis Beach, OSB
CRN # 14442

As humans, we dwell in the possibility that we ought to be something other than what we are. How — and Why — does this rift between what we are and what we ought to be appear in human thinking? In human lives? How do we or should we "go to work on ourselves" in the name of morality? We will ask these questions by considering together some of the major approaches to thinking about morality in the history of ethics: Plato’s notion of the examined life, Aristotle’s conception of human goodness and virtue, John Stuart Mill’s articulation of the Greatest Happiness Principle, Immanuel Kant’s analysis of practical reason and moral duty, as well as more recent explorations of Care Ethics by Carol Gilligan, Virginia Held, and others.

PHIL 322 Environmental Ethics (ES)
Section 322-01A
Monday/Wednesday/Friday in Quad 343 with Professor Charles Wright
CRN # 13784
Section 322-02A
Monday/Wednesday/Friday in Quad 343 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 325-01A Feminist Ethics (ES)
Tuesday/Thursday
2:20-3:40pm in Quad 343 with Professor Jean Keller
CRN # 13170

Ethical theory asks: what are the ethical norms and rules we all need to abide by in order to live together in cooperative, mutually beneficial, and fair social arrangements? In the west, ethicists have proposed and defended a set of moral principles in answer to this question, which include the familiar list of justice, equality, impartiality, fairness, beneficence, promotion of happiness.

Feminist ethical theory constitutes an extension of and challenge to this long tradition. It brings an explicit concern with gender, intersectionality, and the elimination of social injustice into the field of ethics. It has both redefined key terms in the western ethical tradition and challenged the tradition for overlooking key values central to the lives of women, people of color, LGBTQ, and non-westerners.

In this course, we’ll examine multiple perspectives on feminist ethics that challenge us to re-envision our aspirations for creating and living in the good society.

PHIL 333-01A Medieval Philosophy (HM)
cross-listed with THEO329B
Tuesday/Thursday
2:20-3:40pm 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)
Tuesday/Thursday
9:35-10:55am 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 356-01A Aesthetics of Violence/Non-Violence (HM)
cross-listed with PCST 345A
Monday/Wednesday/Friday
10:20-11:15am in Quad 353 with Professor Rene McGraw, OSB
CRN # 15342

Philosophers have long been impressed by the way that the fine arts can reach people directly, often in a way that much intellectual speculation never achieves. A painting like Goya’s 3 mai 1808 touches a person in ways that no amount of speculation about it can match. A description of the death of Prince Andrew makes a person question war in Tolstoy’s great novel. The World War I English and Welsh poets touch a nerve of [which awakens a feeling of] horror at the sadness and waste of war. Why? What is it that can make a great work of art move us? What makes a great work of art in the first place? What of “message” artistic pieces? We will use Mikel Dufrenne’s book, The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience as a basic text, along with Martin Heidegger’s essay, The Origin of the Work of Art. Two exams.  One longer paper.

PHIL 367-01A Philosophy of Mind (HM)
Tuesday/Thursday
11:10am-12:30pm in Quad 343 with Professor Emily Esch
CRN # 15340

This course explores a number of issues of interest to contemporary philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists.  These include: the nature of consciousness and how we should study it, the relationship between the mind, the body, and the world, psychopathology and what it can teach us about how we think, the problem of personal identity, the relevance of language to thought and the implications for how we should understand animal minds, and, finally, how to determine whether a machine can think. In addition to being a general introduction to these topics, this course is designed with a particular interdisciplinary aim: to examine how the empirical work of cognitive science informs the theories of contemporary philosophers.

ETHS 390 Good, Evil & the Limitations of Human Nature (ES)
Section 390-06A
Monday evenings
6:15-9:15pm in Quad 361 with Professor John Houston
CRN # 12606

Section 390-07A
Tuesday evenings
6:15-9:15pm in Quad 361 with Professore John Houston
CRN # 12566

All of us are familiar with the terms “good” and “evil”. Furthermore, we have all at some time used these terms in reference to persons or their actions. This phenomenon is the focal point of this class. In this course we will seek to address a variety of questions related to good and evil. Some of these questions include: What are the conceptual origins of our judgments about good and evil? Can we objectively say of some actions or persons that they are good or evil?—Or do terms like good and evil merely serve as expressions of our individual preferences? In virtue of what do we describe people as good or evil? Are some people born evil and others good, or do they become so? If they become so, how does this happen? Philosophers and famous literary personalities have grappled with these questions. We will draw upon their resources to reflect on these questions and attempt to articulate our own answers to them. In this course students will be required to read, think, write, attend class, and contribute to thoughtful dialogue.

GEND 380-01A Approaches to Gender Theory (GE) (HM)
Tuesday/Thursday
11:10am-12:30pm in Quad 341 with Professor Jean Keller
CRN # 13514

Approaches to Gender Theory provides an overview of contemporary theoretical perspectives on gender studies, including feminist theory, gender theory, GLBT/queer theory, and theory of men’s studies. Students will be required to critically examine these diverse theoretical approaches to gender studies and to analyze key disputes within the field. Students of philosophy will learn how contemporary philosophers have contributed to the field of gender studies, often by utilizing resources within the philosophical tradition. GWST students will develop a framework that will allow them to identify, examine, and see the relations among the diverse theoretical approaches to gender studies encountered in GWST courses.