Fall 2019

Courses taught by philosophers Fall 2019:

PHIL 110-01A Logic
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 12:40-1:50pm in Quad 343 with 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)
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:20-11:15am with Joe Desjardins in Quad 361
CRN # 12534

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 Socrates and Plato (and, more briefly, Aristotle) to consider how the ancient Greeks thought about these four great issues.  Next, by reading Hobbes, Descartes and Hume, we will examine how these issues were answered with the rise of science in the early modern period.   As time permits, we’ll end the semester by reading some contemporary philosophers who address one or more of these issues.

PHIL 123-01A Philosophy of Human Nature (HM)
Tuesday/Thursday 11:10am-12:30pm with John Houston in Quad 343
CRN #12785

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 125-01A Social Philosophy (HM)
Tuesday/Thursday 9:35-10:55am with Charles Wright in Quad 349
CRN # 15341

Most citizens of the United States take for granted that liberty and equality are fundamental parts of a just society.  But if asked what, exactly, these principles amount to, many of us would have difficulty providing clear and informed answers.  Many of us would also come up short if asked to describe how these two core values are related and how they might be in conflict with one another.  This class will provide young citizens with an introduction to the work of Western philosophers who have tried to define freedom and equality – philosophical thinking that has shaped the political culture and institutions of the United States of America.  We will also explore some challenges that the U.S. American Republic faces in trying to ensure that its citizens enjoy the benefits of both liberty and equality. 

PHIL 125-02A Social Philosophy (HM)
Tuesday/Thursday 12:45-2:05pm with Tony Cunningham in Quad 360
CRN # 15704

Human beings live together by both necessity and design. Using a mix of classic philosophical texts and contemporary readings and films, we’ll examine the notion of a good community. We’ll put our minds to the famous political triad of “liberty, equality, fraternity” to think about how these ideals might inform our understanding of important social issues and the ties that bind us together as a community. Topics will include the common good, individual rights, distributive justice, discrimination, immigration, and citizenship.

PHIL 321-01A Moral Philosophy (ES)
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:20-11:15am with Erica Stonestreet in Quad 353
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 322-01A Environmental Ethics (ES)
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9:10-10:05am with Charles Wright in Quad 341
CRN # 14117

What might it mean to interact with the Earth and its living systems with moral concern and respect?  The class starts with an account of consumer capitalism, where the relationship between humans and the Earth is built almost exclusively on the extraction of use values.  We then review some of the philosophical and religious ideas that gave rise to this apparent failure of ethical recognition.  Once we have considered these roots, we will turn to philosophical and religious efforts to reconceive the relation between humans and the more-than-human world.  Aldo Leopold, a forester and wildlife scientist, offers elegant reflections on the possibility of a land ethic.  Indigenous activists will recount for us their efforts to sustain and reinvigorate the ecologically respectful ways of life that they nearly lost as a result of European colonization.  His holiness Pope Francis will introduce us to the Catholic Church’s contemporary teachings about the right relation between humans and the Earth, teachings that depart dramatically from the exploitative attitudes of centuries past.  The class will finish by examining the libertarian inspired, market based proposals for environmental protection offered by Terry Anderson and Donald Leal.  This will offer us the opportunity to consider whether such a capitalist-friendly approach might be compatible with the earlier perspectives, which tend to see consumer capitalism as the problem.   Please be advised:  this class has a 10 hour field experience requirement.  For more information, contact the instructor. 

PHIL 324-01A Business Ethics (ES)
Monday/Wednesday 1:50-3:10pm with Joe Desjardins in Quad 361
CRN # 15566

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.

This course satisfies the Ethics Common Seminar (ECS).  The goal of the ECS  is to help students develop the ability to make good moral judgments about crucial issues that affect our lives.   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 325-01A Feminist Ethics (ES)
Tuesday/Thursday from 11:10am-12:30pm with Jean Keller in Quad 341
CRN # 13170

Ethical theory asks: what are the ethical norms, rules, and values we need to abide by to live together in cooperative, mutually beneficial, and fair social arrangements?

Feminist ethical theory extends and challenges this long tradition, by bringing an explicit concern with gender, intersectionality, and the elimination of social injustice into the field of ethics.

In this course, we’ll examine multiple perspectives on feminist ethics: theories of privilege and oppression, intersectionality, care ethics, and justice theory.  We will use these theories to evaluate a current ethical issue.

PHIL 334-01A Modern Philosophy (HM)
Tuesday/Thursday 9:35-10:55am with Dennis Beach, OSB, in Quad 339
CRN #10975

“Modern” Philosophy does not involve recent philosophy but studies the 17th and 18th century shift away from the authority of classical thought (Plato and Aristotle) and especially away from the authority exercised by religious doctrine over philosophy. This shift involved a radical re-appraisal of the human subject as thinker and knower. Even those philosophers who are skeptical about the human capacity to grasp absolute truths uphold the authority of human reason to understand its own limits and to assert itself as the ultimate judge of where “truth” can claimed. These thinkers declared an independence and autonomy for human reason that paved the way for the later declarations of political independence. We will study three of the most important figures of this modern re-birth of philosophy: René Descartes, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant. In between Descartes and Hume, we will consider Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz and Bishop George Berkeley, who developed Descartes’ ideas in various different ways.

PHIL 346-01A Philosophy of Religion (HM)
Cross listed with THEO 329F

Tuesday evenings 6:15-9:15pm with John Houston in Quad 361
CRN #15567

Broadly construed, this course might be described as “thinking about God”. Among the matters we will address are the idea of God; arguments for the existence of God; the significance (or lack thereof) of religious & mystical experience; the relationship between faith & reason; the problem of evil (especially divine hiddenness); miracles and the modern world view; the possibility of life after death; divine foreknowledge & human freedom; and the relation of God to finding meaning in human life.

PHIL 355-01A Philosophy of Violence/Non-Violence (HM)
Cross listed with PCST 343
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 11:30am-12:25pm with Dennis Beach, OSB, in Quad 361
CRN # 15569

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. Human thinking that claims to know the world easily structures things so that whatever does not fit into that framework is discounted and ignored and treated violently. The course will explore the connection between conceptual, “metaphysical” violence and violence in action and practice. Finally, the course will examine emerging philosophies that turn to the “other” and to discourse as nonviolent ways of calling human thought to ethics, to hospitality, to peace.

ETHS 390-07A Ethics Common Seminar Reading for Life (ES)
Tuesday evenings 6:15-9:15pm in REINLC 381 with 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)