Spring 2016

PHIL 121-01A Great Issues in Philosophy (HM)
11:10am-12:30pm with Professor Steve Wagner in Quad 361
CRN # 15388
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 text and through class discussion, we will critically analyze the ideas that philosophers have offered and will strive to formulate our own philosophical views on these issues.

PHIL 121-02A Great Issues in Philosophy (HM)
9:10-10:05am with Professor Joe Desjardins in Quad 361
CRN #16668

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.  Finally, we'll engage with some contemporary philosophers in a conversation about the rationality of belief in God.

PHIL 123 Philosophy of Human Nature (HM)
123-02A at 12:40-1:35pm with Professor Erica Stonestreet
CRN # 15950
123-01A at 1:50-2:45pm with Professor Erica Stonestreet
CRN # 15846
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? 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.  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 meaning 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 150-01A Philosophy in Literature (HM)
10:20-11:15am with Professor Rene McGraw, OSB, in Quad 353
CRN # 16665
In Literature, people find a strong sense of the source of philosophy.  Like Amahl in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors with each novel or short story or poem that we read, we can say with Amahl as he sings to his mother, "Do you see what I see?" and once we see something that we had not seen before or something we had not cared to look at ourselves, we can begin questioning, "What does all this mean?"  "What does it tell us about the world in which we live?"  "Who are we? What is the world? What is the truth and freedom?"  Since college days Literature and philosophy have been dual passions in my soul.  This course gives me a chance to explore them - with Homer, with Emily Dickinson, with Tolstoy and Chekhov, with contemporary short stories.  Some of the stories will be on-line, some you will be required to purchase.  Requirement:  3 exams, daily writing, final paper.

PHIL 156-01A Asian Philosophy (HM) (IC)
8:00-9:20am with Professor Charles Wright in Quad 339
CRN # 16357
We will engage in a careful study of the philosophical thought of the Confucian, Buddhist, Hindu and Daoist traditions of religious philosophy.  From these traditions we will learn about the following:

  • Moral Ideals that emphasize restraint of desire and disentanglement from worldly attachments
  • Conceptions of 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 diea that insight into the true nature of reality and divinity can neither be achieved nor conveyed through logic or language

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

PHIL 321-01A Moral Philosophy (ES)
11:30am-12:25pm with Professor Joe Desjardins in Quad 361
CRN # 16743
Ethics is concerned with questions about how we should live our lives, what we ought to do, what type of person we ought to be, and what we should value.  Moral philosophy aims to answer these questions and to provide justifications for answers in terms of a systemic account of the life worth living for human beings.

This course will approach moral philosophy from the perspective of the history of western philosophy.  We shall examine how some major philosophers have answered not only the practical questions of what we ought to do and how we should live, but also the more systematic and philosophical questions that underlie these answers, questions regarding human nature, human psychology, and the lived experience of human beings.  In short, we will examine answers to the "Why?" questions:  why should we live this way?  Why should I be this type of person?  Why should we value this and not that?

Like all of western philosophy, we'll start with Plato and Aristotle.  We'll spend some time looking at how early Christians, particularly Augustine and Aquinas, integrated Greek philosophy with Christian theology.  We then will focus on the moral philosophies of the modern period, including writings from Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Bentham and Mill.  We'll end the semester by examining more contemporary developments of moral philosophy by reading such philosophers as Alastair MacIntrye and John Rawls.

PHIL 331-01A Ancient Philosophy (HM)
12:45-2:05pm with Professor John Houston in Quad 347
CRN # 12316
This is a first course in the history of philosophy in antiquity, covering major figures of almost an entire millennium. Special focus will be given to the works of Plato and Aristotle. The course is divided into three main periods. The first period is that of the Presocratics. Beginning with Thales of Miletus in the 6th century BC, we will examine the emergence of philosophy in the ancient western world. We will pay special attention to the answers these early philosophers gave to the following questions: What is it to be real? Is knowledge possible? If so, what are the proper objects of knowledge? Presocratic responses to these questions betrayed a rejection of conventional wisdom, and an attempt to replace it with a more informed view. We will work hard to understand the answers they provided to these questions. Next we will turn to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They would not only respond to these questions, but would attempt to answer another: what is the chief good or best life for a human being?  We will examine what Plato and Aristotle held in common, as well as where they diverged when addressing these questions. In the final part of the course we will survey some of the major philosophical responses to Aristotelian philosophy that emerged in Epicureanism and Stoicism. We will especially attend to what these philosophers had to say about nature, divinity, and the best life for a human being, and how their accounts differed substantially from that of Aristotle.

PHIL 341-01A 20th Century Continental Philosophy (HM)
10:20-11:15am with Professor Dennis Beach, OSB, in Quad 344
CRN # 16669
The German philosopher Martin Heidegger's Being and Time marks a watershed of thought:  Everything that came before it appears in a new light, and everything that follows it has wrestled with its insights.  Heidegger's basic questions appear simple but also abstract:  "What is the meaning of Being?"  Yet Heidegger also tells us that he wants to work out the meaning of the question of Being concretely, not abstractly.  Our task will be to follow Heidegger through the concrete development of this question, and to begin to understand how we humans, "being-in-the-world," are uniquely those beings for whom this question of being has ultimate significance.  Heidegger changes the way we think of the world, of meaning, of authenticity and conformity, of truth and language, of death and conscience and time.

PHIL 346-01A Philosophy of Religion (HM)
12:40-1:35pm with Professor Rene McGraw, OSB, in Quad 353
CRN # 16671
Human life longs for meaning.  We sometimes invent meaning in order to carry on in our daily lives.  But even more often we find that meaning in family and friends and work and sometimes in God and faith.  We talk about religious experience and the meaning it might give to our lives.  The focus of the course will be on religious experience and desire - their reality and reliability for the believer and non-believer or, on the contrary, their chimerical character for the non-believe and more cautious believer.  We will also look at this religious experience and desire from the perspective of theological thinking. 
Requirements:  two tests; daily writing; one final paper.

PHIL 388-01A Philosophy Capstone
9:35-10:55am with Professor Steve Wagner in Quad 361
CRN # 15952
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 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.

HONR 230G-01A Philosophy of Music (FA)
11:10am-12:30pm with Professor Erica Stonestreet in Quad 353
CRN # 16315
Philosophy of Music will help students reflect more deeply on their experiences of music.  Most people experience music on a basic level of emotion and are left with an overall impression; those educated in music are able to more readily recognize forms, musical references, and context in more detail.  But few of either group has thought systematically about what music is, whether music possesses meaning, and, if so, how that meaning is conveyed or expressed.  These are central issues in the philosophy of music and will be central issues in our course.  We will begin by giving some attention to this history of musical aesthetics to develop a context for the questions, but the greatest emphasis will be on exploring them in the context of our world today. The course will present divergent philosophical theories that will be considered with respect to a wide range of music including Western "classical" music, music of non-Western cultures, and the popular music many of us enjoy. 
Class will regularly involve discussing philosophical readings and musical selections.

ETHS 390 Ethics Common Seminar:  Ethics in Everyday Life (ES)
390-01A Monday/Wednesday/Friday 12:40-1:35pm with Professor Jean Keller in Quad 349
CRN # 15151
390-04A Monday/Wednesday/Friday 1:50-2:40pm with Professor Jean Keller in Quad 349
CRN # 14780
Students face a variety of ethical challenges in their daily lives.  Finding the right balance between one's obligations to self and to others in one's friendships, romantic life, work life, and family life are one set of ethical concerns.  Daily news headlines, that highlight challenging and seemingly intractable social problems, bring our attention to another.  In this course we'll address ethical issues in everyday life, ranging from the ethics of interpersonal relationships to our obligations as informed citizens with regard to the pressing social problems of our day.  We'll student contemporary moral theories (virtue ethics, care ethics, deontology) and debates within moral theory and use this theoretical understanding to engage problems posed by students' own lives and by news headlines. 

ETHS 390 Ethics Common Seminar: Democracy, Freedom and Inequality (ES)
390-02A Monday/Wednesday/Friday 8:00-8:55am with Professor Charles Wright in Quad 353
CRN # 15858
390-05A Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9:10-10:05am with Professor Charels Wright in Quad 353
CRN # 14779
In the United States today, most citizens tend to take for granted that liberty and equal treatment are fundamental parts of a just society.  But if asked what, exactly, these core values amount to, or how they are embedded in a representative democratic system, many citizens would have difficulty providing clear and informed answers.  The purpose of this class is to provide young citizens with an introduction to two sets of ideas articulated in the Western tradition of political philosophy and foundational for the American Republic.  The first is the nature of the freedoms and equality thought to be essential for a good human life.  The second is the supposition that the task of a liberal democratic republic is to protect these values.  Equipped with this philosophical knowledge, the class will then discuss the work of authors who document the ethical challenges and social harms created by consumer society, economic inequality, and the persisting legacy of racial discrimination in the United States.

ETHS 390-09A Ethics Common Seminar: Others (ES)
Tuesday/Thursday with Professor Tony Cunningham in Quad 343
CRN # 14775
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 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.

ETHS 390 Ethics Common Seminar: Good, Evil & the Limitations of Human Nature (ES)
390-10A Monday evenings 6:15-9:15pm with Professor John Houston in Quad 361
CRN # 14778
390-13A Wednesday evenings 6:15-9:15pm with Professor John Houston in Quad 361
CRN # 16157
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 references 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.

ETHS 390-12A Ethics Common Seminar: Reading for Life (ES)
Tuesday evenings 6:15-9:15pm with Professor Tony Cunningham in Quad 353
CRN # 15591
Everyone loves a good story.  Great stories can provide us with farm 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)
Hecuba (Euripides)
How To Be Good (Nick Hornby)
Glengarry Glen Ross (David Mamet)
Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier)  
The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan)