PHIL 109

 Intro to Ancient Philosophy

Jay Elliott

M W     10:10 am-11:30 am

OLIN 101


Cross-listed: Classical Studies In ancient Greece and Rome, philosophy was more than just an academic study: it was a way of life, focused on the achievement of happiness through training in wisdom. This course introduces students to the practice of philosophy through sustained engagement with its ancient origins. We will begin with a discussion of the figure of Socrates, the paradigmatic ancient philosopher, including his disavowal of knowledge, his method of dialogue, his public trial, and his exemplary death. The second part of the course will focus on the two most significant thinkers in the classical period of philosophy, Plato and Aristotle, and on close examination of their philosophical arguments about the nature of knowledge, the powers of the soul, and the highest goal of life. We will conclude with a discussion of the profound critiques of classical philosophy developed by the major philosophical schools in post-classical Greece and Rome, including Cynicism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Skepticism. This course is open to all undergraduates and assumes no prior knowledge of philosophy.  Class size: 22



PHIL 118

 Human Nature

Kritika Yegnashankaran

 T Th    4:40 pm-6:00 pm

OLIN 205


Cross-listed: Human Rights; Mind, Brain, Behavior; Science, Technology, Society  Is there a human nature? Does it matter? An ancient tradition claims that we have a detailed set of inborn capabilities and limitations, rich in implications for how we can live our lives and organize society. An opposing tradition emphasizes plasticity and indeterminacy; at the limit, it pictures us as "blank slates," ready to form ourselves or to be formed by society. What remains of this debate once we refine the claims of each side? If there is a human nature, what is it, who can speak with authority about it, and what implications does it have for changing what we are? If there isn’t a human nature, does this more freely license the genetic and technological development of what we are? We will investigate these and other questions in the course through an interdisciplinary mix of readings from philosophy, psychology, evolutionary biology, and other fields. Class size: 22



PHIL 124

 Introduction to Ethics

Jay Elliott

M W     3:10 pm-4:30 pm

OLIN 203


Cross-listed: Human Rights This course introduces students to some of the major texts, figures, ideas, and debates in the tradition of moral philosophy. We will emphasize the complex interplay between theoretical debates about the foundations of ethics and practical engagement with moral issues such as abortion, euthanasia, global poverty, and terrorism. Foundational questions that we will take up include: How is it possible to argue meaningfully and fruitfully about ethical questions? Can we make genuine ethical progress? What can philosophy contribute to the work of understanding and resolving real-world ethical problems?  Class size: 22



PHIL 2044

 History of Philosophy II

Garry Hagberg

 T Th    3:10 pm-4:30 pm

OLIN 202


A course closely examining selected texts in the history of philosophy, emphasizing historical connections and developments in the subject from the 18th to the 20th Century. Authors include Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Russell, Sartre, William James, and Wittgenstein. Like this course’s predecessor (PHIL 203: History of Philosophy 1, which is prerequisite), we will keep questions of philosophical methodology in mind as we proceed through issues in ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of perception, and philosophy of language.  Class size: 22



PHIL 216

 Political Theory

Jay Elliott

M W     1:30 pm-2:50 pm

OLIN 101


Cross-listed: Human Rights; Political Studies    According to Aristotle’s Politics, “a state is among the things that exist by nature.” In Aristotle’s view, it is natural for human beings to live together in a political community, since it is only in a political community that human beings are fully capable of living well. In modern times, however, this ancient view of the state has come to seem doubtful and even dangerous. For many modern thinkers – beginning with Thomas Hobbes in the seventeenth century – the state is anything but natural. It is at best a useful artifice designed to keep the peace among naturally conflicting interests, and at worst a monstrous fraud whereby those in power oppress their subjects in the name of the “common good”. This difference between ancient and modern views of the state has profound implications for a series of fundamental questions in political theory: what is a political community? How can political authority be legitimate? Is disobedience or revolution against the existing authorities ever justified? If so, when? This course introduces students to the philosophical tradition of reflection on these questions through reading, discussing, and writing about classic works of political theory from antiquity to the present. The course is designed for sophomores and juniors who want to deepen their interest in political philosophy and to reflect on the foundations of their own political engagement. In addition to Aristotle and Hobbes, our primary readings will come from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. First-year students may apply.  Class size: 22




 History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology

Michelle Hoffman

 T Th    1:30 pm-2:50 pm

OLIN 305


Cross-listed: Science, Technology, Society In this course, we will look at the history of evolutionary theory from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Topics will include the earth sciences, the classification of life, pre-Darwinian concepts of biological evolution, Darwin and Wallace’s theory of evolution by natural selection, the problem of inheritance, and the Modern Synthesis. We will also consider philosophical debates surrounding evolution about questions such as adaptationism, genetic determinism, evolutionary ethics, and evolutionary progress. A recurring theme in the course will be the reception of Darwinian evolution, both among scientists and the broader public, up to and including twentieth-century debates over the teaching of evolution.  Class size: 20



PHIL 238

 Philosophy and Literature

Ruth Zisman

 T Th    11:50 am-1:10 pm

OLIN 202


In Plato’s Republic, Socrates defends his exile of the poets from the city in speech by explaining, “reason constrained us to do so…for there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry…an ancient antagonism.” What were the grounds for this foundational philosophical exile of poetry and how do we make sense of Socrates’ defense thereof? What is the nature of the relationship between philosophy and literature? To what extent can we and/or should we understand philosophy and literature as always already in conversation with one another? In need of one another? In awe of one another? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions by reading canonical philosophical and literary texts side by side. Readings will be drawn from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Camus, Sartre, and Derrida, as well as from Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Shakespeare, Goethe, Hölderlin, Blake, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Rilke, Kafka, Woolf, and Celan.  Class size: 22



PHIL 242


David Shein

 T Th    4:40 pm-6:00 pm

OLIN 204


Cross-listed:  Science, Technology, & Society  A semester-long investigation of philosophical relativism.  The first half of the semester will focus on epistemic relativism and the second half will focus on moral/cultural relativism.  While this will introduce us to several fundamental modes of philosophical inquiry (among them, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and meta-ethics), the focus of the class will be a detailed exploration of relativism as a philosophical position.  Authors to be read include: Richard Rorty, W.V. Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Bernard Williams, Peter Winch, and others.  A prior course in philosophy is desirable but not necessary.  Class size: 22



PHIL 247

 Philosophy of Mind

Kritika Yegnashankaran

 T Th    3:10 pm-4:30 pm

OLIN 205


Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior  The philosophy of mind addresses questions regarding the nature of the mind-brain relation, mental representation, and conscious awareness, to name a few. The dominant trend in contemporary philosophy of mind is to pursue these questions in close alliance with empirical sciences, such as psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. The result is typically a mechanistic and reductive picture of the mind, one on which the mind is just one arena among many in which causal factors operate to produce effects. However, some philosophers question whether a mechanistic picture of the mind can adequately accommodate our first person perspective, that is, what it feels like from the inside to have a mind and navigate the world with it. In this course, we will address the question of whether mechanistic accounts of the mind can accommodate our first person perspective by focusing on three main topics: the qualitative or phenomenological dimension of experience; our knowledge of our own attitudes; and our engagement in mental action.  Class size: 22



PHIL 302

 Philosophy Research Seminar

Kritika Yegnashankaran

 W        1:30 pm-3:50 pm

RKC 200


An intensive advanced seminar required of all philosophy majors in their junior year. A problem in contemporary philosophy is carefully selected, exactingly defined, and thoroughly researched; an essay or article is written addressing the problem, going through numerous revisions as a result of class responses, faculty guidance, and further research; the article is formally presented to the seminar, followed by discussion and debate; and the article in its completed form is submitted to an undergraduate or professional journal of philosophy or to an undergraduate conference in philosophy. The seminar integrates the teaching and practice of writing into the study of the subject matter of the seminar. Emphasis will be placed on the art of research; the development, composition, organization, and revision of analytical prose; the use of evidence to support an argument; strategies of interpretation and analysis of texts; and the mechanics and art of style and documentation. This course is required of all junior Philosophy majors.  Class size: 15 



PHIL 336

 Philosophy of Mathematics

Robert Martin

 T Th    10:10 am-11:30 am

OLIN 304


Topic for Spring 2016: The Diagonal Thread from Cantor to Gödel to Tarski.  A construction known as diagonalization has played a major role in set theory, logic and formal semantics.   The story begins with Cantor’s proof in 1891 that the reals are not denumerable.   We follow the thread to the most celebrated diagonal results, Gödel’s incompleteness theorems of 1931, and then on to the establishment of formal semantics in Alfred Tarski’s paper of 1933, “The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages.”  The story has held the attention of philosophers since Bertrand Russell showed in 1901 that diagonalization has dangerous relatives: the paradoxes of logic and semantics.  Prerequisite: Symbolic Logic (Phil 237), Proofs and Fundamentals (Math 261), or the equivalent.  Class size: 15



PHIL 375

 Nietzsche’s Gay Science and Zarathustra

Daniel Berthold

M          1:30 pm-3:50 pm

ASP 302


Cross-listed: German Studies   This course focuses on two intertwined works that Nietzsche wrote over a five year period between 1882 and 1887: the Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The original edition of the Gay Science ends with a passage that is word for word the opening of the Prologue of Zarathustra, and then after Nietzsche finishes Zarathustra, he turns to add a final book to The Gay Science. Thus the two texts, so different in style, tone, and narrative arc, are not only in conversation with each other but literally open up into each other. We will pay close attention to such themes as perspectivism, literary experimentalism, philosophy (and life) as art, the diagnosis of modernity as cultural nihilism, the recovery of the body, the central role of the unconscious, and the concepts of the will to power, the revaluation of values, the overman, and the death of god. Readings also from Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, and Laurence Lampert. Prerequisite: previous courses in philosophy.   Class size: 18



PHIL 385

 Philosophy of Wittgenstein

Garry Hagberg

 M         4:40 pm-7:00 pm

OLIN 101


A first reading of major works of one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth-century, Ludwig Wittgenstein. ReadingsTractatus Logico-Philosophicus, The Blue Book, and The Philosophical Investigations. This course fulfills the single-philosopher requirement for junior philosophy majors.

Class size: 15






LIT 2142


Thomas Bartscherer

M W     6:20 pm-7:40 pm

HEG 308




PS 295

 RevolutionARy Constitutionalism

Roger Berkowitz

M W     3:10 pm-4:30 pm