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Current Philosophy Courses
FALL 2013 Courses
Philosophy 201: Logic
F. H. Bradley amusingly maintained that “Metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct,” but this is altogether too pessimistic a view of the philosophical enterprise. Rather, we like to think of philosophy as a rational endeavor, in which we do not merely hold positions about the good, the true, and the beautiful, but in which we also give good reasons for believing those positions. Indeed, we generally like to think that the positions we hold, whether we consider them “philosophical” or not, are held for good reasons. That is where logic comes in. Logic distinguishes between what counts as compelling support for beliefs and what does not, and develops specific methods and techniques that enable us to identify each sort of case.
To elaborate: much of the business of philosophy, as well as our more everyday thinking, is concerned with the construction and evaluation of arguments. As philosophers use the term, an argument is a collection of statements, one or more of which (the premises) are claimed to provide support for, or reasons to believe, one of the other statements (the conclusion). Logic, then, is concerned with evaluating arguments: understanding what distinguishes good ones, and recognizing the ways in which such reasoning can go wrong. We all have a strong interest in believing and discovering the truth, and becoming more self-conscious about what constitute good arguments and bad ones is of invaluable assistance in the search for truth. Logic, then, is the foundation for clear and rational thinking, and thus for any intellectual endeavor.
In this course we will explore the really quite remarkable techniques that philosophers have developed for evaluating arguments. You will learn how to distinguish good arguments from bad ones. As you internalize these techniques, you will develop standards for rational discourse and greater sophistication in critically evaluating your own thinking and that of others. With any luck, you will emerge as a more rational person. At the very least you will become more self-aware of your rationality.
PHIL 241: Philosophies of India and
This course is an introduction to the philosophical traditions of India and Tibet. We will be concerned primarily with the classical texts of these traditions – the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita, the Hindu and Buddhist Sutras – as well the systems of thought they produced. Since in most cases these are considered sacred texts, philosophy and religion are not easily distinguished in Indian and Tibetan thought. So many of the ideas we will consider will have spiritual as well as philosophical significance. Issues to be explored include the nature of the divine, ultimate reality, the self, happiness, ethics, the just society, knowledge, and spiritual liberation. We will also consider more recent representatives of these traditions, such as Mohandas Gandhi in India and the contemporary political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama. Comparisons to Western philosophical and religious conceptions will be made where appropriate.
PHIL 245: Applied Ethics: Global Ethical Challenges
Have you ever heard someone claim that we simply cannot “judge” other cultures and their moral views because every culture’s moral code is different? There is something important and right about this idea, but there is also something profoundly wrong about it. What this view gets right is the fact that there is a real danger in thinking that all of our moral views are based on some universal rational standard. Often we just need to keep an open mind about whether our own views are rational or simply prejudice. Yet, the idea that every culture’s moral code is different (including our own) does not mean that there is no agreement about bedrock moral facts, nor does it mean that the elusive concept of “culture” has some claim upon our moral allegiance. When we really look at a variety of different moral systems, we can see some different features to be sure, but we can also glimpse real commonalities when it comes to shared human concerns.
In this course, we will examine a range of thorny issues in the area of philosophy known as Ethics, or Applied Ethics in our case. We’ll look at issues in human rights, environmental ethics, hunger and poverty, war and violence, gender, racial discrimination, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cells, and human cloning. We’ll hear from a range of different moral perspectives reflecting the concerns of nearly every continent on the globe as well as several religious and cultural viewpoints.
PHIL 450: Does Morality Need God?
This course is designed to help us answer the title question. It’s not as easy to answer as you might think, and there are different ways of saying “yes” and different ways of saying “no.” Some philosophers have argued that without a “deep” foundation in some transcendent reality (such as God), moral obligations would be very strange things. On the other hand, other thinkers have claimed that the attempt to anchor morality in God makes our moral obligations dependent on the whim of a supreme being and makes us fearful and childish, rather than morally autonomous. In this course, we’ll read some great historical figures on this question and also some more contemporary figures. From the historical sources, we may consider portions of Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Kierkegaard, Mill, and Beauvoir. As far as contemporary sources are concerned, we’ll read Erik Wielenberg’s Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe, and other texts concerning divine command theory and natural law.
PHIL 490 -- INDEPENDENT STUDIES
Requirements for the major:
(1) PHIL 200 - Informal Logic or PHIL 201 - Logic
Total of at least 24 credits in Philosophy (which can include 2 credit courses).
Requirements for the minor:
(1) PHIL 200 - Informal Logic or COMM 160 or PHIL 201 - Logic
COURSE CATEGORY LIST
List II - Knowledge & Belief
PHIL 241 - Phil of India & Tibet
PHIL 230 - Ancient Philosophy
PHIL 195 - Intro to Philosophy
Note: Only one (1) cross-listed course (4 credits)
offered by another department may count towards the major and minor.