2020 Summer Courses in Philosophy
Session A: June 22 – July 31
- Philos 6 - Introduction to Political Philosophy
Instructor: Ayana Samuel
One of the central aims of political philosophy is to investigate the relationship between the individual (or the personal or private) and the state. In this course, we will consider some of the fundamental questions about this relationship. What is the role of the state? Does it have a significant role to play in the life of the individual? If so, why is that and what is the nature of this role? How does the state help or hinder the individual’s pursuit of a good life? What form should the state take? To what degree is this form constrained by the interests or well-being of individuals under the rule of the state? Is it possible to have a stateless society?
- Philos 7 - Introduction to Philosophy of Mind
Instructor: Kim Johnston
The aim of this course is to introduce students to philosophical methodology by way of asking questions about the mind. The questions center around what the mind itself is like and how the mind can causally interact with the world. This course will be divided into three units. In the first unit we will discuss the mind-body problem and the issue of mental causation. Is the mind part of the body? If it isn’t, how does it interact with the body? What kind of theory can make sense of the mind’s interaction with the body? In the second, we will discuss cognition and consciousness in turn, as the two central features of the human mind. We will look to the computational theory of mind and see what light it can shed on the issue of human cognition and how mental states can exist as causal entities in the world. We will also see some complications coming from consciousness and whether it is consistent with a physicalist view of the mind. In the final unit we will try to discern what role cognition and consciousness play in human perception and action, including the interesting cases of implicit bias and blindsight.
- Philos 31 - Logic, First Course
Instructor: Torsten Odland
In this course, we will learn a new language: symbolic logic. Using this formal language, we will study some forms of logically valid inference: inferences in which conclusions follow from premises by logic alone. We will develop ways to formally prove that a conclusion follows logically from premises. Additionally, the symbolic language we develop in 31 is adequate to capture a substantial part of English, and we will practice translating English sentences into our symbolic language. Thus, this class also aims to provide skills for analyzing claims and arguments in everyday life. This course will also provide important background skills for any field that relies on exact reasoning or abstract argumentation. Our course will cover sentential logic and monadic predicate logic.
- Philos C119: Self, Social Identity, and Authenticity
Instructor: Jae Choe
In this course, we will extract and examine accounts of the perceived self and social identity by drawing from Eastern traditions, the Western canon, and contemporary social philosophy. In covering the texts, we’ll address the following questions: How might the concept of self be historically situated? What is the role of the “other” in determining one’s sense of self? What is the relation between self-knowledge, other-knowledge, and living authentically (i.e. “being myself”)? How might the presence of self be a hindrance to self-development? Finally, implications for contemporary identity politics will be considered (time permitting).
- Philos C127A - Philosophy of Language
Instructor: Ian Boon
Language gives us the ability to express a wide range of thoughts, merely by making certain marks on a page, gesturing in a certain way, or producing a certain sequence of sounds. While this observation may at first glance look banal and uninteresting, upon further reflection it starts seem quite mystifying. When I say “Aristotle was born in Stagira”, I have seemingly made a claim about a long-dead man, a long-past time, and a far-away place. How is this possible? How are our words associated with distant parts of reality?
This course covers selected topics in twentieth century analytic philosophy of language, including: reference and description, naming, and the relationship between context and meaning. Readings will be drawn from both foundational and contemporary work.
- Philos 166 - Philosophy of Law: Promises and Contracts
Instructor: Alexander Patsaouras
Contracts and promises play central roles in social life and Western legal and political theory. We will spend the first half of the course studying promises and then the second half of the course studying contracts and their relationship to promises. Questions we will address include the following. What is the central function of promises and what is their paradigmatic setting? When studying promises, should we focus on agreements that strangers make with each other to pursue their self-interest? Or do we understand promises better if we start by looking at how romantic partners, friends, and participants in other close relationships use promises to maintain equal relations? Are contracts legally enforceable promises? Or do they perform a function distinct from promises? Which is more fundamental, contracts or promises? What role does the state play in contractual relationships? And what does this role tell us about the relationship between the state and citizens more generally?
- Philos M187 - Topics in Feminist Philosophy: Metaphysics and Epistemology
Instructor: Sarah Beach
This course examines gender and oppression, with a focus on metaphysics and epistemology. We will explore the following topics: the concept of ‘woman’, internalized oppression, structural oppression, feminist epistemology, epistemic injustice, intersectional feminism, transnational feminisms, and transfeminism.
- Philos 3 - Historical Introduction to Philosophy (Online)
Instructor: Melissa Retkwa
This course will provide a historical introduction to Western philosophy. We will read classical texts that deal with topics such as the soul, life and death, God, evil, mind and matter, knowledge. We will think about questions like: Is the soul immortal? Can we prove God exists? And we will see some of what has been done to answer such questions.
Session C: August 3 – September 11
- Philos 7 - Introduction to Philosophy of Mind: The Myth of Dualism
Instructor: Milo Crimi
There are minds, and there are bodies. People are unions of the two. Or so says the myth of dualism. We’ll pursue this myth through one important fragment of its history. Not all myths are fictions, but some are. We’ll see if we’re chasing a ghost.
We’ll begin by surveying three approaches to the relationship between soul and body from the history of philosophy: Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Cartesianism. We’ll then consider three 20th-century theories that seek to reject the historical paradigm: behaviorism, identity theory, and functionalism. We’ll conclude by reflecting on an assortment of challenges to the underlying notion of an identifiable, unified, or non-illusory self.
Readings will include selections from Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas, Marguerite Porete, Teresa of Avila, René Descartes, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Anton Wilhelm Amo, Gilbert Ryle, Jerry Fodor, W.E.B. Du Bois, Michel de Montaigne, and Nagarjuna, among others.
- Philos 22 - Introduction to Ethical Theory
Instructor: Amber Kavka-Warren
What makes an action morally right or wrong? Why should anyone care? This course will survey four influential kinds of answers to these questions in the philosophical tradition. In each area, we will read selections from historically significant authors. Our readings will also include some secondary materials representing more contemporary debate in these areas and questioning the application of these theories across national borders and across species.
Unit 1: Utilitarianism. Morally right actions are those actions which will maximize happiness for the relevant population.
Unit 2: Duty-based ethics. Morally right actions are those actions motivated by duty.
Unit 3: Contractarianism. Morally right actions are those actions which follow a system of rules that self-interested, rational individuals would agree to follow.
Unit 4: Virtue ethics. Morally right actions are those actions which the person of perfect virtue would perform.
The course presupposes no background experience in philosophy. Students will be introduced to the kinds of questions that moral theorists ask and why those questions have no easy answers. Students will develop skills in reading difficult philosophical texts, identifying and criticizing philosophical arguments, and written expression.
- Philos 31 - Logic, First Course
Instructor: Christian De Leon
This course is an introduction to a formal language, Monadic Predicate Logic, designed to cleanly characterize normal, everyday inference patterns. Learning this language will primarily involve learning two skills: (i) translation between sentences of English and formulas of the logical language, and (ii) proving the validity of logical arguments using a system of natural deduction. These skills are useful for critically thinking about claims and analyzing arguments.
- Philos C119 - Topics in History of Philosophy: Early Philosophy of Technology
Instructor: Zachary Biondi
Philosophy of technology, like technology itself, has a history. Since technology changes rapidly, we are tempted to believe that philosophy of technology from previous centuries is as obsolete as the technologies in those centuries. This course explores and challenges that belief. We will survey some of the first voices in philosophy of technology and consider how their insights might apply to us today. The course themes will include automation, the ethics of creation, the meaning of ‘technology’, and technophobia.
- Philos 155A: Medical Ethics
Instructor: Jenna Donohue
In this course, students will be introduced to some of the major philosophical issues associated with medical ethics, including abortion, euthanasia, selective reproduction, and exploitation. We will consider the stance of major ethical theories on these questions and investigate compelling objections and arguments. Along the way, we will practice philosophy and work to improve philosophical skills such as asking good questions, explaining philosophical arguments, and criticizing arguments clearly. Students will be expected to engage with these issues by participating in lecture and section, completing writing exercises throughout the session, and sitting a final examination.
- Philos 177A - Existentialism
Instructor: Vaheh Shirvanian
This course will serve as an introduction to the existentialist philosophical tradition by way of exploring the themes of authenticity and inauthenticity. We will investigate these notions as they figure in the works of the existentialist thinkers Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir but also in the works of thinkers who influenced the existentialist tradition, namely Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and especially Martin Heidegger. In laying the groundwork for this investigation of inauthenticity/inauthenticity, we will also explore such notions as being-in-the- world, being-with-others, the they/herd, anxiety, and resoluteness. Our guiding questions will be “What is authenticity? And is it something we should aspire to?”