2023 Summer Courses in Philosophy


Enrollment is open for UCLA summer courses. Current UCLA Students can enroll at MyUCLA. Visiting students can register at summer.ucla.edu.


Session A: June 26 – August 4
Philos 7 - Introduction to Philosophy of Mind


Instructor: Esther Nikbin

Technological advancements this past century have allowed the study of mind to reach from its largely theoretical origins into rigorous experimental practice. Over the same period, we’ve developed a pervasive relationship with computers which is growing and deepening day-by-day. In this course we’ll set up some of the significant contemporary problems we face in understanding our own minds, and examine a picture of what our science is able to tell us at present. We’ll also consider the emerging questions and dilemmas that confront us from the realm of computers, machines, and artificial intelligence. These two domains intersect when we look to a future of technology being used to support and augment our biological minds and bodies, and this intersection presents its own issues as well.


Philos 22 - Introduction to Ethical Theory


Instructor: Alexi Patsaouras

When you decide important aspects of your life, such as what to major in, how to spend your time, who you should be friends with, how close to or independent from your parents you should be, etc., what should be your guiding aim?  What would make your life a good one, one that you should want to lead and does you and your capabilities justice?  We will think about how to answer this question by looking at three influential works in the history of Western moral philosophy, by Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill.  Each presents a view of what is the good for human beings, what the good that you should aim at is.  Is it a virtuous life, animated by character traits and states of mind like courage, friendliness, and wisdom?  Or is it making decisions and charting a course in life that respect your own dignity and that of other people?  Or should you try your best to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people?  Or elements of all three?


Philos 31 - Logic, First Course

Instructor: Zeynep Yildiz

This course focuses on sentential (propositional) logic and (monadic and polyadic) predicate logic (quantificational logic). No prior logic or mathematics training will be assumed. We will learn propositional connectives and their semantics as given by truth tables, translate natural language sentences to symbolic formulas (and vice versa), and engage in deductive reasoning by analyzing natural language texts, assessing (in-)validity, and doing formal derivations.


Philos C119 - Topics in History of Philosophy: Self, Identity, and Authenticity


Instructor: Jae Choe

Critical examination of accounts of “self” and, to some extent, “social identity”. Material will be drawn from the Western philosophical canon and Eastern traditions as well as from contemporary social philosophy and social sciences.

In extracting pictures of self and identity from various sources, we’ll address the following questions: How might the self be a historically situated notion? Are accounts of self like mirrors that correspond to cultural and historical circumstances? What is the role of the “other” in determining one’s sense of self? What is the relationship between self-knowledge, other-knowledge, and living authentically (i.e., “being myself”)? Can the presence of self be a hindrance to self-development? Finally, time permitting, implications for contemporary identity ethics will be addressed.


Philos 129 - Philosophy of Psychology: Mind, Behavior and Animal Culture

Instructor: Jacob Reid

Psychology aims to give a scientific account of the mind. In one sense, what a mind is seems obvious. We hold beliefs, we remember things, we perceive, and have experiences. In another sense, what a mind is seems mysterious. Our everyday practice of explaining and predicting one another’s behavior hinges on attributing to one another various psychological states. However, quite simple organisms appear capable of complex behavior. Insects perform impressive feats of navigation, find food and distinguish kin from non-kin. Do such behaviors mark the presence of a mind? Where in nature does mind begin anyway? In this class we will be exploring various ways in which these questions might be answered. Various issues will be addressed along the way. Topics will include the notion of representation and its role in psychological explanation, as well as the notions of behavior and agency and their relation to mentality. We will also discuss what psychological capacities are necessary for having culture and whether or not animals have culture.


Philos 166: Philosophy of Law: Punishment and Pardon


Instructor: Daniel Ranweiler

In this course we will investigate the nature of punishment as a legal response to criminal wrongdoing. Starting with the question of its aims and justification, we will survey a number of forward- and backward-looking theories of punishment before turning to the topic of forgiveness and mercy in the criminal law. Our discussion will focus on the nature and compatibility of juridical practices like pardon, clemency, and commutation with the stated aims of punishment, taking special consideration of recent calls for the abolition of prisons and greater implementation of restorative justice practices. Additional topics may include a look at the role of moral luck in punishing unsuccessful criminal attempts, but also an examination of relevant distinctions such as the difference between legal punishment and interpersonal sanction, criminal and non-criminal legal liability, as well as punishment and other forms of legal remedy.

Syllabus: https://bruinlearn.ucla.edu/courses/165594/assignments/syllabus

Philos 179 - Asian Philosophy: Conceptions of the Good Life

Instructor: Catherine Hochman

What is required for living a good life? How can we be freed from suffering? What should we
do to obtain happiness? We will investigate this nexus of questions in three major schools of Asian
philosophy: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. As we will see, for each of these schools, the
study of philosophy has immensely practical import – it provides a rubric for how to live well.

In our first unit, we will unpack the central role of virtue in the Confucian picture of the good life
and learn what self-cultivation requires by examining the works of Mencius, the “Second Sage” of
Confucianism. In our second unit, we will read from the two major Daoist works, the Daodejing and
the Zhuangzi. We will try to get a handle on the Daoist view that the good life involves “obtaining
dao,” or The Way, and results in “effortless action.” In our third and final unit, we will see how
Buddhism diagnoses the root of all suffering as false belief in the self. We will look at Buddhist
arguments against the existence of the self and examine the soteriological benefits that come from
viewing both the self and experience as empty.



Session C: August 7 – September 15
Philos 3 - Historical Introduction to Philosophy


Instructor: John Kardosh

This course will survey prominent early thinkers that influenced the European philosophical tradition, primarily from classical Greek and medieval Christian schools of thought. Some of the thinkers we will learn about include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. We will examine core texts from those thinkers and see what kinds of questions they were interested in trying to answer, such as “Do we have souls?” and “What is stuff made up of?”.


Philos 7 - Introduction to Philosophy of Mind

Instructor: Torsten Odland

What is a mind? Is it a physical object, or something else entirely? Is your mind simply your brain? Could a sophisticated computer have a mind? What is the relationship between your mind and you—could your mind be destroyed while you go on existing? In this course we will consider answers to these and other foundational questions in the philosophy of mind. Topics include: dualism, mind-brain identity, functionalism, internalism/externalism about mental content, personhood, and consciousness.


Philos C119 - Topics in History of Philosophy: Aristotle's Practical Philosophy

Instructor: David Pederson

This course is an intensive exploration of Aristotle’s practical philosophy: his ethics and politics.  These two topics go hand in hand for Aristotle, since the question of how I can flourish as an individual is inescapably connected with the question of how we can flourish together in a political community. One of our tasks will be to try and understand the nature of that connection, working our way through Aristotle’s analyses of such concepts as happiness, virtue, justice, friendship, property, and citizenship.

Aristotle’s ethical and political thought has had an enormous influence historically. Yet Aristotle’s thought isn’t merely of historical interest, but is still fresh and challenging even today. In this class, then, we’ll also think about the continuing relevance of Aristotle’s ethics and politics––assessing his views, criticizing, reworking, or extending them. Most importantly, you will have the opportunity to articulate and refine your own views on the topics that Aristotle takes up––topics central to human life in Aristotle’s day, and in ours.


Philos 155A - Medical Ethics

Instructor: Colleen Hanson

This course is an intensive introduction to some key ideas and arguments in medical ethics. We will begin with an introduction to the principles in biomedical ethics: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Then we will turn to some broader questions such as: Is loss of biological function necessarily bad? Is there a value neutral way to think about biological function? Insight into these questions will carry us through to our other topics, namely: disability, genetic screening, reproductive ethics, death and end of life decision making, euthanasia, and allocation of medical resources.


Philos 177A - Existentialism: On Being Authentic


Instructor: Jungsuk Lee

It is familiar advice to be oneself or be truthful to oneself–i.e., to lead one’s life authentically. However, this notion of authenticity as an ethical ideal seems to be quite elusive. To grasp it better, we will study the philosophical views of some central figures from the Existentialist tradition in which the notion grew and evolved. The views we will explore are those of Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. In examining different senses they assign to the notion of authenticity, our aim is to get clearer on the following issues: (1) what does it mean to live authentically/inauthentically? (2) To what extent does the ideal of authenticity have normative authority over our life, i.e. tell us how we ought to be living? (3) What insight might our reflection on authenticity be able to offer as to socio-political issues such as oppression and systemic injustice?


Philos M187 - Topics in Feminist Philosophy: Intersectional Feminist Standpoint Epistemology


Instructor: Sarah Beach

This course takes an in-depth look at feminist standpoint epistemology, which examines how factors of one’s social/political situation, particularly gender, but also race, class, and other factors, can provide one with a distinctive (and perhaps in some sense privileged) epistemic perspective. We examine the notion of a standpoint as well as substantive questions about the nature of the feminist standpoint, if there is such a thing–asking questions such as: to what sort of knowledge could women have privileged epistemic access? How do race, class, sexuality, and other factors complicate things? Is their standpoint privileged in some sense? Is it alienated in some sense?