Philosophy

PY 1731. INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION

Cat. I This course provides an overview of key concepts, methods and authors in both fields. These introduce the student to the types of reasoning required for the pursuit of in-depth analysis in each discipline. Emphasis on topics and authors varies with the particular instructor.

PY 2711. PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES OF KNOWLEDGE AND REALITY

The course provides an introduction to some key problems in epistemology and metaphysics. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy inquiring into the nature and conditions of knowledge and truth. Epistemologists ask such questions as: How should we define knowledge? How has the being of nature and knowledge of nature been represented in Western philosophy and science? Is knowledge objective? What constitutes adequate justification for holding a belief? Are different kinds of bodies treated as differently credible in terms of knowledge production? Is it even possible to know anything about the world at all? Metaphysics explores questions concerning the nature and structure of reality, such as: What is the self? Do souls exist? How important are categories such as gender, race, class, and sexuality in forming our identities? Does God exist? Is reality material, immaterial, or a combination of both? What is time? Am I the same person today that I was yesterday? What kind of a phenomenon is mind or thought and can entities in addition to human beings, such as computers, be said to have this attribute? Students will explore questions such as these and others as they submit their beliefs about the nature of knowledge and reality to philosophical examination. Recommended Background: PY/RE 1731, Introduction to Philosophy and Religion.

PY 2712. SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

This course examines metaphysical and moral questions that philosophers have raised about social and political life. Among questions treated might be: What are the grounds, if any, of the obligation of a citizen to obey a sovereign? Are there basic principles of justice by which societies, institutions and practices are rightly evaluated? What is democracy, and how can we tell if an institution or practice is democratic? To what degree do economic institutions put limits on the realization of freedom, democracy and self-determination? Readings might include excerpts from the works of Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Marx, as well as numerous contemporary philosophers. Suggested background: familiarity with basic concepts in philosophy (as in PY/RE 1731).

PY 2713. BIOETHICS

The purpose of this course is to evaluate the social impact of technology in the areas of biology/biotechnology, biomedical engineering and chemistry. The focus of the course will be on the human values in these areas and how they are affected by new technological developments. The course will deal with problems such as human experimentation, behavior control, death, genetic engineering and counseling, abortion, and the allocation of scarce medical resources. These problems will be examined through lectures, discussions and papers. Suggested background: knowledge of key terms and concepts as given in PY/RE 1731 and PY/RE 2731.

PY 2714. ETHICS AND THE PROFESSIONS: PERSONAL, PROFESSIONAL, AND SOCIAL DILEMMAS.

Cat. II This course will present a framework by which various ethical dilemmas that arise in the professions, especially the science-related professions, can be identified, examined, and evaluated on the level of personal morality, professional codes of ethics, and social values. The goal is to study the solutions of these dilemmas in each of the three levels to determine what relation there may be between them, and whether or not resolutions of a dilemma on one level are appropriate for another level. Ethical concepts, professional codes of ethics, and policy positions will be used to analyze and evaluate these issues in a case study format. Representatives of appropriate professions will be invited to address specific issues pertaining to ethical dilemmas in their field. This course will be offered in 2014-15 and in alternating years thereafter.

PY 2716. PHILOSOPHY OF DIFFERENCE

This course examines difference as a concept and as phenomenon that emerges in everyday experience, especially in regard to identity categories like gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, and species. Students will consider the ontological categories of same and different, normal and abnormal, and self and other as they apply to psychological processes of identify formation and social processes of inclusion and exclusion. We will also explore how our conceptions of difference are influenced by and influence (for example) religion, science, politics, work, and art. Most importantly, we will inquire into the foundations of the categorizations of beings and things that are operative in our contemporary cultures and subject them to intellectual scrutiny. Course readings span a range of philosophical traditions including Continental philosophy, analytic philosophy, Latina/o philosophy, feminist philosophy, queer theory, critical race theory, disability theory, and environmental philosophy. Recommended Background: PY/RE 1731, Introduction to Philosophy and Religion or PY/RE 2731, Introduction to Ethics.

PY 2717. PHILOSOPHY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Cat. I This course will focus on the following questions: What is the scope of the current environmental crisis? What does this crisis reveal about the philosophical presuppositions and dominant values of our intellectual worldviews and social institutions? How can existing social theories help explain the environmental crisis? What implications does the crisis have for our sense of personal identity? What moral and spiritual resources can help us respond to it? Readings will be taken from contemporary and historical philosophers and naturalists. Suggested background: familiarity with basic concepts in philosophy (as in PY/RE 1731).

PY 2718. FREEDOM AND EXISTENCE

This course takes up the question of the relationship between self and other, the tension between freedom and responsibility, and the problem of ethical and political commitment in an alienating world. How is individuality possible in a mass society? To what extent are we responsible for others? What would a philosophy of action look like? In examining such questions, the course will focus specifically on two important movements in 19th and 20th century philosophy, existentialism and phenomenology. Readings might include works by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Levinas, Camus, Beauvoir, Sartre, Fanon, and Merleau- Ponty, as well as contemporary readings by feminist and critical race theorists working within the phenomenological tradition. Students will also encounter some of the great works of existentialist fictionand cinema. Recommended Background: PY/RE 1731, Introduction to Philosophy and Religion.

PY 2719. PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

This course is an in-depth consideration of the meaning, value, and consequences of scientific inquiry. Questions explored may include: Does science yield truth? Are the results of scientific inquiry more a reflection of the workings of the human mind than of those of the external world? Do pivotal scientificconcepts like gene, electron, photon, species, and ecosystem point to entities that actually exist? Does the history of science, which includes many refutations of theories once believed to be true, raise questions about whether currently accepted theories should be trusted? By what methods does a scientific community validate knowledge claims and how are these processes affected by social, political, and economic contexts? Does a scientist have a responsibility to conduct morally conscientious research? How does the development of technology affect our spiritual and moral characters? In what ways is science similar to religion and in what ways is it different? The focus of this course may vary each time it is offered from an examination of science in general to an investigation of the foundations of specific branches of science such as physics, biology, environmental science, or social science. Recommended Background: PY/RE 1731, Introduction to Philosophy and Religion or PY/RE 2731, Introduction to Ethics.

PY 2731. INTRODUCTORY ETHICS

Cat. I This course will review at an introductory level theories of ethics, individual figures in the history of ethics, and selected problems in ethics. The emphasis will be on philosophical or religious ethics depending on the instructor.

PY 2732. SUFFERING, HEALING & VALUES

This course examines medicine, not from a scientific or professional view, but from a specificallyhumanistic approach. Using essays, films, fiction, poetry and plays, we will aim to make explicit the moral values most deeply held by practitioners in the healing professions. What other kinds of values can get in the way of those most deeply held aims? What are the responsibilities of a medical professional in today's society? What are the sources of those responsibilities? The course will focus both on professional and personal dilemmas and will help students think through some moral problems that are likely to confront them in their professional and personal lives. The class should also help prepare students to navigate through the tough moral issues they are likely to face, either as a medical professional, a citizen, a parent, a child of parents, or as potentially a sick person themselves. This class proposes to grant students the reflective time to read some of the most eloquent authors on suffering, caretaking, and sickness (for example, Oliver Sacks, Jerome Groopman, Susan Sontag, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Tony Kushner, Tracy Kidder, Perri Klass, etc.) and to express their reflections on these resources in effective communication. Recommended Background: PY/RE 1731 or an introductory level literature course.

PY 2734. PHILOSOPHY AND SPIRITUALITY

Spirituality is a philosophical perspective which stresses the role of virtue in happiness and morality; a psychological perspective on emotions and desire; and an essential dimension of religious life. Found in all religions, it is also personally important for the tens of millions who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious." This course will investigate the many dimensions of spiritual thought and practice, focusing on questions such as: What similarities/differences exist among the spiritual teachings of traditional religions? What is a spiritual experience, a spiritual lesson, a spiritual life? What is the role of spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, and prayer? What is the place of spirituality in medicine (e.g., meditation as treatment for stress), our relation to nature (e.g., the experience of a sunset), and political life (e.g., Gandhi, King, spiritual environmentalism)? Beyond scientific knowledge, technological expertise, and common sense, is there such a thing as wisdom? Recommended background: PY/RE 1731, Introduction to Philosophy and Religion.

PY 3711. TOPICS IN PHILOSOPHY: CAPITALISM AND ITS CRITICS

The purpose of this course is to expose students to somewhat more advanced and specialized study in philosophy. Its focus will vary, but will typically be one of the following types: a particular philosopher (e.g., Plato, Kant, Mill); a particular philosophical tradition (e.g., Pragmatism, Ordinary Language philosophy, Empiricism); a particular philosophical problem (free will, knowledge of other minds, historical explanation); or a particular philosophical classic (Hegel?s Phenomenology of Mind, Aristotle?s Ethics). The topical theme of the class will be provided as a modified course title in the course description posted online. PY 3711 may be taken only once for credit. Recommended Background: Three courses in philosophy.

PY 3712. PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

This course will focus on philosophical questions concerning the following topics: the existence and nature of God; the compatibility of God and evil; the nature of religious faith and the relationship between religion, science and ethics; interpretations of the nature of religious language; the philosophically interesting differences between Western and Eastern religions; philosophical critiques of the role of religion in social life. Authors may include: Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Buber, Tillich, Daly, Nietzsche and Buddha. Suggested background: familiarity with basic religious concepts and terms (as in PY/RE 1731).

PY 3731. PROBLEMS IN ETHICS AND SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY

Cat. I This course will examine in depth selected problems in ethical theory and social philosophy. The specific content or emphasis will be determined by the instructor. Suggested background: knowledge of either PY/RE 2731 or PY 2712.

 
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