PHI 1520 Ethics Walton, M.
Ethical questions form the basis of our two thousand plus year old history of philosophy and shape our present and future society. “Ethics” comes from the Greek ethos, “moral character,” and is related to “custom,” thus, is the study of moral character as born from or forming one’s customs. To ask ethical questions is to ask what is the good life and how do we achieve it? Like wisdom itself, ethics is that which we pursue, rather than something one owns like an object. To know how to live well and to be ethical, one must know about the self and one’s relation to others, about happiness and how we place value on things, about the judgments we make, about justice, and the lines between good and evil, their relation to social structure, and how questions evolve over time. These will be the themes explored in this class through close readings of canonical texts and considerations of contemporary ethical problems culled from current debates.
PHI 1600 Introduction to Philosophy Walton, M.
What is the good life? This seemingly simple question is philosophy’s preeminent challenge and reveals how the most ancient study is immensely relevant to contemporary, everyday life. Who am I and who are you? For what do we live and for what would we die? From whence did we come and how much can we come to know? Is there more than just this? Is there a God and does He care about us? How ought we to behave? What does it all mean? These questions ask about values, ideals, origins, future aims and driving desires, behavior, will, and wisdom. To ask about the good life, one must ask about what is good (an aesthetic question, asking about the nature of beauty and desire), for whom (an ontological question about the self and one’s subjectivity), and how does one achieve it (an ethical question that must take into account metaphysical studies of being and reality as well as social and political considerations because the good life is not one lived in isolation). These questions will be explored in canonical texts from across the history of philosophy that embody radically different styles of thought and expression and ultimately reveal the radical unity and diversity of human thought on this deceptively simple and utterly fundamental question.
PHI 2310 Philosophy of Religion Walton, M.
Philosophically considered, religion is far more than an institution with rituals, a system of belief with practices, an explanation for the world or human history, an opiate for the masses, or salvation for creation. Philosophically, we must explore what does it mean to be one who asks the question “What is religion?” What is it in ourselves that makes us come together to found religions, to establish rituals, and pen religious doctrine? What is this impulse to religiosity? What is it that makes us receptive to the religious call or creative of the religious tradition? What is it that we experience when we have religious experience and, thus, have religion? And, to what does this does this religious experience lead us? We will read a diverse selection of texts from across history and traditions that speak to three themes: the trying path towards faith, the dialectic between belief and doubt, and the nature of the spiritual experience.
PHI 2330 History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval Anderson, J. M.
This course is a critical study of selected works in the history of ancient philosophy beginning with the Pre-Socratics. Some of the major philosophers covered include Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus. We shall study in particular their writings concerning metaphysics and ethics.
PHI 2340 History of Philosophy: Modern Davis, A.
In this course we will examine the 17th century break from the scholastic philosophy of the medieval period and its aftermath. Modern philosophy can be broadly characterized as a series of attempts to ground a new method for philosophical inquiry in response to widespread perception that ancient and medieval inquiries had failed to attain truth. We will study the work of Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Our emphasis will be on method and epistemology, or theory of knowledge.
JCS: 3015.02 Free Will, Determinism, and Morality Von mizener, S.
We care deeply about free will for a number of reasons. First, we value the idea that our actions and thus our futures are “up to us” in an important sense. The notion that our deliberate actions might be mere effects of antecedent causes seems undignified. Second, free will appears to be required for morality and moral responsibility. The idea that ought implies can has seemed so obvious to some thinkers that they have insisted that we are free in order to save morality. If we are morally obligated to do or refrain from doing certain things, then it must really be possible for us to do or refrain from doing those things, so the argument goes. Third, we care about free will because it also appears to be a necessary requirement for justifying a standard view of punishment. To say that we sometimes deserve to be punished, whether in this life or the next, is hard to defend if we do not have free will. So, for these reasons, and many others, we will investigate various notions of free will, and attempt to reconcile some of these problems in this course.
PHI 3240: Philosophy of Mind Boyle, N.
An examination of the current state of debate in philosophy of mind. Of special concern will be the nature of mental states and the metaphysical status of subjective experiences. We will begin with a reading of David Chalmers' landmark 1996 book, The Conscious Mind. The majority of the required reading will be taken directly from current issues of major academic journals that publish articles in the field, including, but not limited to, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Mind, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, and Philosophical Quarterly. To finish the semester, we will read Chalmers' 2012 book, Constructing the World.
PHI 4100: Philosophical Readings: Moral Ethology Littlejohn, R.
This course will explore one of the most puzzling and important questions of human experience: the origin of morality. We will read from philosophical, biological, psychological and sociological sources and we will be led to challenge the human-centric perspective that has historically reserved moral behavior to homo-sapiens alone.
We will make careful investigations into the conditions that give rise to the practice of morality. Our project may be summarized in this way.
Given the structure, content, and practice of morality as we find it, what may we infer about the biological preconditions for a being that has a moral practice form of life? What are the cognitive preconditions? What are the social preconditions?
After we identify these preconditions, we will expand our inquiry into areas usually reserved for evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, and cultural anthropology. We shall consider the theoretical and empirical evidence for and against the claims that 1) some or all of these preconditions exist in at least some nonhuman animals and 2) that some nonhuman animals exhibit behaviors and practices that may be descried as moral or proto-moral.
By the end of the course, all students will be able to formulate positions about how we should understand the uniqueness of human morality (if it is unique); what parts of human moral life are left unexpressed in our evolutionary tree, if any; what are the differences between human and nonhuman moral life (if it is meaningful to speak of nonhuman moral life); whether morality comes from a more intensified expression of powers already present in nonhuman animals; what is the relationship between the evolution of a moral form of life and the development of language; and is it credible to believe that behavior patterns can be transmitted biologically/genetically and what the bearing of this might be on the question whether morality as a form of life (not some specific morality) is instinctual.