Course Descriptions

 

PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT
COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

WINTER 2021

PHIL 3020: MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHY
Dr. Kendall Fisher
12:30-1:55 MWF

In this course we will explore some of the major figures from the Middle Ages (4th-14th centuries) tracing their debates through the Latin Christendom and the vast empire of the Islamic Golden Age. Through the works of St. Augustine, al Farabi, Boethius, ibn Sina, ibn Rushd, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Christine de Pizan we will explore questions of human happiness and suffering, governance and societal welfare, love, virtue and subversion, and the structure of the cosmos. Learn how these rich, interwoven, philosophical traditions enhance our understanding of ourselves, our communities, and our world.  Prerequisite: PHIL 3010 or permission of Chair. SYNC

PHIL 3410: BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY 
Dr. Jason Wirth
3:45-5:50 T,TH

After beginning with teachings attributed to the historic Buddha (the Pali Canon), we will consider some of its most provocative developments, including the great Indian master Nāgārjuna, the Vimalakirti Sutra, Japanese Zen (Dōgen), women in Buddhism, and a special concluding examination of Buddhism in the Age of Black Lives Matter. SYNC

PHIL 3630: HERMENEUTICS
Dr. James Risser
10:15-12:20 T,TH

Hermeneutics is the area of philosophy concerned with interpretation and understanding. It was initially conceived as the 'art' of interpreting the meaning of the text within the fields of legal studies, theology, literature, and history. With the publication of Hans-Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method, the problem of interpretation and understanding was brought to the center of philosophical inquiry. Gadamer shows how philosophy itself is engaged in interpreting and understanding. He claims that the activity of understanding is encompassing of human experience in general, and is a key concern in the experience of art, the reading of history, and communicating among ourselves. The focus of this course will be a careful reading of Gadamer's Truth and Method in which he examines the central problems of a philosophical hermeneutics, including that of truth in art and the role of language in interpretive experience. 

Beyond this, we will examine the directions of Gadamer’s hermeneutics that follow from his insistence that understanding involves an encounter with otherness and occurs through dialogical conversation. These directions include the understanding of difference in multi-culturalism, the possibility of cross-cultural understanding (Fred Dallmayr), and transformation of postcolonial frameworks (Edouard Glissant). X: PSYC 3910-01.   SYNC                   

PHIL 3760: PHILOSOPHY OF PEACE & WAR
Dr. Daniel Dombrowski
1:30-3:35 T,TH

In this course we will ask the question, “How ought we to understand the relationship between morality and war?”  Three different responses to this question will be examined: (1) The dominant response historically has been in terms of just war theory, the view that war can be moral if certain criteria are met.  (2) There is also the option provided by pacifism, the view that violence is not a morally acceptable means of resolving disputes among states.  And (3) the war is hell theory involves the view that war and morality are mutually exclusive, that national interest is more important than morality when assessing war.  Students will be asked to understand all of these theories and (eventually) to rationally defend their own stances regarding the subject matter of the course.  Because of the historical dominance of the just war theory, we will concentrate on this stance as articulated by Michael Walzer in his books Just and Unjust Wars and Arguing about War.  We will also read parts of the anthology Approaches to Peace, which includes selections from pacifists and realpolitik (war is hell) theorists. X: PLSC 3910-02. SYNC

PHIL 4300: ADVANCED LOGIC               
Dr. Matthew Rellihan
9:20-10:45 MWF

This course will introduce students to the concepts and techniques of modal logic, the logic of possibility and necessity.  We will take as our framework the possible worlds semantics developed over the last half-century in which necessity is defined as truth in all possible worlds and possibility as truth in some.  A variety of different modal logics will be studied, each of which will be characterized in terms of the ‘accessibility’ relations existing between such possible worlds.  Among the systems we’ll study are deontic logic (the logic of obligation and permissibility) and tense logic (the logic of time).  We’ll also use the framework of possible worlds semantics to investigate counterfactuals and their logic.  Standard accounts take counterfactual conditionals like ‘If Lincoln hadn’t been elected President, the American Civil War would not have occurred’ to be true just in case the closest possible worlds in which Lincoln isn’t elected are worlds in which there is no war.  But how are we to understand this closeness relation?  We will explore a variety of options.  Counterfactuals lie at the foundation of our reasoning about a wide range of different phenomena.  Causation in philosophy, science, and the law, for example, is often understood in terms of counterfactual dependence.  Meaning and information are also sometimes defined in terms of counterfactuals.  We will explore these and other applications.  Finally, we will consider the metaphysical presuppositions of modal logic.  Are possible worlds convenient fictions or worlds every bit as real as our own?  Is modality a fundamental feature of the world or is it grounded in something more basic? 

PHIL: 2600: Introduction to Logic is a prerequisite of this course, but this prerequisite will be waived if students have a background in mathematics or computer science.  Check with instructor.  SYNC

PHIL 4440: FEMINIST THEORIES  
Dr. Natalie Cisneros
10:55-12:20 MWF

What is intersectionality, and what does it mean to be an intersectional feminist? What values and visions should guide feminist resistance and struggle in the 21st century? How should we understand gender, sexuality, race, power, and oppression? By reflecting on these questions, we will become familiar with the diverse modes of feminist theory and feminist activism at work today. Feminist theory has always developed out of feminist practice, as part of activism on concrete issues significant to women’s lives: taking leadership positions in racial justice movements, advocating for women’s enfranchisement or education, bearing and raising children, advocating for survivors of sexual or domestic violence, fighting against street violence and police violence against gay, lesbian, trans and queer people, or working to get more women and girls involved in art, politics, and culture. Feminist theory has developed out of concrete problems, and so we will take up these theories in relation to the histories out of which they came, and think about how they apply to current concrete problems. X: WGST 3710-01.  SYNC