PHIL/REL 218 Philosophy of Religion.
Philosophy of religion involves understanding religion from Western philosophical perspectives. Those interested in Eastern religious traditions should take the course in non-western philosophy of religion.
Philosophy of religion presupposes neither the perspective of the believer nor that of the non-believer but approaches religion from a critical (question asking), usually rational, ideally impartial point of view. Taking a philosophical perspective on religion fosters questions such as: What should be made of the different referring terms for the divine? Do they purportedly identify the same or different referents? What if anything is God? What attributes (characteristics) can simultaneously be attributed to God? What could or could not, must or must not God be, do, or know? Does the concept of God entail perfection and, if so, what conception of perfection? i.e. what “divine attributes” are com-possible? Is there a God? Are any arguments for or against God’s existence sound? What if anything can be properly said of God? What is the relationship, if any, between God and morality? If God commands it how might one know it and ought one to do it? What are some of the explanations of religion that deny the existence of a god? Can miracles be defined, and if they can, are they possible? Might continuing personal existence after death be possible or is the idea unintelligible? Is belief a matter of rational choice, will, and/or an important epistemic attitude for which we carry moral responsibility? What about religious exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism?
You will find that philosophy of religion offers one of the great laboratories for philosophical reasoning as there is little by way of fact-of-the-matter and, according to many, much is at stake. The course requirements include two short analytical papers, one formally presented critical review of a major work in the philosophy of religion, a mid-term and a final exam.
PHIL 250 Introduction to Symbolic Logic.
The course develops a symbolic language for evaluating deductive arguments. Two-thirds of the course focuses on formal proofs.
PHIL 330 Moral Theory
Moral theory is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature
of rightness, wrongness and the good life. This course is an advanced
examination of classical and contemporary work in meta-ethics and normative
ethical theory, with some attention to the implementation of moral theories in
practice. We begin with three fundamental questions of moral theorizing,
“Is morality relative?” “Are we just selfish?” and “Does morality depend upon
religion?” Subsequently, we examine several influential moral theories,
concentrating on virtue ethics, utilitarianism and deontological ethics.
Throughout the course, we will examine such questions as, “What is the nature
of right and wrong?” “Why be moral?” “What are the components of human
flourishing?” “Who or what is morally considerable?” and “Are moral
This course aims not only to deepen student understanding of influential moral philosophies but also to cultivate students’ capacities for independent thought and critical appraisal of moral philosophies. Students will write a classic philosophical essay as a term paper, participate in a group presentation on a philosophical treatise, and write expository and critical essay exams. Throughout the semester, all students should also participate actively in class discussions and give voice to their own views on issues discussed in the readings.
PHIL 341 Modern Philosophy.
This course examines philosophical trends between 1600 and 1785 through a careful examination of René Descartes’s Meditations, George Berkeley’s Principles of Human Knowledge, David Hume’s Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, and Immanuel Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics.
PHIL 367 Topics in the Philosophy of Law.
In this course in philosophy of law we will investigate the following topics: What is the meaning and significance of the “rule of law?” What is the moral force of law? How does legal reasoning work with respect to statutes? precedents? constitutional interpretation? What different theoretical accounts are given for the nature of law? international law? the relation between law and economics? We will talk briefly about some issues in criminal law and others in civil law. We will also spend more time on constitutional issues of church and state, freedom of speech and equality.
Requirements are likely to include a final exam, two short analytical papers, and one paper/ presentation where students explore a topic or theorist in depth.
PHIL 390 (12543): Logic, Existence, Time, Modality: Classical Logic, Some Modal and Many-Valued Extensions/Alternatives, and their Philosophy.
Could there be true contradictions? More than two truth-values? Does (should?) logic per se contain built-in assumptions about what exists? Does reasoning about time require a special logic? Is there one true logic? We will discuss at least one of these questions.
Important Note: This course may be taken for credit by students who took PHIL 390 last spring. It will not cover the same material as Spring 2010's version of PHIL 390.
PHIL 390 Metaethics.
This course will be an overview of the central problems in metaethics. We will discuss the semantics of moral statements, metaphysics of moral properties, and the psychology of moral judgment. That is, can moral statements be true? What would make them true? And by what psychological process do we know them to be true? Realism, expressivism, error theory and constructivism will be the views that receive the most attention.
PHIL 440 Advanced Moral Philosophy: Hume's Moral Philosophy.
David Hume is unquestionably one of the most important empiricists in the history of philosophy. As we approach the 300th anniversary of his birth, it is fitting to devote special attention to his major contributions to the history of thought. In this course we will take a detailed look at Hume's moral philosophy in the domains of normative ethics and metaethics. Hume's work in these areas played a key part in a number of debates that were ongoing during his time, and subsequently inspired - and continue to inspire - several core movements in moral theory, both in favor of Hume's conclusions and against them. Special attention will be given to Hume's ethical anti-rationalism, his associated theory of moral sentiments, his work on moral motivation and moral judgment, his work in moral epistemology, the implications of his work for moral ontology, and his virtue theory. The class will be heavily focused on a close reading of primary texts and detailed class discussion, and students will be expected both to come to a deeper understanding of Hume's work, and to develop their own well-considered assessment of it.
PHIL 475 – HEIDEGGER.
A study of Heidegger’s pursuit of “the question of Being” in his early masterwork Being and Time and, especially, in selected later writings. Main topics will include: human being as being-in-the-world and being-towards-death; truth as alētheia; Western metaphysics and ‘the history of being’; Western modernity and ‘the essence of technology’; art and the tension between ‘world’ and ‘earth’; language as ‘the house of being’ and poetry as ‘originary language’; the task of post-metaphysical thinking and ‘dwelling.’ Our overarching questions will be these: What exactly is Heidegger’s “question of Being” a question about? Why is the question supposed to be such an urgent one? And what kind of case does Heidegger make for his position on it? We will work on these questions mainly by reading and discussing Heidegger’s own writings; particularly helpful secondary texts will also be assigned from time to time.