Fall 2011 Course Descriptions
PHIL 341 –
This course covers seven major philosophers from the 17th and 18th centuries. The focus is on metaphysics and epistemology. Topics covered include God, the self, knowledge, free will, personal identity, causation, substance, modality, space and time. The goal is to develop an interesting and accurate interpretation of each figure on some of these topics.
PHIL 344 – Existentialism
Careful examination and critical evaluation of the thought of Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean Paul Sartre. Our main objective will be to explore, in detail, these thinkers’ distinct accounts of the peculiar kind of existence characteristic of the finite human self, as well as their diverse approaches to basic existential problems: the problem of finding (or creating) meaning in life, the challenge of existing authentically, and so forth. Time permitting, we will also briefly examine what some contemporary analytic philosophers have had to say about certain existential questions: whether and in what sense human existence can have any ultimate significance, whether permanent death would add to or subtract from the meaningfulness of life, and so on.
PHIL 310 - Symbolic Logic
This course provides an introduction to logic. It is designed to give you the tools necessary to read contemporary philosophical work. We will cover various topics in symbolic logic and the philosophy of logic. In particular, we will examine the philosophical assumptions made in symbolic logic.
NOTE: This class will satisfy the PHIL 250 major and interdisciplinary requirement.
REL 310 - Hindu Traditions
This course introduces Hindu traditions and practices. We look at the ways ancient Hindu thinkers understood the nature of reality and human beings’ place within it. We examine the notions of world, community, and self as experienced and interpreted by Hindus. What are the basic assumptions underlying the Hindu worldview or world image? How do these assumptions interrelate with the various dimensions of Hindu physical, psychological, and cultural experience? How are they expressed in myth, ritual, and social structures and institutions? What practical and spiritual concerns do they reflect, and what ideals and values do they create? And what tensions do we find between the ideal and the real? In short, how do Hindus experience life religiously?
While we spoke above of “the Hindu worldview or world image” as though this were a single entity, we shall find, in fact, that there are many Hindu worldviews and images: popular and elite, sacrificial and devotional, ascetic and social-affirming, traditional and modernizing, male and female. How do these differing perspectives with their various views/images interrelate? What are the tensions between them, and in what ways, if at all, are they integrated, transcended, or simply accepted or even ignored?
Our strategy is to move between cosmological, theological, and philosophical understandings, and the ways these motivate ordinary and extraordinary human lives. Throughout the course we remain interested in contemporary Indian society where Hinduism’s many streams of thought have ongoing significance.
460 - Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature
Apocalypticism and Mysticism in the Early Judaism and Christianity
The period of Judaism in the Hellenistic and Roman eras (around 300 B.C.E. to 200 C.E.) was dynamic, creative, and profoundly influential on later Judaism and Christianity. The writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, early Rabbis, and parts of the early New Testament contain the oldest expressions of Jewish apocalypticism and mysticism, two worldviews that deeply shaped the later development of each of the Abrahamic traditions. This course will familiarize students with several selections of early Jewish writings drawn from these sources, within the framework of cutting edge research in biblical studies. Students will gain a deep sense of both the roots and trajectories of Jewish mysticism and apocalypticism, including angelology and ancient cosmology. This course is a senior or upper-level capstone experience for the major or minor; other students should consult the professor. Throughout the semester, students will produce a guided research paper on an original topic, using methods drawn from biblical studies, including historical, literary, and anthropological criticisms.