Chair: Bryan Van Norden; Professors: Giovanna Borradorib, Jennifer Church, Mitchell Miller, Michael Murraya, Uma Narayanb, Bryan Van Norden; Associate Professors: Jeffrey Seidman, Douglas Winbladb; Assistant Professors: Jamie Kelly, Barry Lam; Adjunct Assistant Professor: Sara K Streett.
- a On leave 2010/11, first semester
- b On leave 2010/11, second semester
Philosophy as a discipline reflects both speculatively and critically on the world, our actions, and our claims to knowledge. The Department of Philosophy offers a variety of courses of study that not only introduce students to the great philosophical achievements of the past and present but also aim to teach them how to think, write, and speak philosophically themselves.
Requirements for Concentration: The Philosophy major requires a total of 12 units.
100-level: Majors must take two of the 100 level courses one of which must be Philosophy 101 (History of Western Philosophy: Ancient) or Philosophy102 (History of Western Philosophy: Modern)
200-level: Majors must take Philosophy 230 (Logic). They must take one course from each of the following:
Cluster 1: Philosophy 220 (Metaphysics), 222 (Philosophy of Language), 224 (Philosophy of Mind), 226 (Philosophy of Science) and 228 (Epistemology).
Cluster 2: Philosophy 205 (Nineteenth Century Philosophy), 215 (Phenomenology and Existential Thought), 240 (Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics) and 260 (Philosophy and the Arts).
Cluster 3: Philosophy 210 (Neo-Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism), 234 (Ethics), 238 (Social and Political Philosophy), 250 (Feminist Theory) and 270 (Queer Theory).
300-level: Three 300-level seminars, two of which must be differently numbered. The department will not entertain any requests to count a seminar under a number different from the one it is assigned in the curriculum.
300-301 (Senior Thesis) is optional. Majors will consult with their faculty advisor about opting to write a senior thesis. Students who choose not to do a senior thesis will take an upper-level course instead.
NRO Policy: After the declaration of major, no required philosophy courses may be elected NRO.
Recommendations: Individual programs should be designed, in consultation with a faculty advisor, to give the student a representative acquaintance with major traditions in philosophy, competence in the skills of philosophic investigation and argument, and opportunities for exploration in areas of special interest. Students considering a concentration in philosophy are advised to take Philosophy 101 or 102 early in their careers. German, French, and Greek are languages of particular importance in Western philosophy; Chinese will be of special interest to those taking Philosophy 110, 210, or 350.
Advisers: The department.
Correlate Sequences in Philosophy: The philosophy department offers six different correlate sequences. In each sequence a total of 6 units is required. The required 300-level seminar may be taken twice if the topics differ; students may also petition to count an appropriate Philosophy 280 as equivalent to a 300-level seminar.
Correlate Sequence in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art: Philosophy 101 or 102; Philosophy 240, 260; one of 205, 215 or an appropriate 280; two appropriate 300-level seminars. Advisers: Ms. Borradori, Mr. Murray and Ms. Church
Correlate Sequence in Comparative Philosophy: Philosophy 110 and one of 101 or 102; Philosophy 210 and 234; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 350. Adviser: Mr. Van Norden.
Correlate Sequence in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: 1 unit at the introductory level, either Philosophy 101 or 106 or 110; 3 units at the intermediate level, including Philosophy 234 and one of 238 or 250; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 330. Advisers: Ms. Narayan and Mr. Seidman and Mr. Kelly.
Correlate Sequence in Continental Philosophy: Philosophy 101 or 102; 205, 215, and one of Philosophy 240 or 260; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 340. Advisers: Ms. Borradori and Mr. Murray.
Correlate Sequence in the History of Western Philosophy: Philosophy 101 and 102; Philosophy 205 and 215; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 320. Adviser: Mr. Miller
Correlate Sequence in Analytic Philosophy: Philosophy 230 and either 102 or 105; 2 units from Philosophy 220, 222, 224, 226, 228; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 310. Advisers: Ms. Church, Mr. Lam and Mr. Winblad
Correlate sequences may also be designed for certain other subfields in philosophy—for instance, philosophy and gender, philosophy of science, classical philosophy.
101a. History of Western Philosophy - Ancient (1)
Philosophy from its origins in Greece to the Middle Ages. Mr. Miller, and Mr. Seidman.
102b. History of Western Philosophy - Modern (1)
Modern philosophy from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance through Kant. Mr. Murray and Mr. Seidman.
105a and b. Problems of Philosophy (1)
Topic for 2010/11a: The attitudes that we adopt towards other people, towards our surroundings, and towards ourselves reveal much about the sort of people we are and the sort of world we inhabit. This course explores the philosophical significance of some particularly important yet problematic attitudes: trust and suspicion, resentment and sympathy, anger and forgiveness, pride and guilt, anxiety and irritation, sentimentality and irony. When are each of these attitudes justified, and when not? Why are certain people (or certain parts of our lives) dominated by one attitude rather than another? Which attitudes are most important for knowledge, for morality, for politics, and for art? Ms. Church
Topic for 2010/11b: What is philosophy? This course will introduce you to philosophy as the assimilation of human experiences--perceptual, imaginative, moral, and emotional--with the power and limitations of human reason. We will look at how philosophers apply reason and argumentation to perceptual experiences in their search for knowledge and rationality. We will investigate the issues of personal identity, and the existence of unperceivable things, to see how philosophers use reason to make sense of our imaginative experiences. Finally we will look at the application of reason to moral and emotional experiences in the search for the right account of moral good, freedom, and moral responsibility. Students will leave the course with an appreciation for the breadth and scope of philosophical thinking. Mr. Lam
106a and b. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues (1)
This course engages a number of difficult ethical questions that arise in everyday life. Topics studied will include special duties to family, reproductive technologies, paternalism and drug use, punishment, world hunger and our food choices. Emphasis throughout is placed upon argumentative rigor, clarity, and precision. Ms. Borradorri (a) and Mr. Kelly (b).
In the Fall semester only this course satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.
110a. Early Chinese Philosophy (1)
An introduction to Chinese philosophy in the period between (roughly) 500 and 221 B.C., covering Confucians, Taoists and others. Among the topics discussed by these philosophers are human nature, methods of ethical education and self-cultivation, virtues and vices, and the role of conventions and institutions in human life. Mr. Van Norden.
205b. Nineteenth Century Philosophy (1)
Philosophy in the nineteenth century has as its point of departure Hegel's attempt to articulate a rational comprehension of the whole of reality. The very precision with which he is able to subordinate religious and secular social life within his dialectical vision of the whole of Spirit helps to light the way for his principal critics, the Christian existential thinker, Kierkegaard, and the social revolutionary, Marx. Their challenges raise a host of fundamental issues, including, for example, the rationality of reality and the reach of philosophy, the (ir)reducibility of the religious, the relation of the social whole and the individual, the historicity of ideas, and the implications for the human condition of the emergence of mass culture and the industrial division of labor. At the same time, it is first possible for Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Marx to have such deep disagreements because they are agreed in looking to or contesting specifically dialectical reason in facing the question of the intelligibility of existence. It is Nietzsche, above all, who seeks to break with this agreement. The course will trace and rethink the movements of this self-expanding and self-undermining conversation. Mr. Miller
Prerequisite: 1 unit of philosophy or permission of instructor.
210b. Neo-Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism (1)
Introduction to Neo-Confucianism, one of the most influential intellectual movements in China and all of East Asia. Some discussion of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. No familiarity with Chinese culture is assumed, but a previous 100-level course in philosophy is a prerequisite because this course assumes students have the ability to tackle subtle issues in metaphysics, personal identity, and ethics. Mr. Van Norden.
Pre-requisite: a 100-level philosophy course.
215a. Phenomenology and Existential Thought (1)
The major themes in existential and phenomenological thought as developed by such figures as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas. Ms. Borradori.
Prerequisite: 1 unit of philosophy or permission of instructor.
220a. Metaphysics (1)
A study of the nature of reality, including the nature of existence, essence, identity, and persistence of things. Mr. Winblad.
Prerequisite: 1 unit of philosophy or permission of instructor.
222b. Philosophy of Language (1)
Language is our primary means of expressing our thoughts. Language is also one of our primary means of representing the world. As a result, philosophers in the analytic tradition have attempted to gain a better understanding of standard philosophical issues through the study of how we understand and use language to express our thoughts, communicate, and represent the world. We look at the philosophical study of meaning and truth as well as the philosophical problems that such studies purport to illuminate, solve, or dissolve. We discuss referential theories of meaning originating with Frege and Russell, use-theories of meaning associated with Strawson and Austin, Grice's theory of implicature, Tarski and truth-conditional theories of meaning, and the theory of direct reference. Philosophical problems include ontology and essence, knowledge of objects, the problem of perception, freedom and determination, and necessity anda priority. Mr. Lam
224b. Philosophy of Mind (1)
An exploration of competing theories of the mind—including theories that equate the mind with the brain, theories that regard the mind as a social construction, and theories that define the mind by reference to its characteristic functions. The strengths and weaknesses of each of these theories are compared—especially with respect to their understandings of consciousness, self-knowledge, emotion and moral responsibility. Ms. Church.
226a. Philosophy of Science (1)
(Same as Science, Technology and Society 226) A study of the principles of scientific reasoning. Topics include explanation, justification, scientific rationality, realism versus instrumentalism, and laws. Mr. Winblad.
228a. Epistemology (1)
Epistemology is the study of knowledge, justification, and rationality. The theories in this course are understood as responses to increasingly radical skeptical arguments. We begin with the problem of induction, which claims that we can never justifiably infer generalizations from particular cases, infer beliefs about the future from ones about the past, and infer from observable patterns to unobservable explanations. We uncover various paradoxes about such inferences, and attempt to respond to them. We then look at skeptical arguments that we do not know anything on the basis of sense-perception, and the various theories of knowledge and justification that are built in response to such arguments. Of particular interest is the Gettier problem, externalism versus internalism about knowledge and justification, foundationalism versus coherentism about justification, fallibilism, and whether one can solve skeptical problems by noting that knowledge admits of degrees. Mr. Lam
230a. Symbolic Logic (1)
Frege, the founder of modern logic, calls logical laws "the laws of truth" - the laws that govern how we are to think if we are to arrive at true beliefs. Like its Aristotelian predecessor, contemporary symbolic logic rests on the insight that one can see more clearly what makes inferences valid if one abstracts to some degree from the content of what we think and say, concentrating instead on reason's formal or structural aspects. In an attempt to make these structural features transparent, we devise a "formal system" consisting of a language designed to render the form of our thoughts more explicit and a set of rules that guide transitions between them. We shall use this system to assess the logical status of a wide range of inferences. Finally, ascending to a meta-perspectival vantage point, we examine the grounds for claiming that our formal system is adequate to its purpose. Mr. Winblad.
234a. Ethics (1)
Why be moral? What does morality ask of us? What is the relation between morality and self-interest? What is happiness? What is the relation between a happy life and a meaningful life? Are there objective answers to ethical questions? or are whatever answers we give no more than the expressions of our subjective attitudes? These are some of the questions this course seeks to address. We proceed by reading seminal texts in the Western moral philosophical tradition alongside writings by contemporary moral philosophers. Mr. Seidman
238a. Social and Political Philosophy (1)
This course introduces students to both the history of political philosophy and to contemporary debates within it. Our focus is upon the relationship between justice and equality. Mr. Kelly.
240b. Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics (1)
Classical and modern theories of the nature of art, the experience of art, the creative process, and critical argument. Ms. Borradori.
Not offered in 2010/11.
242. Philosophy of Music (1)
An investigation of such topics as the difference between music and sound, musical expression and emotion, the erotics of music, repetition and meaning, resolution and dissolution, time and timelessness, and endings. Ms. Church.
Not offered in 2011-12.
250a. Feminist Theory (1)
(Same as Women's Studies 250) The central purpose of the course is to understand a variety of theoretical perspectives in feminism - including liberal, radical, socialist, psychoanalytic and postmodern perspectives. We explore how each of these feminist perspectives is indebted to more 'mainstream' theoretical frameworks (for example, to liberal political theory, Marxism, and psychoanalysis). We also examine the ways in which each version of feminist theory raises new questions and challenges for these 'mainstream' theories. We attempt to understand the theoretical resources that each of these perspectives provides the projects of feminism, how they highlight different aspects of women's oppression and offer a variety of different solutions. We look at the ways in which issues of race, class and sexuality figure in various theoretical feminist perspectives and consider the divergent takes that different theoretical perspectives offer on issues such as domestic violence, pornography, housework and childcare, economic equality, and respect for cultural differences. Ms. Narayan.
Prerequisite: 1 unit of philosophy or women's studies 130.
260a and b. Philosophy and the Arts (1)
An examination of a specific art form and selected works within it from a philosophical perspective. May be repeated for credit when different art topics are studied.
270b. Queer Theory: Choreographies of Sex and Gender (1)
This course examines contemporary theoretical work on the meaning of gender and sexuality with special reference to gay and lesbian studies. We consider questions such as the identity and multiplication of gender and sexes, forms of erotic desire, the performativity of gender norms, styles of life, marriage, and their relationship to medical, psychiatric, legal and criminological discourses. Mr. Murray.
282b. Contemporary Ethical Theory (1)
We consider some of the central questions that animate contemporary ethical theory. Are there objective answers to ethical questions, or are whatever answers we give no more than the expressions of our subjective attitudes? Is there a moral theory that can systematize and explain ordinary moral beliefs? To the extent that our ordinary beliefs resist such attempts at systematization, should that make us doubt the authority of our ordinary moral beliefs or does it cast doubt on the enterprise of constructing a moral theory? Mr. Seidman.
290a and b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)
298a and b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)
300a. Senior Thesis (1/2)
Year-long development of an extended philosophical essay in consultation with a faculty adviser. Students must register for 300 for (a) term and 301 for (b) term. Full year course. Advisors: All Faculty
Year-long course, 300-301.
301b. Senior Thesis (1/2)
Year long development of an extended philosophical essay in consultation with a faculty adviser.
Year-long course, 300-301.
302a or b. Senior Thesis (1)
This one semester course may be substituted for 300a-301b after con only by special permission.
310a. Seminar In Analytic Philosophy: Philosophical Problems (1)
Topic for 2010/11a: Pragmatism and Relativism. This course is a close analysis of the recent revival in analytic philosophy of pragmatism and relativism in semantics and epistemology. Pragmatism is the view that truth and knowledge depends in some way on human action, and relativism is the view that truth and knowledge depends in some way on the contexts and perspectives of human judges. Although no prerequisite is required, some knowledge of logic, epistemology, or theories of meaning are presupposed. Mr. Lam
320a. and b. Seminar in the History of Philosophy (1)
2010/11a: Kant. This course pursues in-depth reading and discussion of Kant's three great Critiques: Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, and Critique of Judgment - dealing with epistemology, metaphysics, morality, aesthetics and teleology. By the end of the class, students should have a good understanding of Kant's central arguments and the important relations between these arguments, central arguments and the important relations between these arguments. Ms. Church.
2010/11b: Plato. We study intensively a number of Platonic texts. One goal that motivates us throughout the seminar is to understand the sort of writing that dialogues are and, correlatively, the sort of reading and interpreting they call for. This helps to orient us in a series of further reflections on Plato's understanding of the kinds of being, the nature of the good, the simplicity and complexity of the forms, the "conversion" of the soul towards the truth, and the various dimensions - the individual, the city, the cosmos - in which dialectic discloses normative order. Mr. Miller.
330b. Seminar in Ethics and Theory of Value (1)
Topic for 2010/11b: Theories of Democracy. What is democracy? Why is it so great? Is it so great? This course attempts to answer these questions by conducting a survey of the key positions in the field of democratic theory. The focus of this course is on the arguments that have been advanced for and against democratic government, on the range of reasons why democracy might be valued, and on the conditions purported to be necessary for the proper function of a democracy. Students examine some of the most important issues in political philosophy, including competing conceptions of justice, obligations to obey the law, and attempts to explain the normative foundations of state authority. Further, we address a number of pressing problems concerning the design of institutions within democratic societies, including different systems of voting, the place of constitutions and judicial review, the role and regulation of media, and the relationship between democracy and educational practices. Mr. Kelly
340a. and b. Seminar in Continental Philosophy (1)
Topic for 2010/11a: Derrida and his Umbrella. The purpose of the seminar is to examine and evaluate the work of Jacques Derrida, one of the most complex, innovative, and controversial philosophers of our epoch. Since the late 1960s, Derrida has been working at the philosophical project of deconstruction, which starts from the premise that any existing concept, theory or institution can be evaluated only from within the discourse that founds it. We trace the philosophical pre-history of this standpoint and evaluate its implications. However, what makes deconstruction so distinctive is the way in which it intervenes on any discursive system: on the one hand, by providing a rigorous examination of the internal logic of a given discourse; on the other hand, by importing elements external to it and using them as levers to expose what otherwise would remain hidden or repressed. We will gain knowledge of the inner workings of this project by reading Derridass texts in conjunction with those that he deconstructs, including Freud, Levinas, Saussure, Austin, Blanchot. Ms. Borradori.
Topic for 2010/11b: Foucault. This seminar examines the thought of Michel Foucault as developed in some of his most important works--The Order of Things: An Archeology of Knowledge (1966), Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975), selections from The History of Sexuality volumes I:The Will to Knowledge (1976) and II:The Use of Pleasure (1984) as well as from his lectures at the College de France, Abnormal 1974-1975 and "Society Must be Defended" 1975-76. Mr. Murray.
350a. Seminar: Chinese Philosophy: Comparative Methodology (1)
(Same as Chinese and Japanese 350) This course explores some of the methodical issues raised by the prospect of one culture understanding and making judgments about another. The effort to understand another culture raises fundamental issues about the nature of rationality, ethics, and truth. Consequently, this course is structured around the three major approaches to these issues in the contemporary world: Modernism, Postmodernism and Hermeneutics. Very roughly, these three approaches argue over whether rationality, truth, and ethics are universal (Modernism), incommensurable (Postmodernism) or historical and dialogical (Hermeneutics). Requirements include regular class participation that shows familiarity with the readings and many brief essays. Mr. Van Norden.
383b. Seminar in Philosophy and the Arts (1)
396a or b. Philosophic Discussion (1/2)
Discussion of selected essays on a variety of philosophical issues. Mr. Winblad.
399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)