Jeremy Bendik-Keymer (F,S)
Katheryn Doran (S)
A. Todd Franklin
Marianne Janack (Chair)
Robert L. Simon
Richard W. Werner (S)
The concentration in philosophy consists of 10 courses:
1. 201, 203, 550 and one from among 308, 310, and 355.
2. one logic course: either 100, 200 or 240.
3. three additional courses at or above the 400 level, none of which may be cross-listed from outside the department.
4. two electives in philosophy with no more than one of them at the 100 level and no more than one of them cross-listed from outside the department.
Concentrators must take at least one 400-level course from epistemology, metaphysics or philosophy of science, and another from the history of philosophy, ethics or aesthetics. Courses cross-listed from outside the department will not be counted toward the concentration without approval of the department.
Concentrators normally complete 201, 203 and the logic requirement (either 100, 200 or 240) by the end of their sophomore year. Concentrators normally complete 308, 310 or 355 by the end of the junior year.
Senior concentrators complete the Senior Seminar (550) in the fall of the senior year. Each student in 550 will complete a senior writing project.
Starting with the class of 2013, candidates for honors must have an average of at least 3.67 in 9 of their philosophy courses, have earned an A on their senior project, and submit and successfully defend orally a final version of their senior project during the spring semester of their senior year.
A minor in philosophy can be of two kinds: standard (five courses consisting of one course from among 100, 200 or 240; 201, 203 and two other courses); or correlative (five courses in philosophy correlative to the field of concentration and approved by the department).
First-year students, sophomores and juniors may enroll in 200, 201 or 203 with no prerequisites.
100F Critical Thinking.
An introduction to informal methods of evaluating claims and arguments in everyday life. Emphasis on the recognition of bad reasoning, nonrational persuasion, and the evaluation of explanations and arguments. Includes lecture, discussion and small group interaction. (Writing-intensive.) Open to first-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16. Doran.
110F Introduction to Philosophy.
An introductory examination of a number of perennial philosophical questions and their treatments by both classical thinkers and more contemporary philosophers. Topics to be discussed may include the existence of God, the possibility of knowledge, the problem of induction, identity and material constitution, the nature of mind, the nature of the good, and the relationship between the individual and the state. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) Open to first-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16. Marcus, Plakias.
111F Contemporary Moral Issues.
Introduction to moral reasoning. Discussion of contemporary moral problems, such as racism, environmental ethics, euthanasia, abortion, terrorism and war. Explores issues especially prominent for college students, including gender and sexuality, and political correctness. Extensive use of films outside of class. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Proseminar. Open to first-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16. Lopez.
112F Telling Right from Wrong.
Philosophical inquiry into whether or not any of our moral beliefs can be justified and intensive examination of specific moral theories, including theories of justice, equality and rights. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) Open only to first-years. Maximum enrollment, 16. Simon.
An introduction to various theories and expressions of 19th- and 20th-century existential thought. Readings include works by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, deBeauvoir, Wright. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Section 1 open to first-year students; section 2 open to sophomores and juniors. Maximum enrollment, 16. Franklin.
117F,S Introduction to Political Theory.
Survey of selected political theorists from Plato to the present. Examination of questions of liberty, equality, justice and community. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) (Proseminar and writing-intensive in the Spring.) Open to juniors and seniors with consent of instructor only. (Same as Government 117.) Martin (Fall); TBA (Spring).
119F Life and Death.
This course will explore issues in the metaphysics and ethics of life and death. Some examples of questions to be explored will be: What is death, and what attitudes should we take towards it? Is death a bad thing? Should we fear death? Do we owe duties to the dead? Can the dead be harmed? Is life valuable no matter what? What makes life valuable? How exactly should we define an act of suicide? Is suicide morally permissible? Readings will be taken from a variety of philosophical ages and traditions. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Douglas Edwards.
120F Philosophical Perspectives on the Self.
What is a self? Does each person have one? Does each person have only one? How is the self related to the soul? Is it unchanging or in constant flux? What is the relationship between the self and the body? Examination of personal identity, the self and the soul as these topics are addressed in traditional philosophical texts, literature and neuropsychology. (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Open to first years and sophomores. Maximum enrollment, 16. Janack.
121F The Pursuit of Happiness.
What role do nature and nurture, friends and family, leisure and work, leadership and politics, faith and meaning, philosophy and science play in a flourishing life? What is happiness? Can life satisfaction be measured or is it subjective? Is well-being determined, moral luck, or self-directed? How much? Who am I? Does leadership play a role in a good life? Can one lead a good life in an unjust society? Is meaning necessary for a good life? Is religion necessary for meaning? Does science trump religion and meaning? Readings from philosophy and psychology. (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Films and activities outside of class time; a LEAP course. Open to first years only. Maximum enrollment, 16. Werner.
Practical, hands-on work on recognizing and constructing clear arguments from and in everyday life. Emphasis on strengthening one's reasoning skills and putting them to constructive use in debate and writing. Not open to students who have taken 100 or 240.
201F History of Ancient Western Philosophy.
A study of the philosophical classics from early Greek times to the Renaissance. Emphasis on Plato and Aristotle. Section 01 is lecture only. Other sections are writing intensive and registration priority is given to junior and senior philosophy concentrators (limit 20; with an additional weekly discussion session). (Same as Classics 201.) Werner.
203S History of Modern Western Philosophy.
A study of the history of philosophy from Descartes to Kant. (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, one course in philosophy. Marcus.
204S Philosophy as/and/of literature.
While Plato famously criticized the poets, his own works are often best read, not as straightforward presentations of philosophical ideas or arguments, but as ironic texts that use rhetorical devices to show, rather than tell, his claims. Examines philosophy’s relationship to the literary and questions about interpretation, truth and argument, as well as the rhetorical aspects of philosophical texts. Includes traditional philosophical works, novels, poetry and drama. Janack.
Human Nature, Gender, and Identity.
An introductory survey of philosophical approaches to feminism. Examines the historical progression of feminist philosophical thought, as well as some of the debates that animate contemporary feminist theory. Will address the general question of feminism's relationship to, and tensions with, philosophical thought. Prerequisite, one course in philosophy or women's studies or consent of instructor.
217S The Nature and Value of Truth.
The first part of the course will focus on the nature of truth, explore the classical oppositions between correspondence, coherence and pragmatist theories of truth, and then at the development of deflationary and pluralist views in the 20th century. The second part of the course focuses on the value of truth, and in particular on the value of having true beliefs. Is it always valuable to believe the truth? Do true beliefs have merely instrumental value, or are they valuable in a far deeper way. We explore these issues in relation to a number of moral and cultural concerns, such as whether believing truly about yourself and the world around you is part of living a good life, whether there are certain issues that it is better not to have true beliefs about, whether governments have a duty to prevent people from believing truly about certain matters, and the complex relationship that the media has with the truth. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, 1 course in philosophy. Maximum enrollment, 20. Douglas Edwards.
221F Food and Philosophy.
Food is an integral part of human activity: the act of preparing and cooking food is uniquely human, and what we choose to eat and how we eat it forms an important part of our cultural identity. This course will examine aesthetic, ethical, and political issues surrounding the production and consumption of food. Questions to be addressed include: what is food? Are aesthetic judgments about food objective, or merely matters of personal taste? When it comes to choosing what to eat, what are our ethical obligations as consumers? What role should government legislation play in regulating our choice of food? Who should bear responsibility for the social and environmental costs of our food choices? (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Plakias.
222F Race, Gender and Culture.
A critical philosophical examination of the normative categories of race, gender and culture. Topics include the origin, character and function of racial, gender and social identities. Analysis will focus on questions concerning the malleability of these identities, as well as questions concerning their psychological and social significance. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in philosophy, Africana studies or women’s studies. (Same as Women's Studies 222 and Africana Studies 222.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Franklin.
Philosophy and Film.
Explores film through the lens of philosophy and conversely. Most philosophers agree that films can at least stir up interest in philosophical problems, raise philosophical questions, or record philosophical arguments. But there is no such agreement on the more interesting question -- the main one the course examines -- of whether films can also philosophize, or advance philosophical positions. Students will be required to watch one full length movie a week outside of class time. One course in philosophy recommended but not required. (Same as CNMS 228) one prior course in philosophy recommended
235S Environmental Ethics.
Examines the appropriate relation of humans to the environment. Specific topics include ways of conceptualizing nature; the ethical and social sources of the environmental crisis; our moral duties to non-human organisms; and the ethical dimensions of the human population explosion. The goal is to help students arrive at their own reasoned views on these subjects and to think about the consequences of everyday actions, both personal and political. Preference given to environmental studies majors and minors, starting with seniors. May involve field trips. Bendik-Keymer.
238S In Love.
We will explore sexual difference, consider the core cause of abuse, and conceptualize for ourselves being in love. We develop a sense of what is called “relational reason” –the logic in love. We develop a criticism of academics, whereby theory is mistakenly used to engage with something that is not primarily theoretical. We see how love challenges us to develop a different philosophy of education where it is concerned. (Writing-intensive.) No prior work in philosophy necessary, however some familiarity with social or cultural theory is desirable if the student does not have any prior coursework in philosophy. Maximum enrollment, 20. Bendik-Keymer.
240F Symbolic Logic.
A study of formal systems of reasoning and argument evaluation. (Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.) Marcus.
242S The Black Self: Identity and Consciousness.
A philosophical exploration of a variety of historical and contemporary works that illuminate and influence the phenomenological experience of being black. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in philosophy or Africana studies, or consent of instructor. (Same as Africana Studies 242.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Franklin.
281S Philosophy as Spiritual Quest.
Exploration of the spiritual power attributed to philosophy by religious philosophers from classical Greece to modern times through readings from Greek, Jewish, Islamic and/or Christian philosophical works. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, One course in philosophy and/or religious studies. (Same as Religious Studies 281.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Ravven.
The Philosophy of History.
An examination of such enduring issues as causation, general laws, fact and explanation, objectivity, pattern and meaning, uniqueness and the role of the individual. Readings from classic and contemporary texts, with emphasis on the practical, historiographical implications of philosophical theories. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, two 200-level history courses or one 100-level history course and one course in philosophy. (Same as History 301.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
308F Language Revolution.
Twentieth-century and contemporary philosophers often focus on the role of language in philosophical questions, whether to clear up mistaken or misleading uses of language or for its own sake. This survey course will look at the most important philosophers of language and how they approach questions of reference, meaning, and linguistic ontology, including Frege, Russell, Tarski, Quine, Putnam, Kripke, and Chomsky. (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, One course in philosophy or consent of instructor. Marcus.
310S Philosophy of Science.
Focus on the philosophical analysis of scientific knowledge, scientific method and the practice of science. Readings include classic texts in the philosophy of science as well as contemporary discussions of science as a social product and critiques of the notion of scientific objectivity. Prerequisite, one course in philosophy or consent of instructor. (Same as Neuroscience 310.) Janack.
Philosophical Issues in Sport.
An examination of conceptual and ethical issues that concern sport, including the nature of play, games and sport, the moral evaluation of athletic competition, the nature of gender equity in sport, the ethics of chemical and genetic enhancement of athletes, and problems of intercollegiate athletics. Readings will explore theories of sport, the intersection of sport, law and education, sport and culture, and criticisms of various sporting practices. Prerequisite, Two courses in philosophy or senior standing.
326S David Foster Wallace and the Difficulty of Philosophy.
David Foster Wallace's fiction and non-fiction are often read through a philosophical lens, given his deep immersion in the analytic philosophical tradition. This course examines the extent to which Wallace's work is appropriately read as philosophy, and the question of what demarcates philosophy from fiction and from literary non-fiction. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, 2 courses in philosophy, 2 courses in English or Comparative Literature, or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 20. Janack.
Seminar: Confucian Traditions.
Examination of Confucian thought and ritual practice from classical times to the early 20th century. Emphasis on reading philosophical and ritual texts in translation in order to understand the various ways that Confucians understood their place in Chinese society. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, relevant coursework in history, Asian studies or religious studies, or consent of instructor. (Same as History 337.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
The Theory and Practice of Nonviolence.
Critical inquiry into the morality of war and peace with emphasis on the ethics of killing in war. Consideration of the ethics of violence and the alternative of nonviolence both as a tactic and as a way of life. Historical and contemporary readings. Extensive use of films outside of class. (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, One courses in philosophy or consent of instructor. Open to sophomores, juniors and seniors.
355F Contemporary Philosophy.
Survey of some central questions in contemporary analytic philosophy and their 20th-century origins. Among the questions we may explore are: What is the relation of language to the world? How are we to understand truth? Does philosophy have its own method, or is it an extension of science? What is the nature of consciousness? What are the limits of philosophy? (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, 203 or consent of instructor. Open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. Maximum enrollment, 20. Doran.
A close examination of genealogical critique and its historical deployment as a means of existential liberation and cultural transformation. Genealogists studied include Nietzsche, Douglass, DuBois, Fanon, Foucault and Baldwin. Prerequisite, two courses in philosophy or Africana studies, or consent of instructor.
Ethics of Professions and Practices.
Examination of ethical issues arising in the professions, in institutions and in human practices. Study of selected ethical problems in law, medicine, education and sport. Previously, the course focused on ethical issues in sport and ethical issues in higher education. Prerequisite, one course in philosophy. Open to juniors and seniors only.
380S Philosophy of Law.
Inquiry into the nature of law, the authority of law, the character of judicial reasoning and other selected problems in jurisprudence, with particular attention to the relationship of legality to morality and justifiability of judicial reasoning. Prerequisite, two courses in philosophy or one course in philosophy and Govt. 241, or consent of instructor. Simon.
405S Seminar in Metaphysics: Knowledge, Truth, and Mathematics.
A survey of the philosophical questions that arise from considering historical and contemporary approaches to explaining our knowledge of mathematics. Do we have a priori knowledge of necessary truths? Is our knowledge of mathematics empirical? Perhaps we do not really have mathematical knowledge. (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, 201, 203, 355 or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Marcus.
Seminar in the History of Philosophy: American Philosophy.
Historical debates over the metaphysics and ethics of personhood with an examination of some early American texts by Bradstreet and Lincoln, and Emerson and Thoreau’s Transcendentalism. Emphasis on classical Pragmatist metaphysics and epistemology through the work of Peirce, James and Dewey, with attention to their neo-Pragmatist legacies in contemporary American philosophy. Prerequisite, three courses in philosophy or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
415F Seminar in the Philosophy of Science: Objectivity and Rationality.
Is objectivity possible? If it is, is it an epistemic value worth pursuing? How does objectivity relate to the metaphysics of experience and to our ideals of rationality? How does objectivity relate to truth? Readings will draw from traditional philosophers of science, historians and sociologists of science, feminist philosophers of science and other writings in science studies. Prerequisite, three courses in philosophy or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. The Department.
Seminar: Intuitions and Philosophy.
Explores the role of intuition in our reasoning in epistemology, philosophy of mind, mathematics and moral philosophy, and perhaps other areas. We will consider arguments in favor of using intuitions in philosophy, as well as work on the fallibility of intuition, and the recent movement known as experimental philosophy. (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, three courses in philosophy or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar in Epistemology: The Problem of Knowledge.
Inquiry into whether it is possible to reject skepticism without resorting to dogmatism. Special emphasis on the connection (or tension) between everyday reflection and philosophical theory. Historical and contemporary readings. Prerequisite, three courses in philosophy or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
437F Seminar: The Moral Mind.
Many traditional philosophical debates about morality have been illuminated by recent work in psychology and neuroscience. We will study several debates, including: the role of reason and emotion in moral judgment, moral intuitions and their epistemic and theoretical significance, moral disagreement, and human agency and responsibility. With each topic, we will begin with a discussion of the philosophical issues and then proceed to examine relevant empirical findings. Our aim is to explore how such findings might help us make progress in addressing both practical and philosophical matters. Prerequisite, 3 courses in some combination of philosophy and/or psychology, with at least 1 course in philosophy. Maximum enrollment, 12. Theresa Lopez.
Seminar in the Philosophy of Science: Mind and Body.
An examination of literature in philosophy of mind. Focus on questions and issues such as: What is the mind? How is it related to the body? What is its role in personal identity? How do theories of mind relate to our understanding of affective and cognitive phenomena such as the emotions, will and reason? Prerequisite, three courses in philosophy or consent of instructor. (Same as Neuroscience 440.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar in Ethics: Happiness.
Investigation of philosophical theories of happiness beginning with the ancient Greeks and ending with contemporary positive psychology. Examination of recent literature from experimental ethics concerning the nature and source of happiness. Comparison of various traditions and methodologies. Examination of recent literature from experimental ethics concerning the nature and source of happiness. Prerequisite, 201 and one other course in philosophy or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar in Ethics: Naturalisms.
If science offers the best explanation of the world, what follows about ethics and meaning? Is the world merely the sum of its facts? Can the scientific worldview make sense of the mental? Of the modal? Of the mathematical? Of meaning? Are all of our actions determined? Are things good merely because we desire them or do we desire them because they are good? Is the naturalistic fallacy a fallacy? Is the fact/value dichotomy a false dichotomy? Is ethics merely the result of biological and social evolution? Can experimental ethics inform or replace philosophical ethics? Prerequisite, Two courses in Philosophy or consent of Instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
450F Seminar in Ethics: Ethical Theory.
An investigation of recent ethical theory, focusing on theories of justification in ethics, and issues of realism and relativism in ethics. Prerequisite, 201, 203, 355 or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Simon.
452F Seminar in Evolution and Morality.
It makes sense to see morality as adaptive, yet from an evolutionary perspective it’s puzzling that we follow and enforce moral standards even when it is costly for us to do so. Part of this course will involve critically examining different sorts of evolutionary accounts of morality (e.g. group selection, cultural evolution), with methodological issues in mind. We will also study work on the cognitive science of morality, specifically on whether our capacity for moral thought and behavior is grounded in general cognitive mechanisms and emotional responses, or in innate morality-specific mechanisms as well. Finally, we will turn to the implications of the evolution of morality for long-standing debates in ethics about: the possibility of moral knowledge, competing normative-ethical theories, and free will and moral responsibility. Prerequisite, 3 courses in Philosophy or permission of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Theresa Lopez.
Seminar in Ethics: Contemporary Theories of Justice.
Detailed analysis of contemporary theories of distributive and compensatory justice and their consequences for liberty and equality. Emphasis on Rawl's theory of liberal justice and its critics. Prerequisite, two courses in philosophy or consent of instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Not open to students who are taking 320. Maximum enrollment, 12.
463S Seminar in Metaphysics: Nietzsche.
A close examination of Nietzsche’s philosophical corpus that focuses on his conception of the good life as it emerges within the context of the critical and positive aspects of his philosophy. Topics include the existential significance of narrative, the nature of knowledge and the philosophical import of Nietzsche’s critical condemnations of metaphysics, religion and morality. Prerequisite, Three courses in philosophy or consent of instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Maximum enrollment, 12. Franklin.
481S Seminar: Jacques Rancière.
This upper level philosophy seminar looks at a still living and unorthodox French philosopher. Rancière began to develop his own theory of radical democracy after deep engagements with Foucault and Althusser. In this seminar, we read Rancière's work, including his aesthetic theory which addresses conditions of invisibility and subjection and we explore the boundaries of philosophy with other disciplines –especially history and sociology. We also test Rancière’s methods where we live.What is it to be philosophical, when the common person is the standard, not the academic? Prerequisite, 3 courses in philosophy, French, history, sociology (or some combination) or consent of instructor. This course will involve several forays into Utica outside of class time. Students with a background in so-cial history or relevant sociology, or students of French literature and culture, are welcome to seek consent of the instructor to join. Not only is a background in philosophy not required for the earnest student, but in some cases a background in archival methods or sociology would be desirable. Maximum enrollment, 12. Bendik-Keymer.
482F Seminar in Objects and Properties.
What kinds of things exist? This course explores a number of debates in contemporary metaphysics. The first part of the course will focus on objects. It is centred on a study of Amie Thomasson's book Ordinary Objects, which aims to reconcile developments in work in metaphysics with the common sense idea that the kinds of objects we encounter in daily life (such as tables, chairs, sticks and stones) exist. The second part of the course focuses on properties, and explores the various theories of properties that have been proposed, such as universals, tropes, and the varieties of nominalism. The final part of the course examines the methodological issues surrounding these debates in contemporary metaphysics. Prerequisite, 3 courses in Philosophy or permission of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Douglas Edwards.
550F Senior Seminar.
Advanced work aimed at completing a clear, focused, powerful piece of philosophical writing. To that end each member of the seminar will work to 1) identify a philosophical problem, 2) frame that problem as a question to which he or she can propose an answer, 3) turn that answer into a thesis supported with argument and defended against objections, and 4) present that argument to the seminar and support it in a public oral defense. Maximum enrollment, 12. The Department.