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Philosophy Courses
 
Spring 2011

 

Introductory Courses
 

Phil 100 Problems of Philosophy - Dustin Tune   dustin.tune@rice.edu
MWF 1:00-1:50

This survey course explores some of the big questions in philosophy.  Does God exist?  Does it matter?   What is the meaning of life?  Is there room for morality in a physical universe?  Where do our minds fit in?  How can we know anything?  Can we doubt everything?  We will dig into such issues by critically examining arguments, both from the history of philosophy and from contemporary theorists.

 

Phil 101 Contemporary Moral Issues – Prof. G. Bradford gwen.bradford@rice.edu
TR 10:50-12:05

How should we live our lives?  What we eat, what we buy and how we choose to live our lives are all moral choices – from eating our vegetables to sex, drugs, and rock and roll:  Should we consider the lives of the animals we eat?  Is abortion morally permissible?  Should drugs be legalized?  What’s wrong with downloading pirated MP3s?  This class examines the ethics of consumption, and life choices as they affect others, ourselves, and the world around us. We learn about various moral theories, and discuss how they handle these pressing issues that confront us every day. 
 
 

PHIL 105: Historical Introduction to Philosophy  -  Anthony Carreras   aec2@rice.edu
MWF 9:00-9:50

This course offers a broad survey of some of the great figures of western philosophy, including (but not limited to) Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Anselm, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.  Many of the great questions of philosophy will be raised by the texts we will read, questions such as: What is the nature of reality?  Does God exist?  What is knowledge?  Can we have knowledge at all, and if so, how?  How ought we live and why?  Through the figures we will study, we shall examine these questions and the possible answers to them.  In addition, we shall try to gain an appreciation of the value of studying the history of philosophy, for not only are the views of these figures fascinating in their own right, but they have shaped contemporary philosophical debates and continue to contribute to them.

 

Phil 106 Logic - Prof. C. O'Callaghan   casey.ocallaghan@rice.edu
TR 9:25-10:40

This course covers material related to what makes for good or successful reasoning. The primary concern of this course is deductive logic. Deductive logic is the study of the principles of implication, or what follows from what. Deductive logic deals with the purely formal properties of, and relations among, statements and arguments. These formal aspects of propositions and arguments are independent from specific subject matter or content and determine whether an argument is successful in one fundamental sense: the argument's conclusion must be true given the assumption that its premises are all true. That is, the premises of the argument (deductively) logically entail its conclusion. For instance, the propositions `If someone is from Houston, then he or she is a Texan' and `Peter is from Houston' logically entail (imply) the proposition `Peter is a Texan'. `If something is made of cheddar, then it's made of cheese' and `the moon is made of cheddar' logically entail (imply) `the moon is made of cheese'. Deductive logic is thus to be distinguished from inductive reasoning. A strong bit of inductive reasoning is one whose premises, if true, make it more likely - but not logically certain - that the conclusion is true. So, `The sun rose yesterday' and `the sun rose the day before yesterday', and so on..., make it likely on inductive grounds, but not logically certain, that `the sun will rise tomorrow' is true. Given our concern with the principles of deductive reasoning, we'll develop a formal system or language in which we can paraphrase ordinary English statements in a way that makes obvious their logical structure. Then, we'll introduce some techniques through which we can prove that certain logical relations, such as implication, entailment, or equivalence, hold between statements, or that a given statement has a certain logical property, such as being tautological or satisfiable. We'll begin with very simple language and statement forms and move toward more nuanced forms in order to increase the expressive capacity of the formal language at least in the direction of the rich expressiveness of natural language. This course should thus be of interest to philosophers, linguists, mathematicians, debaters, scientists, and anyone intrigued by the characteristics of languages and various forms of reasoning. Given its concern with formal reasoning and systems, this course satisfies a Group III distribution requirement.


Phil 202 History of Philosophy II - Prof. M. Kulstad   kulstad@rice.edu 
TR 10:50-12:05

This course is a survey of some of the great philosophical ideas and arguments of western civilization from the seventeenth century to the twentieth. Although PHIL 202 is a continuation of PHIL 201 (History of Philosophy I, covering ancient and medieval philosophy), it is not required that one take PHIL 201 (or any other philosophy course) before taking PHIL 202.  Many non-majors take PHIL 202, often as their first and sometimes as their only philosophy course, serving as a historical introduction to philosophy, as well as a central course for philosophy majors. Given the importance of PHIL 202's philosophers—such as Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche—, and their importance for work in other disciplines, e.g., literature, intellectual history, political theory, religious studies, and the history of science,  PHIL 202 also fits well in a program of general education with an emphasis on interdisciplinary.

 

 

Upper-Level Courses

 

Phil 301 - Ancient & Medieval Philosophy - Prof. D. Morrison donaldm@rice.edu
MWF 1:00-1:50

This year's topic will be "Aristotle's practical philosophy." Aristotle held that ethical and political theory belong together, as parts of a single "science". This course will cover all of the major topics in Aristotle's Ethics
 and Politics. These include: the nature of human happiness or well-being; virtue and the various virtues; practical reasoning; the nature and limits of ethical and political theory; the proper goal of politics; citizenship; and the ideal state/society.

 

Phil 303 Theory of Knowledge - Prof. M. Fagan  mbf2@rice.edu
MWF 2:00-2:50

What is knowledge, and how is it possible that we have it? This course examines important contemporary theories of knowledge, including foundationalism, coherentism, contextualism, and reliabilism.  We will use contemporary classics in the epistemological literature to exemplify these positions, and to examine their strengths and weaknesses. We will also examine two different challenges to the major theories:  naturalism and radical skepticism.

 

PHIL 306 Ethics – Prof. H. Sheinman sheinman@rice.edu
MWF 11-11:50

Ethics is the study of how we should live.  We will focus on normative ethics: on stating and defending the most basic substantive moral principles.  For the most part, we will not be concerned with meta-ethics, namely questions about the nature or possibility of moral theory itself.  At the same time, the discussion will be somewhat more abstract than in applied ethics courses (such as our PHIL 101 Contemporary Moral Issues), which typically deal with the application of moral principles to particular problems (abortion, animal rights, etc.).  We shall take a thematic, largely non-historical approach to the subject.  Thus, for example, will not read the seminal works of the “usual suspects” (Aristotle, Hume, Kant).  Instead, we will follow a systematic textbook, and supplement it with largely contemporary work.
 

This is an upper-level course in philosophy.  Having previously taken some other course in philosophy is likely to prove an advantage. 

 

Phil 310 Philosophy of Biology - Prof. M. Fagan  mbf2@rice.edu
MWF 11:00-11:50

The course deals with philosophical issues that arise in the life sciences. Classic topics in philosophy of science include theory change, scientific laws, explanation, evidence and experiment.  We will examine these and related topics, as they arise in life sciences: evolution, genetics, biomedicine, and systems biology.  We will examine what it means to call evolution “a theory,” whether genes can explain behavior, how ‘systems thinking’ changes our concepts of causation and knowledge, and where science and ethics meet in stem cell biology.  Readings will include classic texts by Darwin and Mendel as well as contemporary philosophers of biology.
 

  

Phil 311 Philosophy of Religion - Prof. B. Brody  bbrody@bcm.edu
TR 2:30-3:50

Philosophical examination of God's nature, of arguments for and against his existence, of the relation between religion and science, and of religious versus secular morality.


Phil 312 Philosophy of Mind – Prof. C. Siewert   siewert@rice.edu
TR 10:50-12:05

How should we conceive of the relation between mind and brain? What is consciousness? Does its “subjective” character make it especially difficult to explain scientifically? What would it take to make an artificial mind, and how would we know we had succeeded? Are our minds literally in our heads, or is whole bodily activity, or our environment just as much a part of mind as what happens in our skulls? These are some of the main questions we will address in this course, through a critical analysis of classic and contemporary readings.

 

Phil 314 Philosophy of Medicine - Prof. H.T. Engelhardt  htengelhardt@juno.com
TR 9:25-10:40

The biomedical sciences, the practice of medicine, and health care policy employ concepts of health, disease, disability, and defect in explanatory accounts, intermixing factual claims with moral and other evaluations.  This course explores the interplay of evaluation and explanation in medicine’s models of disease and health.

 

PHIL 317 – Ethics and Existence Prof. Steven Crowell crowell@rice.edu
TR 1-2:50

“But a philosophy of pure thought is for an existing individual a chimera, if the truth that is sought is something to exist in” (Soren Kierkegaard).

Existentialism – the philosophical movement concerned with the question of the meaning of things – began when the concept of human existence became a special theme for philosophical reflection against the background of the so-called “crisis of reason” in the late 19th and early 20th century. This course traces one part of the heritage of existentialism by questioning the relation between reason and the evaluation of human life, a question traditionally seen as the concern of ethics. The tensions that emerge between ethical and existential points of view will serve to highlight the cognitive, political, religious, and aesthetic dimensions of the search for what it means to be. Readings include selections from

Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Edmund Husserl, “Philosophy as Rigorous Science”

Edmund Husserl, “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man”

Martin Heidegger, “Introduction” to Being and Time

Martin Heidegger, “What is Metaphysics?”

Martin Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism”

Jean-Paul Sartre, “The Origin of Negation” from Being and Nothingness

Jean-Paul Sartre, “The Look” from Being and Nothingness

Jean-Paul Sartre, What is Literature?

Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity (selections)

Jacques Derrida, “Différance”

Jacques Derrida, “The Ends of Man”

Karl-Otto Apel, “The Apriori of the Communication Community and the Foundation of Ethics”
 

 

Phil 336 Medical Ethics - Prof. Jennifer Swindell  jsswinde@bcm.edu
TR 9:25-10:40

In this course we will examine ethical and philosophical issues that arise in health care.  We will examine questions such as: If I let someone die when I could have aided him, am I as morally responsible for his death as I would have been had I actively killed him, by (say) injecting him with a poison?  Should parents be permitted to refuse treatment for their children for religious reasons?  How do we determine when someone is rational enough to make decisions about their health care?  What makes us “persons”?  If there is a point when one ceases to be a “person”, are we obligated to keep him alive?  Should alcoholics receive liver transplants? May we sell human organs on a free market?

In examining these questions, students will learn to think critically about difficult issues, learn to articulate and justify your position on these issues, learn to take seriously and assess the arguments of those who disagree with you, and learn to respectfully debate about such topics.  Students will also learn how to approach difficult ethical cases that arise in their careers as health care providers.


Phil 354 Philosophy of Perception - Prof. C. O'Callaghan  casey.ocallaghan@rice.edu
TR 1:00-2:20

Sensory perception apparently is our most immediate form of acquaintance with our surroundings. Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling strike us as rich sources of experience and of information about the world. Perception guides action, and it grounds concepts and beliefs. Yet, the world as we encounter it perceptually can seem to differ dramatically from the world as it is and as it is described by science. This course aims at an understanding of the nature of perception and of perceptual experience, and of their roles in shaping cognition and thought. The course is divided into three parts. The first part deals with the nature of the objects of perception. The second part deals with perceptual content and its relation to perceptual experience. The third part deals with the nature of sense modalities and philosophical lessons drawn from theorizing about non-visual and multi-modal perception.

 

Phil 355 Advanced Topics in Philosophical Logic  - Prof. R. Grandy rgrandy@rice.edu
MWF 10:00-10:50

We will both explore technical aspects of logical systems for necessity,  time,  conditionals,  vagueness, higher order logic,  etcetera   and also discuss philosophical questions about  logic,  such as:  How do we decide which system  of modal  logic or conditional  logic is best?  What is a logical operation?   Where is the boundary of logic?  Grades will be based on homework, a project and participation.   

PREREQUISITE:  Phil 305 or 505.

 

 

Graduate Seminars

 

Phil 502 Seminar in Modern Philosophy - Prof. M. Kulstad  kulstad@rice.edu
F 1:00-4:00

This year's early modern seminar will focus on topics in epistemology and philosophy of science. The figures considered will be Descartes, Locke, Leibniz and Hume, with special emphasis on the middle two.


Phil 504 Seminar in Metaphysics - Prof. R. Grandy  rgrandy@rice.edu 
W 2:00-5:00

The course will explore the possibility of a "naturalized" metaphysics, beginning with Carnap's criticism of metaphysics and Quine's criticism of Carnap.  Specific topics will include colors, physical objects, sentences, causes, vagueness, possibilities and fictionalism.  Prerequisite: 305 or 505 

 

Phil 506 Ethics Prof. H. Sheinman sheinman@rice.edu
Mon 2:00-5:00

This year’s graduate seminar will focus on expressive moral theories, those that evaluate acts (and other objects – e.g. laws, policies, practices) by what they express or mean (or by what is expressed/meant in relation to them).  Reading includes work by Elizabeth Anderson, Simon Blackburn, Jean Hampton, Deborah Hellman, Rae Langton, and Richard Pildes.  Open to undergraduate students with permission.

 

Phil 512 Seminar in Philosophy of Mind – Prof. C. Siewert   siewert@rice.edu
R 2:00 – 5:00

Is all consciousness in some sense a form of self-consciousness? Can we explain phenomenal consciousness as a form of self-representation? In what way, if any, do or should our answers to such questions depend on introspective self-knowledge? How might they elucidate its character? We will approach these issues by considering classic readings from the phenomenological tradition (Brentano and Husserl) and recent interpretations of them (in e.g., D.W. Smith and D. Zahavi), and drawing this together with related work in contemporary philosophy of mind—examining “higher-order thought” (Rosenthal) and “higher-order perception” (Carruthers, Lycan) theories of consciousness, as well U. Kriegel’s recent neo-Brentanian “self-representational” account.

 

Phil 535 Seminar in Value Theory – Prof. G. Bradford gwen.bradford@rice.edu
T 2:00-5:00

What is good?  In this graduate seminar in value theory, we look at the central issues in axiology, and lay the foundation for your further advanced studies in moral philosophy and value theory.  Topics covered include hedonism, perfectionism, and other theories of wellbeing, equality, desert, organic unities, and the nature of intrinsic value.  Texts are largely from the contemporary cannon, including Feldman, Parfit, Griffin, Moore, Temkin, Kagan, Korsgaard, Hurka, Ross and others.