Rice Unconventional Wisdom

Philosophpy DepartmentHumanities Building photos

Spring Courses 2013




PHIL 106: Logic.  MWF 9:00a.m.-9:50a.m. HUM 328  (Mills) Logic investigates the inference from reasons, or premises, to a conclusion. This course focuses on deductive logic. In a deductive argument, the conclusion is supposed to be a consequence of, or follow from, the premises. If the conclusion does follow from the premises, the argument is valid. Validity depends upon the structure or form of the argument. Logic and validity matter since we want to distinguish good from bad argument forms. We will learn two formal systems or languages - truth-functional logic and quantificational logic - each of which model parts of natural language. We will learn to translate between these formal systems and natural language, and learn two independent ways of assessing the validity of arguments in these languages. This course has no prerequisites, and is a Group III distribution course.


PHIL 109: Philosophy of Art. MWF 2:00p.m. - 2:50 p.m. SEW 305  (Casas)


PHIL 116: Introduction to Philosophy of Law. TTR 4:00p.m. - 5:15  HUM 328(Keyes) The course will discuss the nature of law in general as well as discrete topics in legal philosophy. How is a legal rule different from an order backed by a terrorist threat? Is retroactive legislation legal? What are legal rights? Is there a general moral duty to obey the law?

PHIL 202: History of Philosophy II. TR 9:25a.m. - 10:40a.m. RZR 123 (Kulstad) 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.  Majors are required to take it.  Given the importance of PHIL 202's philosophers-among others, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche- and their importance for work in other disciplines, e.g., history of science, history more generally, literature, religious studies and political theory, PHIL 202 also has a central place in a program of well-rounded interdisciplinary studies.


PHIL 306: Ethics. MWF 1:00p.m.-1:50p.m. HUM 328 (Bradford) How should I live my life?  What is the right thing to do?  What does it mean to be a good person? This class examines the field of philosophy that takes on these pressing and relevant questions.  We investigate different accounts of well being and value, and the relationship between goodness and right action.  Along the way we will consider the philosophical treatment of some pressing questions:  How much does morality demand of us?  Is there more to being happy than just how you feel?  Under what conditions is it morally permissible to harm someone?


PHIL 307: Social and Political Philosophy. MWF 2:00p.m.-2:50p.m. HUM 119 (Sher) This course deals with a number of interconnected problems that our social and political arrangements raise.  With the exception of two selections from the classical utilitarians Bentham and Mill, all readings for the course will be by contemporary authors.  The topics to be discussed include the sources of political obligation and political authority, the limits of legitimate stat action, some issues in the theory of punishment, and the relation between equality and justice.  Although these topics will at first be treated separately, the last part of the course will focus on John Rawls' classic work "A Theory of Justice" which deals with them all in a unified way


PHIL 308: Continental Philosophy. TR 2:30p.m.-3?45p.m. HUM 328 (Crowell) An examination of philosophical movements in 20th-century European philosophy -- including phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, critical theory, deconstruction, and postmodernism. These approaches are not linked by a linear narrative of progress but co-exist in complex strands of dialogue, conversation, and mutual criticism. We will explore some of these strands by focusing on the diagnosis of, and response to, the "crisis" in twentieth-century thought and culture. Topics will include questions in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, political theory, philosophy of language, and philosophy of religion.Graduate/Undergraduate Equivalency: PHIL 508.


PHIL 311: Philosophy of Religion. TR 2:30p.m. - 3:35p.m. SEW 309 (Brody A philosophical examination of the conflicts between western theism and secular humanism on such topics as the origin of  the universe, the existence of evil, the relation between the mind and the body (with its implications for the possibility of survival), the existence of free will, the occurrence of miracles, and the nature of morality. Some attention will be paid to Buddhist views on these topics and to issues concerning relations between different western theistic faiths.


PHIL 312: Philosophy of Mind. TR 10:50a.m.-12:05p.m. HUM 117 (Siewert)  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 the activity of the whole body, 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 316: Philosophy of Law. TR 10:50a.m. - 12:05p.m.  HUM 227 (Brody) An examination of substantive ethical and social issues as they arise in our legal system. The focus this year will be on the criminal law. Among the questions we will discuss are: What types of behavior should be criminalized? What is the nature of the obligation to obey the criminal law? What justifications should be accepted for not obeying it? Why do we punish those who disobey? How shall we deal with excuses and mitigating factors? Are there reasonable alternatives to punishment?


PHIL 319: Feminist Philosophy.  MW 3:00p.m. - 4:15p.m.  HNZ 207 (Adams, Bulcock, and Dohna) This course is a survey of feminist philosophy. Yes, feminism studies sex oppression and gender bias--but feminism also investigates the boundaries of race and class. Feminist philosophy examines these and other boundaries, often breaking them down or even abandoning them. Feminism belongs to you, whoever you are. Who among us is not in some way displaced, dislodged or discomforted by their given environment? We will investigate how feminist concerns have distinctively reshaped traditional philosophical debates about knowledge, ethics, science, and politics. We will attempt to make these concerns accessible to all. Class will tend away from traditional lectures and exams, and toward active independent thinking, e.g., innovative writing assignments, personalized research projects, presentations, and classroom discussions. The course will be co-taught by three instructors--two men and one woman. We hope you'll join us.


PHIL 336: Medical Ethics. TR 9:25a.m. - 10:40a.m.  HUM 117 (Blumenthal-Barby) A philosophical examination of some of the fundamental issues in clinical ethics, including informed consent, competency, confidentiality, end of life decision making, the definition of death, allocating scarce medical resources, and the role of economic analysis in clinical decision making. Readings drawn from the clinical and philosophical literature. Graduate/Undergraduate Equivalency: PHIL 536.


PHIL 357: Incompleteness, Undecidability, and Computability. MWF 10:00a.m. - 10:50a.m.  HBH 21  Course URL: http://www/owlnet.rice.edu/~phil357 (Grandy) Proofs of Godel's Incompleteness Theorems for number theory in several forms and by various methods, as well as development of several definitions of computability for number-theoretic functions, which are then shown to be equivalent. Includes proof of the unsolvability of the Halting Problem and analysis of Church's thesis, as well as exploration of the extension of the concept of computability to real-valued functions. Frequent misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the theorems are analyzed.