A writing-intensive seminar that introduces students to central philosophical ideas and debates. In recent years, we have offered Black Mirror and Philosophy. In this course, students use the Netflix series Black Mirror to investigate philosophical questions such as: Do we have free will? Do some circumstances call for the violation of standard moral principles for the sake of the greater good? What are the appropriate limits of privacy in the digital age? How have new technologies reoriented our personal relationships, and what are the implications for social and political life?
This is the introductory course for the Political Economy major, but we welcome all students. The Political Economy program explores the relationships between ways of organizing political life (e.g., aristocracy, pure democracy, liberal democracy) and ways of organizing economic life (e.g., free-market capitalism, socialism, communism). How do economic systems advance or frustrate the goals of political orders? The right goals of a political and economic order, however, cannot be determined without exploring an array of philosophical questions: What is justice?
This course examines pre-Socratic, Platonic, Aristotelian, and Hellenistic contributions to Western philosophy, with some emphasis on philosophy of science and ethics. We examine a broad range of philosophical topics including: nature, knowledge, virtue, and happiness. There will be a strong emphasis on analyzing the arguments found in the texts. Offered yearly.
An examination of major representatives of Early Modern Philosophy, focusing on the works of Descartes, Hume, and Kant. Issues to be considered include such things as the nature and role of rationality, the relation of the sensuous and the rational, the exercise of freedom, and the existence of God. Offered yearly.
Reasoning and argument are pervasive features of human life. For instance, people are constantly trying to persuade you to adopt certain positions or beliefs; they will often attempt to do so by means of argument or reasoning. But what makes for good reasoning? This course is intended to introduce students to principles and methods of good reasoning, with an emphasis on the analysis of everyday arguments.
This course examines various “isms” that compete to organize social, political and economic life. What are the beliefs of liberals, conservatives, socialists, feminists, nationalists, fascists etc.? How wide is the spectrum of particular ideological beliefs? Can different ideological beliefs be synthesized? Do political beliefs function like religious beliefs? Are there rational grounds for choosing among them? Is "ideological thinking" necessary and good or something to avoid?
This course addresses puzzling questions of agency and responsibility arising from legal norms and principles. What’s the difference between justifying and excusing a killing? Does the law of self-defense discriminate against women? Does mental illness negate responsibility or should the insanity defense be abolished? What is the distinction between Act and Intention? Attempted crimes are punished less severely than completed ones: do unsuccessful criminals deserve leniency because of circumstances beyond their control? Should ignorance of the law sometimes be an excuse?
Drawing primarily on contemporary sources in politics, philosophy and economics, this course examines rival visions of the good society. We will analyze competing conceptions of justice and the ways in which those views are modified by commitments to liberty and equality. Thematic questions will include: What do human beings owe to one another? How is personal responsibility related to social responsibility? What are the causes and consequences of wealth and poverty? What is the character of freedom? What does equality require? How should rights and duties be properly understood?
What are the appropriate limits of state power? Should the state be able to forbid, say, my choice to use drugs, sell my kidney, or take money for sex? To censor my speech or tax my income? The answer varies according to one’s theory of justice – or view about the proper exercise of state force. This course introduces students to prominent theories of justice in an attempt to answer such questions. We will make our way from utilitarian to libertarian to egalitarian conceptions of justice.
This course introduces students to philosophical debates in environmental ethics. We will explore questions such as: What aspects of the non-human world are morally considerable? Are trees or ecosystems just as morally considerable as sentient animals? If so, how should we adjudicate between competing moral claims in the natural world? Do high-emitting nations have a greater moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change than poorer nations? Are we morally obligated to consider the impact our current environmental behavior will have on future humans?