PHIL640 FA24

Seminar in Metaphysics (PHIL640)
Topic: Metaphysical Freedom in Early Modern Philosophy
Marie Jayasekera

Wednesdays  ·  5:30pm–8:15pm  ·  LA1–300

If everything we do must happen because of events in the past, do we really have a say in what we do? Are we responsible for our choices if they are causally determined by our desires? If God preordains a plan for the history of the created universe down to the smallest details and creates the universe accordingly, are we not mere puppets? And, most importantly, what is our actual predicament: are we free, and if so, how should we understand our freedom?

In this course, we will explore how numerous early modern philosophers—among them Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Leibniz, du Châtelet, Hume, and Reid (and perhaps others)—answer these questions. We will seek to identify and understand:

  • their conceptions of freedom;
  • the relevant contexts of discussion (e.g., the background intellectual debates;
  • the philosophical commitments that shape and constrain their conceptions of freedom);
  • the particular threats to freedom the thinkers have in mind; and
  • the connections among their views.

This course will cover a lot of ground quickly over our 15 class meetings. As a result, students in this course will be expected to come to every class meeting having carefully read all the assigned primary texts. Students should be prepared with questions, insights, and topics for class discussion and should plan on participating at every class meeting.

Final papers for the course will require engaging with relevant secondary literature independently (with guidance from Dr. Jayasekera).

PHIL400 FA24

Business Ethics (PHIL400)
Amy Umaña
Mondays & Wednesdays  ·  9:30am–10:45am  ·  LA5–149

As one of the main (sub-)branches of philosophy, (normative) ethics is primarily about the moral standards of rightness and wrongness that govern action. Applied ethics is concerned with the practical application of normative ethics—that is, with the deployment of normative concepts in present and future situations, and with an eye toward determining what agents ought to do in their workaday circumstances. Among these applications is business ethics, which is the philosophical study of the applied ethical dimensions of productive organizations and commercial activities. The subject matter of business ethics is important and relevant since we all engage in commercial transactions daily. This course will raise ethical questions both internal and external to business organizations as they arise in our globalized economy. We will consider various important ethical questions pertaining to competitive markets and corporate responsibility, economic justice and consumer rights, the use and protection of information, employee rights and corporate responsibilities, affirmative action, and environmental responsibility.


  • This course is cross-listed with CBA400, and so satisfies that requirement for any student in the College of Business.
  • This course can satisfy GE area upper-division C or upper-division D.

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PHIL402 FA24

Engineering Ethics (PHIL402)
Instructor: John Vella
Mondays & Wednesdays  ·  8:00am–9:15am  ·  LA4–100

This course is an exploratory investigation of the practical application of classical normative theories to issues in engineering professions. To carry out this investigation, the course will first rehearse some of the concepts and principles of these theories in the moral domain: Aristotelian virtue, Pricean intuition, Kantian maxims, Millian utility, etc. Next, it will shift to discussion of practical application: how shall we deploy these concepts and principles about the moral standards of rightness and wrongness that govern action into workaday professional circumstances? Along the way, the course will also involve the analysis of an array of case studies from aeronautical, civil, electrical, mechanical, chemical and biomedical, agricultural, and architectural engineering. Topics may include technological malfunction; civil disasters; the regulation of vehicular systems; weapons delivery systems; value-sensitive design in machine learning; ethical issues in human × robot interaction; feeding overpopulation; geoengineering; ethics of chemical synthesis; plastics and leaded gasoline; bacteria-resistant drugs; growing in vitro meat; the value of off-grid living; and, finally, the development, maintenance, and dismantling of techno-industrial aspects of society.

GE/GR areas: upper-division C (humanities) and WI (writing)

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PHIL403 FA24

Medical Ethics (PHIL403)
Patrick Dieveney
For FA24, this course is scheduled for asynchronous online instruction.

In this course, we will be exploring a range of issues in contemporary biomedical ethics. Topics discussed in the course include ethical issues concerning the professional-patient relationship, human and animal research, physician-assisted suicide, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and social justice and health-care policy. The primary goal in the course is to introduce students to various ethical issues in the biomedical sciences and equip them with the analytical tools necessary to appreciate the various positions and arguments. In the process, students will also gain an understanding of historically prominent theories in normative ethics, such as virtue ethics, Kantian ethics, and utilitarianism. The course should prove beneficial to those for whom this may be their only philosophy course (no prior background in philosophy is required), and it will provide a good background for those who might wish to pursue further studies in philosophy.

GE/GR areas: upper-division C (humanities) and WI (writing)

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PHIL417/517 FA24

Phenomenology (PHIL417/517)
Kyle Banick
Mondays & Wednesdays  ·  3:30pm–4:45pm  ·  LA5–246

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. This course guides students through a close reading of a selection of classic texts, including works by Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir, and Gurwitsch. We will consider phenomenology as a method—divorced from theory—that makes sense of the flow of conscious experience. We will also consider phenomenology as a new style of ‘first philosophy’, investigating the sense in which traditional phenomenologists were building grand philosophical systems. Along the way, we will encounter such philosophical topics as the nature and existence of the self, the ontological structure of the world, the imagination and the intellect, the awareness of time, metaphysical groundlessness, embodiment, and affectivity. Phenomenology is best learned by practicing, and the course will feature a hands-on component in which students practice gradually more sophisticated phenomenological exercises. Students will be challenged to apply phenomenological philosophy to present-day concerns and to interrogate the relationship between a phenomenological self-understanding and neuroscientific accounts of consciousness.


PHIL418/518 FA24

Existentialism (PHIL418/518)
Kyle Banick

Mondays  ·  5:30pm–8:15pm  ·  LA1–204

This course will guide students through a close reading of a selection of classic existentialist texts, including works from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre. The questions that arise in these texts probe central philosophical concepts such as the self, value, the nature of time, consciousness, religious experience, embodiment, rationality and irrationality, and society. Also central to the existentialist tradition is a re-examination of the idea—originating with the ancient Greek tradition—that systematic advances in theoretical philosophy concerning the fundamental nature of the world may play a role in unifying one’s intellectual and concrete lives. Students will be challenged to engage deeply with primary texts; to cultivate an appreciation for the deep differences between the various existentialist thinkers; to identify where existentialist themes have entered extra-philosophical domains such as art and pop culture; and to examine existentialist concepts both through theoretical and practical lenses.

PHIL422/522 FA24

Aristotle (PHIL422/522)

Max Rosenkrantz
Tuesdays & Thursdays  ·  3:30–4:45pm  ·  LA5–149

The theme for this course is Aristotle’s theory of human being—what it is to be human. We shall read the entirety of the Nicomachean Ethics, supplemented with selections from other works by Aristotle.

PHIL451 FA24

Liberty and Justice: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in American Law
Amanda Trefethen
Tuesdays  ·  7:00pm–9:45pm  ·  LA5–246

GE/GR areas: upper-division C (humanities), WI (writing), HD

This course will examine the nature of philosophical concepts, such as liberty, justice, and equality, against the backdrop of the treatment of marginalized groups in American law. Through the study of numerous legal cases and philosophical works, we will look at how the law has identified and distinguished different groups on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender; how these distinctions have been justified and implemented under the law; and how it is the law has come to reject differential treatment on these bases. In the process, we will ask various questions relevant to contemporary moral problems such as: what is justice? Is race real? What is it for citizens to be equal under the law? When should differences matter? Do we have a duty to compensate for the wrongs of the past?

We will be reading philosophical texts by John Stuart Mill, Naomi Zack, John Rawls, Martha Minow, Frederick Douglass, Susan Okin, Martin Luther King Jr., Catherine MacKinnon, Mari Matsuda, Anthony Appiah, and Thomas Nagel, among others. Students will also get an introduction on how to read and analyze U. S. Supreme Court cases.

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PHIL423/523 FA24

Kant (PHIL423/523)

Wayne Wright
Mondays & Wednesdays  ·  11:00am–12:15pm  ·  LA5–149

This course will focus on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, with a particular emphasis on coming to grips with the centerpiece of the Critique—the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories of the Understanding.

We will cover Kant’s handling of the nature of space and time, the relationship between experience and the understanding, the self, and freedom. We will also take up the broader consequences of Kant’s transcendental idealism for the possibility of knowledge of the world and its ramifications for the sciences.

PHIL382 FA24

Theory of Knowledge (PHIL382)
Charles Wallis
Mondays & Wednesdays  ·  12:30pm–1:45pm  ·  LA5–246

Is my romantic partner cheating on me? Could Alan Greenspan have failed to know that the self-interest of lending institutions would prove woefully inadequate to protect shareholders equity? What is Dubstep? Did the Trump campaign collude with Russia during the 2016 election? These questions are the ponderings of our everyday lives. However, finding satisfactory answers to such practical questions presupposes answers to deeper philosophical questions regarding the nature, sources, structure, and extent of human knowledge:

(1) What is the nature of knowledge?
(2) What are the sources of knowledge for humans (and others)?
(3) Is there a relationship or structure between individual bits of human knowledge and if so, what is that structure?
(4) What are the limitations of knowledge for humans (and others)?

An adequate answer to the first question would tell us what sorts of things can be (or are) knowledge, what properties distinguish knowledge from other states (like opinions), and how (and to what extent) knowledge benefits the knower. An adequate answer to the second question would provide a basis for identifying the sources (and potential sources) for human knowledge, how these sources give us knowledge, if these sources would provide knowledge for other creatures, how we could tell if other sources were potential sources of knowledge for some creatures, etc.. Similarly, an answer to the third question would tell us what, if anything, humans cannot know, what conditions would prevent knowledge, and even what humans might find difficult to learn and know.

The study of epistemology enriches our understanding of ourselves as cognitive creatures and leads, potentially to improvements in our efficacy as epistemic agents in the real world. This class looks at answers to the both practical and theoretical philosophical questions underlying our everyday concerns about knowledge and knowing. We will survey the works of historical and contemporary thinkers from philosophy and psychology. The class also examines the background assumptions and methodology behind the views of these thinkers and of contemporary philosophy in general.

GE/GR areas: upper-division C (humanities) and WI (writing)

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