Introduction to Cognitive Science (PHIL482)
Dr. Charles Wallis
Mondays & Wednesdays · 3:30pm–4:45pm · LA1–312
This course introduces students to the multidisciplinary field of Cognitive Science. Foci will include the historical development, foundational philosophical presuppositions, methodologies, and results from a selection of core topics in Cognitive Science. In addition to covering the theoretical contributions of the various disciplines of Cognitive Science (including Philosophy, Computer Science, Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, and Linguistics), the course provides students with an introduction to the underlying theoretical framework of Cognitive Science, including its central problems, explanatory structure, and experimental methodologies. Students participate in several labs designed to promote active learning and give students a deeper understanding of the foundational presuppositions and methodologies of the field.
PHIL482 satisfies GE Areas Upper-division C and F.
Professor: Max Rosenkrantz
Tuesdays & Thursdays · 11:00am–12:15pm · LA1–312
This course will be devoted to a careful reading of substantial selections from Volume I of Capital, supplemented with selections from the 1844 Manuscripts, Grundrisse, and (time permitting) Volumes II and III of Capital as well as Theories of Surplus Value. In addition, we will read a number of works by later writers that illuminate the issues Marx discusses. We will cover the central issues in Marxist theory: the origins of capitalism, class, the labor theory of value, exploitation, ‘early Marx’ versus ‘late Marx’, technology, formal and real subsumption, the accumulation of capital, class composition, the falling rate of profit and economic crisis.
Although this course is offered through the Department of Philosophy, no knowledge of (or even interest in) Philosophy will be presupposed. We’ll just read some Marx!
Philosophy of Law (PHIL352)
Dr. Amanda Trefethen
Mondays · 5:30pm–8:15pm · LA5–246
This course will introduce students to the study of philosophical topics related to law and its adjudication. Some of the questions we will address include: What is law? Why, when, and how are we constrained by the law? Is there an essential relationship between law and morality? Can there be a ‘right answer’ in legal disputes? And what does it mean to have ‘liberty’? Toward this end, we will analyze the theoretical debates between legal positivism and natural law, as well as engage in a discussion of more specific legal and normative topics such as tort law, free speech rights, privacy rights, paternalism, and the duty to rescue. Our readings will be drawn primarily from the historical development of the philosophy of law, including works by such philosophers as Thomas Aquinas, John Stuart Mill, John Austin, H.L.A. Hart, Lon Fuller, John Rawls, Judith Thomson, Margaret Radin, and Ronald Dworkin.
This course satisfies multiple GE categories: Upper-division C, Upper-division D, and WI Capstone F
Special Topics: Phenomenology (PHIL492/592)
Dr. Kyle Banick
Mondays · 5:30pm–8:15pm · LA1–312
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, and de Beauvoir. 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.
[PHIL492/592: Special Topics in 20th Century Philosophy may be repeated for up to 6 units with a change in topic.]
PHIL 351: Political Philosophy
Dr. Nick Laskowski
Mondays & Wednesdays · 11:00am–12:15pm · LA1–312
On one way of understanding it, philosophical anarchism is the striking view that there are no actual governments or states with legitimate authority. Indeed, arguments for philosophical anarchism point toward the even more striking claim that it is not even possible for a state to have legitimate authority. Participants in this course will explore such arguments as they are found in contemporary political philosophy in the anglophone, analytic tradition. Along the way, participants will also explore related questions about the nature of legitimate authority and political normativity more generally. What is legitimate authority? How can political obligations, reasons, and the like, be explained? Are such explanations distinct from explanations of moral obligations, reasons, and so on?
PHIL 370: Rationality and Decisions
Dr. Wayne Wright
Tuesdays & Thursdays · 12:30pm–1:45pm · LA1–301
This course introduces students to formal techniques for making and evaluating decisions. In order to develop their skills in representing and analyzing decisions, students will be exposed to concepts and methods from areas such as symbolic logic, probability theory, and game theory. While we will be interested primarily in normative issues (having to do with how one ought to reason), we will also take note of empirical findings regarding how human beings tend to actually make decisions. The course is aimed at equipping students with tools they can use to improve the decisions they make and to avoid common errors of reasoning.
This course satisfies GE upper-division B.
Special Topics: Phenomenal Consciousness (PHIL493/593)
Dr. Wayne Wright
Mondays & Wednesdays · 9:30am–10:45pm · LA1–312
This course will be focused on one of the major issues in the philosophy of mind: phenomenal consciousness. Phenomenal consciousness is the aspect of our mental lives that is referred to in talk of ‘felt qualities’ and ‘what it is like’. It has long been wondered how phenomenal consciousness fits into the physical world. How is it that the three pound lump of gray matter between our ears can give rise to the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread, the throbbing pain of a broken finger, or the thrilling sensation of one’s stomach dropping on a rollercoaster ride? When two different people look at the sky and agree that it is blue, is it possible that the sky looks radically different to them in their visual experiences? It seems safe to say that you know that you are phenomenally conscious, but how do you know that anyone else really is? Perhaps the brain is the wrong place in the world to look for answers to these questions. Maybe phenomenal consciousness is somehow altogether separate from the physical nature of world. This course will examine these and related issues. In the first half of the semester, we will go through Michael Tye’s Ten Problems of Consciousness (our only required textbook), which introduces the central problems of phenomenal consciousness and proposes one of the leading accounts of its place in the physical world. In the second half of the semester, we will read a variety of articles and book chapters (provided as .pdfs on the course’s Beachboard page) that offer different answers to or perspectives on the problems of phenomenal consciousness.
[PHIL493/593: Special Topics in Metaphysics may be repeated for up to 6 units with a change in topic.]
Medical Ethics (PHIL403)
Dr. Patrick Dieveney
This course is currently scheduled for synchronous 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.
Seminar in History of Philosophy (PHIL620)
Topic: Animal Consciousness in the Early Modern Period
Dr. Larry Nolan
Tuesdays · 7:00pm–9:45pm · LA1–304
In this course we will analyze and evaluate philosophical arguments for and against the existence of animal consciousness from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Philosophers treated in the course will include such major figures as Montaigne, Descartes, Locke, Malebranche, Leibniz, and Hume, as well as several minor figures, including Henry More, John Norris, and Pierre Bayle. We will attempt to understand their positions and motivations within the context of their larger philosophical systems and the scientific advances of the day. We will also be interested in identifying their opponents among ancient and medieval thinkers.
Everyone tutored in philosophy is aware of Descartes’s infamous beast-machine doctrine, according to which nonhuman animals are mere automata, devoid of sense and reason. Today, with our deeper knowledge of animal physiology, genetics, and ethology, such a view seems as quaint as it is easy to refute. If one steps on a dog’s paw, it cries out. What could be more obvious than that it is evincing pain and is thus conscious? Descartes and many of his followers who uphold this doctrine are of course well aware of such empirical evidence, but regard it as indecisive and trumped by metaphysical, epistemological, and theological considerations. The arguments they develop are extremely provocative and ingenious, and worthy of rigorous analysis, which they have not yet received. Some of their demonstrations appeal to considerations of linguistic competence, others to ontological parsimony (or Ockham’s Razor). Still other arguments invoke thoughts about the nature of God, especially concerning divine wisdom, benevolence, and justice. In fact, there are clear parallels with arguments in the philosophy of religion pertaining to the problem of evil. The danger of any demonstration for the conclusion that animals are mere automata is that it might apply equally to human beings, thus entailing that they lack immortal souls and free will.
Not all (or even most) philosophers in the period hold a negative view of animal consciousness. For example, the French Renaissance essayist, Montaigne, believed that animals are more sagacious than humans. Locke maintained that the difference between human and animal consciousness is merely one of degree; and others, such as Hume, agreed.
Some early modern figures use the debate over animal consciousness as an occasion for exploring their own philosophical obsessions. Locke, for example, exploited it to argue for his thinking-matter hypothesis, according to which thought is a property added by God to some parts of matter—a form of materialism in the philosophy of the mind. One of the main reasons that some philosophers in the period denied that animals think or feel is the concern that it would commit them to the existence of animal souls, which in turn entails that beasts are immortal in the same way as human beings. Leibniz, however, held that everything in the universe, including animals, is an immaterial substance or soul-like entity. He avoided the theologically disastrous conclusion of granting animals immortality by proposing instead that their souls are merely indestructible, which implies that, unlike humans, they lack self-consciousness and moral agency. He thought we are thus able to grant animals consciousness while still distinguishing their suite of mental capacities from that of human minds. Like many philosophers going back to Aristotle, Leibniz contrasted humans with animals in order to make substantive claims about human nature.
Students in the course will be required to attend class regularly, contribute frequently to discussion, deliver live presentations, and write a term paper or a series of shorter papers.
Special Topics: Values in Science (PHIL496/596)
Dr. Alysha Kassam
Tuesdays & Thursdays · 2:00pm–3:15pm · LA1–312
Scientific practice has long portrayed itself as objective, in the sense that it is guided by epistemic values that are independent of ethical, social and political thought. The worry scientists have long had is that moral or political reasoning undermines science, as it contaminates the search for truth with social, political and ethical priorities and motives. However, there are many ways in which science is responsible to society, as the fruits of science are often used in value-laden settings. For instance, consider how science bears on the distribution of resources, or the evaluation of risks, or how it shapes the material conditions of our lives. When one considers this more seriously, a clear separation between science and social concerns starts to seem less plausible. For this reason, feminist philosophers of science have criticized the value-free ideal, pointing out that non-epistemic values (i.e., social, political, ethical values) are not only unavoidable, but also often critical to proper scientific reasoning. Grappling with the notion that non-epistemic values play an important role in scientific reasoning, philosophers have asked themselves: when and how do non-epistemic values serve a permissible role? In this course, we will survey the various responses to this question in the philosophical literature. Additionally, this course will connect the philosophical literature with existing scientific techniques in the hope of illuminating the ethical obligations scientists have to society at large.
[PHIL496/596: Special Topics in Values and Evaluation may be repeated for up to 6 units with a change in topic.]