Proseminar (PHIL610): Philosophical Method
Dr. Nell Wieland Dr. Cory Wright
Wednesdays · 5:30pm–8:15pm · LA1–314
PHIL610 is designed to initiate first-semester graduate students into the program, and, more generally, philosophy as it is practiced at higher levels of professional academic competence. The initiation into advanced philosophy will be achieved by equipping students with the skills in analysis, composition, and research that are appropriate for meeting the expectations of our MA program. Students will be trained in how to conduct themselves in a graduate-level setting, how to analyze texts through presentations and discussion, how to write focused, argumentative papers, how to conduct philosophical research, how to properly cite sources, and other related skills. Students will learn the expectations of the department and its faculty, including the requirements of the program, the department’s basic qualifying examination (BQE), the thesis option and non-thesis comprehensive exams. Students will practice the mechanics of in-class presentation, oral defense, term paper writing, and/or poster presentation.
The primary focus of this seminar is skill development. To that end, we will complete small assignments and exercises on a weekly basis. The content of the course is a vehicle for skill development, and vice-versa. The theme for the proseminar for FA21 is Philosophy of Fiction. We will read and discuss classic and contemporary texts related to this topic.
This course is run as a seminar, not as a lecture. This means that students will be expected to come to every class meeting prepared to discuss the readings and other assignments in a roundtable setting. All students should plan on participating at every class meeting. All students should come prepared with questions, insights, and topics for class discussion for every class meeting. In graduate level seminars the professor serves largely as a facilitator for a course that is run jointly by the professor and students.
Each class meeting will have two components: a skills component and a discussion component. Typically, one half of the class meeting will be devoted to developing skill sets in graduate-level work, and the other half of the class will be devoted to discussing the week’s readings. Sometimes these two components of the class meeting will be integrated with one another (e.g., on student presentation days). We will take a short break at approximately the halfway mark.
SU19 Graduate Advising
- Thursday August 8th 2:00pm–4:00pm
- Friday August 9th 11:00am–1:00pm
- Monday August 12th 2:00pm–4:00pm
- Tuesday August 13th 2:00pm–4:00pm
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: C2 (Philosophy), D2/D3 (Social Sciences & Citizenship), WI Capstone F
British Empiricism (PHIL414/514)
Professor: Marie Jayasekera
TuTh · 9:30am–10:45am · LA5–355
This course aims to illuminate not only the commonalities but also the significant differences in the approaches and views of the main representatives of the tradition labeled ‘British Empiricism’: John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. Thus, in addition to seeing how they understand the view that sense experience is the ultimate source of our concepts and knowledge, we will explore the differences in their aims and projects as well as their positions on various metaphysical and moral issues. The latter will include some of the following topics: the nature of the human mind, personal identity, divine and human agency, causation, arguments for and against the existence of God, and the foundations of morality.
Kyle Waterbury-Drake passed away on September 27th, 2018 from metastatic melanoma. He began studying in the MA program in Philosophy here at Cal State Long Beach in the Fall semester of 2015. Before that he studied at Humboldt State University and Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. Kyle was admired by all who knew him at CSULB. He was quiet, gentle, smart, kind, and an extraordinarily original thinker. We are deeply saddened by his loss.
Over the last few years Kyle worked on a project on what he called metaphilosophy. He was interested in the way in which the discipline of philosophy is distorted by its institutionalization, and thought that such issues are important to inquire about if we understand philosophy as having uses, as playing a role in the community, and as having aims in philosophical education. He put it this way:
‘What is it that we seek to cultivate with our course objectives and degree programs […]? Are we preparing students as well as we can to critically, charitably, and ethically engage themselves and their communities? What impact does the professorial condition have on both the individual philosopher, the philosophical community, and our community at large? In sum: Are the practices of philosophy in the twenty-first century responsible?‘
It is in this final question that we can see that Kyle was not interested in a merely educational question. Rather, he believed that there are ethical obligations of philosophical thought, practice, and education, and those obligations could be met or abdicated. In particular, the ethical obligations of the philosopher include virtuous and wise character formation—not just for the philosopher herself, but also for her students, and those in her community. When the philosophy professor instead follows the path of the natural sciences, and regards her job as one of technical knowledge production, then her pursuit of this distorts her ability to cultivate philosophy as the living of a good life, and to the care and health of our communities.
Kyle defended what he called a synthetic scalar antiessentialism about philosophy. On each end of the scale, he described philosophy as an existential project (in the sense defended by Rorty, Kitcher, and Sartre). One end of this scale practices philosophy as the art of living, which he conceived of as ‘the project of skillfully coping (i.e., flourishing) with life and life problems’. On the other end of the scale, it is conceived of as critical theoretic philosophy, which is ‘the project of knowing one’s way around the cosmos’. Kyle argued that critical theoretic philosophy is what dominates philosophy-as-taught-in-the-university today, to our detriment. Philosophy as the art of living is that which you find in philosophical traditions throughout history, including Plato’s examined life, in Buddhism, in what he calls the medical model of philosophizing in Hellenistic and Roman philosophy, Fourth Way Mysticism, Existentialism, and in Foucault.
The obligation to take this task of philosophy seriously is enormously important. This practice or use of philosophy is, as he put it, ‘a kind of reservoir of wisdom. This reservoir of passed down teachings and practices is like an accumulated immune system for individuals and society at large, who may be undergoing crisis’.
This is part of how he thought of what it meant to be a philosopher, and what he called philosophical lifework. He wrote,
the full philosopher engages and integrates two species of work which correspond to the two extreme projects of philosophy: the work upon the self (i.e., the care of the self), and the work upon thought (i.e., the care of the cosmos).
Kyle was a wonderful person, a curious philosopher, and a creative mind. He thought that caring for others was not only his personal commitment but his philosophical commitment as well, writing,
wisdom occurs in organisms—individuals, institutions, communities, and societies at large are organisms […] All organisms are subject to sickness and health, and philosophers are those beings who have the special capacity to influence the health of social organisms.
He understood that we find wisdom in living our lives well and in helping others do the same. He will be missed.
Kyle is survived by his parents, Trish and Steve Waterbury, his younger brother, Garrett, and his wife, Leanne. If you would like to support a scholarship fund in philosophy and poetry at Allan Hancock College, please visit here.
SP18 Philosophy Day Symposium
Amy Kind (Claremont McKenna)
‘Bridging the divide: imagining across experiential perspectives’
- Abstract: Can one have access to experiential perspectives vastly different from one’s own? Can one know what it’s like to live a life very different from one’s own? These questions are particularly pressing in contemporary society as we try to bridge racial, ethnic, and gender divides. Yet in both popular culture and in philosophical contexts, we see considerable pessimism in this regard, i.e., it is often thought that the gulf between vastly different experiential perspectives cannot be bridged. In this paper, I explore the case for this pessimism, and I also explore whether and how reliance on imagination might lead us to a more optimistic conclusion.
Richard Link (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Luminosity and its limits’
- Abstract: The principle of luminosity states that a condition, α, is said to be a luminous one if whenever α obtains for an individual, they are in a position to know that α obtains. In his book, Knowledge and Its Limits, Timothy Williamson presents a paradox which aims to show that the principle of luminosity is incompatible with knowledge. I will examine his claims and argue that the problem Williamson’s paradox picks up is not a problem with the principle of luminosity but rather has to do with the diversity of our phenomenal states and our ability to categorize them into concepts.
Cameron Stein (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Foucaults’s Discipline and Punish: an exposition of its argument’
- Abstract: Michel Foucault is one of the most cited figures in the humanities, and Discipline and Punish one of his most cited works. However, many of its central concepts, though well known, are misinterpreted, while others are neglected. My aim is to provide a more thorough and comprehensive interpretation of Discipline and Punish than is customarily found in the literature. In doing so, I argue that Discipline and Punish is intended to spark an engagement with the present by investigating the formation of mechanisms of power through history. Emphasis should not be placed on a condemnation of the modern prison system. Rather, we should take Foucault’s project as a guide for critical engagement with the mechanisms of power dispersed throughout society.
3:15pm–4:00pm: Graduate Student Research Presentation
Vincent del Prado (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Necessary and proper objects of moral concern: on the land ethic reconsidered’
- Abstract: Aldo Leopold’s influential work ‘The land ethic’ presents an argument for why we should expand the realm of moral concern so as to include land (waters, soils, plants, and animals). Charles Starkey defends the land ethic from two important objections by arguing that it is a theory of moral development and ecological rationality. I argue that this defense of the land ethic cannot be grounded in the claim that land should be included in the realm of moral concern because of a necessary connection to proper objects of moral concern (uncontroversially humans, and plausibly many animals as well). I then address the potential objections to my argument and shape a full theory akin to the land ethic accordingly.
Alex Klein (Cal State Long Beach)
‘The curious case of the decapitated frog: on experiment and philosophy’
- Abstract: Physiologists have long known that some vertebrates can survive for months without a brain. This phenomenon attracted limited attention until the 19th century when a series of experiments on living, decapitated frogs ignited a controversy about consciousness. Pflüger demonstrated that such creatures do not just exhibit reflexes; they also perform purposive behaviors. Suppose one thinks, along with Pflüger’s ally Lewes, that purposive behavior is a mark of consciousness. Then one must count a decapitated frog as conscious. If one rejects this mark, one can avoid saying peculiar things about decapitated animals. But as Huxley showed, this position leads quickly to epiphenomenalism. The dispute long remained stalemated because it rested on conflicting sets of intuitions that were each compatible with the growing body of experiments. What eventually resolved it is that one set of intuitions supported a research program in physiology that came to seem more fruitful on the whole. So my case study suggests an alternative model for experimental philosophy as compared with more recent practice. Rather than using experiment to bolster our philosophical intuitions directly, we should explore how our philosophical intuitions might bolster (or block) fruitful experimental inquiry in science.
Speakers, participants, and guests invited!
PHIL 491/591: Special Topics in Modern Philosophy
Instructor: Kourosh Alizadeh
Topic: German Idealism
Details: TuTh at 3:30pm–4:45pm in LA1–304
Check out this course description, looks awesome!
Few philosophers in history can claim to have had as much influence on their contemporaries as Immanuel Kant. When he released is groundbreaking book The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781, it was not long before the entire German-speaking philosophical world was abuzz with activity. Other philosophers aimed to build on his ideas or resolve what they saw as weaknesses in his position, and the result was an entire philosophical tradition: German Idealism.
In this class we will first look at Kant as the founder of this tradition, and then study the works of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, looking at how they developed on Kant’s ideas to produce radically new ways of thinking about the world. Their work is some of the most difficult but also most philosophically rich in the discipline, full of interesting insights at the intersection of epistemology and metaphysics, logic and ethics. In this class we will achieve a solid working knowledge of this fascinating period in the History of Philosophy. No previous study of Kant is required.
TuTh 12:30–1:45pm, LA5–246
In this course, we will be exploring a wide 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 and 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 bio-medical 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 some of the historically prominent theories in normative ethics, e.g., Virtue Ethics, Kantian Ethics, Utilitarianism. The course should prove beneficial to those for whom this may be their only philosophy course, and it will provide a good background for those who wish to pursue further studies in philosophy.
Applied Ethics Forum: Eden Lin
Applied Ethics Forum
Eden Lin (Ohio State University), ‘Should we respect the past desires of people with dementia?’ • Thursday 26 Apr 2018, 3:30pm–5:00pm, LA1–300
Abstract: Consider a person with dementia who has a medical condition that requires a certain kind of treatment. Suppose that, although she now has no objection to undergoing such treatment, before she had dementia, she desired not to undergo such treatment were she ever to have dementia. Should we respect this person’s past desire not to undergo the treatment? The answer to this question will likely depend in part on the answer to a further question: would our respecting this past desire benefit this person (i.e., increase her well-being)? I will explore how different theories of well-being might answer this question, with an emphasis on the implications of desire-satisfaction theories of well-being.
Applied Ethics Forum: Guy Fletcher
Applied Ethics Forum
Guy Fletcher (University of Edinburgh), ‘Moral skepticisms and the normativity of prudential discourse’ • Tuesday April 10th 2018, 3:30pm–5:00pm in LA1–300
Abstract: In this talk, I will argue that prudential discourse (thought and talk about what is good and bad for people, what contributes to their welfare, etc.) is a normative form of discourse, on a par with moral discourse. After first explaining what that thesis means, I will give some arguments for it and try to defuse objections. I will then spell out some applications of the thesis to three forms of moral skepticism.