SP21 PHIL351

Political Philosophy (PHIL351)
Professor: Max Rosenkrantz
Tuesdays & Thursdays  ·  11:00am–12:15am  ·  online

This course will cover a selection of topics relevant to the ongoing crisis of liberal democracy.  Specific topics are likely to include some of the following: illiberal democracy, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and neoliberalism.

SP21 PHIL352

Philosophy of Law (PHIL352)
Amanda Trefethen

Mondays  ·  5:30pm–8:15pm ·  online

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

SP21 PHIL306

Philosophies of China and Japan (PHIL306)
Alysha Kassam

Tuesdays & Thursdays  ·  3:30–4:45  ·  online

In this course, we will examine the philosophical traditions of China and Japan. Major themes of the course will include Confucianism, taoism, Chinese political philosophy, Ch’an buddhism, zen buddhism, the Shinto religion of Japan and the philosophy of the Kyoto school in 20th century Japan.

SP21 PHIL496/596

Special Topics: Addiction, Self-Control, and Responsibility
Professor: Cami Koepke
Mondays & Wednesdays  ·  2:00pm–3:15pm  ·  online

Understanding what addiction is and how it might impact responsible behavior is a philosophical puzzle with considerable practical implications. This course is an advanced introduction to the philosophical study of addiction. Some of the primary questions we will address include: What is addiction? How might addiction compromise control? Is addiction always harmful? Is addiction a disease? Are addicted individuals fully responsible for their drug use? As we answer these questions, we will look at theoretical debates across many areas of philosophical inquiry that attempt to better understand the nature of psychological conditions, disease, human motivation, self-control, and excuse for blameworthiness. Our readings will focus on the work of contemporary philosophers like Hanna Pickard, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Jeannette Kennette, David Brink, Richard Holton, Chandra Sripada, Gary Watson, and R. J. Wallace. We will also look at the work of behavioral theorists, like George Ainslie and Gene Heyman, and research scientists, like Marc Lewis, Nora Volkow, and Carl Hart. Students should be prepared to engage in careful reading, regular writing assignments, and structured discussion.

FA20 PHIL403

PHIL403: Medical Ethics
Cami Koepke
online  ·  MonWed  ·  12:30pm–1:45pm

This course involves a careful examination of timely questions in contemporary medical ethics such as:  

How should limited medical resources be distributed in a pandemic?
Should people be held responsible for bad health outcomes that result from personal decisions?
When is it permissible to force someone to undergo a health treatment?
Should testing be offered for diseases that lack symptoms or treatments?
Do sperm or egg donors incur any obligations on account of donating genetic material?
Is it a moral duty to do things that are inconvenient or even potentially dangerous if they promote The health of others (e.g. getting vaccinated, wearing face masks, etc.)?
Should embryos be treated or enhanced if the technology is available?

To answer these questions, this course will take a deep dive into normative considerations that bear on practical medical decision-making. We will read about how ethical theories, and how these theories might inform practical principles in clinical and research medicine. We will also explore philosophical topics such as the difference between doing harm and allowing harm; the distinction between therapy and enhancement; the relationship between consent, agency and paternalism; the nature of procreative obligations; and the bounds of personal moral responsibility.

This course is suited for students willing to think critically about difficult moral questions in medicine. No prior experience with philosophy or medicine is required, although advanced students in both areas will get the chance to expand their knowledge and sharpen their analytical skills in discussion and writing. Be prepared for challenging readings that require focus and attention and for weekly writing projects and an original term paper.

FA20 PHIL370

PHIL370: Rationality and Decisions
Alysha Kassam
Mondays  ·  5:00pm–7:45pm  ·  LAB–114

Our beliefs, actions, and identity are determined by the decisions we make in life. Although many decisions we make are inconsequential (what should I wear to the party?), others have the potential to alter the course of our lives. This class offers students formal techniques for making and evaluating decisions. A formal method for decision making is an important and powerful tool, since it can be applied to whatever decision we might face, no matter how specific the content. In this class, students will be introduced to concepts and methods from symbolic logic, probability theory, and game theory in order to improve their decision making and to avoid common errors of reasoning. As a result, the emphasis is on applying what is learned in the course to real-world decision problems. No advanced mathematical background is required for this course.

This course satisfies GE upper-division B.

FA20 PHIL610

Proseminar: Reduction of the Normative and the Phenomenal
Professor: Nick Laskowski
Tuesdays  ·  7:00pm–9:45pm  ·  LA1–304

Participants in this course will receive an introduction to graduate study in philosophy. They will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the norms and expectations of our MA program. They will also have the opportunity to develop skills necessary for succeeding in our MA program and beyond, including the skills of conducting philosophical research, writing abstracts and papers, participating in seminars and conferences, giving various kinds of talks, publishing, being a philosophy instructor, managing one’s time, and the like.

The course content lies at the intersection of metaethics and philosophy of mind. Debates about reducing ethical facts to natural facts parallel debates about reducing phenomenal facts to physical facts. Recently, metaethical reductivists have begun exploiting this parallel to offer novel defenses of their views. Participants in this course will explore the successes and shortcomings of these defenses, receiving an advanced introduction to contemporary issues in metaethics and philosophy of mind along the way. 

FA20 PHIL330

Philosophy of Religion (PHIL 330)
Prof. Lawrence Nolan
Mondays and Wednesdays  ·  12:30pm–1:45pm  ·  LA5–149

Philosophy of Religion studies the concepts, methods, and practices of religion with the aim of clarifying and, in some cases, critiquing them. Topics for this course will likely include the following:

  1. Arguments for (and against) the existence of God
  2. The problem of evil
  3. The relation between the divine attributes (are they consistent?)
  4. How to understand particular divine attributes such as eternity and simplicity
  5. How to talk meaningfully about God’s incomprehensibility
  6. Does divine foreknowledge preclude human freedom?

Course requirements will consist of two take-home essays and a final exam. There will also be an option for extra credit.  Regular participation in class will be strongly encouraged.

I welcome inquiries about the course:  Lawrence.Nolan@csulb.edu

FA20 PHIL352

Philosophy of Law (PHIL352)
Section 01: Mondays from 5:30pm–8:15pm in LA5–246 [UHP]
Section 02: Mondays from 2:00pm–4:45pm in LAB–114

Dr. Amanda Trefethen

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

FA20 PHIL451

Liberty & Justice: Race, Gender, Ethnicity in American Law
Dr. Amanda Trefethen
Tuesdays  ·  7:00pm–9:45pm  ·  LA5–246
Satisfies GE categories: C2, F, HD

This course will examine the nature of basic constitutional notions, such as
 liberty, justice, due process, and equality, against the backdrop of an American legal history too frequently blighted by systematic and pervasive human inequality. In short, this course will examine the social construction of race, ethnicity, and gender, and will consider when and to what extent this construction has served as a legal sanction for perpetuating an exclusive, rather than inclusive, interpretation of justice. In the process we will ask (and find surprising answers to) such questions as: Does race exist? What is justice? Can the sexes be equal?

We will begin by considering the nature of justice, with special attention to issues of race, ethnicity, and gender. We will then consider how the law historically has identified and distinguished these groups, how these distinctions have been justified and implemented by the law, and how the law has developed to reject different treatment. We will read both philosophical texts and extensive court decisions. These include texts by Catherine MacKinnon, John Stuart Mill, Naomi Zack, Thomas Nagel, Susan Okin, Martha Minow, John Rawls, Alexis de Tocqueville, Richard Wasserstrom, and others. To comply with the University HD requirements, we will consider court decisions which address African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and women.

The course text will be Julie Van Camp’s Ethical Issues in the Courts: A Companion to Philosophical Ethics (Wadsworth, 2000). We also will use a course supplement, available at the University Bookstore in late August, e-reserve materials, and public domain readings.