Fall 2014 Upper Division Course Descriptions


Philosophy 585: Ethics 

T/Th 1:05 - 2:20, Dickens 302

Topic: Consequentialism and Theories of Welfare

This course will offer an in-depth study of contemporary consequentialist theory and its critics. Most people associate consequentialism with preference utilitarianism but, in recent years, there have been a variety of attempts to bring the full richness of moral experience under the umbrella of consequentialism. This course will consider these more complex accounts of the properties which make a state of affairs good and whether these properties can be reduced to accounts of the goodness of lives. We will begin by investigating the structure of consequentialism, its core commitments and limits. We will then move on to a discussion of (at least) two contemporary theories of welfare: Fred Feldman's attitudinal hedonism (studying his Pleasure and the Good Life), and James Griffin's perfectionism (studying his Well-being).


Philosophy 615: Philosophy of Religion

T/Th 2:30 - 3:45, Dickens 302

This course will offer a historically-oriented survey of some of the main themes in the philosophy of western religion. By reading and discussing the foundational works in this tradition, alongside modern-day commentaries and developments of similar ideas, we will aim to achieve a better understanding of how philosophy has influenced religious thought in the west, and what philosophy can contribute to the rational formation of beliefs about the extra-mundane. Among the topics we may consider are: the problem of evil, fatalism and divine foreknowledge, faith and the ethics of belief, the classical arguments for the existence of God, and the relation between religious and ethical belief.


Spring 2014 Upper Division Course Descriptions

Philosophy 525: Social and Political Philosophy

MWF: 1:30-2:20, Dickens 203

This term the central themes of the course will be gender and race. What are race and gender? And more importantly, what do we want them to be? When we look at the world around us, it seems clear that race and gender are real categories – after all, some people are obviously disadvantaged by their race or gender, and other people are obviously advantaged. But just how should we think about these categories? Are they biological realities? Are they “mere” social realities? Or are we mistaken, and do they not meaningfully exist at all? In this course, we’ll have three main aims. First, we’ll explore a variety of metaphysical and epistemological questions related to race and gender, in order to better understand what we take race and gender to be, and what we can know about them. Second, we’ll consider a variety of applied questions – from the ethics of marriage and motherhood to the ethics of racial humor – to help to understand the real-world consequences of the ways in which we answer the metaphysical and epistemological questions. And third, we’ll use the literature on ideal and non-ideal theory to explore whether the ways in which we use and understand the concepts of race and gender in our own imperfect world should be different from the ways in which we would use and understand them in a perfectly just one.


Philosophy 535: Philosophy of Law 

W: 5:30-8

This term we will consider theoretical and applied issues in philosophy of law. Part of the course will be devoted to an overview of current debates over questions such as: What is the relationship between law and morality? Does legality depend on moral legitimacy? Is there a special kind of objectivity that is unique to law? We will also examine more practical topics such as law and religion, the limits to freedom of expression, rights and torture, and hate speech. The primary texts will be: Scott Shapiro, Legality; Brian Leiter, Why Tolerate Religion?; and Corey Brettschneider, When the State Speaks What Should it Say? We will also read some articles by authors such as Connie Rosati, Julie Dickson, and Jeremy Waldron.


Philosophy 620: History of Analytic Philosophy 

T/Th: 9:30-10:45

This course is an introduction to the central concepts, themes, and figures in the development of analytic philosophy. Though the focus of the course is historical, covering mostly work produced between 1890 and 1950, its main goal is not. We aim to explore and understand the arguments and ideas that have shaped the contemporary debates in philosophy of language, philosophy of logic and mathematics, metaphysics, and epistemology. We will study the work of key thinkers such as Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Quine, and Lewis, as well as the underpinning of influential philosophical movements such as logicism, logical empiricism, and ordinary language philosophy.