Spring 2014 Course Descriptions

Liberal education courses (can also serve as electives in the major/minor)


PHIL 211 Philosophy & Feminism T Th 11-12:15 Kathleen Gill
This course is set in a human rights framework, so we’ll think about the philosophical foundations of rights and adopt standards of equality established in international treaties. We’ll try to understand why women are underrepresented in leadership positions and overrepresented among the poor and in the pews. We’ll consider how to respond to the pervasive tenacity of sexual violence. We’ll study arguments for women’s subordination within marriage, and wonder how to live a feminist life. This course satisfies Goal Areas 6 and 8 of the Liberal Education Program.


PHIL 212: Moral Problems and Theories T Th 11-12:15 Paul Neiman
This class will focus on the moral theories of Aristotle, Bishop Joseph Butler, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill. These moral theories will be used to help us explore our own beliefs and develop our own arguments about a variety of moral problems. The moral problems discussed in class will be chosen according to students’ interest, but might include topics like animal rights and welfare, abortion, euthanasia, whether public workers (i.e., nurses, teachers, police officers) have the right to go on strike, whether government has the right to force people to participate in public health programs or buy health insurance, and whether there is a moral duty to be charitable. Class sessions will consist of class discussion, debate, and small group activities. Student grades will be based on attendance and participation, and the student’s choice of papers or presentations.


PHIL 221: Philosophy of Religion T Th 2-3:15 Jordan Curnutt
Basic issues in the philosophy of religion. A critical evaluation of: the nature of God/Ultimate Reality, arguments for and against the existence of the God of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, the problem of evil in the face of the absolutely good and loving character of this God, the nature of faith and religious experience, the justification/rationality of religious beliefs, the problem of religious diversity, and various views of human destiny/afterlife. PHIL 221 is categorized in “Goal 6: Humanities and Fine Arts” of the SCSU Liberal Education Program. Text: Philosophy of Religion, John Hick, 4th edition.

Major/minor program required courses and upper level electives

PHIL 252: History of Philosophy II T Th 9:30-10:45 Carolyn Hartz
This course starts with the transition from the medieval way of thinking about the universe to the modern, and covers Descartes through Kant. Our focus will be on the metaphysics and epistemology of the period. Readings will include Descartes’ Meditations, Spinoza’s Ethics, Leibniz’s Discourse on Metaphysics, Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Berkeley’s Principles of Human Knowledge, Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics.

PHIL 302: Metaphysics T Th 3:30-4:45 Kevin Sharpe
Metaphysics is the study of ultimate reality (what there is and the nature of what there is). Our approach to metaphysics will be selective: (1) identity, necessity, and existence, (2) puzzles about material objects, and (3) puzzles about free will. Here are some of the issues we’ll consider:

  • • Is this a good argument: the number of planets is eight and the number of planets could have been odd, therefore the number eight could have been odd.
    • Is this claim true: If Descartes’ left leg exists, then it’s possible for two things to exist in the same place at the same time.
    • Is it possible for an object to have different parts at different times?
    • Is there an object made out of the quarters in my pocket, the shoes on your feet, and the moon?
    • Can it be true that there are two chairs in the next room even though chairs do not exist?
    • Is free will compatible with determinism?
    • In what sense, if any, does moral responsibility require free will?

Most of our time in class will be spent discussing the reading. Student grades will be based on some combination of short assignments, papers, presentations, and attendance/participation.

PHIL 304: Symbolic Logic T Th 11-12:15 Casey Swank
This is a logic class designed primarily for philosophers (rather than, say, mathematicians or linguists or rhetoricians). Accordingly, we'll be occupied not only with formal systems of logic but also with various philosophical puzzles, problems and questions surrounding these. Topics: Argument assessment, relations, truth-functions, natural deduction, many-valued logics, metatheory, predicate logic, modal logic. Work: A few exams. Homework frequently assigned but never collected. Text: A philosopher's logic — (cheaply) available a few days before the start of classes, only at Copies Plus (in Atwood).

PHIL 326: Philosophy of Language T Th 12:30-1:45 Carolyn Hartz
In this course we’ll be examining the nature of language and how words connect to the world. We’ll look at the nature of representation, theories of truth, theories of meaning and reference, and how metaphor works. Classwork will incorporate some stories, games and activities as well as discussion of readings done outside of class.

PHIL 411: Topics in Philosophy – Nietzsche T Th 9:30-10:45 Yiwei Zheng
In this course we will explore the application of the Nietzschean values in our daily life, on the basis of a perusal of The Birth of Tragedy, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and The Genealogy of Morals, and an examination of scholarly debates on Nietzsche. Students are expected to do two presentations, a term paper, and a few homework exercises.


PHIL 4/551: Seminar on Human Persons MW 3-4:15 Kevin Sharpe
In this class we will carefully examine the metaphysics of human persons and its connection to both ethical issues at the margins of life and the possibility of postmortem existence. Some of the questions we’ll consider include:

  • • What are human persons?
    • When do human persons begin to exist?
    • What kinds of changes can a human person survive? What kinds of changes will end a human person’s life?
    • What is it for an organism to die?
    • Do organisms cease to exist when they die?
    • Is it possible for a human person to come back into existence once they’ve died and ceased to exist?

Class sessions will be spent discussing the reading. Students will write short analysis papers, give a presentation, and write a research paper.

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