Philosophy University Seminars

Philosophy university seminars are discussion-based introductions to philosophy. All seminars are taught by a regular faculty member, and none have more than 19 students. Some focus on particular philosophical questions or topics, while others range more widely.

Spring 2018 Courses

Philosophy University Seminar
13185 01 (21526)
11:00-12:15 TR
First Year Students Only

This course will explore the nature and relevance of philosophy, as well as major themes in Western philosophy, including the existence of God and the origins of the universe, knowledge of the external world, the mind-body problem, personal identity, free will, morality, and the meaning of life. It also aims to teach how to think, read, and write critically about philosophical issues.

Philosophy University Seminar
13185 02 (25507)
First Year Students Only

This course is an introduction to philosophy, focusing on philosophical questions related to: the existence of God, the nature of human knowledge, and the relationship of the citizen to the state. Readings are drawn from historical and contemporary sources. Requirements include several short and medium-length papers, and a final exam. Active participation is required.

Philosophy University Seminar
13185-03 (21528)
2:00-3:15 TR
First Year Students Only

Philosophy University Seminar
13185-04 (21525)
3:30-4:45 TR
First Year Students Only

This seminar will focus on an historical introduction to problems concerning the origins of the self and human subjectivity. Texts will include selections from Sophocles, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Hobbes, Montainge, Kierkegaard, Sartre, DeBeauvoir and Gadamer. Like all university seminars, this one will be writing intensive with approximately twenty-pages of required writing (and in some cases revising) over the course of the semester. In addition, each student will be expected to make a seminar presentation.

We will examine major writings on the historical development and cultural relevance of the concept of the self. Our objective will be to attempt come to grips with these authors’ positions, to come to decision and judgment regarding the validity, veracity and relevance of their accounts and arguments -- and thus to acquire an initial introduction to the discipline of Philosophy.

Philosophy University Seminar
13185-05 (21527)
5:05-6:20 TR
First Year Students Only

We will start this course by studying Rene Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy (1641)—one of the most important texts of Western philosophy. Descartes has much to say about our nature: essentially, we are nonphysical thinking things. We then move on to read Barry Dainton’s book Self (2014). Though Dainton is critical of Descartes, he ends up defending a theory about what we are that may not be very far removed from Descartes original proposal. Next we turn to the topic of free will. Descartes maintains that there are no limits to our freedom. And though Mark Balaguer stops short of asserting that our wills are free, he will argue that all of the contemporary attacks on human freedom are misguided, and that, for all we know, it is possible that our wills are free. The course closes with a discussion of the question of how we ought to live, more specifically, of what might make a life meaningful.

Four short papers, 1800 words each (altogether about 24 double-spaced pages).
Participation in classroom discussion.

Rene Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy. 1641 [will be made available on Sakai]
Barry Dainton: Self. Penguin 2014
Mark Balaguer: Free Will. MIT Press 2014 [this is available electronically in our library]
Harry Frankfurt: The Reasons of Love. Princeton University Press 2011.