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.

Fall 2019 Courses

Philosophy University Seminar
13185 01 (11552)
Kraus
9:30-10:45 TR
First Year Students Only

In this course we will pursue answers to one of the most central questions: What is it to be a human? Or just: What makes you a human being? By engaging in a dialogue with major figures of the history of philosophy, as well as with contemporary philosophers, we will discuss questions such as: What can I know? What do I believe? What may I hope? – Am I a mind or a brain? Am I identical with my past and with my future self? Do I have an immortal soul? – What should I do? Am I really free? Why Is Human Suffering Possible? – What matters for human development? And finally: What makes me the person I am?

Emphasis will be placed on attentive reading and discussion of seminal texts from, among others, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant, as well as on developing and exercising a discussion culture in the classroom and a writing culture outside the classroom.


Philosophy University Seminar
13185 02 (11551)
Roeber
12:30-1:45
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 03 (19966)
Roeber
2:00-3:15
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.


Scholars Seminar: Feminist Philosophy & Science Fiction
13190 01 (19967)
Rea
11:00-12:15 MW

Department Approval Required

The science fiction genre is rich with stories that explore classic philosophical questions or thematically engage large-scale philosophical movements and worldviews. In this class, we will discuss a variety of science fiction novels, short stories, and films whose central themes or plot elements make significant connections with important ideas or topics in contemporary feminist philosophy.  Science fiction readings will include texts by Margaret Atwood, Joanna Russ, Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree, Jr., and Ursula LeGuin.  Some of these texts will be paired with works of contemporary philosophy; others will not be.  Course requirements will likely include the following:  two short papers (max 1500 words), one longer paper (max 5000 words) or comparable project, and participation in class discussions. 


Honors Philosophy Seminar
13195 01 (11555)
Cross
11:00-12:15 TR
First Year Students Only

The course deals with some of the central issues of modern philosophy - what exists, the nature of good and evil, what it is to act well, what we can know, and what it is to have a reasonable belief. The course is structured thematically, though attention is given too to some of the key texts from the history of philosophy and the Catholic tradition.


Honors Philosophy Seminar
13195 02 (11553)
Bays
2:00-3:15 TR
First Year Students Only

This seminar will focus on interaction between philosophy and mathematics. We’ll start by looking at the role that mathematics has played in the history of philosophy (and the role that philosophy has played in the history of mathematics). Then we’ll go more in depth on philosophical issues concerning the nature of the infinite and the relationship between mathematics and the natural world.


Honors Philosophy Seminar
13195 03 (11657)
Blanchette
9:30-10:45 TR
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.


Honors Philosophy Seminar

13195 04 (15294)
Nolan
12:30-1:45 TR
First Year Students Only

This introduction to philosophy is designed to introduce students to some important topics of controversy in philosophy today (and indeed most of these topics have been matters of controversy for most of philosophy’s history). Some of the questions discussed will be questions about ourselves: what are our minds, do we have free will, in what does our personal identity consist? Other questions are fundamental questions about the world around us: is there a god, what is the nature of time, what are numbers? Some of the questions are about how we come to know things, or have reason to believe things: do we have reasons for our beliefs about the external world, and how can we draw conclusions that take us further than our evidence? Finally, there are moral questions: what is the morally right thing to do, and why should we be moral?


Honors Philosophy Seminar
13195 05 (13010)
Shields
9:30-10:45 TR
First Year Students Only

Prospectus:
This course provides an introduction to philosophy and philosophical method.  We will examine inter alia the following main areas and questions:

Rational Theology

  • Do we have any compelling, or even plausible, argument for God’s non-existence? Do we have, that is, any good reason to be (or become) theists?
  • Should we be concerned if we do not?  What is the relation between faith and reason?
  • If God does exist, how should we conceive God’s nature?
  • Do we have, by contrast, a compelling, or even plausible, argument for God’s non-existence? Do we have, that is, any good reason to be (or become) atheists?
  • Is atheism the only rationally acceptable stance in a scientifically informed world?
  • Should we, perhaps, prefer a humble sort of agnosticism?

The Mind and its Place in Nature

  • What is the mind-body problem? (Or, rather: what are the mind-body problems?)
  • Are there good theism-independent reasons for accepting mind-body dualism?
  • What are the prospects, if any, for personal post-mortem survival?
  • What does personal identity consist in?  Do we have good reasons for thinking that you are the same person as the two-year old organism with whom you are biologically continuous? (What, precisely, does biological continuity consist in?)
  • Is personal identity necessary for survival?

Free Will and Human Responsibility 

  • Are human freedom and responsibility compatible with universal causal determinism?
    • Des universal causal determinism in fact obtain?
  • Are human freedom and responsibility compatible with the denial of universal causal determinism?
  • What form of human freedom does moral responsibility require? 

Morality and its Critics

  • Is there any good reason to accept psychological egoism? Is there any good reason to accept ethical egoism?  (What, precisely, is the distinction between psychological and ethical egoism?)
    • What is ‘enlightened’ egoism?  What, by contrast, is the unenlightened sort? 
    • To what extent, if any, is egoism compatible with cosmopolitanism, understood as the view that all human beings belong to the same moral community? 
  • Should we be moral relativists?
    • If so, of what sort?
    • If not, should we be moral nihilists or moral realists?  Or?
  • Are there mind- and language-independent moral facts? 
    • If so, how might we know them? 
    • If not, what are the consequences for moral decision making?

Honors Philosophy Seminar
13195 06 (12207)
Kelsey
2:00-3:15 TR
First Year Students Only

What is philosophy? What is it good for? In this course we will approach these questions by the method of “taste and see.” To that end we will read (and re-read), slowly and carefully, three texts by two widely-acknowledged masters of philosophical writing, Plato and Descartes. Our first task will be to “taste”: that is, to try to enter into some lines of thought opened up by these texts, to follow those lines in our own thinking, to think those thoughts ourselves. Our second task will be to “see”: that is, to try to step back out again, to reflect on the experience, and to try to make articulate, in conversation and writing, what we make of it, as well as of the larger enterprise of which it was a sample.


Honors Philosophy Seminar
13195 07 (11554)

Watson
3:30-4:45 TR
First Year Students Only

On the Origins of the Self

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, Montaigne, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Beauvoir and Gadamer.  

Procedures:

             Our objective will be to examine major writings on the historical development and cultural relevance of the concept of the self. To this end we will 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. This course will proceed as a seminar, beginning each session with a student presentation (précis).  Specific text assignments will be provided as the course proceeds. Students are expected to share in class discussion on the basis of the completed readings.
Requirements:

Papers:  

  • Three 3-4 page papers following course sections, topics to be assigned.
  • One 2-3 page seminar précis.
  • One 10—12 page research paper, topic to be chosen in consultation with the professor, a 6 page preliminary draft due in mid-November; final draft due the last class day.

Course Grade: Short Papers: 50%; Research Paper: 40%. Participation: 10%.


Honors Philosophy Seminar
13195 08
(20394)
Watson
5:05-6:20 TR
First Year Students Only

On the Origins of the Self

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, Montaigne, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Beauvoir and Gadamer.  

Procedures:

             Our objective will be to examine major writings on the historical development and cultural relevance of the concept of the self. To this end we will 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. This course will proceed as a seminar, beginning each session with a student presentation (précis).  Specific text assignments will be provided as the course proceeds. Students are expected to share in class discussion on the basis of the completed readings.
Requirements:

Papers:  

  • Three 3-4 page papers following course sections, topics to be assigned.
  • One 2-3 page seminar précis.
  • One 10—12 page research paper, topic to be chosen in consultation with the professor, a 6 page preliminary draft due in mid-November; final draft due the last class day.

Course Grade: Short Papers: 50%; Research Paper: 40%. Participation: 10%.