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Courses

  • PHIL 100: Science, Faith and Rationality

    This seminar will introduce the student to the study of philosophy through a consideration of various epistemic and metaphysical issues surrounding science and religion. What distinguishes scientific inquiry from other areas of inquiry: Its subject matter, its method of inquiry, or perhaps both? How does scientific belief differ from religious belief, in particular? Is the scientist committed to substantive metaphysical assumptions? If so, what role do these assumptions play in scientific investigation and how do they differ from religious dogma (if they do)? Our exploration of these questions will involve the consideration of both classic and contemporary philosophical texts.

    6 credit; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2013 · J. Decker
  • PHIL 100: Utopias

    What would a perfect society look like? What ideals would it implement? What social evils would it eliminate? This course explores some famous philosophical and literary utopias, such as Plato's "Republic," Thomas More's "Utopia," Francis Bacon's "New Atlantis," Ursula Le Gui's "The Dispossessed," and others. We will also consider some nightmarish counterparts of utopias, dystopias. One of the projects in this course is a public performance, such as a speech or a short play.

    6 credit; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2013 · A. Moltchanova
  • PHIL 111: Arguing about Politics

    This course introduces students to several classic texts in the history of political thought and provides them with an opportunity to interpret these texts critically by concentrating on argument analysis. Students will also learn to construct and effectively communicate their own arguments about foundational issues in politics. We will discuss justifications of democracy, the challenge of diverse citizenship, the role of deliberation in politics and related questions. We will read works by Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, de Tocqueville, Mill as well as some contemporary political theorists.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 112: Mind, Matter, Consciousness

    According to a common view of the mind, mental states are nothing more than states of the brain. There are certain features of human intellection, subjective experience, and action which have prompted some philosophers to argue that human mental activity is not reducible to brain activity. Some have gone on to argue that the human mind is immaterial and capable of surviving the death of the body. We will examine variants of these views as well as objections to them, reading selections from such historical figures as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes, and such contemporary philosophers as Churchland, Nagel, and Searle.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 113: Killing

    Although we tend not to think about it very often, killing is very much a part of our lives. We confront it whenever we eat an animal, talk about the wisdom of intervention in foreign conflicts, consider federal funding of abortion or ask whether people have the right to terminate their own lives. This course will explore killing in its various guises, with special focus on war, our relationship with animals, abortion and euthanasia. Students will be asked to consider various views on these matters while developing the skills to clearly state and defend, via philosophical argument, their own views.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 117: Philosophical Problems

    This is an introduction to perennial philosophical questions, as well as the goals and methods of philosophy. We will cover selections from both historical and contemporary philosophers on the following five topics: (i) the nature and possibility of knowledge, (ii) the relationship between the mental and the material, (iii) the nature of the self, (iv) the nature and possibility of free will, and (v) the nature of morality.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2014 · S. Jansen
  • PHIL 119: Life and Death

    Considered in the context of the universe humankind seems vanishingly insignificant. The entire history of humankind is but a blip on the map of space and time. Moreover, each of our lives is a blip on that blip. So what is the point of it all? In this course, we will look at the notion of "meaning" as it relates to human life, the universe, and the existence of God; whether death is something we should be afraid of; and the connections, if any, between happiness, morality and meaning.

    6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2014, Spring 2014 · D. Groll
  • PHIL 210: Logic

    The study of formal logic has obvious and direct applicability to a wide variety of disciplines (including mathematics, computer science, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, and many others). Indeed, the study of formal logic helps us to develop the tools and know-how to think more clearly about arguments and logical relationships in general; and arguments and logical relationships form the backbone of any rational inquiry. In this course we will focus on propositional logic and predicate logic, and look at the relationship that these have to ordinary language and thought.

    6 credit; Does not fulfill a distribution requirement, Formal or Statistical Reasoning; offered Spring 2014 · J. Decker
  • PHIL 211: Being, Time and Identity

    The aim of metaphysics has traditionally been to identify the nature and structure of reality. The topics of this course are the topology of time, identity of things and individuals, causality, free will, and the referents of general terms. We will read a variety of classic and contemporary texts, which are organized topically. Prerequisites: One 100-level course in Philosophy. 6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2014 · A. Moltchanova
  • PHIL 212: Epistemology

    Do you know that you're not just a brain, floating in a vat, receiving stimulations through electrodes? Or perhaps an immaterial soul being conned by a malicious demon? In this course, we will use these skeptical worries as a launching point for thinking about epistemological issues: What exactly is knowledge? Do we ever have it? If so, when, and how? We will approach these questions through an examination of theories of epistemic justification, including foundationalism, coherentism, internalism, externalism, and virtue epistemology. We will then consider some critiques of traditional epistemology, including feminist epistemology and naturalized epistemology.

    Prerequisites: One 100 level course in philosophy or permission of the instructor 6 credit; Humanities, Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 213: Ethics

    How should we live? What makes certain actions right and others wrong? And why should I care about morality? These questions are at the heart of the study of ethics. We begin by looking at particular ethical issues (abortion, poverty, killing in war) with special emphasis on what is involved in making a philosophical "argument" for our convictions on these matters. We then turn to foundational issues in ethics concerning which principle(s) determine(s) govern right and wrong action, before turning to the question of whether everyone has reason to be moral. Readings are drawn from a combination of contemporary and historical sources.

    Prerequisites: One 100 level course in philosophy 6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2013 · D. Groll
  • PHIL 221: Philosophy of Law

    This course provides students with an opportunity to engage actively in a discussion of theoretical questions about law. We will consider the nature of law as it is presented by natural law theory, legal positivism and legal realism. Then we will deal with responsibility and punishment, and challenges to the idea of the primacy of individual rights from legal paternalism and moralism. We will next inquire into the explanations of why individuals should obey the law, and conditions under which civil disobedience is justified. Finally, we will discuss issues raised by feminist legal theory and some theories of minority rights.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2013 · A. Moltchanova
  • PHIL 222: Topics in Medical Ethics

    Over the past forty years, the idea that competent patients have the right to make decisions about their own care has become paramount in medical ethics and medical practice. But the primacy of patient autonomy as a value raises a host of interesting questions: What can (or should) clinicians do when patients make poor decisions? What does it mean for a patient to be competent? Who should make decisions in those cases where the patient is deemed incompetent? And when, if ever, can clinicians refuse to offer treatment on moral grounds? We will explore these issues through a combination of philosophical readings and case studies.

    Prerequisites: Any other course in philosophy or permission of instructor 6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2014 · D. Groll
  • PHIL 223: Philosophy of Language

    In this course we will look at how philosophers have tried to understand language and its connection with human thought and communication. The course will be split into two parts: Semantics and Pragmatics. In the first part, we'll look at general features of linguistic expressions like meaning and reference. In the second part, we'll look at the various ways in which speakers use language. Topics to be considered in the second part include speech acts, implicature, and presupposition.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2014 · J. Decker
  • PHIL 224: Philosophy of Literature

    This class investigates some intriguing questions that philosophers have considered about literature. Why should a writer who is interested in philosophical issues write a work of literature rather than a philosophical treatise? What is the function or point of literature: to convey the truth, engage in make believe, or present a model for ways to live one's life? In addition we investigate the difference between fiction and non-fiction, interpretation, metaphor, the imagination, and the definition and ontology of literature. Readings will be drawn from philosophy as well as some case materials, including a novel and several films.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2013–2014
    Extended departmental description for PHIL 224

    Course description:
    This class investigates some intriguing questions that philosophers have considered about literature. First, what is the definition of literature? Can we give a definition at all? Second, what is the basic function of literature and why does it engage and affect us so deeply? Does it invent entertaining lies? Does it offer real-life scenarios that are useful for our lives? Third, what sorts of perspectives do readers take on fictional narratives as they engage with them? Do we engage in make-believe? Do we simulate the mental states and feelings of characters? Do we imagine what it is like to be a character? Do we adopt the viewpoint of an “implied author”? Fourth, why should a writer who is interested in philosophical issues write a work of literature rather than a philosophical treatise? What is the difference, if any, between philosophy and literature? Is literature just a storehouse of examples or can it offer philosophical arguments and thought experiments? Can it present profound “truths” about our lives? Readings will be drawn from philosophy as well as some case materials, including several novels, short stories, and several films.

    Course goals:
    Whether you are a philosophy major or new to the discipline, this course will introduce you to some of the methods of philosophy through an examination of the philosophy of literature. You will also get practice in writing philosophy papers as well as in philosophical debating.
    You will learn about three connections between philosophy and literature:
    1. Philosophical approaches to the understanding of literary texts (their definition, function, and how we engage with them)
    2. Philosophy in literature: what are some texts that invoke philosophical themes?
    3. Philosophy versus literature: what is the difference between the methods of philosophy and those of literature? Are there important differences between these disciplines? Or are the differences insignificant?

  • PHIL 225: Philosophy of Mind

    What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Are they identical? Or is there mental "stuff" in addition to physical stuff? Or perhaps some physical stuff has irreducibly mental properties? These, and related questions, are explored by philosophers under the heading of "the mind-body problem." In this course, we will start with these questions, looking at classical and contemporary defenses of both materialism and dualism. This investigation will lead us to other important questions such as: What is the nature of mental representation, what is consciousness, and could a robot have conscious states and mental representations?

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 226: Love and Friendship

    This course will consider various philosophical views on the nature of love and friendship. It will focus on both the history of philosophical thinking about these notions from Plato and Aristotle to the twentieth century and a variety of contemporary views on the meaning of love and friendship that derive their insight from the most recent studies of emotion, agency, action, rationality, moral value, and motivation. We will also look at the variations in the understanding of love and friendship among the members of the same culture and across cultures.

    6 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter; offered Winter 2014 · A. Moltchanova
  • PHIL 228: Heaps of Liars: Logic, Language, and Metaphysics

    The ancient paradox of the heap (the--sorites--paradox) starts with innocent-looking claims about heaps and grains of sand--claims most of us are eager to accept--and propels us headlong into a blatant and shocking contradiction. A second ancient paradox invites us to comment on--liar sentences--such as "this sentence is false." We quickly find that we have made liars out of--ourselves. Philosophical attempts to solve these puzzles have generated a vast wealth of independently interesting views in the philosophy of language, logic, and metaphysics. In this course, we will look at some of these theories.

    6 credit; Writing Requirement, Formal or Statistical Reasoning, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2013 · J. Decker
  • PHIL 229: Philosophy of Film and Emotion

    As moviegoers we have all had that wondrous experience of gasping, laughing or sniffling in response to fictional scenarios. This phenomenon raises several philosophical questions, to be explored in this class: (1) How do fictional situations arouse our emotions, and why do we care about the lives of fictional film characters? (2) Why do we enjoy films which evoke unpleasant emotions, like fear or sadness? (3) Why do we feel suspense even when we know a film's ending? (4) What is the difference between the emotions we experience in real life and the emotions we experience in the movie theater?

    Prerequisites: One 100 level course in Philosophy or permission of the instructor 6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 232: Social and Political Philosophy: Justice and Politics

    What distinguishes just states from unjust states? Are some states so unjust that we are not obliged to comply with their laws? We will examine answers to these and related questions proposed by liberal, socialist, libertarian, communitarian, feminist and post-modern theories of political and social justice. The following are some of the authors we will read: Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Marx, Berlin, Lyotard, Nozick, Rawls, Habermas, Sandel, Seyla Benhabib, Jean Hampton, Charles Taylor, and Amy Gutmann.

    6 credit; Humanities, Social Inquiry; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 234: Aesthetics

    Various issues in aesthetics: the definition of art, the nature of the aesthetic, the description, interpretation, and evaluation of aesthetic objects. Readings will be drawn primarily from the works of philosophers and from case materials.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2013–2014
    Extended departmental description for PHIL 234

    Philosophy 234, Winter 2010

    The central goal of the course is to introduce you to some of the puzzles and problems that philosophers have considered when they have thought about art. After going through the course you will have learned a new way to think about art. You will also learn about philosophical thinking and see how examining art can teach us more about the nature of philosophy.

    We investigate three central topics: (1) The Definition of art: Can art be defined? Could anything, including a pile of bricks, be art?  (2) The experience of art: What is the nature of aesthetic experience? Is beauty a central aspect of how we experience art? What is the difference between the experience and appreciation of nature and the appreciation of art? (3) The value of art: Why is art valuable? What is rewarding about the experience of art? What is the relationship between artistic and moral values? Readings will be drawn from the history of aesthetics, contemporary philosophy of art, and case materials. We will also have a trip to the Walker Art Center and to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

  • PHIL 243: Animal Ethics: The Moral Status of Animals

    Do non-human animals have moral status, or are our moral obligations confined to human animals? Is our past and present treatment of animals morally justified? What bearing does the nature of animal minds and social behavior have on these questions? And how should human beings, both individually and collectively, practically apply ethical principles regarding nonhuman animals? In this course we shall explore these and related questions in a hands-on and interdisciplinary way, incorporating insights from prominent ethical traditions (e.g., utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics), cognitive ethology, anthropology and political science. Prerequisites: One course in Philosophy or permission of the instructor 6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2014 · S. Jansen
  • PHIL 245: Cosmology and Ethics: Philosophical Visions

    An overview of several prominent Western views, from Plato to the late twentieth century, on the fabric of the universe and the place of human agents within it. We will start of Plato’s views on the body and the soul reflecting the structure of the cosmos. We will then consider the ideas of causation and human freedom as well as the problem of evil. We will discuss the notion of perspective, broadly construed, as the foundation of one’s relationship with the world. This course emphasizes visualization, and several assignments will require either producing images or thinking and writing about images.

    6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2014 · A. Moltchanova
  • PHIL 250: Philosophy of Physics

    A study of the implications that our best current physical theories have for our understanding of the world, as well as the implications that our best philosophical theories have for our understanding of physical theory. We will focus primarily on relativity theory and quantum mechanics. Possible topics include: the nature of causality, the relativity of simultaneity, the twin paradox, hidden variables, the measurement problem, nonlocality, the relationship between quantum theory and relativity theory, and the very idea of scientific truth.

    6 credit; Humanities, Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 251: Philosophy of Science

    This course is an introduction to the history and philosophy of science. We will consider enduring philosophical issues such as: What type(s) of knowledge does science produce? What methods does science use in producing these types of knowledge? How do new scientific ideas come about, take hold, and fall away? What is the difference between science and philosophy? We will approach these questions historically, by considering how figures such as Darwin and Newton saw their views and projects in relation to their history. Our goal is to see current philosophical ideas about science in relation to our history.

    6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2014 · W. Bausman
  • PHIL 270: Ancient Greek Philosophy: Virtue, Reality and Explanations

    This limited survey of ancient Greek philosophy will center around its three most prominent figures (i.e. - Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) and their positions on the following topics: (1) virtue: What is virtue? Why be virtuous? Is/How is virtue taught? (Ethics segment) (2) reality: What are the basic constituents of reality? What is being? (Metaphysics segment) (3) explanation: What are the principles of change? What are the principles of the universe? (Physics and Cosmology segment). When appropriate, we shall also consider how these thinkers' positions compare and contrast to the views of their contemporaries and predecessors.

    Prerequisites: One 100 level course in Philosophy or permission of the instructor. 6 credit; Humanities, Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2014 · S. Jansen
  • PHIL 272: Modern Philosophy: Knowledge, God and Free Will

    Is there any such thing as innate knowledge, or does all knowledge derive from the senses? Does God exist? If so, can we prove God's existence? Do human beings have free will? Philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries tackled these perennial questions, providing a new understanding of our world, our place in it and our knowledge of it. We address these questions through examining and evaluating the views of such philosophers, including Descartes, Hume, Kant and distinguished women philosophers.

    Prerequisites: 100-level philosophy course or permission of the instructor 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2014 · S. Jansen
  • PHIL 274: Existentialism

    We will consider the emergence and development of major themes of existentialism in the works of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, as well as "classical" existentialists such as Heidegger, Sartre and De Beauvoir. We will discuss key issues put forward by the existentialist movement, such as "the question of being" and human historicity, freedom and responsibility and look at how different authors analyzed the nature and ambitions of the Self and diverse aspects of subjectivity.

    6 credit; Humanities, Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2013–2014
  • PHIL 395: The Demands of Morality

    There is a tremendous amount of suffering in the world. We could all probably do a lot more than we currently do to help alleviate that suffering. Must we, morally speaking, help? More generally, what moral room, if any, is there for us to pursue our own, personal projects even if we could help others more by doing something else? In this course, we will look at these questions by careful examination of Cullity's The Moral Demands of Affluence and several other works on the demands of morality.

    Prerequisites: Two courses in philosophy or permission of instructor. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2014 · D. Groll
  • PHIL 395: Ancient Greek Moral Psychology: Virtue, Character and Happiness

    What is it to have a good character, and why should we care? For ancient Greek philosophers, character played a central role in human virtue and happiness. However, these thinkers differed widely about the role of emotion, appetite and reason in cultivating and sustaining good character. This course will proceed through a careful study of original Greek texts, including those of Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and the Epicureans. Interpretive issues will be identified and explored through analysis of texts and secondary literature.

    Prerequisites: Two previous Philosophy courses. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2013 · S. Jansen
  • PHIL 399: Senior Thesis

    The planning, preparation, and completion of a philosophical paper under the direction of a member of the department and as part of a seminar group.

    6 credit; Does not fulfill a distribution requirement, Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Winter 2014 · J. Decker
  • PHIL 400: Integrative Exercise

    A colloquium in which seniors defend their senior theses and discuss the senior theses of others.

    3 credit; S/NC; Does not fulfill a distribution requirement; offered Fall 2013, Spring 2014 · Staff