Fall 2022 Class Schedule
Courses are subject to change. Check Caesar for the most up-to-date list of the current quarter.
PHIL 109: First-year Seminar: Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality
To borrow a phrase from Aristotle, sex is said in many ways. The word "sex" can refer to the domain of the erotic, that is, to sexual desire and sexual activity. It can also refer to certain biological categories related to an animal's reproductive role, such as female, male, or intersex. Among humans, "sex," along with the nearby term "gender," can also refer to cultural or social categories like woman, man, or nonbinary. And we can also talk about "sex" in the sense of sexual orientation, a set of categories relating an individual's own sex or gender with the sex(es) or gender(s) that the individual is typically attracted to, such as gay, lesbian, straight, or bisexual. Needless to say, things gets complicated pretty quickly.
In this seminar, we will read and discuss recent philosophical attempts to make sense of all this. The course will cover a wide range of topics, including: What is sexual desire? What (if anything) is sexual perversion? What is the best account of concepts like gender identity or sexual orientation? How (if at all) do those concepts relate to biological sex? What about the ethics and politics of sex? Is there anything wrong, morally speaking, with casual sex, or with the buying and selling of sex? What should we think about the ways that gender roles and expectations affect people's economic and social prospects? Readings for this course will be drawn mostly from contemporary philosophical sources.
PHIL 109: First-year Seminar: Propaganda
PHIL 109: First-year Seminar: What is Democracy?
In this seminar we will examine some of the fundamental ideas and questions behind democracy and provide a reading of their "inventors". Some of the questions are: What is democracy? Is it a form of government, a value, an ideal, a political system, a form of life, a bit of all this? Is democracy always the best political solution (in wartime? general starvation?)? Why should the whole of the people decide and not the specialists in the respective questions? Are all democratically taken decisions automatically legitimate (what about minorities\' rights?)? How should all citizens in a democracy participate in politics? By direct self-government of the people or by voting representatives? Is everything democratically decidable or does the individual have unalterable rights? Is tolerance and/or free speech necessary for democracy and how far can it go?
PHIL 150: Introduction to Logic
In a slogan, logic is about what follows from what. It concerns when information is guaranteed to be true because of how it is related to other true information. To learn a logic is to learn a formal language with its own rules (like a math or programming language), and to develop skill using this formal language. A logic is then used to figure out whether arguments are good or bad in roughly two steps. First, the argument is represented in a logic. Second, the argument is assessed by seeing whether it is constructed in a way where the argument's conclusion follows. Good arguments have conclusions that are guaranteed to be true when the premises are true because of how they are constructed; bad arguments do not. In this course, you will learn two logics: truth-functional logic and first-order logic. Truth-functional logic concerns arguments involving "and," "or," "if," and "not." First-order logic builds on truth-functional logic to concern complex arguments involving "every", "none," and "some."
PHIL 216: Introduction to Pragmatism
Classics of Pragmatist Thought: Pragmatism is probably the first, but certainly the most important genuinely North American philosophical tradition. The classical writings of Peirce, James, Dewey set the stage for a completely new orientation in epistemology, moral and political theory, psychology and many other fields. Basic to all Pragmatist writers is the belief that the active and interactive human being in its natural and social environment has to stand at the center of reflection. They thus emphasize volitional, procedural, social, and evolutionary aspects of knowledge of any kind. Given this focus on practically involved intelligent agents, political pragmatists like Dewey, Addams, Locke explore the natural origins, revisability and legitimacy of moral and political norms. They develop the idea of a critical use of knowledge and its connection to non-violent democratic conduct. Neopragmatists (Rorty and Putnam) explore the philosophical and political implications of critical thinking.
PHIL 224: Philosophy, Race, and Racism
This course provides a broad overview of philosophical discussions of race and racism in American culture. In this overview, we will focus on phenomenological issues concerning the experience of race (especially in the US), epistemological issues concerning racial distortions and racial ignorance, and ethical and political issues concerning racial oppression. Some of the central questions that we will address are: How should we understand the concept of race and the processes of racialization through which people come to see themselves as having a racial identity? What are the different kinds of racial injustice that we can identify, and the different kinds of exclusion, subordination, marginalization and stigmatization that can be part of racial oppression? How should racial oppression be resisted? How should racial violence be stopped? How should we build racial solidarity and fight for racial justice? We will also explore the connections between race and other identity categories such as gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, religion, and nationality.
PHIL 253: Introduction to the Philosophy of Language
This is an introduction to the philosophy of language taught through a combination of classic philosophical texts and works of literature. Some questions we will ask may include: What is meaning? Can we ever really communicate with one another and, if so, how? How radically might a language differ from your own while still being a language? How does language mediate our politics and the way we conduct science? How do metaphors and similes work?
PHIL 262: Ethical Problems and Public Issues
A study of ethical problems arising in public policy, as well as philosophical approaches to addressing these problems. Topics to be discussed include punishment, immigration, climate change, and global distributive justice.
PHIL 273-1: The Brady Scholars Program: The Good Life
This is the first in a sequence of three courses required of sophomores in the Brady Scholars Program in Ethics and Civic Life. Our topic, the good life, will be explored by reading and discussing several recent books, as well as authors of antiquity (Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius). We will ask: Are there objective truths about what is valuable – or about anything? Does life have a point or meaning, or is life absurd? What should one try to get out of life? Are meaning and happiness different goals? How should we think about death? Is each person the final judge of what is good for that individual, or is it possible to be mistaken about where one’s good lies? What is the relationship between living well and being moral? How important is pleasure? Since more good is better than less, should we aim at all times to promote “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”?
PHIL 325: Philosophy of Mind: Persons and Minds
What are we? This is much is clear: we have bodies and minds. But how are we---whatever we are---related to these things? A theory of personal identity answers this question. It details whether having a body and a mind are essential or not to what we are. In this course, we will consider a variety of different answers such as: the view that we are souls (dualism), the view that we are first-person perspectives (constitutionalism), the view that we are mere animals (animalism), and the view that we are nothing at all (nihilism). Along the way, we will also consider the relevance of personal identity to questions like when life begins, the afterlife, and what it is to be conscious.
PHIL 360: Topics in Moral Philosophy
In the years leading up to World War II, Oxford University limited the enrollment of women to no more than 20% of undergraduate students. The war produced a brief natural experiment in what might happen if women were instead allowed full access. In moral philosophy, the result was the emergence of at least three major thinkers. Elizabeth Anscombe, Iris Murdoch, and Philippa Foot each carved out distinctive positions, but all defended the objectivity of morality and meaningfulness of claims about value. Together, they arguably deserve credit for keeping Anglophone ethics alive through a period in which certain orthodoxies of logical positivism threatened to undermine the subject. Their work on virtue, moral motivation, and goodness, among other themes, has proved more enduring than that of most of their mid-century opponents and is enjoying a resurgence of influence in contemporary moral philosophy. We will compare and contrast their approaches, both with the going views of their day and with one another. We will seek to understand why their influence persists, what lessons we can learn from them, and how we might further develop their views.
PHIL 361: Topics in Social & Political Philosophy: Feminist Perspectives on Class, Labor, and Commodification
This course will explore issues in feminist philosophy with particular focus on the relationship between patriarchal oppression and capitalism. Beginning with foundational questions, we will ask how capitalism alters the nature of women's oppression. Does it intensify it or provide preconditions for women's emancipation? How did the status of women change in the shift from feudalism to capitalism, and what lessons can be drawn from this history for current political struggles? In what ways are categories such as work, the wage, and the public-private split gendered? We will also explore related issues, such as the debate over the political status of housework, the ethics of commodifying women's reproductive and sexual capacities, the concept of emotional labor, and what it means to provide an intersectional analysis. Readings may include Marx, Engels, Hartmann, Federici, Mies, Davis, Hochschild, and Fraser.
PHIL 373-1: The Civically Engaged Life: The Good Work
Brady Scholars in their senior year will meet frequently throughout the quarter to move ahead with the collaborative project they have chosen as their service to the Evanston community.
PHIL 390: Special Topics in Philosophy: Philosophy of Law
This course will address special topics in the philosophy of law, taking up one or more specific issues of philosophical interest such as the legitimacy of judicial review, theories of constitutional or statutory interpretation, or particular books, legal theorists, or schools of thought. Although an introductory course with no prerequisites, it will not focus on questions of the nature of law or the clash between legal positivists and natural lawyers.
PHIL 410: Seminar: Special Topics in Philosophy: Legal Epistemology
In this course, we will examine some of the central issues that arise in evaluating the probative force of evidence in criminal law, especially when it involves an assessment of the credibility of participants in judicial proceedings. Topics to be discussed include the nature of legal proof, character evidence, confession evidence, eyewitness testimony, the beyond a reasonable doubt standard, alternative approaches to legal evidence and proof, punishment, plea deals, and gender and race. The course will be run as a seminar. This course is co-listed with the Law School, LAWSTUDY 511. This course is a semester long course.
PHIL 420: Studies in Ancient Philosophy
This term will focus on the founding myth of both political theory and philosophy, the trial of Socrates. Students will examine the full range of evidence from antiquity (literary and material), examine closely Plato’s portrait across multiple dialogues read in historical context, consider select philosophical issues that arise in those texts, and observe some adaptations of this material by creative artists in a variety of fields. Along the way, we will consider whether this episode can continue to anchor investigations of what critical intellectual enterprises entail once we are alert to diversity. Assignments include readings in translation, investigation of sources, analyses of arguments, presentations and writing assignments. Our class discussions will not assume knowledge of Greek but there will be room for students to use that skill in their assignments if they so choose.
PHIL 461: Seminar in Social and Political Theory: Philosophy of Protest
What does it mean to engage in activism and acts of protest? In this seminar we will study philosophical elucidations of protest actions and protest movements through critical race theory, feminist theory, queer theory, and communication theory. Special attention will be given to the role of the body and performativity in protest, the role of political art in activism, and the role of emotions and affective communication in protest actions and protest movements. Our readings and discussions will cover protest movements such as Black Lives Matter, Queer Nation, and global feminist movements (Me Too, Ni Una Menos, etc.). Authors will include Judith Butler, Iris Marion Young, Candice Delmas, and Juliet Hooker, among others.