Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
Philosophy is the study of fundamental questions: What is justice?  Can education make us good people?  What is the relation between art and morality?  What is the difference between true belief and knowledge?
What is knowledge?   What is the nature of the mind? Can God's existence be proven by means of reason?  What is the relation between mind and body?  What is morality?  What is the relation between happiness and virtue?  As reflective human beings we cannot help but confront such questions; philosophers pursue these questions in a disciplined and systematic way, aiming not only to answer but also to understand the questions.  We will consider answers to these questions—and others—advanced in three classic works of philosophy written in very different styles: Plato's Republic; Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy; and Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.
Can God create a stone too heavy for Him to lift? Could you go back in time and kill your grandfather before he met your grandmother? Is the statement "This statement is false" true or false? Can you know that there will be a surprise exam in this course? Could a single hair make the difference between a bald and a non-bald person? Is it possible to know every truth?

Philosophical puzzles and paradoxes like these threaten our basic understanding of central concepts such as space, time, motion, infinity, truth, mind, and knowledge. This course focuses on philosophical puzzles and paradoxes as a way to introduce the formal tools needed to comprehend and evaluate philosophical arguments and theories, as well as theoretical reasoning more generally. A puzzle is a phenomenon that seems not to conform to received theories within some domain. A paradox is an unacceptable conclusion, especially a contradiction, derived by apparently acceptable reasoning from apparently acceptable premises. The puzzles and paradoxes discussed in the course serve as an introduction to (among other things) the philosophy of space and time, the nature of the infinite, explanation, mind itself, knowledge and the rationality of action and belief.
The Exercise of Skill
According to Aristotle, ethical virtue is similar to athletic virtue: both are an exercise of skill.  This course considers several ways that “know how” bears on philosophical questions of ethics, including: Why be moral?  What is it to be happy?  How is morality related to freedom and control in action?  What is the value of work and leisure in a capitalist society, especially in light of world-historical developments such as climate and technological change?
Visit the Logic and Philosophy of Science website for more information.
Questions that first arose in early modern philosophy continue to shape present-day thought on a variety of topics, including: What is the nature of knowledge?  What does sensory experience contribute to knowledge?  Is the knowledge of which human beings are capable different in kind from the knowledge of which animals are capable?  What is the nature of the relation between mind and body?  What is human freedom, and is it even possible for humans to be free?  What is the relation between science and human experience?  These questions and answers to them originate in the early modern period, and they continue to be discussed to this day.  We will examine the questions and answers to them--as well as other questions and answers--advanced in three classic works of philosophy written in the early modern period: Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy; Hume's An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.
Law and Society
Why should lawyers defend guilty clients and sue blameless people? Why should jurors acquit people they think did the crime? How do judges and lawyers argue? This course will take up these sorts of questions and introduce students to legal reasoning and practice, with a focus on real-life cases.
Visit the Logic and Philosophy of Science website for more information.
Visit the Logic and Philosophy of Science website for more information.
In this context, modality pertains to what is possible (i.e., what could be the case) and what is necessary (i.e., what must be the case). If one accepts that there are ways the world could be though it, in fact, is not or that there are features of the world that must be as they are, one might wonder what the source of this modality is. Is modality merely a result of how we think or speak or interact with the world? Or is it, somehow, in the world itself, independent of conscious beings? Can modality be reduced to non-modal, categorical features of things in the world? Or is modality irreducible? This course considers the prospects of accounting for modality in terms of the things that actually exist and their dispositions. A disposition (also known as a capacity or power) is a feature of a thing that makes it able to do something or be a certain way, even if it never actually does that thing or is that way. Thus, a glass has the disposition of fragility, it is disposed to shatter if struck, even if it never is struck or breaks at all. We will consider what can be said in support of such modal dispositionalism, as well as what problems the position faces and any limits it might have.
Ethics and Technology
How do we know right from wrong?  What risks of harm can we justifiably create for the sake of public benefit?  This course considers utilitarian and contractualist answers with particular concern for the risks and the benefits of technology.  We'll discuss trade and technological change in recent history, artificial intelligence and the risk of mass unemployment or a robot apocalypse, and climate change, and we'll consider what all this might mean for the future of work and leisure, basic income, social insurance, and democracy.
Visit the Logic and Philosophy of Science website for more information.
Visit the Logic and Philosophy of Science website for more information.
This version of the course focuses on rights and obligations. It concerns such questions as the following. What are rights? Why are they regarded as good to have? How do we come by them? Do human beings have some rights “naturally”, just by virtue of their very existence? When people refer to “human rights” what kind of rights are these? What kinds of rights, if any, can non-human animals have? How is it that a promise to someone gives that person a right to its fulfillment, as it is generally supposed to do? Rights are often linked to obligations, indeed, some rights are said to be equivalent to obligations. What is the nature of these obligations? In considering such questions the course will introduce key distinctions and positions in the philosophical literature on rights.
This version of the course will consider basic questions about the social world such as the following. What is it to do something with another person? How does it differ from acting in parallel with them? What are we talking about when we speak of the beliefs of groups as opposed to individual human beings? What about our talk of the emotions of groups as in “The team was so excited about winning the trophy”? To what extent, if at all, does it make sense to think of the partners in a long-term relationship as “two become one”? This course will focus on contemporary philosophical work on such issues. It will also consider the relationship of this work to other areas of philosophical concern, such as the possibility that a group, as such, can be morally blameworthy and the consequences of such blameworthiness, if it is possible, for the blameworthiness of the individual group members.

Same as LPS 144.