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David Sosa, Chair 2210 Speedway, WAG 316, Stop C3500, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4857

Course Descriptions

PHL 301 • Introduction To Philosophy

41290 • Smith, Nicole
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am GSB 2.126
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What are we essentially? Are we merely sophisticated machines: brains and bodies composed of matter? Maybe our bodies are dispensable so that with the right technology we might one day be able to survive with our brains alone. (Think here of Futurama and all those talking heads in vats). Some think we don’t need either our bodies or our brains to survive because each of us has a soul. Souls aren’t physical things, so plausibly they can survive without a body or a brain. Returning now to the first suggestion, if we are just sophisticated machines, then maybe someday we can “invent” creatures like us—androids with machine intelligence. Would such creatures (ourselves included) have free will? What if one of them went on a murderous rampage? Would it be morally responsible for its actions? But wait a minute. I began with the question, “What are we?” Perhaps that was premature. How do you know you are anything at all? What if your entire existence has been nothing more than a grand illusion? Answers to these and other mind-blowing questions will comprise the subject matter of this course.

PHL 301 • Introduction To Philosophy

41295 • Montague, Michelle
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm CLA 0.126
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The purpose of this course is to introduce a selection of the major problems in philosophy, to some of the solutions that have been offered to them, and to some of the arguments for these solutions.  These problems concern God, freedom, mind, knowledge, and ethics.  Does God exist?  Are we free? What is the mind? Do we know anything? Is value objective?

PHL 301 • Introduction To Philosophy

Meets MWF 100pm-200pm WAG 302
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A survey of principal topics and problems in areas such as ethics, theory of knowledge, and philosophy of religion. 

PHL 301 • Introduction To Philosophy

41305 • Evans, Matthew L.
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm WAG 302
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There are a few questions that all of us should ask ourselves at least once before we die, and many of them are philosophical. In this course we will pick out some of the most pressing of these questions, and try to answer them as best we can. Among them will be: Do we really know anything about the world outside our own minds? What is the nature of consciousness? Is there a God? What exactly are we? Are we free? Are we responsible for the things we do? Is it morally OK for us to have children? Should we be afraid of dying? Do our lives have a purpose?

PHL 301K • Ancient Philosophy

41310 • Hankinson, Robert J
Meets TTH 930am-1100am UTC 3.102
(also listed as C C 304C)
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An introduction to the philosophical achievements of the ancient world, concentrating on Plato and Aristotle. 

PHL 301L • Early Modern Philosophy

Meets MWF 100pm-200pm WEL 2.304
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Introduction to basic issues of early modern philosophy, such as: the capacities of the mind, and whether knowledge is possible through Reason; God’s nature and our knowledge of God; and the reality of the physical world.  Readings from Descartes, later Rationalist writers, Berkeley, and Hume.

PHL 302 • World Philosophy

Meets MWF 900am-1000am WAG 420
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Basic issues of philosophy in Western and non-Western traditions, such as the nature of philosophy, its relation to religion and science, the self, knowledge, and virtue. 

PHL 303 • Human Nature

Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm PAR 206
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Theories of human nature, such as those of Plato, Christianity, Marxism, and existentialism. Modern phsychological and biological theories are included, as the interplay of nature and nurture in determining human conduct is explored. 

PHL 303M • Mind And Body

41330-41355 • Tye, Michael
Meets TTH 1100am-1200pm UTC 3.122
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This course examines the relationship of the mind to the body. Topics coveredinclude whether a machine could think, the Turing Test for intelligence, thereduction of the mind to the brain, whether consciousness can be capturedmaterialistically, and the nature of persons and personal identity.We'll be thinking about immaterial spirits, futuristic computers and robots,Martians who behave like us but who have an internal structure very differentfrom ours, brains in vats. We will consider whether these strange charactershave thoughts and feelings. The point is not to consider bizarre cases just for thesake of it, but to see what light we can shed on our own nature as beings withmental lives.

PHL 304 • Contemporary Moral Problems

41360-41379 • Krecz, Charles A.
Meets MW 1000am-1100am WAG 201
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An introduction to ethics by way of an examination of a number of contemporary moral problems, including problems of abortion, sexual morality, capital punishment, pornography and hate speech.

PHL 304 • Contemporary Moral Problems

41370 • Smith, Nicole
Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm CLA 0.126
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Chances are you’ve confronted an ethical choice recently: Should I help my roommate study for an exam rather than going out? Should I recycle this plastic bottle? Ought I to give money to the homeless person asking for change? Am I obligated to donate blood? Should I report the harassment I witnessed? By contrast, there are many other ethical questions that you may never have explicitly considered, but that nonetheless apply to you, such as: Do I have an obligation as a person of privilege to help those worse off than me? Is it wrong to use animals as a food source? Do the clothes I buy contribute to child labor or slavery in some other part of the world? Do the things I say and do perpetuate harmful gender and racist stereotypes or contribute to a culture of racism or misogyny? Other questions in ethics take a more general form: What kind of person should I be? How should I live? Is my life meaningful? This course will introduce you to the ethical concepts, ideas, and theories that will help us to understand what these questions are asking, as well as going some way toward offering answers.

PHL 304 • Contemporary Moral Problems

41372-41377 • Krecz, Charles A.
Meets MW 200pm-300pm GAR 0.102
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An introduction to ethics by way of an examination of a number of contemporary moral problems, including problems of abortion, sexual morality, capital punishment, pornography and hate speech.

PHL 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

41390 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MW 300pm-400pm WAG 420
(also listed as CTI 310, R S 305)
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An examination of principal issues in contemporary philosophy of religion with special attention to religious pluralism. The views and arguments of Western theologians and philosophers will be taken up along with claims and concepts growing out of Eastern religions (Buddhism and Hinduism, in particular). Special topics include different views of the nature of a Divine Reality, arguments of rational theology, mysticism, and the theological problem of evil.



Four two-page homework assignments, best three count (10% each = 30%)A mid-term exam (15%: true/false and short essay)Rewritten homework, three pages (15%)A final exam (30%)Attendance (10%)



Readings provided by instructor online.

PHL 310 • Knowledge And Reality

41395 • Buchanan, L. Ray
Meets TTH 930am-1100am PAR 206
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This course is an advanced introduction to philosophical issues concerning the nature of
belief, truth, and knowledge with an emphasis on the latter. Topics to be discussed include,
but are not limited to, the following:
• What is knowledge? For example, what is the difference between knowledge and
mere true belief?
• What are the basic sources of knowledge (i.e., perception, memory, testimony of
• Why, if at all, should we value the acquisition of knowledge?
• Is it really possible to know anything at all?

PHL 610QA • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41400-41410 • Woodruff, Paul B
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm WAG 420
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The course is a journey backward in time.  We will begin with Utilitarian ethics, which seeks the greatest happiness of the greatest number.  After assessing the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism, will move on to Kant’s approach to ethics, which is based on the dignity of an autonomous being.  Then we will explore virtue ethics—the study of character in relation to action—in Aristotle and the Chinese tradition (with a brief look at modern expositions of virtue ethics).  The quest for knowledge of virtue will lead us to Socrates and the seeds of Plato’s metaphysics (which will be our subject at the start of the spring semester).  We will end with existentialism, seen mainly through Camus.

PHL 610QA • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41415-41425 • Proops, Ian N
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm CLA 0.102
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This course examines some of the central problems of philosophy, drawing on both contemporary readings and historical texts. Students will be introduced to philosophy’s “tool kit” as well as its “greatest hits.” Topics include: Arguments for and against the existence of God, free will, moral responsibility, ethical theory, contemporary moral issues, and the theory of knowledge. There are no prerequisites for this class.

PHL 610QA • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41440 • Sainsbury, Richard M
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WAG 420
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Moral theories and problems The aim in this semester is to consider some classical philosophical theories of morals (including those propounded by David Hume (f. 1750), Immanuel Kant (f. 1780), and John Stuart Mill (f. 1860), and apply them to some current moral problems (for example, the death penalty, animal rights, our duties to others). We will try to improve our views on these problems and consider how theory and practice can interact constructively. Course materials and work will be channeled through Canvas. 

PHL 312 • Introduction To Logic

41445-41455 • Bjurman-Pautz, Anna S.
Meets MW 1000am-1100am PAR 203
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This is a course in the basic principles of logic. The student will come out of this
course with an understanding of deductive inference and of argument generally, as
wells as the notions of logical consequence, validity, soundness, and logical truth.
Specifically, we will be looking at sentential logic (which treats the inferential
relations among simple sentences) and predicate logic. Predicate logic is
distinguished from sentential logic by its use of quantifiers.

PHL 312 • Introduction To Logic

Meets MWF 200pm-300pm WAG 302
show description

This is a course in the basic principles of logic. The student will come out of this
course with an understanding of deductive inference and of argument generally, as
wells as the notions of logical consequence, validity, soundness, and logical truth.
Specifically, we will be looking at sentential logic (which treats the inferential
relations among simple sentences) and predicate logic. Predicate logic is
distinguished from sentential logic by its use of quantifiers.

PHL 313 • Introductory Symbolic Logic

41465-41475 • Dogramaci, Sinan
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm PAR 203
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This is a first course in deductive symbolic logic. We'll study formal languages for representing sentences

in logically precise ways, we'll study algorithms for evaluating arguments as logically valid or invalid, and

we'll get an introduction to some of the surprising discoveries logicians have made about what tasks no

algorithm can possibly do.

PHL 317K • Intro To Philos Of The Arts

Meets MWF 100pm-200pm CLA 0.130
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This course offers an introduction to many of the central problems and thinkers in
aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Among the questions we will investigate are: What
is a work of art? Why do human beings create and value art? Is beauty in the eye of the
beholder? Are judgments of taste merely subjective? In addition, we will explore
questions relating to particular forms of art: What is a musical work? Does a literary
work mean what the author intends it to mean? Why do we feel fear in a horror film?
Although you will study what a number of influential historical and contemporary
thinkers have said about these questions, my goal is for you to learn how to approach
them for yourselves. A substantial portion of each class will be devoted to discussion.
Another basic goal of the course is to develop our abilities to reason, converse, and write
about foundational topics.

PHL 317K • Intro To Philos Of The Arts

41500-41540 • Higgins, Kathleen M
Meets TTH 200pm-300pm MEZ 1.306
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This course will consider some of the answers given in the Western philosophical tradition to questions about the nature of art and beauty, with some comparison with perspectives from Japan (and perhaps other societies).  Particular attention will be given to the nature of aesthetic experience from the standpoint of both the artist and the observer and the relationship between art and reality.

PHL 318 • Introduction To Ethics

41545-41555 • Bjurman-Pautz, Anna S.
Meets MW 1100am-1200pm PAR 203
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This is a course on moral reasoning in theory and practice. We will first explore normative theories concerning questions such as ‘what is a good life’, ‘what makes our actions right or wrong’, ‘what we owe to other people’, etc. Then we will focus on ethical issues that arise in public debate. Topics include: abortion, physician-assisted suicide, sexual morality and world poverty. Students will be exposed to opposing positions and they are expected to form their own opinions that are informed by the ethical theories they learn in this course.


* This course satisfies the Ethics and Leadership Flag.


PHL 321K • Theory Of Knowledge

41560 • Hankinson, Robert J
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CLA 0.104
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What is knowledge? What are the principal types of knowledge, and what
does a person's knowing a claim or proposition p amount to? Philosophers
have commonly supposed that a person's having justification, or warrant, for
believing that p is a necessary condition of his/her knowing that p.
Accordingly, this course will be concerned with theories of justification as
well as of knowledge, along with the question of whether there can be
knowledge without what is called epistemic justification. Views in ancient,
early modern, and contemporary philosophy—also one Eastern view—will
be surveyed.

PHL 322 • Science And The Modern World

41565-41575 • Juhl, Cory F
Meets TTH 200pm-300pm WAG 420
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Scientific discoveries have profoundly altered the way we see the world and our place within it. Three branches of science that have dramatically changed the way humans see themselves are cosmology, the science that deals with the large-scale structure of the universe, quantum theory, which deals with the small-scale structure, and evolutionary biology.      In this course we will accomplish two main goals. First, we will learn the history and content of a few of the most revolutionary theoretical developments in human history. Second, we will consider aspects of the broader philosophical significance that these developments are supposed to have.      The first part of the course will concentrate on general philosophy of science issues. Then we will study the Copernican Revolution, how it came about and some of its explosive consequences.      

     We will then briefly describe the revolutionary implications of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Next will be an overview of the bizarre discoveries about the basic nature of matter, quantum theory. We will study various relevant historical developments, and think about different interpretations of the theory that have been proposed. A fundamental question will haunt us in this part, the question whether we are doomed to ignorance about the ultimate nature of reality.      

      Next we will consider the work of a physicist who attempts to explain why, and in what sense, science as we came to know it did not develop anywhere except in Europe. His view is that the ancient Greeks invented the sort of logical, systematic thinking that science requires. Relevant facets of Chinese culture, Hebrew culture and others will be examined and contrasted with Greek and later European cultures with respect to their fostering scientific developments.

     The last third to half of the course will focus on evolutionary biology since the nineteenth century. We will first read some of Dawkins’ and then Dennett’s summary of the conceptual core of modern evolutionary theory, from their own compelling, if perhaps disturbing, perspectives. Then we will spend time on more recent developments and controversies that have swirled around evolutionary theory.      The matters that we will deal with in the course are fascinating at a purely intellectual level. But these are not merely intellectual curiosities; they provide pictures of how we humans ‘fit into the cosmic scheme’. Since matters of fundamental importance hinge on a proper understanding the universe and our place in it, no thinking person can afford to neglect to examine these pictures with care.

PHL 323K • Metaphysics

41580 • Koons, Robert C
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm PAR 306
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An examination of the classic problems and questions of metaphysics (change, composition, time, space, existence, possibility, causation, universals), using the tools of contemporary analytic philosophy.

PHL 323M • Philosophy Of Mind

41585 • Montague, Michelle
Meets TTH 930am-1100am WAG 302
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This course is an introduction to many of the central issues in philosophy of mind. Some of the questions we will discuss include the following. Can computers think? Is the mind an immaterial thing? Or is the mind the brain? Or does the mind stand to the brain as a computer program stands to the hardware? How can creatures like ourselves think thoughts that are "about" things? (For example, we can all think that Aristotle is a philosopher, and in that sense think "about" Aristotle, but what is the explanation of this quite remarkable ability?) Can I know whether your experiences and my experiences when we look at raspberries, fire trucks and stop lights are the same? Can consciousness be given a scientific explanation?


PHL 325K • Ethical Theories

41590 • Evans, Matthew L.
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WAG 302
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Nearly all of us accept that there are things we morally ought to do, and other things we morally ought not to do. But only a few of us take the time to ask ourselves, in a serious and systematic way, what is it about these things that makes them the ones we morally ought, or ought not, to do. The aim of this class is to explore and evaluate the full range of different possible answers we might want to give to this question. Readings will be drawn primarily from recent and contemporary work in the analytic tradition of philosophical ethics, but will also include material from the two historical figures who have had perhaps the greatest influence on that tradition — Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill.

PHL 325K • Ethical Theories

41595 • Bonevac, Daniel A
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am PAR 308
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This course examines four central approaches to ethical theory on the contemporary scene -- virtue ethics, deontology, consequentialism, and intuitionism -- by a close reading of key texts from which they spring.       

Our discussion will not be limited to those texts; we will consider subsequent developments, especially recent contributions, and we will seek to identify and address the primary problems each tradition faces. Prerequisite: Six semester hours of coursework in Philosophy. This course counts toward the writing flag requirement.

PHL 325M • Medicine, Ethics, And Society

41605-41615 • Leon, Jeffrey C.
Meets MW 1100am-1200pm WAG 420
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The application of ethical theory to medical practice is an important part of modern publicpolicy. We look at several approaches to ethics and several areas of medicine to gain insightsinto medical ethics. This course carries the ethics and leadership flag. Consequently, asubstantial portion of the grade will involve ethical issues and reasoning.

PHL 329K • Hist Of Ancient Philosophy

41620-41630 • Hankinson, Robert J
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm CLA 1.104
(also listed as C C 348)
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This course is an introduction to ancient Greek philosophy. We’ll focus on three major thinkers: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; and we’ll examine their views and arguments on some central questions about human conduct, the natural world, and our knowledge of both. We’ll begin with a brief look at some influential earlier figures known as Presocratics and Sophists, and we’ll end with a brief look at some enduring ideas of Epicurus. The emphasis throughout will be on analyzing both what these thinkers say and their reasons for saying it. The main goal is not to memorize information but to develop a critical understanding of some problems and arguments that remain very much alive today.

PHL 329L • Early Mod Phl: Descartes-Kant

41640-41645 • Leon, Jeffrey C.
Meets MWF 900am-1000am PAR 203
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This course is an introduction to early modern philosophy.  The objectives of the class are to identify and analyze arguments in philosophical texts of the early modern period, and to become familiar with central themes and problems.  Topics include causation, substance, and the possibility of knowledge.  The relationship of philosophical theories to contemporary science will be an ongoing theme. 

PHL 332 • Philosophy Of Language-Phl Maj

41650 • Sainsbury, Richard M
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm PAR 304
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What is linguistic communication? “Communication” can be used very widely (one billiard ball communicates motion to another, ants communicate by chemical messages), and in many or even most cases, communication is not linguistic.

The course approaches the task of finding out what’s special to linguistic communication by considering whether non-human animals are capable of language. We’ll examine the language-like achievements of parrots, dogs, chimps and some other animals, in order to consider whether they are genuine language-users.

We will then consider how linguistic communication has been described by philosophers, notably Paul Grice and Donald Davidson. (They take very different approaches.) Linguistic communication as Grice defined it involves very complex intentions on the part of speakers, intentions of a complexity that probably put this beyond the reach of non-humans, thereby creating an apparent discontinuity in evolutionary development.

PHL 346K • Aesthetics

41654 • Leon, Jeffrey C.
Meets MWF 300pm-400pm WAG 302
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What is art? What is the relationship between the creative, interpretive, and appreciative aspects of art? How do answers to these questions affect the aesthetic experience? This class will explore these issues through primary readings by philosophers and artists, with special attention to visual and performing arts. We will also experience examples of artistic expression to help understand and appreciate these views.

PHL 347 • Philosophy Of Law

41655-41665 • Smith, Tara A
Meets TTH 930am-1030am WAG 420
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This course will examine fundamental questions about the nature, authority, and proper application of law. We will begin by considering the purpose and the authority of a legal system. What function is the law to fill? What does the ideal of the Rule of Law demand, and what is the role of a constitution in securing that ideal? Must laws meet certain moral criteria in order to carry genuine authority?


The second and third units will concentrate on questions concerning the application of law in the judicial system. Unit 2 will focus on judicial review – specifically, the methods by which courts should interpret the law and reason about the law in order to resolve particular cases. What constitutes inappropriate judicial “activism?” What constitutes inappropriate passivism? We will investigate several competing theories, such as those that urge adherence to lawmakers’ original intent, to text, to moral principles, popular will, and precedent.


Finally, Unit 3 will focus on juries. What is their proper role in the administration of justice? What are the reasons for having juries (as opposed to judges or other legal professionals) reach verdicts and determine sentences? How should juries be constituted? Is jury nullification ever a justifiable practice?

PHL 348 • Classical Chinese Philosophy

41669 • Sena, David M
Meets MWF 100pm-200pm MEZ 1.120
(also listed as ANS 372, CTI 375)
show description


Course descriptionThis course examines the classical philosophical traditions of Chinese civilization.  Arising during the tumultuous Warring States period (5th-3rd centuries B.C.E), the seminal thinkers and texts of Confucianism, Daoism, and many other of the "hundred schools" set the foundation for discourses in ethics, political philosophy, and metaphysics in Chinese civilization over the next two millennia. Focusing on primary sources in translation, supplemented by a selection of secondary literature, this course introduces a broad range of classical thought, exploring its philosophical, religious, and social dimensions in historical context.

This course carries a University Global Cultures Flag. The goal of this flag is to challenge students to explore the beliefs and practices of non-U.S. cultural communities in relation to their own cultural experiences so that they engage in an active process of self-reflection.

Course textsThe Analects of ConfuciusMoziThe Daodejing of LaoziMenciusZhuangziXunziHan Feizi

A. C. Graham, Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (1989).

Additional required readings to be distributed electronically.

Gradingparticipation: 15%informal writing: 15%2 short papers: 30%midterm exam: 20%final exam: 20%

PHL 348 • Indian Philosophies

41680 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MW 200pm-300pm WAG 420
(also listed as ANS 372, R S 341)
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The course is divided roughly into three parts. Approximately the first six weeks are devoted to history and overview. Of special concern (and targeted on the midterm exam) will be the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, along with the claim that Vedanta philosophy (alternatively the teaching of the Buddha) is justified by mystical or yogic experience. We shall also take up questions of ethics, in particular the ahimsa ("non-injury") precept of Jainism and the karma-yoga teaching of the Gita. An overview of the nature of philosophy will occupy us in connection with an introduction to early Buddhism, as well as the transition to classical philosophy. The second part of the course, five weeks, will be devoted to classical Indian philosophy. We'll examine the controversy between the professional debaters of the Nyaya school ("Logic") and the Buddhist anti-intellectual Nagarjuna who rejects Nyaya's theory of knowledge and the school's identification of perception, inference, and testimony as "knowledge sources." Buddhist idealism and its debate with Nyaya will be our next focus, then the interschool controversy between Sankara's Advaita ("Non-dualistic'') Vedanta and the theistic Vedanta of Ramanuja, and finally the Nyaya view of Gangesa on inference and mukti, the "supreme personal good." The last four weeks, we shall return to Indian spirituality and some of the topics of the first part, looking at the Yoga-sutra, Tantra, neo-Vedanta, and modern works concerning meditation and spiritual discipline.

PHL 354 • Origins Of Liberalism

41685 • Martinich, Al P.
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm WAG 210
(also listed as CTI 335, EUS 346)
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Liberal democracy is the theory that individual persons are free and equal and thus have certain rights that must be respected by governments. The theory behind liberalism developed from or competed with several traditions such as democracy, republicanism, and absolute sovereignty. The theory was influenced by various religious, economic and political beliefs over a long period of time. Perhaps the most crucial period in this development was seventeenth-century England.

This course is interdisciplinary. It will cover such political and religious events as The Gunpowder Plot, Charles I’s Personal Rule, the Long Parliament, the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I, the Commonwealth, the Restoration of the Monarchy, the Exclusion Crisis, and the Glorious Revolution. Some crucial works in political philosophy by some great political philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke will be discussed along with lesser but still significant theorists such as John Milton. The political relevance of some literary works, such as John Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel, will also be discussed.

Key concepts to be discussed include liberty, democracy, the social contract, and the nature of authority and obligation.

PHL 358 • Philosophical Logic

41690 • Litland, Jon E.
Meets TTH 930am-1100am WAG 308
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This is an intermediate logic course. The main goal of the course is to familiarize ourselves with the techniques and methods of non-classical logic. Such logics play an increasingly important role in philosophy and they have numerous applications in linguists, computer science and mathematics. We will study both extensions of classical logic—such as modal and tense logics—and alternatives to classical logics—such as intuitionistic and multi-valued logic. The main focus of the course is the development of the tools and methods of non-classical logics, but we will take care understand both the philosophical motivations for the logics as well as some of their non-philosophical applications, in particular, applications in linguistics and mathematics. The logics we study have different strengths and weaknesses. We will pay particular attention to the following methodological question: how to decide which logic is the best logic for a given application?

PHL 375M • Perception

41700 • Pautz, Adam
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm WAG 308
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We will examine some philosophical puzzles about perception. Is there a match between appearance and physical reality? Or is the physical world instead radically different from the way it seems? Does perception provide knowledge of the external world? We will look at two sorts of answers to these questions: "internalist" views and "externalist" views. According to traditional internalist views, our experiences are entirely "in our head". The brain creates a "virtual world". So, for instance, a  lone "brain in a vat", a universe with no other objects, could in principle have exactly the same experiences as you, even though those experiences don't correspond to external reality. This kind of view makes it hard to see how we might know about, or even think about, the external world. So many contemporary philosophers have turned to "externalist views". On these views, the character of experience is simply inherited from the character of external, physical objects. The function of the brain is not to construct a "virtual reality", but to reveal the world to us as it is. However, these views fly in the face of psychophysics and neuroscience, which suggest that the brain plays an enormous role in constructing experiences. 

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