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Graduate Course Descriptions

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Fall 2016

PHIL 455, Topics in Modern Philosophy                                                     

Emily Grosholz

 As the seventeenth century teaches us, method is very important! So as we investigate the notion of philosophical reason that arises in the early seventeenth century and trace it into the mid-eighteenth century, we will also spend time reflecting on the methods our philosophers use to approach reason and the methods we use to think about them. Philosophy interacts strongly with both mathematics and science: how can we understand that interaction in a non-reductive way? While philosophers admire and imitate mathematics and science, they also assert the autonomy of philosophy, and aim both to criticize and to transcend the other disciplines. This is in part because they believe that reason has moral and political uses, and that a well-developed account of philosophical reason must account for the human as well as the natural world.


PHIL 508, Social and Political Philosophy Seminar                                   

John Christman

The Politics of the Self: Intersubjectivity, Agency and Identity

The question of how to represent the self, subject or person in the context of social and political philosophy is complex and fraught.  The modernist conception of the individual rational agent separated from social context and able to reflectively appraise all her choices and attachments dispassionately has been largely abandoned in the context of normative political theory in recent decades.  This movement away from rational atomism is anchored in historical dynamics as well, for example between Kantian conceptions of individual autonomy and Hegelian and Marxists emphases on recognition, socially contextualized agency, and the social construction of the agent.


This course will undertake an examination of the question of the social subject, specifically how the person can be modeled in theoretical and practical contexts to adequately capture the centrality of social and historical elements of the self.  The course will be divided into three overlapping sections: intersubjectivity, which will deal with material from philosophy, social theory and psychology examining the ways that individual self-conceptions must be understood in social and interpersonal terms; agency, which will focus on various theories of action, autonomy, and social recognition; and identity, which will look at cultural, gendered, racial and other elements of self-understanding that trouble traditional individualism of modern philosophy.  Both historical and contemporary works will be examined.


PHIL 553, Ancient Philosophy Seminar                                                    

Christopher Moore

 This seminar studies ancient Greek philosophy by focusing on Socrates. This focus involves formulating questions of irony, ignorance, self-knowledge, philosophy, conversation, the study of nature, writing, soundmindedness (sôphrosunê), normativity, skepticism, the unity of virtue, religious belief, elenchus, sophistry, exhortation, intellectualism, dialogicality, erôs, and the good. Since Socrates did not write, the issue of reception becomes central. Since Socrates mostly asked questions, the difficulty of inferring his views (or non-views) also becomes central.


Besides responding to these specific questions, this course has four dominant goals. (i) Socrates is among the key figures of philosophy, and so a philosophical education requires close study of the arguments, concepts, texts, and movements associated with him. (ii) With a broad range of canonical and contextually-important readings, this course prepares students to teach “Ancient Philosophy” at the college level. (iii) Many of the important philosophers of the last two centuries respond directly or indirectly to Socrates; their arguments (and their soundness) can be understood only against a fine-grained analysis of the ancient background. (iv) Socrates is presented as a master of pedagogy; we will reflect on this presentation for our own pedagogy.


We will read the forebears and contemporaries of Socrates (Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Gorgias, Prodicus); Aristophanes’ three plays about Socrates (Clouds, Frogs, Birds); the fragments of the first-generation Socratics (Antisthenes, Aristippus, Aeschines, Phaedo); Xenophon’s Socratic works; a dozen Platonic dialogues; Aristotle; Montaigne; Nietzsche and other Germans; psychoanalysis; Foucault and Derrida; and Gregory Vlastos, who was Anglophone philosophy’s most influential interpreter of Socrates.  Among the course’s various expectations and assignments is a final paper, oriented to publication, about your choice of philosophical author’s reception of Socrates.


PHIL 564, Major Figures in Twentieth-Century Philosophy (Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition

Leonard Lawlor

 As the title indicates, the course will consist in a careful reading of Difference and Repetition. At this point in the history of philosophy, it is possible and indeed probable that Difference and Repetition rivals Heidegger’s Being and Time as the classic text in 20th century philosophy. Like Being and Time, Difference and Repetition is at once an investigation into the history of philosophy and the creation of a new philosophy. At once, Difference and Repetition continues Deleuze’s earlier investigations of figures in the history of philosophy and, more importantly, it creates a new philosophy of difference and of repetition. Difference and Repetition, as Deleuze says, was the first time “I tried to do philosophy.” Deleuze creates a concept of difference in which difference is not determined by a prior sameness, and a concept of repetition, in which repetitions are not determined by a prior model. Like Heidegger, Deleuze places the experience of time at the root of these two new concepts. We shall examine Difference and Repetition in order to gain clarity about how the experience of time generates these two new (and intertwined) concepts. However, our focus will be eventually on Chapters 4 and 5. Through the examination of these two difficult chapters (Chapter 4 concerning ideas, and Chapter Five concerning intensity), I will try to develop a perverse interpretation of Difference and Repetition: Difference and Repetition is of course a book in theoretical philosophy; however it actually aims to be a book in ethics.


PHIL 597, Decolonizing Philosophy: Topologies of Reason                

Eduardo Mendieta

 This seminar will engage the work of postcolonial and decolonial thinkers through the trope of the “topology of reason.” We will study the work of Said, Spivak, Bhaba, Coronil, Dussel, Quijano, and Lugones in order to track/trace the idea that the logos of reason is always tied to, or thought from, a particular configuration of space and time—a chronotope. We begin with a critique of the notions of post-colonialism and post-orientalism, which reinscribe the hegemony of “Western” reason. An alternative, which aims to circumvent the double bind of colonialism, is proposed in development of a notion of “post-occidentalism” that is coupled with the work of decoloniality, which is profiled as the work of immanent critique that aims to dispense with the soteriological purism of the other and the viscous perniciousness of an alleged sovereign reason. Reason has its time and place, but is always already the time and place of the other. The court of reason is the court of the other.


Of related interest:


WMST 507, Feminist Theory                                                                          

Nancy Tuana

 Feminist theory has two aims; the first is to critique existing knowledge practices and theoretical paradigms in a wide range of disciplines for impeded biases and exclusions of gender-related issues and experiences, and the second is to propose new theoretical paradigms that will be more inclusive of and accurately reflect the variety of human experience, as well as transforming unjust institutions, practices, and beliefs. The wide-ranging approaches that constitute the domain of feminist theory have placed justice and ethical considerations at the heart of research arguing for research that is a) epistemically responsible, b) attentive to the complexity of diversity or intersectionality, and c) has as its goal social transformation and empowerment. 


This course provides a graduate level introduction to some of the key theoretical trends and debates in feminist theory today, including: (1) feminist epistemologies, including the debate over accounts of epistemic privilege, epistemic injustice, and liberatory epistemologies such as standpoint theories and epistemologies of resistance;  (2) the debate over gender identity itself or the viability of the category "woman" and correlated concerns regarding essentialism and heterosexist economies;  (3) debates about intersectionality or how to theorize with attention to difference (including gender, race, sexuality, class, nationality, and other others), (4) postcolonial critiques of western feminism and the attempt to create a transnational and anti-racist feminism; (5) material feminist attention to the role of the body including issues of embodiment and labor; (6) accounts of agency in feminist and other liberatory narratives.


BIOET 597, Ethical Issues and Bio-Power (Bioethics/Biopower)             

Charles Scott

 The word, bioethics, is often thought to address ethical issues found primarily in medical science and practice.  The work done within this orientation is certainly important both theoretically and practically.  In our seminar, however, we will expand the range of investigation into the meaning of bios (life) and ethos (ethics) with the conviction that “bioethics” rightfully applies to social, environmental, and institutional lives.  Values and social structures are fraught with implications for how people live together, i.e. how their ethos functions in connections with the well-being of those who live in it.  Quality of life, the defining values of an ethos, and specialized knowledge are intertwined. 

The primary purpose of the seminar will be to develop an understanding of bioethics and the workings of biopower by considering the ways people’s lives interconnect and the relations of power that infuse, influence or control those interconnections.  In this context we will pay special attention to the historical formations of such institutions and policies as asylums, systems of justice, prisons, governmental methods for controlling populations and the creative dynamics of certain types of authoritative knowledge and formulations of truth.  The title of this seminar, Bioethics/Biopower, is taken from the work of Michel Foucault.  We will work in several of his books in addition to essays and chapters by authors who are using a Foucaultian approach.


AF AM 409, Racial and Ethnic Inequality in America


The impact of inequality and discrimination on individual and group identity among various racial and ethnic groups.

AF AM 431, Black Liberation and American Foreign Policy


This course deals with American foreign policy and Black liberation in Africa since 1945.

AF AM 501, Seminar in African American Studies


A survey of the academic field of African American Studies.

Spring 2017


PHIL 453, Plato’s Sophist                                                                                  

Mark Sentesy

 Philosophers are difficult figures to understand, both from within philosophy and from outside it. Historically they gained much of what rhetorical distinctiveness they had and allied themselves with the body politic through a condemnation of Sophistry. But the distinction between Philosopher and Sophist is very difficult to articulate and to grasp, especially on philosophical grounds, not least because the Sophist, too, is so very hard to track down.


In Plato’s Sophist, set the morning after Socrates has heard the indictment that will lead to his execution, Socrates sits silently as the dialogue unfolds a complex and provocative profile of both Philosopher and Sophist. Socrates’ mode of instruction is criticized, and he is very nearly identified with the sophist. To distinguish the pair, the dialogue searches for an ontology in which falsity is possible—an ontology of potency and a challenge to father Parmenides himself on whether and how non-being can be. 


This course will consist of a careful reading of the Sophist and related texts in ancient philosophy, notably Parmenides, with occasional reference to great readers of the dialogue in the history of philosophy, such as Hegel and Heidegger.


PHIL 539, Critical Philosophy of Race                                                          

Robert Bernasconi

  1. Frantz Fanon

 The primary focus of the course would be a close reading of the major writings of Frantz Fanon with particular attention to the context in which these texts were written as well as the sources on which he drew. So, for example, when reading Black Skin, White Masks we will look at his reading of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, his discussions of psychiatric literature, and his responses to both Leopold Senghor and Aimé Cesaire. When reading The Wretched of the Earth we will look at his responses to Touré and Cabral, as well as the debates occasioned by his discussion of violence. Fanon’s relation to Jean-Paul Sartre will be a particular focus of the course and we will read Anti-Semite and Jew, “Black Orpheus,” and extracts from Critique of Dialectical Reason. Finally, we will look at feminist critiques of Fanon and discussions of his legacy in the secondary literature.




  1. Racism


In this course we would examine different approaches to the idea of racism. We would look at the history of the word “racism” and some of the controversies it has occasioned beginning with the challenge issued against the term by Oliver Cromwell Cox in the 1940s. We would examine the argument that the initial understanding of racism was shaped by an understanding of anti-Semitism. Particular attention will be given to the way the understanding of racism developed by Frantz Boas and his students led to understanding racism as primarily scientific racism. This approach culminated, first, in the work of Ashley Montague and the UNESCO Statement of Race in 1950 and then in the reading of Anthony Kwame Appiah provided of Du Bois’s “The Conservation of Races.” Nevertheless, this understanding has been widely challenged leading to the introduction of other terms the theorization of which we will consider in turn: cultural racism (Fanon), structural or systemic racism and class racism (Sartre), institutional racism (Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton), bio-political racism (Foucault), racial capitalism (Neville Alexander), and non-racialism (the ANC).


PHIL 555, Modern Philosophy Seminar                                                       

Emily Grosholz

 The seventeenth century is arguably the one hundred years during which European modernity was invented. In 1600, European philosophy existed mostly in the form of neo-Scholasticism, a combination of Christian and Aristotelian doctrines, nuanced by the emergence of Protestantism in the north and the assimilation of classical Greek and medieval Arabic doctrines in the south. Europe was for the most part a collection of Catholic monarchies. By 1700, Cartesian Rationalism, in the works of Spinoza, Malebranche, Locke and Leibniz, had profoundly changed philosophical metaphysics; Galileo’s mathematical methods, culminating in Newton’s Principia, had launched modern science; the New World had been annexed (along with an economic circulation that included the slave trade), and novel cultural interchanges with India and China initiated; Protestantism had been established across northern Europe; and a wave of democratic political revolutions had begun. Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (1690) helped to foment the American and French Revolutions, and the works of Descartes, Locke and Leibniz ushered in the Enlightenment; Descartes, Leibniz and Newton set the stage for 18th century mechanics. In this course, we will read key works by Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz and Hume that irrevocably changed European metaphysics, epistemology and political theory, and try to understand how and why such a major transformation of our world took place in such a short period of time.


PHIL 563, Major Figures in 19th C Philosophy: Hegel and German Idealism                                                                                                                                                                Brady Bowman

The purpose of the course is to acquaint students with the background and the basic texts in the development of German Idealism. Accordingly, the early weeks of the semester will be devoted to discussion of exemplary texts by Jacobi, Fichte, and Schelling that define the post-Kantian agenda. Major points of agreement as well as points of contention and divergence (e.g. the debate concerning the desirability and viability of Naturphilosophie) will be identified; and the genesis of a recognizably “dialectical” method will also be traced from the early Fichte through Schelling’s so-called “history of self-consciousness.” On this basis, we will turn to Hegel in the latter half of the semester, picking up his intellectual development at the point in time when he has just moved to Jena to collaborate with Schelling and instigate a new movement within the German Idealist camp, “absolute idealism.” We will consider the critical function, methodology, and systematic organization of his first major work, the Phenomenology of Spirit, before moving on to the works of his philosophical maturity, especially the Science of Logic and the Encyclopedia. Selections from his Lectures on the History of Philosophy will supplement our reading.


The comparative approach is intended to aid students in understanding both the overall unity of the movement and the specific problems and options within the paradigm: for they shaped the conceptual space in which the protagonists took up their divergent positions. Though Fichte and Schelling are anything but light reading, their writings set out the German Idealists’ motives, assumptions, and philosophic agenda with special forthrightness and clarity. Having a good grasp on the early phase of the movement is key to understanding Hegel’s thought and to appreciating what is (and is not) truly specific to his approach.


Phil 597: Psychoanalysis (and Social Criticism)

 Amy Allen

The course will conduct a careful study of some of the major thinkers in psychoanalytic theory.  We will read and discuss primary texts by Freud, Klein, Lacan, and Kristeva, with a focus on their views of subjectivity, the unconscious, the limits of rationality, the possibility of human freedom, and the role of analysis in bringing about self-transformation.  Throughout, we will also consider the relationship between psychoanalytic theory and social criticism, including its value for feminist theory, queer theory, critical philosophy of race, and postcolonial theory.  


Of related interest:


AF AM 401, Afro-American Studies Seminar

 A seminar examining theoretical and methodological issues in Afro-American Studies


AF AM 497, Race and Sport

 This course considers the contributions of African American athletes to struggles for racial justice in the United States.


AF AM 502, Blacks and African Diaspora

 Seminar in the theory and history of Blacks in the African Diaspora


 AF AM 503, Sexual and Gender Politics in the African Diaspora

 A seminar in the theory and history of sexual and gender politics in the Black Diaspora from the Colonial Era forward.



Fall 2017

PHIL 456, Topics in Nineteenth Century Philosophy: Nietzsche

                                                                                                                                      Charles Scott

Nineteenth Century Philosophy, Continental Philosophy:  Nietzsche’s writings are among the most influential in the 19th Century.  One of the reasons for that influence is found in his questions and critiques concerning the values and practices that dominate Western cultures in combination with his development of a genealogical approach in which he traces the complex development of those values and practices.  In this course we will engage in close readings of Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morals.  In Beyond Good and Evil we will thematize the elusive meaning of ‘beyond’ and the ways Nietzsche rethinks the meaning of transcendence throughout the book.  In On the Genealogy of Morals, in addition to careful analysis of his specific claims and the values imbedded in those claims, we will consider his conception of genealogy and the impact of ‘beyond’ in his conception of genealogical history and time.

Over the course of this class we will have occasions to consider selected passages from other of Nietzsche’s works such as The Birth of Tragedy, Joyful Wisdom, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and a short essay, “The Dionysian Worldview,” that he wrote early in his career (1873).

The course will be taught as an interactive seminar in which all students participate.  In each class, after I make introductory and background remarks we will work on selected paragraphs from the assigned reading.  I will ask individuals to read a paragraph aloud and articulate what it means in its context.  Further discussion will often develop from the first interpretation as we explore the questions and issues we have regarding what Nietzsche is saying and the implications of what he says.  We will all have many questions and uncertainties about what we read, and our goals for the classes are to develop an exploratory, collaborative effort to understand Nietzsche’s thought and to enjoy ourselves along the way.


PHIL 503, Ethics:  Relationality and Ethics                                 

                                                                                                                    Sarah Clark Miller

What is the significance of relationality for moral life? This course will engage philosophical issues surrounding the concept of relationality in ethics by asking both about the moral meanings of the specific relationships in which we stand with others and about the constitutive nature of relationality for normativity itself. We will examine why and how relationality might ask us to reconsider and require us to reformulate certain key ethical concepts such as agency, dignity, and well-being. Texts for the course will draw primarily from conversations in contemporary moral philosophy and feminist philosophy.

Specific course topics will include friendship, love, partiality vs. impartiality, care and dependency relations, special obligations, agent-relative vs. agent-neutral reasons for action, how to resolve conflicts between personal and impersonal moral considerations, the role of moral emotions (e.g., respect and sympathy) in our relationships, the justice vs. care debate, and patterns of moral reasoning that incorporate partiality and particularity. We will also consider philosophical approaches to several specific relationships, such as the parent-child relationship, marriage, and ethical relationships between human and non-human animals. Some key authors we will study in the course will be Brake on marriage, Kittay and Noddings on care ethics, Haslanger on the parent-child relationship, Haraway and Anderson on ethical relationships between human and non-human animals, Helm and Velleman on love, Scheffler and Wolf on partiality and impartiality, and Hursthouse on friendship.

Students who wish to develop ethics as an area of competence may be interested in this course, as relationality will function as a focal point through which students will learn about major historical approaches in ethical theory (e.g., virtue ethics, consequentialism, and deontology), as well as multiple themes of significance within and between these approaches.


PHIL 553, Ancient Philosophy Seminar, “Aristotle on Time”    

                                                                                                                                 Mark Sentesy

“[The Physics] determines the warp and woof of the whole of Western thinking, even at that place where it, as modern thinking, appears to think at odds with ancient thinking.” – M. Heidegger, The Principle of Reason 62-3.

This course begins by reading Aristotle’s four chapters on time, enriches and challenges his account by reading pivotal responses by thinkers from Plotinus to Heidegger and Bergson, as well as key texts in recent Aristotle scholarship, and then returns to a closer reading of Aristotle’s text at the end of the course. The goal is to develop an original interpretation of Aristotle’s account of time by drawing on its philosophical history.

Aristotle gave us the earliest direct examination of the nature and being of time that has come down to us. It details an original and radical view, that time is motion insofar as motion has an arithmos, a number or amount.

But the text is hermeneutically unstable. Since Aristotle’s procedure is Socratic, developing a positive account only through formulating and working with impasses, these chapters have been a deep and complex resource for later thinkers. It starts with the problem of whether or not time exists at all, and ends with the problem of how time depends on the soul. Contemporary debates about time still take their point of departure from the perplexities Aristotle identified.


PHIL 562, Major Figures in Modern Philosophy:  Kant           

                                                                                                                                 Uygar Abacci

This course offers an intensive study of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. We will carry out this study on at least four complementary levels: i) the broader historical context of Kant’s critical project as responding to rationalist school metaphysics in 18th century Germany, on the one hand, and reconciling different aspects of empiricism and rationalism, on the other hand; ii) the development of Kant’s thought from his precritical works in the 1750’s and 1760’s through his “critical turn” in early 1770’s and his presentation of the critical system in the 1780’s; iii) the specific major doctrines and arguments presented in the Critique, such as transcendental idealism, theory of knowledge, transcendental illusion, and how they serve his idea of a critical philosophy; and iv) the reactions to Kant’s critical project in German Idealism as well as in 20th century German and French traditions.


PHIL 564, Major Figures in 20th Century Philosophy                    

                                                                                                                                  Ted Toadvine

Course Title: Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception.  The core of our course will be a complete reading of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, the work for which he was best known during his lifetime and that established him as the leading phenomenologist of his generation. Here Merleau-Ponty develops his distinctive interpretation of phenomenology’s method in conversation with Gestalt theory and research in psychology and neurology. Framing his inquiry with a parallel critique of empiricism and intellectualism for their unquestioned commitment to a ready-made, objective world, Merleau-Ponty emphasizes the essentially embodied, expressive, and historical aspects of perceptual experience across a wide range of existential dimensions, including sexuality, language, space, nature, intersubjectivity, time, and freedom. We will situate Phenomenology of Perception in the wider context of Merleau-Ponty’s oeuvre, his relationship with major interlocutors (e.g., Husserl, Bergson, Scheler, Heidegger, Sartre), and the critical reception of his thought by Foucault, Levinas, and Derrida, among others. Phenomenology of Perception is often read today either as a rejection of transcendental philosophy in favor of a “naturalized” phenomenology, on the one hand, or as still too wedded to subjectivist and correlationist tendencies of phenomenological idealism, on the other. Against these interpretations, our reading will follow a network of sub-themes running through this text: radical reflection’s debt to the prereflective, experience as a transcendental field, the anonymous and prepersonal time of the body, and the immemorial past of nature. These offer rich resources for thinking the human place in nature that resist reduction  either to naturalism or to correlationist subjectivity.


WMST 597, Feminism, Intersectionality, Decolonialism: The Work of María Lugones                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                            Nancy Tuana

Esta es escritura hablada cara a cara.  This is writing spoken face to face.  Escritura solitaria por falta de compañía que busca solaz en el dialogo.  Writing that is solitary for lack of company and looks for solace in dialogue.  Monólogo extendido hacía afuera ye hablado en muchas lenguas.  Monologue spoken outwardly and in tongues.

                                    María Lugones  “Hablando Cara a Cara/Speaking Face to Face”

This course provides an opportunity to study the lineages of the work of Latina feminist theorist, María Lugones.  Her thought has been central to the formation of Latina feminist philosophy and theory and has been highly influential in liberatory work in both feminist and decolonial theory.  Her writings span a wide range of topics including importance of the affective, “Hard-to-Handle Anger,” the interrelations between oppressing ßà resisting relations, “Purity, Impurity, and Separation,” the role of world-travelling “Playfulness, ‘World’-Traveling, and Loving Perception,” street-walker theorizing as a way to bridge theory and activism, “Tactical Strategies of the Streetwalker/ Estrategias Tácticas de la Callejera,” and the modern colonial gender system, “The Coloniality of Gender.”

The seminar will enable participants to develop a foundational understanding of Lugones’ thought in anticipation of a conference that will be held at Penn State in May 2018.  Seminar participants will be encouraged to develop and submit an abstract to the conference.  The conference provides a unique opportunity to continue the work of the seminar as it will likely attract top Latina/o thinkers, both feminist and decolonial.


Of related interest:


BIOET 501, Perspectives and Methods in Bioethics                       

                                                                                                                                    Jonathan Marks

This course explores the broad range of disciplinary, theoretical, and methodological approaches employed in bioethics today through their application to a variety of contemporary issues. The course also examines the intellectual, cultural, and disciplinary history of bioethics, as well as current debates about the politics and ethics of bioethics.  Theories and methods in bioethics will be applied to a variety of topics in bioethics drawn from the primary disciplines of the graduate students. We will also examine the intersections of bioethics, law, and policy, as well as the bioethical implications of recent work in behavioral science, neuroscience, and disability studies.  This course will give graduate students in the humanities an opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary conversation with students in the life, health, and social sciences.  Since the course is taught in small seminar format, the content will be tailored to the interests of the students.  Students are also encouraged to enroll in the complementary course in Spring 2017, BIOET 502 Perspectives in Macro-Bioethics (which focuses on systemic and institutional perspectives in bioethics, on public health ethics, and on questions of distributive justice in a variety of health care systems.)


Spring 2018


PHIL 457, Topics in 20th Century Philosophy: Bergson’s Ethics                                                                                                                                                            Leonard Lawlor

The final sentence of Chapter One of Bergson’s 1932 The Two Sources of Morality and Religion states: “Let us give to the word biology the very wide meaning it should have, and will perhaps have one day, and let us say in conclusion that all morality… is in essence biological.” This course aims to understand this sentence. Because Bergson conceived The Two Sources as a continuation of Creative Evolution, we shall start with Bergson’s 1907 Creative Evolution. Here we shall see not only Bergson criticisms of evolution conceived through finalism or mechanism, but we shall also and more importantly see his conception of life: “life in general is mobility.” It is this definition of life that orients Bergson in The Two Sources. The definition leads to his distinction between the open and the closed, the opening being free mobility, and the closed being inhibited mobility. Therefore we shall read Creative Evolution with an eye ahead to The Two Sources. The Two Sources will be our real focus. The basic question we are asking is: what is Bergson’s ethics?


PHIL 479, Critical Theory                                                              

                                                                                                                                   Amy Allen

This course will focus on the critical social theory of the Frankfurt School through its first three 'generations', with an emphasis on the work of first generation thinkers Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, and Herbert Marcuse.  We will consider a range of themes and topics, including methodological reflections on what critical theory is and how it differs from "traditional" theory, how critical theorists engaged with the traditions of Marxism, psychoanalysis, and Nietzschean genealogy to develop a distinctive critique of contemporary society, how this critical project has been transformed in the last fifty years by contemporary critical theorists such as Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth, and how the prospects look for the future of critical theory, almost 100 years after its inception. 


PHIL 555, Modern Philosophy                                                                  

                                                                                                                                           Emily Grosholz

The Seventeenth Century in Europe witnessed a revival of Neo-Platonism and Atomism that interacted in complex ways with Scholasticism. The interaction affects not only epistemology, but also cosmology as well as the study of living things. We will examine the ways in which a novel account of method affects the account of knowledge, the cosmos and the life sciences in the works of Descartes, Gassendi, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley and Leibniz.


PHIL 560, Africana Philosophy                                                                 

                                                                                                                                    Kathryn T. Gines

This course explores and analyzes existing and emerging dominant themes in Africana philosophical discourse. It examines the construction of the Africana Philosophy canon and dominant themes that emerge within that canon while also identifying new directions for this important area of philosophy. With this in mind graduate students will explore central foundational articles and books that signaled the rise of Africana Philosophy, edited collections and anthologies in Africana Philosophy, existing course syllabi, and more recent trajectories in Africana Philosophy in the 21st Century. Furthermore, the course will make central not only the contributions of early and contemporary male philosophers and activist-intellectuals to this tradition, but also critical women philosophical figures (who have often been marginalized by their male counterparts).


PHIL 564, Major Figures in 20th Century Philosophy:  Gigantomachia peri tês ousias, Husserl and Heidegger                                                   
                                                                                                                             Nicolas de Warren 

One could define “great” philosophers as philosophers who rarely talk directly to each other even as they never cease to speak against and with each other. In the history of Western philosophy, the philosophical confrontation between Husserl and Heidegger ranks unquestionably as one the most enduring along with other momentous conflicts of philosophical thought: Plato and Aristotle, Kant and Hegel. The aim of this seminar is to orchestrate a philosophical confrontation between Husserl and Heidegger – a confrontation that shaped and continues to shape philosophy in the 20th and 21st-centuries. The basis for this seminar is a reading and critical discussion of Husserl’s Ideen I and Heidegger’s Being and Time. The seminar will begin with the unfinished article on phenomenology by Husserl and Heidegger for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.


Of related interest:


BIOET 502, Macro-Perspectives in Bioethics:  Systemic Issues in Public Health Ethics          

                                                                                                                     Jonathan H. Marks

What are public health ethics, population health ethics, and macro-bioethics?  In this course, we explore a variety of topics, with an emphasis on systemic ethical issues.  We will address theories of justice and health; the relationship between public health ethics, health policy, and health law; the framing of public health problems and their solutions (from “personal responsibility” to “social and environmental determinants”); the ethical obligations of institutional actors—including the WHO; comparative health care systems; the global burden of disease—including NCDs—and the distribution of health care resources; access to essential medicines; the ethics of vaccination policy; the ethics of stigma, “nudging,” and other forms of health promotion; the ethics of pandemics, public health emergencies, and disaster response; the ethics of humanitarian intervention; health disparities and inequalities; systemic issues in empirical public health research; food systems, food security, food sovereignty, and health; the relationship between human rights, human security, and public health; the built environment, occupational environments, and health; environmental toxins, “fracking,” and health; climate change and health.  This course is an interdisciplinary course required for the dual-title Ph.D. in bioethics.  However, we welcome interested students from other programs—including graduate students in public health, biobehavioral health, health policy, clinical and translational science, food and nutrition, health humanities, life sciences, communication science, environmental science; and students in law, international affairs, medicine, and nursing.


PLSC 581, History of Political Theory: The Political Philosophy of Jeans-Jacques Rousseau                                                                                  

                                                                                                                           John Christman

Jean-Jacques Rousseau is an enigmatic, complex but enormously influential figure in the history of philosophy and western culture.  His impact on Kant, the development of the Enlightenment, the emergence of romanticism, and political events such as the French Revolution are well noted.  His own life and personality, as well, have been the subject of fascination for generations. Yet, it is extremely difficult to specify precisely what his settled views were on various fundamental issues.  Rousseau hovers uneasily between representing the continuation of the Enlightenment ideal in a proto-Kantian mode and presenting an anti-Enlightenment model for the de-centering of reason due to the precarious contingency of our education, socialization, emotional structure, and anthropological history.

This course will conduct a systematic study of Rousseau’s thought, with special emphasis on his moral, social, and political philosophy.  Of particular importance will be his views on such issues as the self and its relation to reason, the notion of perfectebilité, the social contract and the general will, and the construction of the self in the context of social and historical dynamics.  Attention will also be paid to Rousseau’s unique rhetorical style and philosophical method.  In particular we will be concerned with the relation between (auto-) biography and the development and presentation of theoretical and political     commitments.   TENTATIVE