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Graduate Course Descriptions

Spring 2020

 

PHIL 407, Technology and Human Values: Technology and Nature

Mark Sentesy

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics; metaphysics-epistemology

This course investigates an issue in the field of environmental ethics, namely how technology transforms our ethical relationship with nature. The most significant single characteristic of the human relationship with the natural world is that it is technological. The planetary consequences of our mastery of nature, visible in every environmental problem, are not the only characteristic of our relationship with technology, they are expressions of it. Technology totally reconfigures every part of our relationship with nature, from the introduction of new kinds of action, to the way civilization is structured, to our belief in progress, to what we do in our practical lives day by day, to our scientific picture of the physical world, to our sense of our own mortality and the destiny of humankind. It reconfigures us while operating according to its own independent functional coherence and principles of development.

This course, then, investigates how technology affects our ethical situation. In so doing, we seek out a way to overcome a foundational problem in the field of environmental ethics, namely anthropocentrism, the belief that the value of the natural world depends on human beings. We will explore the thesis that the very idea of anthropocentrism originates in our experience of technology. We will also explore how technology itself is an example of how to challenge anthropocentrism: since technology is an axis around which our ethical experience orbits, our principles are not simply determined by human beings. This opens the door to a renewed approach to nature as something that organizes and directs our ethical lives.


PHIL 408W, Social and Political Philosophy

Desiree Lim

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics; critical philosophy of race

This course examines a survey of distinctive social and political questions that emerge from the philosophical concept of race. What, exactly, is race? What consequences might racial identity and positionality have for our lived experiences? How ought we understand the phenomena of racism and discrimination, as they persist today? Finally, how should societies respond to ongoing legacies of racial oppression? For example, could we be required to support the use of affirmative action, recognize the right to reparations for past injustice, or even dismantle the prison system? Primarily utilizing the tools of contemporary analytic philosophy, combined with readings from other perspectives and disciplines (e.g. law, sociology, and postcolonial thought), students will engage in rigorous analysis of these puzzles.

 

PHIL 457, 20th Century Philosophy

Leonard Lawlor

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Continental; metaphysics-epistemology

The topic of this course will be 20th century answers to the question of what is philosophy. These answers will be drawn from 20th century European philosophers: Bergson (1903); Heidegger (1929 and 1956); Merleau-Ponty (1951); Lyotard (1964); Deleuze (and Guattari) (1991); and Agamben (2016). If we look at a different tradition, we can see what will unify this trajectory from Bergson to Agamben. Simon Blackburn’s 1999 Thinking (which is a book written for a general audience) lacks a chapter on language and its sole discussion is located within a larger discussion of reasoning (and logic). In contrast, all the answers we shall see in the European tradition will concern the question of language, philosophy’s strange relation with standard systems of language (such as English). This relation is not irrational or a-logical but it is not logical in the traditional sense. If philosophy is concerned with what transcends subjects and objects, what is not directly given in perception, if it deals primarily with being or what is beyond being, then philosophy’s expressions can only be defined by a kind of creativity. It seeks to express what cannot be expressed and yet what must be expressed. Creativity within language or of language will be the most general definition of philosophy we shall see in this course. Of course, to define philosophy by linguistic creativity is nothing more than providing a new definition of Socratic irony.

 

PHIL 460, African American Philosophy

David Marriott

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Critical philosophy of race

The primary purpose of the seminar will be to offer a critical introduction and overview of African American Philosophy. Beginning with the question of race and ontology, the course will go on to consider questions of sovereignty and domination, freedom and liberation, identity and difference, and concluding with a study of race and the posthuman.

To engage these questions we will pay special attention to the themes of violence and determination; structure and geneaology; as well as history and repetition. We will also study African American Philosophy across a variety of fields and genres, including: Marxism, Phenomenology, Pragmatism, Aesthetics, Ethics, Africana and Continental Philosophy. Major thinkers to be studied will include: W.E. B. DuBois, Alain Locke, Cedric Robinson, Charles Mills, Sylvia Wynter, Frantz Fanon, as well as contemporary figures such as Frank Wilderson, Fred Moten, and Hortense Spillers.  

The seminar will be taught interactively with emphasis on focused attention to assigned material and discussion that arises out of our engagement with that material.  Students will be encouraged to bring to bear their specific disciplinary interests in both the discussions and their term papers.


PHIL 461, Plato

Christopher Moore

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ancient history

We will study dialogues from across Plato’s career that develop approaches to political thinking – and thus may constitute the earliest instances of “political philosophy,” as we recognize it, in the Western philosophical tradition. All these dialogues engage explicitly or implicitly with the writings of Critias of Athens, Plato’s uncle and probably the first “constitutional theorist.” All but two take up the problem of political education: how it could be possible, through institutional arrangements, to help people become virtuous. All but one present Socrates, in a variety of forms, as impresario of a conversation aimed somehow at making one’s life go better. All reflect the manifold interests of this most influential of early Greek philosophers, judged by many to be the language’s best prose author and our most sensitive historian of those fifth-century discussions and investigations that came to constitute the origins of Western philosophy.

Given the political angle of this course, we will focus on issues of utopia, democracy, virtue, leadership, law, the individual and communal good life, and the power and weaknesses of discussion to make progress on these issues. We will read the Apology, Protagoras, Charmides, Republic, Timaeus, Critias, and chapters from Laws.


PHIL 503, Ethics Seminar: Feminist Ethics

Sarah Clark Miller

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics; feminist philosophy

This course offers an opportunity for in-depth analysis of current, major themes in feminist ethics. Initially, we will focus on an overview of feminist moral philosophy’s methodologies, with particular attention paid to its unique approaches and emphases. These include intersectionality and related theories of oppression and privilege (featuring analysis of how intersectionality relates to decoloniality, disability, and trans and non-binary lives); attention to everyday moral life and moral phenomena; robust accounts of contexts, moral agents, and moral patients; critical engagement with ideal theory and universalism; an awareness of institutionalized oppression and the interplay of social hierarchies and power; and a questioning of any fixed divide between ethics and politics.

Thereafter, the course will explore multiple thematic strands in contemporary feminist ethics. Seminar members will select a subset of possible areas and topics that will comprise a substantial portion of the course. Options include: (1) where feminist ethics meets feminist epistemology, including the overarching concepts of epistemic injustice and epistemic oppression, as well as the related concepts of epistemic gaslighting, silencing, and resistance; (2) the intertwining themes of dependence, vulnerability, and care, including investigations regarding the relational foundations of responsibility; (3) feminist ethical treatments of the body, such as exploration of the nature of the relationship between normativity and embodiment, as well as implications of embodiment for moral judgment, agency, and selfhood; (4) sexual violence and sexual empowerment, with a focus on the possibilities that a feminist pluralist account of sexual violence offers; (5) what it means for feminist ethics to think transnationally, examining the problems and promises of solidarity and coalition; (6) feminist liberalism and challenges thereto; and (7) reproductive justice. The course will likely include four or five of the seven topics named.


PHIL 557, Twentieth Century Philosophy Seminar, Ecophenomenology

Ted Toadvine

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Continental philosophy

Ecophenomenology emerged in the 1980s as an alternative to naturalistic and instrumentalist approaches to environmental problems. Drawing on classic works in the phenomenological tradition, especially Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, it vindicated the role of embodied experience in reexamining our epistemological and ontological assumptions about the natural and built environments. In dialogue with feminist, Indigenous, deconstructive, and decolonial philosophies, critical ecophenomenology reorients this experience-based approach toward issues of interspecies ethics, environmental justice, Indigenous sovereignty, globalization, and apocalypticism. This course explores the prospects for a critical ecophenomenology along three axes: Embodied experience; Lifeworld, place, and land; End times and unworlding. Likely authors include S. de Beauvoir, J. Butler, E. Casey, E. Clare, J. Corburn, J. Derrida, R. Garland-Thomson, L. Gross, E. Husserl, M. Heidegger, S. Holmes, S. James, R. Kimmerer, S. Lindberg, E. Levinas, M. Merleau-Ponty, J.-L. Nancy, K. Oliver, J. Sallis, M.S.C. Schuback, S. Skrimshire, C. Willett, K. Whyte, D. Wood.

 

PHIL 562, Major Figures in Modern Philosophy, Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgement

Uygar Abaci

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Modern; metaphysics-epistemology

This course offers a close study of Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment(1790). As the final piece of Kant’s critical trilogy, the third Critique book has the extremely ambitious project of bridging the gap between the respective focal subjects of the first two Critiques, nature and freedom, by arguing that nature is a hospitable place for the realization of free human ends. Kant’s argument is based on an observation of a certain kind of judgment, i.e., “reflecting” (as opposed to “determining”), operative in our aesthetic and teleological evaluation of nature, both of which assign a “purposiveness” to nature in different ways. Thus, a study of the third Critique will give us a chance to understand Kant’s most mature theories of aesthetic and teleology. 

Some of the topics we will focus on will include: Kant’s theory of judgment in general and of reflecting judgment in particular; theory of aesthetic judgment or judgment of taste; analytics of the beautiful and the sublime; universality of claims of taste; theory of fine art and artistic genius; teleological judgment; natural organisms; the rivalry and reconcilability of teleological and mechanical explanations of nature; nature and theology; physico- and ethico-theology; the doctrine of the highest good; and the unity of the critical system.


PHIL 564, Major Figures in Twentieth-Century Philosophy: Simone de Beauvoir

Kathryn Belle

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Feminist philosophy; continental

In this graduate seminar we will read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex alongside critical engagements with that classic text, especially (but not exclusively) by women of color.   Some of the secondary literature we will take up includes scholarship by: Loraine Hansberry, Angela Davis, Chikwenye Ogunyemi, Deborah King, OyèrónkéOyěwùmí, Mariana Ortega, Kathryn T. Gines (now Kathryn Sophia Belle), bell hooks, Kyoo Lee, Stephanie Rivera Berruz, Patricia Hill Collins, Alia Al-saji.  We will also explore Beauvoirs' philosophical positions in conversation with some of her contemporaries (e.g., Claudia Jones, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Richard Wright).  Major philosophical questions/themes of this seminar will include: Analogical, intersectional, and multiplicitous approaches to the question of who/what is "woman"?;  comparative and competing frameworks of oppression in The Second Sex; and the ongoing exclusions of women of color in white feminist secondary literature on this figure and text.

 

 

Of related interest:

 

Spring 2020

 

BIOET 502, Macro-Perspectives and Methods in Bioethics: Public Health Ethics

Jonathan Marks

The course encompasses 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 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.  The content of the course may change from year to year, and will be tailored to the expertise of the instructor, and the disciplines and interests of the students in the seminar.

 

PLSC 5583, Modern Political and Social Theory

John Christman

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics; critical philosophy of race

The idea of freedom dominates both contemporary and historical discourse in the western tradition of political thought.  Debates about the meaning and value of freedom reflect deep and trenchant questions in political philosophy generally in this tradition.

However, attention to this key concept and its conceptual cousins generally takes place from the perspective of the (already) free.  That is, freedom is conceptualized as something to be protected rather than something that is denied.  Yet, it is claimed by various historians, sociologists and others that freedom arose as a value, when and where it did, in relation to the practices of slavery.  Therefore, an adequate examination of the concept of social freedom (or liberty) must take place against the backdrop of the study of enslavement and resistance to enslavement.

With this in mind, this course will undertake an examination of dominant conceptions of freedom in the western tradition of political theory but do so in interaction with an examination of the conditions of slavery, abolition and slave rebellion.  We will read and discuss both historical writing on freedom, including work by Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau, and Mill, and contemporary theorists.  This will be combined with readings concerning slavery and resistance, focusing specifically on the case of the slave revolt in Haiti.

The goal of the course is both to give a standard overview of traditional theories of freedom in the western tradition but also trouble that tradition in both substantive and methodological ways.

 

 

 

Fall 2019

 

PHIL 402, European Philosophy

Nicolas De Warren

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Continental

The aim of this course is to explore different philosophical understandings of dialogue as well as different understandings of philosophy as dialogue in the writings of Martin Buber, Mikhail Bakhtin, Hermann Cohen, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricouer, Simone Weil, and Knud Ejler Løgstrup. We shall also explore whether violence represents the end of dialogue or is itself a form dialogue as well as whether monologue is nothing other than regarding oneself as other, and hence, a form of dialogue itself.

 

PHIL 416, Philosophy of Social Science

John Christman

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Metaphysics-Epistemology

The purpose of this class will be to investigate various philosophical issues concerning the methodologies, claims to objectivity, value commitments, and conceptions of human nature and motivation that function in the social sciences.  Reading will focus both on contemporary writers and on critiques of social science arising in philosophy and social theory of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (for example, in work by Marx, Weber, Durkheim, DuBois and others).  Specific topics will include: the relation between social scientific analyses of social practices and social critique; the question of the possibility of detachment and objectivity in social science; the practice of “critical hermeneutics”, i.e., the problem of interpretation of social practices; and assumptions about human identity, rationality, motivation, and interests in these scientific traditions.  

 

PHIL 432, Medical and Health Care Ethics

Desiree Lim

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics

This course provides a survey of distinctive ethical and political questions raised by the fields of medicine and healthcare. We will examine persistent and pressing real-world issues, including present inequalities in access to healthcare, the global right to healthcare, and the existence of markets in human organs and surrogacy. We will also evaluate the use of technology, both present and potential. For example, is it ever permissible to genetically engineer a “designer child”? May physicians provide end-of-life services for patients? At the same time, we will consider deeper questions about concepts that are often taken for granted: what is the best model of disability? What is informed consent and why is it so valuable? Utilizing the tools of contemporary analytic philosophy, students will engage in rigorous analysis of these puzzles and gain familiarity with current bioethical debates.

 

PHIL 438, Feminist Philosophy

Kathryn Belle

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Feminist-Philosophy

This course examines the central currents of feminist philosophy, selected problems and concepts regarding difference, gender and sex, identity, and political culture.  The specific objective of this course is to examine feminist philosophies, especially women of color feminisms, through the lenses of intersectionality and multiplicity.  We will explore seminal readings in intersectionality and multiplicity in the U.S. context and engage these themes in transnational and decolonial feminisms.

Readings (Selections from):

  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
  • All of the Women Are White, All of the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies (1982) edited by Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith
  • Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera (1987)
  • Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism (1991) edited by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ann Russo, and Lourdes Torres
  • Guy-Sheftall’s Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought (1995) a collection of Black women’s scholarship spanning over one hundred and fifty years.  
  • Alma García, Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings (1997)
  • Mariana Ortega, In-Between: Latina Feminist Phenomenology, Multiplicity, and the Self (2016)
  • Maria Lugones (select articles)
  • Kimberlé Crenshaw (select articles)
  • Recommended: Recent scholarship on intersectionality (e.g., Vivan May, Jennifer Nash, Anna Caratathis)


PHIL 455, Topics in Modern Philosophy: Spinoza & Hume on the Nature of Mind and Conscious Unity

Brady Bowman

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Modern; Metaphysics-Epistemology

On many obvious points of comparison, Spinoza and Hume represent polar opposites. To name a few, Spinoza’s rationalism, deism, substance-monism, and necessitarianism are a world away from Hume’s empiricism, atheism, pluralism, and his skeptical denial of an objectively real causal nexus. At second glance, some equally undeniable affinities come into focus, for instance their commitment to philosophical naturalism and their openly critical attitudes toward religion and religious conceptions of moral authority. The same substantive affinities are evident in their conception of philosophy’s method and its goal: In seeking out the “secret springs and principles by which the human mind is actuated” (Enquiry, sect. I), Hume aspires to a moral philosophy whose rigor and evidence would rival that of Newtonian physics, just as Spinoza resolves to “consider human actions and appetites just as if it were a question of [geometrical] lines, planes, and solids” (Ethics III). In this seminar we will explore how far these affinities reach, to discover what we can learn from their otherwise starkly divergent perspectives on the human mind.

More specifically, the seminar will focus on questions of unity and individuality. If (or rather to the extent that) minds are individuated, what is it that does the individuating? To what extent is “consciousness” coextensive with “mind”? Are there unconsciousness minds? And what about conscious experience: to what extent is it or must it be unified? Further, to the extent that minds are self-conscious, what makes that possible and how is selfconsciousness related to consciousness more generally? How does the mind come to distinguish between what is “in the mind” and “outside the mind,” and whence springs the mind’s conception of itself as enjoying a distinctively “inner,” psychologically “private” experience?  What are the limits of (self-) conscious unity and what do they imply about the nature and limits of intentional action or about mental life and death more generally? — We will examine some of the possible answers suggested by Hume’s and Spinoza’s respective theories of mind, including the physical integrity of the body, self-affection as a higher-order impression, stable associations of ideas, logical interconnections among thoughts, conatus or the striving for self-preservation, affective coherence and sensations of power.

Discussion will focus mainly on the relevant portions of Spinoza’s Ethics, Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature and his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. However, we will also draw on relevant background texts by Descartes (e.g. Meditations and Principles of Philosophy) and Locke (Essay Concerning Human Understanding). We may occasionally glance forward to Kant’s theory (in the Critique of Pure Reason) of apperceptive unity as linked to intellectual and volitional spontaneity.

 

PHIL 456, Topics in Nineteeth Century Philosophy: Nietzsche

Charles Scott

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Nineteenth Century; Continental

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 to articulate what it means in its context.  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 539, Critical Philosophy of Race

David Marriott

Possible course requirments fulfilled: Critical Philosophy of Race

This course will offer a critical introduction and overview of the philosophical concept of race. We will trace that concept in the fields of continental philosophy before turning to the emerging thought of the ‘postcolonial’. That is, we will look at the settings and implications, historical frameworks and contemporary significance of ‘race’ as discourse, language, doxa, and lexis, Beginning with the question of language and ontology, the course will go on to consider questions of sovereignty and domination, freedom and liberation, identity and difference; concluding with a study of race and the posthuman. Major thinkers to be studied will include: GWF Hegel, J.-P. Sartre, M Foucault, Sylvia Wynter, Achille Mbembe, Frantz Fanon, W.E. B. DuBois, as well as contemporary figures such as Frank Wilderson, Charles Mills, Fred Moten, and Hortense Spillers.

 

PHIL 553, Ancient Philosophy: Aristotle's Metaphysics

Mark Sentesy

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ancient; Metaphysics-Epistemology

To study metaphysics is to articulate what being is. This involves discovering the principles by which beings differ and identify with each other, and the patterns in which they organize together. In this respect metaphysics can re-shape, expand or restrict what we think is real, possible, and necessary, and how we take beings to relate to one another.

The influence of Aristotle’s Metaphysics is visible in almost every intellectual discipline. It was so pervasive that not long ago many of its core concepts were considered to be bedrock, common-sense ideas, such as the relationships between subjects and their attributes, matter and form, actuality, potency, and teleology. Even under criticism, these concepts were still often taken to be self-evident.

But in the resurgence of scholarship on Aristotle’s work our understanding of these concepts has been changing. Moreover, Aristotle’s texts have been increasingly regarded as pedagogical, aporetic, and dialectical, rather than dogmatic or even systematic, and the Metaphysics, more clearly than any of his other works, advances by seeking out paradoxes. 

In this course we will read from the beginning of Aristotle’s Metaphysics through its core books, in light of two backgrounds: the ancient Greek context, and recent work on Aristotle (from Brentano and Heidegger, to Adorno and Agamben, to Burnyeat, Broadie, and Witt). We will examine, among other things, the relationship between speech and being, Aristotle’s claim that being is irreducibly diverse, the paradoxical relationship between particular and universal, the limits of the concepts of matter and form, Aristotle’s critique of atomism, his concepts of potency and actuality, and the thinness or thickness of his metaphysics of teleology and organic emergence.

 

PHIL 580, Ancient Phenomenology

Nicholas De Warren

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Continental; Metaphyics-Epistemology

It does not require any special knowledge or instruction to recognize how essential time proves to be for human existence. What proves more challenging, however, is understanding what time is, how we experience time, and who is that being for whom time is at all a question. The aim of this seminar is to critically explore different approaches the question of time in Husserl, Heidegger, and Levinas. In addition to addressing classical themes in the phenomenology of temporality, we shall examine so-called “limit phenomena” of death, birth, and sleep, as well as phenomenological conceptions of the eternal / eternity, mourning, anxiety, and forgiveness. 

 

PHIL 597, Theorizing Differential Consciousness: Anzaldua, Alarcon, and Sandoval

Mariana Ortega

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Feminist Philosophy; Critical Philosophy of Race

The aim of this seminar is to understand the notion of “differential consciousness” as deployed by women of color feminists in order to survive, resist, and thrive within contexts of multiple oppression.  Attention will be given to the manner in which an “oppositional” theory of differential consciousness is, according to Sandoval, connected to a “mobile and transformable subjectivity” and to the practice of love as a “hermeneutic of social change.”  Such a mobile subjectivity will be shown to be connected to Alarcón’s understanding of the meaning of Chicana identity.    Lastly, this seminar aims to examine how differential consciousness informs Chicana/x, Latina/x aesthetic practice in the process of self-transformation and resistance, in particular in Anzaldúa’s work.


WMNST 507, Feminist Theory

Nancy Tuana

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Feminist Philosophy; Critical Philosophy of Race

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.  

 

 

Spring 2019

 

PHIL 410, Philosophy of Science

Emily Grosholz

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Metaphysics-Epistemology; Ethics

The aim of this course is to introduce students to some of the central themes and problems in twentieth century and current philosophy of biology, which encompasses both epistemology (theory of knowledge) and ethics. Mid-twentieth century Anglophone philosophy of science made use of predicate logic as its instrument of analysis, and drew its case studies mostly from physics. Newton’s axiomatization of classical mechanics was for them the paradigm of scientific rationality, along with his mathematical models of the solar system. But when we consider the life sciences as case studies, different kinds of issues emerge for the philosophy of biology (and chemistry). How must we enlarge our understanding of scientific rationality, and of the methods and modes of representation used by science as it studies living things: macromolecules, cells, organisms, and ecological systems? In what sense is Darwin’s theory of evolution a theory? In what sense is genetics a science? Does biology have laws in the same way that physics has laws? What are the roles of metaphor and models in biological reasoning? What is the role of experiment?  How do biologists set up taxonomies? How do they offer explanations? How shall we understand the relation between biology, and physics and chemistry? When science deals with complex phenomena, what becomes of the relation between prediction and description? What ethical obligations do scientists (and in particular) biologists have? Should we assume that scientific knowledge must supplant the wisdom of traditional societies about how to live on the earth, or should we look for ways of combining traditional knowledge and scientific theories? To address the last issue, we will focus on the environmental importance of trees, using Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement as a case study.

 

PHIL 453, Nature in Aristotle and His Predecessors

Mark Sentesy

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ancient; Metaphysics-Epistemology

It has often been said that the Greeks discovered the study of Nature. Nature is an unusual object of inquiry and names a particular way of experiencing phenomena. Its discovery coincided with the Greek birth of philosophical thinking. How and why did Nature emerge as an all-pervasive concern, and how did the Greeks shape how we think nature? The course explores these questions through Greece’s paradigmatic philosopher of nature, Aristotle, against the background of the pre-Socratic physicists he engages.

The course opens with background, inquiring into several key moments in pre-Aristotelian philosophy of nature – the idea that events are governed by non-intentional principles, that there is a single fundamental principle of all phenomena, the concept of dynamic structure, that nothing can be truly created or destroyed, that change disperses being.  The course then turns to a close reading of Aristotle’s Physics, where we examine, for example, the argument for the plurivocity of being, the relationships between nature, singular being, and ‘essence,’ the defense of the existence of change, the sort of reality that belongs to chance and automaticity, his watershed arguments that materiality and place exist, and that events occur because of structure and orientation (i.e., telos).

Depending on student interest, we may turn to Aristotle’s concept of life and his account of the gradual emergence of living structure (epigenesis). This would take us into his biological works, parts of which remained unsurpassed until the 19th century. The course requires close reading of the ancients, but we shall occasionally also read secondary literature, for example, Heidegger’s argument that Aristotle determines the path for thinking nature for the West while simultaneously revealing ways of experiencing natural phenomena that were left behind and set aside.

 

PHIL 474, Kant's Moral Philosophy

Uygar Abaci

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Modern; Ethics

This course aims to offer a comprehensive survey of Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. Kant lays the theoretical foundations of a major normative theory: deontology. On the broadest level, we will examine how Kant’s version of deontology compares to the other two major normative theories in the history of ethics, virtue ethics and consequentialism, and how it offers solutions to the structural problems in the latter. Such a comparative outlook requires a careful and intensive analysis of the central ideas and doctrines in Kant’s moral philosophy, in both the chronological and logical order of their development in his practical texts. We will start with the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785) with a view to understanding the fundamental framework Kant offers for an ethical system based on the idea of universalizable rationality in the context of a moral community as the source of the normative force of the moral law and practical reason. We will see how Kant develops this framework by way of introducing into it the idea of the highest good, the ultimate object of the moral community, and incorporating it into his system of “critical philosophy” in the Critique of Practical Reason (1788). His Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason (1793) will help us understand his doctrine of evil and refined position on human freedom. Finally, we will study Kant’s “Doctrine of Virtue” in the Metaphysics of Morals (1795) and the most developed picture Kant’s theory presents with regard to specific virtues and duties. In discussing these canonical texts, we will focus on Kant’s doctrines of practical reason, human freedom, good and evil, community, the role of God in ethical life, and the ultimate end of morality.

 

PHIL 520, Logic

David Agler

Passing this course with a B or better grade fulfills 1/2 of the language-logic requirement

Logic is of interest to philosophers, mathematicians, linguists, psychologists, computer scientists, and others. This course focuses on the areas of logic that have been traditionally of interest to philosophers. It will begin with an overview of propositional and first-order predicate logic before turning to predicate logic with identity and functions, the treatment of definite descriptions, and modal propositional and modal predicate logic. Additional topics may include the logic of counterfactuals, second-order predicate logic, metatheory, free logic, relevance logic, temporal and deontic logics, many-valued logics, criticisms of logic, and the logics of vagueness (e.g. supervaluationism). At the end of the semester, participants will be fluent in logic to a degree that will allow them to read philosophical texts that engage with, or are informed by, advancements in logic. This course will also examine pedagogical issues in teaching/tutoring symbolic logic at the undergraduate level, including (but not limited to) textbook selection, course instruction, accomodating students with math-related or visual disabilities, teaching online, etc. Prior training in symbolic logic is helpful but not required.

 

PHIL 555, Modern Philosophy Seminar: German Idealism

Brady Bowman

Possible course requirements fulfilled: 19th Century; Metaphysics-Epistemology

German Idealism is a unified movement that emerged in the 1790s and quickly became consolidated around a handful of common commitments: the reality of freedom and the “primacy of the practical,” the foundational status of subjectivity, the unity and intelligibility of being, the systematic nature of philosophical knowledge, and a methodology wedding morphogenetic construction to dialectical criticism. Hegelian philosophy represents an innovative variation on patterns of thought already well-established by Fichte and Schelling prior to Hegel’s relatively late emergence onto the philosophical stage. Accordingly, the early weeks of the semester will be devoted to discussion of texts by Jacobi, Fichte, and Schelling that define the post-Kantian agenda. Major points of agreement as well as divergence (e.g. the debate concerning the compatibility of freedom with systematicity or the applicability of “transcendental” methodology in the philosophy of nature) will be identified; and the genesis of a recognizably “dialectical” method will also be traced from the early Fichte through Schelling’s “history of self-consciousness.” On this basis, we will turn to Hegel in the latter half of the semester to consider the critical function, methodology, and systematic organization of his first major work, the Phenomenology of Spirit, before examining key selections from the works of his philosophical maturity, especially the Science of Logic and the Encyclopedia.

The course will thus acquaint students with the background and the basic texts in the development of German Idealism. 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 558, Contemporary Philosophy Seminar: The Critique of the Critique

Eduardo Mendieta

Possible course requirements fulfilled: 20th Century; Metaphysics-Epistemology

Postcolonial and decolonial thinking can and should be understood as forms of immanent critique, logos working upon logos, which uses a variety of philosophical methods and approaches, in order to illuminate the very limits of critique and thus clear the way for ‘transcendence from within.’ Thus, they are exemplars of the ceaseless work of [dialectical] reason and part of what they do, at the very minimum, is to catalogue the different forms in which extant forms of critique, from within and about the so-called “West” and its “Others,” have been insufficient, at best, or blinded by a variety of assumptions that blunt the incisiveness of critique, at worst. We will study closely five critiques: Gayatri Spivak’s Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Achille Mbembe’s Critique of Black [Nègre] Reason, Santiago Castro-Gómez’s Critique of Latin American Reason, Kristie Dotson’s Varieties of Epistemic Oppression (forthcoming), and Walter Mignolo’s The Darker Side of Western Modernity. The aim is to discern to what extent these critiques are not simply “critical critiques” but part of the “critique of critical critique,” to paraphrase Marx and Engels’s subtitle to the Holy Family. We will begin with a consideration of the role and meaning of “critique” in Kant, Hegel, Marx, Adorno, Sartre, Foucault and Jaeggi [we will read condensed and selected passages], in order to venture a typology of modes of critique, so as to approach the work of the critique of the critique.

 

PHIL 564, Major Figures in Twentieth Century Philosophy, Derrida: Deconstruction in Theory and Practice

Leonard Lawlor

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Continental; 20th Century

The general aim of this course lies in achieving a comprehensive understanding of Derrida’s extensive philosophical work. The core of this aim will be to examine what Derrida has called deconstruction. To this end, we shall examine a handful of Derrida’s early writings such “The Ends of Man,” “Violence and Metaphysics,” Voice and Phenomenon, and “Signature, Event Context.” Then in the second half of the course, we shall examine “Force of Law,” Given Time, and his writings on hospitality and forgiveness. The more specific aim of the course will be the attempt to discover whatever sort of ethics deconstruction implies. In other words, we shall try to understand what Derrida means when he says, “I am ultra-Kantian. I am Kantian, but I am more than Kantian” (in “On Forgiveness: A Roundtable Discussion with Jacques Derrida,” in Questioning God, eds., John D. Caputo, Mark Dooley, and Michael J. Scanlon. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), pp. 52-72, in particular. P. 66).

PHIL 597, Critiques of Captialism: Marx and Beyond

Amy Allen

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Continental Philosophy; Ethics

An understanding of capitalism is crucial for developing a critique of our present, which is so powerfully shaped by the forces of a globalized, neoliberal form of finance capitalism. The aim of this class is to give students an analytically precise understanding of capitalism and to study a variety of classical and contemporary critical theories of it. We will start, of course, with several weeks on Marx, considering his critiques of alienation, exploitation, and capitalism’s crisis tendencies, and the complex relationship between these three modes of critique in Marx’s work. We will then study classical critiques of capitalism by Max Weber and Karl Polanyi; consider the relationship between capitalism and (post)colonialism; and discuss contemporary critiques of neoliberalism and the politics of debt. In addition to readings by Marx, Weber, and Polanyi, the course will cover work by authors such as Emmanuel Wallerstein, Samir Amin, Anibal Quijano, Enrique Dussel, Luc Boltanski, Nancy Fraser, Rahel Jaeggi, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Michel Foucault, Wendy Brown, and Rocío Zambrana. The course is designed to give students the theoretical and methodological tools they will need to incorporate a critical analysis of capitalism into their own research.  (Continental Philosophy; Ethics)

 

Of related interest:

 

AFAM 502 - Blacks and African Diaspora

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

 

AFAM 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.

 

BIOET 502, Macro-Perspectives and Methods in Bioethics: Public Health Ethics

Jonathan Marks

The course encompasses 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 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.  The content of the course may change from year to year, and will be tailored to the expertise of the instructor, and the disciplines and interests of the students in the seminar.

 

WMNST 507, Feminist Theory

Development of feminist theory and its relationship to history in terms of critique of family, sexuality, and gender stratification.

WMNST 508, Feminist Methodolgy

The objective of this course is to examine feminist approaches to traditional research methodologies. The course will examine the animated and contentious debates among feminist scholars about what constitutes a feminist method. Although there is no single feminist method, this diverse academic community is searching for techniques consistent with their convictions as feminists. For this reason, the course will distinguish between methods, as tools for research, and methodology, as theory about the research process. The course reviews methods such as ethnography, interviewing, oral history, discourse analysis, visual analysis, and mixed method approaches.


WMNST 597/AFAM 597, Special Topics "Black Womanist/Feminist"

No description available


Fall 2018

 

PHIL 409, Aesthetics: The Aesthetic, Photography, and Practices of Othering

Mariana Ortega

Possible course requirements fulfilled: 20th Century

Aesthetics has traditionally been associated with disinterestedness or a neutral, apolitical approach to questions pertaining the nature of taste, beauty and sublimity. Nevertheless, it is deeply intertwined with technologies of power and practices of othering. This course studies the relation between the aesthetic, technologies of power, practices of othering, and the reign of the visual in the construction and representation of the racialized and gendered subject. In particular, we will investigate the way in which photography marks as well as produces the othered, abject subject and is thus complicit with the violence—epistemic, aesthetic, cultural—that arises from such representation. Lastly, we will consider practices of countervisuality or ways in which the photographic may be enlisted in resistant representations of racialized and gendered subjects. In this last section of the course, particular attention will be given to countervisuality as related to representations of Latinidad.

  

PHIL 478, Ethics After the Holocaust

Nicolas de Warren

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics; Continental Philosophy; Critical Philosophy of Race; 20th Century 

Can humanity experience an historical rupture of such an ethical magnitude that we no longer understand what it is to be human, whether there still is a God, and how we might still co-exist politically and ethically in peace? This course explores various philosophical responses to this basic question in the aftermath of the Holocaust. This exploration begins with the question of naming itself: can we even name this unspeakable catastrophe – Auschwitz, the Shoah, the Holocaust? Can we even think, let alone speak the philosophical significance and consequence of the Holocaust? In light of this question, this course explores the meaning of ethical testimony, mourning, representation, theological redemption, gratuitous suffering (torture), moral atrocity, and absolute evil in the writings of Arendt, Agamben, Levinas, Jonas, Lyotard, Levi, Blanchot, and others.  

 

PHIL 503, Ethics Seminar

John Christman

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics

This course is designed to support students’ efforts to become competent in “mainstream” ethical theories and controversies.  The class will focus on both standard normative ethical frameworks (utilitarianism, Kantianism, virtue, and care) as well as meta-ethical issues, with specific attention to foundational philosophical texts by thinkers such as Aristotle, Hume, and Kant.  In addition, discussion of critical responses to these traditions will be threaded throughout the course, responses motivated for example by considerations of gender, race, and identity.

 

PHIL 508, Social and Political Philosophy Seminar: The Ethics of Migration

Desiree Lim

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics; 20th Century

How should states treat immigrants and would-be immigrants?  On what grounds can immigration be justly restricted, and through what means?  This course engages with these complex questions by offering a broad overview of key issues in the ethics of migration and their relation to public policy.  Guided by the tools of contemporary political philosophy, you will reflect closely upon a series of pressing issues including the basis of the state’s right to exclude non-citizens, the prospect of open borders and their tensions with egalitarian justice, the idea of human right to free movement, and the rights of refugees and undocumented migrants.

 

PHIL 539, Critical Philosophy of Race

Robert Bernasconi

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Critical Philosophy of Race; 19th Century

When and how were the dominant understandings of racism(s) formed and to what extent were these accounts of racism deployed to conceal the genesis of structural racism as a global phenomenon? More simply, whose interests did these accounts of racism serve? By examining the ways in which  travel reports, legal documents, court cases, and statistics were used as instruments intended to shape the process of racialization of modernity, the course will demonstrate how a genealogical approach to the concepts of race and of racism can perform a critical function in the understanding of racism(s) today. We will first examine how, among Europeans, legally enshrined racial and religious designations were connected until, especially in the context of North American slavery, the possibility of religious conversion separated religion from race with implications that are still felt today in debates about whether antisemitism and Islamophobia should be thought of as racisms. We will next investigate how concerns about racial/religious purity in the early modern period in Spain and in Mexico were transformed as people appealed to biology to justify more stringent restrictions on marriage until the introduction in the United States of the one drop rule and the adoption, most notably in Nazi Germany, of eugenic sterilizations. In this part of the course we will also look both at how slavery has impacted accounts of gender (Spillers, Hartman) and at how the very different attitudes to race mixing at different times and in different parts of the world shaped discussions of race leading to the strange anomaly whereby there are some people who can travel by plane from East to West one can be white, métisse, and Black all on the same day (Jared Sexton). Thirdly, by highlighting the shifting census categories used in the United States, India, Mexico, and South Africa we will look to identify why at different times certain specific racial labels were promoted above others and how those labels impacted shifting citizenship qualifications, whether defined by descent, territory, or language. In this context we will look at how beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing to the present day attempts have been made to frame immigration policies in an effort to racialize specific populations. Throughout the course we will include the study of brief selections from more theoretical texts with the aim of showing how various thinkers by their conceptual innovations have helped to transform how the material conditions came to be seen. The authors to be investigated include: John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Saul Ascher, Ottobah Cugoano, Arthur de Gobineau, Antenor Firmin, Antonio Garcia Cubas, Eugen Dühring, W. E. B. Du Bois, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, C. L. R. James, Steve Biko, and Angela Davis. Students will be encouraged to bring their own areas of expertise to bear in broadening the discussion and in relating these various genealogies to current racisms.

 

PHIL 553, Early Greek Philosophy: On Disciplinary Origins

Christopher Moore

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ancient

We will study the fragments of the sixth- and fifth-century bce thinkers called phusiologoi/phusikoi/philosophountes by Aristotle (e.g., Pherecydes, Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus) and sophistai by Plato (e.g., Protagoras, Prodicus, Thrasymachus, Gorgias, Hippias), with an eye to their methods, concerns, and other distinguishing features of their practices. Since the fourth-century bce, some of these thinkers have been grouped as “early Greek philosophers” because later philosophoi considered them their direct disciplinary forebears, others because they shared materially in the interests, practices, and conversations of such people. Our study requires attending to related Greek intellectual practices, including medicine, constitutional reform, and myth-rectification. It also requires knowing something of the intellectual practices of neighboring societies, including the astronomy, cosmogony, mathematics, and record-keeping of Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt, which influenced the Greeks, as well as appreciating the rise of cognate traditions in India and China. These contexts will help us to ask, of the Greek situation, about the position of ethical reflection and political critique in the holistic practice of theoria; our thinkers’ consciousness of argumentative structures and dialectical engagement; their practice of “ways of life”; their investigation into selfhood and its relation to knowledge and other normative notions; and the use of fragments of ancient Greeks by later authors. They will also help us to ask, more generally, about the significance, if any, of our studying early Greek philosophy; the notion of culturally-bound disciplinary “origins”; and the meaning of the practice of the history of philosophy. Thus, this class has three goals – (i) Instrumental: it will help students gain firsthand understanding of a group of thinkers who have been discussed “philosophically” or otherwise by “philosophical” writers for the past 2400 years; (ii) Exemplary: the Greek case is a useful one for thinking through the global phenomenon of disciplinary formation; and (iii) Intrinsic: the authors studied here reward and even refine the skills of close investigation and cross-domain thinking familiar to students of philosophy.


BIOET 540, Bioethics/Biopower

Charles Scott

Possible course requirements fulfilled: Ethics; 20th Century

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 meanings of bios (life) and ethos (ways people live together) 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 and always involve issues of power.

The primary purposes of the seminar will be: 1. 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, and 2. to engage the questions: how might we speak of the unspeakable and cultivate awareness of the ways lineages ineffably permeate and function in our individual and collective lives?  How far can specialized knowledge go as we think of the ways we live together and those dimensions of living that go beyond the reach of rationality and norms?  How might we put in question the boundaries established by our individual identities?  In this context we will consider works by Michel Foucault and Gloria Anzaldúa.

We will pay special attention to Foucault’s account of “unreason” in Madness and Civilization and to the historical formations of such institutions as asylums, systems of justice, and prisons.  And we will pay special attention to Anzaldúa’s Light in the Dark/ Luz en lo Ascuro and her experience of “nepantla” in the context of unsayables and transformation of identities.

The seminar will be taught interactively with emphasis on focused attention to assigned material and discussion that arises out of our engagement with that material.  Students will be encouraged to bring to bear their specific disciplinary interests in both the discussions and their term papers.

 

Of related interest:

 

AFAM 501 - Seminar in African American Studies

Abraham Khan

A survey of the academic field of African American Studies.

 

AFAM 597 - Special Topics "Race and the Health Sciences"

David McBride

No description is available for this course yet.

 

BIOET 501, Perspectives and Methods in Bioethics

Jonathan Marks

This course explores the broad range of disciplinary, theoretical, and methodological approaches employed in bioethics, and 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 and health humanities. 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 participants.  Students are also encouraged to enroll in the complementary course, BIOET 502 Spring 2019 Perspectives in Macro-Bioethics, which explores systemic and institutional perspectives, and focuses on public health ethics.

 

WMNST 502 - Global Perspectives on Feminism

Melissa Wright

Exploration of feminist issues in a global perspective, including debates in history, ethics, and political feminism.

 

WMNST 507 - Feminist Theory

Courtney Morris

Development of feminist theory and its relationship to history in terms of critique of family, sexuality, and gender stratification.

 

WMNST 516/HIST 516 - US Women's and Gender History

Lori Ginzberg

A critical analysis of gender and theories of gender in selected American historical contexts.

 

WMNST 522 - Gender and Sexuality

Hilary Malatino

This course offers students an interdisciplinary overview of the complex topics of gender and sexuality. Employing various theoretical and disciplinary perspectives including feminist and queer theory, historical and sociological perspectives, visual culture, and post-colonial discourse, this course gives students a broad understanding of key historical and contemporary issues in the arena of gender and sexuality. This course engages the following themes: gender and sexual identities; the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, race, and class; discourses of heteronormitivity & homonormativity; the body, body politics, and bodily violence; contemporary movements for gender and sexual justice; racial, gender and sexual politics; performances and representations of gender and sexuality; health and medicalization; global LGBTA human rights issues; the (re)production of gender and sexual difference; labors of gender and sexuality; and the relationship between gender, sexuality and the State. Students in this course will develop a keen understanding of how these themes operate in the discourse of gender and sexuality. Throughout this course, students will examine a variety of diverse texts—theoretical, historical ethnographic, literary, visual, and sonic—to gain a comprehensive introduction to the topic of gender and sexuality. This graduate seminar emphasizes discussion, writing, and research.

 

WMNST 542/C I 542 Girls' Cultures and Popular Cultures

Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

The study of girls and their relationship with popular culture lies within the interdisciplinary field of Girlhood Studies which draws on established areas of Women’s Studies, Children’s / Childhood studies, Cultural Studies and Educational Studies. This seminar explores girls’ cultures in different textual and material forms including books, toys, magazines, and new media.

Students will employ feminist cultural theories to compare historical and contemporary girls cultures in relation to educational research and practice. This will provide a framework to locate girls at the center of research and action in order for graduate students to engage in methodologies that are not simply about girls but “for”, “with” and “by” girls. Key topics include the misperception of girls (popular) culture as only a contemporary phenomenon, the role of girls as consumers plus producers of culture, and recurrent issues in girls cultures such as sexualization and hyperfeminity.


WMNST 550/AFR 550 African Feminisms

Alicia Decker

African feminisms are deeply rooted in the continent's rich historical traditions and diverse cultural contexts. In this interdisciplinary graduate seminar, students will become familiar with the theoretical frameworks that guide African feminist scholarship, as well as the activist histories from which they emerged. This course will consider the epistemological foundations of African feminist thought and how they differ from feminisms in other parts of the world. This course will also examine key areas of conjuncture - how African feminisms map on to larger transnational movements. Particular emphasis will be placed on the fluidity of African gender systems, the ways in which African women have negotiated politics, religion, militarism, sexuality, and violence, and the role of creativity, art, and beauty in nurturing and sustaining activist momentum. Students in the course can expect to engage with a number of different types of texts: documentaries, feature films, memoirs, novels, newspapers, scholarly books, and articles.

 

WMNST 597 - Special Topics "Feminist Pedagogies"

Jill Wood

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar introduces students to the theoretical, epistemological, and methodological foundations of feminist pedagogy. We will examine theoretical frameworks of teaching and learning that promote justice and social change (i.e. praxis), as well as feminist pedagogical strategies that can be utilized within and beyond the classroom (i.e. practice). Students can expect to engage with various critical and liberatory pedagogies, pedagogies of identity and difference, and signature pedagogies. They will learn how feminist epistemologies shape (and are shaped by) ethical classroom practice, focusing on specific ways in which to cultivate and nurture feminist teaching and learning. In addition, students will also learn how to develop a syllabus and teaching philosophy.

 

 

Spring 2018


PHIL 457, Topics in the 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, African 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.            

 

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.

 

WMNST 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.)