Jan 17, 2021  
Catalogue 2020-2021 
    
Catalogue 2020-2021
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PHIL 105 - Philosophical Questions

Semester Offered: Fall and Spring
1 unit(s)
Topic for 2020/21a: Life, Death, and Justice. In this course, we study some of the hidden or unquestioned philosophical assumptions that underlie much of our lives and social practices, particularly those surrounding justice and injustice. We begin with the early dialogues of Plato discussing the philosophical themes surrounding the trial and death of Socrates. From Plato, we turn to a contemporary dialogue on the nature of personhood. We then turn to the role that mortality plays in bringing meaning to our lives. In the second half of the course, we investigate the philosophical assumptions surrounding our practices of crime and punishment. The issues include whether humans have free will, whether moral and criminal responsibility depends on freedom of the will, and whether it is possible to create a social world in which wrongdoing is not punished morally or legally. The central goal of the course is to teach you to a) think about issues clearly and methodically, b) formulate and challenge a philosophical idea and argument, and c) submit your ideas to extensive critique. This course is multimedia, including readings, podcasts, and film. Barry Lam.

Topic for 2020/21a: In this course we read several classical philosophical works that represent different, competing visions of what it is to live well. Through reading these works, we see how the following issues are interrelated: What are the most fundamental kinds of things that exist? What can we know and how can we know it? How should we live? Assignments include three essays of medium length and weekly online comment and response assignments. Bryan Van Norden.

Topic for 2020/21b: Life & Death. In this course we study, evaluate, and develop a set of interconnected puzzles, claims, and philosophical arguments about the nature of life and death and their ethical significance. People die. But what, exactly, is death? What is a person? What is it for a person to cease to be? How drastically can a person change without ceasing to be? Why do we value our continued existence? Is death a harm to the person who dies? If so, what does the harm consist in? Should we prefer never to die? Can changing our views about what persons are change our attitudes towards death? These questions lead us from the theoretical domain to the practical. We can and do bring persons into existence. Should we? What considerations are relevant to deciding? Is it permissible to end a person’s life? If so, in what circumstances? Do we owe things to the dead? Do we owe things to persons who are not yet alive? In pursuing answers to these questions, our purpose is also to master the art of philosophical debate: to reconstruct and assess arguments charitably, precisely, and clearly, and to formulate good objections and counterarguments. Work consists in in-­class discussion and short essay assignments, with particular attention to the goals and norms of argument-­driven writing. Matt Moss.

Two 75-minute periods.

Course Format: CLS



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