(2010 Undergraduate Catalog)
Steven Sverdlik, Department Chair
Eric Barnes, Doug Ehring. Associate Professors:
Robert Howell, Steven Sverdlik, Brad Thompson. Assistant Professors:
Philippe Chuard, Justin Fisher, Soraya Gollop, Matthew Lockard, Luke Robinson. Lecturers:
Ken Daley, Giovanni Mion, Nenad Popovic. Adjunct Professors:
Scott Bartlett, Stephen Hiltz, Jean Kazez, James Lamb.
Requirements for the B.A. Degree.
At least 30 term hours in the department, including at least 21 term hours of advanced work (courses 3000 and above). The 30 hours must include PHIL 1301, 3351, 3352 and at least one course from the sequence PHIL 3310–3319. At least 12 hours of a foreign language are strongly recommended.
The Departmental Distinction Program.
Departmental distinction is awarded to philosophy majors graduating with at least a 3.5 GPA in philosophy and who successfully complete a writing project under the guidance of a faculty member.
Requirements for the Minor in Philosophy.
Students majoring in other departments may obtain a minor in philosophy. The minor will consist of 15 hours of work in the department. No more than six hours may be from 1000-level courses, and at least three hours must be chosen from PHIL 3351 or 3352. It is recommended that each student minoring in philosophy take one of the department’s general introductory courses.
Requirements for the Minor in Ethics.
Students majoring in departments other than the Philosophy Department may obtain a minor in ethics. The minor consists of at least 15 hours and must include PHIL 1305 or 1306; one of PHIL 1316, 1317 or 1318; and three from the sequence PHIL 3371–3381.
1300. An Introduction to Practical Reasoning.
Learning to analyze, evaluate and present information in order to better assess one’s own beliefs and to persuade others more effectively.
1301. Elementary Logic.
An introductory course in symbolic logic. Logic provides a means for determining whether the purported conclusion of an argument really does follow from the premises. In symbolic logic, mechanical procedures are developed for determining whether a given argument is valid. The techniques and skills acquired through logic have important applications not only within other academic areas such as the sciences and humanities but also within various professional areas such as law.
1305. Introduction to Philosophy.
A general introduction to the central questions of philosophy. Topics include the theory of knowledge, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, ethics and political philosophy. Typical questions might include: Can we know the world outside our minds? Is it rational to believe in a God who allows evil to exist? Do the laws of physics allow for human freedom? Is morality more than a matter of opinion? Can there be unequal wealth in a just society? Readings will include classical authors such as Plato, Descartes, Locke, Hume and Mill, as well as contemporary philosophers. The focus of the course will be on arguments for and against proposed solutions to key problems of philosophy.
1306. Introduction to Philosophy: Minds, Machines and Persons.
A focused introduction to the central questions of philosophy, with an emphasis on the mind and the self. Typical questions might include: Does the soul exist? Is the mind the same thing as the brain? Can animals feel pain? Can they think? Can a computer think? Might the mind be a computer? What is consciousness? Can we understand experiences radically different from our own? What is the self? Can we survive the death of our body? The focus of the course will be on arguments for and against proposed solutions to philosophical problems concerning mind, machines and persons.
1316. Introduction to Ethics.
An introduction to philosophical ethics focusing on questions in ethical theory. Topics vary, but the following are representative: Is morality merely conventional – and hence historically and culturally relative – or is there an objective morality? If there is an objective morality, what is its content? And what is its basis: reason, human nature or divine command? Why be moral? If the demands of morality conflict with our own self-interest, why should we comply with them? And what exactly is in our own self-interest: in what does human happiness or well-being consist? We will read, discuss and write about philosophical arguments for and against proposed answers to questions like these.
1317. Business Ethics.
A discussion of the moral and political issues surrounding a free-enterprise system. Students will be introduced to basic moral theory. Further topics will include distributive (or economic) justice; the moral preferability of capitalism and socialism; and selected concrete moral issues such as truth in advertising, worker safety and affirmative action.
1318. Contemporary Moral Problems.
An introduction to philosophical ethics focusing on questions in applied ethics. Students will explore ethical theories, philosophical methods and their application to some of the most controversial and pressing issues confronting contemporary society. Topics vary, but the following are representative: abortion, animal rights, affirmative action, capital punishment, economic justice, euthanasia, sexuality, war and terrorism, and world hunger. Class discussion is an important component of the course, as is reading and writing argumentative essays about these issues.
3301. Intermediate Logic.
Students are introduced to the formal theory of the logical systems they have already learned to use: namely, sentential logic and predicate logic. Students will learn to prove the completeness and soundness of both of these systems. In addition, they may also learn some simple nonstandard logical systems, such as modal, epistemic or deontic logic, if time permits. Prerequisite:
PHIL 1301 or its equivalent.
3302 (RELI 3302). Problems in the Philosophy of Religion.
The philosophy of religion, considering such problems as religious experience, human freedom, good and evil, belief in God, and immortality.Prerequisite:
3305. Philosophy and Gender.
A consideration of whether or not there are differences between the sexes; whether or not Western science, philosophy and ethics have been dominated by “male thinking;” and current issues such as pornography, censorship, rape, reproductive technologies, etc. Writings by feminist philosophers as well as their critics will be examined.
3310. Advanced Topics in Philosophy.
(May be repeated for credit.)
3311. Twentieth-Century Philosophical Analysis.
An examination of the method of philosophical analysis as practiced by such 20th-century philosophers as Moore, Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, Austin and others.
3312. Introduction to the Philosophy of Language.
A systematic treatment of such topics as the nature of linguistic reference, meaning, synonymity, truth, vagueness and metaphor. The course will also examine issues relating to the goals and methodology of linguistics, such as the status of semantic descriptions, and the “nature versus nurture” controversy in language-acquisition theories.
A systematic treatment of such topics as skepticism, analyses of factual knowledge, theories of epistemic justification, foundational versus coherence theories of knowledge, and the relationship between psychology and a philosophical account of knowledge.
A study to acquaint the student with traditional metaphysical issues such as the problem of universals, the existence of other minds, continuants, the mind-body problem and the existence of God.
3315. Philosophy of Mind.
A systematic treatment of the nature of consciousness, self and person.
3316. Minds, Brains, and Robotics.
Topics may include neural networks, artificial intelligence, perception and action, consciousness, robotics, dynamical systems, embodied cognition, game theory, and the evolution of cognition. Prerequisites:
Two courses in cognitive-science-related fields (philosophy, computer science, engineering, psychology, linguistics, biology or anthropology).
3333. Topics in Philosophy.
(May be repeated for credit.)
3351. History of Western Philosophy (Ancient).
A study of the major philosophers from Thales to Plotinus, including Plato and Aristotle.
3352. History of Western Philosophy (Modern).
This is a survey course in the history of modern philosophy. The modern period as we are considering it begins with Descartes; includes Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke and Hume; and ends with Kant. Many seminal writings on central areas of philosophy occurred in this period, and this course provides an introduction to, and background for, these areas. We will be examining key writings from major figures on such issues as: rationalism and empiricism, the nature of external reality and our knowledge of it, the existence and nature of God, the relation between mind and body, causation, induction, rationality and rational action, and the nature of morality and moral action. This course satisfies one part of the history requirement for philosophy majors and may be used to satisfy the history requirement for philosophy minors.
3362 (CF 3341). Creativity, Discovery and Science.
This course considers central issues in the history and philosophy of science with a special emphasis on the nature of creativity and discovery in scientific thought. General questions are: what is science, and what is the nature of scientific method? What is the nature of evidence and explanation in science? The course will address in some detail the question of how new ideas – such as theories and problem solutions – are produced and assessed in scientific thinking. Is creativity essentially a random or blind process, or is it rule-governed in some way? What is the nature of a scientific discovery? This course will combine literature in the history and philosophy of science together with psychological literature on the nature of creativity to answer these and other questions. No previous coursework in science is required, but students with some science background will be well equipped to appreciate the relevant issues.
3363 (CF 3308). Aesthetic Experience and Judgment.
A good deal of attention is devoted to these questions: What is beauty? Are there any standards or rules concerning what is beautiful? What is art? Why is art an important part of human culture? The course will also consider the role of emotion in art, the problem of correct interpretation and the nature of tragedy.
3364. Philosophy of Biology.
A survey of topics including evolution versus creationism, fitness, units of selection, adaptationism, biological taxonomy, evolution in humans, cultural evolution and niche construction. Prerequisite:
A background in philosophy or biology is strongly encouraged.
3366. Philosophy in Literature.
A nontechnical introduction to philosophy by an examination of traditional philosophical problems embodied in great works of fiction.
3370. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy.
A detailed study of selected major thinkers from the 19th century, such as Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Schoepenhauer, Fichte, Feuerbach and Marx.
3371 (CF 3342). Social and Political Philosophy.
This course will examine some of the basic questions in these fields, and the most important answers that have been given to them. Topics may vary, but typical questions include the following: What forms of government are most reasonable and morally defensible? Are citizens in a modern state normally obligated to obey the law? What is justice, and how might it be embodied in a system of government? Are there such things as "natural rights" and how do we know about them? What is the basis for saying that we have rights to freedom of speech and religion? When, if ever, is it legitimate for a state to go to war? These questions have been asked since antiquity, and we will be looking at the important answers that have been given to them since then.
3373. Punishment and Responsibility.
By what right does society punish some people? What is the correct amount of punishment? Who ought to be punished? Various philosophical responses to these questions are examined. Other topics include the morality of capital punishment, excuse and justification, the morality of self defense, and the justifiability of punishing “self-regarding” acts such as drug use.
3374 (CF 3307). Philosophy of Law.
An examination of central questions in philosophy of law. Topics vary, but the following are representative: What is law? What is the relationship between law and morality? To what extent may or must judges make value judgments in deciding what the law is? To what extent can or should “legislative intent” or “original meaning” constrain judicial interpretation of constitutional provisions? Whom should we punish, why should we punish them and how much should we punish them?
3375. Topics in Moral Philosophy.
A topics offering that seeks to take advantage of the wide variety of issues that can be fruitfully explored in a course on moral philosophy. (May be repeated for credit.)
An examination of ethical questions arising within medical practice, medical research, and the life sciences.
3377 (CFA 3377).
Animal Rights. An examination of the moral status of nonhuman animals, and its implications for the common use of animals as food and experimental subjects for humans.
3379. Environmental Ethics.
A course exploring our ethical obligations concerning the natural world. Topical issues like climate change, endangered species, recycling and the population explosion are covered from a variety of philosophical perspectives.
3380. Ethical Theory.
An examination of the more fundamental – and more abstract – questions in philosophical ethics. Topics vary, but the following are representative: What is the "good life": in what does human happiness or well-being consist? What is truly worth valuing: are pleasure, knowledge and virtue valuable in themselves? What are the basic principles that determine or govern our moral rights and obligations? Are moral judgments descriptions of some features of the world, or are they merely expressions of approval and disapproval? If they are descriptions of the world, what features of it do they describe? How do we know whether an action is morally right or wrong? We will explore questions like these through a close and critical examination of classical and contemporary works in philosophical ethics.
3382. Twentieth-Century European Philosophy.
An examination of some methods and principles of European philosophies in the 20th century. Philosophical schools studied include the following: phenomenology, existentialism, neo-Kantianism, life-philosophy, hermeneutics and neo-Marxist critical theory.
3383. American Philosophy.
Historical development and contemporary themes in American philosophy. Varying emphasis may be placed on trends (e.g., pragmatism), historical figures (e.g., Dewey), or influential contemporary figures (e.g., Quine).
4381. Philosophy in the Iber-American World.
A survey of Latin American philosophy as it relates to the social and cultural development of Latin America. (SMU-in-Madrid only)
4393, 4394. Independent Study and Research.
Special topics to be selected by the student in consultation with the department. Prerequisites: Senior standing and departmental approval.
An explication of the main features, concepts and methods of phenomenology, and its relation to the history and problems of philosophy and other disciplines. Prerequisite:
PHIL 3352 or permission of instructor.
6311, 6312. Philosophical Studies.
Independent work on special topics.