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Philosophy (Pl) Courses (2017-18)

Hum/Pl 40. Right and Wrong. 9 units (3-0-6): winter term. This course addresses questions such as: Where do our moral ideas come from? What justifies them? How should they guide our conduct, as individuals and as a society? What kind of person should one aspire to be? Topics the course may deal with include meta-ethical issues (e.g., What makes an action right or wrong? When is one morally responsible for one's actions? How should society be organized?) and normative questions (e.g., Is eating meat morally acceptable? What should we tolerate and why? What are society's obligations toward the poor?). In addition, the psychological and neural substrates of moral judgment and decision making may be explored. The course draws on a variety of sources, including selections from the great works of moral and political philosophy (e.g., Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, Hobbes's Leviathan, Kant's Groundings for a Metaphysics of Morals, and Rawls's A Theory of Justice), contemporary discussions of particular moral issues, and the science of moral thought. Instructor: Quartz.
Hum/Pl 41. Knowledge and Reality. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second and third terms. The theme of this course is the scope and limitations of rational belief and knowledge. Students will examine the nature of reality, the nature of the self, the nature of knowledge, and how we learn about the natural world. Students will be introduced to these issues through selections from some of the world's greatest philosophical works, including Descartes's Meditations, Pascal's Pensées, Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge, and Kant's Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics. A variety of more contemporary readings will also be assigned. Instructors: Babic, Hitchcock, Eberhardt.
Hum/Pl 42. Philosophy and Gender. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. This course discusses the metaphysics of gender and explores some of its social and political dimensions. The main intellectual approach is that of analytic philosophy, but source materials from other philosophical traditions and intellectual disciplines will be examined. The first part of the course examines various philosophical answers to the question: What makes someone a woman or a man (or both or neither)? The second part illustrates why the metaphysics matters: views about the nature of gender not only affect individuals' own senses of identity, but also have ramifications for politics, anthropology, history, psychology, and the arts. Instructor: Cowie.
Pl 90 ab. Senior Thesis. 9 units (1-0-8): . Required of students taking the philosophy option. To be taken in any two consecutive terms of the senior year. Students will research and write a thesis of 10,000-12,000 words on a philosophical topic to be determined in consultation with their thesis adviser. Limited to students taking the philosophy option. Instructor: Staff.
Pl 98. Reading in Philosophy. 9 units (1-0-8): . An individual program of directed reading in philosophy, in areas not covered by regular courses. Instructor: Staff.
Pl/Law 99. Causation and Responsibility. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course will examine the interrelationships between the concepts of causation, moral responsibility, and legal liability. It will consider legal doctrines of causation and responsibility, as well as attempts within philosophy to articulate these concepts. Questions to be addressed include: Can you be morally or legally responsible for harms that you do not cause? Is it worse to cause some harm, than to unsuccessfully attempt it? Is it justified to punish those who cause harm more severely than those who attempt harm? When, if ever, can the ends justify the means? What constitutes negligence? Is it worse to cause some harm, than to allow it to happen (when you could have prevented it)? Not offered 2017-18.
Pl 100. Free Will. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course examines the question of what it means to have free will, whether and why free will is desirable, and whether humans have free will. Topics may include historical discussions of free will from writers such as Aristotle, Boethius, and Hume; what it means for a scientific theory to be deterministic, and whether determinism is compatible with free will; the connection between free will and moral responsibility; the relationship between free will and the notion of the self; beliefs about free will; the psychology of decision making; and the insanity defense in law. Instructor: Hitchcock.
Pl 102. Selected Topics in Philosophy. 9 units (3-0-6): offered by announcement.
HPS/Pl/CS 110. Causation and Explanation. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. An examination of theories of causation and explanation in philosophy and neighboring disciplines. Topics discussed may include probabilistic and counterfactual treatments of causation, the role of statistical evidence and experimentation in causal inference, and the deductive-nomological model of explanation. The treatment of these topics by important figures from the history of philosophy such as Aristotle, Descartes, and Hume may also be considered. Instructor: Eberhardt.
HPS/Pl 120. Introduction to Philosophy of Science. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. An introduction to fundamental philosophical problems concerning the nature of science. Topics may include the character of scientific explanation, criteria for the conformation and falsification of scientific theories, the relationship between theory and observation, philosophical accounts of the concept of "law of nature," causation, chance, realism about unobservable entities, the objectivity of science, and issues having to do with the ways in which scientific knowledge changes over time. Instructor: Eberhardt.
HPS/Pl 122. Probability, Evidence, and Belief. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. Philosophical and conceptual issues arising from the study of probability theory and how it relates to rationality and belief. Topics discussed may include the foundations and interpretations of probability, arguments for and against the view that we ought to have personal degrees of belief, rational change in beliefs over time, and the relationship between probability and traditional epistemological topics like evidence, justification, and knowledge. Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 123. Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. This course will examine the philosophical foundations of the physical theories covered in the freshman physics sequence: classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and special relativity. Topics may include: the goals of physics; what laws of nature are; the unification of physical theories; symmetries; determinism; locality; the reality of fields; the arrow of time. Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 124. Philosophy of Space and Time. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course will focus on questions about the nature of space and time, particularly as they arise in connection with physical theory. Topics may include the nature and existence of space, time, and motion; the relationship between geometry and physical space (or space-time); entropy and the direction of time; the nature of simultaneity; and the possibility of time travel. Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 125. Philosophical Issues in Quantum Physics. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course will focus on philosophical and foundational questions raised by quantum physics. Questions may include: Is quantum mechanics a local theory? Is the theory deterministic or indeterministic? What is the role of measurement and observation? Does the wave function always obey the Schrödinger equation? Does the wave function give a complete description of the state of a system? Are there parallel universes? How are we to understand quantum probabilities? Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 128. Philosophy of Mathematics. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. An examination of conceptual issues that arise in mathematics. The sorts of issues addressed may include the following: Are mathematical objects such as numbers in some sense real? How do we obtain knowledge of the mathematical world? Are proofs the only legitimate source of mathematical knowledge? What is the relationship between mathematics and the world? How is it possible to apply abstract theory to the world? Views of major historical figures such as Plato, Hume, Kant, and Mill, as well as of contemporary writers are examined. The course will also examine philosophical issues that arise in particular areas of mathematics such as probability theory and geometry. Instructor: Hitchcock.
HPS/Pl 130. Philosophy and Biology. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. A selection of philosophical issues arising in the biological sciences. Topics will vary by term. Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 134. Current Issues in Philosophical Psychology. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. An in-depth examination of one or more issues at the intersection of contemporary philosophy and the brain and behavioral sciences. Topics may include the development of a theory of mind and self-representation, theories of representation and neural coding, the nature of rationality, the nature and causes of psychopathology, learning and innateness, the modularity of mind. Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 135. Moral Philosophy and the Brain. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. This course will examine the impact of recent advances in neuroscience on moral philosophy. Topics to be addressed include: the evolution of morality and a naturalistic perspective on ethics; the role of brain imaging in adjudicating between deontological vs. consequentialist perspectives on moral decision-making and judgment; the relation between virtue theory and habit systems in the brain; brain imaging of altruism and its implications for egoism, empathy, and moral motivation; moral agency and free will; the neuroscience of distributive justice; the debate regarding the normative significance of neuroscience for moral philosophy. Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 136. Happiness and the Good Life. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course will critically examine the emerging science of happiness and positive psychology, its philosophical assumptions, methodology, and its role in framing social policy and practice. Topics to be addressed include: the relation between happiness as subjective well-being or life satisfaction and philosophical visions of the good life; the relation between happiness and virtue; the causes of happiness and the role of life experience; happiness and economic notions of human welfare, attempts to measure happiness, and the prospect for an economics of happiness; happiness as a brain state and whether brain science can illuminate the nature of happiness; mental illness and psychiatry in light of positive psychology. Instructor: Quartz.
HPS/Pl 137. Minds, Brains, and Selves. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course will critically examine the impact of recent advances in psychology, economics, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience on philosophical questions about the nature of the self and self-identity. Topics to be addressed include: the nature of self-awareness; the role of the self in decision-making, reasoning, and planning; the possibility, and accuracy of, self-knowledge; whether the self is unitary, multiple, fragmented, or illusory; self-related emotions; the narrative structure of the self; and how selves are instantiated in neural tissue and whether selves could be instantiated in non-biological substrates (technological singularity). Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 138. Human Nature and Society. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course will investigate how assumptions about human nature shape political philosophy, social institutions, and social policy. The course will begin with a historical perspective, examining the work of such political philosophers as Plato, Locke, Rousseau, and Marx, along with such psychologists as Freud and Skinner. Against this historical perspective, it will then turn to examine contemporary views on human nature from cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology and explore their potential implications for political philosophy and social policy. Among topics to be discussed will be the nature of human sociality and cooperation; economic systems and assumptions regarding production and consumption; and propaganda, marketing, and manipulation. Instructor: Quartz.
HPS/H/Pl 157. The Mathematization of Natural Philosophy in 17th- and 18th-Century Europe. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. The mathematization of "natural philosophy" (namely, the discipline whose aim was to explain the causes of natural phenomena) in early-modern Europe is one of the deepest transformations in the history of scientific thought. In the 17th century a group of innovative mathematicians began to apply mathematics to the study of nature with unprecedented success. This innovative approach was often rejected and opposed, However, amongst its defenders it was unclear which mathematical methods could, and should, be deployed. The debate that ensued on the nature and aims of mathematized natural philosophy intersected with many philosophical themes. The course explores these debates by focusing on the positions held by some protagonists of the so-called scientific revolution, such as Galileo, Descartes, Huygens, Hooke, Newton, and Leibniz. Instructor: Guicciardini.
HPS/Pl 165. Selected Topics in Philosophy of Science. 9 units (3-0-6): Offered by announcement.. Instructors: Staff, visiting lecturers.
Pl/HPS 183. Bioethics. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. A survey of issues in bioethics. Topics may include: abortion and reproductive rights; euthanasia; cloning; genetic modification of organisms (including humans); moral status of chimeras; stem-cell research; organ transplantation, distribution and sale; cure vs. enhancement; use of human subjects in research; the concept of informed consent; research on non-human animals. Instructor: Cowie.
Pl 185. Moral Philosophy. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. A survey of topics in moral philosophy. The emphasis will be on metaethical issues, although some normative questions may be addressed. Metaethical topics that may be covered include the fact/value distinction; the nature of right and wrong (consequentialism, deontological theories, rights-based ethical theories, virtue ethics); the status of moral judgments (cognitivism vs. noncognitivism, realism vs. irrealism); morality and psychology; moral relativism; moral skepticism; morality and self-interest; the nature of justice. The implications of these theories for various practical moral problems may also be considered. Not offered 2017-18.
HPS/Pl 188. The Evolution of Cognition. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. By many measures, Homo sapiens is the most cognitively sophisticated animal on the planet. Not only does it live in a huge variety of habitats, and not only has it transformed its environment in unprecedented ways, but it is also responsible for such cultural artifacts as language, science, religion, and art. These are achievements that other species, however successful they may be in other respects, have not accomplished. This course investigates the cognitive, behavioral, and environmental bases for humans' surprising cultural dominance of our planet. Possible topics include the evolution of language, the evolution of morality, the evolution of religion, the evolution of cooperation, and the advent of technology, math, science, and the Internet. Contact the instructor to find out what the topic in any given term is. Instructor: Cowie.