GenEd Resources

Philosophy BA Program Learning Outcomes

Every philosophy course must use at least one of the program learning outcomes.

  • Outcome 1: Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

General Education Refresh Course Learning Outcomes & Other Requirements

 

Course Description

Introduces students to philosophy through the representation in film of some central philosophical questions. Students view and consider selected films through the lens opened by relevant philosophical readings.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives: Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes

Students will demonstrate competency in critical thinking and analysis of philosophical texts.

Students will obtain facility with philosophical writing in particular, emphasizing clarity of thought, valid and sound argumentation, the ¿principle of charity¿ with respect to disagreement, and the careful consideration of objections.

Students will gain comfort in the discussion and critical evaluation of films, learning to interrogate the intellectual underpinnings of movies in discussion, presentation, and writing

Course Objectives

  1. Write a sound philosophy paper.
  2. Apply philosophical principles to real-world cases.
  3. “Read” films for their thematic elements, and their philosophical aspects. 
  4. Develop appreciation for the huge varieties of cinematic styles and goals. 
  5. Practice presentation skills and attention to audience, in both written and spoken word. 

Signature Assignment

The signature assignment of this course is the final paper. Students are free to choose (and change) their main writing topic over the course of the semester. Any weekly topic is a suitable basis for a topic.  The course is designed for the slow development of a long-term project. This starts with discussion posts, where students have the opportunity to try out various ideas. These ideas should identify philosophical themes drawn from one or more of the movies and readings in the class. One of these ideas becomes the basis for an in-class presentation, which takes the role of a mid-term in the course structure. This presentation is fairly short — perhaps 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the class — but also involves submitting a written set of notes showing the development of a topic and attention to the audience of the presentation (their own classmates). With feedback, this then forms the basis of a short essay. Students are encouraged at all stages to begin with a clear philosophical thesis: a philosophical thesis is a claim that is interesting, contestable, and pursued through argument. This differs from empirical or factual theses, and also from personal reflections or reactions. Potential philosophical theses associated with each film in the course are developed in the assigned academic readings, as well as course discussion. For instance, a movie like The Father raises philosophical questions about personal identity: at what point, if ever, do changes in a person render them a new person? We will consider various philosophical positions on each question that students may wish to support, deny, or revise in their writing project. With further feedback, and the opportunity for in-class discussion, this essay can then be expanded and revised into a revised form, which is the culminating project of the class. 

Course Description

What is sex? Is it a mere accident that the English term “sex” refers to both an activity and a system of categorization? How does sex relate to gender and love, and how might the experiences of queer and trans people both complicate and illuminate these connections? What counts as having sex in the first place, and what counts as having good sex? How should we think about consent, desire, objectification, and sexualization in connection to sexual autonomy and gender equality? This course surveys these central questions about sex, gender, and love, and in so doing, aims to introduce students to the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of social philosophy.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives: Humanist

Attribute(s): Diversity & Equity: US Context

Learning Outcomes

Philosophy Program Learning Outcome. Students will demonstrate competency in critical thinking and analysis of philosophical texts.

Course Objectives

PHIL 130 will achieve these learning outcomes by equipping students with the conceptual and analytical tools that will enable them to:

  • Explain leading philosophical accounts of sex, gender, and love;
  • Critically engage conceptual and analytical questions about sex, gender, and love from a philosophical—a humanist—perspective;
  • Construct original, well-reasoned arguments and analyses in response to pressing issues of justice in and about sex, gender, and love; and
  • Reflect on the ways in which philosophical analysis and contemporary social justice movementsespecially the feminist and the LGBTQ+ rights movements in the United States—shed novel light on each other.

Signature Assignment

  • For the signature assignment, students will be invited to engage seriously and analytically with queer trans women’s writings on sex, gender, and love through a medium of their choice. For Spring 2024, students will focus on perhaps the most influential work on trans women’s sexuality in recent memory—the late Mira Bellwether’s beautiful 2010 zine Fucking Trans Women (FTW). That said, you are also encouraged to bring in additional authors and put their work in dialogue with Bellwether’s.
  •  
  • Students will be given the option between designing their own creative project in consultation with the instructor (examples could include a podcast episode, a video essay, a creative adaptation, a short story, and so many more) and writing a more traditional analytical essay. Both options are equally substantive, but will allow students to further explore our core course themes in a way that reflects their own unique interests and talents.

Course Description

This course examines fundamental questions about our existence and our place in the universe. Questions such as the following will be examined from a philosophical perspective: Is the mind the same as the brain, or are we something else? Does free-will exist? What, if anything, can we know with certainty? We will explore traditional and contemporary debates about these issues while developing clear, methodical reasoning about how we might go about trying to answer them.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives: Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand some of the most historically significant philosophical positions on human persons and their relationship to the universe at large
  • Acquire ability, through close reading, to analyze and critically evaluate textual arguments for philosophically systematic views 
  • Acquire ability to develop written accounts of others’ philosophical positions 
  • Acquire ability to develop a philosophical thesis and write a cogent argumentative essay in support of that thesis

Course Objectives

•    Understand and classify a variety of philosophical positions in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of religion and other central philosophical subfields.
•    Recognize and identify the key features of philosophical arguments on topics such as freedom of the will, the existence of God, and the nature of the mind.
•    Summarize and clarify concepts central to important philosophical debates.
•    Develop clarity in writing and thought about complicated and abstract concepts.
•    Discern and appreciate different philosophical approaches and the contributions those approaches have made towards furthering the dialectic.
•    Draft a carefully constructed paper clarifying, analyzing, and ultimately evaluating philosophical ideas, positions, and arguments.
•    Identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Signature Assignment

All assignments in the course will be aimed at addressing different student learning objectives, whether it’s through peer-to-peer discussion, informal short reading responses, or quizzes based off of the reading.

The signature assignment will be the term paper, a longer analysis of one of the topics covered during the course. Students will be strongly encouraged to use one of the previous, smaller writing assignments as a starting point. In light of feedback students received on those papers, they can engage in the process of editing and re-writing to more clearly express their own arguments. 

This process has two benefits that might not be explicitly emphasized in the course material: (1) the editing process is integral to clear, coherent writing and editing in response to feedback is a very useful skill to learn, and (2) it encourages students to re-visit the ideological positions they took in their paper, allowing them to re-evaluate in light of feedback (just as one might if one offered a philosophical argument against their view), and opens the possibility of changing their position, even if just slightly, to accommodate objections, or answer those objections. This process is integral to the methodology of philosophy, and perhaps to critical thinking more generally.

More specifically, the paper will be a four page paper that aims to explore one of the arguments covered during the course. It will require the following components:

  1. Exposition: clearly describing in their own words a view or argument offered by one of the philosophers we covered. This includes not only being able to introduce the surrounding topic, but also understanding the text well enough that the student can explain it clearly and succinctly.

     

  2. Analysis & Objection: This involves a close examination of the argument or view under consideration and offering an objection the view. Whether this is questioning one of the premises of the argument, pointing out that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises, or providing a counterexample to the theory offered. This is crucially important to philosophy, and also helps the student develop their ability to assess difficult, technical material.
  3.  Defense/Response: After considering an objection to the view, the student must evaluate whether they think that the argument can withstand the objection by providing a rebuttal, or whether the objection warrants changing the view/theory, or makes it completely untenable. 

As you can see from this description, this assignment nicely encapsulates many of the skills philosophers view as central to their discipline. Specifically, students will be able to develop their abilities (among others):

  • To analyze and evaluate complex problems, and engineer creative solutions to those problems. 
  • To develop systematic, coherent arguments for one’s views.
  • To appreciate, evaluate, and understand the views of others.

To think, speak, and write clearly and critically.

Catalog Description:
Students will explore the nature of morality in general and examine opposing sides of particular moral debates. Topics may include: abortion, animal rights, the ethics of immigration, genetic enhancement, and euthanasia. This course aims to help students become more reflective and open-minded about morality, while also providing them with the skills to successfully defend their own moral beliefs.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:

REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of Humanists, using evidence to critically analyze questions and arguments, and consider contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges. (EP Humanist)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Being able to describe and discuss the various moral perspectives featured in the course, including perspectives on specific and on general moral issues.

Being able to apply these theories to various moral issues.

Being able to compare the theories and assess their relative merits according to relevant philosophical standards.

Being able to compose a clear and well-structured essay, suitable for the discipline of philosophy.

Course Objectives:

Students will acquire knowledge of some of the central questions, views, and different perspectives in moral philosophy, and they will do this by engaging with those questions in a way that helps them critically reflect about their own views about the issues. They will develop and sharpen their ability to analyze and assess philosophical arguments in a way that will help them reflect about and communicate their own ideas more effectively—an important skill for the study of philosophy, but it is also important for any intellectual pursuit whatsoever.

Students will acquire these skills through both sessions attended by all their peers led by their professor and smaller discussion groups led by their teaching assistant. In the larger sessions they’ll have the opportunity to discuss the main ideas and diverse perspectives presented in the readings, and in the smaller discussion sections they’ll have the opportunity to debate those ideas with their peers in a lot more depth.

Through these means, by the end of the course students will have identified their own views on moral questions, they will have developed them or refine them when needed, and they will have learned how to support them on the basis of reflective and sound reasoning.

Signature Assignment(s):

Here is an example of a Signature Assignment.

The assignment is to write a paper on one of the following topics:

  1. During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers and administrators have faced this type of question: How should scarce medical resources (such as vaccines, drugs, ICU beds, and ventilators) be allocated? That is, which patients should be given priority, and on what basis? Think about this question from the perspective of what you have learned in this class in the unit on moral theories (Utilitarianism and Deontology). How would Utilitarians approach this question? How would Deontologists (in particular, those who believe in DDE or DDA) approach it? Would Utilitarians and Deontologists agree or disagree about the answer to this question? Why? [EXTRA-CREDIT: Finally, conclude with your own assessment: What can we learn (if anything) from views like Utilitarianism or Deontology about what we should do in these challenging cases? Do you see yourself better positioned to answer this question after having taken this class? Why?]
  2. Pick your own example of a moral disagreement across different cultures (it could be an example that involves cultures that exist at the same time—such as now—or at different times). Explain how Cultural Relativism and Objectivism are different perspectives about the nature of morality, and illustrate the two views with that example. Next, explain how each perspective could account for or explain that particular example of moral disagreement. Which explanation do you think is right, the relativist or the objectivist? Why? [EXTRA-CREDIT: Finally, conclude with a reflection on what you have learned on this topic from having taken this class: Has your perspective on the nature of morality (in particular, on its objectivity/relativity) changed or evolved in any way from having taken this class? How?]

Guidelines for the students: The paper should be around 5 pages long, double-spaced, using 1”margins throughout. It should have a clear structure that follows the different parts of the chosen prompt, preferably in the order suggested. It should be structured into different paragraphs separating the different parts of the prompt. The ideas need to be explained as if you were writing for a peer who’s introduced to the topic for the first time. You should start with a rough outline and draft and then edit it until you reach a polished version. The recommendation is not to quote from the readings or from the class notes, but, instead, to set out the ideas in your own words as much as possible, and to illustrate them with your own examples when appropriate. You should demonstrate in your writing that you are applying the concepts and skills learned in this class. As with other assignments in this class, you won’t be graded on the basis of the views that you defend, but on how well you apply the concepts learned in class, and on how you structure and express your reasoning using the analytic tools learned and applied in class.

Catalog Description:
This course examines fundamental questions about the ethical organization of society and social life. These questions include: What is the basis of the state? What is the nature of social justice? What are our obligations to others around the world? We will aim to develop clear thinking about issues that are of great importance to the contemporary world and that each of us will face as a citizen of a modern democratic state.

Curriculum Category: Building Connections (BC)

Attribute(s): Diversity and Equity, Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will demonstrate the ability to utilize multiple perspectives and make meaningful connections across disciplines and social positions, think conceptually and critically, and solve problems. (BC)

Students will demonstrate knowledge of how historical and contemporary populations* have experienced inequality, considering diversity, power, and equity through disciplinary perspectives to reflect upon how various communities experience privilege and/or oppression/marginalization and theorize how to create a more equitable society. (Diversity & Equity Attribute)
*populations including, but not limited to: people from racial/ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people, people from marginalized communities and societies, socioeconomically disadvantaged communities and/or people from colonized societies.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

OPTIONAL:

Students will demonstrate competency in analyzing a philosophical text, critical thinking, and writing a sound philosophy paper.

Course Objectives:

Utilize prior knowledge and experience to reflect on morality, the basis of political authority, social justice, and the institutions and social processes that impact social justice.

Understand the diversity of contending ideas and arguments that support opposing positions on justice and political morality.

Appreciate the centrality of social science to reasoning in political philosophy.

Understand and critically evaluate the social scientific models that underlie normative theorizing in political philosophy.

Clarify basic moral and political concepts and the philosophical theses that use them.

Clarify and analyze philosophical arguments that support conceptions of justice and political morality.

Assess critically the validity and soundness of the diverse arguments and ideas they study.

Draft and revise rigorously structured papers that lay out ideas and arguments and critically asses them.

Clarify, analyze, and critically assess arguments regarding institutions and social processes that impact economically disadvantaged individuals and groups.

Clarify, analyze, and critically assess arguments regarding group oppression, gender and racial injustice, and institutions and social processes that may facilitate, enact, or contribute to injustice.

Discuss diverse ideas and arguments about social processes, social justice and political authority.

Collaborate with other students to develop a critical analysis of some aspect of social justice or political morality.

Signature Assignment(s):

The course will have 3 signature assignments.

Signature Assignments 1 and 2

The first two signature assignments are 2 page papers on main questions for the course.

Diversity and Equity Attribute

  • These assignments focus on issues of socioeconomic justice and race/gender justice.  
  • In the first signature assignment, students explain and critically analyze Marxist, egalitarian, and/or libertarian conceptions of justice.
  • In the second signature assignment, students explain and critically analyze Iris Marion Young’s conception of group oppression or Tommie Shelby’s analysis of race, racism, and the significance of racism for social justice.

Writing Attribute:

  • Writing as an iterative process will be emphasized for these assignments.  Students will engage in reflective writing on socio-economic justice and race/gender justice to draw on prior knowledge and experience.  Students will compose drafts of their ideas, exchange these with members of their writing group, and revise their papers in light of this feedback.

Building Connections:

  • In these assignments, students will identify and apply the tools and methodologies of the social scientist by explaining and critically assessing the models of society underlying the normative perspective of the theorists they consider.  And, students will identify and apply the tools of the philosopher by clarifying ideas and critically assessing the normative conception developed by the theorists.  Students will build connections between these disciplinary perspectives (social science and philosophy) by reconciling conceptions of social justice and political morality with defensible models of how society works.

Signature Assignment 3

Writing Attribute

  • The third signature assignment will be a formal written assignment that draws on course content (readings/lectures) and builds on earlier writing assignments, discussions, and presentations.
  • As the course proceeds, students will have written 4 shorter papers and collaborated on one group presentation.  Each of these assignments will have focused on one of the major questions for the course.
  • In the 3rd signature assignment students will develop one of these earlier assignments (short paper or group presentation) into a longer project, giving special attention to clarifying the ideas in their thesis and responding to possible objections to their line of reasoning.
  • The assignment will proceed in stages.
  • First, students will reflect on their earlier assignments and engage in prewriting, to generate an outline for the paper.
  • Second, one this outline has been approved, by the instructing team, students will develop a draft of their paper.
  • Third, in light of appropriate feedback from the instructing team, students will compose a final draft that conforms to the genre conventions of academic philosophy.

Diversity and Equity Attribute

  • While the 3rd signature assignment, need not directly address group oppression or racial/gender injustice, it MAY do so – and in many cases will do so – depending on which earlier assignment in the course a student chooses to develop for their 3rd signature assignment.

Building Connections Attribute:

  • As with signature assignments 1 and 2, students will identify and apply the tools and methodologies of the social scientist by explaining and critically assessing the models of society underlying the normative perspective of the theorists they consider.  And, students will identify and apply the tools of the philosopher by clarifying ideas and critically assessing the normative conception developed by the theorists.  Students will build connections between these disciplinary perspectives (social science and philosophy) by reconciling conceptions of social justice and political morality with defensible models of how society works. 

Catalog Description: Did you know that killing innocent children is morally wrong? I hope so. But arguably, you can only know things that are true. What kind of truth do moral statements have? Are moral truths universal and necessary like mathematical truths? Or are they contingent and relative to different societies like truths about rules of etiquette? What makes a moral statement true or false? Society? God? Evolution? Rationality?

In this course, we study some of the most ambitious answers in the history of Western philosophy to questions about the relationship between knowledge, truth, and morality. We approach these texts by thinking about two kinds of cases:

1.      How do we explain our knowledge of moral issues that look obvious, for example, our knowledge that genocide is wrong?

2.      And then, how, if at all, can our analysis of the obvious cases help us think about the more controversial cases, for example whether it is permissible to tell a lie to help a friend?  

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development.

Upon the completion of the course students can think, argue, and write from the perspectives of two distinct and influential approaches to the study of human values and norms:

  1. The rationalist approach (in the tradition of Plato and Kant): on this view, the proper method of thinking about human values and norms is rational reflection. In a sense, this is a top-down method: we first analyze the basic concepts of good, right, just, etc., and then we apply them to concrete situations. Students will construct arguments and write philosophical pieces that reflect this way of theorizing about human values.
  2. That naturalist approach (in the tradition of Aristotle and Mill): on this view, human values and norms are best studied via empirical methods. In a sense, this is a bottom-up method: we first analyze the current condition of humanity, and then generalize to derive more general principles.Students will construct arguments and write philosophical pieces that reflect this way of theorizing about human values.
  3. Additionally, we will apply these two broad approaches to questions about race, gender, and class in contemporary moral philosophy.

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

Course Objectives:

During this course, students will:

  • Identify and employ rival methods of developing theories of moral norms and values
  • Read philosophical texts and analyze the content critically  
  • Write analytically and reconstruct philosophical viewpoints from the history of philosophy in contemporary terms
  • Explain how philosophical theories prefigure in the formulation of philosophical questions 
  • Construct critical arguments by considering possible objections to one's favored position 
  • Analyze and elucidate the foundational concepts and historical trajectory of moral philosophy in the Western tradition
  • Identify and criticize racist, sexist, and classist presuppositions in the history of Western moral philosophy
  • Apply abstract ideas from Western philosophical traditions (Aristotelian, Kantian, and Consequentialist) to contemporary debates in moral theory concerning race, gender, or class

Additionally, students will skills to:

  • Write clearly about abstract and complicated topics
  • Organize a paper in such a way that it reflects the rational structure of a sustained argument
  • Write a modest, constrained, and yet creative and original thesis by developing an argument step by step
  • Read difficult and complicated texts with an eye for reconstructing the ideas in more accessible ways 
  • Write a paper outline, and turn it into a longer piece
  • Write "charitably" about opposing viewpoints
  • Write short critical pieces that summarize complicated argument in a paragraph, and raise a question/worry about it

Signature Assignment(s):

PHIL160D1 contains a series of signature assignments (4 argument maps) that are distributed throughout the semester. These assignments align well with the EP Writing Attribute for the following reasons.

First, students learn how to identify interesting passages and argumentative paragraphs from their reading that are worth writing about.

Second, students are asked to write an outline of the main argument in their selected passages. They are instructed to show “charity of interpretation”. In this way, they learn the basics of writing an expository piece.

Third, students are asked to write a counter-argument against the original passage that they have selected. The assignment is designed in such a way that forces students to think about focused and creative ways of engaging in a dialogue. They are asked to narrow their focus and object to one and only one premise from the original passage. They are then asked to develop an argument on their own which would entail the rejection of the targeted premise.

Fourth, students are asked to write a possible objection to their own counter-argument. This is something that will become very important when they turn to writing papers since they will be asked to anticipate objections against their own preferred view, and address some of them.

Finally: the four argument maps culminate with a paper proposal (which is the paper proposal for their final paper). The paper proposal has the same structure as an argument map: (1) a charitable exposition of the view they are talking about; (2) their own original argument; and (3) possible objections and replies. After receiving feedback from the instructor on their paper proposal, students write their final paper by turning the argument map 4 into a complete paper.

I believe that by going through these steps they both learn the analytic style of writing that is very useful for many sub disciplines in the humanities. But perhaps more importantly, they learn how various philosophical dialogue between rival viewpoints should take the stages of offering a charitable interpretation one’s rival, careful and modest counter-argumentation, and then an honest and frank acknowledgment of the shortcomings of one’s own viewpoint.     

Catalog Description:
This course introduces students to the philosophical conceptions of mind, matter, and God that have shaped the Western intellectual tradition. Starting with the ancient Greek philosophers and including philosophers from the 17th century, students will explore perennial issues such as: the existence of God, the nature of reality, the problem of evil, and the basis of knowledge. Readings are culled from the history of philosophy, but lectures and discussions will be informed by contemporary considerations.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of Humanists, using evidence to critically analyze questions and arguments, and consider contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges. (EP Humanist)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

OPTIONAL:

Students will be familiarized with the textual, rhetorical, and argumentative strategies typical of philosophical writing, and will thus be well prepared to take further and more advanced courses in philosophy, should they so desire.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students will be able to:
-- appropriately deploy the philosophical concepts and practices of intellectual self-scrutiny, including critical thinking; interrogating arguments in terms of their validity and soundness;
-- come to their own independent assessment of philosophical texts, and to express that assessment clearly to their peers;
-- communicate effectively both through in-class discussion, short assignments, and a larger self-expressive writing project;
-- construct a sound philosophy paper through the process of draft and revision, and including the defense of their own philosophical perspective on classic philosophical topics, using the appropriate genre conventions of the humanist discipline of philosophy;
-- understand and value differences by comparing and contrasting different philosophical systems within the Western/European tradition;
-- identify and state clearly the main theses of three historically significant philosophical perspectives (theistic rationalism, skeptical empiricism, and materialist naturalism), and to articulate the evidential and explanatory relations between those theses.

Signature Assignment(s):

Choose Your Own Philosophical Adventure

By the three-quarters mark of the term, students will have looked in detail at three different families of views, and come to a critical appreciation of the interrelated elements of each of those families that constitutes them as a perspective on reality and our places in it, most particularly the existence of God, our capacities for achieving knowledge, and the nature of the human mind. For each of those perspectives – theistic rationalism, skeptical empiricism, and materialist naturalism – they will have produced a short paper assessing its mutually reinforcing elements, but also its outstanding difficulties or unanswered objections. As a culminating exercise, the students will synthesize their understandings of these perspectives to articulate and defend their own philosophical perspective. They will stake out their own position on these several classic questions in philosophy, and then perform the same sort of critical assessment on their own views as thus articulated. Students will be strongly encouraged to take ownership of their own philosophical views by means of an intellectual self-examination using the tools of philosophical argumentation, and ideally the Signature Assignment will reflect their authentic and reflective – if perhaps only pro tem – views on these big questions.

The papers will of course not be evaluated on how right their answers are, since we are in the realm of ongoing and unsettled philosophical debate, and part of what we are trying to inculcate is a degree of comfort in defending a view when there is no antecedently established correct one. Rather, students will be evaluated on how well their paper manifests their mastery of both the historical course material, and the textual, rhetorical, and argumentative strategies of good philosophical writing. A particular premium will be placed on clarity of expression and argumentation. Students will not be expected to come at these questions totally de novo, but rather to adapt pieces of the perspectives we will have examined, combined perhaps with some positions or arguments of their own making; what will be important in this regard is that they be able to take stock of both the mutual support and difficult tensions within the particular combinations and alterations they propose.

The students will know from the start of the term that this assignment will be coming, and they will have been encouraged on a daily basis to work on coming to their own assessment of philosophical texts, and clearly expressing those assessments to their classmates. We will put those developed skills to work in an in-class writing workshop on their rough drafts. Students will also receive feedback from the instructors, both as to the substance of their drafts but also as to their prose. Final drafts will be about 8 pages long. They will also turn in a one-page reflection on their rewriting process (which will be graded on low-stakes terms, as equivalent to an in-class quick reflection assignment.)

Catalog Description: We will study the ethics and the economics of such phenomena as market competition, institutions of private and public property, trade restrictions, globalization, and corporate welfare. How do people create wealth? How do societies enable people to create wealth? Are some ways more ethical than others? Why do some societies grow rich while neighboring societies remain poor? People have various ways of creating wealth. Which are ethical and which are not?  Why?

Curriculum Category: Building Connections (BC)

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:

REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will demonstrate competency in analyzing a philosophical text, critical thinking, and writing a sound philosophy paper. (Philosophy program outcome)

Students will demonstrate the ability to utilize multiple perspectives and make meaningful connections across disciplines and social positions, think conceptually and critically, and solve problems. (BC)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Utilize prior knowledge and experience to reflect on what wealth is, its normative significance, the individual and social processes that create wealth, and the institutions that facilitate the creation of wealth.

Reflect on writing as tool for utilizing and creating knowledge, on writing skills, and on writing goals and areas for writing improvement.

Describe the history, measurement, causes, and consequences of wealth creation.

Relate economic, social, and political institutions to wealth creation.

Compare centralized and decentralized actions, practices, and institutions relevant to wealth creation in terms of ethics, knowledge, incentives, efficiency, and opportunity costs.

Evaluate social policies and institutions using major ethical theories.

Consider the perspective of economically marginalized groups in critically evaluating arguments regarding institutions that impact the creation of wealth.

Discuss, evaluate, and construct ethical and economic arguments regarding social institutions and actions that impact the creation of wealth.

Collaborate with other students to recommend policies for controversial markets based on incentives, consequences, and moral rights and moral duties.

Draft and revise a substantial paper that reconciles ethical and economic values in critically evaluating aspects of a capitalist political economic order and/or proposals for reforming this order.

Draft and revise essays that conform to the genre conventions of academic philosophy.

Signature Assignment(s):
In the first part of course students will have written 3 shorter papers on aspects of capitalist economic order:  on property, on markets, and the hierarchical firm.   The normative focus in this part of the course will be economic values of efficiency and preference satisfaction.

In the second part of the course students will completed 2 shorter papers (and one presentation) that critically evaluate proposals for reforming some aspect of a capitalist economic order.  The normative focus in this part of the course will be ethical values of rights, liberty, justice, and virtue.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the ethics of artificial intelligence and automated information systems. The recent development of “transformer” models, including large language models like ChatGPT, has brought to the fore urgent questions about how we must understand, classify, and react to “artificially intelligent” systems. Learners will learn foundational aspects about AI, including what it means for machines to “think” and best current understanding of machine abilities to “emote”, “create”, “imagine”, and so on. On the basis of this understanding the course will delve into a critical examination of a range of ethical questions raised by recent developments in AI.

Curriculum Category: Building Connections

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes

1. One key to good philosophy, and good argumentative writing generally is 1. to clearly identify one’s premises for whatever conclusion(s) one is defending, 2. to make sure that conclusions follow (either deductively or inductively) from one’s premises, and 3. to defend one’s premises against likely objections. These are skills emphasized in the writing for this course (SLO/GE outcome.)

2. Because this is an applied ethics course – applying ethical theories to questions about AI – one outcome is that students will become acquainted with those theories that figure in ethical debates about AI. These include Utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, Virtue Ethics, and such principles as Double Effect (often associated with Just War Theory). Learning this material is especially important for those majoring or minoring in philosophy. 

3. Throughout the course, students will learn how to bring ethical considerations to bear on issues in AI – considerations that are properly informed by ethical theory. For instance, readings on the ethics of drones often refer to “just war” theory – a theory that addresses questions about the justification of going to war, but most importantly for the topic of drones, provisions regarding constraints on military activities within war. These provisions include discrimination (who is a legitimate target of aggression) and proportionality (what is a tolerable level of anticipated civilian deaths as a consequence of war activities). Learning how to apply just war theory to the case of killer drones (the topic of the signature assignment) requires learning how to apply these (and other) provisions that has resulted a large literature in ethical theory. This outcome is specific to this course. 

4. As stressed earlier under the “How and Why” question, one central learning outcome of the course is to engage students in understanding and thinking about the design and capabilities of modern artificial intelligence from the perspective of the cognitive scientist – one of the two Perspectives mentioned under Building Connections.  

Course Objectives

  • Understand the various topics of the course and why they are worthy of the attention they receive from philosophers and cognitive scientists of various stripes. 
  • Carefully and critically read texts (both classical and contemporary) that address issues and questions at the intersection of moral philosophy and the pertinent sciences that contribute to debates in moral philosophy. 
  • Understand the basic methods of philosophical thinking (defining terms, clarifying positions, identifying arguments and being able to critically assess them) in thinking and writing about the topics of this course – skills that apply generally to thinking, discussion, and writing.
  • Understand the experimental methods of the pertinent sciences in addressing questions about our moral lives. 
  • Understand how these disciplines contribute to each other in addressing a common set of questions about morality. 

Signature Assignment

SAMPLE SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

The Assignment: The Ethics of Killer Drones

The use of AI technologies in the battlefield and in law enforcement are imminent. In fact, in the latter they are now a part of reality. From facial detection to on-the-fly translation to bomb diffusal, AI technologies are and will be deployed in battlefields and law enforcement to supplement, and even to take over, difficult and dangerous tasks hitherto performed by human beings. The emerging landscape throws up tremendous ethical challenges, as AI systems fundamental “reason” and “think” and “emote” in ways different from human beings, and yet we must code them in ways that their use remains consistent with the tenets of international law and with sound moral principles. 

Of particular ethical concern is the rise of robotic weapons used for killing – “killer drones.” One objection raised against their use in warfare is that “ethical reflection on drone fighting suggests that this practice does not only create physical distance, but also moral distance: far removed from one’s opponent, it becomes easier to kill” (from M. Coeckelbergh 2013 cited below). This ethical objection is most powerfully raised by N. Sharkey (cited below). Coeckelbergh attempts to answer Sharkey’s objection in defense of the use of killer drones. The work of both authors is informed by relevant scientific advances in AI. 

The assignment is to write an integrated essay in which you bring to bear work in philosophy, big data, computation, cognitive science, and related areas discussed in this course to discuss the ethical issue concerning killer drones raised by Sharkey and Coeckelbergh. 

The core readings for this assignment are: “Killing made easy: From joysticks to politics” by N. Sharkey (in Robotic Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics, 2012) and “Drones, Information Technology, and Distance: Mapping the Moral Epistemology of Remote Fighting” by M. Coeckelbergh (Ethics of Information Technology 15, 2013). These readings are available on our D2L course site. 

Here is a step-wise outline for completing this writing assignment. 

1: Introduction
An introductory paragraph in which you explain to your reader what your paper is about and give some indication of how you plan to proceed (the organization of the paper). This should be short, no more than half a page. Here you should mention the particular dispute ethical over the use of killer drones raised by these authors explaining briefly what the dispute is about, as well as say what you will go on to do in the paper.

2. Then, explain in some detail (roughly two pages) how Coeckelbergh following Sharkey develops the idea that drone fighting creates epistemic and moral distance insofar as “screenfighting” tends to remove he psychological barriers to killing. 

3. Next, explain Coeckelbergh’s views about the use of surveillance technologies and the possibility of “empathic bridging” that may serve to “rehumanize” a fighter’s opponent and thus overcome the worry over screenfighting. 

4. Then, considering the work of work of these two authors, take a stand on the plausibility of Coeckelbergh’s defense of killer drones. Does Coeckelbergh provide an adequate defense against Sharkey’s objection concerning screenfighting? To answer this question, approach it by considering what you take to be the best line of defense that you would advise Sharkey to take in responding to Coeckelbergh. Do you think this defense is adequate? How might Coeckelbergh reply? In thinking about the Sharkey/Coeckelbergh debate, you might consider whether there is a compromise position that accommodates the insights of these two authors. 

5. Conclusion. 
Write a short conclusion in which you briefly summarize your paper. 

Audience

Imagine that your audience (for whom your essay should make clear sense) is one of your university peers who is not taking this course. Someone smart like you, but who is unfamiliar with the dispute between moral disgust advocates and moral disgust skeptics.  

Citations

Follow authors who use the Harvard style in which full references to the works referred to in the text are listed at the end of the work and specific references in the text have the form: (Author Date, Pages).

 Evaluation

This paper assignment is worth 100 points. Here is a list of the grading criteria and how much each of the items is worth.

Grammar and Spelling: worth 20 points

Clarity and organization: the organization part shouldn’t be hard given the above outline. But writing clearly is a skill that I’m expecting anyone enrolled in the course to be able to do at a high level. Worth 30 points.

Accuracy: some of the assignment is an exercise in exegesis – explaining in your own words the views of the authors. Worth 30 points.

Quality of response: item 4 of the assignment asks you to be creative in taking and then defending the position you take on the debate over killer drones. Worth 20 points. 

How this assignment addresses GE learning outcomes for Building Connections

This assignment requires students to integrate and discuss relevant of multiple perspectives on the selected topic. Students will need to demonstrate mastery across the areas covered during the course, synthesize these perspectives, identify a position as their own, and clearly explain and defend it using the techniques of argumentation that they will learn during the course. They will also need to respond to potential challenges to their point of view, thus deepening their understanding and further refining their argumentative skills.

Catalog Description: It is important "to do the right thing." But how can anyone tell what "the right thing" is? What makes some actions right and some wrong? This course is an overview of ethics, which is the field of philosophy that examines these questions. We examine three main ways of thinking about ethics: those that focus one the outcomes of actions, those that focus on the nature of the actions themselves, and those that focus on the character of the one who acts. Students will gain a foundational knowledge that will serve as a solid background for more advanced work in ethics, as a resource for thinking about moral issues, and as a piece of general education valuable for understanding practical aspects of human life.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development.

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

Signature Assignment(s):

The assignment is to compare and critically assess how Classical Act Utilitarianism and Rule Consequentialism would apply to the following case:

Janice is suffering greatly from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. This disease causes the death of neurons which control voluntary muscles. Here is a quote about the disease from the ALS Association:

Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their demise. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.

Because there is no effective treatment at present, ALS is fatal. It is also progressive. Janice’s ALS has progressed to the point where she has lost her ability to speak, eat, and move. Soon the disease will cause her death. Janice understands this and has requested she be given a painless life-ending drug. (This would be a case of physician-assisted suicide.)

Let us suppose Janice lives in a country where there are no laws against such actions. Still, the moral question is whether it is morally right for a physician to administer a fatal dose of the drug to Janice, upon her request.

Length: to adequately address the assignment, your paper should be 7-8 pages, double-spaced, 1” margins.

Suggested Paper Outline
1. Write a short introductory paragraph explaining to your readers what you will do in your paper. Explain that you plan to compare the implications of classical Act Utilitarianism and Rule Consequentialism to a difficult moral to compare and evaluate these theories as they apply to the case.

2. Next, describe in your own words the case of Janice.

3.  Next, begin with classical Act Utilitarianism (AU) and explain to your reader the elements of this theory in question.

4. Then, once you’ve explained AU, take the position of a judge, and proceed to explain whether it would be morally permissible for the physician to administer the life-ending drug to Janice.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 now focusing on Rule Consequentialism (RC).

Catalog Description: In this course, students will considers a wide range of moral or ethical controversies and positions involved in contemporary life. Topics covered will vary but may include, among others, famine relief; euthanasia and physician assisted suicide; the morality of warfare, often known as Just War Theory; sexual morality; racism; sexism; the ethics of immigration; the morality of genetic engineering, as well as the related topic of human cloning; the restriction of liberties pertaining to recreational drug use, prostitution, pornography, and free speech; environmental damage and moral obligations to future generations; the moral status of nonhuman animals; and abortion.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development.

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

Signature Assignment(s):

Two different signature assignments involve two different goals. One is more general as part of a quality education in any humanities course another is more focused upon excelling in the discipline of philosophy.

The first is a 1000-word essay requiring each student to write a critical assessment of an article or articles (or specific arguments in an article or articles). Each of these assigned articles takes a position on some particular moral controversy. What is distinctive about the assignment is in part the lead up to it. Students in the course are divided into groups, and each group is assigned a specific week and topic. (For example, week one is the topic of famine relief, and students in Group 1 are then required to write their essay on tha topic. In week 2, when the topic is famine relief, students in Group 2 are required to write on that topic.) Students in each group are required to write individual (not group) essays, but prior to writing their essay, they are treated as accountable for being “experts” for that week. To that end, prior to class meeting for that week, each student in the group has to write and submit a “shorty” that summarizes in one paragraph one of the two or three assigned readings. (This shorty is “low stakes” in that there is no grade assigned. It is just a simple requirement that each student do this and submit it prior to a class meeting on this topic.)  This insures that these students have carefully invested in the topic ahead of time. Then in attending lectures on the topic, these students are asked to take on a leadership role in asking critical questions and just being prepared to answer hard questions from their professor in helping to explain the material. The students are then also asked to prepare for the second class meeting that week at least one discussion question to help structure a seminar-style discussion. They also prepare these ahead of time and send them to the professor to help plan a class session that engages them. (Note this is also another low-stakes assignment.)

With this as background, after the completion of the topic in class lecture and discussion, students are given a week to write an essay, based on an (optional) prompt. Having invested deeply in the week’s topic, they then submit a 1000-word essay wherein they are required to express in their words, and not based on further research, their views. The instructor then grades that essay focusing both on mastery of philosophical content but also on quality of written arguments. The student is then required to revise in specific response to the feedback to earn full credit. In getting feedback, students are encouraged to take on a professional tone. In doing so, they often produce something that has the respectable appearance of a position piece that could appear in the op-ed section of a good newspaper.

A key aim of this signature assignment is to infuse carefully reading, class lecture, peer discussion, and feedback from both peers (in the class discussion) and from the professor into a writing assignment. In this way, it just cannot be that writing something is one little step, and other aspects of the class are other little steps, reading, shared discussion, reflection, feedback, and revisiting one’s ideas are all enmeshed. This is just what good writers and thinkers do.

Below, I will past an example of a prompt for one of these essay assignments.

Before doing so, here is a second Signature Assignment, and this is far easier to explain. It instead is aimed at drilling down into the disciplinary practice to craft a quality piece of work unique to philosophy as a distinctive area of the humanities. In the last third of the course, we shift from focus on one topic each week to intensive focus on two topics for two weeks each. The final assignment is a final paper that asks the students to write a proper philosophy paper that incorporates the many (4-6) assigned readings. These papers should be of a quality that, at the upper end, could be submitted in application to a graduate program as a writing sample. The two topics most recently used are the moral status of nonhuman animals and the moral permissibility or impermissibility of abortion. Students often produce astoundingly mature and well-crafted essays.

Catalog Description:
Happiness matters to us; and now it is in the news. There are large numbers of self-help books telling us how to be happy. Some nations are planning to measure the happiness of their citizens to find out how it can be increased. There is a huge new field of “happiness studies,” and new focus on happiness in positive psychology as well as fields like politics and law. Much of this material is confusing, since often it is not clear what the authors think that happiness is. Is it feeling good? Is it having a positive attitude to the way you are now? Is it having a positive attitude to your life as a whole? Is it having a happy life? Can some people advise others on how to be happy?

Philosophers have been engaged with the search for happiness for two thousand years. They have asked what happiness is, and have explored different answers to the question, including some of the answers now being rediscovered in other fields.

In this course we will ask what happiness is, and examine critically the major answers to this question. We’ll look at the rich philosophical tradition of thinking about happiness, at contemporary answers, and also at some recent work in the social sciences. We’ll examine the contributions being made to the ongoing search to find out what happiness is, and how we can live happy lives.

This course has two primary objectives:
* To introduce students to the theoretical nature of the question of the nature of happiness by presenting a representative sample of the primary historical and contemporary literature
* To enable students to think and write critically, logically and objectively about the philosophical issues pertaining to happiness.

These objectives will be approached through lectures, discussions and writing assignments informed by the assigned readings. Course outcomes will be assessed through substantial writing assignments, some of which will feature opportunities for students to revise their work in light of advice from the professor.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): World Cultures and Societies, Writing

Learning Outcomes:

REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of Humanists, using evidence to critically analyze questions and arguments, and consider contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges. (EP Humanist)

Students will describe, from one or multiple perspectives, the values, practices, and/or cultural products of at least one non-US culture/society; relate how these values, practices and/or cultural products have shaped their social, historical, political, environmental and/or geographic contexts; and reflect on how the student's own background has influenced their perceptions of other societies and their sense of place in the global community. (World Cultures & Societies)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Apply a variety of disciplinary lenses—from Philosophy, Social Science, and Humanities—to identify the scope, achievements, limitations, and concerns of research on human quality of life.

Interpret texts from different times, places, peoples, and disciplines about human quality of life, in terms of the concerns and methodologies of their authors and audience.

Appreciate some of the challenges of merging different disciplinary perspectives and methodologies to construct a more unified understanding of human quality of life.

Critically analyze diverse theories of the nature of human happiness and well-being, and understand the concerns and methodologies that often drive the development of those theories.

Gain proficiency in reading complex texts on happiness and well-being, from different disciplines and historical periods, that require a high degree of analytical reasoning.

Compose written texts that carefully, accurately, and precisely reconstruct complex perspectives on human quality of life that both represent the reasoning and concerns of their creators and make them intelligible and compelling for capable but uninformed readers.

Signature Assignment(s):

The overarching assignment for the semester is to learn to produce concise, accurate, and clear secondary texts on the nature of human well-being. This, one finds, is a struggle for even the best-prepared students, often to their surprise. However, with practice and guidance every student can improve, often dramatically. The skills involved in reconstructing complex viewpoints of others and communicating complex viewpoints to others, are skills that students can apply throughout their lives.

Several times during the semester, students compose a written text in which they identify an idea, problem, question, or challenge arising in a recent reading on human quality of life, reconstruct it in a way that demonstrates deep understanding of the author’s concerns and methods, and present it in a clear and engaging manner for a capable but uninformed reader.

Each individual assignment includes multiple components. Students produce and exchange rough drafts of their work. Students then review and provide feedback on each other’s drafts. Lastly, students revise their work in light of advice received from their instructor and in-class colleagues, in preparation to submit final drafts.

The individual assignments work towards a cumulative, semester-long effect. Students’ final drafts of one text become the basis for new recommendations for skill development on subsequent texts. Over the course of the semester, students are expected to show substantial progress in their development of this foundational skill of reconstructing and communicating complex ideas.

Course Description:

Suppose it was entirely up to you to decide what is right or wrong, what is valuable and what is not. Suppose it was “entirely” up to you in the sense that there were no other standards or guidelines to tell you how to go about making these decisions. That would be a huge and perhaps scary task. Is it even possible to make decisions in a world where there are no objective norms and values to fall back on? A group of philosophers, the existentialists, thought that our actual task in this world is not so different. On their account, at least when it comes to what is most valuable and the fundamental norms of one’s own life, it is entirely up to each one of us to make that decision for ourselves. This course is an introduction to various theories and expressions of 19th- and 20th-century existentialism and its phenomenological method. We will read authors such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir, and Fanon. We will also analyze some existentialist literature. 

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Diversity and Equity, Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of Humanists, using evidence to critically analyze questions and arguments, and consider contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges. (EP)

Students will demonstrate knowledge of how historical and contemporary populations* have experienced inequality, considering diversity, power, and equity through disciplinary perspectives to reflect upon how various communities experience privilege and/or oppression/marginalization and theorize how to create a more equitable society. (Diversity and Equity)
*populations including, but not limited to: people from racial/ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people, people from marginalized communities and societies, socioeconomically disadvantaged communities and/or people from colonized societies.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

OPTIONAL:

Philosophy majors and minors in our program are not trained the tradition of Continental philosophy. This course is one of the only avenues to expose them to the methods and some of the central ideas from that philosophical tradition.

Course Objectives:

During this course, students will:

  • Identify and employ methods of phenomenological analysis
  • Read philosophical and literary texts from the existentialist tradition and analyze the content critically
  • Write analytically and reconstruct philosophical viewpoints from the existentialist philosophy and literature
  • Construct critical arguments by considering possible objections to one's favored position
  • Analyze and elucidate the foundational concepts and historical trajectory of existentialism as a philosophical and cultural movement
  • Identify the methods and views of Black and feminist existentialist movements
  • Apply existentialist themes to contemporary debates in moral theory concerning race, gender, sexual identity, or class

Additionally, students will acquire skills to:

  • Write clearly about abstract and complicated topics
  • Organize a paper in such a way that it reflects the rational structure of a sustained argument
  • Write a modest, constrained, and yet creative and original thesis by developing an argument step by step
  • Read difficult and complicated texts with an eye for reconstructing the ideas in more accessible ways
  • Write a paper outline, and turn it into a longer piece
  • Write "charitably" about opposing viewpoints

Write short critical pieces that summarize complicated argument in a paragraph, and raise a question/worry about it.

Signature Assignment(s):

PHI246 contains a signature assignment that aligns closely with the Writing Attribute and the DE attribute for the following reasons.

First, students learn how to write about complicated philosophical ideas in a way that is clear, well-structured, well-reasoned, and yet accessible to non-philosophers.

Second, students are asked to apply the philosophical ideas from the course to a contemporary problem concerning race, gender, sexual identity, or class. Moreover, they are asked to do this by contrasting the approaches of two philosophers from two different standpoints: first, a philosopher from the “canon”, and then a philosopher from a marginalized group in academia. They are tasked to see if the different standpoints make important differences to the philosophical views at stake. 

 

Signature Assignment: “Non-Academic Piece”

In this assignment, you are tasked to write a piece of what people call “popular philosophy”. That is, you are supposed to write for an audience who has no familiarity whatsoever with the philosophical jargon, philosophical ideas, or methods. I want you to imagine that you are writing this piece for an online publication (so, you’re welcome to use other media like photos, cartoons, etc. alongside your writing). Here are the details:

  • By Monday of Week 12, you will send me a “prompt” of your own choosing for the writing. The prompt will have to address a contemporary social issue about gender, sexual identity, race, or class (preferably in the context of the US, but not required). The prompt must have the following structure:
    • Here is a short description of a social issue about identity and social dynamics.
    • I will explain how we can apply the views of philosopher A from the first module (i.e., before De Beauvoir) to this topic. And I will contrast it with the views of philosopher B from the second module (i.e, de Beauvoir and Fanon) on this topic.
  • When it comes to writing the piece, you are to reflect on a methodological question: Does the different social standpoint of philosophers A and B make a difference to their view?
    • NOTE: You’re not being asked to that their social background makes a difference to their philosophical viewpoint and how they’d approach this contemporary issue. Rather, you are being asked to that is the case. In short, given the readings in the course, it makes sense to reflect on these issues.
  • On Week 14, you will submit your assignment as a Blog entry (Blog log in info will be provided).
  • The writing must be 1000 to 1500 words. As mentioned above, you are welcome to use multimedia devices for engaging your audience.
  • You’re to comment on at least two other entries from your classmates. The comments must be respectful, engaging, and charitable. (Deadline Monday of Week 15)
  • You are required to respond to at least one comment on your own entry.(Deadline Wednesday of Week 15)
  •  
    • 80% Your own entry.
      • Clarity and accessibility to non-academic audience 30%
      • Comprehension and understanding of the philosophical ideas and the social issue 30%
      • Creativity and Originality 20%
      • Structure (both in terms of writing and reasoning) 20%
    • 15% Comments you leave for your peers.
      • Does it raise a good question? Is it charitable to the author?
    •    Your reply to the comments. 
      • Does it engage the comment properly?

Course Description:

Survey of Greek philosophy, from the pre-Socratic philosophers through Plato and Aristotle to post-Aristotelian philosophers, such as the Stoics, Epicureans. Questions to be explored include:
What is it to be the cause of something?
What is it to be responsible in a world in which everything has a cause?
What is it to learn something and to know something?
Why do we live in groups, and why are those groups politically organized?
What is it to live one’s life well?
What is it that drives us to do what we do?
What is the world ultimately made of?

Students will gain familiarity with theories about the nature of human experience among major schools of thought in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): World Cultures and Societies, Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of Humanists, using evidence to critically analyze questions and arguments, and consider contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges. (EP)

Students will describe, from one or multiple perspectives, the values, practices, and/or cultural products of at least one non-US culture/society; relate how these values, practices and/or cultural products have shaped their social, historical, political, environmental and/or geographic contexts; and reflect on how the student's own background has influenced their perceptions of other societies and their sense of place in the global community. (World Cultures & Societies)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

Course Objectives:

  • Apply a variety of disciplinary lenses—from Philosophy, History, and Classics—to consider the development of and contrasts between major movements in Ancient Philosophy, and to situate them in their time and place.
  • Interpret texts from different times, places, peoples, and perspectives about fundamental philosophical questions, in terms of the concerns and methodologies of their authors and audience.
  • Understand some of the basic conceptual building blocks of their own thought whose origins can be traced to Ancient Philosophy, for better or worse.
  • Appreciate some of the challenges of merging diverse perspectives and methodologies to construct a more unified understanding of human experience.
  • Critically analyze diverse theories purporting to answer basic philosophical questions, and understand the concerns and methodologies that often drive the development of those theories.
  • Gain proficiency in reading complex texts on a wide array of philosophical issue, from different cultures and historical periods, that require a high degree of analytical reasoning.
  • Compose written texts that carefully, accurately, and precisely reconstruct complex perspectives from Ancient Philosophy that both represent the reasoning and concerns of their creators and make them intelligible and intriguing for capable but uninformed readers.

Signature Assignment(s):

The overarching assignment for the semester is to learn to produce concise, accurate, and clear secondary texts on important themes in Ancient Philosophy. This, one finds, is a struggle for even the best-prepared students, often to their surprise. However, with practice and guidance every student can improve, often dramatically. The skills involved in reconstructing complex viewpoints of others and communicating complex viewpoints to others, are skills that students can apply throughout their lives.

Several times during the semester, students compose a written text in which they identify an idea, problem, question, or challenge arising in a recent reading from Ancient Philosophy, reconstruct it in a way that demonstrates deep understanding of the author’s concerns and methods, and present it in a clear and engaging manner for a capable but uninformed reader.

Each individual assignment includes multiple components. Students produce and exchange rough drafts of their work. Students then review and provide feedback on each other’s drafts. Lastly, students revise their work in light of advice received from their instructor and in-class colleagues, in preparation to submit final drafts.

The individual assignments work towards a cumulative, semester-long effect. Students’ final drafts of one text become the basis for new recommendations for skill development on subsequent texts. Over the course of the semester, students are expected to show substantial progress in their development of this foundational skill of reconstructing and communicating complex ideas.

Catalog Description: Survey of major 17th and 18th century British and European philosophers, chosen from Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development.

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Being able to describe and discuss the various theories featured in the course (empiricism vs. rationalism, realism vs. idealism, the nature of scientific knowledge and its foundations). Each of these represents a particular perspective for thinking about ourselves, and of our place in a world that we take to be governed by the universal laws of nature that form the subject matter of the most foundational natural sciences.

Being able to compare the theories and assess their relative merits according to pertinent standards for evaluating philosophical theories.

Being able to compose a clear well-structured essay, suitable for the discipline of philosophy.

Signature Assignment(s):

Your assignment is to compare and critically assess Hume’s and Kant’s competing accounts of inductive inferences.  These are inferences are ones we make from cases of causal interaction that we have observed to obtain in the past to as yet unobserved cases in the future.  What distinguishes these philosophers is, in large part, what they have to say regarding the question of whether we have any rational entitlement to draw inductive inferences.  Attending to the relevant texts from these philosophers’ writings, explain the answer each philosopher provides to this question, and the considerations each adduces in support of his answer.  In your estimation, which philosopher provides the better answer?   Why? 

Consider, for example, why, when you get on a place, you do so believing that it will fly. You might think that an argument of the following form is one to which you could appeal to justify this belief:

A) Whenever I have observed an airplane roar down a runway, it has subsequently flown.

B)  This airplane has started and is now roaring down the runway.

C)  Therefore, this airplane will subsequently fly.

In Section IV of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume argues that this form of inference necessarily relies on the assumption that the future will resemble the past (that nature is uniform) and that, given the nature of our cognitive capacities, there is no good argument that we can provide in defence of our reliance on this assumption.  On these grounds, he concludes that we cannot provide any grounds on the basis of which we are entitled to draw inferences of this kind.  In your own words, explain this argument, making clear how it relies on Hume’s account of our cognitive capacities.  Notice that Hume does not deny – indeed, he insists – that it belongs to the nature of the human mind that, once we’ve observed regularites like A), we will in fact develop the disposition to draw inductive inferences in which we project these regularitis into the future.  Moreover, Hume holds that it is a good thing that we rely on nature’s being uniform in the way we anticipate it to be. But he insists that it is not our reason, but rather these habits, that determines our inductive inferences.

In the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Kant develops an account of our capacities of cognition that is very different from Hume’s, and on which each of us is, as a subject of our capacity to understand, entitled to subsume certain regularities in kind that objects exhibit to her in her perception of them under the category of the relation of cause and effect.  This entitlement amounts to an entitlement to draw inductive inference, from the instances of regularities that one has observed from which one derives one’s empirical concept of a natural kind, that these regulaties will hold in the future, as yet unobserved, cases.  Explain Kant’s account of this entitlement.  Be sure to explain how this account is one we have as subjects of a capacity of understanding the operation of which must yield empirical concepts that have a use in making what he calls ‘judgments of experience’.

LENGTH
to adequately address the assignment, your paper should be 7-8 pages, double-spaced, 1” margins.

SUGGESTED PAPER OUTLINE

1. Write a short introductory paragraph explaining to your readers what you will do in your paper. Explain that you plan to compare the competing accounts of inductive inference offered by Hume and Kant.

2. Next, describe in your own words the question about the nature of inductive inference to which Hume and Kant offer competing answers.

3.  Next, explain to your reader the main elements of Hume’s answer to this question.  What, according to Hume, happens when we draw an inductive inference?  What does he mean when he says that these inferences are a product of habit, and not reason? 

4. Then, explain to your reader the main elements of Kant’s competing account of what our capacity to draw inductive inferences consists in. What, on this account, entitles us to rely on the assumption that nature is uniform in the way we rely it to in drawing inductive inferences?

5. Finally, conclude by critically evaluating the answers Hume and Kant offer. Be sure to attend to the competing accounts of our capacity of cognition to which they, respectively, appeal.  What sorts of considerations tell for and against each of these accounts?

AUDIENCE
Write the paper as if you were writing it for a student at this university who is not familiar with philosophy. So, this means that you should strive to explain clearly and in just enough detail the answers that Hume and Kant offer to the question about the nature of our inductive inferences so that such a peer could follow the paper.

RULE TO FOLLOW
Avoid quoting and do not paraphrase text. Remember, you need to describe and explain the answers Hume and Kant are offering in your own words. It will not do simply to write down what Hume and/or Kant say, or repeat exactly what I say about their answers.

EVALUATION
This paper assignment is worth 100.

  • Spelling and grammar                  10
  • Clarity and organization              15
  • Accuracy in describing the
    positions Hume and Kant take     30 (15 + 15)
  • Accuracy in laying out their            
    arguments for their positions        30 (15 + 15)                             
  • Quality of critical evaluation
    (step 5 above)                            15

Course Description

Survey of influential 19th century philosophers, including Hegel, Marx, J. S. Mill, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. Their views on the individual and society, and human nature. 

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives: Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes

Analyze a philosophical text.

Demonstrate critical thinking.

Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper on 19th century philosophy.

Course Objectives

  1. Demonstrate, in writing and discussion, the knowledge and approaches of various philosophers using supportive examples. 
  2. Identify contributions of diverse Humanists in recognizing the complexity of questions and challenges addressed by nineteenth century philosophy. 
  3. Identify the values, practices, and knowledge traditions of nineteenth-century philosophy. 
  4. Use the analytical tools of nineteenth century to relate how these values and practices have shaped their social, historical, and political context. 
  5. Compose texts following disciplinary formats and genres, with an evident purpose, intended audience, and in response to assigned tasks. 
  6. Compose texts that execute effective disciplinary and genre conventions of organization, design, style, syntax, mechanics, and citation format. 

Signature Assignment

All three signature assignments are formal, academic essays which are aimed at familiarizing students with the tasks of academic writing in the humanities, including citing properly, structuring arguments logically, being able to combine exegesis with original argumentation, and arguing for a stated thesis. Students are permitted to scaffold the assignments by using materials from weekly discussion boards in their essays, provided that such use conforms with the standard practices of academic writing.

For each signature assignment, students are to select one prompt from several choices. Since prompts deal with the primary source material, students must integrate exegesis into their signature assignments. Examples of prompts for such assignments include, but are not limited to:

For Hegel, why does self-recognition come through the Other? What are the normative implications of this view, and what does the master and slave dialectic say about the human mind?

What does Hegel mean by “what is rational is real; and what is real is rational?” How does it structure his conception of freedom?

For Marx, why does alienation occur in capitalist production? What are the proximate effects on the lives and minds of the people in its grasp?

What is the relationship between use-value, exchange-value, and value in the opening chapter of Capital?

For Nietzsche, what are the key differences between monumental, antiquarian, and critical history? When it is appropriate to use which one? How might we apply his analysis to the history of philosophy?

What role does ressentiment play in Nietzsche’s slave revolt in morality? Does it stain slave morality as a whole, or can parts of it be salvaged despite its origins?

Course Description

The twentieth century saw massive changes in sociopolitical organization, technology, and social mores. In this course, students will examine with different philosophical perspectives on these shifts, and engage with topics such as the relationship between the State and civil society, the limits of the law in constraining the State, the way that new technological developments shape our relation to the world, and how we should act in a world that had lost faith in God. 

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives: Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes

Analyze a philosophical text.

Demonstrate critical thinking.

Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper on 20th century Continental Philosophy.

Course Objectives 

  1. Demonstrate, in writing and discussion, the knowledge and approaches of various continental philosophers using supportive examples.
  2. Identify contributions of diverse Humanists in recognizing the complexity of questions and challenges addressed by twentieth-century Continental Philosophy.
  3. Identify the values, practices, and knowledge traditions of twentieth-century European philosophy.
  4. Use the analytical tools of Continental Philosophy to relate how these values and practices have shaped their social, historical, and political context.
  5. Compose texts following disciplinary formats and genres, with an evident purpose, intended audience, and in response to assigned tasks.
  6. Compose texts that execute effective disciplinary and genre conventions of organization, design, style, syntax, mechanics, and citation format.

Signature Assignment

Toward the end of the semester, I will assign you a final paper which is to contain, at minimum, 1200 words. In the paper, you will use the course material to give a critical analysis of one or more themes present in 20th century Continental Philosophy. Instructions on how to complete the assignment will be posted on D2L.

Course Description

Did Confucius really say all those things? What does it mean to call something “zen”? The popularity of mindfulness and meditation made “Eastern Philosophy” fashionable, but what exactly does that entail? 

This class will be an introduction to Asian philosophies, including Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism.

Many schools of thought in (East) Asia offered competing views on how to live  a good life. We will explore these views and trace how they responded to each other. We’ll also see how ancient and medieval Asian thoughts continue to influence culture and current affairs in Asia and beyond.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives: Humanist

Attribute(s): World Cultures & Societies, Writing

Learning Outcomes

 Students will demonstrate an appreciation of a range of diverse but interrelated classical philosophies from various parts of Asia, including their integration and resonance with their cultural and artistic practices. They will thereupon be able both to view their own home cultures with the same analytic and philosophical tools that they built in order to understand the Asian philosophies, and to apply elements of those philosophies to understanding their own lives and contexts.

Course Objectives

Students will gain the following knowledge and skills:

            * Articulate the key theses and figures associated with several major schools of thought in East Asia, as well as their canonical arguments for their views

            * Explain the developmental contexts of these philosophies, and their interactions with one another

            * Identify these philosophies’ influences in art, culture, and politics; and generalize from there to be able to identify similar sorts of influences in their own cultural contexts.

            * Close-read and critically analyze primary philosophical texts.

            * Construct cogent and persuasive arguments from the perspective of a historical and cross-cultural philosophy scholar.

* Work productively with others on scholarly and creative projects.

Signature Assignment:

Students will pick one of the following formats, in consultation with the instructor, in

order to do a “deeper dive” on an element of the course materials that speaks to them.

 

A) Traditional paper (1200-1500 words). Choose one prompt from below.

 

1. What role does knowledge of human nature play in moral cultivation?

Do certain beliefs about human nature help us become better moral agents?

Or is it irrelevant or even harmful to think about human nature? Whose

view on the matter resonated with you the most, and why? Did your thoughts

or attitudes about human nature change before/after this class?

 

2. Edward Said’s work on Orientalism shows how colonial western perspectives flattened

the vast variety of “Asian” cultures, peoples, and places into a single identity. Recap from

Hung’s article how European attitudes towards China changed and what the driving

factors behind the changes were. Then identify some widely held contemporary beliefs or

attitudes about Asia that should be called out as orientalist. In a more personal register,

name a prior knowledge about (East) Asia you had that was challenged from this class.

What philosophy/figure helped you unlearn that prior knowledge?

 

3. Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism recommend different conceptions of the self:

Confucianism asks us to pay attention to the roles we’re given; Daoism invites us to think

of ourselves less, practicing as much wuwei as possible; and Buddhism argues that there

is no lasting self. Recap each of their conception and how it connects to their visions of the good life. Which conception do you find yourself drawn to, and why?

 

4. Choose your own topic! (In consultation with the instructor)

 

B) “Untraditional” writing ( + write-up, see below)

 

Examples: personal essay talking about a previous experience that you understand better in light of a theory/figure you learned in class; an op-ed or blog post that talks about the significance of some figure/topic we covered in relation to current events or cultural phenomena or other widely shared point of interest

 

For options B, a write-up (300-500 words) should answer the following questions:

 

- What philosophical idea, argument, or question were you engaging with? Where does it come from, and why do you think it’s a worthwhile idea/argument/question to be engaging with?

 

- What attitudes, thoughts, or questions are raised by the particular manner in which you presented the content?

 

- How does your project help you engage with the ideas/argument/question in a way that writing an academic paper on the topic might not have?

 

-How does your writing acknowledge and incorporate the relevant cultural contexts in which the philosophies arose and/or how those philosophies shaped Asian culture since?

 

- Who is your intended audience, and what rhetorical tools have you used to best address that audience? 

 

Course Description:

This course is an introduction to philosophical approaches to scientific methodology. We will cover theories of the scientific method, such as Bayesian confirmation theory, theories of explanation in science, such as Mechanistic Theories, and applied methodological issues in current scientific debates, such as the Replication Crisis. 

Curriculum Category: Building Connections (BC)

Attribute(s): Quantitative Reasoning

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will demonstrate the ability to utilize multiple perspectives and make meaningful connections across disciplines and social positions, think conceptually and critically, and solve problems. (BC)

Students will demonstrate competency in working with numerical information by critically analyzing quantitative information, generating ideas that are supported by quantitative evidence, assessing the relevance of data and its associated implications in a variety of contexts, and communicating those ideas and/or associated interpretations using various formats (graphs, data tables, equations, oral presentations, or written reflections). (Quantitative Reasoning)

OPTIONAL:

Provide a foundation for critical reasoning to students in Science majors, and prepare Philosophy majors for later courses in epistemology, philosophy of science, and Cognitive Science.

Course Objectives:

By the end of the course, you will achieve skills in two categories:

A- Engaging critically with scientific articles
This might seem easy! But it’s a complex skill that you’ll get a start on here to approach an article, isolate the relationships between evidence and conclusion, and know enough statistical basics to classify the kinds of claims being made. Of course, this won’t provide all you need to know, and importantly needs to be filled out with knowledge of the topic and more advanced statistical literacy, but this course will bring you up to speed on the core skill: reading to extract and evaluate the main evidential relationships.

B- Fundamentals of philosophical argumentation
We’ll practice argument generation and mapping, which is the absolute most important part of philosophy.

In terms of content, you will also learn two different bodies of knowledge:

A- Philosophical theories of confirmation, evidence, and value in science
These include answers to questions such as: should we approach science with a social or political aim? Is there such a thing as objectivity? What does it mean for evidence to support a theory?

B- Probability and inductive reasoning
We’ll look both at the foundations of different interpretations of what probability is, and at how basics of probability theory such as Bayes rule are applied to experimental results. These concepts will be discussed abstractly, through problem sets and exercises, and as embedded in real scientific research.

Signature Assignment(s):

This class has four signature assignments: an argument map, a critical formal-reasoning evaluation, a review paper, and a final paper. I do not describe the final paper here because it is very standard. I do however describe the others, and in the case of the argument map have included an example.

Argument Map

Argument maps teach students to extract the core of an argument, and learn to tell the difference between an argument’s structure and its content.

Goals.

Identify argument structures in the text, and evaluate them for both good structure and true premises.

What you must submit.

A 1-2 page map in PDF format. The actual submission is short, but this assignment is not easy!

Format.

Your submission should include the following sections:

  1. The passage from which your question is drawn, with reference to the book/chapter.  Pick a passage that seems to establish an interesting or controversial conclusion - make sure it’s an argumentative passage as opposed to just a description, analogy or elaboration. However, it is ok if the passage states an argument that the author himself/herself does not endorse.
  2.  
    1. A conclusion statement. Start by identifying the central point the passage is trying to establish.
    2. Numbered statements of the premises. Write out a version of the argument for that conclusion in your own words. Try to identify and separate the premises (i.e., different reasons that are given for the conclusion).  
      1. You will almost definitely need to ignore some of the things that are said in the passage. Not everything is always relevant to the main argument. For instance, usually the examples are not part of the main argument; rather they are illustrating a point.   
      2. Make the list of premises as long as is necessary to establish the conclusion and no longer. Sometimes, you might have to add a “hidden” premise.
      3. It’s very unusual to have an argument that has more than 10 premises.
  3. Construct an argument against the premise from the argument which you consider to be the weakest premise (your original thought), in premise-conclusion form.
  4. Notes and issues: A section noting any difficulties or problems in your map.
  5. Write-up. A 2-4 paragraph narrative version of the argument and counterargument, ending with a very short concluding statement. 

Topic.

Any argument from the readings from Unit 1 of the course.  Do not use an argument that I have already mapped in lecture. 

Your task.

Identify the best possible interpretation of the argument structure. This means it should fit with the text, but also be as reasonable and clear as possible. Your job is to take what’s there in the paragraph and make it clear and better, distilling it down to the bones.  The formalism of the map will help you do this. And remember: a good argument map starts by correctly identifying the conclusion!

Grading.

Your grade has four main components:

  • : Did you properly identify the conclusion? Are the premises related to the text?  
  • : Is your argument reconstruction an argument? Or is it just a collection of related sentences? Have you identified a clear structure? 
  • How strong is the argument? Is the logic sound, and do the premises make sense?
  • Have you identified an interesting and plausible weakness in the premises? Is your counter argument good? 

In general, mistakes that are noted will not be graded as harshly.

What is premise-conclusion form?

We’ve been implicitly working on this all semester. This is a way of writing out an argument that separates the considerations in favor of the conclusion and identifies their relationships. You’re looking for the structure of the argument - this form allows us to separate two questions: is the structure correct? Are the premises true? 

 

Review Paper

Goals.

To set you up to write an excellent final paper by having some background research in hand. To work on research skills, and learn a bit about an area of interest in science.  Your final paper will be a philosophy focused paper that draws on scientific material, so think of this as the scientific background to that project.  However you can choose to write your final paper on a totally different topic.

What you must submit.

A single-spaced, 2-page paper in PDF format. Include a bibliography in any official citation format. Bibliography is not included in the 2 pages.

Paper format

Your paper will begin with a scientific question that is also philosophically interesting. The first paragraph of the paper should give a summary of what you will say, followed by a brief discussion of why the question is interesting. The rest of the paper will outline two possible answers to the question, and discuss at least 2 scientific articles that support each answer (i.e. 4 total). These articles should be peer-reviewed journal articles. Write as though your reader is an intelligent person who has not read any of these articles. Here’s an example outline:

  1. In this paper, I will look at the question: do depressed people have more realistic opinions of their own abilities than non-depressed people? I will consider 2 answers to this question…..[describe outline of paper]
  2. This question is important because it tells us something about the rationality of depression…..[short explanation of why]
  3. Summary of findings of articles 1 and 2. (note: describe one or two of the experiments, do not just summarize the conclusions. Do not describe the whole article, just key findings.)
  4. Explanation of why articles 1 and 2 support the idea that depressed people do have more realistic opinions of their own abilities.
  5. Summary of findings of articles 3 and 4  
  6. Explanation of why articles 3 and 4 support the idea that depressed people are equally or less accurate about their own abilities.
  7. Conclusion, including reflecting on which answer you find more convincing. You do not have to pick a side, if you think the question is unresolved, just describe why. 

Topic

Theoretically, you are allowed to pick any scientific question that relates to a philosophical question. I would suggest, however, picking a question that relates to the philosophical topics we’ve already covered in the class - this will make the assignment a lot easier. Likewise, selecting a question about the topics we’ve covered (i.e. mood disorders and addiction) is the safest bet. You can pick a topic that’s as close as you like to what we’ve discussed, though the 4 articles you review must not be required course readings.

 

Critical Formal Reasoning Evaluation

Goals.

To hone your understanding of formal statistical and inductive methods, and apply them to a practical case. Think of this as similar to the argument map, but instead of identifying a weak premise in an argument, you are identifying flawed reasoning about chance, induction, and/or statistical reasoning.

What you must submit.

A 1-2 page critical evaluation in PDF format, which follows the structure below.

Format.

Your submission should include the following sections:

  1. The passage containing the statistical, probabilistic, or inductive argument you are evaluating. It must contain flawed statistical, probabilistic, or inductive reasoning. You may use one of the prompts provided, or find flawed reasoning in published news or opinion pieces. If you choose the latter, they must be no more than three months old.
  2.  
    1. A qualitative conclusion statement. Identify the central point the passage is trying to establish.
    2. A quantitative conclusion statement. Identify what quantitative claim mustbe true if for it to support the qualitative claim.
    3. Identification of the evidence. Write out what quantitative variables the passage is using to support its conclusion statement.
  3. Qualitative counter-argument: Identify the central flaw in the quantitative reasoning. If the flaw has a name, be sure to use it.
  4. Quantitative counter-argument: Use the evidence provided in Part 2 to show the flaw identified in part three. You may need to set an additional variable or two for this; if you do so, choose reasonable values for those variables.
  5. Notes and issues: A section noting any difficulties or problems in your map.

 

Catalog Description: We will investigate and seriously consider how and why we should live as morally responsible members of an ecological community. Students will explore philosophical responses to questions such as: What makes something natural? What value is there to non-human entities? What obligations do we have to each other regarding the environment?   Students will investigate social scientific responses to questions such as:  How should wilderness be preserved?  How should we respond to climate change?  How should water resources be allocated?  Students will build connections between and reconcile philosophical and social scientific approaches to issues of environmental concern. 

Curriculum Category: Building Connections (BC)

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will demonstrate competency in analyzing a philosophical text, critical thinking, and writing a sound philosophy paper. (Program outcome)

Students will demonstrate the ability to utilize multiple perspectives and make meaningful connections across disciplines and social positions, think conceptually and critically, and solve problems. (BC)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Utilize prior knowledge and experience to reflect on what nature is, our relation to nature, the value of nature, and how societies should respond to contemporary issues of environmental concern.

Reflect on writing as tool for utilizing and creating knowledge, on writing skills, and on writing goals and areas for writing improvement.

Describe environmental challenges contemporary societies face and the history of these challenges.

Explore conceptions of nature and the place of human beings in nature.

Critically assess anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric conceptions of environmental value, and draw out the implications of these conceptions.

Discuss and evaluate institutional proposals for responding to contemporary issues of environmental based on incentives, information constraints, feasibility, and cultural fit.

Consider the perspective of marginalized groups and environmental justice in critically assessing institutional proposals.

Collaborate with other students to present and defend an institutional proposal that addresses a contemporary issue of environmental concern.

Draft and revise a substantial paper that reconciles social scientific and philosophical perspectives in defending an institutional proposal for a contemporary issue of environmental concern.

Draft and revise essays that conform to the genre conventions of academic philosophy.

Signature Assignment(s):
In the first part of course students will have written 3 shorter papers on philosophical conceptions of nature, our place in nature, and its value.

In the second part of the course students will have drawn on the perspective of the social scientist in composing 2 shorter papers that critically evaluate institutional proposals for responding to issues of contemporary environmental concern and in collaborating on 1 group presentation recommending an institutional response to one such issue.

 

Course Description

In this course, we will be focusing on a variety of issues concerning the existence and nature of mental disorder. These issues are naturally formulated as questions and may include the following: What exactly is mental disorder? How does it differ from brain disorder? Does mental disorder even exist? (Some theorists, including psychiatrists, have denied this.) What are some paradigm (clear-cut) cases of mental disorder?Might there be “borderline” case as well, such as profound grief or psychopathy? If borderline cases do exist, what does this suggest about the nature of mental disorder and of mental phenomena more generally? What can reflection on mental disorder tell us about free will and responsibility, the distinction between appearance and reality, the nature of the self or soul? What can such reflection tell us about the distinction between the irrationality associated with mental disorder and the irrationality we think of as mere “foolishness”? What can we learn about human nature by reflecting on what makes all of us vulnerable to mental disorder?

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives: Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the issues detailed in the course description as well as various influential approaches to these issues.
  • Students will demonstrate an ability to critically assess these approaches.

Course Objectives

•    students will write a sound philosophy paper;
•    critically engage with research in the philosophy of psychiatry within contemporary analytic tradition;
•    demonstrate in writing and discussion the knowledge, research, and approaches of the philosophy of psychiatry in accounting for the existence and nature of mental illnesses using evidence and supportive examples;
•    identify the contributions of diverse theories, frameworks, and accounts in the philosophy of psychiatry in recognising the complexity of the questions regarding mental illness in different context of our society;
•    read autobiographical accounts of non-male people’s experience with mental illness; and
•    apply the perspective of the philosophy of psychiatry in contemporary analytic philosophy to critically analyse and interpret practices and views in psychiatric research.

Signature Assignment

Signature assignments in this course are essays critically evaluating the implications that theories and accounts about the existence and nature of mental illnesses have on the analysis of some real-life case. In them, students

1.    describe a real-life case of someone dealing with mental illnesses,
2.    apply one of the theories or accounts about the nature and existence of mental illnesses to that real-life case, and finally,
3.    critically evaluate the implications that such theory or account has about that real-life case.

Each essay should follow standard contemporary analytic philosophy writing conventions as well as the following specifications.

– It should use either Chicago or APA-citing style.
–    It must exhibit an academic-writing style.
–    The essay must have the following structure.
∗ It has an introduction stating the main claim to be defended in the essay — a claim in favour or against some theory of account about the existence or nature of mental illnesses.
∗ It presents and explains the relevant theory or account.
∗ It describes a real-life case of someone dealing with a mental illness by mentioning all the
relevant information.
∗ It advances an analysis of the case according to a charitable interpretation of the relevant
theory or account.
∗ It presents an argument in favour or against the theory or account using such analysis as
evidence.
∗ It has a conclusion summarising what was done in the essay.

– The essay should have 1.5 spacing and be in a legible font, a word-count, and it should be between 900 and 1200-words-long.

There are 2 signature assignments due throughout the course. Each one is worth 30 points and they amount to 30% of the grade. Students can resubmit Essay 1 for a better grade.

 

Course Description

This course introduces students to neuroethics a burgeoning field in philosophy conducting research in the intersection of neuroscience and ethics. The guiding question of this course are what ethical questions neuroscience raises and what ethical questions it helps to answer. Students will encounter questions and issue such as the nature of free will, ethical implications of brain manipulation, the relation between moral responsibility and mental disorder, the ethics of moral enhancement, the nature of moral judgement, feminist critique of neuroethical research, the challenges of motivated reasoning, the ethics of brain reading, among others.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives: Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will write a sound philosophy paper.

Course Objectives

•    identify the questions and issues raised and addressed by neuroethics in contemporary analytic philo-sophy,
•    apply philosophical concepts appropriately when addressing ethical issues raised by neuroethical re-search in philosophical papers and discussions,
•    analyse published work in neuroethical research using the critical thinking tools and methods of con-temporary analytic philosophy,
•    compare and appraise the advantages and disadvantages competing views and theories in contemporary academic debates in neuroethics,
•    evaluate the soundness of views and theories about questions and issues in neuroethics, and
•    support personal views in philosophical papers regarding the questions and issues in neuroethical research discussed in the course.

Signature Assignment

Students in this course must complete one signature assignment. In it, students will write an essay supporting a view of their own regarding one of the questions or issues in neuroethical research discussed in the course. Students will

  1. explain a particular question or issues in neuroethical research,
  2. offer an argument in support of a view of their own that addresses such question or issue,
  3. present a case study that illustrates how their views explains a real-life case, and
  4. critically evaluate the advantages of their view over competing positions.

The signature assignment is worth 36 points and amount to 27% of their final grade.

This assignment contributes to the student learning outcome of any Exploring Perspectives: Humanist course by giving them an opportunity to showcase their understanding of the approaches and methodologies of neuroethics as practiced in contemporary analytic philosophy. In this assignment, students will generate knowledge that will contribute to current academic discussions on questions or issues in neuroethics that necessarily uses previous knowledge generated in neuroethical research. Moreover, students will have to describe current state of the debate surrounding the question and issue in neuroethics that they’re focusing on as they situate their proposal within contemporary neuroethical research.

The assignment contributes to the student learning outcome of any Writing Attribute course by making students write an essay executing contemporary analytic philosophy genre conventions and demonstrating rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency in the process.

The purpose of writing this essay is to

  • describe in detail a particular question or issue discussed in neuroethical research,
  • defend a particular view regarding said question or issue that inserts itself in the contemporary philosophical debate surrounding it, 
  • produce an explanation of a real-life case based on the argued view, and
  • critically evaluate their view in the light of other competing views in the debate.

The audience of this essay must be the contemporary neuroethics community.

It should follow standard contemporary analytic philosophy writing conventions as well as the following specifications. 

  • It should use either Chicago or APA-citing style.
  • It must exhibit an academic-writing style.
  • The essay must have the following structure.
    • First, it states the claim to be defended in the essay – a personal view regarding some question or issue in neuroethics.
    • Second, it explains the question or issue that the defended view is addressing.
    • Third, it presents an argument in favor of the defended view. Each of the premises of the argument is defended, and it is shown how the premises make the conclusion true.
    • Fourth, it describes a real-life case where an answer to the discussed question or issue is relevant, and there is an explanation of how the truth of the defended view dissolves the problematic surrounding the real-life case.
    • Fifth, it discusses how the defended view has some advantages over competing views in the debate.
    • It has a conclusion summarizing what was done in the essay.
  • The essay should have 1.5 spacing and be in a legible font, a word-count, and it should be between 1200 and 1500-words-long.

Students will be expected to work on these essays, discuss their ideas with their peers, and offer constructive feedback to one another’s work during the week before its due date. Throughout the course and during the last week, students will receive instruction on how to follow standard contemporary analytic philosophy writing conventions and participate in in-class activities that will prepare them to write their essays.

The essay will be graded depending on how successfully each one of the parts of the structure of the essay is achieved. A detailed rubric will be offered to students some weeks before the signature assignment is due.

Course Description:

This course is an introduction to the moral mind from the neuroscientific, philosophical and psychological perspective.  Many traditional philosophical problems about morality are being illuminated by current work in psychology and neuroscience. In this course, we will look at several of these problems. In each case, we will begin with a presentation of the philosophical problems, and we will proceed to examine recent empirical work on the topic.  A wide range of topics will be covered, including moral judgment, agency, the self, and punishment.

Curriculum Category: Building Connections (BC)

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will demonstrate the ability to utilize multiple perspectives and make meaningful connections across disciplines and social positions, think conceptually and critically, and solve problems. (BC)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

Course Objectives:

Students will come to understand and be able to critically think and write clearly about issues at the intersection of philosophical ethics and the sciences (social psychology and neuroscience in particular) utilizing the methods of critical reasoning that these disciplines bring to bear on aspects of our moral lives.

Moral concretely, students will:

  • Understand the various topics of the course and why they are worthy of the attention they receive from philosophers and scientists.
  • Carefully and critically read texts (both classical and contemporary) that address issues and questions at the intersection of moral philosophy and the pertinent sciences that contribute to debates in moral philosophy.
  • Understand the basic methods of philosophical thinking (defining terms, clarifying positions, identifying arguments and being able to critically assess them) in thinking and writing about the topics of this course – skills that apply generally to thinking, discussion, and writing.
  • Understand the experimental methods of the pertinent sciences in addressing questions about our moral lives.
  • Understand how these disciplines contribute to each other in addressing a common set of questions about morality.
  • And because the subject matter of the course relates directly to one’s experiences, students come to reflect critically on their own concrete moral experiences in addition to what they learn about the more theoretical questions raised in the course.

With respect to the quality of their writing, students will:

  • Develop their skills in writing clearly about the course topics.
  • Organize their papers according to a structure specified in each writing assignment.
  • Learn to improve their writing by re-writing in light of comments about style and content.

Signature Assignment(s):

Resentment, indignation, and moral disgust are among the negative moral emotions. While the first two are typically considered morally apt responses respectively to perceived wrongs against oneself and against others, the aptness of moral disgust has been a subject of dispute among philosophers. Here we find moral disgust skeptics as well as moral disgust defenders. For instance, Martha Nussbaum (quoted in Hauskeller) argues that “the really civilized nation must make a strenuous effort to counter the power of disgust, as a barrier to the full equality and mutual respect of all citizens (Nussbaum 2004, 117). Michael Hauskeller responds that “To dismiss as morally irrelevant widespread feelings of disgust is . . . itself in need of justification. In the absence of any good moral reasons not to trust our intuition, we should take them seriously and act accordingly” (Hauskeller 2006, 599-600).

The assignment is to write an integrated essay in which you bring to bear work in philosophy, social psychology, and neuroscience on the question of whether (considering the work of philosophers and social scientists) you think moral disgust is (or can be) a morally apt response to the perceived offenses of others or whether the skeptics are right and moral disgust should not guide our moral judgments.

The core readings for this assignment are: “Moral Disgust,” by Michael Hauskeller (Journal of European Ethics Network, 2006), “Disgust is a Factor in Extreme Prejudice” by Kathleen Taylor (British Journal of Social Psychology, 2006) and “The Moral Affiliations of Disgust: A Functional MRI Study” Jorge Moll, et. al. (Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, 2005). These are posted under “Content” on our d2l site.

Here is a step-wise outline for completing this writing assignment.

1: Introduction
An introductory paragraph in which you explain to your reader what your paper is about and give some indication of how you plan to proceed (the organization of the paper). This should be short, no more than half a page. Here you can mention the dispute between the disgust advocates and the disgust skeptics, explaining briefly what the dispute is about, as well as say what you will go on to do in the paper.

2. Next, explain how moral disgust (contrasted with so-called core disgust, animal-nature disgust, non-moral interpersonal disgust) is conceptualized by philosophers involving its various components: its elicitors, behavioral manifestations, facial expression, and feelings.

3. Then, explain how the work of neuroscientists Moll, et. al. bears on how philosophers (using Hauskeller as their representative) conceptualize moral disgust. Specifically, assuming that philosophical conceptualizations of the emotions should be consistent with empirical results from the sciences, explain how well the philosophical analysis of moral disgust fits with the work of Moll et. al. 

3. Next, consider how Taylor’s work bears on the dispute over the aptness of moral disgust as this emotion affects moral judgment. This will involve explaining the various hypotheses she proposes about the relation between moral disgust and extreme prejudice, the methodology involved in testing these hypotheses, and the conclusions Taylor draws from them as they pertain to the aptness of moral disgust as it affects moral judgments.

4. As indicated in the quote from the first paragraph above, Hauskeller defends moral disgust against various objections. Summarize the objections and Hauskeller’s replies to them. 

5. Then, considering the work of Taylor and Hauskeller, take a stand on the dispute between moral disgust advocates and moral disgust skeptics. That is, which position do you think is strongest? Defend your position by taking what you consider the strongest argument(s) by the opposing side and how you would defend your position against those arguments.

6. Conclusion.
Write a short conclusion in which you briefly summarize your paper.

Audience

Imaging that your audience (for whom your essay should make clear sense) is one of your university peers who is not taking this course. Someone smart like you, but who is unfamiliar with the dispute between moral disgust advocates and moral disgust skeptics.  

Citations

Follow all three authors who use the Harvard style in which full references to the works referred to in the text are listed at the end of the work and specific references in the text have the form: (Author Date, Pages).

 Evaluation

This paper assignment is worth 100 points. Here is a list of the grading criteria and how much each of the items is worth.

Grammar and Spelling: worth 20 points

Clarity and organization: the organization part shouldn’t be hard given the above outline. But writing clearly is a skill that I’m expecting anyone enrolled in the course to be able to do at a high level. Worth 30 points.

Accuracy: some of the assignment is an exercise in exegesis – explaining in your own words the views of the authors. Worth 30 points.

Quality of response: item 5 of the assignment asks you to be creative in taking and then defending either the pro-moral disgust position or the anti-moral disgust position. Worth 20 points.

How this assignment addresses GE learning outcomes for Building Connections

This assignment requires students to integrate and discuss relevant of multiple perspectives on the topic of moral disgust, including the perspectives of philosophy, social psychology, and neuroscience. Specifically, it requires students to explain the bearing of work in neuroscience on how moral disgust is conceptualized by philosophers, and it requires students to critically consider work in social psychology on the dispute between moral disgust advocates and moral disgust skeptics. The assignment thereby requires students to think critically about the aptness of moral disgust as it affects moral judgment in defending one of the two positions.