Spring 2015 Courses

Find information about upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses within the Philosophy Department on this page.

Upper-Level Undergraduate Courses

PHIL 3305: History of 18th Century Phil (Class #16527)

Prof. Hattab
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM, Room: AH 302

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Enlightenment philosophers developed complex philosophical systems to address the tensions that the scientific revolution had produced between: 1) the world as we experience it through the senses 2) the world as described by science, and 3) traditional metaphysical notions of substance, cause, the self and freedom of the will.  Much of this course will therefore be devoted to getting clear on the different ways in which these tensions get resolved in George Berkeley’s idealism, David Hume’s radical empiricism, Immanuel Kant’s transcendental idealism, and Thomas Reid’s common sense philosophy.  Our primary goal is to understand the theoretical foundations of enlightenment thought through careful study of Berkeley’s Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature and Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, and Thomas Reid’s Inquiry and Essays.  A second and related goal of this course is to improve your reading, reasoning and writing skills.  To that end, we will pay careful attention to the forms of reasoning employed in the assigned texts, and you will complete a series of writing assignments teaching you how to interpret historical texts, break down an argument, evaluate it and formulate objections to it.  

PHIL 3332: Philosophy of Language (Class #23242)

Prof. Buckner
MoWe 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: AH 302

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This course is an introduction to the philosophy of language. This is a large area that encompasses many topics, including meaning, truth, the relationship between logic and language, and the distinctions between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. In the first half of the course, we will review some classics in this area by Frege, Russell, Tarski, Quine, Wittgenstein, Austin, Grice, Kripke, Putnam, Davidson, and Evans. We will consider how these issues intersect in some of the central "problems" of philosophy of language, such as vagueness and language learning. In the final section of the course, we will explore more recent interdisciplinary work on the way that language evolved from the protolinguistic communication systems of non-human animals, including views such as that of Dorit Bar-On, Joëlle Proust, and Tecumseh Fitch.

PHIL 3342: What's So Great about Math? (Philosophy of Math) (Class #23243)

Prof. Garson
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: C 106

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Through the ages, philosophers have thought that mathematics embodies the highest standards for knowledge. Even if our best science gets things entirely wrong, we will never have to worry that 2+2 isn't 4. However, events such as the invention of non-Euclidean geometry, the discovery of paradoxes related to infinity, and Godel's demonstration that arithmetic is incomplete have raised deep worries about the foundations of mathematics. This course will present these and other challenges to confidence in mathematics, and then discuss a number of philosophical theories about how our confidence can be restored. A main concern will be to understand what accounts for the truth of the claims of mathematics. Although the course will cover some technical topics related to logic and infinity, it will assume no special knowledge of mathematics beyond simple algebra. There will be two quizzes and a final, and occasional homework exercises.

PHIL 3355: Global Justice and the Ethics of Immigration (Political Philosophy) (Class #23244)

Prof. Coates
TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM Room: AH 11

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In this course we'll discuss a number of issues related to the ethics of immigration and the rights of minority cultures. The main text for the course will be Joseph Carens's recent (and award winning) book The Ethics of Immigration. We'll also read and discuss Chandran Kukathas's The Liberal Archipelago, selections from Will Kymlicka's The Rights of Minority Cultures, and the work of other authors concerned with issues related to global justice (e.g., Martha Nussbaum, Elizabeth Anderson, John Rawls, etc.).

PHIL 3358: Philosophy and the Scientific Revolution (Class #23245)

Prof. Brown
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM, Room: AH 108

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In this course we will examine the interaction between philosophy, science, and religion during the 17th century, the century of the Scientific Revolution. In particular, we will discuss the debates that arose over the nature of explanation, scientific methodology, the status of natural laws and their relation to miracles, and the status of so-called "occult qualities." All of these issues were joined in the protracted conflict that arose between Continental philosophers and scientists, most prominently Leibniz (1646-1716), and the English Newtonians (Newton: 1643-1727) over the status of gravitational force. This conflict involved a central methodological, debate, pitting the Newtonian "experimental philosophy" against the "mechanical philosophy" favored on the Continent. This conflict, in its many and varied forms, will be discussed in detail, as will the equally vexed debate about the "force of a body's motion" — the so-called vis viva controversy. We will begin with a brief discussion of the Copernican revolution and the work of Galileo (1564-1642). We will then turn to an extensive examination of the influential version of the mechanical philosophy that was developed by Descartes (1596-1659) and his followers, as well as the objections raised against it by Leibniz and Newton, among others. Our final topics of discussion will be the dispute, mentioned earlier, between Leibniz and the Newtonians over the status of gravitational force and the vis viva controversy concerning the "force of a body's motion." There will be a midterm and a final exam, as well as a 10-12 page term paper on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with the instructor. Graduate students will be required to submit a 20-25 page term paper. Texts: 1. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volume 1. Cambridge UP, 1985. 2. G. W. Leibniz: Philosophical Essays, edited by Ariew and Garber. Hackett, 1989. 3. The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, edited by H. G. Alexander. Manchester UP, 1998. 4. Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, edited by Andrew Janiak. Cambridge UP, 2009.

PHIL 3386: History of 19th Century Philosophy (Class #23246)

Prof. Morrison
MoWeFr 9:00AM - 10:00AM, Room: L 212L

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We will read Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche in this class. These three great figures will stand in as representatives of three of the great philosophical movements of the 19th century: Idealism, Materialism and Naturalism. What are these movements about? What does their rise (and fall?) signify in the post-Enlightenment world?

PHIL 3393: Open and Closed Societies (Class #20773)

Prof. Sommers
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM, Location: L 212D

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Open societies and liberal democracies are celebrated for its protection of the dignity and liberty of the individual. But can societies have an excess of freedom, as Plato argued in The Republic? Can some degree of social control be justified if it leads to greater harmony and happiness among the populace? Are citizens in democracies sufficiently well-informed and well-educated to govern their lives and their country? Does the individualist ethic promoted in a free market democracy lead to stark inequalities, alienation, or demoralization? Is there a single best form of government for all human beings, or might a political order that emphasizes individual freedom be suitable for some cultures but not others? This course will explore these questions and others from a variety of historical, cultural, and literary perspectives. Required Texts. (a) Huxley, A. Brave New World. HarperPerenial. (b) Plato. Republic. Hackett. (c) Popper, K. The Open Society and its Enemies. 1 Plato. Princeton. (d) Wells, H.G. The Time Machine.

PHIL 3395: Ideas of Justice (Class #23250)

Dr. Luttrell
MoWe 4:00PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 201

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What is justice? How have historical ideas of justice been shaped by experiences freedom and bondage? This class will interrogate the history of political Philosophy in light of current movements for racial and gender justice. We will read classics in political thought (Plato, Locke, Marx, and Rawls, among others) alongside current voices (Angela Davis, Amartya Sen, and Cornel West, among others). For more information, contact Dr. Luttrell at jluttre2@central.uh.edu

Graduate Courses

PHIL 6305: History of 18th Century Phil (Class #16528)

Prof. Hattab
TuTh TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM, Room: AH 302

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Enlightenment philosophers developed complex philosophical systems to address the tensions that the scientific revolution had produced between: 1) the world as we experience it through the senses 2) the world as described by science, and 3) traditional metaphysical notions of substance, cause, the self and freedom of the will.  Much of this course will therefore be devoted to getting clear on the different ways in which these tensions get resolved in George Berkeley’s idealism, David Hume’s radical empiricism, Immanuel Kant’s transcendental idealism, and Thomas Reid’s common sense philosophy.  Our primary goal is to understand the theoretical foundations of enlightenment thought through careful study of Berkeley’s Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature and Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, and Thomas Reid’s Inquiry and Essays.  A second and related goal of this course is to improve your reading, reasoning and writing skills.  To that end, we will pay careful attention to the forms of reasoning employed in the assigned texts, and you will complete a series of writing assignments teaching you how to interpret historical texts, break down an argument, evaluate it and formulate objections to it.  

PHIL 6332: Philosophy of Language (Class #23269)

Prof. Buckner
MoWe 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: AH 302

See/hide more information about this course »

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of language. This is a large area that encompasses many topics, including meaning, truth, the relationship between logic and language, and the distinctions between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. In the first half of the course, we will review some classics in this area by Frege, Russell, Tarski, Quine, Wittgenstein, Austin, Grice, Kripke, Putnam, Davidson, and Evans. We will consider how these issues intersect in some of the central "problems" of philosophy of language, such as vagueness and language learning. In the final section of the course, we will explore more recent interdisciplinary work on the way that language evolved from the protolinguistic communication systems of non-human animals, including views such as that of Dorit Bar-On, Joëlle Proust, and Tecumseh Fitch.

PHIL 6342: What's So Great about Math, Anyway? (Philosophy of Mathematics) (Class #23270)

Prof. Garson
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: C 106

See/hide more information about this course »

Through the ages, philosophers have thought that mathematics embodies the highest standards for knowledge. Even if our best science gets things entirely wrong, we will never have to worry that 2+2 isn't 4. However, events such as the invention of non-Euclidean geometry, the discovery of paradoxes related to infinity, and Godel's demonstration that arithmetic is incomplete have raised deep worries about the foundations of mathematics. This course will present these and other challenges to confidence in mathematics, and then discuss a number of philosophical theories about how our confidence can be restored. A main concern will be to understand what accounts for the truth of the claims of mathematics. Although the course will cover some technical topics related to logic and infinity, it will assume no special knowledge of mathematics beyond simple algebra. There will be two quizzes and a final, and occasional homework exercises.

PHIL 6355: Global Justice and the Ethics of Immigration (Political Philosophy) (Class #23272)

Prof. Coates
TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM, Room: M 106

See/hide more information about this course »

In this course we'll discuss a number of issues related to the ethics of immigration and the rights of minority cultures. The main text for the course will be Joseph Carens's recent (and award winning) book The Ethics of Immigration. We'll also read and discuss Chandran Kukathas's The Liberal Archipelago, selections from Will Kymlicka's The Rights of Minority Cultures, and the work of other authors concerned with issues related to global justice (e.g., Martha Nussbaum, Elizabeth Anderson, John Rawls, etc.).

PHIL 6376: Philosophy and the Scientific Revolution (Class #23273)

Prof. Brown
MoWeFr TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM, Room: AH 108

See/hide more information about this course »

In this course we will examine the interaction between philosophy, science, and religion during the 17th century, the century of the Scientific Revolution. In particular, we will discuss the debates that arose over the nature of explanation, scientific methodology, the status of natural laws and their relation to miracles, and the status of so-called "occult qualities." All of these issues were joined in the protracted conflict that arose between Continental philosophers and scientists, most prominently Leibniz (1646-1716), and the English Newtonians (Newton: 1643-1727) over the status of gravitational force. This conflict involved a central methodological, debate, pitting the Newtonian "experimental philosophy" against the "mechanical philosophy" favored on the Continent. This conflict, in its many and varied forms, will be discussed in detail, as will the equally vexed debate about the "force of a body's motion" — the so-called vis viva controversy. We will begin with a brief discussion of the Copernican revolution and the work of Galileo (1564-1642). We will then turn to an extensive examination of the influential version of the mechanical philosophy that was developed by Descartes (1596-1659) and his followers, as well as the objections raised against it by Leibniz and Newton, among others. Our final topics of discussion will be the dispute, mentioned earlier, between Leibniz and the Newtonians over the status of gravitational force and the vis viva controversy concerning the "force of a body's motion." There will be a midterm and a final exam, as well as a 10-12 page term paper on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with the instructor. Graduate students will be required to submit a 20-25 page term paper. Texts: 1. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volume 1. Cambridge UP, 1985. 2. G. W. Leibniz: Philosophical Essays, edited by Ariew and Garber. Hackett, 1989. 3. The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, edited by H. G. Alexander. Manchester UP, 1998. 4. Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, edited by Andrew Janiak. Cambridge UP, 2009.

PHIL 6386: History of 19th Century Philosophy (Class #23274)

Prof. Morrison
MoWeFr 9:00AM - 10:00AM, Room: L 212L

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We will read Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche in this class. These three great figures will stand in as representatives of three of the great philosophical movements of the 19th century: Idealism, Materialism and Naturalism. What are these movements about? What does their rise (and fall?) signify in the post-Enlightenment world?

PHIL 6395: Consciousness Debunked (Class #25265)

Prof. Weisberg
We 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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This seminar will develop a debunking response to the so-called “hard problem of consciousness” (Chalmers 1996).  The hard problem states that even if we knew all the functional and physical facts about a creature we’d still be unable to tell in principle if the creature were conscious.  The physical and functional facts fail to appropriately determine the facts about consciousness, according to proponents of the hard problem.  The main line of support for this claim lies in the way consciousness appears to us from the first-person perspective.  A debunking claim challenges this line of evidence by providing an alternative explanation of how consciousness appears to us, one compatible with physicalism.             

In the seminar, we’ll first develop a clear statement of the hard problem and then sketch the general debunking approach, considering where it fits in relation to other responses in the literature.  Next, we’ll review a range of debunking-style claims from Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, Derk Pereboom, and others.  Then we’ll introduce a novel version of the debunking approach, one that hopefully avoids the difficulties facing previous views.  We’ll then consider what empirical evidence might be relevant to establishing the debunking claim, and we’ll close by seeing how the debunking response might also be applied to other anti-physicalists challenges, including the knowledge argument and the property dualism argument.  

PHIL 6395: Ethical Intuitionism (Class #25266)

Prof. Phillips
Th 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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Metaethical and normative facets of ethical intuitionism in the work of historical figures such as Sidgwick, Moore and Ross, and of contemporary philosophers such as Dancy, Huemer, Hurka and Scanlon. We will read and discuss critics as well as proponents of ethical intuitionism.

PHIL 6396: Aristotle: Method and Metaphysics (Class #25267)

Prof. Freeland
Tu 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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A study of key concepts from Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics and Metaphysics, including the scientific syllogism, cause and explanation, essence and accident, substance, form and matter, potentiality and actuality, and others, depending upon student interests. Students will be asked to write regular short exegeses of assigned passages, lead a seminar report on an article in the secondary literature, and write a seminar paper. Texts (Required, but other translations are acceptable) Aristotle, Metaphysics, Hugh Lawson-Tancred (Translator), Hugh Lawson-Tancred (Introduction), Penguin, 1999, ISBN: 9780140446197 Aristotle, Prior and Posterior Analytics, ReadaClassic.com, ISBN: 9781611042474 Texts (Recommended) Aristotle, Metaphysics: Books Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota (7-10), Montgomery Furth (translator), Hackett ISBN: 9780915145898 Charlotte Witt, Substance and Essence in Aristotle: An Interpretation of Metaphysics VII-IX, Cornell, ISBN: 9780801481925 Charlotte Witt, Ways of Being: Potentiality and Actuality in Aristotle's Metaphysics, Cornell, Author: ISBN: 9780801440328