Department of Philosophy
The University of Houston
513 Agnes Arnold Hall
Houston, TX 77204-3004
Phone: 713-743-3010
Fax: 713-743-5162

Related Links
Affiliated Groups and Programs
Philosophy Links

 

Spring 2014 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 Philosophy (Class #17128)

Prof. Brown
11:30 - 01:00 TTH, Room: AH 201

See/hide more information about this course »

A detailed introduction to the epistemological and metaphysical theories of three major figures in 18th-century philosophy: Hume, Berkeley, and Kant.  There will be two exams (midterm and final). Students will also be required to submit a 10-12 page term paper (20-25 pages for graduate students) on a topic selected in consultation with the instructor.

PHIL 3333: Metaphysics (Class #24553)

Prof. Mag Uidhir
04:00 - 07:00 M, Room: AH 202

See/hide more information about this course »

This course will focus on the nature of time with special attention paid to the following topics: the nature of space and space-time, spatial and temporal relations, the reality of time and time's passage, causality and causal loops, logical paradoxes of time travel, as well as how these issues might bear upon other philosophical areas such as free will, agency, and personal identity.

PHIL 3334: Philosophy of Mind (Class #23336)

Prof. Weisberg
02:30 - 04:00 MW, Room: AH 303

See/hide more information about this course »

Philosophy of Mind investigates philosophical questions about the nature of mind.  A key issue is whether the mind fits into the scientific worldview or if it falls outside of our scientific understanding altogether.  Indeed, it may be that the mind is made of fundamentally different stuff than everything else in our world—a view known as “mind-body dualism.”  We’ll also consider how it could be that mental states come to represent the world around us and even represent things that do not exist.  We’ll even consider views holding that, despite our ordinary ways of talking, there is really no such thing as mind at all.  And throughout the course, we will address relevant empirical work in psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence and neuroscience.

PHIL 3335: Theory of Knowledge (Class #23337)

Prof. Johnsen
01:00 - 02:30 MW, Room: AH 201

See/hide more information about this course »

The distinguished philosopher David Lewis once wrote, “We know a lot. To doubt that would be absurd,” but he would not have bothered to say so had others not disagreed.  In this course we will consider both why some philosophers have doubted that we know much at all, and why others consider such doubts absurd.
            Doing so will require us to take up a number of important matters.  Is knowledge just rationally justified true belief? No, says Gettier, in the past century’s most famous short essay in epistemology.  Well, then, what is it?  And should we care about it?   
Is it possible that I’m totally deceived, by a being with godlike powers, about the existence of any world at all?  If it is possible, does that mean I don’t have any good reason to believe there is one?  Even if such wild possibilities aren’t all that significant, is there any good reason to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow?  David Hume thought that there is, but that no one understood what it is.  In the 20th century, two great philosophers – Nelson Goodman and W. V. Quine - finally came along who “got” Hume’s argument, and forcefully developed it. 
In a nutshell, we will be considering central questions that arise in the long-standing mainstream of epistemology, and the radical Hume/Goodman/Quine revolution in that discipline.  (An intriguing aside: Albert Einstein considered David Hume to be the single greatest influence on his thinking.) 

PHIL 3356: Feminist Philosophy (Class #23339)

Prof. Luttrell
12:00 - 01:00 MWF, Room: AH201

See/hide more information about this course »

This course is advanced survey of feminist philosophy, in terms of its intellectual and political history, as well as its current debates. The goal of this course is two-fold: first, an acquaintance with the evolution and debates of feminist theory, and second, a critical engagement with some of the central concerns of the field. Topics covered include: the role of women in the history of philosophy; liberal vs. radical feminism; accounts of the body and problems of essentialism; women and war; global feminisms. As an upper-level seminar, this class is heavy on student participation, and students will be encouraged to connect their own research interests to issues in feminist philosophy.

PHIL 3357: Punishment (Class #23340)

Prof. Sommers
02:30 - 04:00 T/H, Room: AH206

See/hide more information about this course »

This course examines a range of philosophical theories of punishment, paying close attention to what these theories presume about human agency and responsibility.  Questions to discussed include: What is connection between revenge and criminal punishment?  Should our justification of punishment focus on the benefits it provides for society, or on giving criminals their “just-deserts”? To what extent should we take the background and/or the genetic predispositions of criminals into account?   Is it morally wrong to punish likely criminals before they commit their crimes?    Throughout the semester, we will hold the empirical assumptions in leading theories of punishment under scrutiny to see how they cohere with contemporary models of human agency in the sciences.

PHIL 3358: Classics in History of Ethics (Class #18721)

Prof. Phillips
04:00 - 05:30 T/H, Room: AH202

See/hide more information about this course »

 In this course we will read the most important ethical works of four central figures in the modern history of ethics: John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), G.E. Moore (1873-1958) and W.D. Ross (1877-1971).

PHIL 3382: Medieval Philosophy (Class #25855)

Prof. Hattab
10:00 - 11:30 T/H, Room: TBA

See/hide more information about this course »

This course will delve into the writings of influential Christian, Jewish and Islamic medieval philosophers on issues like the problem of evil, free will, God’s existence, morality, the basis of knowledge and the source of political authority.

PHIL 3387: History of American Philosophy (Class #23341)

Prof. Freeland
01:00 - 02:30 T/H, Room: Charles F. McElhinney Hall 108

See/hide more information about this course »

This class will examine the distinctly American philosophical movement known as Pragmatism, focusing on its three main contributors: Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. The primary topics will be pragmatism’s distinctive theory of truth and its moral and social theory. We will also look, in less detail, at some key predecessors to this movement (such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau) as well as some philosophers influenced by it (including Nelson Goodman, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty). Assigned work will include a combination of take-home essays and short reaction papers. Graduate students are expected to write a term paper using secondary sources. Required Text: Susan Haack, ed., Pragmatism, Old & New (Prometheus Books, 2006). ISBN 978-1591023593 Recommended Text: Russell B. Goodman, ed., Pragmatism: A Contemporary Reader (Routledge, 1995). ISBN 415909104

PHIL 3388: History of 20th Century Philosophy (Class #25062)

Prof. Morrison
10:00 - 11:00 MWF, Room: AH 009

See/hide more information about this course »

No further information is available at this time.

Graduate Courses

PHIL 6305: History of 18th Century Philosophy (Class #17130)

Prof. Brown
11:30 - 01:00 TTH, Room: AH 201

See/hide more information about this course »

A detailed introduction to the epistemological and metaphysical theories of three major figures in 18th-century philosophy: Hume, Berkeley, and Kant.  There will be two exams (midterm and final). Students will also be required to submit a 10-12 page term paper (20-25 pages for graduate students) on a topic selected in consultation with the instructor.

PHIL 6333: Metaphysics (Class #24824)

Prof. Mag Uidhir
04:00 - 07:00 M, Room: AH 202

See/hide more information about this course »

This course will focus on the nature of time with special attention paid to the following topics: the nature of space and space-time, spatial and temporal relations, the reality of time and time's passage, causality and causal loops, logical paradoxes of time travel, as well as how these issues might bear upon other philosophical areas such as free will, agency, and personal identity.

PHIL 6335: Theory of Knowledge (Class #23344)

Prof. Johnsen
01:00 - 02:30 MW, Room: AH 201

See/hide more information about this course »

The distinguished philosopher David Lewis once wrote, “We know a lot. To doubt that would be absurd,” but he would not have bothered to say so had others not disagreed.  In this course we will consider both why some philosophers have doubted that we know much at all, and why others consider such doubts absurd.
            Doing so will require us to take up a number of important matters.  Is knowledge just rationally justified true belief? No, says Gettier, in the past century’s most famous short essay in epistemology.  Well, then, what is it?  And should we care about it?   
Is it possible that I’m totally deceived, by a being with godlike powers, about the existence of any world at all?  If it is possible, does that mean I don’t have any good reason to believe there is one?  Even if such wild possibilities aren’t all that significant, is there any good reason to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow?  David Hume thought that there is, but that no one understood what it is.  In the 20th century, two great philosophers – Nelson Goodman and W. V. Quine - finally came along who “got” Hume’s argument, and forcefully developed it. 
In a nutshell, we will be considering central questions that arise in the long-standing mainstream of epistemology, and the radical Hume/Goodman/Quine revolution in that discipline.  (An intriguing aside: Albert Einstein considered David Hume to be the single greatest influence on his thinking.) 

PHIL 6356: Feminist Philosophy (Class #23346)

Prof. Luttrell
12:00 - 01:00 MWF, Room: AH201

See/hide more information about this course »

This course is advanced survey of feminist philosophy, in terms of its intellectual and political history, as well as its current debates. The goal of this course is two-fold: first, an acquaintance with the evolution and debates of feminist theory, and second, a critical engagement with some of the central concerns of the field. Topics covered include: the role of women in the history of philosophy; liberal vs. radical feminism; accounts of the body and problems of essentialism; women and war; global feminisms. As an upper-level seminar, this class is heavy on student participation, and students will be encouraged to connect their own research interests to issues in feminist philosophy.

PHIL 6382: Medieval Philosophy (Class #25856)

Prof. Hattab
10:00 - 11:30 T/H, Room: TBA

See/hide more information about this course »

This course will delve into the writings of influential Christian, Jewish and Islamic medieval philosophers on issues like the problem of evil, free will, God’s existence, morality, the basis of knowledge and the source of political authority.

PHIL 6387: History of American Philosophy (Class #23345)

Prof. Freeland
01:00 - 02:30 T/H, Room: Charles F. McElhinney Hall 108

See/hide more information about this course »

This class will examine the distinctly American philosophical movement known as Pragmatism, focusing on its three main contributors: Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. The primary topics will be pragmatism’s distinctive theory of truth and its moral and social theory. We will also look, in less detail, at some key predecessors to this movement (such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau) as well as some philosophers influenced by it (including Nelson Goodman, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty). Assigned work will include a combination of take-home essays and short reaction papers. Graduate students are expected to write a term paper using secondary sources. Required Text: Susan Haack, ed., Pragmatism, Old & New (Prometheus Books, 2006). ISBN 978-1591023593 Recommended Text: Russell B. Goodman, ed., Pragmatism: A Contemporary Reader (Routledge, 1995). ISBN 415909104

PHIL 6395: Animal Cognition (Class #23347)

Prof. Buckner
02:30 - 05:30 T, Room: AH 512

See/hide more information about this course »

When philosophers have attempted to define human nature, it is often by reference to or contrast with that of animals. And yet the most natural way to understand animal minds is by comparing their abilities to (what we think we know about) our own. Our thinking about animal minds thus seems trapped between two biases: viewing animals as wordless, furry versions of ourselves (anthropomorphism), and holding that animal thought is only rational, interesting, or otherwise valuable insofar as it resembles human cognition (anthropocentrism). These doubts can leave us wondering whether a rigorous empirical study of animal cognition in its own right is even possible.

In the first half of this course, we will review the study of animal thought from the Ancients to the current explosion of empirical work on animal cognition. We will begin with the debates about human nature in Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, continue to survey the notion of the wordless "brute" caught in the debate between the rationalists and empiricists, the dramatic way that Darwin's theory of evolution changed the terms of the debate, the foundations of comparative psychology in Morgan and Romanes, the arguments of the radical behaviorists, and finally the cognitive revolution against the behaviorist's epistemological strictures.

In the second half, we will explore particular debates regarding specific cognitive capacities in current animal cognition research. The empirical study of animal cognition today is a highly interdisciplinary field—with crucial contributions by psychologists, ethologists, philosophers, and biologists—that aspires to use well-designed experiments to overcome the biases of anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism. However, there remain a variety of philosophical challenges facing the field, such as whether folk psychology (appealing to contentful mental states like beliefs and desires) provides a viable framework for the empirical study of animal psychology, whether animals have consciousness, whether animal cognition can be studied in the lab or only in the wild, and whether neuroscience might provide additional purchase on these issues. We will conclude the course by discussing the ways in which these issues arise in several debates over particular animal cognitive capacities, such as tool use, episodic memory, theory of mind, transitive inference, and metacognition.

PHIL 6395: Blame (Class #23348)

Prof. Coates
02:30 - 05:30 W, Room: AH 512

See/hide more information about this course »

No further information is available at this time.

PHIL 6395: Reference and Inference (Class #23349)

Prof. Garson
02:30 - 05:30 H, Room: AH 512

See/hide more information about this course »

Reference and inference are two important themes in theories of meaning. One intuition has it that the meaning of an expression is what it refers to, so that meaning is a relation between word and world. Another attractive idea is that the meaning of a sentence is given by its role in inference - what it entails and what entails it. The seminar investigates the connections and tensions between these two conceptions of meaning.
        We set the stage with a historical introduction - contrasting Wittgenstein's views in the Tractatus (the picture theory of meaning) with those in the Investigations (meaning as use).  Kripke's ideas about contingent identity, rigid designation, and referential vs. descriptive accounts of referring terms will be treated next, along with an account of formal semantics, including possible worlds and 2D semantics. We will then be in a position to test whether an inferential account of meaning is viable for the symbols of logic.
Students will control the selection of further topics, which may be drawn from the following.


        Character, Content and Context (Kaplan)
        Functionalism and its failings (Putnam)
        Information theoretic accounts of reference (Dretske)
        Teleosemantics: the biology of reference (Millikan)
        Connectionist theories of representation (Churchland)
        Inferentialism in natural language (Horwich, Brandom)

The course sits at an intersection between the philosophy of language, logic, the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, metaphysics and epistemology. Broad questions addressed include the following.  What explains the link between an expression and what it is about? To what extent do the rules for the use of a symbol determine its meaning?  What are the relationships between conceivability, necessity, analyticity and the a priori? How is it possible for the brain to represent the world?  How much do we need to know to be able to understand what an expression means? How is communication possible between people who disagree about what is true about the world?