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Phronesis: Course Descriptions

Fall 2013 Courses

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook

Ancient & Medieval Political Thought

Instructor: Hallmark
Course Number: POLS 3340H
Class Number: 22522
Day & Time: MW 2:30–4:00 pm

What is justice? What is human excellence? How is one to understand the human condition? The classical political rationalism found in the works of Plato and Aristotle provides certain answers to these questions, while the revealed theologies of Islam, Judaism and Christianity provide others. During the medieval period, as a result of the recovery and revival of ancient Greek political philosophy by the Muslim thinker Alfarabi, these two competing claims of authority regarding the right way to live collided and came to represent a significant challenge to one another. The rationalism of the ancient Greeks posed a challenge to Islam, Judaism and Christianity because revealed theology is based on prophecy and faith in a mysterious, monotheistic deity that is unknowable and transcends all categories of creatures. Islam, Judaism and Christianity posed a challenge to the unassisted human reason of the ancient Greeks because revealed theology demands unwavering obedience to the authoritative divine law of God. 

The purpose of this course is to illuminate the relationship between ancient Greek political philosophy and the theological-political thought of the medieval period. The course will begin with a careful reading of Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and then turn to selected writings by Alfarabi, Mamonidides, St. Thomas Aquinas and others.

American Political Thought

Instructor: Bailey
Course Number: POLS 3349H
Class Number: 20954
Day & Time: MW 1:00–2:30 pm

Lincoln’s famous claim that America was “the last best hope on earth” is now open to debate. But in order to understand this debate, we must first understand America. This course will attempt to accomplish this by encountering the most important political questions posed throughout American political history, particularly during the various “foundings” of America.

Religion & Politics

Instructor: Weiher
Course Number: POLS 4394H
Class Number: 22525
Day & Time: MW 2:30—4:00 pm

This course explores the relationship between religion and politics in the western, liberal tradition, and compares it with the understanding of that relationship in other religious and cultural traditions, particularly in Muslim societies. It begins with a brief summary of the history of religious wars and strife in Europe. It then explores the beginnings of secularism (the conviction that public affairs should be conducted apart from formal religious involvement) in the West by looking at excerpts from, for instance, Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise, and at Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration.” We will explore the tradition of the separation of church and state in the American context by examining appropriate Supreme Court cases. Along the way we will explore statements of principle such as Bertrand Russell’s “A Free Man’s Worship” and explorations of the effect of enlightenment and Liberal ideas on religious consciousness and practice. Finally, we will examine documents from the Muslim tradition that provide a contrasting view of the appropriate relationship between religion and politics.

History of 17th-Century Philosophy

Instructor: Brown
Course Number: PHIL 3304H
Class Number: 10015
Day & Time: TTh 1:00—2:30 pm

An examination of the central metaphysical and epistemological issues in 17th-century philosophy. The works of some of the major philosophical figures of the century will be systematically discussed. These figures include Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Malebranche, and Leibniz.There will be two essay examinations: a midterm and a final. Students will also be required to submit a 12-15 page term paper (20-25 pages for graduate students) on a topic determined in consultation with the instructor.

Normative Ethics

Instructor: Coates
Course Number: PHIL 3350H
Class Number: 25335
Day & Time: TTh 8:30—10:00 am

In recent years, moral theorists have begun to recognize that not only are human persons rational agents, we’re also relational agents: we have been shaped by those who have cared for us and by those that we care for. This course will investigate the way in which ethical theories have sought to accommodate this idea, and we’ll consider the question of whether the “ethics of care” can stand alone as a viable moral theory in its own right.

History of Ancient Philosophy

Instructor: Freeland
Course Number: PHIL 3383H
Class Number: 22912
Day & Time: TTh 10:00–11:30 am

This course is an advanced survey of ancient Greek philosophy from the presocratic period through to the Hellenistic period, focusing on the development of Greek views of the cosmos, the soul, and the virtuous life. There will be four units in the course, covering the presocratics, Plato, Aristotle, and Hellenistic thought.

19th Century Philosophy

Instructor: Morrisson
Course Number: PHIL 3386H
Class Number: 21298
Day & Time: MWF 10:00—11:00 am

In this course we will examine two central figures in nineteenth century philosophy: Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche is heavily influenced by Schopenhauer’s metaphysics in the early part of his career but through his mature period becomes deeply critical of his intellectual mentor. What do the points of divergence between these two great thinkers tell us about nineteenth century thought?

Who Owns Antiquity? The Battle Over Our Cultural Heritage

(Petition for Honors and Phronesis credit.)

Instructor:  Dué Hackney
Course Number: CLAS 2366
Class Number: 21985
Day & Time: W 11:00 am–1:00 pm

Who owns the past? This class combines the study of ancient objects with readings in ancient primary sources, modern journalistic accounts, and current debates surrounding cultural property. It aims to imbue students with a broad understanding of the issues at stake. We will think about why history matters, what purposes historical narratives and artifacts serve, who gets to interpret them, and why. While we will consider questions of museum ethics and policy, the heart of the class will be far reaching discussions about why we care about the past, when and how we seek to control it, and the influence historical narratives have on current conflicts. In addition to exploring why modern nations seek to own the past by laying claim to the world’s antiquities, we will consider how the aesthetics and artistic movements of different time periods have been influenced by the discovery of antiquities. Finally, we will debate what role the study of antiquity should play in a modern education. Course is limited to 20 students; be sure to register early.

Violence and Martyrdom

This course is cross-listed as RELS 4360H, 20799.

Instructor: Zecher
Course Number: CLAS 3397H
Class Number: 22401
Day & Time: TTH 2:30–4:00 pm

Is there a difference between suicide and martyrdom? Between martyrdom and lawful execution? How can so many groups justify different claims to divine favor by a violent death or something like it? To answer these kinds of questions, this course will look at the surprising ways in which violence was understood in Antiquity. We will explore the Greco-Roman and Jewish discourses of violence and, through these, examine how Christian martyrs emerged as a phenomenon which would—and still does—play a crucial role in shaping secular societies as well as religious. We will first explore traditions of noble death in Greco-Roman literature—ranging from the death of Socrates to Livy’s History of Rome and Euripides’ tragedies. We will then examine the rise of Jewish martyrdom through selections from Maccabean literature and Apocalyptic texts. We will then explore in depth early Christian notions of martyrdom, for which we will read selections from the Acts of the Martyrs, as well as short pieces from the first centuries like Tertullian’s “Cure for the Scorpion’s Sting,” Origen’s “Exhortation to Martyrdom,” and Eusebius’ church history. Classes will be a mix of lecture and discussion over primary texts, evaluated via critical papers and in-class participation.

This course counts toward Classics and Religious Studies minors.

"A Crime Without a Name": 20th Century Genocides

Instructor: Guenther
Course Number: HIST 4394H
Class Number: 25130
Day & Time: M 1:00–2:30 pm

In 1944, the Polish-Jewish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” in response to the Nazis’ “intentional destruction” of countless Europeans during World War II. Wartime descriptors, such as “mass executions” or “barbaric atrocities,” were not applicable to the Nazis’ systematic extermination of entire groups of people. As Winston Churchill noted already in 1941, “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.” In this course, we will scrutinize the emergence, development, causes, and uses of genocide and ethnic cleansing in the 20th century. Case studies include colonial genocide during the age of imperialism; the Armenian genocide; the crimes perpetrated by the Nazi state against its own citizens and groups outside of the Third Reich, which culminated in the Holocaust; genocidal crimes in Stalin’s Soviet State; the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, which took place in the shattering aftermath of European imperialism; and the ethnic cleansings that accompanied the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia. We will examine responses—or the lack thereof—to these crimes, with a particular focus on the United States. And, interwoven throughout the course, we will explore the issue of state sovereignty; the nature of denial and memory; the notion of collective guilt; and strategies for prevention and intervention. Understandably, this subject matter is emotionally and intellectually demanding. Nonetheless, it is of great importance. Genocide remains one of the preeminent problems facing the human community in the 21st century.

This course counts as a history capstone, a senior seminar in the Phronesis minor, and a Medicine & Society minor advanced elective.

Human Security in War Situations

Instructor: Faber
Course Number: HON 4397H
Class Number: 24886
Day & Time: Arrange

This course will consider the changing nature of war since WWII and the concept and practice of human security “from below”—humanitarian intervention and our responsibility to protect. Our theoretical introduction will be based on case studies illustrating the transformation of the security fabric in the course of a war. After an introduction to the various concepts at play, we will focus on concrete examples of different kinds of war, from old, to cold, to new. In order to understand the modern notions of “new wars” and “human security from below,” students will watch a variety of movies and film clips, in and out of class. During week two each student will prepare and present a case of a war zone by focusing on the main characteristics of old and new wars, emphasizing human security from below and humanitarian intervention where possible. Students must also write a paper of approximately 2500 words that can be based on their presentation.