Bard College Catalogue 2013-14
Norton Batkin (director), Thomas Bartscherer, Roger Berkowitz, Daniel Berthold, Jay Elliott, Garry L. Hagberg, Robert Martin, David Shein, Alan Sussman, Kritika Yegnashankaran, Ruth Zisman
The philosophy curriculum is designed to provide students in any field a general understanding of the nature and history of philosophical inquiry. Students who major in philosophy also have extensive access to more specialized courses, which can serve as the foundation for graduate study.
Areas of Study
The core of the program consists of courses in the history of philosophy and such traditional areas of philosophic study as ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, the philosophy of language, and aesthetics. In addition, several seminars each year are devoted to the work of one philosopher, for example, Plato, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, James, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, or Sartre.
Students who want to moderate in philosophy are expected to take three courses in philosophy in the Lower College. No specific courses are required for Moderation, but students are encouraged to take one of the Introduction to Philosophy courses, which provide an orientation to philosophic methodologies and common themes of philosophical concern in texts ranging from Platonic dialogues to 21st-century works. Majors in the program are expected to take at least seven philosophy courses altogether, at least four in the Upper College.
Juniors must take the writing-intensive Philosophy Research Seminar (for details, see Philosophy 302) as well as a 300-level single-author seminar. Students intending to apply to graduate schools in philosophy are strongly encouraged to take at least one course in ancient philosophy, at least two courses in modern philosophy (17th through 19th centuries), at least one course in 20th-century philosophy, symbolic logic, and at least one course in ethics or political philosophy. Each philosophy major determines the topic of his or her Senior Project in consultation with a faculty adviser.
Recent Senior Projects in Philosophy
- “Determined to Be Free: A User’s Guide to Compatibilist Free Will”
- “Evaluating Women’s Capability for Transcendence: Georg Hegel, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir”
- “Philosopher as Stranger in Plato's Dialogues”
- “Renewing the Common World, from Natality to Community in Hannah Arendt’s Educational Thought”
Introductory courses are numbered in the 100s. Courses numbered in the 200s, while more specialized in content, are also generally appropriate as first courses in philosophy. Courses numbered in the 300s are more advanced and require previous courses in philosophy and permission of the instructor. Tutorials may also be taken; recent subjects include Hume, Kant’s second and third critiques, Hegel, Heidegger, and Quine.
Introduction to Philosophy from a Multicultural Perspective
This course is an introduction to such major themes in the history of philosophy as the nature of reality and our capacity to know it, issues of ethics and justice, and conceptions of how one should live. Readings are drawn from a diverse range of traditions, including Western, Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, African, Native American, and feminist texts.
Informal Logic, Critical Reasoning
This course is designed to strengthen the ability to reason well. Emphasis is on techniques of inductive reasoning, although certain basic elements of “formal” logic and the use of syllogisms in ordinary reasoning are touched upon. Students learn techniques of diagramming and distilling arguments, methods of detecting common fallacies of reasoning, the central features of inductive reasoning, and the relation between argumentation and explanation, as well as progressively more complex examples of reasoning and argument.
Introduction to Philosophy
Western philosophers address questions that most of us find puzzling. Do we have free will? Do we know what the world around us is really like? Does God exist? How should we treat one another? The class examines historical and contemporary texts that address these and other central themes of the philosophical tradition.
Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy: Justice
What is justice? Who is just? What does a theory of justice try to accomplish? Which institutions might provide justice? Exploring these and other questions, this course provides an introduction to a few key figures of the Western philosophical tradition. Emphasis is on the analysis of primary sources, but the course also aims to build up the students’ familiarity with some of the canonical terms and the tools, methods, and strategies of moral and political philosophy.
Introduction to Philosophy of Education
What is education? Is it something that occurs only in a school environment? What is worth knowing and studying? This course introduces students to philosophical thinking about education. Course work centers on the close reading of primary texts in the history of ideas, with a focus on how these texts illuminate the meanings and significance of educational practice. Among the writers and texts discussed are Plato, The Republic; John Dewey, Experience and Education; and Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
Introduction to Philosophy of Action
Placing a leaf on my head seems different from a leaf falling on my head. The first we might call an action, and the second something that merely happens to me. In this course, students examine questions about what distinguishes actions from happenstance, and whether action comes in degrees. They examine four kinds of philosophical views—those that emphasize causal history, the role of the agent, explanation and knowledge of action, and the qualitative aspects of action.
Introduction to Philosophy of the Mind
Immaterial spirits, futuristic robots, fake computers with little people inside, Martians who behave like us but have an internal structure very different from ours, brains in vats, and swamp men formed by random aggregation of molecule: this course asks whether these strange characters have thoughts and feelings, and if so, whether they are like us in what they think and feel. The class goes on to investigate central issues in the philosophy of mind, such as the mind-brain-body relation, mental representation, and conscious awareness.
“What Is” Philosophy?
A survey of canonical philosophical texts that pose the question, “What is . . . ?” What type of knowledge do we anticipate or hope to receive when asking this question? What value do we attribute to such knowledge? This class serves as an introduction to philosophical thinking through these questions and the important philosophical ideas to which they give rise, such as the concept of essence, the nature and ends of knowledge, and the systems by which values are created.
Introduction to Political Philosophy
Philosophy 117 / Political Studies 117
See Political Studies 117 for course description.
cross-listed: human rights, sts
An ancient tradition claims that we have a detailed set of inborn capabilities and limitations, rich in implications for how we live our lives and organize society. An opposing tradition emphasizes plasticity and indeterminacy. If there is a human nature, what is it, who can speak with authority about it, and what implications does it have for changing what we are? Readings from philosophy, psychology, evolutionary biology, and other fields.
Introduction to Philosophy of Science
This course takes a thematic approach to examine the nature and limits of science and scientific reasoning. Topics include the demarcation problem (what distinguishes scientific theories from putatively nonscientific theories such as astrology and creationism?); the riddles of induction (what reason is there to think the future will resemble the past?); and the realism/antirealism debate (does science tell us what the world is really like?).
To ask “why” of the world is to refuse to take the world as a given. Indeed, to ask “why” is to engage in an act of philosophical thinking—to demand analysis, reflection, thought. The history of philosophy can, in fact, be read as orbiting around a series of important “why” questions: Why being and not nonbeing? Why good and not evil? Why suffering? Why death? This course explores these questions and the ways in which they have been posed and answered throughout the history of philosophy.
Foundations of the Law
Philosophy 167 / Political Studies 167
See Political Studies 167 for course description.
History of Philosophy I
This course closely examines selected texts in the history of philosophy, emphasizing historical connections and developments through the centuries from ancient Greece to 18th-century Britain. Authors include Plato (Republic), Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics), Epictetus, Augustine (Confessions), Aquinas, Descartes (Meditations), Spinoza, Locke (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, selections), Berkeley (Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous), and Hume. Issues include the philosophy of knowledge, art, education, society, ethics, religion, reason, perception, and, centrally, philosophical methodology.
History of Philosophy II
A close examination of selected texts in the history of philosophy, emphasizing historical connections and developments from the 18th century to the 20th. Authors studied: Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Russell, William James, and Wittgenstein. The class keeps questions of philosophical methodology in mind as it proceeds through issues in ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of perception, and philosophy of language. Prerequisite: Philosophy 203.
cross-listed: medieval studies
Are faith and reason essentially antagonistic, or might they require one another for their mutual perfection? What, then, are the powers and limits of faith and reason, both independently and in relation to one another? These questions were central to the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic philosopher-theologians on whose work this course concentrates: Moses Maimonides, St. Thomas Aquinas, Abu Nasr al-Farabi, and Avicenna.
19th-Century Continental Philosophy
cross-listed: german studies
Readings from Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. The focus is on how these writers explored such themes as the nature of consciousness, reality, value, and community; on their distinctive styles of authorship; and on their conceptions of the nature and role of philosophy.
Philosophy and the Arts
This course explores the ways that philosophers (and philosophically engaged critics) have approached issues concerning the nature and value of art. After a discussion of Plato’s influential account of representation and the place of art in society, the class turns to questions raised by painting, photography, and film. Readings: Hume and Kant on taste, Stanley Cavell on the moving image, and Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin on mass culture.
The Critical Turn: Aesthetics after Kant
An examination of major contributions to philosophical aesthetics, beginning with Kant’s Critique of Judgment, which transformed 18th-century debates about beauty, taste, and art and continues to inform accounts of criticism and the arts today. Particular attention is given to discussions of the standard of beauty, progress in the arts, art’s relationship to truth, art and the theatrical, and the antagonism of art and convention. Readings include works by Hume, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Benjamin, Greenberg, Fried, and Cavell.
Philosophy and Film
Are the claims conveyed by film medium-bound? Can the philosophical, ethical, or political content of a film be detached from its specifically filmic expression? To explore these and other questions, this course integrates readings of Benjamin, Adorno, Beckett, Cavell, and Danto with viewings of films by Eisenstein, Marker, Fellini, and others.
This course reviews several symbolic systems in order to formally test the validity of deductive arguments expressed in ordinary language of various levels of complexity. Beginning with the common notion of a valid argument, the course progresses through such topics as truth tables, Aristotelian logic, Venn diagrams, and general quantification theory, including identity. It ends with a discussion of the extension of such work into higher orders of logic and the foundations of mathematics, and the initial surprise of Gödel’s incompleteness proof.
This course explores relativism as a philosophical position. The first half of the semester focuses on epistemic relativism and the second half on moral/cultural relativism. The class introduces several fundamental modes of philosophical inquiry, among them, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and metaethics. Authors read include Richard Rorty, W. V. Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Bernard Williams, and Peter Winch. A prior course in philosophy is desirable but not necessary.
Marx, Nietzsche, Freud
A comprehensive introduction to the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud. Writing from the mid-19th century until the 1930s, these three German-language thinkers in radical and yet radically different ways revolutionized modern philosophy and reformulated notions of the state, the subject, knowledge, mind, and art. This course explores the ways in which Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud each employed a critical method in order to carry out their intellectual projects.
We often ask ourselves what we should do: Go to graduate school or bum around Europe? Lie and risk my own life or tell the truth and risk theirs? While these questions can arise in mundane contexts, they can also arise in morally fraught contexts and have tremendous import. So arriving at the right answers is important. The class examines different philosophical views on what makes answers to such questions correct, focusing on the traditions of Aristotle, Hume, and Kant.
The First Person Perspective: Philosophy of Mind
The philosophy of mind addresses questions regarding the nature of the mind-brain relation, mental representation, and conscious awareness. The dominant trend in contemporary philosophy of mind is to pursue these questions in alliance with empirical sciences, such as psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. But can a mechanistic picture of the mind adequately accommodate our first person perspective, that is, what it feels like from the inside to have a mind and navigate the world with it? This course addressess these and other issues
Hume and Philosophy of Science
This course examines Hume’s empiricist challenge to received understandings of causality, induction, the systematic unity of nature, and the self. It brings Hume into dialogue with the Logical Positivists, and explores the Humean elements of relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and contemporary neuroscience, along with his influence on key figures in the philosophy of science. Finally, it asks whether contemporary philosophy of science has successfully responded to Hume’s empiricist challenge.
What is the moral dimension of our life, and what constitutes its key elements? Are there such things as “happiness,” “virtue,” and “wisdom”? Do we have “rights” and “duties” and, if so, how do we recognize them? This course critically examines the primary texts of four philosophers whose writings on these fundamental questions have had a permanent influence on Western thought: Aristotle, Epictetus, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill.
American Philosophy and Education
While American education has been influenced greatly by philosophy, it is, largely, a neglected area of study for many students and aspiring teachers. This course introduces students to philosophical texts central to the development of education in America, and to American philosophers who examine conceptual issues of concern in teaching and learning today. Students emerge with a foundational understanding of the intersection that exists between education and democracy, the nature of educational experience, and how teaching as an art and as a science is understood.
Around Merleau-Ponty: Language and Vision
This course focuses on questions of vision as they emerge in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s late work (particularly The Visible and The Invisible) and as they are linked by him to a general concern for language and a more specific question about the proper form of philosophical expression. These questions emerge in close dialogue with various of Merleau-Ponty’s contemporaries, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. Readings also include works by Jean-François Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze, Hubert Damisch, Michael Fried, and Rosalind Krauss.
cross-listed: gis, human rights, sts
This course examines a range of topics in contemporary debates over medical ethics, among them issues of genetics, reproduction, death and dying, and involuntary psychiatric hospitalization and treatment. Students review competing ethical positions that philosophers have proposed as models for understanding and resolving issues of medical ethics and study basic concepts with which all such theories grapple. Also examined are the ways these concepts apply to actual cases, and the conflict between ethical reasoning and social, religious, and legal concerns.
cross-listed: eus, human rights, sts
The course explores ethical issues surrounding the relation of human beings to their environment, including critiques of the anthropocentric character of traditional moral paradigms by deep ecologists, ecofeminists, social ecologists, and others. While the focus is on contemporary authors and debates, the class first looks at the precedents and origins of the contemporary scene in 19th‑ and early 20th-century writers such as Henry Salt, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, E. P. Evans, Aldo Leopold, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Rachel Carson.
An examination of various feminist philosophical approaches—liberal, socialist, radical, psychoanalytic, and postmodern—to the production of images of sexuality and gender. Topics explored include the cultural enforcement of gender identities; the mass-marketing of cultural images of sexuality, gender, and race; the logic of subjection governing cultural ideals of women’s bodies (dieting, exercise, clothing, bodily comportment); and issues of rape, sexual violence, and pornography.
Philosophy of Race
cross-listed: human rights
The major tasks of a philosophy of race include identifying and accounting for historically and geographically diverse histories of racialization; clarifying the forms and normative significance of the injuries of invidious racialization; acknowledging the motivations for and evaluating the efficacy of critical reappropriations of racial identity; and orienting resistance to ongoing forms of racialized injustice.
In the 17th century, consciousness was the reigning mark of the mental phenomenon. Since the emergence of cognitive psychology in the mid–20th century, however, there has been an explosion of research into unconscious mental life. In a striking reversal, so much of our mental life is now relegated to the domain of the unconscious that consciousness has come to seem the greater mystery. This course examines debates concerning the nature and existence of unconscious mental phenomena over the past 350 years.
Spinoza and the Political
cross-listed: jewish studies
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the major currents of Spinoza’s philosophy and examines the work of those who claim to philosophize in its wake (primarily, Gilles Deleuze and Antonio Negri). Students read Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus and Ethics, and consider the consequences of the distinction between true and false (i.e., “seeming”) contradictions in his philosophy. Topics of discussion include Spinoza’s critiques of abstraction and stasis, the value of free thought and speech, and the relative powers of reason and passion.
Topics in the Philosophy of Language
This course reviews Saul Kripke’s ground-breaking lecture series, Naming and Necessity, given at Princeton University in 1970. For background, students read essays by Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, John Searle, and others. Readings may also include some of the recent literature on Naming and Necessity. Prerequisites: one prior course in philosophy (preferably Philosophy 237, Symbolic Logic) and permission of the instructor.
The Philosophy of William James
William James (1842–1910) wrote and lectured on philosophy for both the emerging “profession” and for lay persons, and he did so with unusual style and clarity. In his lifetime, he earned an international reputation and became the most widely known philosopher in America. Readings include selections from James’s works, and among the topics covered are religious experience, the subject matter and nature of psychology, various ethical issues, and the pragmatic theory of truth. Prerequisites: permission of the instructor and at least sophomore status.
Philosophical Research Seminar
An intensive advanced seminar required of all philosophy majors in their junior year. A problem in contemporary philosophy is carefully selected, exactingly defined, and thoroughly researched; an essay or article is written addressing the problem, going through numerous revisions; the article is formally presented to the seminar, followed by discussion and debate; and the article in its completed form is submitted to an undergraduate or professional journal of philosophy, or to an undergraduate conference in philosophy.
Socrates: Man, Myth, Monster
Philosophy 325 / Literature 325
See Literature 325 for a course description.
Is “Perpetual Peace” Sustainable?
Philosophy 334 / Human Rights 334
See Human Rights 334 for a course description..
Constitutional Law: Rights and LibertyPhilosophical Issues of War
cross-listed: human rights, political studies
The U.S. Constitution is not only the charter of our political institutions but a statement of political philosophy as well. This course examines the theory and practical application of rights and liberties set forth in Amendments 1 through 10 (the Bill of Rights) and Amendment 14, guaranteeing due process and the equal protection of law to all. Most of the course readings are Supreme Court decisions, including dissenting opinions, through which students learn methods of judicial interpretation and aspects of legal reasoning.
Jean-Luc Nancy and Philosophy after Derrida
French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy rose to prominence as a follower of Jacques Derrida in the mid-1970s, often writing in collaboration with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, most notably in a study of Jacques Lacan (Le titre de la lettre) and a study of German Romanticism (L’Absolu littéraire). Students explore a range of Nancy’s writings in relation to those he draws upon, including the philosophers Hegel and Heidegger, maverick surrealist Georges Bataille, and novelist and critic Maurice Blanchot.
This course examines various topics concerning demands upon morality imposed by circumstances of war. These encompass the just war theory and laws of war, patriotism, obedience to authority, pacifism and conscientious objection, collective responsibility, harm to civilians, mass destruction, and humanitarian military intervention, as well as more purely ethical concerns such as utilitarianism, consequentialism, deontology, and the principle of double effect. Readings range from war crimes tribunals to selections from Anscombe, Augustine, Elshtain, Holmes, May, McMahan, Nagel, Rawls, Scheffler, Todorov, Walzer, and Williams.
Philosophy of J. L. Austin
This course investigates the work of one of the most original exponents of 20th-century linguistic philosophy, beginning with a close reading of J. L. Austin’s Sense and Sensibilia and a look into the relations between language and problems of perception and perceptual knowledge. Readings also include Austin’s philosophical papers; his influential How to Do Things with Words; and selected writings by Paul Grice and Stanley Cavell.
The New Genetics: Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues
cross-listed: human rights, sts
An examination of ethical, legal, social, and scientific debates surrounding recent advances in genetics, especially technologies facilitated by the decoding of the human genome: genetic screening and testing, issues of justice (genetic discrimination and privacy issues), gene therapy, cloning, and transgenic agriculture.
The Philosophy of Kant
cross-listed: german studies
An introduction to one of the classic texts of Western philosophy, Kant’s magnum opus, The Critique of Pure Reason.
Philosophy of Biology: Conceptual Foundations of Darwinian Theory
The lively, often acrimonious, debate between evolutionism and creationism continues, but we can achieve clarity on the terms of the debate only by understanding precisely what each position is committed to. In this course students examine the conceptual foundations of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Issues addressed include the ingredients for natural selection, the units and levels of selection, and the individuation of biological categories and kinds.
The Philosophy of Hegel
cross-listed: german studies
This course consists of readings from two of the four works Hegel saw to publication, The Phenomenology of Spirit and The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, and from two of his four posthumously published lecture cycles, Lectures on the Philosophy of History and Lectures on Aesthetics.
The Philosophy of Husserl
Can philosophy become a rigorous science? If so, can it finally redeem its promise to provide a secure foundation for knowledge? Throughout the enormously ambitious itinerary of his writings, Edmund Husserl sought to demonstrate that both questions could be answered in the affirmative. Specifically, he sought to demonstrate that objectivity can be secured through the phenomenological exposition of subjectivity. For Husserl, constitutive subjectivity, when methodologically refined, allows what is to appear as it is: subjectivity and objectivity become as one.
The Philosophy of HeideggerKierkegaard
This course provides a close reading of major portions of Heidegger’s Being and Time and several short later works. It focuses on such themes as Heidegger’s (re)conception of the phenomenological method; the elusive search for an account of Being; the analysis of our “everyday” inauthentic being and our potentiality for authenticity; and Heidegger’s thoughts on art, language, and technology.
The Philosophy of Wittgenstein
This course features the major works of one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Readings: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, The Blue Book, and The Philosophical Investigations.
The Philosophy and Literature of Jean-Paul Sartre
The course takes its readings from a variety of Sartre’s philosophic texts, including Being and Nothingness, Existentialism Is a Humanism, and Anti-Semite and Jew, as well as a number of his novels and plays, including The Wall, No Exit, The Flies, and Nausea (along with Albert Camus’s review). The relation between the two genres of Sartre’s writing is explored, including the extent to which the philosophic and literary productions complement each other.
An examination of Soren Kierkegaard’s aesthetic, psychological, and theological texts. Readings are drawn from such pseudonymous works as Either/ Or (Victor Eremita), Repetition (Constantine Constantius), Fear and Trembling (Johannes de Silentio), Concluding Unscientific Postscript (Johann Climacus), and Training in Christianity and The Sickness Unto Death (Anti-Climacus), as well as some of the sermons written under Kierkegaard’s own name. Additional writers studied include Sartre, Derrida, Levinas, Ricoeur, and Agacinski.