Bard College Catalogue 2017-18
Garry L. Hagberg (director), Thomas Bartscherer, Norton Batkin, Roger Berkowitz, Daniel Berthold, Susan Blake, James Brudvig, Jay Elliott, Robert Martin, David Shein, Oli Stephano, 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 have 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, political philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, and aesthetics. In addition, several seminars each year are devoted to the work of one philosopher, for example, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, 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 strongly encouraged to take the two-semester History of Philosophy in their sophomore year. While not a requirement for Moderation, this sequence is a requirement for majors, and fulfilling it early will prepare students well for subsequent courses. Most students also take one of the Introduction to Philosophy courses prior to Moderation; these courses provide an orientation to philosophic methodologies, styles of inquiry, and common themes of philosophical concern in texts ranging from Platonic dialogues to contemporary works. Majors are expected to take at least seven philosophy courses altogether, at least four during their studies in the Upper College.
Juniors take the writing-intensive Philosophy Research Seminar as well as a 300-level Junior Seminar. Students intending to apply to graduate schools in philosophy are 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
- “An Outsider’s Perspective: Walter Benjamin’s Vision of Philosophy”
- “Becoming Horizon: The Creative Politics of Difference in Poststructuralist Theory”
- “The Masks of Heidegger: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism”
- “On Sense (or Lack Thereof): An Exploration of Absurdity and Metaphor”
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, Kierkegaard, and Quine.
The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
Introduction to Philosophy: Multicultural Perspectives
An introduction to such major themes as the nature of reality and our capacity to know it, ethics and justice, and conceptions of how one should live. Readings include selections from a diverse range of traditions, including Western, Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, African, Native American, and feminist texts.
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 Ancient Philosophy
cross-listed: classical studies
In ancient Greece and Rome, philosophy was more than an academic study: it was a way of life, focused on the achievement of happiness through training in wisdom. This course introduces students to the practice of philosophy, beginning with Socrates and his disavowal of knowledge, method of dialogue, public trial, and exemplary death. Attention then turns to Plato and Aristotle, and finally to the critiques of classical philosophy developed by the major philosophical schools in postclassical Greece and Rome, including cynicism, epicureanism, stoicism, and skepticism.
Three Philosophical Problems
Philosophers attempt to formulate general questions about ourselves, each other, and our place in the world—and give reasoned answers to them. This course introduces major approaches to three such questions: How do we know what we know? What sorts of things exist? What sorts of things are we?
Introduction to Philosophy of Mind
Immaterial spirits, futuristic robots, fake computers with little people inside, Martians who behave like us but have a very different internal structure, brains in vats, and swamp men formed by random aggregation of molecules: 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.
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.
Informal Logic: The Art of Reasoning
This course is devoted to the development of skills of analysis and evaluation of reasoning and argumentation. Students practice techniques of diagramming and analyzing arguments and learn methods of detecting a wide range of common fallacies of reasoning. The course proceeds through progressively more complex examples of reasoning and argument, culminating in the analysis of a number of Supreme Court decisions.
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.
Introduction to Ethics
An introduction to the major texts, figures, ideas, and debates in the tradition of moral philosophy, with an emphasis on the interplay between theoretical debates about the foundations of ethics and practical engagement with moral issues such as abortion, euthanasia, poverty, and terrorism. Foundational questions discussed include: How is it possible to argue meaningfully and fruitfully about ethical questions? Can we make genuine ethical progress? What can philosophy contribute to the work of understanding and resolving real-world ethical problems?.
Thoughts for the Times
Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations suggests that the author’s thoughts are “untimely” precisely because he questions the values and practices of his time. In “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death,” Freud suggests there are certain events in human history that demand our thinking. To what extent should we understand the task of philosophy as a task of thinking for our times? Is this role better served by politicians, journalists, or poets? The course explores the work of philosophers who have addressed these and related questions.
Introduction to Analytic Philosophy
Analytic philosophy, growing largely from the work of Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore at Cambridge University in the late 1890s, has remained a vibrant force in Western philosophy. The class considers five formative texts: Moore’s “A Defense of Common Sense”; Russell’s “On Denoting”; A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic; J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words; and Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity.
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 reading 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, James, and Wittgenstein. Students keep questions of philosophical methodology in mind as they proceed through issues in ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of perception, and philosophy of language.
Contemporary Political Theory
cross-listed: human rights, political studies
To Aristotle, a “state is among the things that exist by nature,” and it is only in a political community that human beings are fully capable of living well. For many modern thinkers—beginning with Hobbes in the 17th century—the state is at best a useful artifice designed to keep the peace among naturally conflicting interests, and at worst a monstrous fraud whereby those in power oppress their subjects in the name of the “common good.” The course looks at the philosophical tradition of reflection on these questions.
History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology
cross-listed: historical studies, sts
Topics addressed in this survey of evolutionary theory from the 18th century to the 20th, include the earth sciences, classification of life, pre-Darwinian concepts of biological evolution, Darwin and Wallace’s theory of evolution by natural selection, the problem of inheritance, and the Modern Synthesis. Also considered: debates about adaptationism, genetic determinism, evolutionary ethics, and evolutionary progress. A recurring theme is the reception of Darwinian evolution among scientists and the broader public.
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.
Philosophy, Art, and the Culture of Democracy
cross-listed: art history, human rights
In the 1990s, the defense of the arts as exemplary of democratic freedom and diversity failed to save the federal grant program for individual artists. Are the arts not just exemplary of, but fundamental to, our democratic culture? How is reconsideration of the founding conceptions of our democracy a philosophical task? How is it a task of the arts and critical writing about the arts? The course explores these questions through philosophical works, Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s, and works of art and criticism.
An introduction to logic, requiring no prior knowledge of philosophy or mathematics. The aim of the course is to impart the ability to recognize and construct correct formal deductions and refutations.
Philosophy and Literature
Philosophy 238 / Literature 238
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates defends his exile of the poets from the city by explaining, “reason constrained us to do so . . . for there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry.” What were the grounds for this philosophical exile of poetry and how do we make sense of Socrates’s defense thereof? This course attempts to answer these questions by reading canonical philosophical and literary texts side by side. Readings from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Freud, Sartre, Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Goethe, Blake, Kafka, Woolf, and others.
Philosophy of Technology
cross-listed: mbb, sts
Tool use is considered by some to be the first appearance of technology in human life and part of a surge in cultural evolution that catapulted us ahead of our nearest primate relatives. Painted in this light, the development and use of technology is part of what makes us distinctively human. However, some argue that we have crossed a threshold, where our reliance on technology now threatens to obliterate our humanity. This course examines our relationship to technology and arguments for, and against, its increasing integration into our lives.
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
cross-listed: german studies, human rights
A comprehensive introduction to the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud, three German-language thinkers who revolutionized modern philosophy. Writing from the mid-19th century through the 1930s, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud each worked to reformulate notions of selfhood and subjectivity, history and politics, God and religion, art and interpretation. The course brings these thinkers into conversation with one another and examines the ways in which their writings form the basis of contemporary critical thought.
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.
cross-listed: medieval studies
Ever wonder what happened in the two millennia of intellectual history between Aristotle and Descartes? Medieval philosophers engaged deeply with many of the most difficult philosophical questions: Do we have free will? Where does evil come from? What are the limits of human reason? Can the universe be fully explained, or does it contain an element of the irrational and mysterious? This course explores the rich variety of approaches medieval philosophers developed in thinking about these and other fundamental philosophical problems.
Philosophy of /at War
cross-listed: gis, human rights
Throughout history, philosophers have found themselves asking: What is war? What is it to be at war”? To what extent can peace be understood as the antithesis to war? Under what circumstances can war be considered just and/or morally justified? This course explores these questions by considering texts from Heraclitus, Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Clausewitz, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin, Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, Virilio, Agamben, Žižek, Butler, and Ronell.
An introduction to the ethical issues that arise in the context of health care, including such difficult issues as abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, embryonic research, cloning, genetic enhancement, patient autonomy, the moral status of animals, and access to care. Students consider major ethical theories that have implications for these cases as well as fundamental moral questions: When does life begin? What is death? Is there a moral difference between killing and letting die? Why is death bad? Why is killing wrong?
Philosophy of Language
Twentieth-century analytic philosophy experienced what has been described as “the linguistic turn,” in which the enduring problems of philosophy were seen as arising from incorrect views about language. The class examines this and related developments, with readings of texts by Bertrand Russell, Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, Paul Grice, and Saul Kripke. Prerequisite: Philosophy 237 or the equivalent.
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.
Citizens of the World—Ancient, Modern, Contemporary
cross-listed: experimental humanities, human rights, literature
First attributed to the fourth-century philosopher Diogenes, the concept of global citizenship has a complex history and urgent relevance to the present moment. The course, taught simultaneously in Berlin and Annandale, explores a tension at the heart of the idea of global citizenship: the relationship between the particularity that defines membership in a given cultural and political community and the universality that characterizes the human condition. Texts by Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Ibn Tufayl, Kant, de Tocqueville, Nietzsche, Arendt, Coetzee, and Appiah.
The Ethics of Consent
cross-listed: human rights
Since the 17th century, Western philosophy has been infused with the notion of individual autonomy and its political and legal analogue, consent. This course examines ethical criteria used to determine when public intervention into private consensual conduct may be justified, and when not. Readings from Hobbes, Hume, Wertheimer, Nozick, Fried, Feinberg, and a number of judicial decisions.
The Lives of Animals
Over the past several generations, our relationships with animals have undergone a radical shift: while we are more sensitive to animals’ suffering and more opposed to animal cruelty than ever before, we are also, due to the rise of industrial agriculture and the loss of wild places, more distant from animals in our everyday lives. Among the questions addressed: Should animals have legal rights? How are animals represented differently in philosophy and in literature? What should the future of our lives with animals look like?
Philosophy of Mathematics
Philosophy 336 / Mathematics 336
This course examines various attempts to identify the conceptual underpinnings of mathematics. Topics include logicism, formalism, intuitionism, the concept of a formal procedure, the distinction between naive and axiomatic set theory, the set-theoretic characterization of the real number system, the theory of types, and, time permitting, different attempts to solve Zeno’s paradoxes. Texts by Galileo, Bolzano, Frege, Russell, Gödel, Turing, and Putnam, among others. Prerequisite: Philosophy 237 or Mathematics 261.
cross-listed: german studies, mbb
This course engages with central issues in the metaphysics of space and time. Does space exist in its own right or are there merely spatial relations between material objects? Is the present time objectively special? Are dinosaurs and Martian outposts real but merely temporally distant? Is time travel possible? What is time? What is space? What makes them different? Where does the direction of time come from?
cross-listed: german studies, mbb
A detailed examination of the content and methods of a number of classic works of American philosophy, emphasizing issues in epistemology. Authors include Peirce, William James, Royce, Dewey, Santayana, Mead, and more recent writers. The philosophical movements discussed include transcendentalism, pragmatism, empiricism, and realism. The investigation of these works involves problems in the philosophy of religion, ethics, aesthetics, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of education, and social and political philosophy.
Heidegger’s Being and Time
“Do we in our time have an answer to the question of what we really mean by the word ‘being’? Not at all. So it is fitting that we should raise anew the question of the meaning of being.” With these words, Martin Heidegger signals both the task and the urgency of Being and Time (1927), one of the most important texts in philosophy. Through a close reading of Being and Time, students address such Heideggerian concepts as being-in-the-world, being-with, thrownness, temporality, being-toward-death, and authenticity.
Seminar in Philosophy of Law
Questions under consideration include legal authority and legitimacy, obedience (and disobedience) to law, legal reasoning, individual responsibility, punishment, and matters of right. Disciplines such as natural law, legal realism, analytical jurisprudence, and normative jurisprudence are also discussed. In general, references are to the English and American legal traditions. Readings include works by Hume, Blackstone, Holmes, Fuller, Finnis, Hart, and Dworkin, as well as various legal decisions.
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.
Introduction to Caribbean Philosophy
The aim of the course is doing philosophy and not just knowing philosophers, an important distinction in areas with a legacy of epistemological colonialism. Threads of analysis unique to this geography include the idea that philosophy is a contextual project rooted in a specific place rather than an abstract, ideal theory; the effect of colonialism on culture and education; and the analysis of “modernity” as a European project. Texts by Édouard Glissant, Wilson Harris, Eugenio María de Hostos, Julia de Burgos, and Frantz Fanon.
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is one of the earliest attempts to think systematically about ethical questions. It is also the subject of some of today’s most heated philosophical debates. In this seminar, students analyze Aristotle’s arguments in detail. Topics of special interest include Aristotle’s concept of happiness, theory of moral development, philosophy of action, account of love and friendship, and his distinction between “active” and “contemplative” lives.
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
The course presents a close reading of Hegel’s first great work, The Phenomenology of Spirit.
The Philosophy of Nietzsche
Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Beyond Good and Evil are studied, with a focus on, among other themes, epistemological perspectivalism; literary experimentalism; philosophy (and life) as art; the critique of tradition; the diagnosis of modernity as cultural nihilism; the central role of the unconscious; and the concepts of the will to power, the overman, and the death of god. Interpretations from a range of disciplines—literary theory, psychoanalysis, feminist theory, and political theory—are also explored.
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.
Hannah Arendt Seminar
Philosophy 420 / Political Studies 420
See Political Studies 420 for a full course description.