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Bard College Catalogue 2023-24
Jay Elliott (director), Roger Berkowitz, Nicholas Dunn, Garry L. Hagberg, Seth Halvorson, Michelle Hoffman, Yarran Hominh, Archie Magno, David Shein, Kathryn Tabb, Robert Tully, Ruth Zisman
The Philosophy Program at Bard approaches philosophy as a humanistic discipline and emphasizes connections between philosophy and many other fields, including history, politics, literature, the arts, and the sciences. The program offers introductory courses designed to show how students in any field of study can use philosophy to fruitfully reflect on their own experience. Intermediate courses initiate students into philosophy as a discipline by asking them to reflect on the many “Histories of Philosophy.” Advanced courses invite students to contribute to the work of contemporary philosophy as a living practice.
Areas of Study
Program faculty regularly offer courses in the following historical areas: ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, medieval Latin and Arabic philosophy, early modern European philosophy, and 19th- and 20th-century European and American philosophy. Also offered regularly are courses that introduce students to major philosophical problems in the following subject areas: aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind and language, philosophy of science and medicine, social and political philosophy, and symbolic logic. The curriculum embraces a variety of philosophical traditions, including continental philosophy, analytic philosophy, and pragmatism.
In order to moderate into the program, students are required to take three philosophy courses in the Lower College. Majors are required to take at least seven philosophy courses altogether, at least four during their studies in the Upper College. Starting with the Class of 2025, all students are required to take two courses designated as “Histories of Philosophy.” During their time in the Upper College, Philosophy majors are also required to take the Philosophy Research Seminar, a collaborative workshop focused on the skills of philosophical writing and peer review, as well as a 300-level junior seminar. Junior seminars are intensive investigations of a single thinker, text, problem, or intellectual tradition, and are designed to prepare students for the Senior Project. A Senior Project in philosophy is typically an extended philosophical essay that includes sustained critical investigation of a philosophical question using a combination of primary and secondary sources.
Recent Senior Projects in Philosophy
- “Confucianism and Pragmatism: Similarities in Notions of Selfhood and Society?”
- “The Increasingly Overlapping Magisteria of Science and Religion”
- “Toward a Common Notion of Authority”
- “What Cannot Be Said: Kant, Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein”
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 or permission of the instructor. Advanced students may also request that faculty members supplement their coursework with tutorials. In recent years, tutorials have allowed students to explore such topics as Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, theories of democracy, philosophy of disability, and contemporary queer theory.
The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
Introduction to Philosophy: Classics of Western Philosophy
A critical examination of the work of some major figures in philosophy, emphasizing historical continuities and developments in the subject. Authors include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Nietzsche, and Russell.
Introduction to Philosophy: Global Perspectives
DESIGNATED: RJI COURSE
What does it mean to be human? What should we do in life? Does anything we do really matter? The course examines these and other fundamental philosophical questions, drawing on traditions from across the world. Readings from African, Arabic, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and Western thought.
Introduction to Philosophy: The Philosopher’s Toolkit
Philosophy is sometimes defined as the art of answering the deepest and most challenging questions about what exists, what we can know, and what we should do. But how does it work? This course looks under the hood of the discipline by exploring methods such as conceptual analysis, thought experiments, hermeneutics, logic, and dialectics. Intended for nonmajors as well as those who have already started out in philosophy, classwork includes both traditional methods (reading, writing, arguing) and play (philosophical games of all stripes).
Introduction to Philosophy: The Meanings of Life
If our lives have meaning, what gives them meaning? If our lives do not have meaning, how ought we to live them? Guided by these questions, the course explores classical and contemporary attempts to figure out whether the universe is purposeful and how the answer to that question might impact how we live our lives. Topics discussed include the existence of God, nature of reality, possibility of knowledge, conceptions of the good, and the relationship between the individual and the state.
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.
Introduction to Philosophy: Philosophy and Humor
“Socrates walks into class and says . . .” This course looks at philosophical issues related to laughter, comedy, and humor. Historical and contemporary philosophical theories of humor as well as the psychological, political, and moral dimensions of humor sit at the core of class discussion. Jokes, the absurd, forms of humor, and the possibilities of humor as a tool of personal and political transformation are also explored.
Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics
This course has three main goals: provide an analytical and historical introduction to ethical theories; build a vocabulary for understanding and discussing ethical topics and issues; and apply ethical theories and language in an attempt to clarify contemporary moral 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 Philosophy: Rhetoric vs. Reason
This course navigates the choppy waters between natural language—the medium in which we speak, write, and reveal our feelings—and the analysis of language offered by formal logic. Where arguments are concerned, rhetoric and reason coexist in eternal tension. From the standpoint of formal logic, an argument aims to prove that its conclusion is true; from the standpoint of rhetoric, an argument aims to persuade people to accept the conclusion. The goal of the course is to provide an analytical understanding of the working parts of arguments.
Philosophy of Experiment
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES
What does it mean to experiment? How does experiment differ from everyday experience, and what does it mean to gain expertise? This course considers a range of methods that fall under the label “experimental”—in the arts, politics, and especially science—and what they have in common. Topics include moments in history when the turn toward experiment has been most pronounced; moments where experimentalism has been most resisted; the role of experiment in philosophy; and the trendiness of x-phi, or experimental philosophy, today.
Philosophy of Slavery
CROSS-LISTED: CLASSICAL STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS
While many today regard slavery as the ultimate example of evil, we live in a society shaped by the institution and its aftereffects. There have only been two major slave societies in history: Greco-Roman antiquity and the modern Atlantic. This course looks at slavery and its enduring effects through those societies, with special focus on the connection between philosophy and slavery. Many of the founding figures of Western political thought—Aristotle, Locke, Hegel—produced justifications of slavery that raise profound questions about the legacies of these canonical thinkers.
Philosophy and Human Rights
Philosophy 130 / Human Rights 130
From the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the language of rights permeates our understanding of political life, citizenship, and personhood itself. Yet the foundation, function, and limits of human rights remain deeply puzzling and highly contested. What is the relationship between human rights and human nature? Between human rights and morality? Can any human right truly be universal? This course attempts to answer such questions by exploring the philosophical underpinnings, justifications, and criticisms of human rights.
Art, Narrative, and Humane Understanding
How do we understand other people as people, rather than as biological or physical systems? How should we understand other people? The course explores these questions as they arise in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and aesthetics. Topics include theories of understanding, mindreading (how do we learn about what goes on in someone else’s mind?), empathy (how can we take on someone else’s perspective?), and how understanding an artwork is like (and unlike) understanding a person.
DESIGNATED: THINKING ANIMALS INITIATIVE
We humans have learned to think of ourselves as animals, and to think of our pets, laboratory subjects, wild animals, and those we slaughter for meat as “other animals.” Yet the lives of these other animals remain profoundly mysterious to us. Can we understand their thoughts, desires, and lives? What do we owe them by way of justice, love, or sympathy? This course, part of the Thinking Animals Initiative, approaches these questions through works of philosophy, poetry, fiction, and history.
Philosophy and/of Education
Is education central to a good life? How and why? What is liberal education, and what is college about? How can educational policy issues be understood philosophically? What does it mean to be educated, and how does education shape our identities? Who should define knowledge? The course considers these and other questions regarding the purposes, methods, and problems of philosophy, education, and life. Students also examine ways that education can be a catalyst for change and yet reproduce social hierarchies and inequalities; alternative philosophies of education; and connections among culture, technology, and education.
Perceiving, Imagining, Feeling: Topics in the Philosophy of Mind
What is it to perceive something? To imagine? To feel? This 2-credit course considers historical and contemporary philosophical accounts of mental phenomena that are marked by a degree of subjectivity. To this end, the class situates things like sensation, perception, imagination, feeling, and emotion within our broader cognitive lives. Readings from the ancient and early modern periods as well as from contemporary debates in the philosophy of mind.
Classics of Western Philosophy I
The course examines selected texts, focusing on historical connections and developments from ancient Greece to 18th-century Great Britain. Readings from Plato (Republic), Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics), Epictetus, Augustine (Confessions), Aquinas, Descartes (Meditations), Spinoza, Locke (Essay Concerning Human Understanding), Berkeley (Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous), and Hume.
Classics of Western Philosophy II
The course examines selected texts in Western philosophy, focusing on historical connections and developments in the subject from the 18th century to the 20th. Authors include Kant, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Quine. Throughout, 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.
Early Greek Thinking
CROSS-LISTED: CLASSICAL STUDIES
The word “philosophy” derives from the Greek philosophia, meaning “love of wisdom.” What did it mean to love wisdom in ancient Greek societies, and what might it mean today? The course invites students into the discipline of philosophy through a critical consideration of its origins in ancient Greece, at a time of rapid urbanization, expanding literacy, colonial warfare, and democratic experimentation. The course centers on the enigmatic figure of Socrates, in whose intellectual circle the term “philosophy” first came into common use.
CROSS-LISTED: FRENCH STUDIES
Existentialism is a philosophic, literary, artistic, and social movement that emerged during WWII in France, but had roots in the 19th-century works of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and German atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The class considers selected writings by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, and Heidegger, focusing on existentialist preoccupations such as the rebellion against rationalism, the corresponding emphasis on subjectivity and perspectivism, the perception of the human predicament as absurd, and the necessity of anxiety and suffering for authentic existence.
Philosophy in the U.S.A.
The guiding question of the course is whether there is such a thing as a “tradition of American philosophy.” Movements considered include the pragmatism found in thinkers from C. S. Peirce to Richard Rorty; the pluralism championed by philosophers from Ida B. Wells to Alain Locke; the socialized ethics of Jane Addams, John Dewey, and the intellectual leaders of the Civil Rights Movement; and the radicalism of political thinkers from Emma Goldman to Cornel West.
Body and World: Selves and Social Sense-Making
DESIGNATED: DASI COURSE
Our everyday accounts of perception, action, social norms, language, and even intelligence take conceptual rationality as the essential feature of human life. A good deal of recent philosophy, though, explores the possibility that we might not be “rational all the way out” and that we use concepts to supplement other, embodied ways of knowing, being, and being with others. Students examine conceptual and nonconceptual ways that we make sense of reality. Texts by Dreyfus, Merleau-Ponty, Butler, Foucault, others.
History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology
CROSS-LISTED: HISTORICAL STUDIES, STS
In this survey of evolutionary theory from the 18th century to the 20th, topics 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. Philosophical debates surrounding questions on adaptationism, genetic determinism, evolutionary ethics, and evolutionary progress are also considered. A recurring theme is the reception of Darwinian e volution, both among scientists and the broader public.
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES
An overview of pre-Qin philosophical thought in China. Texts from the major schools—not only Confucianism and Daoism, but also “Legalism,” Mohism, and the School of Names. Discussion includes questions in ethical and political philosophy, as well as questions about the nature of the world, the self, and language.
Philosophy of Psychiatry
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS, STS
Philosophers have long been interested in rationality and its absence, but mental illness has recently become an especially hot topic due to the release of a new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and breakthroughs in neuroimaging and molecular genetics. This course gives an overview of recent writings about psychiatry by philosophers, scientists, clinicians, and the people in their care. Readings also include criticisms from the antipsychiatry and neurodiversity movements.
Philosophy and the Arts
This course explores the ways that philosophers (and philosophically engaged critics) have approached 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, Cavell on the moving image, and Adorno and Benjamin on mass culture.
Philosophy, Art, and the Culture of Democracy
How have philosophical conceptions of liberty, equality, freedom of expression, and representation defined our conception of American political democracy? How have they shaped our conceptions of individuality, education, and social engagement? How do the arts contribute to our political culture? Texts include works by Locke, Mill, Emerson, Cavell; Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s; works of feminist philosophy; and works of art and criticism by Baldwin, Ligon, and Rankine, among others.
Logic is not imposed on natural language but embedded in it. Symbolic logic maps its logical structure. The course starts with whole statements (the units of language with which truth and falsity are associated) and the ways they combine into compound statements. It then proceeds to examine arguments, which connect statements by means of a fundamental relation called implication. Different strategies are introduced for testing symbolized arguments as well as for constructing them. The course also considers the presence of logic within the domain of natural language use.
Philosophy and Literature
From Aristotle’s praise of metaphor making as the mark of genius to Heidegger’s conception of the saving power of poiesis, philosophers have extolled the virtues of literature. Yet the relationship between philosophy and literature is also fraught. Socrates exiled the poets from his city, reminding his disciples that “there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry . . .” Students read philosophical and literary texts side by side as they consider philosophical theories of literature and literary portrayals of and allusions to philosophical questions and problems.
Rhetoric versus Reason
This course navigates the choppy waters between natural language, the medium in which we speak, write, and reveal our feelings, and the analysis of language offered by formal logic. Where arguments are concerned, rhetoric and reason coexist in eternal tension. From the standpoint of formal logic, an argument aims to prove that its conclusion is true; rhetoric aims to persuade people to accept the conclusion. Students gain an appreciation of the richness of natural language and a grasp of the working parts of arguments on which their logical strength depends.
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.
Philosophy of Mind
This course examines the nature of the mind, including the relationship between the mental and the physical; consciousness; and mental abilities, like perception, memory, and intention. Readings begin with texts from the early modern period, but emphasize more contemporary philosophical work. Recent relevant work in the sciences is also considered.
Medieval Philosophy in the Latin and Arabic Worlds
CROSS-LISTED: CLASSICAL STUDIES, MEDIEVAL STUDIES, MES
Medieval thinkers in the Latin and Arabic traditions undertook an outrageous project: to jointly inherit the spiritual, literary and intellectual legacy of two radically different cultures, Greco-Roman paganism and the Semitic monotheism of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For these thinkers, philosophy was the name of a specific set of arguments, practices, and attitudes derived from pagan antiquity. Themes of inquiry: the diverse contexts of medieval philosophical activity; the role of philosophy in dialogue within and between religious traditions; and connections between philosophy, poetry, science, and the arts.
Constructing Modern Science: Objectivity, Authority, Ideology
In debates over evolution, climate science, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the authority of science is continually asserted and challenged. This course examines how scientists, philosophers, and others have constructed competing visions of science to further specific ends. At stake in these visions is the concept of scientific objectivity. What does it mean for science to be objective? When and how did concepts of objectivity gain currency? What is the proper place for human values—social, political, ethical—in scientific knowledge making?
Colonialism and Philosophy
What is the relationship between colonialism and philosophy? What philosophical views were used to justify colonialism? Are some philosophical concepts necessarily tainted by colonialist histories? What do we mean when we talk about “decolonizing” philosophy? This course considers these questions with respect to European and American colonialism from the 15th century to the 20th. Texts by those subject to and/or resisting colonialism and those who justified it, wittingly or unwittingly.
Philosophy of Care
Care is central to our lives, our practices, our projects, and institutions. What does it mean to care? How do we give and receive good care? This course approaches questions of care from the perspective of moral and political philosophy, considering ethics, politics, and economics of care across the life span as well as the connection between care and social institutions. Views of care connected to gender, race, class, technology, specific needs at various stages of the human life span, and (dis)ability are also addressed.
What is freedom and what is its connection to justice? This course is an inquiry into freedom’s place in discussions of individuality, liberty and equality, democracy, conflict, race, gender, and justice. Texts include works by Charles Mills, Iris Marion Young, Audre Lorde, Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, J. S. Mill, Isaiah Berlin, and Carole Pateman.
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; the article is formally presented to the group, 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.
The Philosophy Lab
This 2-credit course focuses on philosophy as a discipline, with special attention paid to questions of inclusion and access. Students discuss readings on the current state of the profession and its history, learn about what life as a philosopher looks like at the post-graduate and professional levels, and contribute to the community of the program. This last component might include choosing speakers for the annual Speaker Series, organizing events for the Philosophy Salon, managing the Philosophy Study Room, and participating in a mentoring program.
19th-Century Continental Philosophy
CROSS-LISTED: GERMAN STUDIES
Readings from Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. The class focuses on how these writers explored the nature of consciousness, reality, value, and community; their distinctive styles of authorship; and their conceptions of the nature and role of philosophy itself.
CROSS-LISTED: JEWISH STUDIES, REL
Spinoza’s Ethics, published posthumously and banned upon its release in 1677, methodically addresses classical philosophical questions, including the nature of God, human knowledge, and how one might live well. However, his conclusions are far from orthodox, as he famously identifies nature with God and reinserts humanity firmly within the laws of nature. This course provides a careful study of the Ethics, a paradigm of rationalist metaphysics.
This course examines these movements with sufficient context to identify poststructuralism’s debts to structuralism, as well as its critical departures. Through readings of works by, among others, Saussure, Jakobson, Benvéniste, Lévi-Strauss, Althusser, Barthes, Lacan, Derrida, Deleuze, Lyotard, Irigaray, and Cixous, students gain a nuanced grasp of key concepts such as metalanguage, the symbolic and the real, discourse, biopower, logocentrism, différance, alterity, desiring-production, and the precession of simulacra.
Philosophy of Mathematics
Students in the course explore 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.
Life of the Mind: Hannah Arendt
Philosophy 337 / German 337
What is the life of the mind? What makes us think and where are we when we think? What is the relationship between thinking and willing, between thought and action? What is the history and meaning of the concept of a “free will”? Hannah Arendt engaged these and related questions intensively in the last several years of her life, in conversation with a wide array of predecessors, including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Duns Scotus, Descartes, Kant, Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Kafka. This course presents a careful study of that engagement.
Philosophy of Sigmund Freud
CROSS-LISTED: GERMAN STUDIES
Philosophers such as Michel Foucault and Paul Ricoeur place Freud alongside Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche as one of the “three masters” of modern thought, arguing that Freud’s work presents a “new possibility of interpretation” and clears the horizon for a “new reign of Truth.” This course approaches Freud as a thinker who grappled first and foremost with the nature of the mind. In addition to reading Freud’s major works, the class considers the philosophical legacy of, and objections to, Freudian psychoanalysis.
Addiction and Agency
Many believe that addicts are, in some ways, less blameworthy for their behavior than nonaddicts. This course looks at the scientific and philosophical literature on addiction and responsibility with an eye to answering the questions: How do we decide what kinds of actions are deserving of praise or blame? Is addiction a disease, and what does it matter if it is? If addiction is instead just a way of thinking, is it rational or the result of weakness of will?
Psychoanalysis and Society
Psychoanalysis was invented by Freud at the beginning of the 20th century as a method of psychological treatment and a new psychological theory. Over time it became one of the most influential philosophical methodologies, leaving its traces most importantly in social thought. Terms such as “unconscious,” “Oedipal complex,” and “superego” are widely used, but do we understand their exact meaning or distinguish between the mythological and rational sense of Freud’s discoveries? Texts by Freud, Reich, Marcuse, Lacan, Butler, Žižek, and others.
This detailed examination of the content and methods of a number of classic works of American philosophy emphasizes issues in epistemology. Philosophical movements discussed include transcendentalism, pragmatism, empiricism, and realism. Texts by Peirce, William James, Royce, Dewey, Santayana, Mead, and more recent writers. 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.
CROSS-LISTED: GSS, HUMAN RIGHTS
DESIGNATED: HSI COURSE
The course examines a variety of feminist philosophical approaches to modern culture’s production of images of sexuality and gender. Background readings in a diverse range of feminist theoretical frameworks—liberal, socialist, radical, psychoanalytic, and postmodern. Also explored: the cultural enforcement of both feminine and masculine gender identities; the mass-marketing of popular cultural images of sexuality, gender, and race; the intersection of feminism and environmentalism; and issues of sexual violence and harassment.
Plato’s Writing: Dialogue and Dialectic
CROSS-LISTED: CLASSICAL STUDIES, LITERATURE
Interpreters of Plato have often asked why he wrote in dialogue form, and the answers proposed have frequently appealed to Plato’s conception of dialectic, although the meaning of that term in his texts is a matter of considerable debate. This course examines Plato’s writings from philosophical and literary perspectives. Readings include Euthyphro, Euthydemus, Meno, Phaedrus, Republic, and Sophist. Primary texts are complemented with secondary scholarship that illustrates the range of modern approaches to Plato.
Ethics with Aristotle
Over the last century, philosophers have been increasingly drawn to the work of a revolutionary thinker whose ideas have come to dominate contemporary Anglophone ethics: Aristotle. Yes, a guy who died more than 2,000 years ago. This course looks closely at his most influential ethical work, Nicomachean Ethics, while also encountering a range of thinkers who represent his contemporary influence. Questions considered: What is distinctive about Aristotle’s approach to ethics? How can we adapt Aristotle’s ideas to our very different social and political contexts?
Perception and Consciousness
If you’re reading this, you (almost certainly) have a mind. Your mind is what allows you to have experiences, perceive and think about the world, feel joy and pain. How can a mental state be about something else? Why does biting into an apple feel like anything at all? This course investigates these and other mysteries. Throughout, students explore the intersections between philosophy of mind and epistemology, metaphysics, and aesthetics. Readings also draw on research in related disciplines, especially cognitive science.
CROSS-LISTED: GERMAN STUDIES
Immanuel Kant (d. 1804) took for granted the value and integrity of metaphysics until he encountered David Hume’s forceful attack. Convinced that Hume’s arguments had merit, Kant rethought traditional European metaphysics as well as the character of thought itself: the fundamental categories and structures on which thinking depends, and the mind’s innate capacity to organize experience. His doctrines had a profound effect on the development of Western philosophy. Kant’s innovative Critique of Pure Reason is the focus of this course.
The Philosophy of Nietzsche
“Have I been understood?” This question punctuates the concluding chapter of Nietzsche’s autobiographical text, Ecce Homo, and haunts Nietzsche’s reader. What would it mean to understand Nietzsche—the great subverter and beguiler, undoer of truths and concepts, critic of systems and values? What kind of reading, thinking, and understanding does Nietzsche call for? These questions underpin coursework as students read Nietzsche’s most influential texts, trace the development of dominant themes, and look at his impact beyond the domain of philosophy.
The Philosophy of Wittgenstein
This course features the major works of one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Readings include Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, The Blue Book, and The Philosophical Investigations.
The Philosophy and Literature of Jean-Paul Sartre
CROSS-LISTED: FRENCH STUDIES
DESIGNATED: HSI COURSE
Readings from a variety of Sartre’s philosophic texts, including Existentialism, Anti-Semite and Jew, Essays in Aesthetics, and Being and Nothingness, and a number of his novels and plays, including Nausea, The Wall, No Exit, The Flies, The Respectful Prostitute, Dirty Hands, and The Devil and the Good Lord. 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 Søren 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 (Johannes 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 texts by Sartre, Derrida, Levinas, Ricoeur, and Agacinski.