Undergraduate Courses 2000-Level and Above

Philosophy @ UConn

Philosophy is unique both in its methods and in the nature and breadth of its subject matter. It pursues questions in every dimension of human life, and its techniques apply to problems in any field of study or endeavor. It seeks to establish standards of evidence, to provide rational methods of resolving conflicts, to create techniques for evaluating ideas and arguments, and to combine the discoveries of other disciplines to create a coherent world view. Philosophy develops the capacity to see the world from the perspective of other individuals and other cultures; it enhances one’s ability to perceive the relationships among the various fields of study; and it deepens one’s sense of the meaning and varieties of human experience.

Majoring in philosophy provides excellent training for further study in a variety of professional fields. It is particularly appropriate for further study in law, theology, linguistics (indeed a joint major in Linguistics and Philosophy is offered at UConn), and of course philosophy; it is also a good background for such diverse fields as medicine and business. Most majors who continue their study of philosophy at the graduate level intend to teach at a college or university, but some pursue careers in fields as diverse as artificial intelligence and government service.

For a current listing of all undergraduate philosophy courses, please see the university catalog.

CURRENT SEMESTER


Fall 2019

Mon. Aug 26, 2019 – Fri. Dec 6, 2019

Undergraduate course descriptions for Fall 2019 (Storrs campus only)

PHIL 2210: Metaphysics

Prof Nelson, MWF 11:15a – 12:05p

Metaphysics is the field of philosophy that examines the nature of reality. In this course, we will examine questions such as the following. Does God exist? Is it rational to believe in God’s existence? Is the present the only time that exists, or do all times equally exist? Does time pass? If so, what is the nature of the passage of time? Do human beings have free will or are all of our actions already determined? Are you the same person today that you were ten years ago? If so, what makes you the same person? Do we perceive the world as it really is or do we “create” the world through our experience? Are colors real properties of objects or are they just a product of our way of experiencing the world? What really exists—concrete objects, abstract objects? How do science and metaphysics influence each other (and how should they influence each other)?

PHIL 2211Q: Symbolic Logic I

Prof Beall, Wednesdays 6p – 8:30p

This is an introduction to so-called formal logic. The focus is on what’s called “logical consequence”, a relation that holds just when one or more things logically entail(s) another thing. What does that mean?! The course aims to answer that question (among others). We will march through the mainstream account of logical consequence (so-called classical logic), and then, time permitting, look at rival accounts of logical consequence.

PHIL 2221: Ancient Philosophy

Prof Nelson, MWF 10:10a – 11:00a

We will read selections from ancient Greek philosophers ranging from the pre-Socratics to the post-Aristotelians, with special attention to Plato and Aristotle.  Topics will include Fate and Freedom, Reason and Emotion, Knowledge and Skepticism, Motion, the Forms, Cause, Time, the Best Life, and Society and the State.  The text will be Julia Annas, ed., Voices of Ancient Philosophy (Oxford University Press).

PHIL 2222W: Early Modern Philosophy

Prof Tizzard, MWF 2:30p – 3:20p

This course will explore central questions and themes guiding the evolution of Early Modern European Metaphysics and Epistemology in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Our course will study three different movements from the era, beginning with Rationalist views that champion the power of reason, emphasizing mind over body and positing the existence of innate, a priori ideas which allow us to know ourselves and the world. We will then move on to Empiricists who question the elaborate systems built by their predecessors, suggesting we must focus on the nature of sense experience and dispense with unnecessarily abstract thought in order to find philosophical truth. Finally, we will read the work of Immanuel Kant, a late 18th century philosopher widely thought to be a great unifier who synthesizes the best of both Rationalism and Empiricism. Issues to be discussed include the foundation and source of our knowledge of the world, the nature of substance and causality, the Self as a locus of consciousness and action, God’s role in the universe, and the possibility of scepticism about these things.

PHIL 2410: Know Thyself

Prof Crerar, MWF 5:00p – 6:15p

You probably think you know lots of things about yourself. For a start, you probably think you know how old you are, whether you’re wearing socks, and whether you’re a comfortable temperature. You probably also think you know various things about your aptitudes: that you’re a good listener, for example, or bad at basketball. Perhaps you even think you know things about your relations with others: that you’re a good judge of character, or that you’re leading a life in which, for the most part, you’re not really complicit in harming anyone else. In this course, we’ll examine which – if any – of these forms of self-knowledge are possible, and what barriers we face when trying to acquire knowledge of ourselves. For the most part our focus will be epistemological, though we’ll likely also touch upon issues in psychology and the philosophy of mind. Probable topics include, amongst others, the nature of self-knowledge, introspection, epistemic virtues and vices, cognitive biases, and the nature and prevalence of ignorance.

PHIL 3220W: Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights

Prof Tirrell, TuTh 11:00a – 12:15p

Human rights are often invoked to press governments to treat their citizens with more respect. In this sense, they can be seen as pre-legal rights that are not conferred by law but rights based in human nature. We will examine questions about the nature of human rights, various justifications for their use in advocacy, and some skeptical arguments about the very concept. We will examine guiding concepts for the moral foundations of human rights: dignity, agency, interests, and needs, and will look at various practitioner discussions as examples of commitments to each of these. We will study the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to see the wide range of rights articulated there and to think more carefully about which rights are most central to protecting human life and promoting flourishing. We will also address particular cases of human rights abuses and remediation.

PHIL 3228: American Philosophy

Prof Bloomfield, MW  4:40p – 7:10p

We will be studying the emergence and the development of a family of philosophical theories called “Pragmatism” which developed in the mid-19th century America, flourished in the first 3 decades of the 20th century, and has had a renaissance since the 1980’s. We will spend most time on the second two of these three phases, focusing on the relation of pragmatism to truth, as well as to ethics. Philosophy 1101 is recommended as a prerequisite.

PHIL 3241: Language: Meaning and Truth

Prof Shapiro, TuTh 12:30p – 1:45p

We use language so frequently and so skillfully that it is easy to lose sight of how mysterious our abilities are. But there is something deeply puzzling about language: how is it that just by making a series of noises, or bodily movements, or marks on paper, we are able to tell each other in such rich detail about any topic we choose? Here, we’ll take a look at this question through a philosophical lens, although linguistics and logic will also turn up in places. (No background in linguistics or logic is assumed, although students with such background might choose to put it to use in certain assignments.)

In the first half of the course, we will take a bit of a whirlwind tour through some basic tools that have proved useful for thinking about how it is that we manage to communicate through language. In the second half of the course, we’ll look at some particular kinds of language that seem to resist any simple understanding: slurs (nasty words for kinds of people or groups of people) and conditionals (“if … then” constructions).

PHIL 3250: Philosophy of Mind

Prof Lycan, TuTh 2:00p – 3:15p

What are minds and how are they related to bodies?  We will survey the traditional answers to that question, and then move on to more specific topics:  How is it that we are able to think about things, including things that do not exist?  What is the structure of sensory experience?  What makes a mental state a conscious state?  What is the “subjectivity” of the mental?

PHIL 3264: Classical Chinese Philosophy and Culture

Prof McLeod, TuTh 8:00a – 9:15a

In this course we will look at the formative philosophical thought of the early Chinese tradition, primarily in the Warring States Period and the Western Han Dynasty.  We will look at multiple schools and texts, including Confucian, Daoist, Mohist, Legalist, and Syncretist texts.  Topics covered will include virtue, human nature, proper governance, thriving, knowledge, the “Way” (dao), and the nature of truth.  We will also study the historical context in which these theories developed, looking at important events and figures in the period, including Qin Shi Huang and the unification of the Warring States in 221 BCE, the dispute surrounding the Huainanzi between Emperor Wu of Han and Liu An in the mid 2nd century BCE, and the rise of Wang Mang in the opening years of the 1st century CE.

We will read selections from a wide range of primary texts, including: Lunyu (The Analects of Confucius), Xunzi, Mozi, Zhuangzi, Hanfeizi, Jia Yi’s Xinshu, Huainanzi, Sima Qian’s Shiji, and Ban Gu’s Han Shu.


Spring 2019

Tues. Jan 22, 2019 – Fri. May 3, 2019

Undergraduate course descriptions for Spring 2019 (Storrs campus only)

PHIL 2208:  Epistemology

Prof Crerar, Mondays 5p – 7:30p

This course explores a range of questions within contemporary epistemology, which is the branch of philosophy that focuses on issues to do with knowledge. The first part of the course primarily addresses theoretical topics. We will ask, for example, what knowledge actually is? How is it different from merely believing something that is true? What does it mean to describe a belief as ‘justified’? And should we be worried about skepticism, the claim that acquiring knowledge is impossible? The second half of the course will turn to explore a range of more applied issues to do with our lives as knowers and thinkers. These might include such topics as the nature of intellectual virtues (open-mindedness, diligence) and vices (arrogance, dogmatism), the prevalence of ignorance about important issues, feminist approaches to epistemology, and the various ways that we can inflict distinctively epistemic injustices upon one another.

PHIL 2210W:  Metaphysics

Prof Fazekas, TuTh 2p – 3:15p

Metaphysics is the field of philosophy that examines the nature of reality. In this course, we will examine questions such as the following. Does God exist? Is it rational to believe in God’s existence? Is the present the only time that exists, or do all times equally exist? Does time pass? If so, what is the nature of the passage of time? Do human beings have free will or are all of our actions already determined? Are you the same person today that you were ten years ago? If so, what makes you the same person? Do we perceive the world as it really is or do we “create” the world through our experience? Are colors real properties of objects or are they just a product of our way of experiencing the world? What really exists—concrete objects, abstract objects? How do science and metaphysics influence each other (and how should they influence each other)?

PHIL 2211Q:  Symbolic Logic I

Prof Rossberg, TuTh 12:30p – 1:45p

We will study truth functional logic, and then quantificational logic, and develop techniques for establishing validity and invalidity in both these systems.   We will also study the translation of English into these formal systems.   As time allows, we will also explore some or all of these topics: the semantical and set-theoretical paradoxes, Russell’s theory of descriptions, and modal logic (the logic of possibility and necessity).

PHIL 2215:  Ethics

Prof Bloomfield, MW 3:35p – 4:50p

This class will be an upper-level introduction to main issues in normative ethical theory. We will concentrate on the three most traditional ethical theories, reading original texts and secondary literature. These theories are Kantian deontology, utilitarian consequentialism, and virtue theory.

PHIL 2217:  Social and Political Philosophy

Prof Llanera, TuTh 3:30p – 4:45p

The first half of the course surveys some of the most influential figures in western political thought: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls. We will focus primarily on their justifications of the state, their defenses of individual liberty, and their understandings of political community. The second half of the course will address topics in the present-day global context, paying particular attention to issues in the intersections of race, gender, and social inequality.

PHIL 2221W:  Ancient Philosophy

Prof Nelson, TuTh 6:30p – 7:45p

We will read selections from ancient Greek philosophers ranging from the pre-Socratics to the post-Aristotelians, with special attention to Plato and Aristotle.  Topics will include Fate and Freedom, Reason and Emotion, Knowledge and Skepticism, Motion, the Forms, Cause, Time, the Best Life, and Society and the State.  The text will be Julia Annas, ed., Voices of Ancient Philosophy (Oxford University Press).

PHIL 2222:  17th and 18th Century Philosophy

Prof Tizzard, TuTh 5p – 6:15p

Around the beginning of the 17th century, European philosophy entered a period of creative upheaval during which central features of the previously dominant worldview were widely rejected.  The aim of this class is to investigate some of the most prominent alternative views of nature and our place in it that came to be defended by “modern” philosophers.  What kinds of things exist?  How do minds relate to physical things?  What mind-independent features do physical things have?  What is causation?  What capacities do we have for knowledge?  We will examine approaches to these questions and others in texts by philosophers including Descartes (1596-1650), Locke (1632-1704), Berkeley (1685-1753), Hume (1711-1776), and Kant (1724-1804).

PHIL 3250:  Philosophy of Mind

Prof Lycan, TuTh 11a – 12:15p

Could a computer think?  Do animals feel pain?  And just what is it like exactly to be a bat, experiencing the world through echolocation?  Questions such as these—questions about the nature of thought and experience, of consciousness and subjectivity—are the focus of this course.  Topics include dualism and materialism as accounts of conscious experience; the subjectivity and privacy of the mental; the nature of introspection; our knowledge of other minds; the mind’s ability to direct itself upon the various objects of thought (“intentionality”); the problem of mental causation, and the nature of psychological explanation.  The course will include a mix of discussion and lecture.  Required work will include presentations, papers, and final exam.

Prerequisite:  at least one 2000-level or above, three-credit philosophy course.

PHIL 3263:  Asian Philosophy

Prof McLeod, TuTh 8a – 9:15a

The historical, religious, and philosophical development of Asian systems of thought.  Possible topics include the Analects of Confucius, the Daoist text Zhuangzi, the early Buddhist Suttas, and the Bhagavad Gita.

PHIL 3298:  Variable Topics – Kripke’s Naming and Necessity

Prof Simmons, Wed 5:45p – 8:15p

This course is centered on a modern classic, Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, first published as a book in 1981.  Kripke’s enormously influential book ties together, in a remarkably unified way, themes from philosophy of language, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind.  We will also study closely related work by other philosophers, including Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Searle, Plantinga, Evans, Smart, Nagel, and Jackson.

 

UPCOMING TERMS AND SEMESTERS


May Term (Tentative)

 

Summer Session 1 (Tentative)

 

Alternative Session 1 (Tentative)

 

Summer Session 2 (Tentative)