FALL 2023 ELECTIVES
PHIL 304: EARLY MODERN
This course is an introduction to the philosophy of the early modern period, spanning the 17th
and 18th centuries. We will focus on what has been called the “mind-body problem” and the
“problem of bodies,” with special attention to the works of early modern women. These
problems are, in question form: What is a mind? What is a body? (How do we know what either
is?) If they’re different, how could minds and bodies interact with one another? And how do
bodies even interact with other bodies in the first place?
We’ll begin with selections from René Descartes and his correspondence with Princess Elisabeth
to raise the mind-body problem, following with responses by Ann Conway and Margaret
Cavendish. In the second half of the course, we’ll shift to the problem of bodies through the
work of Émilie Du Châtelet, with supplementary selections from Gottfried Leibniz and his
correspondence with Samuel Clarke.
PHIL 329: BIOETHICS
These past two years of pandemic have been some of the most active times for bioethicians around the world. The course draws from the authorities in philosophical and theological ethics over the centuries (including current writers) to address several “hot topics,” such as the concept of moral status and preborn life in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion, the Covid-19 pandemic, justice in health care, climate change, artificial intelligence in health care, LGBT+ issues, etc.
PHIL 336: LIBERALISM
An exploration of the philosophical foundations of liberalism, primarily focused on readings from significant texts from the history of philosophy. Special focus on the relation between nature and society, freedom, equality, the idea of the social contract, rights, law, and the state.
PHIL 338: ENGLIGHTENMENT & REVOLUTION
Evaluates the nature of political revolutions by examining the political thought preceding the French Revolution. Specific attention is paid to the meaning of revolution as a means of political change and the role of justification of violence.
PHIL 387: Critical Theory
Paul Ricoeur once wrote that Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud were the “masters of suspicion.” Disillusioned with the Enlightenment faith in “reason,” these theorists altered the course of 20th century philosophy by arguing that consciousness can be false. In many ways, the modern world and the new styles of statecraft and economies it produced depended upon the cogito introduced by Descartes. Out faith in ourselves as rational subjects that think, know, and judge in accordance with the laws of reason, justified a transition from the divine right of kings to the establishment of liberal democracy. It is precisely this view of consciousness that has become suspect.
This course will begin with the critiques of consciousness from the Marx and Freud (and to a lesser extent, Nietzsche) that prefigured the Frankfurt school of critical theory. From there we will follow in a loosely historical progression as Max Weber, Walter Benjamin, Adorno/Horkheimer, and Jürgen Habermas struggle to contend with the rise of fascism, Nazism, and the entrenchment of social inequality under capitalism. We will ask: what does it mean to offer a critique? How might we think of the interaction between ideology and art? What is a “commodity” and what are our tactics for resisting its power over our choices?