Recent Offerings


Theories of Sound, Noise, and Music, PHIL 5050, Dr. Robin James, Mondays 3:30-6:15

This course will introduce students to various theories of sound and music, both within the history of Western philosophy and in the contemporary academic field called sound studies. These theories consider what sound, noise, and music are, how they work, (the metaphysics and ontology of sound/noise/music); when they’re pleasing and when they’re displeasing or harmful (the aesthetics of sound/noise/music); and the ways these phenomena interact with broader systems of social in/exclusion (the politics of sound/noise/music). We will pay particular attention to the relationship between the philosophy of music and political philosophy, and theories of sound in African-American philosophy. There will be assigned readings and assigned listening, and one or two practical exercises (e.g., build a simple stringed instrument, play a phase composition on smartphones and bluetooth speakers, etc.). No background or experience in music is required, though students with experience in music performance, theory, and/or musicology are welcome.

Social Practice Art, PHIL 5050, Dr. Michael Kelly, Mondays 6:30-9:15

Since the 1960s, art practices around the world have experienced a participatory turn, characterized by the active engagement of nonartists in the production of art in nontraditional settings, giving rise to a new genre called participatory art, also known as socially engaged, collaborative, or social practice art (as distinct from studio practice art). A few recent U.S. examples are: Theaster Gates’s “Rebuild Foundation” in Chicago; Tania Brughera’s “Immigrant Movement International” in Queens; and Mel Chin’s “Fundred Dollar Bill Project” travelling around the country.

            Art and architecture students will develop individual social-practice art projects, while philosophy and other students will develop social-practice art research projects—or possibly there will be some collective art/research projects. Throughout the semester, all students will study the aesthetics and politics of social practice art against the background of its history and other forms of contemporary art.

            Students will start their own research or art projects right from the start, focusing on these questions: What particular social-political-cultural issue, story, group of people, place, or phenomenon concerns you? What particular project would you like to create? What would be the best artistic form and forum for your project, including nontraditional forms of artistic expression and non-traditional venues? Why is this concern and your project important? How do you see your role in this project? What results do you expect? And how can you/we measure the effectiveness of your project? How can you sustain your involvement? 

Ethical Theory, PHIL 6110, Dr. Phillip McReynolds, Tuesdays 5:30-8:15

Examination of major normative and meta theories that undergird our practical judgments about morally right actions and morally good persons, organizations, or policies. This examination may include central problems and issues concerning morality's: requirements (e.g. utility, duty, virtue, care), authority (e.g. absolutism, relativism, pluralism, multiculturalism), scope (e.g. deceased or future human beings, animals, environment), justification (e.g. rationality, intuition), source (e.g. reason, sentiment, disagreement), and nature (e.g. realism/antirealism, objectivity/subjectivity).

Philosophy of Mind, PHIL 6630, Dr. Andrea Pitts, Wednesdays 5:30-8:15

Examines questions concerning the relationship between body and mind, the existence of other minds, the nature of consciousness, and the architecture of cognition. Approaches to these questions include traditional philosophical sources (emphasizing metaphysics and epistemology) and more recent developments in cognitive science (including the computational model of mind, mental representation, connectionist systems, and artificial intelligence). Also addressed are ethical and social issues involved in the design and implementation of intelligent systems. Inquiries bear on issue such as free will and determinism, emotion and reasoning, and the nature of rationality.

Theoretical Approaches to Gender, WGST 6602, Dr. Emek Ergun, Thursdays5:30-8:15  

An interdisciplinary examination of the core theories about the role of gender in identity formation and social organization. Topics include: the feminist critique of biological essentialism; gender as a continuum; the social construction of gender; gender performativity; historical changes in gender; masculinity studies; the intersection of race, class and gender; and the economics of gender.


FALL 2016


PHIL 6120, Philosophical Methods, Mondays 5:30-8:15, Dr. Michael Kelly

The main objective of this course is to explore, critique, and practice a variety of philosophical methods (i.e., ways of practicing philosophy, convincing other people of your philosophical beliefs)—e.g., genealogy, feminism, phenomenology, logic, critical theory, pragmatism, intersectional theory, Marxism, deconstruction, queer theory, hermeneutics, postcolonial theory, race theory, and assemblage theory.

After a brief survey of some historical examples of philosophical method in the first month of the semester, the range and ultimate selection of methods to be discussed will be determined largely by the students’ research topics. Each student will write a research paper on a topic of their choice, which will be developed through multiple drafts written over the course of the semester and involve whichever method(s) they find most appropriate.

 In the end, this course should prepare you for all your other graduate courses, as every philosopher has some method, regardless of the subject matter or the perspective they take on it. At the same time, we will develop a sense of method that will enable you to interact with your peers in other disciplines, not to separate you as philosophers from them.

PHIL 6050, Philosophical Topics: Seminar in Latin American Thought, Tuesdays 5:30-8:15, Dr. Andrea Pitts

This course will provide an overview of major trends in Latin American thought from the pre-Columbian period to the present day. Methodologically, we will focus on texts by authors working in the areas of Latin American cultural studies, philosophy, subaltern studies, feminism, and postcolonial/decolonial theory. Themes we will discuss include: cultural agency and revolution, philosophy of liberation, intellectualism and cosmopolitanism, gender, race, class, and sexuality, positivism and evolutionary theory, nationalism and pan-national identity, indigenismoblanqueamiento, and mestizaje, hybridity and transculturation, and globalization and neocolonialism.

PHIL 4590/5050 Language and Meaning, Wednesdays, 6:30-9:15pm, Dr. Dan Boisvert.

Human languages, like English or Portuguese, are essentially arbitrary strings of marks and sounds. But human beings can use these arbitrary marks and sounds to communicate—and thereby to do some virtuous and, sometimes, horrible things—because these marks and sounds are meaningful. But what is it for a word or sentence to “mean” something? What do particular words and sentences actually mean? How do they get those meanings? What could a person know that would enable her to understand any sentence of her language(s)? Especially the latter question is what our course will aim to answer. 

PHIL 6050 Big Data and Ethics, Wednesdays 5:30-8:15pm, Dr. Gordon Hull.

According to its proponents, “big data” promises to revolutionize many of the most basic ways that we interact with one another, access services, and do business.  The resulting “evidence-based” gains in these areas promise to make life better in numerous ways.  As the debate around electronic health records testifies, many of these expected benefits are in terms of efficiency.  At the same time, many have raised serious ethical questions about not just the technologies themselves, but their implementation: with this amount of information available about everyone, what happens to privacy?  Will big data enable new forms of discrimination, or help to ameliorate it?  These concerns have been voiced in places ranging from the popular press to a governmental task force report.  Ethical concerns, in other words, are at the heart of the implementation of analytics, even if the only goal is efficiency, as efficiency might trade off with other, morally important values.

In this course, we will pursue a sampling of the ethical concerns that arise with big data, with attention to the ways that policies and technological developments can either ameliorate or increase them.  The course combines theoretical reading (some of it classic moral philosophy) with current literature developing that theory as it applies to data analytics.  In doing so, we will look primarily at what ethicists call “thick concepts,” values like “privacy” and “equality” through which most of us do most of our moral thinking 

PHIL 6050, Master’s Research Paper, Thursdays 1-3:45 p.m., Dr. Lisa Rasmussen

In this course, students will begin with a previously submitted course paper and spend the semester revising it.  The goal is for each student to produce a polished, professional paper worthy of submission to a philosophical journal. Additional reading and research on the topic will be conducted, and multiple steps of revision and presentation of work in progress to the class will be included.  May be repeated for credit with new material.

Pre-requisites: Completion of 15 credit hours in philosophy graduate courses prior to enrollment; permission of the department.



Phil 5050: Topics in Philosophy: Twentieth-Century Philosophy (Dr. Michael Kelly)

Mondays, 6:30 p.m. - 9:15 p.m.

The twentieth century was as rich in philosophy as it was in art, science, and history: phenomenology, existentialism, analytic philosophy, logical positivism, pragmatism, ordinary-language philosophy, feminism, critical theory, hermeneutics, critical race theory, deconstruction, queer theory, etc. One way to introduce you to as many of these types of philosophy as possible is to focus on texts that highlight the similarities as well as differences among them. This course will complement many other courses in the department, including the required ones—Knowledge & Reality, Ethical Theory, Modern Philosophy, and Social Political Philosophy—and electives: Aesthetics, Feminism, Philosophy of Language, etc.

Phil 5050: Topics in Philosophy: Language and Thought (Dr. Daniel Boisvert)

Wednesdays 6:30 p.m. - 9:15 p.m.

What, precisely, are we doing when we say ‘Stealing is wrong’? According to cognitivism, we are attributing some kind of property or characteristic to acts of stealing, much as we attribute the property circularity when we say ‘This table is circular.” And given the intimate connections between language and thought, cognitivism also typically holds that to think that stealing is wrong is to believe, or represent, acts of stealing as having that property. But according to expressivism, saying ‘Stealing is wrong’ is more like expressing an attitude, much as we do when we say ‘Down with stealing!’, or like prescribing behavior, much as we do when we say, ‘Let’s not steal.’ Accordingly, expressivists also typically hold that to think that stealing is wrong is like disapproving of stealing, or deciding not to steal, or to be in some other type of mental state that can generally be described as being against stealing. This course will investigate the controversy between cognitivism and expressivism and, thereby, the controversy concerning the nature of moral language and thought.

Phil 5050: Topics in Philosophy: Queer Theory (Dr. Kent L. Brintnall)

Wednesdays 6:30 p.m. - 9:15 p.m.

An examination of the ways the social order shapes our sense of gender and sexual identity, and imposes norms regarding gender behavior and sexual desire. This course will also think about how gender and sexuality inform our experience of subjectivity and the political costs that relate to conforming to or deviating from social norms.  It will give close and careful attention to works by central authors in the field-for example, Gayle Rubin, Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Leo Bersani, Tim Dean, and Lee Edelman-as well as works that are important for understanding those authors-for example, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and George Bataille.

Phil 6110: Ethical Theory (Dr. Eddy Souffrant)

Tuesday 12:00 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

This course will draw from the student’s undergraduate familiarity with, and understanding of, the major ethical theories of moral philosophy. It will reinforce that understanding and familiarity by exploring some issues relevant to meta-ethics and feminism by way of Moore, Quinton, Smart, Williams and Held.

Phil 6250: Ethics of Public Policy (Dr. Gordon Hull) 

Wednesday 2:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Policy decisions are often considered to be technical, economic, or otherwise free of values. In this course, we will examine the ways that policies always embed ethical decisions, and how to be more intentional about that process. To that end, we will examine topics such as the ways policy and technical systems can be seen to embed or preference value, the ethical theory behind economic and efficiency considerations, and the ways that different ethical theories can be used to justify policy processes and outcomes.

Phil 6320: Feminist Theory and Its Applications (Dr. Andrea J Pitts)

Tuesday 5:30 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.

This course will focus on the writings of several prominent women of color theorists whose critical work has addressed both contemporary social justice issues and philosophical debates in academia. The three main figures for the course are Angela Y. Davis, María Lugones, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Themes we will discuss include: Marxist and materialist feminisms, subalterity and the politics of representation, intersectional theorizing (including challenges to feminism such as womanism and mujerista theology), decolonial/postcolonial thought and praxis, neoliberalism and pedagogies of resistance, mass incarceration and prison abolition, eroticisms and sexualities, and the relationship between activism and intellectualism.