Current Offerings

Spring 2020

Theories of Resistance

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Elisabeth Paquette · Monday, 5:30-8:15

This course takes as its starting point the conceptions of “being human” developed in the work of decolonial theorist Sylvia Wynter. Beginning with her decolonial project, we examine the relation between dominant conceptions of the political subject-human and structures of knowledge production, as well as the impact such conceptions have in the contemporary context. Doing so provides a framework for theorizing the tools necessary for resisting dominant and oppressive structures. For instance, we consider the implications of Wynter’s conception of “epistemic disobedience,” as well as her conception of the “disenchantment of discourses,” for the production of counter narratives by women of color writers. We will also consider the ways in which “mapping” and cartography broadly construed operate as perpetuating dominant structures, or as creating resistant terrains. Other figures of study include Katherine McKittrick, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Suzanne Césaire, Monique Wittig, Maria Lugones, and Mishuana Goeman.

Mark Jordan

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Kent Brintnall · Monday, 5:30-8:15

This course will consider the work of Mark Jordan, a preeminent queer theologian, ethicist, and historian of Christianity whose work examines sexuality, gender, Catholicism, the writings of Michel Foucualt, and gay male cultural production. Jordan will be the Witherspoon lecturer (Department of Religious Studies) during the spring semester and will attend at least one session of the seminar sharing yet-to-be-published work.


PHIL 5050 · Dr. Phillip McReynolds · Tuesday, 11:30-12:45

The goal of this course is to introduce students to French existentialism and to help them understand the historical and political circumstances in Paris following WWII that helped give birth to French existential philosophy. Coined by Jean-Paul Sartre in the 1940s, the term ‘existentialism’ fundamentally—and somewhat infamously—means that existence precedes essence. Human beings create the “essence” of humanity in and through their choices; there is no natural or God-given form of humanity to which they must conform. Thus, human freedom and responsibility, which often are accompanied by bad faith as people avoid their freedom, are central components of human existence. Co-developed by Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and critically modified by Franz Fanon and Albert Camus, French existentialism influenced many philosophers, scholars, and artists in the 20th century and continues to be an important and influential theory today. (This course has a spring break study abroad component in Paris.)


PHIL 5050 · Dr. Phillip McReynolds · Tuesday, 2:30-5:15

This class will introduce students to the diverse philosophical field known as American Pragmatism. We will spend the first half of the course reading primary texts from three of the tradition's founders, Charles S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. In the second half of the course we will examine the influence and extent of pragmatism through (mostly) contemporary readings in neo-pragmatism, feminist pragmatism, environmental pragmatism, pragmatism and critical race theory, and related areas. (This course has a required study abroad component in Paris.)

Religious Experience

PHIL 5050 · Dr. William Sherman · Tuesday, 5:30-8:15

When a friend tells you of a dream—or describes a mystical feeling, a vision, or a drug trip that they had—what do you make of that? This course examines different approaches to narratives of religious experience in order to practice how we, in our capacity as scholars, may use these narratives to understand religion in society in critical and reflexive ways. We will consider a range of literary, historical, psychological, and phenomenological approaches and examine accounts of "religious experience" that range from medieval mystical poetry to contemporary narratives of UFOs.

Africana Philosophy

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Eddy Souffrant · Wednesday, 2:30-5:15

The African, and later the African American, experience is silenced in the abstractions of the modern European and Euro-American philosophy. The recognition of that silence by folks who have lived the modern experience even if by proxy and who, in addition, are aware of the bifurcation in the field, leads them to acknowledge that the practice of professional philosophy is wanting. This class explores with the help of Trouillot, Eze, Du Bois, Wynter, Sharpe, Condé, Mills, Wiredu, and McGary, the sources of that silence, and its ramifications for our contemporary social and political philosophy.

Queer Theory

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Kent Brintnall · Thursday, 5:30-8:15

Born out of engagements with the AIDS crisis and struggles for LGBTQ equality in the 1980s and 1990s, queer theory uses the insights of feminism, critical race theory, trans* theory, Foucault, and psychoanalysis to understand the operation of power, particularly the power of moralizing and normalization. Scholars associated with queer theory have generated some of the most incisive, trenchant, radical, and influential critiques of gender, sexual, racial, and national identity.

Ethical Theory

PHIL 6110 · Dr. Ruth Groenhout · Thursday, 2:30-5:15

This class will focus on the central ethical theories being applied to contemporary issues. It will begin with Utilitarianism, focusing on Peter Singer's work, its popularity (in the animal rights movement), and its serious criticism (in the disability movement). The next theorist will be John Rawls and his influence in the bioethics context. The class will then move to the two most important alternative theories, virtue ethics and care ethics, working through Rosalind Hursthouse's development of virtue ethics and Eva Kittay's development of care ethics, examining how both thinkers offer important alternatives to both utilitarian and Rawlsian accounts of the ethical structures that should prevail in social settings.