Current Offerings

Spring 2019

Theories of Resistance

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Elisabeth Paquette · Wednesday, 2:30-5:15

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.

Feminist Philosophy & Music

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Robin James · Monday, 2:30-5:15

From Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze to Toni Morrison’s novels, work in the visual arts and literature has always been central to feminist theory. Though there is a long history of feminist musicians and feminist music scholarship, such work has had less of an impact on feminist theory generally and feminist philosophy in particular. This course is designed to introduce students already familiar with feminist theory to feminist approaches to music. One aim of this course is to help students incorporate both musical observations and scholarship on music in their feminist scholarship and activism. Another is to use music as an opportunity to analyze and reflect on issues in feminist theory and activism. We will study topics such as feminism and Frankfurt School approaches to music, gender, and feminism (including Angela Davis); gender and cultural appropriation; feminist theories of the ontology and metaphysics of music, sound, and noise; voice, class, and gender destabilization in country music; sexual violence in music; and the role of black women’s voices in bystander recordings of extrajudicial killings by police.


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.)

Georges Bataille's College of Sociology

PHIL 6050 · Dr. Kent Brintnall · Monday, 5:30-8:15

Facing the 1930s collapse of capitalist markets, waning legitimacy of democracies in Europe, rise of fascism, limitations of Marxist agitation, and revelation of Stalinist terror, George Bataille’s College of Sociology attempted to think politics and the social anew relying on senses of community and the sacred found in the work of French sociologists Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss. Although short-lived, the College has on-going relevance for questions about the appeal of fascism and totalitarianism, the intractability of violence, the cultural operation of religion, the political relevance of art, and the constitution of the self in relation to the social. The seminar will give close attention to primary texts produced by the College’s members; all texts will be read in English translation. This seminar should be of interest to students in religious studies, sociology, anthropology, history, literary studies, French studies, ethics, political theory, and art history.

Ethical Theory

PHIL 6110 · Dr. Phillip McReynolds · Tuesday, 2:30-5:15

In this course, we will critically examine some of the major historical approaches to ethical theory including the moral theories of Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and Hume. After this, we will shift to more contemporary approaches to moral theory rooted in existentialism, pragmatism, and recent empirical research into (4E) cognitive science, linguistics, neurophysiology, and the social sciences. By the end of the course students will understand the key ideas of, differences between, and critiques of the main historical approaches to moral theory and a have knowledge of a lively area of current research into the origins, nature, and grounding of goodness, values, justice, right, and related concepts.

Ethics and International Affairs

PHIL 6260 · Dr. Ruth Groenhout · Thursday, 2:30-5:15

This course begins with an over view of the central debates in global justice studies, reading Global Justice: The Basics by Williams and Death. We will then move to a more in-depth discussion of global justice and human rights from a specifically feminist, activist point of view—Just Responsibility: A Human Rights Theory of Global Justice by Ackerly. The second half of the semester will be a variety of shorter readings on three specific areas of international affairs: economic justice, environmental issues, and global health care. Students will choose one of these three areas of concentration for their own focused research.