Recent Offerings

Fall 2018


PHIL 5050 · Dr. Gordon Hull · Tuesday/Thursday, 11:30-12:45

From the early 1960s until his death in 1984, Michel Foucault was one of the most innovative and influential figures in French philosophy. Known most fundamentally for the thesis that our most basic categories of thought are inescapably the products of their social and institutional environments, Foucault wrote about such topics as the emergence of a clinical understanding of insanity; the change in punishment theory from the dungeon to intensive surveillance; the emergence of power as a force for fostering life and managing populations; the emergence of “sexuality” as a marker of identity; and the transformation of economic thought from classical, laissez faire liberalism to the intensely interventionist theory of today’s neoliberalism. Not surprisingly, given the range of his thought, Foucault’s influence today extends into such diverse fields as philosophy, sociology, criminal justice, literary theory, and queer and feminist theory. In this course, we will read a number of Foucault’s most important works, with attention both to the questions they enable us to ask and to prominent criticisms of his work.

Latin American Thought

PHIL 6050 · Dr. Eddy Souffrant · Tuesday, 2:30-5:15

This course aims, through the prism of national or international affairs, to familiarize the student with trends in historical concepts and theories of intercultural relations that have helped shape aspects of Caribbean and Latin American thoughts . The course will establish that there is a distinction between recounted and lived history.  It will argue that recounted history harbors silences that are at times intentional.  It will insist that whether intentional or not, the silences and the recounted histories do impact subsequent generations.  The identities of such generations reflect not only the recounted histories but also the silences. Furthermore, when the silences are nefarious, a critical (read philosophical) approach to the study of the lived experiences of those who precede us is enlightening and liberating.  This course will serve as an example of the manner in which a critical assessment of recounted and lived history can be formative of new experiences that spark the development of new worlds and conceptions of identity.

Philosophical Methods & Analysis

PHIL 6120 · Dr. Trevor Pearce · Wednesday, 1:25-4:10

This course is an introduction to the various methods of doing philosophy—not only to the analytical reading and writing skills you will need as a graduate student, but also to various philosophical traditions, each characterized by a certain approach to philosophical problems. Philosophy at UNCC is intertraditional, meaning that our students and faculty draw from many traditions of philosophy rather than focusing on a single approach. We will begin the class by examining three broad traditions: history of philosophy, analytic philosophy, and continental philosophy. We will then turn to a few of the ‘methods’ used by those working in these traditions: phenomenology, genealogy, and pragmatism. Finally, we will investigate of series of narrower approaches and sub-traditions that are prominent in our own department: applied ethics, feminism, Latin American philosophy, philosophy of disability, Africana philosophy, and critical philosophy of race. Throughout the class, you will get to know your fellow first-year graduate students as well as many faculty members here, since most classes will include a visit from a specialist in the relevant approach to philosophy.

Feminist Theory and Its Applications

PHIL 6320 · Dr. Elisabeth Paquette · Tuesday, 5:30-8:15

The primary concern in this course is the intersection of gender and language. Specifically, we will address how writers attempted to represent gender through the act of writing, paying particular attention to the limits of language, relations between dominant narratives and marginal feminist perspectives, and consider ways of disrupting these dominant narratives. This course begins with French feminist theorists, such as Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva and their performances of feminine écriture (feminine writing), a technique which aims to create space for women centered theories of gender through writing. However, this course also seeks to further displace problematic sex and gendered categories by examining decolonial, queer, and anti-racist frameworks of analysis by such authors as Sylvia Wynter and Monique Wittig.

MA Research Paper

PHIL 6999 · Dr. Lisa Rasmussen · Thursday, 2:30-5:15

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 will be included.

Spring 2018

Race, Gender, and Prison Abolition

PHIL 5050  · Dr. Andrea Pitts  · Tuesday, 5:30-8:15

This course focuses on what prison studies scholars have described since the late 1990s as the “prison industrial complex.” Accordingly, we will examine systems of incarceration as transnational networks of cultural, political, and historical materials that have supported the maintenance and operation of prisons, jails, and detention facilities worldwide. Our analysis will also address how patterns of incarceration, criminalization, and law enforcement have worked in tandem with a number of forms of structural oppression, including racism, sexism, nativism, xenophobia, ableism, heteronormativity, and transphobia. Lastly, to further develop our understanding of the prison industrial complex, the course will include a study of a series of projects that seek an end to penal institutions and the corresponding networks that support them. Previous coursework/experience in political theory, feminist theory, postcolonial/decolonial studies, disability theory, critical race theory, transgender studies, queer theory, or prison studies is strongly preferred but not required.

W. E. B. Du Bois

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Trevor Pearce · Wednesday, 5:30-8:15pm

W. E. B. Du Bois is one of the most famous activists in American history, serving as founding editor of the NAACP magazine The Crisis from 1910 to 1934 and giving voice to both Marxism and Pan-Africanism until his death in 1963. Du Bois has been claimed by many disciplines: his book The Souls of Black Folk has been studied as literature and philosophy; Black Reconstruction is still seen as a watershed in the history of that period; and he founded the first American school of sociology at Atlanta University. In this course, we will try to do justice to this broad range of intellectual interests, examining not only Du Bois’s theories of race—the usual focus of philosophers—but also his sociology, his views on education and evolution, his polemics on the role of art, his novel Dark Princess, his treatment of Reconstruction, and his account of Africa and colonialism. Along the way, we will read all three of the autobiographical works that Du Bois published in his lifetime, each of which combines personal narrative with philosophical history.


PHIL 5050 · Dr. Phillip McReynolds · Tuesday, 2:00-3:15

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. As a result, 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. Classes on the development of postwar existentialism will take place in a local cafe and daily afternoon excursions will include the Eiffel Tower, the Catacombs, a climb up the Arc de Triomphe, a visit to the Champs Élysées (upscale shopping district), a walking tour of the area to visit sites of significance to the development of French Existentialism, a visit to the Shoah (Holocaust) memorial, and a river cruise along the Seine.

Ethical Theory

PHIL 6110 · Dr. Ruth Groenhout · Thursday, 2:00-4:45

What does it mean to be a self or an agent? And how do various understandings of the nature of the self generate commonly accepted accounts of basic ethical concepts? This class will offer an examination of an issue that crosses normative and meta-ethical boundaries, looking at various constructions of the self and their relationship to concepts such as responsibility, freedom, or agency (here we’ll read Bernard Williams Making Sense of Humanity), their historical roots (Charles Taylor’s Ethics of Authenticity will offer some guidance here) the extent to which they are or are not up to the individual (Linda Alcoff’s Visible Identities) and the broader meaning of the ways we construct our understanding of the selves of others (Judith Butler, Frames of War).

Ethics and Public Policy

PHIL 6250  · Dr. Gordon Hull · Wednesday, 2:00-4:45

In many ways, modern policymaking might appear to be a technical matter, concerned with scientifically or economically provable matters of administration.  Aside from local conflict of interest concerns, cases of inappropriate employee conduct, and compliance with statutory law, ethics might appear to be irrelevant.  That appearance is an illusion, and the primary goal of this course is to think about how policy decisions, even at a micro level, are deeply value-laden.  Even the decision to pursue economic efficiency – the central move in the modern welfare economics that dominates policymaking circles – is itself a decision with moral implications. In this course, we will use an extended case study – intellectual property (IP) law – to pursue the ways in which public policies both express and advance some sets of values over others.  The course combines theoretical reading (some of it classic moral philosophy: Mill, Locke and Kant) with current literature developing that theory as it applies to IP.  Why IP?  IP turns out to be one of the more complicated areas of national policy, and one with tremendously far-reaching implications: there is a truth to statements like “copyright policy is cultural policy” or “patent policy is science policy” (there’s even a good argument to the effect that current patent policy in particular developed as a trade policy).

Feminist Theory & Its Applications

PHIL 6320 · Dr. Robin James · Monday, 3:30-6:15

This course is a seminar that focuses on two themes or subfields in feminist theory. The first theme is political philosophy and political economy. We will study feminist analyses of private property. These analyses touch on key issues in feminist theory, such as: personhood, the public/private distinction, consent, marriage, work, neoliberalism, and race. The second theme focuses on feminist and queer methods in the discipline of sound studies, and touches on many of the same issues as the first theme. Students will do a literature review of recent research in feminist theory on a topic closely related to their own research/thesis project, and will write a seminar paper addressing course material.

MA Research Paper

PHIL 6999 · Dr. Lisa Rasmussen · Tuesday, 11:00-1:45

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 will be included.

Fall 2017

African American Philosophy

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Eddy Souffrant · Monday/Wednesday, 9:30-10:45

"Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform.  The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle." These words of Frederick Douglass serve as the impetus of the course.  We shall see to what extent African American philosophy can be construed as a philosophy of reform.  We shall take as our starting point the role that race plays in the development of African American thought.  We shall not however understand that the essence of that African American thought is a negative one, namely that it is simply or solely a response to racial policies.  I aim to explore the legacy of racism and the efforts to liberate at once individuals and society at-large from the constraints of negative prejudice.

Queer Theory

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Kent Brintnall · Monday, 6:30-9:15

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, and Lee Edelman—as well as more contemporary works that examine race, class, disability, and trans* identities.


PHIL 5050 · Dr. Gordon Hull · Tuesday, 12:30-3:15

Although often reduced to a series of clichés by both their opponents and defenders, Karl Marx’s texts present a complex treatment of wide variety of issues in political philosophy.  They have also been fundamental to the development of a variety of approaches to “critical” philosophy in the twentieth-century – not just Marxists such as Lenin, Lukács and Althusser, but thinkers such as Adorno, Derrida, Deleuze, and Foucault (to name a few) acknowledge the importance and influence of Marx on their work.  In this course, we will look carefully at representative texts from Marx’s corpus in order to study some of the main themes, issues and interpretive difficulties which develop in them. Although most of the course will focus on Capital, we will also look at some of his early writings and later, more programmatic political writings.  Although we will make occasional reference to current debates about and applications of his work, the course's main focus will be on Marx's own writings.

Philosophy of Emotion

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Shannon Sullivan · Tuesday/Thursday, 11:00-12:15

Emotion often has been ignored or denigrated by philosophers, contrasted with reason and associated with the body, women, people of color, and other subordinated groups.  Challenging dualisms of emotion versus reason, this course will focus on philosophies that explore the epistemological, political, existential, and other forms of emotion’s relevance and value to human life.  We will analyze emotions such as love, anger/rage, resentment, shame, and joy.  The material for the course will range from historical to contemporary and will draw from a variety of philosophical and interdisciplinary traditions: continental, American, analytic, feminist, and critical race.  Likely readings will come from the work of Plato, Nietzsche, William James, Sara Ahmed, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and other contemporary figures.

Philosophical Methods & Analysis

PHIL 6120 · Dr. Michael Kelly · Monday, 5:30-8:15

Explores the distinctive and various methods within philosophy (logical, phenomenological, feminist, conceptual, linguistic, deconstructive, and others), their uses in particular contexts (including links to other disciplines), and how methodology shapes philosophy (including its social impact). One aim is to clarify “applied philosophy” by examining its methods. Students will analyze, evaluate, reconstruct, and originate arguments, judgments, and decisions. They will do so in connection with both texts shared among all the students in the class and the particular interests of individual students. Each student will develop a paper over the course of the semester to bring these issues together.

Research Ethics in Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences

PHIL 6240 · Dr. Lisa Rasmussen · Wednesday, 2:00-4:45

This course is designed to identify the fundamental elements that characterize not only methodologically grounded but also morally appropriate scientific research. Class discussion and readings will focus on key issues in biomedical and behavioral research including informed consent, privacy and confidentiality, risk-benefit assessments, mechanisms for protecting animal and human research subjects, international research, vulnerable populations, conflicts of interest and data management, publication ethics, intellectual property issues and the politics of research.

Spring 2017

Theories of Sound, Noise, and Music

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Robin James · Monday, 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 · Monday, 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?

Theoretical Approaches to Gender

PHIL 6050 · Dr. Emek Ergun · Thursday, 5:30-8:15

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.

Ethical Theory

PHIL 6110 · Dr. Phillip McReynolds · Tuesday, 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 6340 · Dr. Andrea Pitts · Wednesday, 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.

Fall 2016

Language and Meaning

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Daniel Boisvert · Wednesday, 6:30-9:15

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.

Latin American Thought

PHIL 6050 · Dr. Andrea Pitts · Tuesday, 5:30-8:15

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.

Big Data and Ethics

PHIL 6050 · Dr. Gordon Hull · Wednesday, 5:30-8:15

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 

Philosophical Methods & Analysis

PHIL 6120 · Dr. Michael Kelly · Monday, 5:30-8:15

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.

MA Research Paper

PHIL 6999 · Dr. Lisa Rasmussen · Thursday, 1:00-3:45

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.)

Spring 2016

Twentieth-Century Philosophy

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Michael Kelly · Monday, 6:30-9:15

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.

Language and Thought

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Daniel Boisvert · Wednesday, 6:30-9:15

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.

Queer Theory

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Kent Brintnall · Wednesday, 6:30-9:15

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.

Ethical Theory

PHIL 6110 · Dr. Eddy Souffrant · Tuesday, 12:00-2:45

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.

Ethics of Public Policy

PHIL 6250 · Dr. Gordon Hull · Wednesday, 2:00-4:45

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.

Feminist Theory and Its Applications

PHIL 6320 · Dr. Andrea Pitts · Tuesday, 5:30-8:15

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.