Upcoming Offerings


Spring 2020


Existentialism

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.)


Marx

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Gordon Hull · Wednesday, 1:25-4:10

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.


Queer Theory

PHIL 5050 · Dr. Kent Brintnall · TBD

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.


Pragmatism

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.


Theories of Resistance

PHIL 6050 · 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.


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.