Fall 2011 Courses

PHIL 501: History of Ancient Philosophy
Dr. David Calhoun
TR 10:50-12:05

It is often said that ancient Greece is the birthplace of western philosophy.  The primary objective of this course is to explore the writings and arguments of the major thinkers that compose this philosophical revolution.  Consequently, the course is both philosophical and historical.  It is primarily philosophical in the sense that we will be surveying major works by the most significant thinkers in ancient Greece, attempting to understand the key components of their philosophical theories and the reasoning by which they support these theories.  It is historical insofar as we will examine carefully the interrelations between the views of different thinkers and also explore the relevance of historical context to the ideas propounded by these thinkers.

The course will follow five major historical periods in ancient Greek philosophy: (1) pre-Socratic philosophy, in which a series of philosophers sought to explain the fundamental principles of reality in rational terms and to develop technical skills for succeeding in life; (2) Socrates, the central figure of ancient Greek philosophy who, although he wrote nothing, marked a decisive change from the previous development of philosophy and significantly influenced those who followed: (3) Socrates' student Plato, who gradually developed his own philosophical positions in response to his teacher; (4) Plato's student Aristotle, who labored to make philosophy scientific and systematic; and (5) the post-Aristotelian philosophical schools of skepticism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism, and Neo-Platonism.

Class discussion will be a Socratically structured conversation focusing on the primary readings.  Consequently, students will be expected to shoulder a significant burden of reading the primary materials and reflecting on them before class to be fully prepared to participate.

Course grades will be based on course participation, papers, midterm exam, and a comprehensive final exam.
This course is restricted to Majors, Minors, and Graduate students.

PHIL 510: History of Modern Philosophy
Dr. Wayne Pomerleau
MW 02:10-03:25

The two-hundred year history of modern European philosophy, from the 1630s (when Descartes' first great work was published) to the 1830s (when Hegel died), can be viewed as a struggle to achieve knowledge of reality against the challenges of skepticism.  We will study the systems of the most important Continental Rationalists (i.e., Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz), the most important British Empiricists (i.e., Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume), and the most important German Idealists (i.e., Kant and Hegel) of this period on such issues as human knowledge, metaphysical substance, the mind-body relation, human freedom, reasons for believing in God, the nature of (both physical and mental) reality, causal reasoning, and the problem of evil.  Our goal is to understand these philosophical systems and the dynamic processes through which these three great "schools" of philosophy developed, as well as the serious conflicts presented by their differing world-views.

Each student in the course must critically evaluate, as well as understand, primary-source writings (in translation for the Rationalists and Idealists) of the thinkers to be studied, as well as participating regularly in class discussions.  Written course requirements will comprise a combination of papers and exams for all students taking the course for credit.  Those taking the course for graduate credit (510) will be expected to do additional advanced readings, show a more advanced level mastery of material, do directed research in secondary sources, include appropriate scholarly citations in their papers, receive instruction outside of class time, and make class presentations.
This course is appropriate for all Majors and Graduate students. Any other students wanting to take the course must have the permission of the instructor.

PHIL 517: The Christian Philosophy of C. S. Lewis
Dr. Brian Clayton
TR 01:15-02:30

C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian authors of this century.  His fictional works and other writings continue to attract and affect readers. Lewis was trained as a philosopher at Oxford University, and his works reflect this training.  He was also well-read in the literature of the classical Christian tradition, and his works also reflect this tradition.

This will be a team-taught course that will examine Lewis the Christian thinker as his Christian theism and his philosophical training exhibit themselves in a wide range of his fictional, philosophical, and theological works.  We will also consider the thought and some of the writings of friends and contemporaries who influenced him significantly-e.g., J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton.
This course is appropriate for all students completing the core, and for all Majors, Minors, and Graduate Students.

PHIL 518: Walker Percy: Philosopher and Novelist
Dr. Brian Clayton
TR 09:25-10:40

The course will focus on the fiction and non-fiction works of Walker Percy (1916-1990). Percy is probably best known as a novelist, having written six novels, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award for fiction in 1962. However, even before his first novel was published, he had already written a number of essays that appeared in philosophical journals. It is likely that a number of academic philosophers would not consider Percy a professional philosopher, but the fact remains that philosophical questions concerned him throughout his life. His own view was that he would probably be best remembered for his philosophical essays, not for his novels. The philosophical questions that vexed him also played a prominent role in his novels, although they rarely are so obvious as to distract us from the story that Percy is telling us. Peter Augustine Lawler has recently made the argument that Percy is a true post-modern, to be distinguished from those who usually bear the label and are more properly understood as hyper-moderns. If Lawler is correct about this, then Percy may make an important contribution to our own attempts to work out a proper self-understanding and way of life now that modernism is seriously in question in  the West. Finally, Percy was a convert to Roman Catholicism, and thus his work is particularly appropriate for investigation at a Catholic university.

TEXT: We will read and discuss the following works by Walker Percy (listed by year of publication):

Love in the Ruins (1971)
The Message in the Bottle
(1975)
Lancelot
(1977)
The Second Coming
(1980)
Lost in the Cosmos
(1983)
The Thanatos Syndrome
(1987)

We will read a couple of essays from the posthumously published Signposts in a Strange Land (1991) and from other authors (e.g., Pascal, Nietzsche) who are helpful in understanding Percy. These additional readings will be available online at the course Blackboard site.

Course Requirements: The final course grade will be based on the following components:

1. Course attendance and participation

2. Discussion board postings; short essays

This course is appropriate for all students completing the core, and for all Majors, Minors, and Graduate Students.

PHIL 521: American Philosophy
Dr. Tom Jeannot
TR 1:15-2:30 pm

An American philosophical tradition takes up classic philosophical concerns in an original and promising way. In this course, we will focus on several major American philosophers whose importance to philosophical investigation is being rediscovered again. We will concentrate on three thinkers in particular who developed pragmatism in distinctive ways: Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Course requirements will include three reflective essays. The text is:

 Pragmatism and Classical American Philosophy: Essential Readings & Interpretive Essays 2/e, edited by John J. Stuhr (Oxford University Press, 2000)

 This course is appropriate for all students completing the core and for all Majors, Minors, and Graduate Students.

PHIL 524: Existentialism
Dr. Ted DiMaria
MWF 11:00-11:50

The existentialist movement defies simple definition, but can be characterized roughly as the attempt to philosophically understand fundamental issues concerning the meaning and structure of human existence. The existentialists tend to regard abstract, conceptual systems of metaphysics as unable to account for concrete reality of individual human beings. Thus, in place of metaphysics, the existentialists investigate human existence through themes such as the relationships between the individual and the crowd; the significance of anxiety, dread, and death; the meaning and scope of individual freedom; and the quest for meaning and direction as it relates to God and absolute values. This course will examine such themes as they are addressed by major "existentialist" thinkers: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus.

This course is appropriate for all students completing the core and for all Majors, Minors, and Graduate Students.

PHIL 526: Existential Psychology
William F. Ryan, S.J.
MWF 1:10-02:00

The aim of this course is to identify and study the basic elements of the philosophy of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939),  and of the Existential philosophies of Karl Jaspers (1883-1969), Viktor Frankl (1905-1998), and Eric Voegelin (1901-1985), as well as some of the principles of their psychologies. The term "Existence"  originates with Karl Jaspers. "Existentialism" is usually incorrectly identified with J-P Sartre and Martin Heidegger. Correctly described, Existentialism is a movement in late 19th-century philosophy and 20th-century philosophy which is principally concerned with the values of individuals and communities.

Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, with his deterministic philosophy and psychology sets the context for the study of Existential Psychology. Jaspers was a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, and a philosopher. Frankl was a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, and a philosopher. Voegelin was a professor of law at the University of Vienna and the author of the five-volume philosophy of history, Order and History . "Existence" for Jaspers, Frankl, and Voegelin means the person inasmuch as the person is the source of responsible free choices. We will  start with one major work of Freud, and then take up one major work of Jaspers and Frankl, and finally one work of Voegelin. We will study these philosophers and psychologist with a view to clarify what all of them mean when they speak of the person, and especially when the three Existentialists speak of the person's authenticity and the psychological aberrations that can afflict this person and a community.

The course is intended for students who have an interest in the contemporary Existentialist philosophy and psychology as represented by three of the major Existentialist thinkers. The requirements are:  written in-class twenty minute tests on each work studied; an assigned 1500 word essay on an assigned topic; a written one hour mid-term examination on Karl Jaspers and a written final exam on Viktor Frankl and Eric Voegelin . Instead of the 1500 word essay, a student may give a class presentation on a major topic from the philosophers studied. The 526 students will both give a presentation and write the 1500 word essay.

TEXTS:

Sigmund Freud, Five Lectures on Psycho-analysis

This course is appropriate for all students completing the core, for all Majors, Minors and Graduate Students.

PHIL 534: Chinese Philosophy
Dr. John Wagner    
TR 01:15-02:30

This course introduces students to three Chinese schools of thought: Confucianism, Taoism, and Chan (Zen) Buddhism. We will read and discuss two resourceful thinkers in ancient Chine" Mencius and Chuang Tzu. The former, a dynamic disputer, is famous for his rigorous unrelenting defense of Confucian teaching and his creative development of Confucianism. The latter, a provocative critic of his contemporaries, is admired for his ability to present Taoism through his imaginative and animated parables. We will also explore Chan (Zen) Buddhism by reading Toward a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism by Toshihiko Izutsu. The book discusses the experience of satori, ego and egolessness, sense and nonsense, koan practice, and the influence of Zen on arts. In addition to studying the three schools, the course will also attempt to compare the Eastern thinkers' views with Western philosophers' on relevant issues. The course will take the format of combining lecture, discussion and presentation. Students will learn different perspectives of looking at the world and various ways of reflecting on human experience. The course will help participants acquire a sense of world philosophy and be aware of what Francis Bacon called "idols" in our tradition.

This course is appropriate for all students completing the core and for all Majors, Minors, and Graduate Students.

PHIL 541: Symbolic Logic
Dr. Debby Hutchins
MWF 01:10-02:00

This is a beginning course in symbolic logic. Its purpose is to give students a rigorous and comprehensive introduction to the concepts and techniques of modern logic.  Topics may include validity, soundness and truth tables as well as the propositional, predicate, and modal calculi. This course is appropriate for all students completing the core and for all Majors and Minors.

PHIL 565: Philosophy of Religion
Fr. Tim Clancy
MWF 10:00-10:50

In this class we shall study different approaches to God and the nature of religious experience, language and practice. We shall approach the question historically looking at the ongoing arguments over whether and how to prove the existence of God, issues over the very nature of the idea of God, as well as over what attributes can or cannot be applied to God. We shall also be considering questions of how belief in God squares with the reality of evil in the world. 

A crucial question running throughout the course is that of the nature of the religious orientation to reality and how it relates to scientific, moral and aesthetic orientations. Are religious beliefs like scientific explanations but at a more ultimate level? Or are they more like moral exhortations? Or are they closer to poetic metaphor? I shall be arguing that rather than any of these, religion is about presence, reconnecting to reality as a whole.

Requirements:

  • Short but difficult readings
  • A reflection paper on the history of one=s own idea of God
  • Four of five papers on assigned topics (5 pages)
  • Participation in the classroomBminimally, attendance!!

Grading:

  • Each paper will count for 20 % of your grade. Participation will count for another 20% (the first reflection paper will count towards your participation grade.)

Books:

  • Philosophy of Religion, a reader put together by me.

This course is appropriate for all students taking the core, and also for all Majors, Minors and Graduate Students

PHIL 577: Graduate Seminar: Nietzsche and the Ancients
Dr. Jay Ciaffa
MW 11:00-12:15


This seminar will focus on Nietzsche's critique of the "moral-metaphysical" tradition and his attempt to delineate the framework for a "life-affirming" philosophy. Special attention will be devoted to his ongoing encounter with the Greeks, particularly to his criticisms of Plato's "two-world metaphysics" and the Socratic "war" against the passions, the senses, and the body.
We will read and discuss The Birth of Tragedy, Twilight of the Idols, and The Genealogy of Morals, along with selections from other works.  We will also read selections from Plato's works that are most relevant to Nietzsche's critique.  Students will be expected make seminar presentations and write a paper that takes into account secondary literature.

This course is available only for Graduate Students.