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PHIL 469

Philosophical Problems

A study of one or more problems, such as universals, time, freedom, causation, happiness and necessary truth. Attention mainly to recent papers and books. Prerequisite: two courses in philosophy or permission of instructor. May be repeated for credit with different topics.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Two courses in philosophy or permission of instructor 1 course

Fall Semester information

Erik Wielenberg

469A: Philosophical Problems: Philosophy of Mind

Philosophical reflection is often provoked by an apparent conflict between our common-sense beliefs and what science tells us. Common-sense suggests that (i) conscious experiences (e.g. the feeling you get from holding a snowball in your bare hand) are real, (ii) many of our mental states represent or are about other things, and (iii) mental states often cause physical behavior. Science seems to point toward a materialist framework according to which (i) there are no non-physical souls and (ii) every physical event that has a cause at all has a physical cause. It turns out, however, that these common-sense beliefs about mental states appear to be difficult to reconcile with the materialist framework. That is where things get interesting. In this course we will examine various contemporary attempts to deal with the apparent conflicts. The requirements include some short writing assignments, a mid-term exam, a final exam, and a term paper. Prerequisites: Two courses in philosophy or permission of instructor.

Spring Semester information

Jeremy Anderson

469A: Philosophical Problems: Punishment

Our sense that crimes should be punished is so deeply ingrained that to question it may seem nutty. But punishment is also problematic. When we punish we do things that, under other circumstances, are morally wrong and illegal. Further, punishment does not seem to achieve many of its goals very effectively. In this course we will critically examine justifications offered for legal punishment and alternatives to it. We will delve into the long-standing and complex debate over whether and how punishment may be justified, and consider relevant empirical data. Assignments will include papers, a presentation, regular responses to readings, and exams.