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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: Tps:Moral Epistemology

Suppose that there are facts about what is good and evil, right and wrong, virtuous and vicious. Call such facts "ethical facts." In this class we explore three views about the nature of ethical facts and how we might acquire knowledge of them. Naturalism has it that ethical facts are natural facts that can be investigated using the scientific method; supernaturalism has it that ethical facts are facts about God or other supernatural entities; and non-naturalism has it that ethical facts are their own kind of thing. We will also examine some recent empirical investigations of human moral beliefs and attitudes and the processes that produce them as part of our exploration of how humans might acquire ethical knowledge. Accordingly, we will not only make forays into various areas of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, and meta-ethics) but into psychology (particularly evolutionary psychology), anthropology, and neuroscience as well. The requirements include a few short writing assignments, a term paper, and two exams (mid-term and final). Prerequisites: At least two courses in philosophy, or permission of instructor.

Spring Semester information

Ashley Puzzo

469A: Phil Problem: The Limits of Proof

The 20th Century bore witness to a host of dramatic intellectual developments: Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity, Watson & Crick's Double Helix, and the First and Second Theorems of Welfare Economics. Standing alongside these monuments are Kurt Godel's (1931) First and Second Incompleteness Theorems, which formally establish the limits of purely deductive reasoning.

In addition to having tremendous philosophical, mathematical, scientific, and humanistic interest, Godel's breakthrough represents the culmination of some two millennia's sustained effort from across the intellectual spectrum. In this course, we will explore both the historical aspects and deep philosophical aspects of Godel's unparalleled results. This is an exceedingly rare opportunity for undergraduates to learn material centered at the intersection of philosophy, mathematics, science, intellectual history, and human nature. Logic 251 is recommended, but not required. Please email me: ashleypuzzo@depauw.edu.

Fall Semester information

Erik Wielenberg

469A: Philosophical Problem: 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

Andrew Cullison

469A: Phil Prob: Knowledge Made Easy