Proseminar Reading Schedule

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SEP 2 Topic: Course Introduction
  1. Introductions
  2. Course websites: and wiki
  3. Grading Schemes
  4. Peerceptiv.
  5. Google forms
  6. Philosophical Research Tools

SEP 9 Topics:

A. Historiography in Philosophy

B. Philosophical Methods and Research (1/4)

Readings: Hadot, "Spiritual Exercises," and "Philosophy as a Way of Life;" Deleuze, "What is Philosophy?"

Focus: With Hadot we're getting both a conception of philosophy and a thesis about the period of Hellenistic philosophy, so please track those topics. Track Hadot's notion of "spiritual exercises," with examples. "Philosophy as a Way of Life" should help us address Hadot's view about philosophy. Deleuze is a contemporary postmodern philosopher. Read about him a bit before trying to read the assigned reading. He's telling us something subtle, I think, about the nature of philosophy by identifying it with concepts. The contrast between them is so dramatic that we will have ample opportunity to develop our own definitions. Our work on Philosophical Methods and Research will focus on a review of argument theory.

SEP 16 Topics:

A. Science and Philosophy

B. Philosophical Methods and Research: Reconstruction, Deductive and Inductive Reasoning, Problem of Induction

Readings: Schick and Vaughn, "Science and Its Pretenders;" Giere, "Understanding and Evaluating Theoretical Hypotheses"; Barnes, Chs. 16 and 17, "Natural Science in the 16th and 17th Centuries" and "The Impact of the New Intellectual Order on Philosophy and Education"; Bryson, Chapter 1 from A Short History of Nearly Everything, "How to Build a Universe" p. 9-28.

Focus: The goal of this set of reading is to give you a sophisticated mainstream model of science and it's difference from non-science. Schick and Vaughn and Giere provide this. In Schick and Vaughn, focus on what a scientific hypothesis is and how it is evaluated. Consider the "criteria of adequacy" at the end of that article. In Giere, follow the story about Watson and Crick, but pay particular attention to the model of science in figure 2.9. The Barnes reading is more of a cultural history of science. Note the role of scientific socieities, the relation between science and university, and of course, follow the substantive discoveries that make up the scientific revolution. Barnes does a good job of showing you the incredible range of discovery, but don't feel like you need to be able to answer questions about all of these developments. With Bryson, you get some contemporary popular science writing that may turn out to have a philosophical use. Enjoy it. Read Chapter 2 if you have time.

Method: Argument terms; Distinction between induction and deduction; reconstruction; explanation vs. argument.

SEP 23 Topics:

A. Philosophy vs. Non-Philosophy

Readings: Alfino, "Casual Sampler of Philosophical Openings"; Alfino, "Short Anthology of Non-academic Philosophy";

Focus:With the "Casual Sampler" just try to get a sense of the presuppositions about philosophy that come through the rhetoric. The anthology is a bit long, so you might need to sample it. Try to look at a variety of forms (story, essay, poem...) and think about whether and how philosophy can be done in literary forms.

Method: review deductive, inductive and explanatory forms, validity, and assessing rationales.

SEP 30 Topic:

A. Obligations to Aid and Globalization of Ethics
B. Philosophical Methods and Research

C. Student Research Projects

Readings: Singer; "Rich and Poor;" Singer, from One World, Chapter 1 and 5, "A Changing World" and "One Community"; Jeffrey Sachs, "Can the Rich Afford to Help the Poor?"

Focus:Singer's "Rich and Poor" is a pretty famous essay. It comes to us at a good time for our work on method. Try to reconstruct the argument the way we discussed in class last week. The more recent work from Singer mixes ethics and politics with a view of globalization. Focus Singer's account of the "new world order" and try to notice the role it plays in his argument. What is his view of the nation state? Reconstruct his basic argument that we should not based our ethics on the nation state. Jeffrey Sach's chapter helps update the data in Singer's viewpoint. Sachs will update you about the millennium development goals, tell you something about the structure of international aid, and the capacity of the US to contribute.

Method: Deductive Structure; Validity; Basic Research.
OCT 7 Topic:
Field trip to Filmosophy: Fight Club
Please check out some of the critical articles on the wiki and keep up with your browsing for this week.
OCT 14 Topic:
A. Thought Experiments

B. Genetic Engineering and Transhumanism

Readings: Schick and Vaughn, "The Laboratory of the Mind;" Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Thought Experiments"; Thompson, Judith Jarvis, "A Defense of Abortion"; Glover, "What Sort of People Should There Be?"; Nick Bostrom and Transhumanism (browse online, especially The Transhumanist FAQ and report links)

Focus: The main idea from both of the first two readings is to understand what a thought experiment is, why philosophers claim they are useful, and why others disagree. Thompson's famous abortion essay will be our case study since it has a battery of thought experiments. Track Glover's argument. Bostrom takes us into the outfield.
OCT 21 Topic:
A. Kant as Turning Point

Readings: Kenny, "Descartes to Kant"; Scruton, Ch 10: Kant I

Focus: Focus on Kenny in the following chunks: 105-145 (Descartes and Locke), read carefully; 145-158 Spinoza and Leibniz (frankly, this will be more obscure to some of you and you don't need the details; 158-166 Hume - read this carefully; 166-192 Kant -- try to get the big picture of Kant's project and then follow as much detail as you find interesting (you'll get this again). With the Kenny chapter you're getting a mini history of Modern philosophy, the last thirty pages of which is a more detailed view of Kant than you need, but a darn good summary for majors. Try to hang on. It will make Scruton easier. With the Scruton chapter on Kant, please slow down and try to follow Scruton's account of Kant as "game changer". That will be our theme. And we'll make a big timeline and eat dessert!
OCT 28 Topic:
A. Faith and Reason
B. Contemporary treatment of Religion

Readings: Pope John Paul II, "Fides et Ratio" (Pope John Paul II, "Fides et Ratio"); Michael Tkacz, "Faith, Reason, and Science: The View from the Catholic Tradition;" Barrett, "Cognitive Science of Religion"; Sosis, "The Adaptive Value of Religion"

Focus:You might want to start your preparation by browsing the problem of faith and reason in some reference sources. Also, read about Steven Jay Gould's NOMA hypothesis since Dr. Tkacz refers to it. Also, look up "fideism." Fides et Ratio is 60 pages long, but the style of writing should help you focus on the evidence for the Pope's argument. Our task will be to reconcile the views of faith and reason in the readings. The second group of readings introduces you to some contemporary work on religion from the social and natural sciences. This work is challenging to people with faith commmitments in various ways.

NOV 4 Topic:
A. Introduction to the Continental / Analytic Division
B. Methods Test

Readings: Scruton, "Continental Philosophy from Fichte to Sartre"; Jones, "Phenomenological Method" (recommended); Nagel, "What is It Like to Be a Bat?"; Dennett "What it is Like to Be a Bat"; (Heidegger reading moved forward - Alfino 11/3)

NOV 11 Topic:
A. Dennett, evolution, philosophy

Continental thought: Heidegger, "What is Metaphysics?";

Dennett reading: Chapters 1-3 of Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Focus: In Dennett Ch. 1, try to identify the idea that it was so hard for modern philosophers to think. In Ch. 2, focus on natural selection as algorithmic. In Ch. 3, Dennett traces some of the philosophical consequences of a generalized Darwinian style of explanation. We should also try to understand the skyhook and crane metaphor and some about the still controversial Baldwin Effect.

NOV 18 Topic:
A. Physicalism
B. Derrida, "White Mythology"

Readings: Papineau, "Physicalism" -- David Papineau on Physicalism, Philosophy Bytes

Focus: Use the Papineu audio recording to build some basic knowledge on the "knowledge argument" in epistemology, as well as to sharpen agreement / disagreement with his view. For part two of our evening, we will read the famous Derrida essay, "White Mythology". This is a widely studied text now, so feel free to get some pre-reading understanding from internet summaries.

NOV 25 Pre-Thanksgiving Class - Student conferences
DEC 2 Topic:
Food and Philosophy

Readings: Please watch Food, Inc. if you haven't, and, if you have time, watch it again. Also, please watch "Cowspiracy" (on netflix). The main readings are: Montanari, Food is Culture (1-33); Boisvert, I think, therefore I eat (introduction); Haynes, "The Myth of Happy Meat"; (optional) Francione, "Animal Welfare, Happy Meat, and Veganism as the moral baseline"; and Andrews, "Critique of Fast Life"

Focus: Cowspiracy makes the argument that concern for the environment should lead us to reduce or eliminate meat consumption. Montanari is an Italian food historian who has some insights into the sort of culture that food is part of. With Boisvert you are getting the introduction to a slim book also with insights about food and culture, but especially on how philosophical culture fails to engage food culture. Haynes and Francione locate a more traditional analytic discourse on food ethics. I hope Haynes gets us thinking deeply about animal agriculture and that Andrews allows us to raise the question of food and culture in a very contemporary way.

DEC 9 Topic:
A. Philosophy of Law

Philosophy of Law Readings: Fletcher, "Reflections on Felony Murder"; "The Controversial Felony Murder Case of The Elkhart 4: Should Teens Be Sentenced to 50 Years in Prison?" [1] Advocacy site: Free the Elkhart 4 [2]; "'Hiccup Girl' convicted in felony murder case, gets life term" [3]



DEC 16</td> Final Symposium
Free Will

Readings: Rahut, Chapter 4, "Free Will"
Focus: Come this final philosopher's symposium with a view about free will (use Rahut to introduce yourself to the basic positions) and a view about the nature of philosophy. How has your view of philosophy changed as you are moving into or through the major? Compare how you thought about philosophy before you started studying it much to now.</td>