Courses

Courses taught during the spring semester 2016

Philosophy 215, Symbolic Logic

Course Description

In the West, Aristotle invented logic as a subject matter, or field of study. For more than 2000 years, Aristotle’s logic was about all there was. In the second half of the nineteenth century, a German philosopher and mathematician, Gottlob Frege, reinvented logic. Modern logic dates from that period. In the modern period, logic quickly became an active field of research, which it continues to be. Logic is now important for philosophy, mathematics, computer science, cognitive science, and ontology, among other fields. It is a valuable resource for scholars working in those areas, and its further development promises to provide new understanding of many subjects and issues.

In this course, we develop logical theories investigating the two fundamental languages of modern logic, the propositional language whose logical expressions are symbolic connectives, and the quantificational language of first-order logic with identity. In developing each theory, we will consider the truth conditions of sentences in the language, we will learn how to understand and to make statements employing the logical expressions in the language, and will devise techniques for determining when statements are logically true, when statements imply other statements, and when statements are incompatible. For the propositional language, these techniques involve truth-tables. For each theory, we will set up a deductive system for constructing arguments and proofs which employ sentences of the logical language, and will gain proficiency in constructing such arguments.

This course is a suitable introduction to more advanced studies in logic, but the primary goal for most students taking the course is to improve the ability to recognize, and to carry out, reasoning that is deductively correct.

 

PHI 321, Philosophy of Science

Course Description

The world we live in depends, in large part, on the development of modern science. Cars, planes, nuclear weapons, computers, smart phones, radios, television sets, the internet, Google, and on and on are only available to us because of scientific discoveries and scientific theories on which they depend. Some of them, like nuclear weapons, we might prefer to do without, but there is no getting away from the fact that our world has been shaped by, and still depends on, science and scientifically inspired technology.

In spite of the obvious importance of science, it has become a controversial philosophical matter to determine the status of science and scientific theories. Does science aim at, and actually succeed in delivering the truth about the world and the things in it, or does it have the more limited goal of making sense of the world we encounter, and providing a successful, coherent explanatory account, one which allows us to make use of physical objects and physical processes to realize our purposes and reach our goals? If it is the latter, then there may not be a uniquely correct scientific account toward which scientific research is heading.

In this course, we will consider some different philosophers, and their conflicting views about science. The goal of this course is for students to understand the conflict between competing views of science. We will consider the views of David Hume, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, among others. But students will also be expected to bring their own experience and knowledge of science to our discussions, and to write a term paper in which they present and defend their own understandings of science.

 

Philosophy 525 Philosophical Analysis

Course Description

This course will focus on speech acts, or language acts. We will begin by considering J.L. Austin’s How to Do Things With Words, then move on to some of John Searle’s major works, from Speech Acts through at least The Construction of Social Reality. Austin invented speech-act theory, at least in its more-or-less contemporary form, but without Searle, his invention might have gone largely unnoticed, and simply disappeared from view. Searle was forceful both in defending and developing Austin’s account, and Searle remains one of the most important living philosophers, who may well have a major impact on philosophy in the Twenty-First Century.

However, there is more to be said about speech acts than Searle has said, so we will also see what there is about Searle’s account that needs fixing, or improving, as well as considering issues and approaches that he has neglected. It is a prerequisite of this course that students be familiar with (have read) at least the following works concerning reference and proper names: Frege’s “On Sense and Reference,” Russell’s “On Denoting,” Strawson’s “On Referring,” Russell’s “Reply to Mr. Strawson,” Donnellan’s “Reference and Definite Descriptions,” and Kripke’s Naming and Necessity.