Upper Level Courses
(Prerequisite: Any 100 or EYE Level Philosophy Course)
PHI 205 Symbolic Logic, Prof. Julien Murphy
“It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” (W. K. Clifford, 1879) This course is an introduction to the logical tools that provide good evidence for rational beliefs. You will learn how to improve your own logical thinking and spot logical errors (e.g. “All men are mortal. Socrates was a man. Therefore, all men are Socrates.” Woody Allen). We will analyze the fundamentals of informal, formal and inductive logic not only as a key tool in philosophical and scientific inquiry, but also as a necessary life-skill for reasoning effectively about issues that matter to you in daily life. Topics covered include definitions, fallacies, validity, categorical propositions and syllogisms, Venn diagrams, truth tables, probability, and statistical reasoning. This course is designed for majors in philosophy, science, communication, and computer science among others as well as for any student interested in critical thinking and language analysis.
PHI 215 Philosophy & Literature, Prof. Jeremiah Conway
Ever since Plato (supposedly) banned poets from the Republic, philosophy has had a rocky relationship with literature. This course takes up this ancient quarrel. What are the differences between poetic and philosophical discourse? What contributions do they make to one another? Why have they been separate? Thinkers to be read: Plato, Sophocles, Heidegger, William Carlos Williams, & Jose Saramago.
PHI 230 Philosophy of Religion
On Line (3/12-5/9)
The philosophy of religion is one of the central areas of study in contemporary analytic and continental philosophy; and for good reason. Religion continues to play a critical role in the cultural and political dynamics of our planet. Thinkers as diverse as Daniel Dennett, Nancy Murphy, Jean-Luc Marion, and Slavoj Žižek have been compelled, time and again, to weigh in on the often intricately related logical, epistemological, metaphysical, and moral implications of religious beliefs and practices. In so doing, they follow the lead of giants in the history of philosophy such as Xenophanes, Confucius, Laozi, the Buddha, Aristotle, Al-Farabi, Shankara, Maimonides, Descartes, Hume, and Kant. This course will take up the challenge of interpreting religion in its complexity using the tools of philosophical analysis by exploring a representative sample of the rich primary and secondary literature in philosophy of religion. Giving roughly equal time to classic as well as contemporary problems, some “ripped from the headlines” of our mass media, the course will provide an orientation to the arguments and the complex social debates that accompany them. Topics to be discussed include: the nature of philosophy, religion, theology, and the philosophy of religion; arguments for and against theism; the relationship between science and religion; religious pluralism; and the link, if any, between morality and religion.
PHI 241 Philosophy and Politics of Work, Prof. Jason Read
M/W, 11:45 – 1:00 or M/W, 2:45-4:00
When two strangers meet, at a party on a bus or plane, conversation eventually turns to work. Sooner or later someone will ask the question, “What do you do?” This question, and the answer that follows, is generally taken as some clue into one’s identity. Despite this connection between work and identity, one’s work is not freely chosen; it is the product of social and historical forces that we do not control. A job can thus be in tension with one’s sense of self, one’s ethics, and values. Work also makes up most of our daily experience of politics: it is in the world of work that we experience the reality of power, domination, hierarchy, and cooperation. Work is also central to such political ideas as property, equality, and justice. Last, but not least, there is the economic dimension of work, work creates wealth, but not for all. Thus work cannot be separated from fundamental questions of the creation and distribution of wealth. Work is thus an activity that stands at an intersection between philosophy, politics, ethics, and economics. Moreover, this intersection is constantly changing, as labor is transformed by technical conditions and economic decisions. This course will explore this intersection, examining the philosophical, ethical, and political dimensions of work. In doing so we will pay particular attention to the transformations of work in the last several decades, the shift from Fordist industrial labor to an economy dominated by services, information, and work of care and communication. How does this transformation of the experience and content of work transform the philosophical, political, and ethical dimensions? Readings will include: Arendt, Aristotle, Berardi, Dalla Costa, Hegel, Locke, Marx, Plato, Sennett, Smith, and Southwood. This course satisfies the Ethical Inquiry, Social Responsibility and Citizenship requirement for Gen Ed.
PHI 245 (WGS 245) Africa, Social Justice & Exile; Prof. Kathleen Wininger
Mon, 4:10-6:40 or Tues 4:10-6:40
Africa, Social Justice and Exile address issues of social justice in the context of Africa and its Diaspora (the disbursement of its people outside of the continent). The stories of exile allow us to connect with social (Diane Ciekawy, Antjie Krog, Desmond Tutu), economic (George Caffentzis, Sylvia Federici), environmental (Wangari Maathai, Ken Saro-Wiwa), and cultural (Sindiwe Magona, Ngugi wa Thiong’o & Micere Githae Mugo) issues around the world. The lives of women, children and men are affected differently. Illnesses such as AIDs influence asylum decisions. Our examination of refugees and exiles will concentrate on certain parts of West Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa. Many recent immigrants to Portland are from East Africa and come here as refugees. Many issues of social justice, which arise in the cases of refugees, come from the nature of the laws in the countries where they seek asylum. For this reason it is important to know the mechanisms of judicial process in the lands in which they settle. We will then read material by some of the most famous exiles of our time (for example, Bessie Head, Wole Soyinka, Salman Rushdie and Edward Said) as they reflect on what it means to be homeless and without a country. We begin by exploring what drove people to seek asylum. We will hear descriptions of the challenges African people faced in their homelands. African people are coming from a continent where colonization is usually a significant part of their past. The process of de-colonization has been challenging. The departures of the colonizers left substantial inequitable social structures. The pursuit of justice is further problematized when a country has been occupied and gross inequalities sustained by people who remain in the country. This course satisfies Ethical Inquiry and the International and Diversity portions of the curriculum
PHI 275 Nature of Compassion (EISRC), Prof. Jeremiah Conway
M/W; 10:15-11:30 or M/W, 4:10-5:25
Compassion is controversial. Some thinkers consider it the bedrock of the ethical life. Others maintain that emotions, such as compassion, are a poor and misleading guide to action, that they are impulsive, non-cognitive, and unreliable. This longstanding debate in philosophy finds many ramifications in contemporary life. This course will be an interdisciplinary investigation of compassion. Central to it are a number of interrelated questions: how is compassion understood in the Western philosophical tradition and does this differ from its understanding in a non-Western tradition, such as Buddhism? Can compassion be cultivated and, if so, how? Are there appropriate limits to compassion? What are some of the obstacles and impediments to compassion? This course satisfies the University’s general education requirement of an Ethical Enquiry.
PHI 291 Death & Dying (EISRC), Prof. William Gavin
T/TH, 8:45 – 8:45-10:00 or T/TH, 10:15–11:30
Recent success in life-prolonging techniques has resulted in the creation of new disagreements over the proper definition of death, e.g., whole brain death vs. neocortical failure. Which definition of death is the most adequate? Some have argued that dying, not death, is the vitally important topic. Has the term ‘death’ changed its meaning from time to time and place to place in human history? This course will deal with these and similar epistemological issues.
PHI 310 History of Ancient Philosophy, Prof. William Gavin
Tuesday & Thursday, 1:15-2:30
Alfred North Whitehead has said, “…the European philosophical tradition…consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” Whitehead’s comment indicates how extensively modern thought is indebted to the ancient world for its philosophical issues. The course will open with a short analysis of the “origins” of the philosophy of the West. Then the works of the “pre-Socratics” will be taken up; subsequently, the major emphasis will be on Plato’s dialogues and the Metaphysics and Ethics of Aristotle. This course will conclude with a brief analysis of Stoicism and Epicureanism.
PHI 330 Early Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant, Prof. Robert B. Louden
T/TH, 2:45 – 4:00
Focuses on close readings and evaluations of key texts written by European philosophers (and a few of their American offshoots) during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In addition to examining works in metaphysics and epistemology by major figures in this period such as Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, and Kant, we will also explore some shorter pieces written by various Enlightenment authors on issues such as war and peace, reason and God, education and childhood, and gender and race. The works in the first group represent different attempts to articulate a theoretical framework for modernity, while the works in the second group are more concerned with applications and implications of these theories. Note: This course has a prerequisite of any PHI 100-level course. Philosophy majors are also encouraged to take PHI 310 (History of Ancient Philosophy) before taking PHI 330.
PHI 380 Postmodernism and After, Prof. Jason Read
Postmodernism is a broad term that encompasses many trends in contemporary continental philosophy (lumping together such figures as Foucault, Deleuze, Jameson, and Butler). This course will look at the history of postmodernism, examining the common themes, or problems, that link together this heterogeneous collection of philosophers. We will focus on several themes: the emergence of postmodernism from the politics of the sixties; the critique of the subject of knowledge and agency; and the relation of the theories of postmodernism to broader social changes in technology, politics, and the economy. Finally, we will look at what remains of truth, politics, and philosophy after postmodernism. In the end our goal will be an attempt to view postmodernism as its time comprehended in thought, and to try to understand the current historical moment. This is philosophy in the present tense. Readings will include: Badiou, Butler, Deleuze, Foucault, Lazzarato, and Stiegler.
PHI 409 Research Seminar: Crisis of the Humanities, Julien Murphy
What is the crisis of the humanities? Does it indicate the end of the humanities in higher education? What is fueling the attacks on the humanities? Can the humanities survive? Does democracy depend on the survival of the humanities? We trace the rise and fall of humanism and its significance for understanding the human condition that shaped liberal studies in the 20thCentury. We will use the work of Nussbaum, Fish, Heidegger and Derrida, among others, to understand postmodernism and trans-humanist critiques of the humanities and the importance of the humanities for our evolving notion of democracy. New directions and debates in digital humanities and global humanities will also be explored. The course is designed as a capstone course. Advanced levels of interpretation and criticism are emphasized. Each student will construct and present a capstone humanities research project. Prerequisite: Advanced standing as a philosophy major and permission of the department.
NOTES: For registration dates go to: http://usm.maine.edu/reg
PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT ADVISING COORDINATOR:
Prof. Robert Louden, Advising Coordinator
If you currently have no advisor please call the Advising Coordinator and he will assign you one or it can be your personal choice. Please give the advisor your name and USM ID#.
HOW DO I GET A PIN NUMBER:
You will need to schedule an appointment with your assigned advisor for your pin number and to register in a timely manner.
NEED TO KNOW THE PROCESS FOR DECLARING A MAJOR/MINOR:
Please call or email the Philosophy Dept. Advising Coordinator, Prof. Robert Louden, to make an appointment to discuss your path as a Philosophy Major and get the formal paperwork in order.
PLEASE REGISTER EARLY!!
The Registrar's Office website includes the Priority Registration schedule on the right side of the web page at: http://usm.maine.edu/reg under Advanced Registration/Advising
Other helpful websites are: The Advising Network at: http://usm.maine.edu/success/advisingnetwork
WE ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO REGISTER EARLY TO ENSURE THAT COURSES ARE NOT CANCELLED DUE TO LOW ENROLLLMENT!