Fall Course Descriptions

FALL 2018 Course Listing

PHI 548 Biomedical Ontology

Dr. Barry Smith
Monday, 1:00 PM - 3:40 PM
Class #:  23942

This course provides an introduction to biomedical ontology. It will review how data and information are generated through biological and biomedical experiments and through patient care, and show how ontologies are used in accessing, maintaining and exploiting the results. We will describe how biomedical ontologies are developed and evaluated and provide a comparative critical analysis of the principal current ontology resources. We will also review the major theories, methods and tools for the development of ontologies, and illustrate how these are being used in different areas of biomedical research and healthcare. On completion of his course students will have a thorough understanding of strategies to manage and exploit biomedical data; they will have a knowledge of categorization, of the philosophy of experimentation, of the philosophy of medicine, and of computer-based reasoning with data.

The focus of this course is the question: What is a disease? Topics to be addressed will include: the special problems of mental disease; what is it to be biologically normal?; the ontology of pain and other symptoms; the role of genes and environment. We shall also address more general ontological problems in biology, including: What is a species? What is a biological function?

PHI 579 Expressivism

Dr. Alexandra King and Dr. David Braun
Monday, 4:00 - 6:40 PM
Class #:  23693

This course will examine the prospects for metaethical expressivism. Metaethical expressivism is a family of views on which moral claims express states of mind, rather than describe a way the world is or could be. We will begin by looking at issues squarely in philosophy of language, including the semantics of expressive terms like “but”, “oops”, and slurs, and the semantics of non-declarative sentences, such as imperatives. We will then segue into expressivism proper, including contemporary work on the Frege-Geach problem, minimalism about truth, and quasi-realism. Readings will be drawn from figures such as David Kaplan, Allan Gibbard, Mark Schroeder, and Jamie Dreier.

PHI 634 GRA Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology - Individuation: Medieval and Contemporary

Dr. Jorge J. E. Gracia
Tuesday, 4:00 - 6:40 PM
Class #: 21899

This seminar will explore several related fundamental problems in metaphysics and in particular what are known as the problem of universals and the problem of individuation. The first problem includes such questions as what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for two 2x4 cards to be, and be known as, two 2x4 cards? The second problem includes such questions as what are the necessary and sufficient conditions of one 2x4 card to be, and to be known, as this 2x4 card? The course will discuss good and bad ways of formulating and dealing with these problems, and some related ones. Although materials from various periods of history will be discussed, the course will concentrate on the medieval period.

PHI 634 HOV Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology - Metaphysical Founndations of Bioethics

Dr. David Hershenov
Wednesday, 4:00 - 6:40 PM
Class #: 23694

The course will investigate the major metaphysical accounts of personal identity in order to decide whether each provides support or obstacles for opposing moral positions regarding beginning and end of life issues such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, genetic interventions, physician-assisted suicide, advanced directives, informed consent and organ procurement.

The theories to be discussed are Animalist, Hylomorphic, Cartesian, Constitution, Neo-Lockean, Four-Dimensionalist, and Brain (Embodied Mind) accounts of personal identity. We will explore the strengths and weaknesses of each metaphysic in an effort to determine how well the approach in question fares as a general theory of personal identity. A particular emphasis in evaluating a theory will be on how well it deals with the so called 'Problem of Too Many Minds.' How a theory fares with this problem will bear directly upon whether the approach makes informed consent in medical settings unlikely or even impossible.

We will also focus upon when each particular theory posits that someone comes into and goes out of existence. This will enable us to understand whether it is possible for a harm to occur at the time of the medical procedure in question.

PHI 637 BEE, First Year Writing Seminar

Dr. James Beebe
Wednesday, 1:00 - 3:40 PM
Class #: 23941

This course is a writing-intensive seminar required of all incoming philosophy graduate students. This seminar will cover a variety of issues and debates in contemporary epistemology and some of their roots in the history of philosophy. Many of the issues will center around fallibilism about human knowledge, including motivations for the view, challenges that it faces, whether it should be understood in an epistemically internalist or externalist manner, the Gettier problem, ways in which it might leave open the possibility of radical skepticism, how skeptical challenges should be handled, and relevant alternatives or contextualist ways of construing fallibilism. We will also cover some topics from social epistemology such as the question of how trusting or skeptical we should be with regard to the testimony of others and whether or not we should lower our confidence when we discover that people who are just as well-informed as we are disagree with us. Data about folk epistemology gathered by experimental philosophers may also be introduced along the way.​

Individual Tutorial Course Sections

See HUB Registration site for Individual Tutorial Course Sections with Philosophy Department Faculty, to be arranged with permission of instructor:

            PHI 599  Graduate Tutorial  
            PHI 701  MA Thesis Guidance Tutorials (Arranged with Professor)
            PHI 703  Dissertation Guidance Tutorials (Arranged with Professor)