Course Approved by Faculty Senate

University Studies Course Approval:

Revised 1-22-01

 Department Program: Philosophy Department

Course Number: 260

Number of Credits: 3

Course Title: Problems in Philosophy

Catalog Description:

260 - Problems in Philosophy - 3 S.H.

A variable-content course considering salient problems in philosophy. May be repeated for University Studies credit as issues change. Offered as appropriate.

This is an existing course that has previously been approved by A2C2.

Department Contact Person for this course: Ed Slowik

Email: eslowik@winona.edu

The proposed course is designed to satisfy the requirements in:

Arts & Sciences Core—Humanities

 

 

 

 

PROBLEMS IN PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 260

University Studies—Humanities

 

The purpose of Humanities...to provide a framework for understanding the nature and scope of human experience. Humanities courses explore the search for meaning and value in human life....

Problems in Philosophy is an in-depth exploration of various topics in philosophy. The class provides the student with a comprehensive introduction to some of the basic philosophical problems and issues that comprise a specific category within the larger Western philosophical tradition. Examples of such select categories are: the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, the philosophy of Space and Time, the philosophy of a specific science (biology, physics, etc.), Existentialism, to name only a few. Overall, one of the main goals of the course, besides providing a comprehensive overview of the various concepts within the specific field, is to teach the student the methods by which philosophers investigate these problems and issues.

 

 

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

 

1. Identify and understand specific elements and assumptions of a particular Humanities discipline.

Some of the specific topics covered in Problems of Philosophy are listed above, but all of the various problems explored in the class provide the student with a thorough grounding in the fundamental conceptual elements and assumptions that comprise the relevant field. Some of the questions addressed are: Is space and time a substance, or merely the relations among substances? What concepts played a central role in the Scientific Revolution? What are the central beliefs of the Existentialists? All topics covered are in the Humanities discipline.

 

 

2. Understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influences perceptions and interpretations.

Problems of Philosophy explores concepts and theories from many different perspectives and approaches, including, but not confined to, historical context, cultural values, and gender and race. These aspects of the particular area of philosophy under examination are thus investigated in great detail, and with respect to all topics. For example, with respect to the philosophy of the scientific revolution: How have gender biases played a role in the development of scientific theories? Have social classes been important in the acceptance, or rejection, of alternative theories of science?

 

 

3. Understand the role of critical analysis in interpreting and evaluating expressions of human experience.

Problems of Philosophy is devoted to the critical analysis of concepts and issues pertaining to various aspects of the human experience. Consequently, this course places at its very core the interpretation and evaluation of specific human thought systems. For example, with respect to the scientific revolution: Was the scientific revolution made possible by the introduction of the Hypothtico-Deductive method, or by the method of Scientific Induction? What are the important elements in Newton's approach to nature as regards the overall method of conducting science? Critical analysis is thus applied to all topics in the course.

 

 

PROBLEMS IN PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 260

Curriculum, Outcomes, Policies, and Requirements

University Studies—Humanities

 

 

 

Sample Syllabus

 

 

The Impact of Scientific Revolutions

Course Description

We will examine the impact on society of several key scientific revolutions, such as those of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and Freud. Our emphasis will be less on seeing how these revolutions affected their own disciplines than on seeing how they affected the way people think about themselves and their world. We will also devote some time to discussing the extent to which science advances by revolutions (as opposed to gradual extension of existing theories), and the extent to which this is a rational process. No previous knowledge of science is necessary.

 

Grades

You will be graded on the basis of two written assignments, a class presentation, and class participation and discussion.

Class presentations can be solo or group efforts. Each presentation should take approximately one class period. Each will amount to presenting the essentials of a chapter from our first text, dealing with a famous case history of a scientific revolution. The presentation should cover both the "nuts and bolts" of the revolutionary theory, and the social impact that it had beyond the bounds of science itself. The presentation will count for 35% of your course grade.

Moreover, you will be asked to provide a written grading of your peers’ presentations, according to criteria you formulate. This will be an ungraded assignment, meant to provide a basis for class discussion of what is needed in an effective presentation.

The paper must be on a topic approved in advance by me. It will require some outside reading, and must be six to eight pages long (typed or word-processed with a dark ribbon, double-spaced, containing references, etc.). Failure to meet due dates for required drafts will result in substantial grade reductions. Each student will then receive (anonymously, and at random) another’s paper, and will provide a written critique of it, according to criteria proposed by the critiquing student. I will then make my own comments on the working versions of the papers, and return them to you. The final draft is worth 35% of your course grade, and the written critique is worth 20%.

Finally, you are expected to do all of the readings as assigned, including those being presented by your classmates, and to be prepared to discuss them. Indications that this is not the case may provoke pop quizzes and other stern measures. In any case, class participation is worth 10% of your course grade.

Attendance is mandatory. You are allowed one unexcused absence. After that, each unexcused absence will drop your final course grade by one letter. For an absence to be excused, you must produce hard documentation of the dire emergency that caused it, and you’d better let me know in advance if at all possible.

 

Texts

I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985).

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd. Ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).

Course Outline — Impact of Scientific Revolutions

A. Overview

B. Meanings of ‘revolution’

1. First scientific sense

2. Political (violent) sense

a. English Revolution

b. American Revolution

c. French Revolution

3. Second scientific sense

C. Scientific revolutions

1. Copernicus’ astronomy

2. Kepler’s astronomy

3. Galileo’s astronomy and mechanics

4. Newton’s mechanics and gravitation

5. Darwin’s evolution

6. Marx’s historical materialism

7. Freud’s psychology

8. Einstein’s relativity

9. Planck’s, Schr´┐Żdinger’s, and Heisenberg’s quantum theory

D. Kuhn on scientific revolutions

1. Normal science

2. Paradigms

3. Anomalies

4. Gestalt switches and paradigm shifts

5. Revolutions as paradigm shifts

6. Incommensurability

7. Irrationality

 

 

All course activities and assignments simultaneously address all University Studies required course outcomes in Problems in Philosophy 260 in the following ways:

 

 

The purpose of Humanities...to provide a framework for understanding the nature and scope of human experience. Humanities courses explore the search for meaning and value in human life....

Problems in Philosophy is an in-depth exploration of various topics in philosophy. The class provides the student with a comprehensive introduction to some of the basic philosophical problems and issues that comprise a specific category within the larger Western philosophical tradition. Examples of such select categories are: the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, the philosophy of Space and Time, the philosophy of a specific science (biology, physics, etc.), Existentialism, to name only a few. Overall, one of the main goals of the course, besides providing a comprehensive overview of the various concepts within the specific field, is to teach the student the methods by which philosophers investigate these problems and issues.

 

 

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

 

1. Identify and understand specific elements and assumptions of a particular Humanities discipline.

Some of the specific topics covered in Problems of Philosophy are listed above, but all of the various problems explored in the class provide the student with a thorough grounding in the fundamental conceptual elements and assumptions that comprise the relevant field. Some of the questions addressed are: Is space and time a substance, or merely the relations among substances? What concepts played a central role in the Scientific Revolution? What are the central beliefs of the Existentialists? All topics covered are in the Humanities discipline.

 

 

2. Understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influences perceptions and interpretations.

Problems of Philosophy explores concepts and theories from many different perspectives and approaches, including, but not confined to, historical context, cultural values, and gender and race. These aspects of the particular area of philosophy under examination are thus investigated in great detail, and with respect to all topics. For example, with respect to the philosophy of the scientific revolution: How have gender biases played a role in the development of scientific theories? Have social classes been important in the acceptance, or rejection, of alternative theories of science?

 

 

3. Understand the role of critical analysis in interpreting and evaluating expressions of human experience.

Problems of Philosophy is devoted to the critical analysis of concepts and issues pertaining to various aspects of the human experience. Consequently, this course places at its very core the interpretation and evaluation of specific human thought systems. For example, with respect to the scientific revolution: Was the scientific revolution made possible by the introduction of the Hypothtico-Deductive method, or by the method of Scientific Induction? What are the important elements in Newton's approach to nature as regards the overall method of conducting science? Critical analysis is thus applied to all topics in the course.