Approved by Faculty Senate

University Studies Course Approval:

Revised 1-22-01

Department Program: Philosophy Department

Course Number: 302

Number of Credits: 3

Course Title: Contemporary Philosophy

Catalog Description:

302- Contemporary Philosophy-3 S.H.

A study of major figures and issues from the 19th and 20th centuries. Philosophers may include Mill, Marx, and Wittgenstein. Issues may include the nature of knowledge, the nature of mind, and the nature of the State. Offered each year.

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

 

Department Contact Person for this course: Kevin Possin

 

Email: kpossin@winona.edu

 

The proposed course is designed to satisfy the requirements in:

 

Arts & Sciences Core—Humanities

 

 

 

CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 302

University Studies—Humanities

 

 

The purpose of the Humanities… is 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….

Contemporary Philosophy 302 is an introductory course, examining fundamental philosophical issues by means of recent authors and perspectives. Typical questions addressed in this course are:

bulletWhat is the nature and extent of knowledge? bulletIs knowledge relative to one's culture or gender? bulletWhat is the nature of the mind? bulletWhat is the nature and limits of an individual's rights? bulletWhat is the nature and limits of the State's rights?

 

 

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

The questions and issues addressed in this course are listed above. They are so fundamental and important to the discipline of philosophy and the Humanities that they warrant their own titles: Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, and Political Theory. PHIL 302 critically investigates our most basic assumptions or beliefs—that we can know; that we have unique mental capacities; that we have basic human rights to liberty while, paradoxically, also having State-enforceable duties to others.

 

 

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

Ironically, the questions and issues addressed in this course critically review the assumptions behind this very outcome. To what degree, if any, are the conditions for knowledge and justification relative to culture or gender? To what degree does historical context or gender affect the extent and limits of human rights? While, indeed, historical context, cultural values, and gender may influence one's perceptions and interpretations on these issues, Contemporary Philosophy asks, "Ought they to?"

 

 

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

After studying the best of what the 19th and 20th centuries have to offer on our topics, the task of the participants will be to assemble the most defensible theories of knowledge, mind, the rights of the citizen, etc., using the processes of critical, philosophical analysis—first used by Socrates, but later highly refined by contemporary philosophers.

 

 

CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 302

Curriculum, Outcomes, Policies, and Requirements

University Studies—Humanities

 

 

 

Kevin Possin

kpossin@winona.edu

Minne 324

457-5662

Office Hours: TBA

 

 

Curriculum:

The rights of the State and the rights of the individual:

To study this fundamental issue of ethics and political philosophy, we will examine two classics.

John Stuart Mill's On Liberty

Marx's Communist Manifesto

Objectives

1) Survey and critically review these historically important political theories.

2) Assemble the most defensible position on powers of the State.

3) Enhance critical-thinking skills and skills of analysis.

 

What is knowledge and justification?

Throughout the entire history of philosophy, various theories as to what knowledge is have been proposed. But during the 20th century, the topic was significantly developed and attained the status of an area of philosophy—epistemology. This course will provide a general introduction to epistemology, using these 20th century theories.

We will also critically review two chic, but problematic, recent trends in epistemology—feminist epistemology and the belief that knowledge is culturally relative.

Objectives

1) Survey and critically review historically important theories on knowledge and justification.

2) Assemble the most defensible theories of knowledge and justification.

3) Enhance critical-thinking skills and skills of analysis.

 

 

Means of evaluation:

There will be no in-class exams in this course. Exams are too artificial to test you on the knowledge and critical-thinking skills you should be developing in this course.

There will be a maximum of 5 short papers on assigned questions or topics. These papers must be typed. You will have about a week to do each one. We will have no official final exam; the final paper will be due at the time the final exam would have been given. I also reserve the right to give quizzes or homework, if I find that the class is not keeping up with reading assignments.

These writing assignments are to assess your understanding of the course content and to develop your skills at identifying, constructing, and evaluating positions, arguments, and criticisms concerning our topics.

 

 

Responsibilities and objectives:

For all of the issues studied in this course, you are responsible for knowing all

1) positions,

2) arguments for positions,

3) criticisms of arguments, and

4) criticisms of positions,

discussed in class. Knowing all this is simply what it is to know your way around the topics, concepts, and debates covered by this course. This will amount to a wealth of material.

Attendance is required: You are permitted 3 absences, more than which could affect your grade—1/3 of a grade drop per absence. So your strategy should be to use your absences wisely (viz., for times of illness or athletic events if you are on a WSU team). If you miss class, it is your responsibility to get someone's notes. The rationale for this attendance policy is that the course is simply too difficult to master without the aid of class lectures and discussions.

 

 

Suggestions for Success:

In light of the wealth of information and arguments covered in this course, I recommend the following:

1) Keep up with the readings. Read the assignments both before and after class discussions. The reading assignments will be short, but reading philosophy is different than reading any other subject; it's much more dense, efficient, and involved. So read the assignments multiple times.

2) Take good notes in class. If you have trouble taking notes, tape record the classes and review them.

3) Review your notes. If there is a gap in your notes, see me immediately.

4) Ask questions in class. There is no such thing as a dumb question. " Will you run that past me again?" is a perfectly good question. If you do happen to ask a stupid question, it is my job to make it sound profound, and I will gladly do this for you.

5) See me the minute you have trouble comprehending the material. Each class period builds on previous ones.

6) Don't go to secondary sources for help. See me instead. Secondary sources are very inefficient means of gaining access to the topics discussed in class. Look at it this way: if a secondary source were so good, it would have made our reading list.

7) Get a study partner for review of notes, discussions of topics, and strategizing on assigned papers. All I require with respect to working on papers together is that study partners do their final writing of the papers separately. Failure to do this is plagiarism and will receive an 'F' for both the paper and the course.

 

 

All course activities and assignments simultaneously address all University Studies’ required course outcomes in Contemporary Philosophy 302, in the following ways:

The purpose of the Humanities… is 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….

Contemporary Philosophy 302 is an introductory course, examining fundamental philosophical issues by means of recent authors and perspectives. Typical questions addressed in this course are:

bulletWhat is the nature and extent of knowledge? bulletIs knowledge relative to one's culture or gender? bulletWhat is the nature of the mind? bulletWhat is the nature and limits of an individual's rights? bulletWhat is the nature and limits of the State's rights?

 

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

The questions and issues addressed in this course are listed above. They are so fundamental and important to the discipline of philosophy and the Humanities that they warrant their own titles: Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, and Political Theory. PHIL 302 critically investigates our most basic assumptions or beliefs—that we can know; that we have unique mental capacities; that we have basic human rights to liberty while, paradoxically, also having State-enforceable duties to others.

 

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

Ironically, the questions and issues addressed in this course critically review the assumptions behind this very outcome. To what degree, if any, are the conditions for knowledge and justification relative to culture or gender? To what degree does historical context or gender affect the extent and limits of human rights? While, indeed, historical context, cultural values, and gender may influence one's perceptions and interpretations on these issues, Contemporary Philosophy asks, "Ought they to?"

 

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

After studying the best of what the 19th and 20th centuries have to offer on our topics, the task of the participants will be to assemble the most defensible theories of knowledge, mind, the rights of the citizen, etc., using the processes of critical, philosophical analysis—first used by Socrates, but later highly refined by contemporary philosophers.