Fall 2009 Course Descriptions

Fall 2009 Courses

Liberalism and Its Critics

Course & Class Num:  POLS 3342H, 33733
Time & Location:  TTh 2:30 - 4:00, TBA
Instructor: Jeff Church

The fundamental tenets of liberalism—individual rights, equality under the law, the value of toleration—are so familiar to our political experience that we rarely give them a second thought. However, many past thinkers have leveled radical criticisms against liberal principles and institutions, and these criticisms continue to arouse political discontent in many parts of the world today. In this course, we will address these criticisms by first examining the origin and basis of liberalism in its classic articulations (Locke and Mill). Second, we will turn to the criticisms of liberalism from the Left (Rousseau and Marx) and the Right (Burke and Nietzsche) to investigate what the source of these criticisms are, what merit they may have, and finally what implications these criticisms have for contemporary liberal politics.

Contemporary Moral Issues

Course & Class Num: PHIL 3351H, 30661
Time & Location: TTH 1:00 – 2:30, 107 C
Instructor: David K. Phillips

Philosophical analysis of contemporary issues such as abortion, affirmative action, the treatment of animals, capital punishment, euthanasia, and famine relief.

Classics in the History of Ethics

Course & Class Num: PHIL 3358H, 19156
Time & Location: MWF 10:00 – 11:00, TBA

In this course, I will take on one major ethical work from each of the following three thinkers: Spinoza, Hume, and Nietzsche. These figures attempt (in consecutive centuries) to come to terms with ethics in the post-Christian intellectual arena. As we move through the semester, we will get caught up in the following kinds of questions. Is God the foundation for our ethical commitments? If so, then how can we reconcile this with our rational/scientific insights into the nature of the world? If not, then what is it that makes us moral creatures? Or, are we moral creatures at all? How might our morality be naturalistically understood?

History of Ancient Philosophy

Course & Class Num: PHIL 3383H, 30651
Time & Location: Online
Instructor: Cynthia A. Freeland

Analysis of central ideas and works in ancient philosophy. This course is taught online.


Course & Class Num: PHIL 3395H, 30653
Time & Location: MW 4:00 – 5:30, 16 AH
Instructor: Tamler S. Sommers

This course examines a wide range of philosophical theories of punishment, paying close attention to what these theories presume about human agency and responsibility. Questions to discussed include: What right do we have punish wrongdoers? Should our justification of punishment focus on the benefits it provides for society, or on giving criminals their “just-deserts”? To what extent should we take the background and/or the genetic predispositions of criminals into account? Is it morally wrong to punish likely criminals before they commit their crimes (à la Minority Report)? Throughout the course we will hold the empirical assumptions in leading theories of punishment under scrutiny to see how they cohere with contemporary models of human action in the sciences.

From Kosovo to Gaza: Military Intervention and Human Security

Course & Class Num: HON 4397H, 33570
Time & Location: MTWTH 4:00 – 7:00 , TBA
Instructor: Mient Jan Faber

Military interventions are an attack on state security and human security. In this course, we will consider different types of military interventions and analyse its impact on the security of ordinary people. Who are the providers of human security when the state is unable to fulfill its obligations? In a normal situation, human security is provided by the state through the rule of law. But in a war situation, human security is often provided by non-state actors, not least by the people themselves. We call this “human security from below.” We will discuss the various concepts of intervention and security and apply them to Srebrenica, Kosovo, Iraq, and Palestine. Our aim is to reach a better understanding of the impact of the security component at different levels during war situations. This course will actually meet for three weeks in November, for 45 contact hours. The course will be interactive. Students are divided in small groups. Each group will do a class presentation based on one of the cases. Each student has to write a paper (5,000 words). Grades based on active participation in the course, class presentation, written paper. This course will be cross-listed as POLS 4396.

Religion and Politics

Course & Class Num: POLS 4394H, 30678
Time & Location: TTH 1:00 – 2:30, 16 AH
Instructor: Gregory Weiher

This course explores the relationship between religion and politics in the western, liberal tradition, and compares it with the understanding of that relationship in other religious and cultural traditions, particularly in Muslim societies. It begins with a brief summary of the history of religious wars and strife in Europe. It then explores the beginnings of secularism (the conviction that public affairs should be conducted apart from formal religious involvement) in the West by looking at excerpts from, for instance, Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise, and at Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration. We will explore the tradition of the separation of church and state in the American context by examining appropriate Supreme Court cases. Along the way we will explore statements of principle such as Bertrand Russell’s “A Free Man's Worship,” and explorations of the effect of enlightenment and Liberal ideas on religious consciousness and practice. Finally, we will examine documents from the Muslim tradition that provide a contrasting view of the appropriate relationship between religion and politics.