Department Chair

  • Jennifer McErlean
    Professor of Philosophy
    Siena Hall 414
    (518) 783-4129
    mcerlean@siena.edu



Philosophy Courses Fall 2012

Philosophy and the Human Being, PHIL 101

Multiple Sections & Professors

Reason and Argument, PHIL 103

Multiple Sections

PHIL 101 or PHIL 103 are required of all Siena students in fulfillment of the Core Disciplinary Requirement.

Either PHIL 101 OR PHIL 103 is required for all courses listed below except PHIL 155.

Symbolic Logic, PHIL 155 (TR 2:35-4:00, Alexander)

This course is an introduction to logic for students of contemporary philosophy and its allied fields (mathematics, computer science, political science, social and cognitive etc.) It is intended for beginning students and covers: (1) basic approaches (proof theory and model theory) to deductive logic; (2) philosophically important extensions of standard deductive logic – basic modal logic, deontic logic, epistemic logic, tense logic, and counterfactual logic; (3) basic approaches to inductive logic, including Bayesian approaches; and (4) elementary philosophy of logic. The goal throughout is to provide students with a background in the kinds of logic that they will need in order to do certain kinds of philosophy. (ARTS, PLG)

Philosophy and Reality, PHIL 202 (MWF 1:30-2:30, Blanchard)

What is ultimate reality?  Seriously?!  The activity of ‘philosophy’ and the investigation into ‘reality’ quite naturally seem to go together.  This course explores the historical and thematic relationship of this pair, from the ancient Greeks to modern and contemporary philosophical thinkers.  Broadening the scope of issues presented in PHIL101, we will study the nature of what is, or being (which topic has traditionally been called ‘metaphysics’) in class assignments and discussions about a variety of readings from philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, Heidegger, and Quine.  (ARTS, CAP)

Ethics, PHIL 210 (MWF 11:30-12:30, McErlean)

A philosophical study of how to live well, what is ‘good’ and ‘just,’ and what kind of person we should be.  Students will examine major theories and thinkers (virtue ethics, utilitarianism, and Kantianism) as well as explore applications of these theories to current issues such as euthanasia and affirmative action.  As is appropriate to moral reasoning, the course will be dialogically intensive.   (ARTS, CAP, CFJ)

HONORS Ethics, PHIL 210 (MWF 1:30-2:25, Santilli)

Our persistent political conflicts about war, immigration, health care, and the economy stem from competing visions of the good life, human rights, and just policies. They are at bottom ethical problems. This course addresses such problems by drawing on the work of Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, using his textbook on Justice and his televised series of lectures. Students are introduced to the important ideas of Aristotle, Kant and Rawls concerning the good, the right, and the just. This course also explores racism, injustice, inhumanity, and genocide with the guidance of Australian philosopher, Raimond Gaita. The class will be sprinkled with good humor and case studies having to do with commuter trains, shipwrecks, cheerleaders, and golfers! Honors level ethics encourages student initiated discussion and independent research.  Permission is required and may be granted by Drs. Lois Daly or Paul Santilli.  (ARTS, CAP, CFJ, HNRS)

The Democratic Idea, PHIL 230 (W 6:00-8:50, Boisvert)

Fall 2012: presidential election time. Will the U.S. elect a liberal or a conservative?  What in fact do those terms mean?  How would you label yourself? Is someone who favors old fashioned organic food or is a fan of the buy-American movement a liberal or a conservative?  Do you want to understand why what was originally called “liberal” is now “conservative,” that “conservative” has traditionally meant something quite different from laissez-faire economics.  If so, this course, which will explore the philosophical roots of both movements, is for you. (ARTS, CAP)

Early Modern Philosophy, PHIL 294 (MWF 10:20-11:20, Ng)

This course will explore the philosophical period understood as "modern" by examining enlightenment conceptions of reason that became dominant in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries as a result of dramatic changes in science, society, religion, and politics. During this period of upheaval, reason became, both positively and negatively, definitive of human knowledge and subjectivity, leading to transformations in our understandings of mind, nature, and morality that remain essential for us today. Readings will include key texts from thinkers such as Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, Rousseau, and Kant. Throughout the course, we will be concerned not only with tracing the role and limits of reason in the development of philosophical modernity, but also with evaluating the extent to which we can still conceive of ourselves as modern, rational subjects.  (ARTS, PHY)

Existentialism, PHIL348 (MW 3:50-5:15, Burkey)

A diverse group of 19th and 20th century European thinkers have deeply provoking responses to the question of what it means to exist as a specifically human subject.  Participants in this course will be asked to read, discuss, and write about the philosophical and literary texts of so-called existentialist philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone De Beauvoir, and Albert Camus.  Themes include freedom and responsibility, values and nihilism, individuality and mass mentality, reason and the absurd, God and godless worldviews.  As a Franciscan Concern Area Course (Heritage), Existentialism extends reflection on key aspects of the Franciscan intellectual tradition by its emphasis on the unique singularity of each person, and linking with the practical and social world primarily through the concept of moral value rather than economic value, power, or materiality.   (ARTS, CAP, PHY, CFH)

Great Figures in Philosophy: Beauvoir, PHIL 450 (T 3:30-5:35, Söderbäck)

This course offers a rare opportunity to spend an entire semester reading one of the greatest figures of the twentieth century, namely Simone de Beauvoir. Her classic The Second Sex, first published in 1949 but only recently translated in full into English, is the most systematic account of the role and status of women within patriarchal society to have ever been written. Few philosophical texts have so immediately changed the lives of so many people. It is considered the founding text of contemporary feminist theory, and it revolutionized our views on women and gender as well as the lives of women across the world. Beauvoir’s famous claim that one is not born but rather becomes a woman planted a seed for our current distinction between (biological) sex and (socially constructed) gender. The course aims at examining this text in great detail, with one eye to the philosophical tradition Beauvoir was drawing from, and the other to the feminist movement she sparked and continues to inspire. The course will be run as a seminar, and students will be respected as intellectuals who are enthusiastic about reading, writing, independent thinking, and research.   (ARTS, HNRS)