Instructor: Dr. Shane Drefcinski
Office: 339 Gardner Hall
Office Phone: 342-1828
Course Description: This course explores the epistemological, ontological, and ethical questions raised by science and technology. Among the topics addressed are: various views of science and the different metaphysical views which are behind them, various views of nature and human nature, and the different kinds of ethics that result from these competing epistemologies and ontologies.
Grading: Grades will be based on three factors: (1) quizzes, (2) three take-home essay exams, and (3) class participation. There are five unannounced quizzes, each worth 10 points. There are three essay exams, which are each worth 100 points. Finally, class participation is worth 50 points.
Policy on Missed Quizzes and Incompletes: The exams are “take-home” and must be submitted on the assigned date. Late exams will be penalized. Incompletes will not be routinely assigned for unfinished course work. In order to receive an incomplete the student must consult the instructor before the week of final exams and provide an acceptable reason why the course work cannot be completed. Finally, any student who may need an accommodation due to a disability should see me. A VISA from Services for Students with Disabilities authorizing your accommodations will be needed.
Tentative Schedule of Topics and Readings:
Unit I: Materialism, Empiricism, and Pragmatism
Week of January 18-21
• An initial case study: the Space Shuttle Challenger. How would you respond to the ethical questions raised by this case? How would you justify your response? How is your justification tied to your views about, e.g., what knowledge is, and the nature and importance of the human person?
• What is science? What is technology? How do they relate? Why? How do we get to know whatever we know? Is there a single method of
acquiring knowledge? Are there a variety of ways of acquiring knowledge? What do our answers to these questions imply about our view of the world?
Week of January 24-28
• Philosophical Origins of Modern Science: Francis Bacon
• One Version of Materialism: Physicalism
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
Assigned readings: selections from Francis Bacon, selections from Thomas Hobbes and John Searle’s Minds, Brains, and Science (chapters 1-2, 6).
Week of January 31-February 4
• Another Version of Materialism: Social Determinism
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Assigned readings: selections from Karl Marx.
Week of February 7-11
David Hume (1711-1776)
Weeks of February 14-18; 21-25
William James (1842-1910) John Dewey (1859-1952)
Assigned readings: selections from William James' "What Pragmatism Means" and selections from John Dewey’s “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy,” How We Think (on the web) and Reconstruction in Philosophy (handout).
#1: application of these four views to a case study.
Week of February 28-March 4
• Platonic Idealism
Assigned readings: selections from Plato’s Republic and Philebus.
Week of March 7-11
• Kantian Idealism
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Critique of Pure Reason, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science.
Week of March 14-18
• Kantian Idealism (continued)
Assigned readings: selections from Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals.
Weeks of March 30-April 1, and April 4-8
• Aristotelian Realism
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
Assigned readings: selections from Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul (handout); Aristotle’s Physics and On the Soul, Nicomachean Ethics and Politics .
Weeks of April 13-15 and April 18-22
• Thomistic Realism
Assigned readings: selections from St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae.
• Paper #2:
application of these four views to a case study.
Week of April 25-29
• Kierkegaard’s Christian Existentialism
• Sartre’s Atheist Existentialism
• DeBeauvoir's Feminist Existentialism
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Simone De Beauvoir (1908-1986)
Assigned readings: selections from Søren Kierkegaard’s “What Must I Do? Live as an Individual” (Reader, pp. 241-256), Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism” (Reader, pp. 349-375) and Simone De Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity and The Second Sex.
Week of May 2-6
• Ethical codes in the professions
• Guest Speaker
• Review for Final
Assigned reading: various codes of ethics, background on stem cell research and human cloning.
• Paper #3: application of four of the views discussed in the course to a case study. Paper due on Monday, May 9.