Department Chair

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



Philosophy Courses Spring 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.

Philosophy and Reality, PHIL 202 (MWF 1:30-2:25, Davies)

Why is there something rather than nothing?  Is God the answer to that question?  What kinds of things are real?  Mind?  Matter? God? All of the above?  Discussion is a significant part of this course, so come prepared to argue (‘argue’ is a good word in philosophy).   Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas, and Descartes are some of the big name philosophers we will read and discuss.  (ARTS, CAP)

Philosophy and Reality, PHIL 202 (MW 3:35-4:55, Burkey)

Who cares???  Why is there something rather than nothing?  Whether there is a God or not?  Whether reality is ultimately one or whether there are kinds or layers of reality?  Whether natural science is the final word on thinking about reality?  Whether it’s all relative?  Whether there is progress in understanding beauty, or evil, or human freedom?  If you care, take this course.  Expect to read and discuss texts from Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary philosophers that challenge your common sense and stretch your intellectual imagination. (ARTS, CAP)

Philosophy of Art, PHIL 240 (MWF 2:35-3:30, Gillon)

The philosophy of art has traditionally been concerned with a number of basic issues: What is art? What are artworks? What value does art have? How does artistic value relate to other types of value? How should we understand artworks? In this course, we will explore these and related questions. We will focus particularly on television and, more specifically, network sitcoms. (ARTS, CAP)

Philosophy of Law, PHIL 270 Honors (MWF 1:30-2:25, Santilli)

This course is intended for all majors in Siena College’s Honors Program as well as for students participating in Siena’s Moot Court Competition and Summer Legal Fellows Program. This course emphasizes a close reading of legal jurisprudence, positivist and natural law theory, and contemporary appeals court opinions. It encourages students to form and express educated opinions about philosophical principles in criminal justice, civil suits, and constitutional interpretation. The honors section features a limited enrolment that fosters lively discussion on controversial topics such as illegal immigration and same sex marriage. There are also opportunities for independent research. For further information contact Dr. Santilli. Permission is required and may be granted by Drs. Lois Daly or Paul Santilli.  (ARTS, CAP, HNRS)

Philosophy of Nature, PHIL 320 (MWF 11:30-12:25, Blanchard)

Of course, we think we understand what ‘nature’ is.  But philosophers have always begged to differ.  This class will examine the notion of nature (φύσις, phusis) as it has been considered by philosophers in the Western tradition over the past 2,500 years. This will be 3-fold undertaking: (1) nature as first discovered in early Greek philosophy and elaborated in Aristotle’s Physics;  (2) nature as re-evaluated and re-defined in early modern philosophy and science; and (3) nature as conceived in modern technology and ecological theory. The abiding concern throughout will be to understand the place of our human interests in the search for an understanding of the natural world. (Same as ENVA— 320) (ARTS, CAP, CFN)

Topics: On War and Killing, PHIL 333 (TR 4:00-5:20, Walker)

Are there any morally acceptable reasons to engage in warfare?  If you think war is morally acceptable for certain ‘humanitarian’ purposes or for reasons of self-defense, what situations constitute a grave enough threat to a nation to justify waging war?  This course will balance a consideration of theoretical perspectives as well as an application of these perspectives to contemporary and historical situations, including the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and the deployment of the U.S. military in Uganda. (ARTS, CAP)

Contemporary Anglo-American Philosophy, PHIL400 (TR 2:30-3:50, Lopez)

This course will explore contemporary Anglo-American philosophy through analyzing different views on the mind.  What is a mind?  How is it related to a brain?  How can we account for subjective experience?  We will survey influential answers to these questions and then apply those answers to topics in animal cognition and the study of cognitive disorders.  What do the theories of mind say about these topics?  Do animals have minds?  Do those who deny that they are paralyzed—i.e., those who suffer from anosognosia for hemiplegia—literally have two minds: one that is aware of the paralysis and one that isn’t?  By the end of the course, we will have an understanding of a variety of views of mind and their implications.  (ARTS, PHY)

Seminar: Philosophies of Sexual Difference, PHIL 490 (W 5:00-7:05, Söderbäck)

This seminar is a close examination of the work of two contemporary French philosophers who have been hugely influential in fields ranging from feminism and psychoanalysis to literature and linguistics: Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray. In one of her early texts, Irigaray famously stated that sexual difference “is one of the major philosophical issues, if not the issue, of our age.” Through careful study of some of the core texts from their corpus, alongside key texts from the history of philosophy, we will try to make sense of and provide a context for this radical and perplexing claim. The question of sexual difference will be examined in its relation to language, embodiment, love, ethical relations, time and space, psychic structures, and revolutionary practices. The course is organized around individual research projects, and students are respected as intellectuals who are enthusiastic about reading, writing, independent thinking, and research. Permission of the instructor is required. (ARTS, HNRS, NOEX)

Symposium on Living Philosophers, PHIL491 (F 2:35-4:45, Alexander and McErlean)

The Symposium is a unique course offered by the Philosophy Department on the work of Kwame Anthony Appiah, one of the foremost thinkers on political thought, theories of race, and experimental ethics. This 4-credit seminar will meet on Friday afternoons, 2:30-4:40, for both the Fall and Spring Semesters. Professor Appiah will visit Siena College twice, once to introduce us to the body of his work and again at the end of the year to enter into a panel discussion with students who have written extensively and critically on his work. Permission of the instructors is required. (ARTS)