Department Chair

  • Jennifer McErlean
    Professor of Philosophy
    Siena Hall 414
    (518) 783-4129

Philosophy Courses Spring 2013


Philosophy and the Human Being, PHIL 101                       Multiple Sections

Reason and Argument, PHIL 103                                          Multiple Sections


One of these courses is required of all Siena students in fulfillment of the Core Disciplinary Requirement.

One of these courses is required as a pre-requisite for all of the courses listed below.

Philosophical Perspectives on Diversity, PHIL215 (TR 4:10-5:35, Söderbäck)

This course looks primarily at recent philosophical works treating issues having to do with diversity. Philosophers have always been concerned with the nature of the human being, but in a globalized world this becomes an increasingly complex question. To what extent do categories such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality matter as we go about examining human life? Can human nature be defined universally, or do we need to account for cultural and experiential differences? What norms come to shape our identity, and how are such norms constructed? Why are some people oppressed while others receive privileges and power? How does oppression work, and how do we overcome it? We will approach these questions through the study of feminist philosophy, critical race theory, and queer theory. Students will be encouraged to critically reflect on their own identity and their way of dealing with the differences we encounter on a daily basis. (ARTS, CFD, MULT, WSTU)

Philosophies of Love, PHIL220 (MWF 2:40-3:40, Ng) 

This course explores philosophical conceptions of love and recognition through a careful engagement with ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophical texts. Throughout, we will be concerned with understanding love as a fundamental mode of human existence that allows us to establish a sense of self through bonds with the world and with other human beings. Topics include: the nature of desire; relations of mutual recognition and misrecognition; self-love; romantic love; sexuality and gender; family; love and social bonds; second-person relations and rights; the relation between love and hate; and feminist and psychoanalytic conceptions of love. (ARTS, CAP, WTSU)

Philosophy of Art, PHIL240 (MWF 1:30-2:30, McErlean)

In addition to examining some of the traditional questions of aesthetics – whether art is primarily an attempt to copy reality, whether beauty is objective or subjective, whether originals and forgeries have the same value – we will also explore non-traditional questions such as whether there is a specific category of work identifiable as feminist art, and how art might be related to class, the environment, science, and even basketball.  As an academic community engagement course, students will be involved in a substantial service-based learning project with the Albany Boys and Girls Club. (ARTS, CAP, CFD, ACOM, NOEX)

Greek and Roman Philosophy, PHIL290 (TR 2:35-4:00, Blanchard)

Philosophy originated with the Greeks. Our English word ‘philosophy’ comes from the ancient Greek word φιλοσοφία, which describes an activity that is thought to have begun sometime late in the 7th century BCE. What characterizes this activity? What were the Greeks thinking about that was unique? The development of philosophy has many stories. This course will unfold the sequence of ancient philosophy from its inception in Pre-Socratic thinkers to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and then briefly to some of their Roman successors. We will pursue the exposition and critical evaluation of the Greek beginnings of Western philosophy through careful study of important fragments and texts from several major philosophers. Greek and Roman Philosophy is a course required for the philosophy major.  (ARTS, CFH, PHY)

Reframing War and Peace, PHIL333 (W 6:00-8:50, Walker)

In the past century the nature of war has undertaken a dramatic shift.  Most alarming is the fact that today the vast majority of those killed in war are innocent people simply trying to live their lives.  This shift requires not only a reconceptualization of the nature of war and a reconsideration of its ability to be justified, but also a reframing of the realm of possible solutions that can help our world progress towards peace.  This course will engage these issues and others through a study of recent and current conflicts in east and central Africa. (ARTS, PCST, GLST, NOEX)

Philosophy of Language and Mind, PHIL400 (TR 1:00-2:15, Alexander)

What is the nature of the mind? What does it mean to be conscious? Or to think, believe, intend, wonder, doubt, and dream? How do we know what other people are thinking, or whether they are thinking at all? These are just some of the central questions in the philosophy of mind, one of the most active and exciting fields in contemporary philosophy. This course provides an overview of some of the most interesting traditional and contemporary topics in the philosophy of mind, with special attention on the intersections between the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Topics include: the mind-body problem, consciousness, mental content, and mental causation, as well as work from cognitive psychology (on concepts and emotion) and work from cognitive neuroscience (on cognitive architecture and artificial intelligence). By the end of the course you should have a better understanding of these important philosophical questions and debates, as well as a greater understanding of what it means to have a mind.  (ARTS, PHY)

Great Figures in Philosophy: Camus, PHIL450 (MW 3:50-5:15, Burkey) 

Albert Camus, French-Algerian philosopher, novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature presents among the rawest reflections on human possibilities (The Stranger), the severest challenges to our need for meaning (The Myth of Sisyphus), and relentlessly pursues the complications of violence and justice, freedom and revolt (The Rebel).  His questions are as biting as his prose is elegant, expressing ideas that tend to resonate with contemporary readers.  The course is designed to maximize collaborative reading and mutual participation of all participants. (ARTS, CFH, HNRS, NOEX)