Fall 2022 Undergraduate Course Descriptions

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy

Can you be sure you're awake right now as you read this sentence? Or could this all be a dream you are having? Do you decide what is right and wrong or is morality objective? Do unicorns exist? What about gravity? Are your mind and body the same thing? Are you the same person you were 10 minutes ago? How about 10 years ago? Do you actually exist? How do you know for sure?

Interesting questions, right? Explore these questions and many more in PHIL 101 - Introduction to Philosophy!

Course Attributes:

  • C3 or C2: Humanities/Lit.
  • C2: Humanities

PHIL 105 – Introduction to Philosophy and Religion

Why do we live? Do human beings have a soul? Is there such a thing as free will? An exploration of the perennial philosophical and religious questions that lie at the heart of the human experience.

Course Attributes:

  • C2: Humanities

PHIL 110 – Critical Thinking I

Have you ever wondered about the heroic questions in Philosophy, such as what is the meaning of life, do we have free will, what do we know, and is death the end? This course will look at the various ways that philosophers have responded to the deep mysteries of life, with a special emphasis on the technique and process of critical thinking.

For example, is it possible to give a convincing argument for the existence of God, and how does love help to give order to our live? In evaluating these historical views, we will develop reasoning skills that will help in the everyday practice of evaluating evidence, criticizing ideas, and advocating for our own views.

Course Attributes:

  • A3: Critical Thinking

PHIL 111 – The Arts of Quantitative Reasoning

Have you had experienced fear of mathematics? Do you wish you could really learn mathematics and not be haunted by the prospect of failing a math course? In this class, we study mathematics in the context of its philosophical, historical and artistic underpinnings. We encourage you to ask many questions, especially questions that begin by "why". This course, which satisfies B4 (quantitative reasoning) requirement, begins with a study of logic as the foundation of mathematics. We then proceed to set theory, number theory and group theory. Our aim is to introduce you to parts of mathematics which are truly beautiful and are truly puzzling.

Course Attributes:

  • B4: Math/QR

PHIL 130 – Political & Social Philosophy

In this course, we will explore some of the fundamental issues in political and social philosophy, including the role of government, law and litigation, punishment, rights, the social and economic value of work, and equality.

Course Attributes:

  • D1: Social Sciences
  • Am. Ethnic & Racial Minorities
  • Social Justice

PHIL 150 – Contemporary Moral/Political Issues

We will examine to-the-moment issues such as capital punishment, affirmative action, abortion, racial and sexual equality, privacy, pornography, and environmental protection.

Course Attributes:

  • Social Justice
  • C2: Humanities

PHIL 160 – Intro to Philosophy of the Arts

You will be led on an exploration into the deep and abiding questions in art, such as the nature of beauty, the objective and subjective aspects of artistic value, artistic genius, and art as symbolism.

Course Attributes:

  • C1: Arts

PHIL 205 – Formal Logic I

This course is an introduction to formal logic. You will learn first-order propositional and predicate logic. You also will learn how to translate between a natural language (e.g. English) and the formal language of logic. Our aim is to help you master formal logic and use it to be better in reasoning and better in doing philosophy.

Course Attributes:

  • C2: Humanities
  • Global Perspectives

PHIL 300 – Philosophy Pathways

A one-unit course in determining the best pathway through the Philosophy major. Introduction to available academic and professional resources and extracurricular opportunities. Emphasis on how to conduct undergraduate research and find support for original research projects in preparation for a future career. (CR/NC grading only)

PHIL 301 – Ancient Philosophy

This course is designed to give students a thorough introduction to two of the most influential and important schools in western philosophy: Platonism and Stoicism. Both Plato and the Stoics give compelling and bold answers to questions about what it means to be a good person, how character is developed, how our mind works, and what emotions should (and shouldn’t) play a part in a happy human life. Though the main focus of this course is on ethics and moral psychology, we will also discuss issues related to ancient sexuality, political philosophy, censorship, art, pleasure, love, justice, anger, oppression, and what makes a life worth living. Texts we will read include Plato's Republic (in its entirety), Plato's Phaedrus, Epictetus' Handbook, Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, and Seneca's On Anger.

Course Attributes:

  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 303 – Modern Philosophy

The modern era, which we will take to include the period from 1492-1776, is known for its systematic Philosophers. That is, philosophers in the modern era worked to develop comprehensive interconnected answers to the core questions of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. In this course, we will engage in close study of three figures in particular: Ren. Descartes, David Hume and Immanuel Kant. We will also consider work by several other canonical modern philosophers, including Hobbes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. Lastly, we will do some research on non-canonical philosophers from the modern area, and read contemporary work on modern philosophers, including recent feminist reappraisals of the contributions of Descartes, Hume and Kant.

Course Attributes:

  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 304- Ethics Bowl

 

PHIL 315 – Intro to Global Peace Studies

What is “peace”? What’s so good about peace? Are there ways of moving the world closer towards peace? Is violence necessary to bring about the end of violence? How has violence shaped your life, and the lives of your family members? We will look at theories of peace and justice, and how, employing the strategies and tactics derived from these theories, social movements across the world have ended wars, brought down empires, organized workers, defended human rights and democracy, and protected the natural environment. We’ll look at what these movements have done, and how they could do better.

(This course is offered as GPS 315, I R 315, and PHIL 315. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

Course Attributes:

  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Global Perspectives
  • Social Justice

PHIL 320GW – Philosophical Analysis - GWAR

This course is designed to develop skills of philosophical analysis in reading, writing, and discussion. In class, students will practice dissecting and evaluating philosophical texts through conversations with each other. Through regular writing assignments, they will also learn the process of writing clear, focused, and convincing essays, from outlining to revising. This semester, readings will focus on a variety of issues in philosophy of mind and ethics, including free will, self-awareness, and the meaning of life. (ABC/NC grading only)

Course Attributes:

  • Graduation Writing Assessment

PHIL 321 – Being & Knowing

This course explores important questions in metaphysics and the theory of knowledge. Metaphysics examines questions about the ultimate constitution, structure, and reason (if any) for the universe and all that it contains. Theory of knowledge (also called epistemology) examines the nature of knowledge and other desirable ways of believing and finding truth about ourselves and the world. In this course, we’ll look at prominent viewpoints in metaphysics and epistemology, as well as their relation to important contemporary questions in scientific cosmology and the rapidly advancing field of artificial intelligence. Topics will include: the universe as a computer simulation, mind-body dualism, consciousness and the universe, the value of truth, ideal ways of effectively seeking truth, the nature of knowledge, and skepticism.

PHIL 330 – Political Philosophy

Explore the forms, purposes, and justification of political orders; theories of human nature, value, and history. In this course you will ponder the foundations of political philosophy, perusing the thought of such writers as Plato, Hobbes, Mill, and Marx.

Course Attributes:

  • Social Justice
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 335 – Law & Society

In this course, we will explore a wide variety of social theoretic approaches to the law. The law and society perspective on the study of law looks at law holistically, considering the interplay between the law as written and the social conditions in which it is experienced. Along the way, we will consider arguments associated with intersectionality, legal pluralism, and neoliberalism; consider the relevance of the work of classical sociologists (e.g. Max Weber, Henry Maine and Emile Durkheim) to contemporary concerns; and conclude with issues raised by critical philosophy of race, hegemony theory, prison abolitionism, and Trans legal theory.

Course Attributes:

  • Social Justice
  • Am. Ethnic & Racial Minorities
  • UD-D: Social Sciences

PHIL 350 – Philosophy of Science

Scientific claims might be objective in several ways; in particular, as being the result of a systematic and intersubjective procedure and as being supported by empirical data.

But science is not value-free. Lots of value judgments are involved in the production of scientific claims, and have to be. In this course, we will clarify what it means that science is not value-free and discuss examples that illustrate this claim.

We will distinguish between different kinds of values that are involved in science and reflect on why some value judgments are necessary to science. Lots of effort have been spent, in philosophy of science, in trying to rescue the value-free ideal of science. The goal of this course is to think about what a value-full ideal of science could be: what are the best ways in which values can be involved in science, what are the best effects that values can have on scientific development?

Course Attributes:

  • UD-B: Physical Life Science

PHIL 351 – Philosophy of Risk

Most of the time, if not always, to decide on a course of action is to take or be exposed to a risk. And because we don’t encounter risks in isolation, to take a decision is often to choose between risks. 

Decisions regarding what risks are more serious, what risks are acceptable, what risks need to be mitigated and how, do not merely apply at the individual level but also at the society level: risks created by addiction, crime, terrorism, lack of health care, economic downturn, climate change… How risks are construed and how they are addressed shape the life of individuals and of societies. This course discusses some basic aspects of this omnipresent component of our life: risk.  

Course Attributes:

  • Sf State Studies: Environmental Sustainability
  • UD-B: Physical and/or Life Science

 

PHIL 355 – The Politics and Ethics of the Consumer Society

I created this course because of my interest in environmental politics and environmental ethics and the essential connection between these vital topics and the first society in history with material consumption, in particular, luxury goods, as its supreme value, or, shopping as its central trait of life.

The readings and animated class discussion pose and debate such questions as:

  • Is such a society with endless consumption as its fundamental trait environmentally sustainable or ethically just?
  • If America is the materially richest society in history, why are we not happier?
  • What is the nature of symbolic/status consumption where we consume merely for the brand name and the social prestige of luxury goods that are not affordable by most people yet deeply desired?
  • Can, and if so, how, people live according to different values even after seeing 5,000 advertisements a day since they were pre-teens?

This unique course raises such traditional philosophical questions as: What is the good life? What is the nature of happiness? However, in addition, it pursues such personal questions as: How much money will I need for my consumer desires? Where did these desires come from? Is being able to buy a Tesla car [substitute any luxury good here] all there is to life? Does working overtime, shopping, traveling to work, maintaining all of my possessions, etc. crowd out other more important values?

This is my most enjoyable course I teach because class discussion is so passionate and inclusive (even on Zoom). Every member has intense thoughts about the readings and such questions especially graduating seniors (and near graduation students) as they contemplate their lives after school. I am confident you will find this course memorable. – Joel Kassiola

(This course is offered as PLSI 355 and PHIL 355. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

Course Attributes:

  • Social Justice
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • UD-D: Social Sciences

PHIL 373- The Ethics of Migration and Membership

This course will explore some of the key ethical issues surrounding migration and membership, with special attention to United States immigration and citizenship policies. We will address the following questions: Do liberal democratic states have a moral right to control immigration? Or is freedom of movement a basic human right? Assuming states have a presumptive right to regulate immigration, do societies have a moral obligation to admit certain groups, such as refugees fleeing war and persecution? What about so-called economic or environmental refugees? What can states legitimately require of immigrants who wish to become citizens? What may states legitimately do to enforce their immigration policies? Are large-scale deportations morally permissible? Is the long-term detention of unauthorized migrants? Are individuals and communities obligated to resist unjust immigration policies?

Course Attributes:

  • SF State Studies: American Ethnic and Racial Minorities
  • SF State Studies: Global Perspectives
  • SF State Studies: Social Justice
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

 

PHIL 375 – Peace Law & Human Rights in the U.S.

Can legal institutions help protect human rights? Can legal institutions advance democracy? Can legal institutions help bring about a more peaceful world? We will look at the development of international law, the increased legal protection of human rights on a regional and international scale over the past three-quarters of a century, and the creation of agreements and institutions aimed at bringing about a criminal law applying to the perpetrators of the most serious crimes on earth. And, of course, we will look at the failures and limitations of these agreements and institutions, and how they could be improved or replaced by something better.

(This course is offered as GPS 375 and PHIL 375. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

Course Attributes:

  • Social Justice
  • UD-D: Social Sciences
  • Global Perspectives

PHIL 380 – Philosophy of Law

Is law necessary for social life? Do we have a right to disobey the law? Or a duty to obey? When must we obey the law, and when must we disobey? Can we figure out what the law requires of us, or does the law simply mean what the judges say it means, and does what the judges say it means depend on what they ate for breakfast that morning? How do inequalities of class, race, and gender affect legal doctrines, legal practices, and legal institutions, even in a society professing its commitment to “equal justice under law”? Is law different from politics? Is law different from morals? What would the “rule of law” look like in a genuinely democratic society?

Course Attributes:

  • Social Justice
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 383 – Ethics in Medicine

The objective of this course is two-fold: 1) to explore your thoughts about living and 2) to examine your decisions about ethical dilemmas as they relate to living. When you think about the fullness of life, what comes to mind? Physical health, well-being, disability, pregnancy, Alzheimer’s, or mental health? Irrespective of which aspect you choose, it is inextricable to the scope of medicine. However, this course is not just about medicine, or what it can do for us, or the ways medicine disappoints us. It is about you as a patient. You as a caregiver. You as a support system. You as a healthcare professional. You as a scientist. In sum, you as a human being. Our conversations will be geared towards exploring your thoughts about living, dignity, dying and death.

Course Attributes:

  • E1 LLD Pre-Fall 2019
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities
  • Social Justice

PHIL 395 – Ethical Issues: Science & Technology

Ethical issues arising from or intrinsic to the process of scientific research and development or from the implementation or commercialization of new technologies.

Course Attributes:

  • UD-B: Physical Life Science
  • Social Justice

PHIL 432 – Nietzsche & Postmodernism

Examines the radical implications of Nietzsche’s critique of western humanism and Christianity. Close reading of major writings by Nietzsche and selected secondary sources. Students will learn about core concepts in the Nietzschean corpus, such as the Apollonian and the Dionysian, ressentiment, the will to power, and the theory of the eternal return. Themes covered include the history of tragedy, the nature and limits of philosophical activity, and Nietzsche’s idea of a post-Christian, earth-oriented faith

(This course is offered as HUM 432 and PHIL 432. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

Course Attributes:

  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 450 – Ethics

This course will focus on the study of philosophy in its ancient meaning of the term, as a love of wisdom. That is to say, as a way of life, as a path for searching to understand the meaning of the cosmos and human life. One of the fundamental elements of human life revolves around the question of ethics: how are we meant to live, how are we meant to behave and act towards ourselves, other people and other life? In this course we will be exploring this fundamental question while also broadening the question to involve our responsibility to our own Self (care for the soul), our responsibility towards the animal world and our responsibility to our planet Earth. Here we will explore the relationship between one’s personal obligations to access a higher reality intrinsic to the universe and one’s own psyche, along with the obligation of expressing the good in life.

In order to explore the question of ethics, we must also look at other fundamental metaphysical, Psychological and epistemological ideas. These ideas will help and support the question of Ethics, for, as we shall see, no idea exists alone. We cannot begin understanding how to act without also understanding what the nature of reality is, how the structure of the human psyche operates, what is the process of receiving real knowledge, or what is the purpose of human life on Earth.

In doing so, we will be looking at different philosophers along with different spiritual traditions that contain varying metaphysical and ethical principles. Here we will be examining rational philosophical thought along with ethical systems that guide human life, and also knowledge as being transformative. That is to say, looking at philosophy as the practical process to transform one’s inner life, and consequently, what that entails for one’s own personal being and also for ethical living with other humans, the animal kingdom and planet Earth.

Course Attributes:

  • Social Justice
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 451 – Feminist Moral Issues

This course explores a number of ethical and political issues of contemporary concern to feminists. We will begin by studying how scholars have theorized feminism, oppression, and intersectionality. Next, we will analyze how epistemic injustice drives misogyny, and learn how misogynist attitudes and policies further the oppression of women. In an effort to widen the scope of our examination beyond the West, students will also be exposed to ways in which women have adversely experienced sexism from a transnational perspective.

Course Attributes:

  • Social Justice
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities
  • Global Perspectives
  • Am. Ethnic & Racial Minorities

PHIL 455 – Sex & Law

In this course, we will first focus on legislation and jurisprudence concerning sex, gender and sexuality, through careful consideration of case law specifically involving the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment; the standards of review employed by the Supreme Court; and several different philosophies of law, including legal moralism, legal positivism, legal paternalism and the philosophies centering the harm principle. Then, we will look at several specific issues in depth, including the criminal regulation of sex acts; the limits of consent discourses for addressing some varieties of harm; the interplay between the apparatuses of public health and sex, gender and sexuality; the regulation of sex, gender and sexuality in prisons, jails and immigration detention facilities; and the role of the law in state-sponsored marriage. We will finish the semester considering abolitionist and transformative justice approaches to legal questions, including work by Angela Y. Davis and Dean Spade, among others.

(This course is offered as PHIL 455 and SXS 569. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

Course Attributes:

  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities
  • Social Justice

PHIL 464 – Philosophy and Film

This course examines philosophical ideas that occur in great films, including the meaning of life, artificial intelligence, death, and free will. We will also explore philosophical questions raised by the nature of film as an artistic medium, including whether film can teach us about the world and how to live well. Films to be discussed include Blade Runner, Ikiru, My Neighbor Totoro, Do The Right Thing, The Babadook, The Thin Red Line, Memento, and A Serious Man.

Course Attributes:

  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities
  • Social Justice
  • Global Perspectives

PHIL 470 – Environmental Ethics

Environmental Ethics provides an introduction to the ethical questions that arise when thinking about climate change, other environmental problems and the relationship between humans and the earth. In this class, we will explore a host of questions such as: 1) what are our obligations with regard to the environment; 2) how should we grasp the value of nature?; 3) what is the moral status of non-human animals?; 4) should we consider their wellbeing?; 5) what should we do about climate change?; 6) what role should technology play in tackling climate change?; 7) what do we really mean by sustainability?; and 8) do we have a duty to future generations, and if yes, what is it and why? Our discussions will be geared towards understanding our unique relationship to each other, to non-human animals and the world. This course will be steeped in controversial and complex questions which will demand a high level of receptivity.

Course Attributes:

  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Social Justice
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 494 – Philosophy & Personal Development

For many philosophers the main task of philosophy is to transform our perspective and orientation to the world. These thinkers have been interested in the practical question of how we live our lives as rational moral agents, especially with reference to desired attainments such as happiness or well-being. Philosophers interested in this core question have given special attention to how we manage our thoughts, emotions, outward actions, relations to other people, and decisions and life plans. Is there a way of optimizing these aspects of our lives in a way that contributes to our development as persons and in the interest of living well? This question connects philosophy, psychology, and many of the great spiritual traditions of the world. In this course, we’ll examine different approaches to this central question from the viewpoint of western and eastern philosophical traditions. We’ll also explore the practices such traditions regard as vital to a changed orientation toward the world. Our exploration will include the western philosophy of Stoicism and the eastern traditions of Vedanta, Buddhism, and Daoism, with a focus on their relevance in the contemporary world.

Course Attributes:

  • E1 LLD Pre-Fall 2019
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities
  • Global Perspectives

PHIL 502 – World Religions

Have you ever wondered where religions come from, and what they’re really all about? What are they trying to tell us about our relationship with ourselves, society, and the world at large? What is the essential message being expressed in the symbols, myths, and rituals of each tradition? This class will explore the historical context, as well as the deeper meaning, of the major religions of humankind. The traditions we examine will include Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Course Attributes:

  • Global Perspectives
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 520 – Philosophy and Mysticism

The course will concentrate on the meaning of “higher” states of consciousness, exploring the philosophical significance of such states for epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and personal well-being. A central feature of the course will be the aim of repositioning the  classical questions in the history of philosophy when seen in the light of the possible inner evolution of the human mind and sense of self-identity—states of consciousness traditionally referred to under such terms as “enlightenment,” “awakening,” and “Self-realization.”

Course attributes:

  • GE-E GE E1 LLD Pre-Fall 2019
  • SF State Studies: Global Perspectives
  • SF State Studies: Social Justice
  • GEUD UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 525 – The Nature of Religious Experience

We often think of religion as a collection of beliefs, rituals, and hierarchical institutions. But just what is it that takes place inside of people when they come into contact with the essential transcendent reality that lies at the heart of all religious traditions? Is there really anything to such experiences, or is it all just human imagination? This class will endeavor to take these questions seriously, exploring what actually transpires in such mystical moments, and what they might tell us about ourselves, our values, and our relationship with others and the world at large.

(This course is offered as PHIL 525 and RELS 300. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

Course Attributes:

  • E1 LLD Pre-Fall 2019
  • Global Perspectives
  • UD-C: Arts and/or Humanities

PHIL 605 – Metaphysics

Selected topics in contemporary metaphysics, including personal identity, free will, realism and anti-realism, possible worlds, persistence over time, and social ontology.

PHIL 610 – Theory of Knowledge

This course will introduce you to influential contemporary approaches to the nature of knowledge. The course focuses on central issues in epistemology, such as epistemic justification, contextualism, and skepticism, with a particular emphasis on the so-called “naturalistic” approach. 

PHIL 621 – Minds, Brains & Computers

Contemporary theories of the mind as a brain process and as a computational process. Foundations and approaches in the cognitive neurosciences.

Course Attributes:

  • UD-B: Physical Life Science

PHIL 630 – Philosophy of Language

This course examines important debates about the nature of linguistic meaning and the centrality of those debates in contemporary philosophy. We will pay particular attention to the works of Russell, Frege, Kripke, Wittgenstein, Millikan, and Chomsky.