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New Mexico State University

Course Descriptions Fall 2013


Philosophy 100          Philosophy, Law & Ethics                Prof. Mayra Valadez                        (Section M01)


                In this course, we will consider some of the most pressing and often controversial moral and legal issues of today: abortion, euthanasia, war, environmental ethics, and issues of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Some of the questions we will consider are: is abortion moral? Should there be limitations on it? Should we ever help someone end their life? How should we treat our environment? Should gay marriage be legal?


Course requirements will include 2 exams and various short in-class writing assignments.


Philosophy 101G       The Art of Wondering                      Prof. Mayra Valadez                        (Section M70)



            In this course, we will consider some of the fundamental questions of philosophy: Why study philosophy? What is philosophy? Is there such a thing as free will? Can we prove the existence of God? What does it mean for an action to be moral? Are there moral truths? What is the most important social value? How should I live my life?

In considering these questions, we will examine and engage in the construction and analysis of arguments with the goals of: 1) correctly understanding and engaging with the questions and arguments philosophers have struggled with, and 2) developing and enhancing your critical thinking skills, especially in the examination of arguments. We will also examine how the study of philosophy—far from being a merely abstract and theoretical field—can have practical implications that affect our day-to-day lives.

                The text will be Phil Washburn's, Philosophical Dilemmas: A Pro and Con Introduction to the Major Questions, 3rd edition. Course requirements will include exams, discussion assignments, and journal assignments.


Philosophy 101G       The Art of Wondering                      Prof. Jennifer Noonan   (Sections M01, M02)


An introduction to the aims, methods, and problems of philosophy.  The course will cover a broad range of questions of enduring philosophical interest including the following:  What do we really know?  Are minds just brains?  Does God exist?  Are moral judgments purely subjective?  Grades will be based on performance on three exams and five quizzes.


Philosophy 101G       The Art of Wondering                      Prof. Mark Walker               (Section M03)


                This course is a “sampler platter” of philosophy: a rapid survey of some of the great philosophical questions. The following are some of the questions we may consider:


·         Does life have meaning?

·         What happens to us when we die?

·         How do we know that we are not living in “The Matrix”?

·          How should I live my life?

·          Do we have a duty to help those starving in the two-thirds world?

·          Does God exist?

·          Is it wrong to eat animals?

·          What can science tell us about our world and our place in it?


Philosophy 101G       The Art of Wondering                      Prof. Lori Keleher                (Section M04)


                  This course offers an introduction to philosophy through the critical engagement of some of the most central questions in philosophy including:  What – if anything – can we know?  Are we simply material beings, or do we have immaterial souls?  What does it mean to be the same person you were in grade school?  Do we have free will, or are all of our actions beyond our control?  Does God exist?  What does it mean to behave morally?  Grades will be based on three exams and several quizzes designed to reflect an understanding of course methods and materials.


Philosophy 201G       Introduction to Philosophy               Prof. Jean-Paul Vessel          (Section M01)


                This course provides an introduction to philosophy by way of a discussion of three central philosophical problems—the problem of free will and determinism, the "mind-body" problem (including puzzles about personal identity), and the problem of the existence and nature of God.  In each case, the focus is on careful formulation of doctrines and arguments.  The goals are (i) to understand the doctrines and arguments; (ii) to develop the ability to evaluate the doctrines and arguments; and (iii) to begin to develop the ability to extract well-formulated, interesting arguments from philosophical texts.  Readings from Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, and contemporary philosophers.  Requirements: exams, quizzes, and mini-quizzes.



Philosophy 201G       Introduction to Philosophy               Prof. Tim Cleveland             (Section M02)


                This introduction to philosophy focuses on the importance of logic and the critical examination of our beliefs.  To introduce the student to philosophy we will raise a number of traditional questions and examine how some famous philosophers addressed them.  What is the nature of the self?  Exactly what are you anyway?  Do we have free will?  Must we have free will if we are to be responsible for our actions?  Is free will compatible with our scientific understanding of the world?  Are there reasons for believing in God?  Can God’s existence be proved?  Can God’s existence be disproved?  What is the relation between scientific belief and religious belief?  What is the nature of right and wrong?  What is a good life?  What is the relationship between morality and religion?  What is the relationship between reason and morality?  We will approach these questions with the help of James & Stuart Rachel’s introductory text, Problems from Philosophy 3nd Edition (McGraw Hill, 2009).


Philosophy 211G       Informal Logic                                  Prof. Jennifer Noonan          (Section M01)


                The purpose of this course is to hone students’ critical thinking skills. These skills have wide application. They should help students in their other course work as well as in practically any profession they may choose. The course will expose students to claims and arguments from a wide range of sources including advertising, politics, popular media, science and pseudoscience in order to identify errors in reasoning, misleading phraseology and effective argument strategies. The textbook for the course will be Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte.


Philosophy 211G       Informal Logic                                  Prof. Mark Walker               (Section M70)



                Arguments are important because they offer us reasons to believe a conclusion. Arguments are everywhere: in advertising, newspaper editorials, political rallies, course textbooks, at the pub, etc. Clearly there are good arguments and bad arguments. But which arguments should we accept and which should we reject? This course will help answer this question by developing your skill for detecting good and bad arguments. This is a very useful skill to have, not only for your academic career, but also for life outside the “ivory tower”. Most of us have had the experience of hearing an argument that “feels wrong”, but we cannot put our finger on why it is wrong. This course will provide you with some conceptual tools to logically defend against bad arguments, and help you construct good arguments.


Philosophy 223G       Ethics                                                  Prof. Jean-Paul Vessel          (Section M01)


              What makes an act right?  What makes someone’s life good?  What is virtue?  What are the natures of the meanings of moral words?  These are some of the questions that we’ll consider this semester.  This course provides an introduction to ethics by way of a discussion of doctrines and arguments in three (and possibly four) central areas of moral philosophy--(a) the normative ethics of behavior (the theory of right and wrong action), (b) value theory (the theory of good and evil), and (c) virtue/vice theory (the theory of excellence of character).  Our focus will be on (i) careful study of the relevant texts and (ii) clear and precise formulation and evaluation of the most important theories and arguments.  Requirements: exams and quizzes.


Philosophy 3l2           Formal Logic                                     Prof. Timothy Cleveland      (Section M01)


Philosophy 316          Philosophy of Mathematics              Prof. Timothy Cleveland      (Section M01)


               In this course, we will pursue some of the most important philosophical questions about mathematics.  What is a number ?  What makes a mathematical statement true?  What is the nature of mathematical knowledge?  How can we account for knowledge in mathematics?  Is mathematical knowledge different from other kinds of knowledge?  Is mathematical knowledge based on experience or does it have some other source?  We will explore how answers to these questions affect one’s overall philosophical view.  Readings will include Gottlob Frege’s classic The Foundations of Arithmetic and Imre Lakatos’ Proofs and Refutations.


Philosophy 320          Social & Political Philosophy            Prof.  Mark Walker              (Section M01)


         Anthropologists, sociologists and other social scientists report that throughout history humans have implemented an enormous array of social relations. For example: some societies permit (or permitted) slavery, others prohibit slavery; property is held in common in some cultures, in others, property is held privately by individuals or by families; some societies tend to be almost perpetually at war with their neighbors while others are quite peaceful.  Political leadership also comes in a variety of forms: there are monarchies, oligarchies and democratic governments. More recently, humans have experimented with some limited forms of world government such as the U.N.

       This plethora of  “experiments in living” described and catalogued by social scientists provides some of the data for social and political philosophy. However, the primary task of social and political philosophy is not descriptive; rather, it is to investigate normative questions: which of these forms of social and political organization is best? Is there a best? Which can be justified? Which can be shown to be unjust? Social and political philosophy also need not be confined to choosing among extant social arrangements in its theorizing, e.g., Marx argued that communism was a new and better form of social organization, and today some philosophers call for the establishment of a world government.  We will grapple with these normative questions in this course.


Philosophy 322          Environmental Ethics                       Prof. Jean-Paul Vessel          (Section M01)


            After a brief introduction to logic and ethical theory, students will gain familiarity with many of the most controversial philosophical arguments relevant to our relationships with the environment.  Topics to be studied include: the treatment of animals, the beauty and value of nature, wildness in our world, preservation of endangered species, overpopulation, and obligations to future generations.  Our focus will be on (i) careful study of the relevant texts and (ii) clear and precise formulation and evaluation of the most important principles and arguments.  Requirements: quizzes, in-class exams, a term paper, and a short presentation.


Philosophy 323V       Engineering Ethics                            Prof. Danny Scoccia             (Section M01)


                This course exposes engineering students to some of the moral issues that they can expect to confront in the course of their careers as engineers.  These include issues of public safety and acceptable risk; honesty in research and testing; loyalty to one’s employer and the ethics of whistleblowing; bribery, gifts, and conflicts of interest; the duty to respect client confidentiality; and duties to the environment.  We will try to formulate reasonable criteria for what counts as responsible engineering practice by engaging in critical reflection on some fictitious and several factual case studies.  Students should emerge from this course with a better understanding of what it is to be a responsible and ethical engineer.

                The requirements for the course will include participation in class discussion and assigned debates and writing 4 or 5 short papers (2 pages in length) on assigned topics.






Philosophy 331          Philosophy of Religion                      Prof. Danny Scoccia             (Section M01)


The topics for this course will include the following:


  • God’s attributes.
  • Natural theology and arguments for traditional theism.
  • Varieties of fideism.
  • The problem of evil.
  • Miracles
  • Darwin, Intelligent Design, and Creationism
  • Religion and science:  compatible or antagonistic?
  • Religion and ethics; the divine command theory; the meaning of life.


             The textbook for the course is Louis Pojman, Philosophy of Religion:  An Anthology (Wadsworth Pub., 2011, 6th ed.  The requirements for the course will include participation in class discussion and assigned debates and writing 4 or 5 short papers (2 pages in length) on assigned topics.


Philosophy 350          Epistemology                                     Prof. Mark Walker               (Section M01)


                 In this course we will explore the contribution of philosophical analysis to understanding knowledge. Some of the questions we will explore are:


·         Can skepticism be refuted?

·         Is there a priori knowledge?

·         Is inifinitism the solution to the regress problem?

·         Is truth the primary epistemic goal?


Philosophy 376          Philosophy of Law                            Prof. Jennifer Noonan          (Section M01)


                This course will examine a range of philosophical issues relating to U.S. constitutional law, in particular, and the nature and purpose of laws in general. Topics will include the following:

·         Legal positivism, the view that the legitimacy of law depends on social facts and not the law’s content, in contrast with natural law theory, which holds that laws must conform to universal moral principles.

·         Mill’s harm principle and the justification for paternalism and legal moralism.

·         Different approaches to constitutional interpretation. The relevance, or lack thereof, of framers’ intentions.

·         The claim that there is a constitutional right to privacy and its applicability to such issues as abortion and homosexuality.

·         The aim(s) of punishing criminals. Arguments for and against the death penalty.

Philosophy 532          Advanced Ethics & Global Poverty    Prof.  Lori Keleher             (Section M01)  


                What is poverty?  Is it simply a lack of income or resources?  Is it a matter of well-being or happiness?  Is it a matter of freedom to achieve a lifestyle one has reason to value?  What responsibilities do relatively rich countries and individuals within rich countries have to the poor?  These and other questions will be considered as students are introduced first to general ethical and social political theories and then to some approaches to international development including the economic growth approach, the happiness approach, and the capability approach.  Special attention will be paid to the capability approach which is used by the United Nations Development Program and holds that poverty can best be understood as deprivations of basic freedoms, for example, the freedom to be literate and numerate; the freedom to access clean drinking water; the freedom to basic medical services; the freedom to be well nourished; and many other freedoms.  Assignments include papers and exams.  Completion of Philosophy 332 is strongly recommended.