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Descriptions of Special Courses in the Philosophy Department for Fall 2014

PHIL 390-080. Honors Colloquium - The Art of Interpretation. Hanley
Does Genesis contradict Darwin? Did slavery violate the U.S. Constitution? Is Dumbledore gay? Who decides—authors, readers, or someone else—and how do they do it? Does what a text means change as time passes? Does good interpretation depend entirely upon the domain in question, or are there objective and universal principles at work? Interpretation is indispensible, and can be a life-and-death matter. But it also produces intense disagreement. Can anything be said to settle disputes such as these? We shall read canonical texts from fictional, legal, and religious sources, as well as examining more commonplace expression, and consider them all in the light of what experts in language use have to say. One of the benefits will be a better understanding of how to write and say what you mean to write and say. Assessment includes short assignments spread though the semester,and a final research paper focusing on a particular dispute over interpretation.

PHIL 465-010/080. Senior Seminar - Killing and Letting Die. Greene

Doctors are generally forbidden actively to cause the death of terminally ill patients who are in great pain and want to die. However, they are allowed to withhold treatment from such patients, knowing this will hasten death. Both practices share the morally salient feature that they result in avoidable earlier death. Why is killing condemned but letting die allowed? We will explore this and the acts / omissions asymmetry more generally. It seems that there are cases in which moral attitudes diverge despite equivalence of ethically relevant features. Are such asymmetries real or only apparent? What do they mean for the ethical systems in which they arise?