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Department of Philosophy
College of Liberal Arts
Rochester Institute of
92 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester NY 14623-5604


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Department of Philosophy,
Rochester Institute of Technology

Last updated 9 June 2016

Current and/or upcoming
“variable topic” philosophy courses

Fall 2016–2017

PHIL 416: Seminar in Philosophy: Deep Skepticism. It is difficult not to be skeptical of many things — what politicians say, for instance — but we seem certain of many things. Do you know your name? Do you know who your mother is (if not adopted)? But feeling certain is a state of mind that bears only a contingent relation to reality. We may discover, as some have, that we do not carry the DNA of our birth mother, but your non-existent aunt, from the egg your mother absorbed in the womb. An oddity, for sure, but that is the point: even what seems most certain may be false. We will investigate the grounds for deep skepticism and thus whether we can have any knowledge of the world. We shall do so by examining some current discussions as well as by looking at two traditional philosophers, Descartes and Hume. Descartes founds his philosophy on a ground he thought immune from even the deep skepticism, but, I shall argue, Hume shows that Descartes is the true skeptic, and although skeptical of certain matters, Hume lays the foundation for the only kind of knowledge we can have about the world. (Instructor: Robison.)

Spring 2016–2017

PHIL 416: Seminar in Philosophy: Reading and Interpreting Plato’s Myths. The origin of philosophy is traditionally associated with the move from mythos to logos, from story-telling to logical argumentations and discourse. Yet Plato, the allegedly most influential philosopher of all times (if we accept Whitehead’s famous claim that Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato), uses myths, images, metaphors, and stories exactly at the most crucial turns in his philosophy, when dealing with what have become the most traditional themes of philosophical reflections, and precisely at those junctures where one would expect the use of philosophical reasoning instead. Why this seeming inconsistency? In this course, we will explore the relation between story-telling and logical argumentation by reading and interpreting Plato’s most famous myths and images as found in the entire corpus of his writings—among them, the story of the swans, the myth of metals, the myth of the charioteer, the myth of the androgynous beings, the allegory of the cave, the analogy of the divided line, the myth of Er, the story of the birth of Love, the story of Teuth, the myth of Gyges, and a few others. (Instructor: Benso.)