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College of Liberal Arts
Rochester Institute of
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Rochester Institute of Technology


Department of Philosophy

Last updated 28 March 2015

Current and/or upcoming
“variable topic” philosophy courses



Spring 2014–2015

Great Thinkers: Gilles Deleuze. This class will map how Deleuze formulated, invented, and fabricated the concepts that came to define what we can now call Deleuzian philosophy. We will take two Deleuze texts from early on in his career — Différence et Répétition (DR) and Logique du sens (LS) — as the guiding texts of our mapping. We will also look at relevant sections from Deleuze’s work on Lucretius, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, and Bergson. One of Deleuze’s most important contributions to the philosophy is his innovative and stimulating understanding of the history of philosophy, and part of the student assessment will be to read and present on the ways in which Deleuze’s reading of the history of philosophy contributes to philosophy written “in his own name”. (Prerequisite: at least one prior course in philosophy) (Instructor: Johnson.)

Seminar in Philosophy: A Tangled/Entangled World. The term “entanglement” has been adopted to describe an extremely interesting phenomenon in sub-atomic physics, wherein particles interact in such a way that their states cannot fully be described individually, but rather only in terms of their quite describable joint state. This, though, is but one of the more dramatic manifestations of ways in which optimal description of the world, and of the role of people in it, may best be understood as “tangled”. In this course we will touch on quantum entanglement, but only as it reflects a more general possibility: that an improvement of our understanding of the world might emerge from a generally “holistic” approach that emphasizes process, interaction, and evolution of systems rather than analyses of those systems into discrete particles, discrete causes, and discrete effects. Topics on the table include process philosophy, quantum entanglement, biological evolution, the “ecological” understanding of perception, and “distributed” cognition. Likely authors include Alfred North Whitehead, Abner Shimony, Stephen Jay Gould, J.J. Gibson, Karen Barad and Andy Clark. Since this course is a seminar, students will have an important role in determining how the semester proceeds. (Prerequisite: At least two prior courses in philosophy.) (Instructor: Sanders.)


Fall 2015–2016

Seminar in Philosophy: Technology and Agency. Increasingly our intentions and activities are interconnected with and organized through a variety of softwares and around a variety of digital devices. How might these softwares and devices be exercising a kind of agency that we have traditionally thought belonged only to the human? How might they be contributing to our understanding of, our constructions of, and our experiences of space/place, of the world of things and non-things, of what it means for something “to exist”? What kinds of world-making capacity and power are being exercised by digital softwares and devices? What kind of governmentality might this constellation of forces be creating? How might these agencies be transforming, re-arranging, and re-aggregating our cognitive activities, our bodies, and their interactions in increasingly hybridized environments? How might they be shaping and redistributing our interactions within various fields of knowledge? How might digital and commercially marketed devices, and their often proprietary data-collecting and re-aggregating softwares, induce relationships to power that would not emerge otherwise? How might the automated temporalities of these digital agencies affect the way we conceptualize the role of slowness, place, and deliberation as conditions of consciousness, reflexivity and democratic governmentality? In effect, this seminar will investigate, from a variety of philosophical perspectives, how technology and agency are related. (Prerequisite: At least two prior courses in philosophy.) (Instructor: Engström.)

Special Topics: Descartes and Hume on Skepticism. Descartes founds his philosophy on a ground that is to be immune from even the deepest sort of skepticism. David Hume wrote a century later and has traditionally been thought a skeptic, and so the question naturally arises regarding the encounter between Hume’s supposed skepticism and the views on Descartes on how we are properly to ground knowledge. It turns out that the positions are the reverse of what they are thought to be. Hume shows that Descartes is the true skeptic, and although skeptical of certain matters, Hume lays the foundation for what he calls proofs, empirical propositions that are as certain as we are capable of achieving about the world and are capable of capturing, as Descartes cannot, the whole of human experience, from metaphysics to history to political science to aesthetics and economics. (Instructor: Robison.)