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Course Summary

Course Description

The Philosophy, Ethics and the Law concentration prepares students for careers as leaders and innovators in public policy, governance, law, legislation, and other professions where clear, rigorous thinking and a solid grounding in the history of human intellectual thought are required.

Career Possibilities

  • Investigative Journalist
  • Policy Director at a Think Tank
  • Academic
  • Legislator
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Attorney

Major Foundation Requirements

AH300 / Multimodal Rhetorical Argument: The Rhetoric of Uncertainty

Can one obtain absolute certainty on any given subject? Engaging in various rhetorical tasks that work both to create and to communicate knowledge, learn to speak with authority on the topic of uncertainty. By examining readings from critics such as Lyotard, Faigley and Baudrillard, as well as selections of contemporary literature, film and TV, strive to understand better what Lyotard calls the postmodern condition. Students actively engage through argument, research presentations and experience projects, using at least three different modes of communication (such as poetry, prose, oral presentation, art, dance, music, and film).

AH301 / Legal and Moral Systems of the Ancient World

Delve into the origins of legal and ethical systems: the Code of Hammurabi, the Noahide Laws, the Old Testament, the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu, Egyptian Ma'at, and the Tang Code. Study contracts, torts, civil law, criminal law, enforcers, and penalties. Assignments also cover ethics and morality in commerce, personal life and kinship.

AH302 / Art for Political and Social Change

Explore acts of creative expression as they are used to foment unrest, question authority, re-contextualize social and political systems, and upset the status quo. Global examples are drawn primarily from poetry, painting, music, and sculpture, from North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Concentration Core Requirements

AH350 / Ethics and Politics: Applying Plato and Aristotle Today

Plato’s "Republic," Aristotle’s "Nicomachean Ethics" and Aristotle’s "Politics" — delve deeply into all three texts to understand their complexities and their relationships with one another. Then apply the theories of Plato and Aristotle to contemporary legal case studies.

AH450 / Religion and the Ethics of War

Minerva was not only the goddess of wisdom but also the goddess of just war. Is war ever just? Review the concept of "just war" through a religious lens, and examine conflicts from diverse historical periods and from a number of geographic regions. Topics include the religious justification of European colonialist expansion, the Protestant-Catholic conflict in Ireland, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wars between European settlers and Native Americans, the concept of Jihad, and the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

AH453 / Epistemology and Evidence—From the Philosophical to the Practical

The nature and limits of knowledge, and particularly how they pertain to sources of evidence in historical trend analysis. How do people know what they know? Is science just another faith-based system, or does the scientific method have objective validity? Examine how historians acquire data and how they assess its validity and accuracy. Are there hierarchies of knowledge or is knowledge binary? Dissect the assumptions, foundations and methods of science, and study the theories of Hempel, Kuhn, Lakatos, Suppes, Dretske and Heisenberg.

Concentration Electives

AH351 / Understanding the Self: A Cross-Cultural Exploration

"The self" is a concept that can be defined in a variety of ways. Consider the Buddhist concept of "anatta," or "no self," and contrast it with Descartes’ idea of the solitary self. Study the self from a psychological perspective, emphasizing the work of Freud. Students are encouraged to clearly define and debate their own definitions of "self."

AH352 / Philosophy of Mind

Explore the nature of mind, mental events and mental functions — for example, consciousness, altered states, the mind-body problem, awareness, the Libet phenomenon, and the qualia problem. Also investigate the mind as computer, robots, intelligence, and Turing tests. Key readings include those from Descartes, Berkeley, Dennett, Chalmers, Block, Quine, Churchland, and Searle.

AH431 / American Presidents and Their Legislatures

US presidents have experienced a wide range of effectiveness in implementing their agendas. Through the lens of the presidential relationship with Congress, consider the constitutional and practical issues facing elected officials, especially tensions between the executive and legislative branch in passing legislation, approving presidential appointments and declaring war.

AH434 / Interpreting the American Constitution Through Time.

Is the constitution a living document or must it instead be treated more like a fundamentalist religious text? Forms of originalism (original intent, original meaning, semantic and framework originalism), strict constructionism, textualism, and other approaches, and the specific social, political and judicial issues that have impacted them.

AH451 / What Is Law? Law Through the Lens of Philosophy

Practicing attorneys often focus on specific legal regulations and how they can be applied to the cases they are defending. Consider a broader approach to understanding "law" as a concept. What is law? How is law used to regulate human social behavior? Look at the natural law tradition and how legal positivists have challenged that tradition.

AH452 / Justice in the 21st Century

Ponder the idea of justice as it operates today in different capacities around the world. First examine philosophical definitions of justice, using both ancient and more contemporary texts. Then spend several weeks looking at the idea of "just punishment" in China, the Middle East, Europe, and America. Students, as future leaders, must conceptualize and defend their own individual concepts of justice.

AH456 / Systems of Government: Common Law and Constitutional Law

In common law societies, where laws evolve over time, legal rulings are based on the similarity of a current situation to one in the past. By contrast, societies with constitutional legal systems are governed by those laws that define basic rights. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both types of systems? How do these systems balance the rights of citizens versus the state? Minorities versus the majority? How do they affect the lives of everyday citizens? What are the variances between different kinds of constitutional and common law systems?

AH511 / Entertainment Industry Law

Understand the legal side of the arts, whether it means pursuing law as a career or becoming more knowledgeable about how the law might impact an artistic career. Topics include intellectual property, copyright, agency, antitrust, contracts, labor, licensing, royalties, and employment. Also analyze specific case studies from the field of entertainment law.

AH550 / Philosophers and Aesthetics

Research philosophies of art from a cross-cultural perspective, focusing on works from four different aesthetic traditions: Ancient Greek, Classical Indian, Arab/Islamic and 19th–20th century European. Analyze and debate aesthetic texts, and articulate and discuss the role of art in society and the ontological nature of beauty.

AH551 / The Bioethics of Enhancement

Examine bioethics from both historical and contemporary perspectives with a special emphasis on cutting-edge technologies that increase cognitive processing. Is there a difference between a hearing aid and an auditory prosthetic that increases hearing capacity above normal limits? Should cognitive enhancing drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall be banned in Universities and Chess competitions? Applying ethics studies to the biological sciences and health care more generally. [Recommended: ArtsHum 330]

AH552 / "Being and Time" in the Modern World

Intended to follow from and build on ArtsHum 351, this is an advanced study of existentialism as conveyed by Martin Heidegger's seminal text "Being and Time." Engage with ideas in hermeneutics, metaphysics, phenomenology and intentionality — what is their relevance to modern life, happiness and social responsibility? Additional readings include Sartre, Ortega y Gasset and Kant.

AH553 / "Critique of Pure Reason" in the High Tech Industry

In this advanced course, study Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" and how its central ideas can be relevant in contemporary business, particularly the high technology sector. Understand the role of philosophy in business organizations, in organizational behavior and entrepreneurship.

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