Topics in Philosophy I: What Is Life?: What is Life? A Philosophical and Scientific Investigation of Nature
PHIL 010 601
CHIK, JANICE TZULING
Philosophy Topics Course
The emergence of animal life marks a pivotal moment in our planets natural history. Animal consciousness also raises complex and perplexing questions for scientists and philosophers alike. This course sets out to address some of these questions in a systematic fashion, placing the interdependent disciplines of science and philosophy into close dialogue with one another. The central theme of the course will address the question, What is life?: in particular, how to understand its particular expression in animacy, or what it is to be an animal, and the emergence and concept of humanity within the context of that natural history. In the background of diverse world cultures and faith traditions, seminar participants will also consider the possible role of creative deity within the evolution of creaturely life. The scientific component of this course will therefore focus on theories of evolution, life, language, and death. The philosophical component of the course will begin with ancient approaches to questions about nature and the structure of reality, change and motion, causation, and the idea of essential kinds, while also considering modern and contemporary sources for understanding the relationship between life sciences and philosophical thought.Readings may include selections by the following authors or texts: Plato (Phaedo, Timaeus), Aristotle (Physics, Politics, Generation of Animals), Bhagavad Gita/Mahabharata, The Book of Legends (Sefer Ha-Aggadah), Aquinas (On Being and Essence, Summa Theologiae), John Locke (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding), Thomas Nagel (Mind and Cosmos), Mary Midgley (Beast and Man), Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky (Why Only Us?), Helen Steward (A Metaphysics for Freedom), Eric Olson (The Human Animal), Francisco Ayala, Stephen Gould, and John Polkinghorne (Belief in God in an Age of Science). No prior knowledge is required. Students will evaluate the topics and arguments of this course through close examination of primary texts, material artifacts, audio-visual sources, and contemporary philosophical and scientific scholarship. The course will feature a short midterm paper of 4-5 pages and a final essay of 8-12 pages (or final exam in lieu of a final essay).
Subject Area Vocab