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    Vassar College
  Dec 17, 2017
Catalogue 2017-2018
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PHIL 106 - Philosophical & Contemporary Issues

Semester Offered: Fall and Spring
1 unit(s)

Topic for 2017/18a: Just War Theory. This course explores the contemporary philosophical literature on just war theory. The past decade has seen an explosion of philosophical work on war, with important consequences for our thinking about both the ethics and law of armed conflict. We examine traditional formulations of the just war doctrine, as well as the challenge posed by revisionist just war theorists. Readings include Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars and Jeff McMahan’s Killing in War. Jamie Kelly.

Open only to freshmen; satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Topic for 2017/18a: Philosophies of Nature and (Un)Natural Catastrophes. We examine various philosophical approaches to nature, alongside the occurrence of both natural and human-made catastrophes. After beginning with our current global and environmental situation, the first half of the course examines various 19th century philosophical approaches to the idea and question of nature. The second half of the course turns to different environmental philosophies, including ecofeminism, deep ecology, and democratic environmentalism. Readings include texts by: Goethe, Thoreau, Emerson, Nietzsche, Muir, Leopold, Carson, Colbert, Naess, Klein, Romm, Shiva, Nancy, and Zizek. Some questions we address are: What counts as nature, how does one define nature, is there a difference between nature and environment, where does nature end and culture/civilization begin, and how do we respond to, and what responsibilities do we have towards, (un)natural catastrophes? Required work includes: weekly discussion papers, two 5-page papers, a final group presentation, class participation, and attendance.   Osman Nemli.  

Topic for 2017/18b: Bioethics and Biopolitics. We examine bioethics and biopolitics: the medical concerns of individuals and societies, technological development in the bio-medical fields, and ethical and political frameworks to address those concerns and developments. The first half of the course addresses particular case studies in bioethics, including: informed consent, public health issues, abortion, killing and letting die, voluntary euthanasia and medically assisted suicide, brain death and organ and resource allocation. The second half of the course looks at biopolitics, the so-called ‘right to death’ and ‘power over life’ in societies. The second half concerns itself with the theoretical underpinnings of the practical bioethical case studies: who has, or what groups and institutions have, access to certain medical care, what are the conditions for certain ethical modes of behavior, and what do we mean when we speak of aiming for a health or the best society. Biopolitics inquires into the ways in which bioethics can become ‘eugenics with a human face’ and how to respond. Osman Nemli.


Two 75-minute periods.

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