Saturday, December 17, 2011

B.B. King on "Jazz Casual" from 1968

I'm in the midst my last stack of grading for the term! B.B. seems appropriate for the final stretch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Topics for my class next term

I'm teaching a course called "Philosophy and Public Issues" next term and I'm in the midst polishing up the syllabus. This class is basically an ethics course in which we'll consider various moral theories and then analyze philosophical arguments related to controversial topics such as abortion, torturing suspected terrorists, climate change, etc. I'm reserving roughly the second half of the class for group presentations and class discussion. I have a number of topics in mind, but I'm hoping to get suggestions from readers of this blog. What current issues facing society do you think are the most important? Once I have a list of topics, I'll conduct a poll and I'll assign the winning topics to my students for their presentations. A "top three issues" would be helpful...

UPDATE 12/31/11: I posted a few additional topics in a second poll. Even if you've voted on the previous poll, feel free to pick an additional topic from the newest one. As of today, the leading topics are: economic inequality; same-sex marriage; health-care reform; climate change; and hydraulic fracturing. These have been added to the syllabus for the course. I'll conduct another poll in early January of the remaining topics and the winners will get added as well.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Discussion Group

Dr. Jessie Blackburn and I are starting a discussion group that will involve meeting once a month to banter about issues of political, social, and philosophical import. We will meet on the third Wednesday evening of each month at 6:30 pm. The group is open to all UPB students enrolled in the Scholars Program, as well as all philosophy minors. If you’re interested in attending and are not part of either of these groups, please email me. I plan on writing posts on this blog the week preceding each meeting related to the upcoming topic of discussion. I’ll there suggest some readings or other resources upon which our discussion will be based.

Our first meeting will be at 6:30 on Wednesday, January 18 at The Aud in Bradford.

The Aud Restaurant and Espresso Bar
30 Boylston Street
Bradford, PA 16701

Friday, December 2, 2011

What is a soul exactly?

Various religious traditions and philosophers invoke the notion of a soul. It may be that I am to be identified with a particular soul and that when my body stops working properly my soul will ascend to Heaven. But what exactly is a soul? Many philosophers argue that souls must not be physical and that souls are the "subjects of consciousness." This simply means that my soul is the thing doing the thinking, but it's not a "thing" in the traditional sense. It's not a physical thing like a pen or gland in my body. OK. So it's a non-physical, thinking thing. But what exactly are we talking about here? I think there are some non-physical things like, perhaps, concepts (e.g., justice and multiplication) and fictional things (e.g., Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker). But souls appear to be something quite different from the sorts of things that I think are real and which are non-physical. My soul isn't just a concept and it's presumably not a fictional thing. Does anyone have any thoughts about what a soul is exactly? It would help if there were an analogous immaterial thing that would help shed light on souls, but it's difficult to come up with a satisfying example.

UPDATE 12/8/11: A kind reader of the blog emailed this short peice written by Bertrand Russell.