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PHIL 220.001 – 17th and 18th Century Western Philosophy (Summer 2022)


Instructor: Aurora Yu. This course meets MTWRF 9:45 – 11:15 a.m. via remote synchronous (RS) instruction.

The period from the 16th century to the 18th century witnessed an explosion of new philosophical ideas. However, when people study this period, it is particularly common to focus only on ‘rationalists’ and ‘empiricists’ while neglecting anyone who does not fit neatly into these constructed categories. This course aims to come to a deeper understanding of early modern philosophy through a study of non-canonical, women, and nonwhite philosophers, like Émilie du Châtelet, Anton Wilhelm Amo, and Anne Conway, in addition to ‘the big six,’ i.e., Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.

We will approach (and lose sleep over) important philosophical questions through the lens of these great philosophers: do ‘I’ exist? Can we know that there is an external world outside our minds, or are we just constantly dreaming? Does an omnipotent God exist? Are body and mind separated? How can we know mathematical truths about numbers or triangles? Are apples really red, or is redness nothing but a subjective sensation in our mind? Are we rationally justified in thinking that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that a stone must fall to the ground if dropped? What are laws of nature? In what ways is human freedom constrained? What is the best way of living? Etc.

PHIL 210.001 – Wonder, Myth, and Reason: Introduction to Ancient Greek Science and Philosophy (Fall 2022)


Instructor: Aurora Yu. This course meets MWF 8:00 – 8:50 a.m. in AR 218.


In this course, we shall explore Ancient Greek Philosophy in various genres, from Aristotle’s treatises to Euripides’ tragedies, from Parmenides’ poem on the concept of being to Sappho’s lyrics inspired by love, from Plato’s dialogues involving debates over virtue and good life to Aristophanes‘ play about a government where women take control to rein private wealth and increase sexual equality; etc.

Some questions that we shall have fun with are as follows:
How does an Aristotelian virtuous person go about their day? What does Hecuba’s speech teach us about the firmness of good character in adversity? Is there a gap between being good and living well? Is friendship more important than justice? Does madness always come with love? Are we fragile moral beings?

PHIL 224.001 – Existential Philosophy and the Meaning(lessness) of Life (Spring 2023)


Instructor: Aurora Yu. This course meets MWF 10:10 – 11:00 a.m. in SC 209.

Existentialism is associated with 19th and 20th century European philosophers who, despite profound differences in thought, shared an interest on human subjectivity, as well as its place in society, history, and the philosophical tradition. In this course, we will examine concepts such as freedom, reality, temporality, death, emotion, and the relation between self and other, by studying the most influential works by Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Frantz Omar Fanon. Among others, we will read a novel, i.e., The Plague, that reflects upon just the kind of absurdity we have all experienced during the pandemic.

The central theme of our explorations is the ‘being’ of humans. In Being and Time §1, Heidegger asks, “do we in our time have an answer to the question of what we really mean by the word ‘Being’? Not at all.” In the fog of uncertainty, we will explore various modes of being, including being for itself, being in the world, being with others, being in love, being a woman, being a colonized subject, etc. In particular, we will try to answer existentialist questions such as: what is the goal of my being? Is there really any actual/objective goal or meaning that I am pursuing in my life? If so, where does this meaning come from – from God, from society, or from myself? If there is no objective meaning in life, does it follow that my life is not worth living? What does my finitude, i.e., the imminence of death, entail about the meaning of my being?

PHIL 163.001 – Practical Ethics: Moral Reasoning and How We Live (Summer 2023)


Instructor: Aurora Yu. This course meets MTWRF 9:45 – 11:15 a.m. via remote synchronous (RS) instruction.

This course is divided into two parts. In the first part, students will learn the toolkit for analyzing ethical issues. We will examine the nature of ethical reasoning and argument and address questions such as whether ethical claims appeal to objective or subjective standards, arguments for or against ethical relativism, the nature of ethical virtues, and the relationship between ethical values and other values. Additionally, we will explore the ancient roots of contemporary ethical practices.

The second part of the course will apply the toolkit to a range of practical issues, primarily in relation to gender identities and our own bodies. We will examine questions such as: What are these social conditions that grant the right to abort? Is sex work intrinsically harmful or merely because of some contingent societal conditions (e.g. the way that such work is exercised)? Do the grounds for the apparent impermissibility of sex work apply to surrogacy? What (if anything) is morally problematic with digitally generated imagery that many would call ‘pornographic’? Is euthanasia morally and/ or legally permissible? If so, on what grounds? How might gender identity block informed consent? What role might affirmative action policies play in correcting discrimination?

Throughout the course, our focus will not be on resolving society’s deepest moral controversies or discussing every popular position on every issue. Instead, our aim is to deepen our understanding of the kinds of reasons and arguments that are used to establish or support ethical claims. By doing so, we will develop a better understanding of the nature of ethical values and ethical reasoning. Our ultimate goal is to explore why some ethical issues are controversial while others are not, and to achieve a better understanding of the ethical issues facing our society today.

IDST 89.001 – FYS: ‘Says Who?’ Climate Research and the Pursuit of Truth* (Fall 2023)


Instructors: Aurora Yu (PHIL), Hunter Hughes (EMES), Joshua Miller (NUTR), and Rebecca Patterson-Markowitz (GEOG). This course meets TR 9:30 – 10:45 a.m. in GS 1374.

*This course is scheduled and controlled by The Office of Undergraduate Curricula (OUC). Please direct all registration questions to the OUC’s First-Year Curriculum Specialist, Ben HavenAll instructors belong to the Royster Society of Fellows.

From battles in the courtroom to disputes in the comments section, scientific authority and its role in policy and practice are under increasing scrutiny. In 2021, more than 20% of adults in the United States were estimated to have little or no confidence in scientists and medical doctors. While distrust of research and academic institutions may seem like a uniquely modern issue, it is rooted in a broader history of anti-intellectualism, the “generalized suspicion and mistrust of intellectuals and experts”. In fact, debates over the nature of truth and whose “truth” is considered fact have persisted since antiquity. This course will introduce students to different theories of knowledge (e.g., positivism, constructivism, critical theory) and examine how each impacts what types of questions are asked, how data are gathered and analyzed, and the ways by which evidence is appraised. We will apply these systems of knowledge production to ongoing debates about climate change and its impacts on health and well-being. Teachings will focus on the validity of the scientific process while critically reviewing its shortcomings, from embedded power imbalances to the proclamation of value-free research. Students will also engage in discussions and exercises focused on ways to improve upon the status quo, including identification of innovative scientific research methods that promote equity, sustainability, and inclusivity.

PHIL 155.001 – Truth and Proof: Introduction to Mathematical Logic (Spring 2024)


Instructor: Aurora Yu. This course meets MWF 10:10 – 11:00 a.m. in PE 3018.

In this course, we will explore the realm of formal logic, focusing on two foundational systems: propositional logic and first-order logic. Through this rigorous voyage, we will cultivate the skills necessary to perform derivations within these logical frameworks and translate between their formal expressions and English sentences. Our primary goal is to foster a deep understanding of the benefits and constraints associated with the application of these formal systems across diverse contexts. As a historical backdrop, we will also spend a little time learning about the world of Aristotelian logic, enhancing our appreciation for the origin of logical thought across centuries.

PHIL 101.001 – Introduction to Philosophy: Central Problems, Great Minds, Big Ideas


Instructor: Aurora Yu. This course meets via remote, mostly asynchronous (RM) instruction.

This course serves as an introduction to the diverse landscape of philosophical inquiry, encompassing central problems, great minds, and big ideas from various cultural and historical contexts. Through a blend of readings, discussions, and reflective exercises, students will encounter voices from Western and non-Western traditions from Ancient Greece to the contemporary era. Furthermore, this course will highlight the philosophical perspectives of historical women philosophers who have made significant contributions to philosophical discourse.Students will engage with fundamental questions about the creation of animals, the existence of God, the nature of knowledge, the concept of justice, and the meaning of life. By engaging with a diverse range of philosophical texts and voices, students will learn to critically evaluate arguments, articulate their philosophical positions, and grapple with the complexities of ethical, social, and existential questions.

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