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Gensler's Philosophy Courses


Fall 2016 at Loyola University Chicago (Lake Shore Campus):
Ethics (PHIL 181, MWF 12:35 pm) in Crown 210
and Christian Thinkers (PHIL 380, MWF 1:40 pm) in Crown 210
Office hours: Crown 469, MWF 2:50-3:50 pm

Spring 2017 at Loyola University Chicago (Lake Shore Campus):
Ethics (PHIL 181, MWF 12:35 & 1:40 pm) in Mundelein 205
Office hours: Crown 469, MWF 2:50-3:50 pm

Click here for homework assignments

PHIL 181 - Ethics

This course is about the foundations of ethics. We'll focus on the nature of morality and how to reason and argue about ethical issues. Philosophers differ greatly on these topics; some take ethics to be about social conventions or feelings, while others base it on religion or reason.

In this course, we'll wrestle with some of life's deepest questions, learn to think better about morality, and sharpen general thinking skills.

Our text is Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction, second edition, by Harry J. Gensler (Routledge 2011).

Our course has four parts:

  1. Three classic views of morality: cultural relativism, subjectivism, supernaturalism.
  2. Three contemporary views of morality: intuitionism, emotivism, prescriptivism.
  3. An approach to moral rationality that emphasizes consistency and the golden rule.
  4. Consequentialist and nonconsequentialist views of duty, and a synthesis chapter applying all the views to abortion.

We'll apply the various views to issues like racism and moral education.

Course Requirements

Do READINGS by assigned dates. I suggest that you work through the study questions, but you don't have to write out the answers. I'll display homework assignments each class and also put them on the Web at: http://www.harryhiker.com/hw

Do short assigned REACTION PAPERS (a page or so). For these, don't do outside reading or read further than assigned. These are graded as "check" (+0), "check plus" (+), "check minus" (-), or "not done" (-2); I won't accept papers more than a class late.

Do COMPUTER EXERCISES on the readings (download the EthiCola program from http://www.harryhiker.com/ec). You're required to get at least 90 on each exercise; for each exercise not done at this level, your corresponding oral exam score is lowered by 2 points. Send me your scores just before the corresponding exam.

Take four 10-minute ORAL EXAMS. Each oral counts for 25% of your grade.

ATTEND CLASS. You can miss 5 classes without this itself hurting your grade (these 5 are for sickness, funerals, etc.). After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your final course average. You can be excused for university functions. Perfect attendance will add a four point bonus to your final course average.

I use this grading scale to convert numbers into letters: A = 90s (93 or above = A, 90-92 = A-), B = 80s (87-89 = B+, 83-86 = B, 80-82 = B-), C = 70s (77-79 = C+, 73-76 = C, 70-72 = C-), D = 60s (67-69 = D+, 60-66 = D), F = 50s or below.

To figure out your COURSE AVERAGE, average your four oral-exam scores and then add any bonus/penalty for reaction papers, attendance, or participation.

No reading or use of electronic devices is allowed during class.

Students seeking academic accommodations for a disability must in the first week meet with Services for Students with Disabilities (Sullivan 117) and then meet with me about accommodations.


PHIL 301/444 - Symbolic Logic

We'll study various systems of logic (propositional, quantificational, modal, deontic, and epistemic) and use these to analyze hundreds of arguments, many on philosophical topics like morality, free will, and the existence of God. We'll also work out a logical formalization of an ethical theory. Our text is Introduction to Logic (by Harry J. Gensler, Routledge 2010, second edition - don't get the Kindle version, which displays poorly).

This course presumes no previous study of logic. If you've had a previous logic course (e.g., PHIL 274/174), then some of the beginning material should be familiar; but we'll cover these areas more quickly.

We'll have six half-period quizzes plus a comprehensive final exam (which counts as three quizzes). Missed quizzes count as zero. If you can't take a quiz on time, contact me before the morning of the next class and we might be able to set up another time; but you can't take a quiz after I hand them back. Cheating on a quiz will earn you a grade in the F range. I will use this grading scale: A = 90s (93 or above = A, 90-92 = A-), B = 80s (87-89 = B+, 83-86 = B, 80-82 = B-), C = 70s (77-79 = C+, 73-76 = C, 70-72 = C-), D = 60s (67-69 = D+, 60-66 = D), F = 50s or below.

If you're undergraduate and take the course as PHIL 301, then you needn't do a paper. To figure out your grade, then write each quiz score, write the final exam score three times, drop the lowest number, and average the others. (So your lowest quiz drops if it's lower than the final; if the final is lower than any quiz, then it counts as only two quizzes.)

If you're graduate or take the course as PHIL 444, then you must do a paper of at least eight pages on a topic that connects with logic and that I approve in advance; you are to meet with me to help plan your paper and relate it to your interests. You might, for example, take one of the Chapters 16 to 18, begin with a short summary of the chapter, and then go into a more specific topic. Chapter 16 is about history of logic, from Aristotle and traditional logic, through the emergence of classical symbolic logic in Frege and Russell, and then into recent work. Chapter 17 is about deviant logic, including multi-valued logic, paraconsistent logic, intuitionist logic, and relevance logic. Chapter 18 is about philosophy of logic, which deals with epistemological and metaphysical issues about topics like abstract entities, the justification of logical laws, the nature of truth, and the scope of logic. Or you might do something in inductive logic (Chapter 5), or you might use logical tools to analyze arguments in some area or figure that you're interested in (see the end of Chapter 4). Again, see me about topics.

If you're graduate or take the course as PHIL 444, then your paper counts as three quizzes. To figure out your grade, then write each quiz score, write the final exam score three times, write the paper score three times, drop the lowest number, and average the others. (So your lowest quiz drops if it's lower than the final and the paper; if the final is your lowest score, then it counts as only two quizzes; if your paper is the lowest score, then it counts as only two quizzes.)

You'll do much of your homework on computer using the LogiCola program. Download LogiCola from http://www.harryhiker.com/lc. E-mail me your scores when you take the corresponding written test; I won't accept scores after I return the quiz. Try to do the exercises at an average level of 7 or higher (levels go from 1 to 9). Your exercise scores add a bonus or penalty to your exam score. Let's say your average level (dropping fractions) is N. You get a +1 bonus for each number N is above 7; so you get a +2 bonus if N=9. You get a -1 penalty for each number N is below 7; so you get a -3 penalty if N=4. If you fake scores, your course grade will be lowered by one grade.

You're required to attend class regularly. You can miss 5 classes without this itself hurting your grade (these 5 are for sickness, funerals, etc.). After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your final course average. You can be excused for university functions. Perfect attendance will add a four point bonus to your final course average.

Students seeking academic accommodations for a disability must in the first week meet with Services for Students with Disabilities (Sullivan 117) and then meet with me about accommodations.


PHIL 380 - Christian Thinkers

This course is built around the Anthology of Catholic Philosophy, edited by James C. Swindal and Harry J. Gensler (Sheed & Ward 2005). This book gives the first ever comprehensive collection of readings from Catholic philosophers, from Biblical times to the present. Our authors and readings will be arranged historically, from five main groups:

  1. Preliminaries: readings from the Bible, Plato, and Aristotle.
  2. The Patristic Era: readings from Aristides, Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Felix, Origin, Augustine (emphasized), and Boethius.
  3. The Middle Ages: readings from Anselm, Aquinas (emphasized), and Ockham.
  4. The Renaissance through the Nineteenth Century: readings from Loyola, Galileo, Descartes, and Pope Leo XIII.
  5. The Twentieth Century and Beyond: readings from Stein, Callahan, Copleston, Teilhard, Gensler, Plantinga, Rescher, and Pope John Paul II.

The authors and readings give a sample of the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition. They emphasize central themes, such as the harmony of faith and reason, the existence and nature of God, the nature of the human person, and the objectivity of the moral law. We will cover a good part of the book, from the beginning to the end.

Course Requirements

Do READINGS by assigned dates. Most readings are from the Anthology of Catholic Philosophy, which you should buy and always bring to class. I'll display homework assignments each class and also put them on the Web at: http://www.harryhiker.com/hw

Give MINI-REPORTS on assigned readings. An assignment might say "Felix - objections to Christianity (Smith-Jones 63-65)"; this means that Smith and Jones will prepare the section on pages 63-65. I'll ask one of the students things like "Could you summarize this section for us?" or "What do you think of these ideas?" Graduate students may have more mini-reports. Your class participation, mostly mini-reports, counts for 20 percent of your grade.

Write a PAPER (due Nov 21) of at least 8 pages in length (12 pages for graduate students) on a topic that I approve in advance (by Nov 14). I'll tell you more about the paper later. The paper counts for 20 percent of your grade.

Take three 10-minute ORAL EXAMS; I'll tell you more about the orals later. Each oral counts for 20 percent of your grade.

ATTEND CLASS. You can miss 5 classes without this itself hurting your grade (these 5 are for sickness, funerals, etc.). After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your course average. You can be excused for university functions. Perfect attendance will add a four point bonus to your final course average.

I use this grading scale to convert numbers into letters: A = 90s (93 or above = A, 90-92 = A-), B = 80s (87-89 = B+, 83-86 = B, 80-82 = B-), C = 70s (77-79 = C+, 73-76 = C, 70-72 = C-), D = 60s (67-69 = D+, 60-66 = D), F = 50s or below.

To figure out your COURSE AVERAGE, add the numbers for your three orls, paper, and class participation (mostly mini-reports) - divide by five - and then add any attendance bonus or penalty.

No reading or use of electronic devices is allowed during class.

Students seeking academic accommodations for a disability must in the first week meet with Services for Students with Disabilities (Sullivan 117) and then meet with me about accommodations.


PHIL 274/174 - Introduction to Logic

This course aims to promote reasoning skills, especially the ability to recognize valid reasoning. We'll study syllogistic, propositional, modal, and basic quantificational logic. We'll use these to analyze hundreds of arguments, many on philosophical topics like morality, free will, and the existence of God. We'll also study informal fallacies. Our text is Introduction to Logic (by Harry J. Gensler, Routledge 2010, second edition).

We'll have four full-period quizzes plus a comprehensive final exam, which counts as two quizzes. Missed quizzes count as zero. If you can't take a quiz on time, contact me before the morning of the next class and we might be able to set up another time; you can't take a quiz after I hand them back. Cheating on a quiz will earn you a grade in the F range. A = 90s (93 or above = A, 90-92 = A-), B = 80s (87-89 = B+, 83-86 = B, 80-82 = B-), C = 70s (77-79 = C+, 73-76 = C, 70-72 = C-), D = 60s (67-69 = D+, 60-66 = D), F = 50s or below.

You'll do much of your homework on computer using the LogiCola program. Download LogiCola from http://www.harryhiker.com/lc. Send me your scores by e-mail when you take the corresponding written test; I won't accept scores after I return the quiz. Try to do the exercises at an average level of 7 or higher (levels go from 1 to 9). Your exercise scores add a bonus or penalty to your exam score. Let's say your average level (dropping fractions) is N. You get a +1 bonus for each number N is above 7; so you get a +2 bonus if N=9. You get a -1 penalty for each number N is below 7; so you get a -3 penalty if N=4. If you fake scores, your course grade will be lowered by one grade.

You're required to attend class regularly. You can miss 5 classes without this itself hurting your grade (these 5 are for sickness, funerals, etc.). After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your final course average. You can be excused for university functions. Perfect attendance will add a four point bonus to your final course average.

Students seeking academic accommodations for a disability must in the first week meet with Services for Students with Disabilities (Sullivan 117) and then meet with me about accommodations.