Colgate University

First-Year Course Offerings — Fall 2022

FSEM 155   Intro Philosophical Problems
RestrictionsNo 2025 2024 2023
DistributionHuman Thought and Expression
Core AreaNone

Faculty Profile for Professor Witherspoon

Everyone faces fundamental questions about what to believe, how to act, what to value, and who to care for. Philosophy focuses explicitly on these and related questions, using reason and argumentation to assess a wide range of possible responses. Students may leave this course with fewer answers and more questions than they had when they entered, but they will definitely gain new resources for thinking deeply about the central question that Socrates posed: ‘What kind of life is best for a human being?’

Some of the particular issues we will xplored are: What is justice, and what makes it valuable? What should I do if, through no fault of my own, I find myself part of an unjust institution? Does it even make sense to talk about what I should do, since science seems to show that my behavior is largely or even completely determined by factors outside my control? Behind all these issues lie questions about the self: What makes me me – is it my beliefs and personality, my biology, or something else?

To stimulate our reflection, students read writings by Plato, John Stuart Mill, Martin Luther King, Jr., Iris Marion Young, and others. Class meetings are devoted mostly to discussion. Students who successfully complete this seminar will earn credit for PHIL 101 and satisfy one half of the human thought and expression areas of inquiry requirement.

Ed Witherspoon has been teaching philosophy at Colgate for more than twenty years. His teaching interests include logic, history of modern philosophy, and philosophy and the social sciences. Themes of his recent writings include our knowledge of each other’s minds and connections between the analytic and continental philosophical traditions.