Jonathan Westphal, visiting professor of philosophy, received his B.A. from Harvard College, M.A. from the University of Sussex, and Ph.D. from the University of London. He has taught at the University of Hawaii, the University of London, Idaho State University, and at other colleges and universities in the U.K. and the U.S. He was an Alexander von Humbolt Fellow at the University of Munich, and is a Permanent Member of the Senior Common Room at University College, Oxford.
He has written a book on the philosophy of colour (Colour: a Philosophical Introduction, Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, 2nd ed,) and a number of articles on time, the latest one on the concept of the future.
His deepest loves are colour and composition in painting, and the meaning in words in poetry. He has strong research interests in philosophy of mind, and his most recent publication in the area is "'My Body,' 'my X' and 'I,'" American Philosophical Quarterly, 3 (2008), and also in diagrammatic and visual logics, "Logic as a Vector System," Journal of Logic and Computation, 3 (2005).
Kafka wrote, "Belief is a frozen sea. Philosophy is an axe." I would like students to get to know the ins and outs of philosophical problems, so that they can wield their own "axes" with skill and accuracy. This introduction to philosophy aims to get to the bottom of each of the philosophical problems discussed, without any sacrifice of technical correctness or historical sensitivity. The problems to be discussed will be: the nature of philosophy; the nature of logic; the problem of evil; the existence of God; what knowledge is; personal identity; the mind-body problem; freewill and determinism; and the meaning of life. There will be two papers, question sets, a one-hour mid-term and a one-hour final. The questions on the exams will be drawn from the question sets. Also required are two short (6-page) papers.
The freewill problem. Are human beings free? If not, why not? What happens if God, or anyone else, people in the NSA, for example, or even our friends, know the future? Does that make us unfree? If time travel is possible, does that tend to make us unfree? Is there any way of squaring freewill and what we know from science, especially neuroscience and psychology, and is so called hard determinism true, the proposition that no human action is free because all human actions are events caused as a part of nature? There will be two papers, question sets, a one-hour mid-term and a one-hour final. The questions on the exams will be drawn from the question sets. Also required are two short (6-page) papers. Prerequisite: At least one prior philosophy course.
An introduction to the theory of knowledge, its principal questions and theories. What is the basis of knowledge, if any? Might we all be stuck in the Matrix, lacking any real knowledge? How would we know, since if we were stuck in the Matrix our belief that we are stuck in the Matrix would only be the belief that we were stuck in another Matrix within the Matrix, not the real one, since we have no access to that. It becomes vital to know what knowledge is, and how it is related to truth and to belief. Can there be knowledge in the Matrix? What is the justification of knowledge? Does justification involve an endless regress of justifying propositions? What is the structure of knowledge (the so-called "architecture" of knowledge) if there is not to be an infinite regress of justifying propositions? There will be two papers, question sets, a one-hour mid-term and a one-hour final, whose questions will be drawn from the question sets, and two 6 pp. papers.
An introduction to the philosophy of perception, and its questions. Do we perceive things as they really are, or are we aware only of our own representations of things? Is our perception of the world a grand illusion, as some, including some religious thinkers, believe, or an accurate copy of the world, like a photograph? What is the difference between misperceiving and correctly perceiving? Does perception consist of the occurrence of interior and psychological events called "sense-data", or is it about properties of things apprehended directly and as they are: "direct realism"? Can skepticism, the view that all our perception is somehow tainted or unreliable, be sustained? Is perception the end of a causal process, so that we are only indirectly in touch with the external world? What are the consequences of our answers to these questions for the practice of empirical (or sense-based) science, and common sense? The course requirements are Question Sets, a Mid-Term and Final drawn from the question sets, and two six-page papers. Prerequisite: One philosophy class or permission of the instructor.
Whether other animals have minds that are anything like ours is a problem that has long excited (and challenged) scientists and philosophers. This course will be a reading seminar in which we examine an array of difficult questions about the cognitive abilities of non-human animals: Is consciousness a uniquely human property? Can other animals hold beliefs? Can they represent concepts (and what is a concept, anyway)? Do animals acquire "knowledge?" How might it be related to the kind of justification or understanding that is a requirement when we say that a human knows something? Do animals experience emotions? How are animal communication systems like - or unlike - human languages? What are the similarities and differences between human and animal perceptual systems? In attempting to address these and other issues, we will read and discuss material from the professional literature in a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, linguistics, cognitive science, neuroscience, animal behavior and genetics and evolutionary biology. Prerequisite: Prior coursework in animal behavior, philosophy, cognitive science, or biology.
The philosophy of color, through the science, art, history and technology of color. Some classroom demonstrations and experiments. Topics chosen from the following: aesthetics of color and color in film and the moving image, color in studio art, astronomical color and the color of stars, animal coloration, animal color vision, color words and imagery in poetry and literature, anthropology and linguistics of color naming, physics and psychology of color (including color illusions), color vision, color in the visual cortex, color and the mind-body problem, variations in color vision, models of color space, impossible colors. The focus of the class will be on the philosophy of color, and philosophical answers to the questions 'What is color?' and 'What is a color?' in the light of the above fields. Contributions will be made by visiting lecturers in the different fields from Hampshire and other colleges.
How do words and sentences do it? How do they get and keep their meaning and reference? How can the word "London" attach itself to London, its meaning travelling at high speed like a guided missile through space for over 5000 kilometers before ending up, safely in London - and never missing its target? Or does the word refer to an idea in the mind? But then how does that idea attach itself to London, its sense travelling at high speed like a guided missile . . . Topics will include meaning and reference, performative utterances, names, demonstratives, pronouns, definite and indefinite descriptions, and - the dark side - metaphor and other kinds of figurative language. Emphasis on the understanding of existing theories in the field and the development of students' own views through portfolio and notebook work. Two short (6 pages) papers, two exams (not unseen) and reading question sets. Prerequisite: At least one previous class in philosophy
Visiting Professor of Philosophy
Mail Code CS
Adele Simmons Hall CS
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002