Richard Charles Strong
I am prepared to teach a number of standard philosophy and humanities courses including logic and critical thinking, social and political philosophy, ethics, existentialism, philosophy of science, and courses on prominent figures and canonical texts from the history of philosophy in addition to other standard introductory courses in the humanities more broadly. What I highlight here are courses I'm prepared to teach which might not be standard but which ought to be of interest to both students and departments.
Problems in Philosophy of Society: Race & Ethnicity
This course examines questions of race and ethnicity from the perspectives of social ontology, history, and critical theory. Group level social alterity is as old as written history and probably much older. Social differentiation between groups has found its principal of difference in language, religion, and geography. Race, on the contrary, is a fairly recent way of representing identity and group membership. We begin by looking at the origins of the notion of race and "culture" in modernity from Buffon, Blumenbach, Kant, and others. We then turn to historically inflected contemporary social ontology to better understand how race exists, is known, is best conceptualized, and socially reproduced. Finally we move from explanation and understanding to the critiques of racism and intersecting modes of domination.
Kant, Immanuel. Anthropology From a Pragmatic Point of View.
Smith, Justin E. H. Nature, Human Nature, and Human Difference: Race in Early Modern Philosophy.
Carhart, Michael C. The Science of Culture in Enlightenment Germany.
Haslanger, Sally. "Gender and Race:(What) are They?(What) Do We Want Them to Be?."
Hacking, Ian. Historical Ontology.
Anderson. Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.
Sahlins, Marshall. "Difference."
Spencer, Quayshawn. "Philosophy of Race Meets Population Genetics"
Scott, James C. “Ethnogenesis” from The Art of Not Being Governed.
Mills, Charles W. The Racial Contract.
Bourdieu, Pierre, and Loïc Wacquant. "On the Cunning of Imperialist Reason."
Crenshaw, Kimberle. "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color."
Social Ontology is a new way of talking about an old problem in philosophy, namely, what are the ways in which societies exist? What is the relation between the individual and society? What is the ontological status of groups and classes? How do social kinds and classifications (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, class) exist? What sort of epistemological and ontological distinctions should we draw when examining social reality? What are the basic problems in philosophy of social science? This course attempts to clarify these sorts of questions and explore some answers. We begin with Karl Marx, Friedrich Engles, Max Weber, and 19th century considerations made possible by the birth of the social sciences as well as new demographic techniques and modes of thought detailed and distilled by Ian Hacking. We then attend to the prevailing models of social ontology from figures like John Searle before looking at challenges to the "standard model" from Ásta, Brian Epstein, Sally Haslanger, and Ron Mallon. We then question the putative universality of these social ontological projects through the lens of the philosophical anthropology of Philippe Descola. Finally we look at the moral and political stakes of social ontology from the perspective of Pierre Bourdieu.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The German Ideology.
Weber, Max. "Class, Status, Party."
Hacking, Ian. The Taming of Chance.
Ásta. Categories We Live By: The Construction of Sex, Gender, Race, and Other Social Categories.
Searle, John. "Social Ontology: Some Basic Principles."
Searle, John. Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization.
Epstein, Brian. "Ontological Individualism Reconsidered."
Epstein, Brian. The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences.
Mallon, Ron. The Construction of Human Kinds.
Tuomela, Raimo. Social Ontology: Collective Intentionality and Group Agents.
Haslanger, Sally. "Ontology and Social Construction."
Bourdieu, Pierre. "The Social Space and the Genesis of Groups."
Descola, Philippe. Beyond Nature and Culture.
Social Construction & its Discontents
"All construct-isms dwell in the dichotomy between appearance and reality set up by Plato, and given definitive form by Kant. Although social constructionists bask in the sun they call post-modernism, they are really very old-fashioned." — Ian Hacking, The Social Construction of What?
Since at least the Sokal affair in the 90s, the phrase "social construction" has meant many things to many people. Social construction is a matter of ontology, epistemology, sociology, science, and history. The purpose of this course is to first clarify what is meant by social construction, what is at stake, and what the limits and prospects of social construction discourse might be. We begin with the origins of the phrase in the work of Berger & Luckmann, continue with Ian Hacking's philosophy of science, and then turn to the more obvious but no less difficult matters of things and categories in human societies (many of which are perhaps trivially and obviously socially constructed, e.g., fiat currencies). Finally, we look at the construction of very different "worldviews" from the anthropological work of Philippe Descola.
Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge.
Hacking, Ian. Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science.
Searle, John R. The Construction of Social Reality.
Hacking, Ian. The Social Construction of What?.
Boghossian, Paul. Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism.
Haslanger, Sally. Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique.
Mills, Charles W. "Alternative Epistemologies.
Descola, Philippe. "Cognition, Perception and Worlding."
Philosophy of Society & Ecology (or, the Problem of "Nature")
"The manner in which the modern Occident represents nature is the one thing in the world the least widely shared." - Philippe Descola
Recent trends in anthropology have cracked the foundations of some of our most basic, and perhaps false, ideas about what it means to be human and what sets humans apart from other beings. This course sheds light on these new and exciting trends of thought which should be familiar to those working in philosophy or who have even a passing interest in fundamental orientations to questions of humanity in what is sometimes called "philosophical anthropology". The core contention of these new works in anthropology is that the divide between nature and culture has enabled the powerful program of scientific naturalism but that it is only one way, and an exotic way at that, of carving up the world. When such a division is relativized on the basis of actually existing peoples and not on the basis of a future imaginary or an Edenic past the true diversity of world views and modes of human existence begins to shine through. This work entails potentially profound consequences and transformations for how we ought to conceive of society, politics, collectives, and non-human alterity in the "anthropocene."
Canguilhem, Georges. "The Living and Its Milieu."
Williams, Raymond. "Ideas of Nature"
Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind.
de Castro, Eduardo Viveiros. Cannibal Metaphysics.
Tsing, Anna. Friction.
Tsing, Anna. Mushroom at the End of the World.
Descola, Philippe. The Spears of Twilight.
Peirce, Charles Sanders. "Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs"
Embodiment & Practice
It has become fashionable in philosophy and related discourses to appeal to the body and embodiment. Likewise, appeals to embodied practice as a principle of explanation seem ubiquitous. The goal of this course is to provide a sketch of what such appeals might mean and might entail when taken seriously. We commence with foils to the embodied and practical theses in Plato and Descartes. We then look at 'practice' and 'embodiment' in the mid-20th century works of Merleau-Ponty before moving to embodied mind and cognition, metaphor and language, engagement and knowledge. We finish with a debate on skillful coping between Hubert Dreyfus and John McDowell.
Descartes, René. Discourse on Method.
Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature.
Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception.
Gallagher, Shaun. How the Body Shapes the Mind.
Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. Philosophy in the Flesh.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Pascalian Meditations.
McDowell, John, & Dreyfus, Hubert. Mind, Reason, and Being-in-the-World: The McDowell-Dreyfus Debate. Edited by Schear, Joseph K.
New Directions in Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of mind is at an important crossroads. There are a number of competing paradigms, astonishing new means of looking at and understanding the human brain, as well as proposals that ask us to look beyond grey matter in order to understand mind. This course is a survey of some of these trends. We begin with Gilbert Ryle's distinction between knowing-that & knowing-how before moving to the enactive mind, the embodied mind, the predictive mind, the embedded mind, the extended mind, & the minds of other organisms.
Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind.
Varela, Francisco J., Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience.
Malafouris, Lambros. How Things Shape the Mind.
Clark, Andy. Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind.
Hutchins, Edwin. Cognition in the Wild.
James J. Gibson. An Ecological Approach to Visual Perception
Clark, Andy. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension.
Godfrey-Smith, Peter. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness.
Critical theory, as formulated by the Frankfurt School, sets itself apart from the traditional theory - concerned with simple description and neutral explanation of "society" - by taking a critical stance vis-à-vis "society" in order to diagnose social pathologies. With the passing of time, the umbrella of critical theory has grown beyond the Frankfurt inception to encompass a broad range of critical theoretical discourse. The goal of this class is to survey both traditional critical theory as well as a more a capacious overview of critical theoretical perspectives.
Horkheimer, Max. "Traditional and Critical Theory."
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels, The Marx-Engles Reader.
Horkheimer, Max, & Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment.
Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks.
Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.
Bourdieu, Pierre. The Logic of Practice.
Fraser, Nancy, & Axel Honneth. Redistribution or Recognition?: a Political-Philosophical Exchange.
Stengers, Isabelle. In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty & His Influence
Maurice Merleau-Ponty has, and continues to have, increasing relevance for philosophy and related disiplines. In this course we look at his key writings beginning with the Structure of Behavior and The Phenomenology of Perception. We then examine some of the ways in which Merleau-Ponty has influenced other prominent thinkers, including those that are critical of the misleading universality of his theses on embodiment.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Structure of Behavior.
Young, Iris Marion. "Throwing like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment Motility and Spatiality."
Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline for a Theory of Practice.
We commence this course with the massively influential work of Immanuel Kant in the sphere of aesthetics, the first part of the Critique of the Power of Judgement. In the second half of the course we will read Pierre Bourdieu's most famous work, and direct rejoinder to Kant's writings on aesthetics, Distinction.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of the Power of Judgment.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.
Philosophy of the City: Architecture, Infrastructure, Sociality, Urban Design, & Planning
We might be able to avoid movies or paintings, or to block out music we don't want to hear, but we cannot avoid the products of the architectural arts (the good, the bad, & the ugly). This course endeavors to understand and confront the inescapable stakes and prospects of architecture, design, and urban planning through reading key texts that reflect upon our built environment. Taking a necessary interdisciplinary approach, we examine these issues along the lines of history, power, sociology, biography, critical theory, and philosophy. We will endeavor to bring clarity to the stakes, prospects, and modes of thinking regarding the backgrounds and edifices of everyday human environments. We look at the purposive, engineered, and planned aspects of architecture and design as well as the emergent, latent, and unintentional patterns and conjunctures of the environments we have produced. We are careful to keep in mind that while the theme is architecture and design the stakes are social, environmental, and individual ranging from the quality and contours of everyday life, community, and societal well-being to the larger ecologies that encompass non-humans.
Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space.
Panofsky, Erwin. Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism.
Simmel, Georg. "The Metropolis and Mental Life."
Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project.
Mumford, Lewis. The City in History: Its Origins, its Transformations, and its Prospects.
Heidegger, Martin. "Building Dwelling Thinking."
Bourdieu, Pierre. "Physical Space, Social Space, and Habitus."
Caro, Robert A. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.
Anderson, Thom. Reconversão (film).
Cronon, William. Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West.
Harvey, David. Paris, Capital of Modernity.