Samuel C. Rickless

Professor of Philosophy


Fall 2023

PHIL 120: Symbolic Logic  

In this course, we will learn how to determine whether arguments that can be represented in first-order predicate logic are deductively valid. To this end, we will learn how to symbolize arguments formulated in English by learning how to symbolize the English sentences that constitute the premises and conclusions of these arguments; we will learn the rules of a natural deduction system and learn how to apply those rules to determine the logical status of any argument symbolized in accordance with those rules; and we will also learn semantic methods for determining validity and invalidity. Those who acquire the knowledge and skills taught in this course will be able to distinguish between good and bad reasoning in the most rigorous way possible.

PHIL 141: The Meaning of Life  

The purpose of this course is to consider whether human life has meaning, and, if so, what meaning it has and under what conditions such meaning may be secured. We begin with various negative thoughts: that life is nothing but suffering unto death for no purpose, that life has no meaning, or that life is absurd. We then discuss various positive answers to the meaning-of-life question: that meaning derives from the cessation of suffering, or from authoritativeness and ritual, or from free choices, or from some passion or commitment, or from spirituality or something transcendent, or from human relationships or purposeless play or open-ended activities. We will consider whether the meaning of life derives from some connection with morality, or creativity, or fundamentality. We will spend some time thinking about one of the more influential recent theories of life’s meaning: Susan Wolf’s “fitting fulfillment” view. And we will end the course by examining whether life has meaning only when it has a coherent narrative structure.