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Fall 2020 Course Information

Fall 2020 course registration is now live. You cannot register yet, but you can view which courses will be offered during the Fall semester. We are offering a few new courses and detailed information on these courses is provided below.


PHIL 1133: Selling Spirituality

Professor: Liz Bucar (e.bucar@northeastern.edu)

Sequence: E (W/F 11:45-1:25pm)

NU Path: IC (Interpreting Culture) DD (Engaging Difference and Diversity)

This course can be used for the following requirements:

Description Focuses on two popular practices—yoga and mindfulness—to explore the ethics of Western commodification of Eastern spiritual practices. Topics include whether cultural appropriation applies to spiritual/religious borrowings; debates over whether yoga or meditation are properly understood as religious, philosophical, or something else; and how and to whom these practices are marketed. Includes readings, informal and formal research and writing assignments, and experiential mindfulness learning assignments.


PHIL 1300: Knowledge in a Digital World

Professor: Don Fallis (d.fallis@northeastern.edu)

Sequence: B (M/W 2:50-4:30pm)

NU Path: Employing Ethical Reasoning (ER) Understanding Societies and Institutions (SI)

This course can be used for the following requirements: 

Description: Examines the impact that information technologies (such as the internet, search engines, blogs, wikis, and smartphones); information processing techniques (such as big data analysis, machine learning, crowdsourcing, and cryptography); and information policies (such as privacy norms and speech restrictions) have on what we know and how much we know, as individuals and as a society. The digital world can enhance our ability to acquire knowledge by providing us with fast and cheap access to huge amounts of information. However, it can also undermine our cognitive abilities and provide us with inaccurate or misleading information. Studies normative frameworks from epistemology and ethics (such as epistemic value theory, the extended mind hypothesis, and moral rights) to evaluate these technologies and policies.


PHIL 2016: The Philosophy and Ethics of Lying and Deception

Professor: Don Fallis (d.fallis@northeastern.edu)

Sequence: 3 (M/W/R 10:30-11:35am)

NU Path: Employing Ethical Reasoning (ER) and Understanding Societies and Institutions (SI)

This course can be used for the following requirements: 

Description: This course examines lying and other forms of deception in a wide range of modern contexts from advertising to politics, using different theoretical approaches. It offers students an opportunity to use philosophical and economic theories to investigate what lying is, why people lie, when and why it is wrong to lie, how we can learn from other people even though they might be lying, and how social institutions affect—and are affected by—all of this lying. In modern society, we are confronted with lies, spin, fake news, and even “BS” on a daily basis. Since these forms of deception play such a central role in human life, many philosophers—including Plato, Augustine, and Kant—have studied the ontology, ethics, epistemology, economics, and logic of lying and deception.


PHIL 4390: Cults and Sects

Professor: Megan Goodwin (me.goodwin@northeastern.edu)

Sequence: F (T/F 1:35-3:15pm)

NU Path: Engaging Difference and Diversity (DD) Interpreting Culture (IC) Capstone Experience (CE) and Writing Intensive (WI)

This course can be used for the following requirements:

Description: Offers an examination of the varieties of religious experience from the perspectives of sociology and psychology of religion. Focuses on such cultic and sectarian groups as Christian Science, the American Shakers, the Unification Church, the Hare Krishna movement, and the Black Muslims. Provides students the opportunity to acquire critical investigative tools with which to analyze different religious expressions. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses or permission of instructor.


PHIL 4555: Philosophy of Biology

Professor: Rory Smead (r.smead@northeastern.edu)

Sequence: A (M/R 11:45-1:25pm)

NU Path: Capstone Experience (CE) Writing Intensive (WI) 

This course can be used for the following requirements:

Description: Explores the conceptual foundations of evolution, ecology, and genetics, with special attention to outstanding philosophical questions. Surveys central philosophical and theoretical issues on topics such as the units of selection, the concept and nature of evolutionary fitness, biological functions, causation, biological individuality, the concept of a species, the biology of social behavior, and the explanatory role of natural selection. Also examines the relationship between biology, the physical sciences, and the social sciences. Requires prior completion of three philosophy and/or biology courses.


PHIL 5005: Information Ethics

Professor: Kay Mathiesen (k.mathiesen@northeastern.edu)

Sequence: Online

This course can be used for the following requirements:

*This course can also count towards the Information Ethics Graduate Certificate

Description: This course covers issues of justice and the public good in relation to the creation, collection, storage, analysis, processing, dissemination, and use of information. Theories of justice and human rights will be covered, as well as ethical theories such as utilitarianism and principlism. Topics discussed will include intellectual and cultural property, freedom of expression, and access to information, fair representation, and information privacy. More broadly we will discuss how to create and use information technologies that promote individual flourishing and the public good, while avoiding bias, exploitation, and manipulation.


PHIL 5010: AI Ethics

Professor: John Basl (j.basl@northeastern.edu)

Sequence: E (W/F 11:45-1;25pm)

This course can be used for the following requirements:

*This course can also count towards the Information Ethics Graduate Certificate

 Description: Discusses artificial intelligence and the host of ethical issues it raises: decisions turned over to machine-learning algorithms can be opaque and unfair; autonomous vehicles promise to increase safety but raise challenges for assigning responsibility for accidents; diffusion of AI is likely to transform the labor market in unpredictable ways; and the data that powers machine-learning algorithms raise questions about privacy and security. In order to realize the benefits of AI while responsibly developing and implementing it, it is necessary to identify the ethical issues at stake and work to resolve them. This course takes up the philosophical and ethical questions essential to this project.