Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Saturday, August 18, 2018, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.
This catalog was created on Saturday, August 18, 2018.
|Professors:||J. Dreher (Lee Claflin-Robert S. Ingraham Professor Emeritus of Philosophy), T. Ryckman|
|Associate professor:||M. Phelan (chair)|
|Assistant professors:||I. Albrecht (on leave term(s) III), C. Armstrong (on leave term(s) I)|
|Instructor:||M. McFadden (Uihlein Fellow of Ethics)|
Opportunities for non-majors
Courses in philosophy develop skills for reading and thinking analytically and critically, and for arguing cogently. In addition, they provide students with invaluable insights into many of the intellectual issues confronting Western civilization.
Students tend to find that taking two or three philosophy courses significantly enhances the quality of their work in their own fields. We urge students to discuss the relationship between philosophy and other disciplines with any member of the philosophy department and with their own major advisors.
Philosophy department faculty members will gladly discuss with majors and potential majors the specific ways in which their work can best prepare them for careers in academe, business, government, law, and medicine, among others.
Note that, with the consent of the instructor, students may take an intermediate course in philosophy without having taken an introductory course. (Intermediate courses are numbered 200 through 440. Courses numbered above 440 are advanced courses.)
The philosophy major
Students are introduced to philosophy through a study of logic or through a course in which substantive problems are raised by an examination of selected writings of important philosophers. Students may continue their study through a variety of courses in the history of philosophy, in the systematic study of traditional problem areas within philosophy, and in the philosophical examination of other disciplines.
The historical courses enable students to become familiar with the thinking of the most influential philosophers in our tradition and with the historical contexts in which they worked. The systematic courses encourage students to confront contemporary statements of central philosophical questions and to investigate some of the more promising answers to them. The courses engaged in the philosophical examination of other areas encourage students to bring methods of philosophical analysis to bear on the methods and presuppositions of other areas of inquiry.
Required for the philosophy major
- A minimum of eight courses numbered above 149
- PHIL 150 or 420 (Majors are strongly encouraged to satisfy this requirement early in their careers.)
- At least three courses from PHIL 200, 210, 220, 230, 240, 275, 280 (including at least two from PHIL 200, 210, 220)
- At least one course from PHIL 300, 305, 310, 330, 400, 405, 410
- At least one course from PHIL 320, 325, 350, 360, 385, 430, 440
- PHIL 600
Advanced students of philosophy are invited to do tutorial and honors work independent of the course requirements.
Required for the philosophy minor
- Five six-unit courses in philosophy, at least two of which must be in the history of philosophy (PHIL 200, 210, 220, 230, 240) and at least two of which must be from among courses numbered 200 or above but not among PHIL 200-240.
- Students pursuing a minor in philosophy are encouraged to choose a member of the philosophy department as an informal advisor.
- A C average in the minor is required.
Courses - Philosophy
PHIL 100: Introduction to Philosophy: ProblemsAn introduction to philosophical analysis and intensive study of selected philosophical classics. Topics include the existence of God, the problem of evil, problems of knowledge, the relationship between mind and body, free will, determinism, and moral obligation. Recommended for freshmen and sophomores.
PHIL 105: Introduction to Cognitive ScienceAn introduction to the interdisciplinary study of how the mind works. Topics include: the nature of perception; what human language reveals about the mind; the basis of morality and altruism; how sexual selection has shaped human psychology; and the cognitive science of religious and spiritual belief. We will discuss tools, theories, and assumptions from philosophy, psychology, computer science, linguistics, anthropology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience.
PHIL 110: Business EthicsAn introduction to ethical issues that arise in the practice of business. Topics include professional virtues, regulation, employer and employee rights, and social responsibility. Students are required to complete a community service project as part of this course.
PHIL 115: Food EthicsEating has become a complicated activity. We will examine some of the hard ethical questions facing policymakers and individuals: How should government regulate our food choices? When, if ever, is it ethical to eat animals? Are there any moral reasons to favor local food producers? Is gluttony a moral fault?
PHIL 120: Applied Ethics: Introduction to Biomedical EthicsThe course will examine moral dilemmas created or intensified by recent advances in medical technology and study ways of analyzing those dilemmas to make them more tractable. We will focus on examples such as euthanasia and the right to die, abortion, behavior modification, allocation of scarce medical resources, in vitro fertilization, genetic screening and engineering, and human experimentation.
PHIL 125: Critical ThinkingThis introduction to argumentation focuses on how to identify arguments, their structure, and their strengths and weaknesses. We examine historical texts, newspapers, legal cases, political debates and blogs to explore what distinguishes good reasoning from bad inference.
PHIL 130: Meditation and Virtue: Contemplative and Analytic Perspectives on CharacterThis course focuses on different theories of the good and of the virtues that lead to a good life. It covers a variety of readings that discuss the good and the good life and also critically examines a variety of meditations designed to cultivate moral virtues. Requirements for the class include writing two papers and undertaking a daily meditation practice.
PHIL 140: Introduction to Philosophy: Knowing and ValuingIs there a plausible distinction between (real!) knowing and (mere!) opinion? Can we make any warranted claims about how humans might best lead meaningful lives? We will carefully analyze the responses to such questions offered by Plato and by two 20th-century philosophers.
PHIL 150: Symbolic LogicFormal study of the notions of validity, consistency, and equivalence in the languages of sentential logic and predicate logic, plus an introduction to semantics for these languages.
PHIL 191: Directed Study in PhilosophyDirected study follows a syllabus set primarily by the instructor to meet the needs or interests of an individual student or small group of students. The main goal of directed study is knowledge or skill acquisition, not research or creative work.
PHIL 200: History of Philosophy: Plato and AristotleA survey of ancient Greek philosophical theories of the cosmos, justice, and the principles and purpose of human inquiry through the works of Plato and Aristotle.
PHIL 210: History of Philosophy: Descartes, Locke, and LeibnizWe will explore some exciting developments of the 16th and 17th centuries. Specifically, we will look at how the study of metaphysics, epistemology, and the mind, were transformed by the scientific revolution. The works of three thinkers will serve as our primary window in to this era: French philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes(1596-1650); English philosopher and physician, John Locke (1632-1704); and German philosopher and mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716). But we will also read excerpts from some other prominent figures of this era, including Thomas Hobbes, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, Nicolas Malebranche, and David Hume.
PHIL 220: History of Philosophy: Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and MillAn examination of selected works of 18th- and 19th-century philosophers. Epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics are emphasized.
PHIL 227: History of Philosophy: New Narratives from 17th and 18th Century Women PhilosophersAn introduction to philosophical texts by women authors in Early Modern Europe, including Émilie Du Chatelet, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, Christine de Pizan, Margaret Cavendish, Mary Astell and Anne Conway. We will consider the import of these texts on controversial topics of the time: new scientific methods, gender equality, political rule, the nature of mind and body, religious authority and morality. Lecture/discussion with written assignments.
PHIL 230: History of Philosophy: Early Analytic PhilosophyAn examination of the early 20th-century works of G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell against the background of the then-dominant Hegelian Idealism.
PHIL 240: History of Philosophy: The American PragmatistsAn examination of the attempts by pragmatists such as C. S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey to reconceptualize “traditional” issues in Western philosophy.
PHIL 260: Feminism and PhilosophyA consideration of the contribution of feminism to a range of subjects of philosophical inquiry, including: the philosophy of mind, ethics and the history of philosophy.
PHIL 275: ExistentialismAn introduction to existentialist philosophy, with emphasis on its development throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in the Continental tradition of philosophy. This course pays special attention to such existentialist themes as the possibility of meaninglessness, the necessity of first-personal experience, and authenticity.
PHIL 280: Women and FriendshipAn introduction to philosophical theories of friendship, with emphasis on feminist responses. This course examines historical and contemporary accounts of the value of friends and the role they play in our self-development, as well as moral accounts of the special obligations friendships involve. This course can be counted as the equivalent of GEST 280.
PHIL 283: Chinese PhilosophyA survey of topics in Chinese philosophy, which may include Classical Chinese philosophy, Buddhism and religion and comparative philosophy. We will discuss how the quickly changing historical and political climates affect the major schools of thought and influence pertinent philosophical questions for the region or topic. Assignments include papers and in-class assignments/presentations.
PHIL 300: EpistemologyAn examination of some basic questions concerning the nature and extent of human knowledge, focusing on the topics of skepticism, justification, certainty, the a priori and the a posteriori, and analyses of knowledge.
PHIL 310: MetaphysicsAn examination of some central philosophical questions about reality, such as: What basic kinds of things are there? Is truth always and only relative to a conceptual scheme? What is the nature of necessity and possibility? What is the nature of change over time?
PHIL 315: Science Fiction and PhilosophyWhat can alternative science fiction worlds and speculative futures reveal about the nature of reality and our own condition? In answering this question we will engage philosophical puzzles inspired by science fiction in various forms: short stories, novels, television series and movies. Topics may include time travel, robot intelligence and consciousness, scientific knowledge, morality, political power, free will and personal identity. Lecture/discussion.
PHIL 320: EthicsAn examination of theories about how we should live. Issues include the role of rights, duties, and virtues in decision making, the scope of morality, the limits of our obligations to others, and the foundations of morality.
PHIL 330: Philosophy of ScienceWe will examine some important philosophical questions surrounding science. They will include (1) What is a science; and what is the relation between different sciences? (2) What is it to explain a phenomenon or confirm a hypothesis? (3) Do the explanatory posits of a science—such as quarks and strings—actually exist? (4) Are there scientific laws? We will explore some of the more plausible answers to such questions. Readings will include selections from a variety of contemporary and 20th century philosophical texts.
PHIL 332: The Ethics of Religious BeliefsWhat kinds of justifications are available for religious beliefs, including theistic beliefs about God? We will consider whether religious beliefs can be justified through rational argument, how science and morality might bolster or undermine religious beliefs, the role of faith in securing belief, and how reasons for belief influence religious tolerance. Ultimately, can it be morally wrong to hold such beliefs on insufficient evidence? Seminar with written assignments.
PHIL 340: Philosophy of ArtAn examination of major theories of the essence of art, of the major 20th-century critique of the thesis that art has an essence, and of recent attempts to analyze art in light of the critique.
PHIL 347: Valuing Art: The Philosophy and Psychology of Aesthetic AppreciationHow and why do we value art? Is there an objective standard of taste or is taste relative? How does and aesthetic property--such as beauty--differ from other properties of art--such as being made of stone? What are the roles of emotion and evolution in aesthetic response? These and other questions will be considered in this discussion-oriented class. Appropriate for those interested in philosophy, art history or cognitive science.
PHIL 350: Political PhilosophyPhilosophers from classical to contemporary times have offered responses to the question of what makes a society just. This course examines a selection of those responses, with attention to general issues such as what a just distribution of resources requires and what makes a state’s authority legitimate. Specific topics under discussion might include poverty relief, access to education and other social goods, health care, punishment, freedom of speech, gun control, war, immigration, and international relations.
PHIL 355: Race and Social JusticeThis seminar focuses on race-based social injustices and considers what institutional changes are necessary to overcome racial inequity. How do current social and legal practices perpetuate racism? Possible topic include the concept of race, the value of race-based solidarity, affirmative action, racial segregation and racial profiling. Students will write papers in which they present their own philosophical arguments.
PHIL 360: Environmental EthicsAn examination of some ethical assumptions that might figure in discussions of environmental policy by economists, legal experts, philosophers, and policy scientists.
PHIL 365: Compassion and Other VirtuesWe will explore philosophical writings that analyze the nature and significance of compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, and other virtues. This course has a meditation component, as we will also explore meditations designed to cultivate the virtues that we cover in our readings. By approaching the topics with both philosophical analysis and contemplative methods, we will aim at a more thorough understanding than we could accomplish by only using one method.
PHIL 370: Advanced Studies in BioethicsA seminar examining one particular issue or set of issues in bioethics.
PHIL 375: Philosophy of Sex and LoveThis course uses feminist theories to explore philosophical questions concerning sex and love. How do gender norms affect our sexual desires and the power dynamics in loving relationships? How responsible are we for our sexual preferences and loving attitudes? How do we relate ethically to lovers and those we love?
PHIL 380: Ethics of TechnologyThis course focuses on ethical issues that arise from the development of new technology. Specific topics may include artificial intelligence, information technologies, human enhancement, transhumanism, transgenesis, ectogenesis, nanoethics, and neuroethics.
PHIL 385: Value TheoryThis course focuses on theories of the good and related philosophical issues. Questions that we will explore include: What is happiness? How are happiness and satisfaction related? Can we measure happiness or well-being? Is virtue valuable in itself?
PHIL 390: Tutorial Studies in PhilosophySenior majors undertaking honors projects should elect one or more terms.
PHIL 391: Directed Study in PhilosophyDirected study follows a syllabus set primarily by the instructor to meet the needs or interests of an individual student or small group of students. The main goal of directed study is knowledge or skill acquisition, not research or creative work.
PHIL 399: Independent Study in PhilosophyAdvanced students of philosophy may elect one or more terms.
PHIL 400: Philosophy of LanguageAn examination of major theories of meaning, reference, and cognitive content and an attempt to understand how language functions to relate “internal” psychological states to things in the “external” world. Contemporary philosophers are emphasized.
PHIL 405: How to Do Things With WordsAn examination of major and cutting edge topics in the philosophy of language and linguistics. Where do word meanings come from? How can one word mean different things in different contexts? How do we promise or make commitments? Why do slurs hurt and jokes amuse? What is the nature of metaphor? Where does the border between what words mean and what speakers mean with words lie? These and other questions will be considered. Appropriate for students with an interest in philosophy, linguistics, or cognitive science.
PHIL 410: Philosophy of MindWhat is the relationship between the mind and the body? What is the nature of conscious experience? How do mental states represent states of the world? Is our common sense conception of mental states and processes compatible with the methods and assumptions of cognitive science? These and other questions in the philosophy of mind will be considered.
PHIL 420: Topics in LogicAn investigation of topics selected from among the following: consistency and completeness theorems for both sentential and predicate logic, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, logical paradoxes (Russell’s Paradox, the Liar Paradox, and Newcomb’s Paradox), and modal-tense logic and its formal semantics.
PHIL 430: Philosophy of LawAn exploration of questions such as: To what extent may a decision in a legal controversy be deemed uniquely correct (as contrasted with an exercise of the judge’s discretion)? What purposes and assumptions underlie branches of the law such as criminal law or torts? What are the functions of precedent? What are the various relationships between morality and the law?
PHIL 440: Morality, Rationality, and Self-InterestIf acting morally conflicts with my long-term self-interest, what is it rational for me to do? Why be moral?
PHIL 448: Enlightenment SelvesAn interdisciplinary investigation of key concepts of identity and the emotions as understood during the Enlightenment. Students examine philosophical and literary texts to uncover how seventeenth and eighteenth century people conceived of their mental and emotional existence, and how these historical conceptions still influence contemporary theories of mind and self.
PHIL 590: Tutorial Studies in PhilosophySenior majors undertaking honors projects should elect one or more terms.
PHIL 591: Directed Study in PhilosophyDirected study follows a syllabus set primarily by the instructor to meet the needs or interests of an individual student or small group of students. The main goal of directed study is knowledge or skill acquisition, not research or creative work.
PHIL 599: Independent Study in PhilosophyAdvanced students of philosophy may elect one or more terms.
PHIL 600: Studies in PhilosophySpecific topics for the year will be published as classes are scheduled.
Topic for Spring 2019: Relativism
We often speak of one thing being relative to another. Such a relativism claim is expressed, for example, in physics by the theory of general relativity, which claims that the structure of space-time varies relative to massive objects, such as the Earth. But relativism claims are also found across all areas of philosophy. For example, it has been claimed that moral obligations vary relative to one’s culture, that knowledge depends upon the practical importance of knowing, that meaning varies with context of utterance, and that truth is relative to standards of assessment. In this course, we will examine these and other philosophical relativism claims, while also investigating the general question of what binds all these claims together as varieties of relativism.