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Courses in the Philosophy Department are designed to provide students with a background in the history of philosophy and to assist them in developing competence in the analysis and evaluation of philosophical problems and arguments that arise in making choices about their own lives and in participating in the decisions on the future of our society. Philosophy is concerned with the most fundamental questions that human beings can ask. What is the ultimate nature of the world? When are our beliefs justified? What can we know? Which actions are right and which are wrong? What is the best form of government? What is the good life? Is mind reducible to body? In addition, philosophy seeks to understand the bases of other areas of study, for example in philosophy of science, philosophy of language, philosophy of law, and philosophy of art.
The philosophy department welcomes both those who have an interest in continuing in philosophy and those who wish to use their philosophical training as a basis for other life pursuits. The study of philosophy has both intrinsic and instrumental value. The intrinsic value is the sense of satisfaction and self-discovery that comes from dealing in a careful and systematic way with basic questions. The instrumental value lies in the skill that the study of philosophy provides in critical thinking, a skill that helps a person to better communicate and to adapt more effectively to changing circumstances.
All courses toward a philosophy major or minor must be completed with a grade of C- or higher.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR (B.A.)
disciplinary, 10 courses
At least six courses must be unique to the major.
No more than three 100-level courses may be counted toward the major.
The following three courses:
PHIL 370 Ancient Philosophy
PHIL 372 Early Modern Philosophy
PHIL 460 Senior Seminar
At least two area courses: (at least one of which must be at the 300-level)
One of the following courses about knowledge/reality:
220, 237, 238, 260, 342, 345, 350, 373, 374, 380, 390
One of the following courses about values/normative theory:
230, 232, 234, 235, 236, 250, 310, 315
Any five additional philosophy courses, at least two of which must be at the 200-level or higher.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MINOR
disciplinary, 5 courses
One of the following courses about knowledge/reality:
220, 237, 238, 260, 342, 345, 350, 373, 374, 380, 390
One of the following courses about values/normative theory:
230, 232, 234, 235, 236, 250, 310, 315
One of the following historical courses:
370, 372, 373, 390
Any two additional philosophy courses
PHIL 100 Introduction to Philosophy This course seeks to provide an understanding of what philosophy is by discussing some of the main problems that philosophers examine and by developing skills in the methods used in philosophy. Among the kinds of problems considered in this course are: Is it always wrong to break the law? Can we prove God’s existence? What is personal identity? What distinguishes knowledge from mere belief? (Staff, offered every semester)
PHIL 110 Puzzles and Paradoxes Puzzles can be both fun and frustrating. In some cases, working to solve them can also provide fascinating insights about our world. Philosophical puzzles and paradoxes are like that. This course will cover a variety of challenging puzzles about the nature of reality, morality, language and what we can know about the world. Some of these puzzles have been solved, but many are not yet solved, and we can learn much from both of these. Even if you don’t solve a particular puzzle completely, working toward the answer can help you with future problems by giving you a set of tools that you can use again and again to get other answers. Puzzles and paradoxes make you a better thinker. And, for some, they are lots of fun too. (Staff, offered alternate years)
PHIL 120 Critical Thinking and Argument Analysis This course is designed to improve a person’s ability to think critically. While any course in philosophy does this, this course explicitly examines the principles of good reasoning. Emphasis is placed on the evaluation, the understanding, and the formulation of arguments. Instruction is given in the detection and correction of fallacies of reasoning and in the writing of argumentative essays. (G. Frost-Arnold, offered alternate years)
PHIL 140 Introduction to Value Theory Values are embodied in our interpretations, in personal and collective perspectival stances we take on issues of everyday life. They become manifest in actions and words, when we state our opinion on, say, U.S. foreign policy, the role of parenting, the role of women in religion, the value of higher education, etc. Values are generally acted out, most of them unconsciously. But some of them can be raised into our awareness and can be talked and written about. Although this process of consciousness raising is not without its problems, this is precisely what this course tries to undertake. This course is an occasion for students to examine their personal beliefs surrounding the meaning or lack of meaning they encounter in major issues around the globe, both past and contemporary. Students begin by studying and writing about values in the form of aphorisms, anecdotes, and short paragraphs. Then they aim at larger texts such as parables, fables, myths, manifestos, poems, and entire books. Students have as their main project to arrive at an overall narrative embodying some of their values. All writing in the course is oriented toward that final project. (Baer, offered occasionally)
PHIL 151 Philosophy and Contemporary Issues: Crime and Punishment This course explores the relationship between moral responsibility and criminal responsibility. It looks at some perennial problems in ethical theory, such as: What makes an act wrong? When is a person morally responsible for his or her actions? When is punishment an appropriate response to behavior that violates social norms? It also looks at some problems in legal theory and in public policy, such as: What sorts of acts ought to be criminal? When is a person legally responsible for his or her actions? Why should insanity be a defense to criminal charges? The following general question links all these problems: Which forms of behavior control are morally justifiable responses to which forms of social deviance? (Brophy, offered annually)
PHIL 152 Philosophy and Contemporary Issues: Philosophy and Feminism This course examines both the ways in which philosophical concepts and methodologies have influenced contemporary thinking about gender and the ways in which feminist viewpoints have challenged many traditional philosophical ideas. Among the topics discussed are marriage, sexuality, prostitution, human trafficking, affirmative action, and the connections between feminism and other liberation movements. (K. Frost-Arnold, offered alternate years)
PHIL 153 Philosophy and Contemporary Issues: Economic Justice This course explores the question of distributive justice within the United States. How should the fruits of social production be divided among the members of our society? Since our world is one of scarcity, people often will not get everything they want, and some may not get everything they need. What should determine who gets what? What role should the market play in the distribution of wealth? Does distributive justice require the redistribution of wealth? (Lee, offered occasionally)
PHIL 154 Philosophy and Contemporary Issues: Environmental Ethics This course explores the ethical and philosophical issues that arise when we consider the relation between humans and the natural environment—issues made urgent by our current environmental crisis. Among questions examined are: Is the value of nature intrinsic or only instrumental? Do humans have obligations toward nonhuman animals? Why are animal species worth preserving? Is it individual animals or ecosystems that should be of moral concern? What can feminism tell us about our treatment of nature? Are economic efficiency and cost/ benefit analysis adequate criteria for assessing our relation to the environment? (King, offered annually)
PHIL 155 Philosophy and Contemporary Issues: Morality and War This course explores the phenomenon of war from a moral point of view. Among the questions considered are: When, if ever, is it morally justified to fight a war? What, if any, are the moral limits on how one may fight a war? Among the topics considered are just war theory, pacifism, realism, humanitarian intervention, civil war, terrorism, and nuclear deterrence. (Lee, offered annually)
PHIL 156 Biomedical Ethics This course examines ethical issues that arise in the practice of medicine, in the delivery of health care, and in biomedical research. Ethical issues arise in all areas of human activity, but they arise in medicine with special urgency. Some reasons for this are the special nature of the physician/patient relationship, the importance of the matters of life and death involved, the difficulty in distributing health care in a just manner, and the many recent technological advances in medical treatment that exacerbate all of these problems. Among the issues considered are informed consent, patient autonomy, confidentiality and privacy, genetic intervention, medical experimentation, reproductive control, allocation of scarce medical resources, and justice in health care delivery. (Staff, offered annually)
PHIL 157 Ethical Inquiry: A Multicultural Approach This course considers some specific ethical issues from global and multicultural perspectives. Topics include issues such as human rights, gender roles and morality, world hunger and poverty, euthanasia, and racial and ethnic discrimination. In addition to examining these issues using a variety of Western philosophical traditions, students consider approaches that come from Chinese, African, Indian, Native American, feminist, Buddhist, and other non-Western perspectives. (Oberbrunner, offered alternate years)
PHIL 158 Debating Public Policy Effectively advocating for one’s plan of action, when it’s opposed, is what makes the difference between just a cool idea and an implemented policy. However, respectfully and persuasively selling one’s ideas requires knowledge and skills that most people lack. This course develops students’ theoretical knowledge of policy analysis tools and their practical skills (especially oral communication skills) to improve their advocacy. Students work in teams to develop public policy positions on current political, moral, and legal issues—domestic and international. Teams then formally debate these positions while other students vote on them. Strong emphasis is placed on anticipating problems with one’s own public policy positions. Students learn about the general structure and tools of advocacy and opposition, as well as particular issues of current concern. The primary goal of this course is not to teach you how to debate. Debate is just the primary medium of the assignments about public policy analysis. (Barnes, offered alternate years)
PHIL 159 Philosophy and Contemporary Issues: Global Justice This course examines a set of ethical issues arising from the relations among nations and their peoples in the light of increasing global interdependence. What does global justice require of us? What is the moral significance of national borders? Are we justified in treating our compatriots as more important morally than those in other nations? What are the obligations of those of us in wealthy nations to the hundreds of millions on our planet in extreme poverty, especially when some of this poverty is the result of our own activities? Are our obligations to those in other lands negative only (not to harm), or are they also positive (to provide needed help)? In seeking to answer these questions, the course examines realist, statist, and cosmopolitan normative theories of international relations. (Lee, offered occasionally)
PHIL 162 Ethics of Civic Engagement How can I participate in my community in an ethical manner, and what can we, as a community, do to promote responsible civic engagement? Students will study traditional ethical theories and learn how to apply them to the many complex ethical dilemmas facing individuals who engage in volunteering, service, civic engagement and community activism. We will also address contemporary analyses of the ethical challenges posed by social inequalities of gender, race, sexuality, and class. Topics explored include: professionalism, confidentiality, respect for autonomy, conflict of interest, appreciation of difference, trust and honesty. Students will learn ethical and non-oppressive strategies for engaging with both local and international communities. This course is a service-learning course with a civic engagement component. (K. Frost-Arnold, offered alternate years)
PHIL 170 Philosophy of Human Nature All our social, legal, and political institutions depend on assumptions about human nature, as does each of us in everyday life. This course examines these assumptions. Are we purely material entities conditioned by our environment? Can we change human nature? Might we be the sole authors of our own identity? Are we basically good? Should society take precedence over the individual? Did Freud understand humans correctly? Did Marx? Do feminists? Students begin with readings from the world’s great wisdom traditions from India and China, then our culture’s Judeo-Christian foundations, followed by influential thinkers from Western philosophy and science. (Oberbrunner, offered occasionally)
PHIL 190 Facts and Values This course examines a variety of issues relevant to an understanding of facts and values. What is the difference between a factual claim and a value claim? Does it make sense to think of facts as objective, and therefore the same for everyone, and values as subjective, and therefore relative to individuals, families, races, genders, classes, and cultures? What is the relationship between values and religion? How are values related to emotions? Is it possible, or even desirable, to put aside value preferences when we seek knowledge? In what ways can knowledge seeking inquiries be biased? (Offered occasionally)
PHIL 195 The Good Life What does it mean to be good? Is it worthwhile to lead a good life? Does being a good, moral person guarantee happiness? This course will focus on ancient Greek ethical theories, their approach to leading a good life, and their relevance to our present lives. We will start with selections from Homer, then examine the Sophistical challenge to the traditional Greek view, the rise of Socratic values, and Plato’s own vision of a good life. The second half of the semester we will study Aristotle and the Hellenistic philosophers. We will use a contemporary novel and contemporary proponents of these Greek views to connect the theories with our present lives. (Staff, offered occasionally)
PHIL 208 The Scientific Revolution The present-day scientific view of the world has not always existed: it began in a particular time and place. This course studies the birth of the modern conception of the natural world in seventeenth century Europe, an event often called the “Scientific Revolution.” We begin with an overview of ancient Greek ideas in philosophy, medicine, and cosmology. Then, the main portion of the course will focus on the profound intellectual transformations in Europe during the 17th century, when our knowledge of the natural world first became “modern.” We will aim to understand the scientific revolutionaries on their own terms and for their own sake, but we will also study how their ideas relate to earlier and later periods. Finally, we look at the most influential theory of scientific revolutions, that of Thomas Kuhn, and compare it (and its successors) to the historical data. (G. Frost-Arnold, offered occasionally)
PHIL 220 Semiotics This is an introductory course to semiotics, the doctrine of sign in all forms and shapes. Signs are processes of interpretation. Anything (object, idea, feeling, action) can become a sign by being interpreted. But interpretation is itself a sign in need of being interpreted, and so semiotics quickly becomes a labyrinth in which the concept of the sign becomes more, rather than less, problematic, as the inquiry into its nature proceeds. A wide variety of approaches to semiotics are presented, and applications to literature, art, architecture, dance, history, anthropology, film studies, women studies, photography, sociology, psychology, and biology are encouraged. (Baer, offered annually)
PHIL 230 Aesthetics This course addresses a variety of philosophical issues relating to the arts, focusing on questions such as these: What is the nature of artistic creativity? What is the purpose of the arts? Is there a way for us to determine aesthetic value? Is there truth in art? How are emotions related to the arts? What role should art critics play? How are interpretations and evaluations of art influenced by factors such as culture, time period, race, gender, and class? What role do the arts have in non-Western cultures? Are there aesthetic experiences outside of the arts? The course concludes by examining specific art forms chosen according to student interests. (Oberbrunner, offered annually)
PHIL 232 Liberty and Community This is a basic course in political philosophy. The focus is on striking a balance in a political order between the freedom of the individual and the requirements of community. The central question is whether the state is merely instrumental to the fostering of individuality or is intrinsically valuable because of the community it represents. A related question is whether social relations are best understood as created by contract among persons or as in some sense constitutive of our personhood. What is at issue is the adequacy of liberalism. (Lee, offered alternate years)
PHIL 234 Theories of Morality: Understanding Right & Wrong We’ll examine the three dominant theoretical approaches to answering the fundamental practical question of what makes actions right and wrong. In the process, we’ll also investigate questions like: What make someone a good person? What makes something immoral? What is the relationship between rights and obligations? What makes the world a better place? (Barnes, offered alternate years)
PHIL 235 Morality and Self Interest How should we act? Morality and individual self-interest are often thought to give conflicting answers to this question. This course examines basic issues in moral theory by focusing on the question of whether acting in one’s own interests is compatible with acting as morality requires, as it often appears to be. Do morality and self-interest diverge or converge? We study these issues through historical works by philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Mill, and Nietzsche. The course is a service-learning course with a community service component. (Lee, offered alternate years)
PHIL 236 Philosophy of Law Study of the law raises many problems for which philosophy provides solutions. At the same time, the law provides valuable source material bearing on many traditional issues in philosophy. This course studies these problems and issues by examining both philosophical writings on the law and legal opinions. Tort and contract law are examined, as well as criminal and constitutional law. Some of the questions to be considered are: What is law? What is the relation between law and morality? To what extent is the state justified in interfering with a person’s liberty? When are persons responsible for their actions? What is justice? When is a person liable for harm caused to others? When is it morally justified to punish a person? (Lee, offered alternate years)
PHIL 237 Philosophy of Religion After reviewing some world religions, this course examines philosophically a variety of fundamental questions about religion. Can we honor both the global diversity of religions and our common humanity? Can rational thought help us? The Western tradition, both classical and contemporary, includes a fascinating set of arguments to prove God’s existence. Are they successful? Students address the Problem of Evil, a perennial question about why there is so much human suffering. Is religion patriarchal? What are some different ways of understanding the nature of divinity? Can we understand personal immortality? What is the relationship between religion and science? Students look at several perspectives on religious truth and ways of knowing it. (Oberbrunner, offered occasionally)
PHIL 238 Philosophy of Natural Science We take up several questions central to the philosophy of science: What distinguishes science from non-science? What is inductive reasoning? When is data evidence for a theory? What is a law of nature? How does a scientific community modify theories or reject one theory and replace it with another? What role, if any, do values play in the scientific enterprise? (G. Frost-Arnold, offered alternate years)
PHIL 240 Symbolic Logic This course is an introduction to the techniques and theories of formal logic. Topics include translation between English and artificial languages; formal techniques and procedures (natural deduction and truth tables); the concepts of validity, soundness, completeness, and consistency. Along the way, we will discuss philosophical questions about logical truth and logical knowledge. (G. Frost-Arnold, offered alternate years)
PHIL 250 Feminism: Ethics and Knowledge This course examines various feminist critiques of traditional approaches to ethics and to knowledge. The first half of the course addresses moral issues. Are traditional moral theories adequate for addressing the problems that women face? Do women tend to think about morality differently than men do? What is “feminist ethics?” What moral obligations does it assign to individuals? What are its implications for governments and social policy? The second half of the course discusses issues in science and epistemology (i.e., theory of knowledge). Historically, how has science contributed to the subordination of women? Are social and political considerations relevant to science? Is it possible for science to be “objective?” What can be done to make science less biased? (K. Frost-Arnold, offered alternate years)
PHIL 260 Mind and Language One fascinating feature of language and mind is that both are able to carry information: sentences and beliefs have content or meaning. In other words, sentences and beliefs are about something. This course investigates several questions involving linguistic and mental content. How do words and mental states acquire their content? What is the meaning of a word or sentence? —e.g., is the meaning of a proper name (e.g. ‘Thomas Jefferson’) simply the entity bearing that name, or must its meaning be more complex? What is the relationship between mental content and linguistic expressions: that is, do features of the language we speak determine which thoughts we can have, or vice versa? (G. Frost-Arnold, offered occasionally)
PHIL 310 Cooperation, Competition and Justice In the second half of the 20th century, game theory emerged as a powerful tool in economic theory. It helps us understand how people trust, threaten, and come to cooperative agreements. We will use mathematically simple game theory to understand how morality might be seen as an agreement by a diverse group of people and what such a morality might demand of us and our government. Central issues will include self-interest fairness, rationality, redistribution of wealth, rights, and morality. We will begin with some classic texts by Hobbes and Mill, then quickly move into how contemporary economic thinking (esp. game theory) has influenced recent developments in utilitarian and contractarian theory. Upper level students from philosophy, economics, political science and public policy are encouraged to take this course (Barnes, offered occasionally)
PHIL 315 Social Justice Justice is demanded by people and for people all around us. Many claim that they or others are being treated unjustly, but to recognize which of these demands we should acknowledge, we need to understand what justice is. Our focus in this seminar will be on social justice, the justice of how individuals are treated by society, rather than how we treat each other as private persons. One of the main topics considered is distributive justice. The first part of the seminar will be taken up by a discussion of the work of John Rawls, the most significant English-language political philosopher of the 20th century. Then we consider other theoretical approaches to social justice, such as strict egalitarianism, libertarianism, resource and welfare-based approaches, and feminist and capabilities approaches. We will also consider social justice on a global scale. (Lee, offered annually)
PHIL 342 Experiencing and Knowing Why should we believe what others tell us? How do we know the external world exists? How reliable are the inductive methods of science? How can we tell when we have achieved knowledge? What is the scope of human knowledge? What are its limits? This course examines some 20th century discussions of these and similar questions that have long intrigued thinkers wishing to understand the capacities of the human mind. (K. Frost-Arnold, offered alternate years)
PHIL 345 Power, Privilege, and Knowledge How is power used to shape the knowledge produced in a society? How does my race or gender influence my knowledge and ignorance? These are key questions in social epistemology, which is the study of the social dynamics of knowledge. In this course, students explore the historical beginnings of social epistemology in the work of Marx, Foucault and Goldman. Drawing on this history, students conduct a sophisticated study of contemporary work by feminists and philosophers of race. Among the topics discussed are the corporatization of science, knowledge of the female orgasm, white ignorance, and strategies for becoming a responsible knower in a world of power and privilege. (K. Frost-Arnold, offered alternate years)
PHIL 350 Theories of Reality: Mind, Matter, Free Will, Meaning This course will focus on questions such as the following: What is real? Is the material world the only reality? Are properties, like being round, or being rational, as real as things? Is mind, awareness, consciousness, a different sort of reality? Are people simply complex machines? Are human beings free to create their own futures? With respect to physical reality, we will consider issues such as causality, space, time, and substance. For persons, we will examine the relationship between mind and body, the idea of personal identity, and the nature of human free will and responsibility. Both classical and contemporary perspectives will be considered. (Oberbrunner, offered annually)
PHIL 370 Ancient Philosophy This course is a survey of the Origins of Western philosophy. The course focuses on ancient Greek views of the nature of reality, morality, and knowledge. The great philosophers of the Classical period are studied in detail. The emphasis throughout this course is on understanding, analyzing, and evaluating the arguments and theories of these philosophers. Typical readings include Plato, Euthyphro, Meno, Symposium, and Republic; Aristotle, Categories, Nichomachean Ethics, and Politics. (King, offered annually)
PHIL 372 Early Modern Philosophy This course is an introduction to the principal works and central theories of the early modern period (1600-1750). The philosophical thought of this period was closely tied to the newly developing sciences and also to profound changes in religion, politics, and morality. Accompanying the transformation of thinking in all of these areas was a renewed interest in skeptical theories from ancient sources, and what emerged was the beginning of uniquely modern approaches to philosophy. Each year this course focuses on a handful of texts from this period, to be selected from the works of Montaigne, Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, Arnauld, Gassendi, Mersenne, Leibniz, Spinoza, Boyle, Butler, Malebranche, Pascal, Newton, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. (Brophy, offered annually)
PHIL 373 Kant Kant’s critical and transcendental investigations of the limits of the ability of the human mind to resolve issues of what we can know and how we should act have been enormously influential for all subsequent philosophical inquiry. This course is devoted to understanding the problems Kant faced, the answers he advanced, and the difficult and intriguing arguments he provided to support his views. Because understanding Kant’s empirical realism and transcendental idealism is incomplete without critical scrutiny of his argument, objections are introduced and discussed. (Baer, offered annually)
PHIL 390 Contemporary Philosophy This course traces the development of contemporary philosophy in the analytic tradition from G. E. Moore, Frege, and Bertrand Russell through Wittgenstein, Quine, and beyond. Recurring questions include: What is the relationship between language and the world? What is the role of logic and mathematics in our knowledge of the natural world? At the end, an important recent book in analytic philosophy is studied. (G. Frost-Arnold, offered occasionally)
PHIL 450 Independent Study
PHIL 460 Senior Seminar This course has variable content. Each year a central philosophical issue or the work of an important philosophical figure is examined. (Offered annually)
PHIL 495 Honors
Courses Offered Occasionally*:
PHIL 125 Oral Argumentation and Debate
PHIL 150 Philosophy and Contemporary Issues: Justice and Equality
PHIL 160 Philosophy of Medicine
PHIL 205 Ideas of Self
PHIL 225 Versions of Verity
PHIL 271 Medieval Philosophy
PHIL 374 German Idealism
PHIL 380 Experience and Consciousness: Introduction to Phenomenology
PHIL 381 Existentialism
*Frequency as determined by student demand and faculty availability