This course aims to introduce the student to the nature and concerns of philosophy by confronting fundamental issues in areas of philosophy such as ethics, political and social philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology and others. It is intended that the student develop skills in rigorous thinking and become involved in the process of philosophizing.
This course explores the fundamental questions of ethical theory, asking how ethical judgments can be made, what justifications they may receive, whether terms like "right" and "wrong" have fixed meanings, whether moral assertions can claim universal validity or whether morality is rather relative to a culture or to an individual's beliefs. Depending on the semester, issues of applied ethics - having to do with abortion, medical ethics, business and professional ethics, ethics and the environment, war and peace, etc. - will be raised as well.
This course is about justice, power, and freedom, as ideals and as realities, and about whether objective or rational justifications of political and social views and actions are practical or even possible. The course includes an exploration of some fundamental philosophical questions regarding the nature of the community, the state, the individual, and the relationships among them. Students will study great texts in Western political thought as well as contemporary discussions and critiques, including works from thinkers such as Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Rawls, Mills, and Pateman.
A general category used only in the evaluation of transfer credit. Courses with this number do not count towards the major or minor in Philosophy.
This course offers a careful study of some of the central texts, issues, and ideas in the history of Western philosophy. Among the figures studied will be Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Quine, and others. The course is intended for most students as a second course in philosophy; its goal is to prepare students for further philosophical work by providing them with experience in philosophical study beyond that offered in Philosophy 101. Some students with particular interest in the field, however, may choose to begin their philosophical studies with this course. In either case, the course will give students the opportunity to grapple with fundamental philosophical questions by examining the works of a series of great figures in the history of philosophy. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or consent.
This course is an introduction to logic and its philosophy. We will begin by considering the nature and significance of arguments in everyday life as well as the cognitive psychology of human reasoning. We will then examine the fundamental features of arguments with a particular focus on the techniques of formal epistemology, decision theory, and deductive logic. Throughout this course, students will acquire a facility with logical methods, investigate the foundations of quantitative reasoning, apply general logical principles to specific cases, and examine the limitations and advantages of logical and formal methods by exploring theoretical puzzles and paradoxes.
This course considers a range of conceptual issues connected with the understanding and practice of science. Issues to be considered include explanation, theoretical reduction, rationality, methodology and the possibility of scientific progress, etc. Although these questions are raised from the perspective of philosophy, they are intended to provide insight into the actual practice of the sciences - from both contemporary and historical perspectives. This course should prove especially helpful to science majors seeking to achieve a different perspective on the scientific enterprise; however, non-science majors are equally welcome. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or consent.
An examination of some fundamental problems in Metaphysics (what there is) and Epistemology (how we come to know), in the context of the origin and development of Greek thinking from the pre-Socratics, Sophists and Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, through selected writers in the Medieval period including Plotinus, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and Nicholas Cusanus. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or one Classics course or consent.
Thinkers such as Rene Descartes, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant are currently referred to so often, in so many different contexts, that their names have been transformed into immediately recognizable adjectives (Cartesian, Humean, Kantian). But what did these philosophers actually believe? And why did they believe it? This course is an intermediate-level survey of western philosophy from their period (now known as the "Early Modern" or "Modern" era, which runs roughly from 1600-1800). While these and other thinkers (such as Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, and Berkeley) in this era dealt with a wide variety of subjects, we will focus mostly on their contributions to epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. We will address their writings with three different aims: a) to appreciate the sense in which they were, at one time, fresh and radical; b) to understand how, for better or for worse, they set the foundation for much of the modern—western, anyway—worldview; and c) to determine if what they say is either true or false. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or consent.
Does law have an intrinsic connection with the moral order, or is it whatever a legislature or judge says it is? This course will analyze the concept of law, with particular attention given to the conflict between the natural law tradition and legal positivism. The justification of legal authority and the nature of legal reasoning will be considered. Normative issues, including the relation between law and concepts of justice, equality, liberty, responsibility, and punishment will also be addressed. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or consent.
This course investigates the question of our ethical relations and responsibility to objects and systems in the natural world, including animals, other living beings, non-living entities, ecosystems, and "nature" as a whole. It also asks about nature as such: what nature is, what the place in it is of humans, the role of human action in transforming nature, etc. The question of the relation of the natural to the social will receive special attention. Crosslisted with ENVS 260 Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or Environmental Studies major/minor or consent.
This course addresses issues in philosophical aesthetics both in relationship to the arts as well as to other domains of human life (e.g., nature, food, and design). We will ask what makes something an artwork; how to differentiate between artworks and non-artworks; how to evaluate artworks; what it means to judge something aesthetically; how aesthetic judgment differs for different kinds of objects; and other central issues from the field. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy. Studio Art, Art Hisotry, Dance, Theatre or Music major or consent.
Feminism can radically challenge traditional ways of doing philosophy. In asking why women and women's experience seem to be missing from the tradition of philosophy, it implicitly questions philosophy's claim to objectivity, universality, and truth. Thus, feminist criticism probes some of the most fundamental philosophical assumptions about our knowledge of and interaction with the world and other people. Are there philosophically significant differences between men and women? If so, what are their implications? What, if any, are the differences among women and what is their significance? This course focuses on the problem of violence against women, in its many manifestations, in order to examine these and other questions in the context of contemporary feminist discussions of epistemology, ethics, and science. Cross-listed with WGST 275. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or Women's and Gender Studies or consent.
This course addresses fundamental questions regarding the nature of the human mind and thought. Students will be introduced to the leading contemporary theories of mind as well as critical responses to these theories. They will become acquainted with the works of philosophers such as J.J.C. Smart, Gilbert Ryle, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Daniel Dennett, Patricia and Paul Churchland, Jerry Fodor, Fred Dretske, Hillary Putnam, and others. We will address questions such as whether we can know there are other minds, whether mental states are identical or reducible to brain states, how it is that our thoughts can be about anything at all, whether there is a "language of thought", and whether our ordinary talk about mental events genuinely explains human actions. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy, Psychology major, Neuroscience concentrator or consent.
An inquiry into issues and problems that are now at the center of philosophical attention. Topics vary from semester to semester in accordance with current interests of students and faculty. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy, or consent
An inquiry into issues and problems that are now at the center of philosophical attention. Topics vary from semester to semester in accordance with current interests of students and faculty. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or consent.
This course provides the opportunity for topical seminars on major issues in the history of philosophy. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy, or consent.
This course provides the opportunity for topical seminars on major issues in ethical theory. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or consent.
This course provides a venue in the curriculum for topical seminars dealing with major issues in social and political theory. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or consent.
This course provides the opportunity for topical seminars on major issues and debates in contemporary philosophy. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or consent.
Existentialism asks how we can generate a meaning for our lives without appealing to outside sources. Many existentialists embrace a view characterized with the slogan "existence precedes essence." This slogan means that any attempt to figure out what one is must begin with the fact that one is. In addition, if existence precedes essence, then there may well be a multiplicity of ways that one can be, making choosing between these ways a difficult task. That one's existence may well be experienced as constrained by social forces seemingly beyond one's control complicates matters. We will read from a variety of sources, including philosophical sources such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, de Beauvoir, or Judith Butler as well as literary or biographical sources, e.g., Beckett, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, and others. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy, or consent.
A general category used only in the evaluation of transfer credit.
This course is an introduction to the methodology of and various issues within metaphysics. Typically, these questions address certain general features about the nature of reality. Many of these are ontological, concerning whether certain kinds of entities exist—e.g., numbers, holes, fictional characters, gods, and possibilities. Other metaphysical questions concern the nature and interrelations among entities and various features of the world. Among the familiar metaphysical issues are debates regarding the nature of human beings, the reality of space and time, the limits of thought and possibility, and the connection between truth and existence. Readings will be drawn from a mix of contemporary and classical sources. Prerequisite: Two previous courses in Philosophy or corsent.
An inquiry into the meaning, possibility, conditions, criteria, and types of truth and/or knowledge, and a discussion of representative theories of knowledge. The class will aim to achieve clarity in respect to both classical and contemporary approaches to the problem of knowledge. The adequacy of those approaches will be assessed. Prerequisite: Two previous courses in Philosophy or consent.
We spend much of our time trying to answer such questions as: How ought we to act? What should we value? and What type of person should we be? But, it seems right that we can evaluate our answers to these questions and decide among them only if we correctly answer another set of questions first. For instance, how can we know what we should value unless we understand what values are, whether they exist and whether we can know them if they do? How can we know how we ought to act if we do not know what it means for an act to be morally good or why we are even obligated to do what is morally good in the first place? This course will pursue answers to this other set of questions. It will inquire into the nature of ethical statements, properties, judgments and attitudes. As such, it will draw on many other areas of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics and the philosophy of language. Prerequisite: Two previous courses in Philosophy or consent.
This course focuses on contemporary work in political philosophy concerned with justice, including that of philosophers such as Rawls, Dworkin, Nozick, Young, MacIntyre, Sandel, Nussbaum, and Habermas. We will examine questions such as: What is justice? Can it be defined independently of consideration of what the "good" is for human beings? Is justice possible in a society marked by significant religious, ethnic, cultural or other sorts of pluralisms? What is the relation between justice and nationhood, and what can be said about justice between nations? How is justice connected to social equality, and to liberty? What is meant by economic justice? What is the relation between justice and democracy? The course will examine contemporary philosophical debates about these questions, in order to help students think critically about the issue of justice in the context of the pressing real world issues in which such questions play a crucial role. Prerequisite: PHIL 126 or 250, and one other philosophy course or consent.
This course examines some of the most important developments in European philosophy during the nineteenth century. Figures to be read may include Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Mill, Frege, and others. Prerequisite: PHIL 232 and one other Philosophy course or consent.
This course will be an introduction to the methods and the history of the analytic tradition. This tradition can be distinguished in a number of ways. Methodologically, it tends to employ careful argumentation and formal tools like logic and mathematics to provide analyses of scientific, psychological, and linguistic data. Historically, it is usually traced back to a group of Anglo-European philosophers—Frege, Russell, Moore, and Wittgenstein—writing around the beginning of the twentieth century. Thematically, it is primarily driven by the ambition of providing a systematic account of the relationship between language, thought, and the world. This course will explore early and recent contributions of the analytic tradition to epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and ethics. Prerequisite: Two previous courses in Philosophy or consent.
This course traces the development of Continental Philosophy from 1900 to the present, including the phenomenological movement of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and others; the neo-Marxism of the Frankfurt School and Habermas; the hermeneutics of Gadamer and Ricoeur; and the post-structuralism of Foucault, Derrida, and others. Prerequisite: PHIL 232 and one other course in philosophy or consent.
The nature of language and meaning has been a pivotal concern of twentieth-century philosophers. This course will consider questions such as: What is a language? What is it for a word to have meaning? How is communication possible? Are meanings "in the head"? What is the relation between language and thought? This course will address topics such as reference, the role of speaker intentions, and the indeterminacy of translation. Students will be introduced to several strands of philosophy of language such as formal semantics and ordinary language philosophy, and will become familiar with the writings of philosophers ranging from Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein to Quine, Austin, Putnam, Searle, Chomsky, Davidson, and others. Prerequisite: Two previous courses in Philosophy or consent.
A general category used only in the evaluation of transfer credit.
An intensive study in a major figure in philosophic thought. The topic varies from semester to semester, depending upon the needs of the students and the interests of the Department. Recent seminars have dealt with Aristotle and Aquinas, Foucault, Deleuze, Wittgenstein, Kant, Putnam and Rorty, Hume, and Heidegger. Prerequisite: PHIL 231 or PHIL 232, and one other Philosophy course, and junior/senior standing, or consent.
In the spring semester, senior philosophy majors orally present a paper in a symposium format to their peers and to philosophy faculty. The 12-page paper is the result of a year-long project. Students are also required to act as commentators for one other senior paper and to participate fully in all paper sessions.