Course information found here includes all permanent offerings and is updated regularly whenever Academic Senate approves changes. For historical information, see the Course Catalogs. For actual course availability in any given term, use Course Search in the Portal.
An investigation of the formal structure of reasoning and the logical relationships that underlie good arguments. Many college courses explore and investigate the reasons to take something to be so; logic explores the correctness or strength of reasoning itself. This course will have a particular emphasis on the major historical methods for symbolically representing and analyzing deductive arguments: Aristotelian logic, propositional logic, and predicate logic. Some attention may also be paid to informal logical fallacies. (1S) Offered each semester.
An exploration of some of the central questions and problems addressed by philosophers, such as: What is it to be a person? How can we live well and act responsibly? What is the nature of justice? Is it possible to act freely? What can we know about the world around us? What is the relationship between the mind and body? These questions, and others like them, are at the heart of philosophy. In this course, we will engage them through the writings of philosophers who have taken on these questions themselves. Expect to think carefully and write critically, skills meant to serve you in and beyond college. (5T) Offered each semester. Prerequisite: not open to students who have taken Philosophy 115.
As an introduction to philosophy, this course covers the same core philosophical thinkers and problems as Philosophy 110, also by using primary sources. This course adds a semester-long theme for the course, where the theme provides a lens for thinking through and addressing the problems central to studying philosophy. The theme will typically be incorporated into class activities and student assignments. May be used to fulfill any requirement or prerequisite fulfilled by Philosophy 110. (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: not open to students who have taken Philosophy 110.
An examination of the origins of philosophical reflection in Greek myth, where human self-knowledge emerges from narratives about the gods. This course traces themes of being and becoming, thought and experience, and cyclical time through pre-Socratic philosophers like Thales, Heraclitus, and Parmenides to Plato and Aristotle. Many of these thinkers are keenly attuned to the ways in which human thinking and action are embodied social processes that require an interdependence between agents and their social contexts. Finally, we examine some major Roman philosophical responses to these themes, like epicureanism, stoicism, and skepticism, where the seeds of many subsequent Christian and modern conceptions of subjectivity and individualism are sown. (5T) Offered every other fall. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or consent of instructor.
The 17th and 18th centuries were an age of great philosophical exploration, culminating in what we now call the Enlightenment. From Descartes to Kant, philosophers debated the nature of knowledge, the relationship between mind and body, the possibility of freedom in a causal world, and the role and limits of reason. In the 19th century, philosophers such as Hegel and Marx both extended and critiqued the project of the Enlightenment. More recently, theorists have worked to situate Enlightenment philosophy in its historical context and to challenge its basic assumptions. This course will examine a range of texts associated with the Enlightenment and its critics. (5T) Offered every other fall. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or consent of instructor.
A critical engagement with major theories in normative ethics, both in their classical sources and in the development of the theories by contemporary moral philosophers. These theories all explore what it means to live and act rightly, to be an agent and live responsibly. Particular attention will be paid to Aristotelian virtue ethics, Kantian deontological ethics, and utilitarianism. (5T) Offered every third semester. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or consent of instructor.
An examination of ethical questions related to medical practice and biomedical research. Special emphasis on issues such as abortion, reproductive technologies, euthanasia, autonomy in medical decision-making, research on animal and human subjects, and allocation of scarce medical resources. (5T) (Also listed as Health and Society 221.) Offered each spring. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or sophomore standing.
An examination of ethical questions related to the environment and our place in it. Special emphasis on issues concerning our moral responsibility to beings and entities that are physically, metaphysically, and/or temporally distant from us. These may include distant persons, nonhuman animals, natural objects, species, and ecosystems, as well as future iterations of these. (5T) (Also listed as Environmental Studies 224.) Offered every other fall. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or sophomore standing.
In this course students examine the relationship between having agency and taking responsibility for what they do. Students consider the limits of self-interest and instrumental rationality, and the intrinsic relationship between power and justice. Texts include Plato’s Gorgias, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy. (5T) Prerequisites: None.
An inquiry into the nature and significance of art. What is art? Is there something that all works of art have in common? What does art do? Is it defined by the intentions of the artist, the experiences of the audience, or the judgments of critics? Is taste subjective? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? In this course, we will seek the answers to these questions in an effort to deepen our understanding of art. Readings will range from classical sources in aesthetics to recent theories of art, including both analytic and continental approaches. (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or sophomore standing.
An exploration of questions concerning the meaning of human existence in conversation with a group of 19th- and 20th-century thinkers in revolt against traditional philosophy. From Kierkegaard and Nietzsche to Sartre, Beauvoir, and Camus, the existentialists posed such questions as: What kind of existence is most meaningful? If God is dead, does existence lose its meaning? Is there such a thing as authentic existence, and if so, what does it involve? Is the course of our lives determined by our character and situation, or are we defined by our choices? What is the best way to respond to the absurdity of our existence? We will join the existentialists in considering these questions and a number of related themes, such as anxiety, death, and nothingness. (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or consent of instructor.
Selected problems, movements, and thinkers in philosophy. May be repeated for credit if topic is different. (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or consent of instructor.
The human mind may be the last great mystery of the physical world–the thing that sets us apart from other animals and seems to defy physical law. In fact, consciousness holds the special title of “The Hard Problem.” Traditional philosophy of mind examines the mind-body problem, usually as it has been conceived and explored through analytic philosophy. This course looks at those texts that have defined and shaped the field historically, while including texts from other philosophical traditions that have only recently changed how the mind-body problem is understood. These include texts from phenomenologists, pragmatists, and linguists, among others. We survey many authors and perspectives, while remaining grounded in the classical texts of the field. (5T) (Also listed as Cognitive Science 241.) Offered even years, spring semester. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115.
Examination of the concept of law and the concept of justice, with a particular focus on 20th and 21st century philosophical theories of each concept, as well as critical contemporary discussions of those theories. (5T) Offered every other fall. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or Political Science 180, or consent of instructor.
An examination of classical Chinese philosophies, largely in their pre-Buddhist forms. We will focus on close readings of Kongzi (Confucius), Mengzi (Mencius), Laozi, Mozi, and Zhuangzi, and will trace notions of reality and knowledge in their relation to morality and society. We will also highlight comparisons and contrasts between Chinese and European philosophies. (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or sophomore standing.
Reflections on the nature of religious experience broadly conceived, and its relation to ethics, reason, and science. This course will focus on the ongoing significance of issues arising in the classical philosophy of religion regarding the transcendence and attributes of God. We will examine the history of these debates and consider how they inform our contemporary attitudes toward nature, technology, society, and what it means to be a human being. (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or consent of instructor.
Inquiry into race and racism from a philosophical perspective, in dialogue with other disciplines. What is the meaning of race? Is it a biological fact or a social construction? Should racial categories be eliminated, or are there good reasons to preserve them? Is racial color-blindness the solution to discrimination, or is it just another form of racism? This course will focus on the history of the concept of race and contemporary debates surrounding racism and racial identity. (5T) (Also listed as Critical Identity Studies 307.) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or sophomore standing.
Africana philosophy is a field of study focusing on critical inquiries by thinkers from Africa and the worldwide African diaspora. It includes the philosophical efforts of Africans, African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and others, whose works address a variety of problems and concerns. It does not refer to one particular school of thought, but rather a collection of approaches to questions of fundamental importance for human beings as such. The concept of ‘Africana philosophy’ is not intended to suggest that there is something that the works of all thinkers of African descent have in common, but rather that they and their inquiries are linked by a history of colonization, enslavement, and marginalization that we can reflect on critically and productively with their help. Recognizing that the concept of race is itself a result of this history, we cannot assume that there are any biological or cultural traits shared by all philosophers of African descent, but we can identify some common themes and intellectual concerns arising from shared experiences of anti-black racism and attempts to understand and overcome it. This course examines a few of these themes, such as what it means to be human, especially in the face of dehumanization; how racism should be resisted and racist societies transformed; and what will become of philosophy in a post-colonial age. Offered each year. (Also listed as CRIS 275.) Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115, or consent of instructor.
An examination of classical political philosophy through the study of Plato’s and Aristotle’s most influential political texts. Considers questions pertaining to justice, virtue, freedom, equality, gender, the purpose and scope of political authority, citizenship, education, poetry, as well as the relationship between the philosophical individual and the political community. Emphasis on critical analysis of ancient philosophical texts and class discussion. (5T) (Also listed as Political Science 280.) Offered odd years, fall semester. Prerequisite: Political Science 180 or sophomore standing.
An examination of the revolutionary challenge to classical and medieval political philosophy posed by such writers as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Marx, and Nietzsche. Broad themes include: the question of human nature, the possibilities and limitations of social contract theory, the concept of property and its implications, the nature of rights and duties, as well as the meaning of human freedom and equality. (Also listed as Political Science 285.) Offered each spring. Prerequisite: Political Science 180 or sophomore standing.
Study of individual philosophers, central problems, or major movements. May be repeated for credit if topic is different. Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: at least 1 philosophy course.
A capstone course for philosophy majors and minors, typically including a shared engagement with a philosophy text or texts, an exploration of the research process in philosophy, and reflection on the philosophy major/minor in the context of institutional and departmental learning goals and life after Beloit College. (CP) Offered each fall. Prerequisite: junior standing and at least 3 courses in philosophy or consent of instructor.
Individual work under faculty supervision, with evaluation based on appropriate evidence of achievement. Ordinarily open only to students with at least a B average in two previous philosophy courses. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.
Work with faculty member in classroom instruction. Graded credit/no credit.
Assistance to a philosophy faculty member in scholarly research.