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Philosophy Courses

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.

PHIL 100. Logic (1). 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.

PHIL 110. Introduction to Philosophy (1). 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.

PHIL 115. Thematic Introduction to Philosophy (1). 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.

PHIL 200. Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy (1). 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 presocratic 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 third semester. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or consent of instructor.

PHIL 205. Early Modern Philosophy (1). A survey of European philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries. This was an age of great intellectual curiosity and exploration, resulting in what we now call modern philosophy. As traditional religious and philosophical views came into conflict with the discoveries of natural science, great debates took place concerning the nature of reason, the existence of God, the relationship between mind and body, the possibility of freedom, and the limits of knowledge. Reading texts by some of the leading figures in philosophy from Descartes to Kant, as well as responses by their critics and followers, we will engage with these thinkers’ views and reflect on their contemporary significance. (5T) Offered every other year. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or consent of instructor.

PHIL 220. Ethical Theory (1). 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.

PHIL 221. Biomedical Ethics (1). 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) Offered each spring. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or sophomore standing.

PHIL 224. Environmental Ethics (1). 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. (Also listed as Environmental Studies 224.) (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or sophomore standing.

PHIL 232. Philosophy of Art (1). 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.

PHIL 234. Existentialism (1). 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.

PHIL 238. 19th-Century Philosophy (1). Survey of major European philosophers between Kant and the 20th century, including but not limited to Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche. These revolutionary thinkers helped shape our contemporary understanding of history, subjectivity, politics, and life. Whether building on the philosophy of the Enlightenment or attempting to dismantle it, they sought answers to questions about the origins of morality, the end of history, the meaning of existence, and the relationship between philosophy, art, and religion. Through a close reading of some of their major works, we will examine their philosophical views in the light of our own time.

PHIL 240. Selected Topics in Contemporary Philosophy (1). Selected problems, movements, and thinkers in contemporary philosophy, focusing on the 20th and 21st centuries. May be repeated for credit if topic is different. (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or consent of instructor.

PHIL 241. Minds, Brains, and Bodies (1). 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. (Also listed as Cognitive Science 241.) (5T) Offered even years, spring semester. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115.

PHIL 243. Philosophy of Law (1). An examination of the concept of law, as well as an investigation of important legal concepts such as liberty, responsibility, justice, and punishment. (5T) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or consent of instructor.

PHIL 250. Classical Chinese Philosophies (1). 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.

PHIL 255. Thinking About Religion (1). 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.

PHIL 260. Critical Philosophy of Race (1). 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 Interdisciplinary Studies 260/Critical Identity Studies 307.) Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110 or 115 or sophomore standing.

PHIL 280. Classical Justice (1). 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. (Also listed as Political Science 280.) (5T) Offered odd years, fall semester. Prerequisite: Political Science 180 or sophomore standing.

PHIL 285. Modern Political Theory (1). 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.

PHIL 350. The Philosophy of Plato (1). Reading, discussion, and student research on the major dialogues and letters of Plato, both in the context of his own times and in terms of perennial philosophical issues and positions. Prerequisite: Philosophy 200.

PHIL 380. Seminar: Selected Topics in Philosophy (.5, 1). Study of individual philosophers, central problems, or major movements. May be repeated for credit if topic is different. Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: at least 3 courses in philosophy, ideally including Philosophy 110 or 115, 200, 205.

PHIL 385. Colloquium in Philosophy (.5). An opportunity for advanced students in philosophy to develop a research project on a philosophical topic of their choosing. Through the semester, students will develop the tools for undertaking such a project, from framing the project well with a focused question or problem, to researching how contemporary philosophers have engaged the topic, to finding their own voice as a contributor to an ongoing conversation in the philosophical community. The course will involve multiple opportunities to orally present ongoing work, and will culminate in a final paper. As a capstone, we will also discuss the value of a philosophy major and how to communicate it to others. (CP) Offered each fall. Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL 390. Special Projects (.25 - 1). 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.

PHIL 395. Teaching Assistant (.5). Work with faculty member in classroom instruction. Graded credit/no credit.

PHIL 397. Research Assistant (.5). Assistance to an education and youth studies faculty member in scholarly research.