Philosophy Department

Philosophy Department Course Descriptions

Special Focus

Selected studies of major philosophers or philosophical concerns. At least one topic is offered each adademic year. Offerings might include courses focusing on Nietzche, Freud, Philosophy of Art, Philosophy of Language, etc.

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PHIL 201

Focus:Ethics in the Face of Poverty

Students study, analyze and evaluate competing ethical theories as they apply to questions about our social obligations to those who are poor and lack ready access to vital social goods. Students’ understanding is enhanced by their experience working with local non-profit organizations seeking to provide for the economically and socially disadvantaged. Each student completes 30 hours of service experience with such agencies.

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PHIL 205

Critical Reasoning

An investigation into the varieties of reasoning, with concentration on the comprehension, evaluation, and construction of arguments. By analyzing examples of reasoning drawn from everyday life, the media, and different academic disciplines, students develop the skills and vocabulary required to articulate how reasoning works and to make reasoning an effective tool for gaining knowledge and participating in public discourse.


PHIL 215

Ethics and Society

The philosophical analysis and evaluation of selected controversies related to the use of law and political systems to create and sustain just social conditions. The typical sort of issues studied would be poverty and world hunger, racism, the death penalty, civil disobedience, and conflicts over the protection of fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and privacy.

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PHIL 225

Ethics and Medicine

The philosophical analysis and evaluation of selected controversies related to the practice of medicine. The typical sort of issues to be studied are abortion, termination of treatment, physician-assisted suicide, the use of reproductive and genetic technologies, and the just allocation of limited medical resources.

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PHIL 235

Philosophy of Cognitive Science

The philosophy of cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field in which arguments, theories and methods from the intersection of philosophy and the cognitive sciences are used to reflect about aspects of the mind, including rationality, perception, actions, thoughts, and language. Students study, analyze, and evaluate six theories of representation—logic, rules, concepts, analogies, images, and connections—and three mental architectures—computational, connectionist, and dynamical. Students explore contemporary philosophical research and philosophical perspectives on interdisciplinary debates about the emotions, consciousness, embodiment, agency, and the social.

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PHIL 240

Existentialism

An introductory study of existentialism through readings in literature and philosophy. Typically with selections from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche to Heidegger, Sartre, and Jaspers. The modern predicament of the human being is examined and possible solutions sought.

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PHIL 245

Logic

Emphasis upon the development of a symbolic system for sentential logic. Critical analysis and reasoning skills are practiced. Some aspects of traditional and informal logic receive brief treatment.


PHIL 250

Philosophies of India

Presentation of the major philosophies of the Indian sub-continent in their historic and cultural contexts. In addition to readings from the Vedic and Epic periods, the systems of Jainism, Buddhism, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, and Vedanta are discussed, sometimes with emphasis placed on one school or text.

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PHIL 260

Philosophies of China & Japan

Presentation of the major philosophies of China in their historical and cultural contexts, including Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, as well as an examination of neo-Confucianism and the tradition of Zen Buddhism in Japan.

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PHIL 267

Introduction to Gender Studies

Cross-listed as GEND 268.


PHIL 270

Environmental Philosophy

Study of particular themes related to an understanding of the relation of humans to the environment. Some years focus on a particular area, such as environmental ethics, philosophies of technology, or philosophies of nature.

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PHIL 280

Free Will, Agents and Intentions

Is freedom compatible with a world of cause and effect? Does freedom exist or is the conscious will an illusion? Students study, analyze, and evaluate philosophical arguments concerning freedom of the will, its relationship to moral responsibility, the nature of agency and action, philosophical accounts of intentions, and the relationship between rationality, reasons, and causes of action. Students explore contemporary philosophical research on questions concerning moral psychology, debates about the effectiveness of the conscious will, and debates about the awareness of our own agency.


PHIL 285

Ancient Philosophy

Study of ancient Western philosophers and philosophical systems. Subjects may include the Presocratics, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and Neo-Platonism. Cross-listed as CLAS 285.

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PHIL 302

17th & 18th Century Philosophy

Study of philosophers and philosophical systems of the Enlightenment: Rationalism, Empiricism, and Kant.

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PHIL 306

Nineteenth Century Philosophy

Study of Hegel and the reactions to his system in Marx, Mill, the American Pragmatists, and Nietzsche. Prerequisite: PHIL 285 or PHIL 302, or consent.

PrerequisitesPHIL 285 or PHIL 302, or consent.
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PHIL 310

Feminist Thought

Study of women’s experience under patriarchy and of the philosophical, theological, and social criticisms arising there from. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesa previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 315

Ethics of Friend, Kin & Community

The philosophical analysis and evaluation of ethical issues pertinent to establishing and maintaining the goods of friendship, family, and community. This course examines such questions as these: What virtues make flourishing relationships possible? What vices make them impossible? When, if ever, is respecting one anothers’ rights not enough? Is “love” always enough? What are the ethical boundaries of different kinds of love? What moral obligations are entailed by our powers as sexual, procreative beings?

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PHIL 320

Human Nature

Students examine philosophical arguments about the human condition. Students study, analyze, and evaluate philosophical debates about nature vs. nurture, the possible uniqueness of thought and language in humans, and the significance of self-consciousness and social cooperation. We discuss whether there is an essential human nature in light of contemporary philosophical discussions of variation and difference within individuals at a time and over time, across societies and between cultures. Students explore contemporary philosophical research on questions concerning nativism, genetic determinism, human universals, social construction, race, sex and the politics of human nature. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesa previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 330

Ethical Theory

Study and evaluation of the major ethical theories that are structuring the context of our contemporary moral debates, regardless of the concrete issue at stake. The course focuses upon understanding and comparing theories about what principles should guide human action, what kind of living constitutes the truly good life, and in what sense judgments regarding moral value have "objective" answers. Prerequistie: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

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PHIL 332

Concepts of God

What is God like? Should God be understood as a person or a force? How is God related to the world? This course surveys primarily Western thinkers from the times of the biblical writers, through Plato, Aristotle and early Jewish and Christian sources to the development of modern atheism and beyond it to contemporary understandings of God. Issues such as evil, human responsibility and prayer are discussed in relation to divine power and knowledge. Cross-listed as RELI 332.

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PHIL 350

Philosophy of Science

Philosophical issues related to science and the scientific method with readings from Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, and others. Recommended: major in philosophy or a science.

Recommendedmajor in philosophy or a science.
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PHIL 360

Social and Political Philosophy

Study and evaluation of the major philosophical theories and controversies shaping our contemporary political debates over such issues as the nature of social and economic justice, the meaning of equality, the limits of individual freedom, the sources of political obligation, and the characteristics of a well-ordered society. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesa previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 370

Philosophy of Religion

Study and evaluation of classical and contemporary arguments regarding such issues as the nature and existence of God, the nature of religious faith and its relationship to reason, the meaning and epistemic value of religious experience, the “problem of evil,” and the relationship between religion and morality. Cross-listed as RELI 370. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesa previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 380

Metaphysics

Metaphysics is concerned with the most general questions about the foundations of existence. What is the nature of being? What are the basic objects of reality? Is the nature of properties and relations different from the way we talk and think about them? Are there necessary truths? What are space and time? What makes persons, minds, bodies identical with themselves over time? What is the nature of causation? Are human beings free? Is the task of metaphysics descriptive or is metaphysics a revisionary science, explaining and predicting the grounds of existence? Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesa previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 385

Epistemology

Epistemology is the philosophical inquiry into the nature, conditions and extent of knowledge. Are dreams, hallucinations, and illusions threats to our knowledge? Is all knowledge based in our senses or can we have knowledge independent of experience, like propositions in math or logic? Is justified true belief sufficient for knowledge? Does knowledge shift with context? Is knowledge internal or external to a subject’s perspective? Does epistemology involve inquiry into the justification of our beliefs or into the natural origins of our beliefs? Students study knowledge in at least one particular case—perception, action, memory, inference, or testimony. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesa previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 389

Aesthetics & Contemporary Art

An introduction to aesthetics as a theoretical discipline in its own right, a discipline concerned with the nature of representation and thus with beauty and art. The course focuses in particular on issues of aesthetics and visual representation; the relationship between visual arts, literature, and other art forms; the efficacy of aesthetic theory as a mode of reading and interpreatation. The class explores these issues in relation to specific works of visual art, film, and literature. Cross-listed as ARTH 389.

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PHIL 390

Philosophy of Mind

What is the nature of the mental and how does it relate to the physical body and physical bodies in general? Is the mark of the mental intentionality, or “aboutness”? What is the nature of representational content of our mental states? Are the contents of our mental states determined by facts internal to the individual or facts external to the individual in the physical world? What is the nature of consciousness and self-consciousness? Students discuss a special topic from the following: perception, action, emotion, memory, thought, language, consciousness, or self-consciousness. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesa previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 420

Contemporary Analytic Philosophy

Neurophilosophy is the study of foundational assumptions of neuroscientific theory and practice through the lens of arguments about mechanism, causation, and intervention with particular emphasis on the philosophy of science. Students study, analyze, and evaluate philosophical arguments concerning reductive accounts of perception, action and consciousness, accounts of representation and processes in neuroscience, foundational assumptions of brain-imaging technologies, and debates about functions and structures in the brain. Students also reflect upon how findings in neuroscience appertain to traditional philosophical questions concerning mental causation, morality, language, consciousness, selfhood, freedom, moral responsibility, and the existence of souls and God. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesa previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 487

Senior Major Seminar

An advanced seminar in philosophy for senior majors in philosophy and in philosophy and religious studies. Topics are chosen by the faculty member teaching the seminar. This course may be taken by senior philosophy majors in lieu of the senior thesis.

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PHIL 490

Topics

Selected studies of major philosophers or philosophical concerns. At least one topic is offered each academic year. Prerequisite: previous experience in philosophy or consent of instructor.

Prerequisitesprevious experience in philosophy or consent of instructor.
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PHIL 497

Philosophy: Senior Thesis

Students in consultation with a professor research, write, and defend a substantial paper on a topic of their choosing. Open only to philosophy and to philosophy and religious studies majors in the senior year.

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