Philosophy Courses

Philosophy courses provide students with a coherent intellectual structure of study, while acquainting them with the broad diversity of ideas and approaches within the Western philosophical tradition and beyond. The curriculum covers significant periods and prominent figures in the history of intellectual thought, as well as the central subfields of philosophy and their distinctive problem sets. Though the department recognizes that a philosophy major is a valuable preparation for careers in many fields, its approach to teaching reflects a basic commitment to the idea that philosophy is best thought of as a practice and way of life.

PHIL 101 Individual and Society (4)
An introduction to philosophy as critical thinking and analysis through an examination of questions of human value(s). Students learn how to recognize and analyze the values by which they live, examine the issues of self and society, and develop a philosophical skill in seeing the basic values that influence these personal and social issues. Offered each fall.

PHIL 102 Contemporary Moral Issues (4)
Introduces the practice of moral reasoning through the study of representative moral theories and their application to controversial issues in contemporary life. Students develop the critical and analytical skills required for thinking clearly about moral problems and forming their own conclusions about them. Offered each spring.

PHIL 105 Meaning,Happiness, and the Good Life (4)
Examines key texts from philosophy and literature, East and West, on the meaning of life. Students attempt to grapple with questions such as“Can happiness be found in the fulfillment of our desires, or in their elimination, or in the worship and service of a universal being? Is a meaningful life a happy life? and What does the question ‘What is the meaning of life?’mean?”Offered intermittently.

PHIL 109 Critical Reasoning (4)
Argument analysis and diagramming, and evaluation of everyday reasoning patterns such as emotional appeals, appealing to sources, and basic logic. Supplemental topics may include conscious and unconscious thinking, advertisements, rhetorical techniques, biases, character traits of critical thinkers, and group reasoning. Offered each fall.

PHIL 110 Perennial Questions (4)
A critical examination of several great issues that confront us in modern philosophical thought, including the question of the existence of God, the nature of ultimate reality, the sources of human knowledge, the principles of moral values, and the problems of aesthetic judgments. Offered each spring.

PHIL 203 The Examined Life (4)
Approaches philosophy through the close reading and interpretation of Socratic dialogues. Engages the substance of the dialogues, the sort of knowledge Socrates seeks, how he searches for it, and why he thinks this search is necessary. Literary technique and the role of rhetoric in philosophical argument are considered. Prerequisite: ENG 105 with a grade of C or higher. Offered intermittently.

PHIL 204 Philosophical Fiction (4)
What futures are opened and what foreclosed by choices we make now? What assumptions constrain our thinking about what is ultimately real, meaningful, just or good? A course of reading, discussing and writing about famous stories that explore different possibilities and imagine realms where different assumptions shape perceptions. May be repeated for credit as the topic varies. Prerequisite: ENG 105 with a grade of C or higher. Offered intermittently.

PHIL 209 Methods of Logic (4)
Analysis and evaluation of argument along with an introduction to induction, correlation and causation, and to specific methods of argument evaluation such as categorical logic, propositional logic, truth tables, truth trees, and first-order logic. Background readings in the philosophy of logic and the psychology of reasoning. Offered each spring.

PHIL 211 The Human Condition (4)
An introduction to philosophical inquiry through an examination of fundamental issues and arguments concerning the nature of human beings. What is distinctive about being human? Does human life have a special meaning, or is “meaning” simply an illusion we’ve created to comfort ourselves? Selected literary, scientific, and philosophic accounts of being human are studied and criticized.

PHIL 212 Practical Ethics (4)
Explores the potential of moral reasoning as a tool for conflict resolution and consensus building. Through a series of practical exercises, students learn to use moral argumentation as a means of fostering constructive dialogue and mutual understanding. Students develop the ability to listen carefully, distinguish real from apparent disagreements, discover common ground, and find creative solutions to moral problems. Offered intermittently.

PHIL 221/321 Ethics and Health Care (4)
Foregoing life-sustaining treatment, procurement of organs and tissue for transplantation, artificial reproduction, allocation of scarce health resources, AIDS: public health vs. private rights. Such questions of health care confront all of us at some time both as matters of individual concern and as issues of public policy. Students examine the ethical principles that should undergird decisions in health care and apply these principles to concrete cases. Offered each spring.

PHIL 250 Topics in Philosophy (4)
A focused introduction to the practice of philosophy that concentrates on a single topic. Prerequisite: ENG 105 with a grade of C or higher, or consent. Offered intermittently.

PHIL 253/353 Social and Political Philosophy (4)
Other humans: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. This course surveys theoretical tools for understanding this dilemma and specific social issues. Topics include self and society, friendship and justice, authority and anarchism, democracy and other forms of government; issues such as identity politics, social change, and political rhetoric. Identical to PHIL 353. Offered spring of even-numbered years.

PHIL 272/372 Beyond the Western Tradition (4)
We live in a world characterized by multiplicity, plurality, and difference. Students enter into frames of reference of people with differing experiences of, and assumptions about, the world. We are educated in this world to the degree that we are aware of our own boundedness, and that we become skilled in critically understanding and integrating the perspectives of others. Examines the beliefs of Native Americans, West Africans, Chinese thinkers, and philosophers of India. Offered each spring.

PHIL 292/392 Alternative Futures (4)
Is there hope for human beings? Can we forecast futures as other than more of the same? What choices might we exercise in shaping futures? After initial reflections on the human prospect, students work in groups to conjecture sensibly and usefully about possible alternative futures. Topics include future shock, coping, population, resources, war, environment, and genetic engineering. Offered intermittently

PHIL 304 Environmental Ethics (4)
From ancient Sumer to the present, ecological realities have required human beings to reflect on their values and their responsibilities to nature. Students examine the relevance of philosophy to environmental questions and, in particular, explore the connection between the environment and ethics. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Identical to ENVS 304.

PHIL 310 Theory of Knowledge (4)
What is the basis of our knowledge about the world, other people, ourselves? Focusing on work done in the 20th century, students examine some recent theories about the nature of human knowledge, as well as the related concepts of truth, justification, and belief. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered on demand.

PHIL 315 Philosophy of Religion (4)
What is religion? What makes a belief or practice religious? Is there a distinctively religious form of experience? What is the function of religious belief in the modern world? Prerequisite: sophomore status or consent. Previously PHIL 215.

PHIL 316 Needs of the Soul (4)
Investigates a model for political theory found in the writings of Simone Weil, Simone de Beauvoir, Hannah Arendt and Danielle Allen. History, religion, culture, and human nature are considered in order to formulate a politics that addresses the true needs of human beings. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered in selected January Terms.

PHIL 328 Buddhist Philosophy (4)
Introduces the major themes in Buddhist philosophy. Readings and lectures are aimed at understanding the way Buddhist thinkers approach questions in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. Course readings are drawn from various canonical sources that record the teachings of the historical Buddha. These are supplemented by additional readings that discuss the development of these teachings in various schools of Buddhist thought. Special emphasis is placed on the Mahayana and Zen Buddhist traditions. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered intermittently.

PHIL 332 Ancient Greek Philosophy (4) W
An introduction to ancient Greek philosophy. Focuses on Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; may also include the early scientific thinkers or “pre-Socratics,” who abandoned the supernatural and the Hellenistic schools, which conceived of philosophy as a way to find peace of mind. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered each fall.

PHIL 336 Early Modern Philosophy (4)
An exploration of the momentous changes in philosophy occurring in the 17th Century that defined a new era in the life of European civilization. Key themes include the philosophical grounding of religious toleration and the emergence of a new scientific culture. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered each spring.

PHIL 338 19th-Century Philosophy (4)
Surveys major trends in post-Kantian European philosophy. Readings are drawn from the work of Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and others. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered spring of even-numbered years.

PHIL 340 Twentieth Century Philosophy (4)
Surveys major trends in 20th-century philosophical thought, with special emphasis on developments in Anglo-American Philosophy. Important texts by pragmatists, ordinary language philosophers and conceptual analysts are read and considered in their historical context with the goal of gaining understanding of the purpose and value of philosophical analysis. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered spring of odd-numbered years.

PHIL 350 Existential Thought (4)
Intensive study of recent phenomenological investigation into human existence. Thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty are discussed. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered each fall.

PHIL 400 Philosophy Seminar (4)
An in-depth study of the work of a single major philosopher or of a specific topic in philosophy. The figure or topic changes with each offering. Contact the department coordinator for the current selection. Prerequisite: Sophomore status or consent. Offered intermittently.

PHIL 480 Research in Philosophy (4) W
Capstone course for the philosophy major. Students conduct a research project of their own design, under faculty supervision, that culminates in an oral presentation, an extensive essay and a viva voce examination. Students must have completed most of the requirements for the major before taking this course. Consent Required. Offered on demand.