The Philosophy Department offers a diverse range of courses, on topics both historical and contemporary. These courses contribute to programs across the curriculum, including: Classical Studies, Comparative Literature, Environmental Studies, International Studies, Linguistics, Neuroscience, and Women’s and Gender Studies. There are also several courses that are cross-listed with PHIL and another department.
All PHIL courses numbered at the 0100 level and most at the 0200 level are open to beginners. Students interested in majoring in Philosophy should take PHIL 0180 (Logic; required) in their first or second year, as well as either PHIL 0150 or PHIL 0151 (different versions of Introduction to Philosophy; recommended). Beginning students interested in taking other PHIL classes should read the course descriptions and contact each professor with any questions.
Courses offered in the past four years.
▲ indicates offered in the current term
▹ indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]
PHIL 0150 - Intro Phil Tradition ▹
Introduction to the Philosophical Tradition
This course will introduce students to fundamental philosophical issues concerning the nature of reality (metaphysics), the possibility of knowledge (epistemology), and the nature of value (ethical theory) through a reading of a number of important primary texts of thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Mill, Nietzsche, and Freud. Cannot be taken by students with credit for PHIL 0151. 3 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc.
Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015
PHIL 0151 - Intro Phil: Mortal Question
Introduction to Philosophy: Mortal Questions
This course is an issue-based introduction to core philosophical questions such as the following: What is the nature of reality, and can we ever know it? What is the relation between mind and body, and could computers ever think? What is the nature of the self? Do humans have free will? Is there such a thing as an objective right and wrong? Can we say God exists in the face of all the evil in the world? Readings will be drawn from both traditional philosophers (e.g., Descartes, Hume, Locke, Russell) and contemporary reflections on the issues (e.g., Nagel, Searle, Williams). Cannot be taken by students with credit for PHIL 0150. 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.
Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014
PHIL 0180 - Introduction to Modern Logic ▹
Introduction to Modern Logic
Logic is concerned with good reasoning; as such, it stands at the core of the liberal arts. In this course we will develop our reasoning skills by identifying and analyzing arguments found in philosophical, legal, and other texts, and also by formulating our own arguments. We will use the formal techniques of modern propositional and predicate logic to codify and test various reasoning strategies and specific arguments. No prior knowledge of logic, formal mathematics, or computer science is presupposed in this course, which does not count towards the PHL distribution requirement but instead towards the deductive reasoning requirement. PHIL 0180 is not open to students who have already taken PHIL 0280/LNGT0280. 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.
Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015
PHIL 0201 - Ancient Greek Philosophy
Ancient Greek Philosophy
This class introduces students to the range and power of Greek thought, which initiated the Western philosophical tradition. We will begin by exploring the origins of philosophy as found in myth (primarily Hesiod) and in the highly original speculation of the Pre-Socratic thinkers (such as Heraclitus and Parmenides). We will then focus on Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, examining their transformations of these earlier traditions and their own divergent approaches to ethics and education. We will also consider the influences of Greek philosophy on later thought. 3 hrs. lect.
Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014
PHIL 0205 - Human Nature & Ethics
Human Nature and Ethics
This course offers a historical introduction to different views of morality and human nature, and the relationship between them. We will cover the central figures of both the ancient and modern periods of philosophy and consider their answers to questions fundamental to our lives and the decisions we make. We will consider the nature of the good life, happiness, and the virtues; whether or not a moral life is in our nature, and whether reason or emotions are the best guides to morality; and the nature of justice, and what role it plays for creatures like us. The philosophers we will study include Aristotle, Hobbes, Butler, Mill, and Kant. 3 hrs lect.
Spring 2011, Fall 2013
PHIL 0206 - Contemporary Moral Issues ▹
Contemporary Moral Issues
We will examine a selection of pressing moral problems of our day, seeking to understand the substance of the issues and learning how moral arguments work. We will focus on developing our analytical skills, which we can then use to present and criticize arguments on difficult moral issues. Selected topics may include world poverty, animal rights, abortion, euthanasia, human rights, just and unjust wars, capital punishment, and racial and gender issues. You will be encouraged to question your own beliefs on these issues, and in the process to explore the limit and extent to which ethical theory can play a role in everyday ethical decision making. 2 hrs.lect./1 hr. disc.
Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015
PHIL 0207 - Philosophy of Human Rights
The Philosophy of Human Rights
What is a human right? If there are human rights, what moral obligations, if any, follow from them, and who bears those obligations? In this course, we will investigate the philosophical origins and development of the concept of human rights. We will critically analyze both historical and contemporary moral perspectives concerning the existence and nature of human rights. What does it mean to say one possesses a human right? We will also take a close look at the issue of human rights as they relate to world poverty and humanitarian intervention. Authors will include Hobbes, Bentham, Rorty, Nickel, and Pogge. (Not open to students who have taken FYSE 1317).
PHIL 0208 - Morality & War
Morality & War
Are there any Just Wars? What would make a war a Just War? In the first part of this course we will investigate the historical origins of Just War Theory. In the second part, we will analyze contemporary moral perspectives on whether war can be morally justified and if so, what actions in war are morally justified or prohibited. In the final part, we will read articles concerning war and humanitarian intervention and on what actions, e.g. punishment, are morally permissible or demanded after war. Authors will include Augustine, Grotius, Nagel, Walzer, Luban. 3 hrs. lect.
Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2014
PHIL 0209 - Philosophy of Law
Philosophy of Law
In this course, we shall consider a number of questions concerning law and its institution in human society. What is the origin and authority of law? What is legal obligation? What is the connection between law and coercion, between law and morality, and law and rights? Are laws merely conventions or is there a law of nature? What is the role of law in judicial decisions and the effect of these on the law? We shall also consider and evaluate various theories of law: natural law theories, utilitarian theories, analytical philosophy of law, critical legal studies, feminist theories. 3 hrs. lect.
Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014
PHIL 0210 - Contemporary Ethical Theory
Contemporary Ethical Theory
In this course, we will explore some of the major texts on moral and political philosophy of the past 40 years. We will begin with John Rawls's A Theory of Justice, which attempts to develop a substantive theory of justice, and continue to Robert Nozick's libertarian critique of Rawls in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Finally, we will study a series of works that consider whether substantive moral and political theory is still possible: Bernard Williams's Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue, and Richard Rorty's Contingency, Irony and Solidarity. (Previous PHIL course or PSCI 0101 recommended, but not required.) 3 hrs. lect.
PHIL 0213 - Theories of Scientific Method
Theories of Scientific Method
The scientific method is one of humankind's best attempts at rationally uncovering the objective structure of the world. But what exactly is this method and in what sense is it rational? Studying both contemporary science and prominent episodes from the history of science, we will explore questions about (a) the defining characteristics of the scientific method; (b) the soundness of various forms of scientific reasoning (Mill's Methods, Bayesianism, hypothetico-deductive reasoning, and inference to the best explanation); and (c) the objectivity of science. We will also formulate, test, and revise hypotheses in light of the methods that we study. (Students who took PHIL 0212 may not take this course.) 4 hrs. lect.
PHIL 0214 - Science and Society
Science and Society
Scientific theories are not developed in a vacuum. Social circumstances influence the practice of science, and science, in turn, influences how we organize ourselves as a society. This course will investigate both directions of the relationship between science and society. We will ask such questions as: how do the values of society drive scientific research? What do we mean when we claim that science is 'objective' and what do we expect of an objective science? Can there be 'good' politically-motivated science, or does this conflict with the norms of 'good' science? How important is science as a way of bettering society? Do scientists bear an extra burden of responsibility when they generate scientific results of particular social significance (such as the development of the atomic bomb, or the development of techniques of cloning)? We will examine particular cases of socially significant scientific research, and we will consider larger philosophical questions concerning the status of science, given its interconnections with society. 3 hrs. lect.
Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013
PHIL 0216 - Science and Quest for Truth ▹
Science and the Quest for Truth
On a fairly conventional view, science exemplifies humankind's rational inquiry into the true structure of the world. But what exactly is science? In what sense is it rational? Are scientific claims true or merely useful in predicting and controlling our environment? To answer these questions, we will examine scientific activities such as theory construction, explanation, confirmation, and experimentation, and their role in debates concerning the role of rationality and truth in scientific knowledge. (This course presupposes no prior knowledge of philosophy or science.)
Spring 2014, Spring 2015
PHIL 0220 - Knowledge and Reality ▹
Knowledge and Reality
This course will introduce students to central issues in epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) and metaphysics (the philosophical study of reality). We will examine philosophical answers to some of the following questions: What is knowledge? How do we know what we know? How does knowledge differ from mere opinion? Does reality exist independently of our minds? When is it rational to believe something? What is the nature of time, causality, and possibility? Are our actions freely chosen or determined by natural forces? Do abstract entities-such as numbers and universals-exist? 3 hrs. lect.
Spring 2014, Spring 2015
PHIL 0232 - Philosophy of Religion ▹
Philosophy of Religion
In the first part of this course we will focus on philosophical reflections on the existence of God, the relation between religion and morality, the existence of evil, arguments for and against religious belief, and religious experience. We will read texts by Pascal, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, William James, and Freud. In the second part we will focus on the place of religion in society, considering what it means to live in a secular society, the relation between secularism and modernity, and the resulting modern forms of religious experience and practice. 3 hrs. lect.
Fall 2012, Spring 2015
PHIL 0233 - Aesthetics
In this course we will investigate the nature of art and aesthetic experience through readings from historical and contemporary philosophers and artists. Is art essentially rational or non-rational, and can it offer a deeper insight into reality than discursive knowledge can? What is beauty, and is it essential to art? What is the relation between art and the ethical, the social, and the political? We will consider both influential traditional theories of art such as those of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Nietzsche, and more recent modern and postmodern critiques of traditional views. Readings will also include works by artists such as Van Gogh and Kandinsky.
Spring 2011, Spring 2013
PHIL 0234 - Philosophy & Feminism
Philosophy and Feminism
This course will examine the contributions of various feminists and feminist philosophers to some of the central problems of philosophical methodology, epistemology, philosophy of science, metaphysics, and ethics. Are there gendered assumptions in operation in the way particular philosophical problems are framed? For example, do the politics of gender contribute to accounts of objective knowledge and rationality? Are some philosophical perspectives better suited to the goals of feminism than others? We will also examine the general relationship between feminism and philosophy, and we will reflect on the relevance of theorizing and philosophizing for feminist political practice.
PHIL 0237 - Chinese Philosophy
A survey of the dominant philosophies of China, beginning with the establishment of the earliest intellectual orientations, moving to the emergence of the competing schools of the fifth century B.C., and concluding with the modern adoption and adaptation of Marxist thought. Early native alternatives to Confucian philosophy (such as Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism) and later foreign ones (such as Buddhism and Marxism) will be stressed. We will scrutinize individual thinkers with reference to their philosophical contributions and assess the implications of their ideas with reference to their historical contexts and comparative significance. Pre-1800. 3 hrs. lect./disc.
Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014
PHIL 0250 - Early Modern Philosophy ▹
Early Modern Philosophy
This course offers an introduction to some of the most influential European philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries: Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. We will consider and critically examine the responses these thinkers gave to various questions in metaphysics and epistemology, including the following: What is the relationship between reality and our perception of reality? What is the nature of the mind and how is it related to the body? What is the nature of physical reality? Which of our beliefs, if any, do we have good reason to maintain in the face of radical skepticism? 3 hrs lect.
Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015
PHIL 0255 - Kierkegaard/Marx/Nietzsche
Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche
This course will investigate the works of three of the central philosophical and cultural critics of the nineteenth century. All of these thinkers revolted against the apotheosis of Reason that had occurred in the Enlightenment and that reached its culmination in the works of Hegel. We shall read Kierkegaard's Either/Or, Philosophical Fragments, and Concluding Unscientific Postscript; Marx's early essays criticizing Hegel, the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and other selections concentrating on Marx's philosophical views, not his economic analysis; and Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, The Use and Abuse of History, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (selections), and The Genealogy of Morals.
PHIL 0273 - Confucius & Confucianism
Confucius and Confucianism
Perhaps no individual has left his mark more completely and enduringly upon an entire civilization than Confucius (551-479 B.C.) has upon that of China. Moreover, the influence of Confucius has spread well beyond China to become entrenched in the cultural traditions of neighboring Japan and Korea and elsewhere. This course examines who Confucius was, what he originally intended, and how the more important of his disciples have continued to reinterpret his original vision and direct it toward different ends. Pre-1800. 3 hrs. lect./disc.
PHIL 0275 - Greek Philosophy
Greek Philosophy: The Problem of Socrates
Why did Socrates “call philosophy down from the heavens, set her in the cities of men and also their homes, and compel her to ask questions about life and morals and things good and evil”? Why was philosophy indifferent to man, then considered dangerous to men when it did pay attention? How was philosophy ultimately transformed by Plato and Aristotle as a consequence of the examination of human knowledge that Socrates made intrinsic to philosophy? In this course we will consider the central questions of ancient Greek philosophy from the pre-Socratics through Plato and Aristotle by focusing on what Nietzsche called "the Problem of Socrates": why Socrates abandoned "pre-Socratic" natural science in order to examine the opinions of his fellow Athenians, and why they put him to death for corruption and impiety. Texts will include selected fragments of the pre-Socratics and sophists, works of Aristophanes, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle , and Nietzsche. 3 hrs. lect disc.
Spring 2013, Fall 2013
PHIL 0276 - Roman Philosophy ▹
In this course we will seek to answer the question of what is Roman philosophy - philosophia togata. Is it simply Greek philosophy in Roman dress? Or, while based in its Greek origins, does it grow to have a distinctive and rigorous character of its own, designed and developed to focus on uniquely "Roman" questions and problems, in particular, ethical, social, and political questions? We will investigate how some of the main schools of Hellenistic Greek thought came to be developed in Latin: Epicureanism (Lucretius), Academic Skepticism (Cicero), and Stoicism (Seneca). As we read we will investigate how each school offers different answers to crucial questions such as what is the goal of life? What is the highest good? Should one take part in politics or not? What is the nature of the soul? What is the nature of Nature itself? Is there an afterlife? Can we ever have a certain answer to any of these questions? 3hrs. lect.
Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Spring 2015
PHIL 0280 - Formal Semantics
Logic and Formal Semantics
Using logical and mathematical tools, formal semantics answers the following questions: Why do sentences mean what they mean? How is reasoning possible? How does language structure our understanding of time, change, knowledge, morality, identity, and possibility? This course is well suited for students interested in computer science, linguistics, logic, mathematics, or philosophy. (PHIL 0180; pending instructor’s approval, PHIL 0180 may be taken contemporaneously with PHIL/LNGT 0280. Students who take these two courses simultaneously will meet for 6 total contact hours.) 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc
PHIL 0285 - Idea of the Ethical
The Idea of the Ethical
What is the basis for morality? The great turning point of the history of modern European philosophy, particularly ethical philosophy, came at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century with Kant's new account of the possibility of moral philosophy and Hegel's critique of that account. In this course, we shall investigate Kant's moral philosophy and Hegel's response to it, and then we will consider the ways in which a series of major thinkers attempted to rethink the idea of the ethical in the light of this dispute. We will consider Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Marx, Emerson, and Nietzsche and conclude with an account of 20th century developments. (Some prior work in philosophy would be useful background) 3 hrs. lect.
PHIL 0302 - Philosophy of Plato ▹
Philosophy of Plato
In this class, we will explore the significance, influence, and development of Plato's thought, paying special attention to the form of the dramatic dialogue and topics such as Platonic love, rhetoric and politics, learning and recollection, and the theory of forms. We will begin with the early period (dialogues such as the Meno and the Apology) focused on the historical figure of Socrates, continue to the middle period (Symposium, Republic), in which Plato develops his own distinctive views; and conclude with the later period (Philebus, Parmenides) in which Plato suggests a critique of Socrates and his own earlier positions. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver)
Spring 2012, Spring 2015
PHIL 0303 - Aristotle
Philosophy of Aristotle
In this class we will explore both the original breadth and the contemporary relevance of Aristotle's thought. We will read a diverse selection of his writings, beginning with ethical and political works, continuing to works on art and poetry, the soul, and nature, and concluding with logical and ontological works. We will ask why Aristotelian virtue ethics in particular has enjoyed a recent renaissance and generated special interest in Aristotle's ideas about the ethical role of friendship, the perceptive power of the emotions, and the different kinds of intelligence. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver.) 3 hrs. sem.
Spring 2011, Spring 2013
PHIL 0305 - Confucius and Confucianism
Confucius and Confucianism
Perhaps no individual has left his mark more completely and enduringly upon an entire civilization than Confucius (551-479 B.C.) has upon that of China. Moreover, the influence of Confucius has spread well beyond China to become entrenched in the cultural traditions of neighboring Japan and Korea and elsewhere. This course examines who Confucius was, what he originally intended, and how the more important of his disciples have continued to reinterpret his original vision and direct it toward different ends. Pre-1800. (formerly HIST/PHIL 0273) 3 hrs. lect./disc.
Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014
PHIL 0310 - Moral Psychology ▹
Moral psychology is the study of human behavior in the context of morality. How do we think about morality? How do we make moral judgments? How do we behave in moral situations? Answering these questions forces us to think deeply about the nature of our actions and the way we do and should evaluate them. In this course we will explore these questions and more. Specific topics covered may include altruism and egoism, moral judgment, moral responsibility, practical deliberation, intentional action, virtue and vice, character, and moral development. Readings will be drawn from both philosophy and psychology. 3 hrs sem
PHIL 0316 - Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Science
On a fairly conventional view, science exemplifies humankind's rational inquiry into the true structure of the world. But what exactly is science? In what sense is it rational? Are scientific claims true or merely useful in predicting and controlling our environment? To answer these questions, we will examine scientific activities such as theory construction, explanation, confirmation, and experimentation, and their role in debates concerning the role of rationality and truth in scientific knowledge. (Although this course does not have any specific prerequisites, a background in philosophy or science would be helpful.) 3 hrs. lect.
Fall 2011, Fall 2013
PHIL 0319 - Philosophy of History ▹
Readings in the Philosophy of History
Even before the appearance of Georg W. F. Hegel's classic study The Philosophy of History, a heated debate was being waged concerning the nature and substance of history. Is history, like science, expressible in predictable patterns or subject to irrevocable laws? What factors distinguish true history from the mere random succession of events? What should we assume to be the fundamental nature of historical truth, and are we to determine it objectively or subjectively? Is it possible to be human and yet be somehow "outside of" history? These are among the questions we will examine as we read and deliberate on a variety of philosophies of history, while concentrating on the most influential versions developed by Hegel and Karl Marx. 3 hrs. sem.
Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2015
PHIL 0320 - Seminar in Buddhist Philosophy ▹
Seminar in Buddhist Philosophy: Yogacara Depth Psychology and Philosophy of Mind
In this seminar we will survey the basic ideas of Yogacara Buddhism (4-6th c. CE), one of two major schools of Indian Buddhism, in relation to cognitive science and philosophy of mind. We will examine these ideas historically, philosophically and comparatively. We focus on the Yogacara analyses of the largely unconscious ‘construction of reality’ and its systematic deconstruction through forms of analytic meditation. We will read primary and secondary texts on Indian Buddhism and texts espousing similar ideas in modern philosophy and the social and cognitive sciences. (one course on philosophy or RELI 0120, RELI 0220, RELI 0223, RELI 0224, RELI 0225, RELI 0226, RELI 0227or RELI 0228.) 3 hrs. sem.
Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2015
PHIL 0322 - Liberalism and Its Critics
Liberalism and Its Critics
Liberal political thought is widely touted and accepted in Western societies. In this course, we will take a close look at what liberalism is by investigating the origins of liberalism in the writings of John Locke and John Stuart Mill and by evaluating the thought of contemporary liberal political philosophers, e.g. John Rawls and Will Kymlicka. We will also analyze the arguments of those like Michael Sandel and Yael Tamir who have criticized liberalism as misguided or incomplete. We seek to gain an understanding of the political and moral principles that give priority to liberty and related values or concepts like toleration, autonomy, and fairness. (One course in philosophy or waiver) 3hrs.
PHIL 0326 - Biomedical Ethics
The field of biomedical ethics explores ethical issues pertaining to both the practice of medicine and the pursuit of biomedical research. In this course we will explore topics central to biomedical ethics at an advanced level. We will consider topics fundamental to the study of life and death, such as reproductive technologies, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia, as well as the micro- and macro- issues specific to medicine and biomedical research, such as consent, confidentiality, and paternalism, experimentation with human subjects, and resource allocation. (Previous philosophy course or waiver) 3 hrs. sem.
Spring 2013, Fall 2014
PHIL 0351 - Theory Of Knowledge
Theory of Knowledge
What is knowledge, and what, if anything, can we know? What is the difference between knowledge and opinion, and how can we justify our knowledge claims? Many have understood epistemology as forming the core of the discipline of philosophy. Plato's Theaetetus will set the stage for our investigation of the many problems and themes of epistemology. Our investigations will cover a variety of historical and contemporary approaches, including versions of scepticism, foundationalism, coherentism, and naturalized epistemology. Finally, we will consider the role of epistemology within philosophy today, given the numerous challenges it faces from both inside and outside of Philosophy. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver)
PHIL 0352 - Philosophy Of Mind ▹
Philosophy of Mind
What is the nature of the mind, and how does it relate to the body and the physical world? Could computers ever think? Do animals have mental and emotional lives? This course will explore several of the major recent philosophical conceptions of the mind. A central focus will be on evaluating various attempts to explain the mind in purely physical terms, including the project of artificial intelligence (AI). Can these theories give us a complete understanding of the mind? Other key questions will include: What is the nature of thought, and how is it capable of representing the world? What is consciousness, and can it be explained physically? 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.
Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015
PHIL 0354 - Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Language
Speaking a language is a complex form of behavior that plays a rich and varied role in human life. The philosophy of language seeks to give a philosophical account of this phenomenon, focusing on such questions as: How does language gain meaning? How does it differ from animal communication? Is language in some sense innate? Other topics to be addressed include: theories of reference and truth; the relation between language, thought, and reality; and theories of metaphor. Readings from philosophers and linguists will include works by Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Chomsky, and Pinker. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver; PHIL 0180 is also strongly recommended)3 hrs lect.
Fall 2011, Spring 2014
PHIL 0356 - Philosophy & Environment
Philosophy and the Environment
In this course, we will examine several environmental issues from a philosophical perspective. We will be interested in what arguments can be provided to support particular views, but more important, we will try to identify the deep philosophical issues that underlie particular debates. For example, what is the basis for our determinations of value? We will also examine the challenges that large scale environmental issues present for particular philosophical theories. For example, how well can particular ethical theories handle certain environmental problems? Topics may include animal rights, wilderness preservation, biodiversity, attitudes toward nature, over-population, and economic arguments for the protection of the environment. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver) 3 hrs.lect.
PHIL 0360 - Consciousness
In this course we will focus on recent philosophical issues in the study of consciousness: What is the nature of our conscious subjective experience? What is the function of conscious states? Can we find neural correlates of consciousness, and if so, can consciousness simply be reduced to them? If not, how does consciousness relate to the physical? Is there something irreducible about the qualitative features of consciousness (qualia)? Could computers ever be conscious? Are animals conscious? We will consider such questions through the writings of contemporary philosophers and neuroscientists such as Dennett, Chalmers, Churchland, Nagel, Damasio, and Searle. (PHIL 0352 is strongly recommended but not required). 3 hrs. lect.
Spring 2011, Fall 2014
PHIL 0389 - World of Senses Early Mod FR
Passion and Pain, Love and Lust: The World of the Senses in Early Modern France
In this course we will examine early modern theories of emotion —“passion,” “affect,” and “sentiment”—as they are discussed in philosophy and represented in fiction. Seventeenth and 18th-century philosophers and other thinkers confronted questions that continue to haunt contemporary thinking: What is “feeling”? Does language promote or frustrate the expression of emotion? How do the senses relate to other experiences like cognition, memory, and imagination? We will look at texts that transformed how we talk, think, and feel about “feeling.” Readings include short works by Gournay, Lafayette, Descartes, Élisabeth of Bohemia, Du Plaisir, Bernard, Leibniz, Condillac, Rousseau, Condorcet, and Diderot. (FREN 0221 or equivalent) 3 hrs. sem.
PHIL 0404 - Morality and Its Critics
Morality and Its Critics
In this course we will examine critically the three main methods of morality: consequentialism, deontology, and virtue theory. Questions to be considered include: What should be the aim of a moral theory? To what extent should considerations of the good life enter into a moral theory? Is morality even compatible with the good life? Do moral obligations have to play a central role in moral theory? To what extent should morality be compatible with social psychology? Familiarity with consequentialism, deontology, and virtue theory will be helpful, but not required. (Designed for senior majors; open to others by waiver.) 3 hrs sem.
PHIL 0406 - Responsibility
Moral responsibility is considered one of the defining features of personhood: persons, unlike nonpersons (such as animals, objects, and possibly, some human beings) are moral agents and can be held accountable. We will look in depth at how philosophers have analyzed moral responsibility. What are the necessary conditions of moral responsibility? What role does free will play? Is moral responsibility distinguishable from the ideas of praise and blame? We will also examine attempts to expand the concept of responsibility beyond individuals by considering whether and how we share responsibility for the harms perpetrated by our communities. (Designed for junior and senior majors; open to others by waiver.)
PHIL 0408 - Global Justice ▹
In this course, we will investigate questions of justice that arise in
global affairs. We will inquire into whether there are moral principles that
constrain the actions of states and how these principles support a
conception of global justice. Also, we will seek to understand what global
responsibilities are entailed by global justice. Specific topics that will
be considered include global distributive justice, world poverty, human
rights, humanitarian intervention, and the relationship between global
justice and nationalistic moral concerns. Authors will include Beitz,
Nussbaum, O'Neill, Pogge, Rawls, Singer, Miller, and Walzer. 3 hrs. sem.
Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2015
PHIL 0418 - Nietzsche & Greek Thought
Nietzsche and Greek Thought: Tragedy and Philosophy
This seminar explores the profound influence Greek thought wielded upon Nietzsche. We will focus on Nietzsche's understanding of the complex relation between tragedy and philosophy: Greek tragedy is born out of the spirit of music and the twin deities of Apollo and Dionysus; it dies under attack from Socratic rationalism; but it reemerges when philosophy reaches its limits and yields to a tragic insight, as exemplified by the "music-making Socrates." We will ask how this artistic Socrates relates to Nietzsche's own tragic hero, Zarathustra, and why tragedy affirms life and overcomes pessimism. Readings selected from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. 3 hrs. sem.
PHIL 0422 - Mind And World
Mind and World
What is the nature of reality? Does reality exist independently of the mind (realism), or is it dependent on the minds that know it (idealism)? This seminar will consider various responses to the debate between realism and idealism in recent Anglo-American philosophy. Beginning with Bertrand Russell, twentieth century Anglo-American philosophy focused in particular on the issue of whether, and how, language "constructs" the world. We will examine the views of seminal thinkers such as Russell, James, and Wittgenstein, and then consider the shape of the contemporary debate in thinkers such as Davidson, Rorty, and McDowell. An important theme of the course will be recent efforts, stemming from Wittgenstein, to move beyond the traditional realism/idealism dichotomy by developing a new form of realism in which reality itself has subjective characteristics, and subjects are immediately in touch with reality. (Designed for junior and senior majors; open to others by waiver.) 3 hrs. lect.
PHIL 0423 - Wittgenstein's Philosophy
In this course, we shall trace the development of the views of one of the 20th century’s most important philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein. We shall begin with the roots of Wittgenstein’s early philosophy in the logical analysis of Frege and Russell. This early philosophy culminated in the publication of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a strange and fascinating work. Wittgenstein’s later philosophy as presented in his Philosophical Investigations will be the main focus of this course; it is a work which has had a decisive influence on much of contemporary philosophy of language and philosophy of mind in the analytical tradition and has significant affinities to the continental tradition (e.g., Heidegger). We shall consider some contemporary interpreters of Wittgenstein, including Stanley Cavell (Designed for senior majors; open to others by waiver.) 3 hrs. sem.
PHIL 0425 - Concepts of Explanation
Concepts of Explanation
In a variety of contexts, we use explanations to further our understanding and knowledge of the world; philosophers have used "inference to the best explanation" to offer solutions to various philosophical problems. But what exactly is an explanation? What makes one explanation better than another? Which uses of explanation yield knowledge rather than mere opinion? In this course, we will examine some of the following: different philosophical analyses of explanation, explanatory coherence as a theory of justification, and defenses and critiques of inference to the best explanation. Familiarity with contemporary theories of knowledge (PHIL 0351) and the philosophy of science (PHIL 0316) is helpful, but not necessary. (Designed for senior majors; open to others by waiver.) 3 hrs. sem.
PHIL 0434 - Feminist Epistemologies
In recent years, feminist epistemologies, such as feminist standpoint theories and feminist empiricisms, have been extremely influential in developing social theories of knowledge. They have also served as a crucial intellectual tool for feminist theorists trying to understand the connections between social relations of gender and the production of knowledge and ignorance. In this course we will investigate some of the major themes and challenges of feminist epistemologies and feminist philosophies of science: How is knowledge socially situated? What does it mean to look at knowledge through a gendered lens? How is objective knowledge possible according to feminist epistemologies? We will work to understand the influence of feminist epistemologies in contemporary philosophy. We will also consider how feminist epistemologies have guided research on gendered and raced relations. (Approval required; Open to philosophy and GSFS senior and junior majors. GSFS majors must have previously taken GSFS 0320, or permission.) 3 hrs. sem.
PHIL 0500 - Resrch In Philosophy ▲ ▹
Research in Philosophy
Supervised independent research in philosophy. (Approval requiredl.
Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015
PHIL 0700 - Senior Thesis ▲ ▹
Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015
PHIL 1010 - Philosophy of Happiness
The Philosophy of Happiness
This is a course on the philosophy of happiness, well-being, and human flourishing. We will consider both the big questions about the nature of these states (for instance, “What is happiness?” and “Is it necessary for a worthwhile life?”) and the specific topics typically taken to be essential to these states, such as pleasure, life satisfaction, virtue, and agency. While working from a philosophical perspective, we will integrate psychological research from the field of “positive psychology” into our analyses. Our readings will draw on contemporary works by both philosophers and psychologists, and will include works by Haybron, Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi, Diener, and Seligman.
PHIL 1014 - Existential Phil. & Lit.
Existential Philosophy and Literature
In this course we will examine how existential thinkers and writers confront core dilemmas of existence such as mortality, anxiety, and the paradox of life. Existential thinkers attempt to make sense of a disordered world, but more importantly, to live meaningful lives within a state of ambiguity. Themes such as the comic, the absurd, freedom, choice, and indirect communication will fuel our discussion of authenticity in response to paradox. Existentialism as a way of life will be central to our work, as will the relationship between philosophy and literature. Authors will include Kierkegaard, Kafka, Camus, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Dostoevsky. This course counts as elective credit towards the Philosophy major and the Comparative Literature major.
PHIL 1015 - Philosophy of Mathematics ▲
Philosophy of Mathematics
Mathematics is one of humankind’s greatest cognitive endeavors, yet it raises many puzzling questions. Unlike much of our other knowledge, most mathematical knowledge is not established by gathering empirical evidence. So how is mathematical knowledge possible? Unlike most other things we consider to be real, mathematical objects are not physical objects. So in what sense do mathematical objects, such as numbers, exist? What are the foundations of mathematics? Do some mathematical proofs provide greater understanding than others? No prior knowledge of mathematics or philosophy is required.
PHIL 1018 - Philosophy & Economics
Philosophy & Economics
Philosophy and economics address several of the same issues from different perspectives. In this course we will introduce the defining characteristics of philosophical and economic analysis, and then examine several social issues through both disciplinary lenses. How do these perspectives complement and conflict with one another? Possible topics include redistribution of income and wealth, discrimination (in housing, hiring, education, etc.), various kinds of rights (human, property, etc.), and global justice. This course may count towards the economics major requirements as a 0200-level elective or as elective credit towards the Philosophy major.
PHIL 1024 - Jewish Thinkers/Big Questions
Jewish Thinkers on Big Questions
What is atonement? How do we human beings confront our own flaws and mistakes? How do we respond to suffering? What is compassion for the “Other”? If there is revelation, can we know what it is? What is divine law? What is commandment? How do Jewish answers to these questions differ from Christian ones? These are perennial, looming questions in Jewish thought, and we will probe them with the help of texts from Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Hermann Cohen, and Emmanuel Levinas, as well as the great medieval thinker Maimonides.
PHIL 1025 - Buddhist/Western Phil of Mind
Buddhist and Western Philosophies of Mind
In this course we will examine traditional and contemporary Buddhist and Western philosophies of mind, comparing Cartesian mind-body dualism and contemporary materialism with Buddhist conceptions of mind, which seek a middle path between the two. Other topics include Buddhist and contemporary Western views of self; notions of the unconscious construction of reality; and recent scientific studies on meditation. We will read works by traditional authors such as Descartes and Vasubandhu, recent authors (e.g., the Dalai Lama and Owen Flanagan) who combine Buddhist and Western views, and articles on contemporary philosophy of mind, neuroscience, and phenomenology. The course will also include a practicum on meditation as a method for investigating consciousness directly. This course counts as elective credit towards the Religion major or as elective credit towards the Philosophy major.
PHIL 1032 - Philosophy and Politics
Plurality: Philosophy and Politics from Plato to Arendt
Western philosophy insists that by thinking alone we can better learn to live together. Yet starting with Plato's description of the philosopher who must be forced back to society after ascending to the realm of ideas, this tradition often finds itself caught between individual reflection as a means of overcoming common prejudices and the need to find meaning in a common world. In this course we will explore questions of justice, liberty, and authority in Ancient Greek and Enlightenment texts before turning to the early 20th century forms of existentialism that, in their intense focus on individual experience, provide Hannah Arendt with surprising resources for conceptualizing humans as fundamentally plural beings who are both equal and distinct. (This course counts as elective credit towards the Political Science major) (Political Theory)
PHIL 1038 - Thinking Revolution
The French Revolution brought philosophical ideals of equality and self-government into modern politics with unprecedented force and suddenness. In its violent wake, Enlightenment thinkers fiercely debated the limits of progress, institutional reform, and the relation between human nature and government. We will begin with a consideration of Rousseau’s articulation of the social contract and natural right concepts that explicitly inspired revolutionaries. We will then examine the Burke and Paine debate on the comparative advantages of tradition and abstract rights as the basis of government. Finally, we will compare Hannah Arendt’s account of the French and American revolutions with these earlier authors’ challenges in order to reconceive the relation between thought and action in the form of participatory politics. (Political Theory)/