Course Offerings | Philosophy

Division of Humanities

Rosa Slegers (chair, fall/Centre), Brian Cooney (chair, spring) Eva Cadavid, David Hall; students: Caroline Buchanan, Matt Howell

The goal of the Philosophy Program is to teach students to think, write, and speak clearly and logically, and be able to analyze and compare values. These skills are invaluable in everyday life as well as in any occupation that demands leadership and administrative ability. The philosophy major or minor is therefore a very useful preparation for a wide variety of careers. Because philosophy deals with so many questions that overlap with other disciplines, the major or minor in philosophy also works very well when taken jointly with majors or minors in other programs.

Philosophy students read and debate the writings of great philosophers in the past as well as those of contemporary thinkers. Some typical philosophical questions are: What is the difference between believing something to be true and knowing it to be true? Are we free moral agents, or are all our actions necessitated or predetermined? What is the relation between consciousness or thought and the kinds of things that go on in a brain or computer? What makes an argument valid or a decision rational? Courses in philosophy commonly involve a good deal of class discussion and numerous small writing assignments in which students develop their ability to analyze texts, argue for a position, and write clearly.

A common sequence for a philosophy major to follow includes taking one
100-level course in the first year, PHI 210 and 220 in the sophomore year, and three courses numbered 300 or above in both the junior and senior year. However, the order in which these courses can be taken is quite flexible.

Students intending to do graduate studies in philosophy are encouraged to take one or more courses beyond the basic skills level in a foreign language and in mathematics.

Requirements for the Major

One of PHI 110, 130, 140, 160 or 170;
PHI 210 and 220 and six PHI courses numbered 300 or higher, including PHI 310 and 500.
Note: Students may substitute PHI 130 for 310 but must still have a total of six PHI courses numbered 300 or higher.

Requirements for the Minor

One of PHI 110, 130, 140, 160 or 170;
PHI 210 and 220 and three PHI courses numbered 300 or higher.

Philosophy Courses

PHI 110 Introduction to Philosophy
A course designed to acquaint students with the kinds of questions dealt with in various areas of philosophy and with the methods of philosophical reasoning. Topics include several of the following: free will and determinism, arguments for the existence of God, the justification of moral judgments, social justice, the relationship between the mental and the physical, and the grounds of human knowledge.

PHI 130 Practical Logic
A study of the basic principles of deductive and inductive logic. Common fallacies are analyzed and illustrated with examples from classical and modern sources. This is not a course in formal, mathematical logic.

PHI 140 Happiness and Justice: An Introduction to Ethical Thinking
Discussion of a variety of problems central to the pursuit of individual happiness and social justice. Topics include the relation between pleasure and happiness, abortion, sexual equality, and fairness in the distribution of economic goods.

PHI 160 Philosophy of Art
An examination of philosophical problems arising in the description, interpretation, and evaluation of works of art. Topics include the nature of the art object and of aesthetic experience, the possibility of objective criticism in the arts, and the relation of aesthetic to moral values. Readings from classical and contemporary sources, with emphasis on case materials. Prerequisite: HUM 110 or 111.

PHI 170 Philosophy of Religion
A critical examination of traditional and recent theories concerning such issues in the philosophy of religion as the existence of God, the nature of ultimate reality, the nature and destiny of human beings, and the validity of claims to religious knowledge. (Also listed as REL 140.)

PHI 210 Ancient Philosophy
A survey of ancient Western philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the beginning of the Christian era. This course concentrates on the origin and development of basic concepts and problems which have become permanent ingredients of our philosophical tradition. Some of these are reality and appearance, permanence and change, form and matter, causality, knowledge and belief, and the good.

PHI 220 17th- and 18th-Century Philosophy
A survey and critical examination of philosophers from Descartes to Kant. Of special importance in this period is the impact of the scientific revolution on accounts of the origin and limits of human knowledge, the mind-body relation, and the role of God in the universe.

PHI 300 The Philosophy of Science
An examination of a variety of issues in the philosophy of science, such as the nature of scientific facts, the relation of theories to reality, the criteria for the evaluation of theories, the role of the imagination in theory formation, the logic of verification, and the importance of the scientific community. Some attention is also given to the history of science. Prerequisite: PHI 210 or 220 or 310, or a sophomore-level science course.

PHI 310 Symbolic Logic
An introduction to modern formal deductive logic. A system of first-order logic is presented and proved to be complete. Nonclassical logics and other subjects are studied as the interests of the instructor and students warrant.

PHI 320 Philosophical Psychology
A critical survey of various approaches to the mind-body or mind-brain problem, including dualism, epiphenomenalism, behaviorism, physicalism, and functionalism.

PHI 330 19th-Century Philosophy
An examination of leading figures and movements in the philosophy of this century, such as post-Kantian idealism, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Marx, Utilitarianism, and Pragmatism. Prerequisite: PHI 220.

PHI 340 Phenomenology
An examination of phenomenology, the most influential movement in 20th-century Continental philosophy, and of the phenomenological method on which it is based in the writings of Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and others. Prerequisite: PHI 220 or permission of the instructor.

PHI 350 Existentialism
Existentialism embraces a wide range of thinkers—from the desperately religious to the vehemently atheistic. This course reflects upon writers from both of these traditions, including Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre, and tries to examine the effects existentialism has had upon art and literature. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy or permission of the instructor.

PHI 370 20th-Century Analytic Philosophy
A study of major philosophers and/or topics in the British and American analytic tradition of the 20th century. Prerequisite: PHI 220.

PHI 380 20th-Century Continental Philosophy
A study of major philosophers and/or topics of continental Europe in the 20th century.
Prerequisite: PHI 220.

Special Topics Offered 200

PHI 315 Ethical Theory
This course explores a brand of moral philosophy known as virtue ethics. Virtue ethics has its roots in ancient philosophy, most notably in the works of Aristotle, but it is also at the center of some of the liveliest contemporary debates regarding ethical theory. In this course, we investigate both the ancient and the contemporary accounts of virtue ethics and compare these accounts to the other two main kinds of moral philosophy, deontology and utilitarianism.

PHI 325 Contemporary Political Philosophy
An examination of the character of three different traditions of political philosophy in their contemporary manifestations. First, we analyze the Kantian tradition with an examination of the political thought of Rawls and Arendt. Next, we study the Hegelian tradition with a reading of the political theories of Michael Oakeshott and Charles Taylor. Finally, we evaluate the critique of modernity offered by defenders of the classical tradition like Alisdair MacIntyre and Leo Strauss. Prerequisite: GOV 301 or permission of the instructor.

PHI 415 The Uncanny
This course explores the phenomenon of the uncanny in philosophy, literature, psychoanalysis, and film. We start with Freud's essay The Uncanny, in which he attempts to distinguish the uncanny from the frightening. What is specific to the feeling of uncanniness that justifies the use of a special conceptual term? Our investigation will consist in a further pursuit of Freud's question, focusing specifically on the philosophical issues raised in and by the text. We will discuss a variety of uncanny literary works, films, and philosophical texts, investigating the uncanny as an experience of something vastly different, a stepping outside of oneself, a confrontation with the void or the infinite, with the foreign, and a losing of one's bearings. Seen in this light, the uncanny can perhaps be the initial stage of a more promising relationship to what is other, strange, and different.

PHI 453 Philosophy of Language and Mind
This course addresses a number of closely-related issues central to the philosophy of language and mind. Among other things, it asks: How do our thoughts and words succeed in picking out individual things such as Plato or Game Six of the 1977 World Series? Do the contents of our thoughts and the meanings of our words depend on factors external to the mind? What role does sense-perception play in enabling us to think and speak about the world? Authors studied include Frege, Russell, Kripke, Putnam, Burge, Evans, and McDowell. Prerequisite: One PHI course numbered 200 or higher.

PHI 500 Senior Seminar

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