Majors & minors courses
Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
PHIL 30301 01 (21588)
This course will examine key areas of ancient and medieval philosophy, arranged topically around central issues. We will read short extracts from works of many of the major thinkers of the period, and some minor ones too.
Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
PHIL 30301 02 (26489)
History of Modern Philosophy
PHIL 30302 01 (20791)
The early modern period (roughly 1650-1787) represents one of the most exciting and transformative stretches of intellectual and scientific history, one that set the agenda for much of modernity. As their understanding of the natural world dramatically changed, so-called “modern philosophers” also tried to understand our place and nature in light of emerging science. In this course, we will explore their competing accounts, including questions about how minds relate to bodies; the nature, role, and knowledge of God; the possibility of human freedom and natural purposes; and the nature and structure of the fundamentally real. As we will see along the way, many of the new methods, problems and solutions these philosophers defended are the very same methods, problems, and solutions still driving contemporary philosophy.
Readings will be drawn mainly from Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.
Textbook: Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources, eds. Ariew and Watkins, Hackett Publishing, 2nd edition
Requirements: 2 papers, 2 exams, and short writing exercises
Philosophy as a Way of Life
PHIL 30305 02 (30510)
This course has three components. (i) Students will receive training to be a peer dialogue facilitator for God and the Good Life, learning how to lead GGL students in probative philosophical dialogue and self-reflection. (ii) Students will do intensive reading, writing and discussion of approaches to living ``the philosophical life’’. We’ll study the genre of philosophical apologies (including Socrates, Augustine, Cardinal Newman, Tolstoy and Friedrich Nietzsche). We'll also look at various proposals for living philosophically (potential authors include Sextus Empiricus, St. Benedict, St. John of the Cross and the extreme altruism movement). (iii) Students will design and lead a practical philosophy immersion experience for seminar-mates. The expectation is that students in this course will serve at least one semester as a GGL fellow.
Participation in this course is by invitation and application. This seminar fulfills the second philosophy requirement.
PHIL 30313 01 (20255)
In this class we develop a formal system of classical first-order logic with identity, study this system's syntax and semantics, and become proficient at constructing derivations in the system. We also will critically analyze the system's expressive strength by investigating the relationship between formal and informal validity and entailment. Requirements: Write several take home exams.
Plato's Images of Love & Death
PHIL 43117 01 (30238)
Crosslisted with PHIL 93102
Classical Islamic Philosophy
PHIL 43130 01 (30351)
What is God, and how do we know Him? How are we able to acquire abstract concepts such as “beauty” or “dogness,” and do these concepts give us access to reality? What is animal knowledge like? Where does fire get the causal power to burn cotton? Is the universe eternal? Could a child growing up alone on a desert island develop rationality? Should a politician lie for the sake of the common good? These are just some of the questions to which the great philosophers of the classical Islamic tradition developed novel and interesting answers. In this course, using primary texts and recent scholarly literature, we will study thinkers from Persia, Andalusia, and Iraq during the 9th to the 12th centuries, including al-Kindi, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Ghazali, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). Many of the philosophical theories that we will study were studied closely by Thomas Aquinas, whose own thought was strongly influenced by them. So those interested in Latin medieval philosophy will benefit from studying these thinkers. (IMPORTANT! This is not a course on the religious doctrines of Islam or on interpretations of the Qu’ran, but on philosophical ideas developed by thinkers living and working in an Islamic milieu.)
The Quest for Beauty
PHIL 43131 01 (30239)
Crosslisted with PHIL 83227
Aquinas on Faith
PHIL 43166 01 (30240)
Crosslisted with MI 43345 01
A philosophical examination of the nature of faith generally through a close reading of Aquinas' questions on faith in his Summa Theologiae. What is the difference between natural faith and religious faith? What is the relationship between the exercise of faith and the exercise of human reason? What sorts of faith might there be, and what is their relationship to belief? What might count as appropriate justifications for being faithful? Can faith be knowledge, even wisdom?
PHIL 43180 01 (30241)
Crosslisted with PHIL 83266
This seminar examines how Hume's epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics made him a game-changer in early modern philosophy and how he still influences ongoing debates today concerning these topics:
1. representation and belief
2. mental and physical causation
3. psychology of action and moral evaluation
Readings will include his Treatise of Human Nature, his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, as well as articles by recent philosophers like Michael Smith and Simon Blackburn, whose own work engages with Hume's views.
A special part of the course will focus on Michael Smith's classic study of Hume and the moral problem. Smith pointed out how this problem is generated by two incompatible claims: (a) Hume is right that a moral agent's motivations are to be explained in terms of her beliefs and desires, which are distinct existences having no necessary connection; yet (b) contra Hume, there nonetheless are necessary connections between our moral beliefs and our desires. Was Hume's ethical theory really undermined by this problem? We will consider whether it was, and we will ask to what extent Smith's alternative solution to the moral problem actually works.
Course requirements: Two medium-length papers and several short oral reports.
Existentialism: Philosophy and Literature
PHIL 43205 01 (27944)
Existentialist thought is marked by its principal exponents? use of dual genres, literary philosophy and philosophical literature, to express their ideas. This duality corresponds to the existentialist insight that the fundamental problems of human life are such as to require philosophical clarification, while their resolution has to be worked out in the concrete circumstances of an existing human life. In this course, we will examine two of the most important examples of this genre-blending, Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov and Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, as well as their most significant common influence, Pascal's Pensées. These works highlight and circle around a single common problem: whether there is a God or other source of intelligible order to the universe, what the Greeks called a logos, and how to live if reason cannot provide an answer to this question. Pascal, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche all agree that the question of God's existence is much more profound than it is commonly thought to be, because such a logos would allow us to understand our place in the universe and how we ought to live. If, however, there is no God, and no such principle, then our stance toward life must be very different from anything previously envisioned by previous generations. Can reason provide us with any guidance about this question? If reason can't, is there another way of getting in touch with God or ultimate reality? If there is no God or logos, ought we to live? Is it true, as Ivan Karamazov says, that "If God does not exist, everything is permitted?" Would life be meaningless or more meaningful if this were true? Can we consistently live out this thought?
History of 19th Century European Philosophy
PHIL 43220 01 (29745)
This is a consideration of select aspects of philosophical thought in Europe roughly from 1800-1890. Readings from: Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche.
PHIL 43224 01 (29746)
Crosslisted with PHIL 93335-01
This seminar will involve an extended investigation of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s treatment of embodied experience in his Phenomenology of Perception. We will also examine his modifications of Husserl and Heidegger’s classical accounts of phenomenology. Further, some time will be spent comparing Merleau-Ponty’s treament with similar formulations in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. Finally we will discuss subsequent challenges to the account in French thought, including Merleau-Ponty‘s later work.
Requirements: mid-term, final paper.
Philosophical Issues in Law and Medicine
PHIL 43324 01 (30391)
This course will be divided into three units. This semester’s version of the course focuses on legal and policy issues governing patient decisions.
Assisted suicide – with a focus on the American legal debate
Controversial medical decisions concerning children
Case studies of a variety of adult patient decisions regarding treatment
Requirements – one medium sized paper per unit; a day of partial class leadership.
Philosophy and Film
PHIL 43333 01 (29747)
Crosslisted with PHIL 20440 01
The course will investigate some of the main debates in contemporary philosophical approaches to the aesthetics of film. Of particular concern will be questions that orbit the experience of fictional film. What is the relation between subjective and objective camera shots and point of view? What are points of view in film? What is the difference between fictional narrative film and photography? Theatrical drama? Painting? Other questions posed and discussed are: What is the importance of genre to film? Can films be moral or immoral? What is non-narrative film? What is documentary?
The class involves both readings in philosophy and philosophically inclined film theory, as well as out-of-class screenings of films to sharpen discussion of the issues.
Metaethics: Truth in Ethics
PHIL 43335 01 (30242)
This module will deal with a range of core issues in contemporary meta-ethics. Topics covered will include the question of whether our moral judgments truly describe some feature of our decisions, actions and character; the objectivity of moral judgments; whether our ordinary moral judgments might be radically mistaken; and what methods are appropriate for moral inquiry.
PHIL 43501 01 (30243)
The course divides into two unequal parts. The larger part will offer a bread-and-butter advanced introduction to contemporary metaphysics, surveying such issues as: realism and nominalism about universals, diachronic identity, individuation, the modalities of possibility and necessity, essence, numbers and other abstract entities, propositions, causation, and time. The last third or so of the course will be given over to an intensive investigation of privileged ontology, focussing on the theory of substance.
PHIL 43717 01 (30552)
Although many speak of ours as a “knowledge society,” ignorance seems to flourish all around us. Even in the United States, considered one of the most advanced countries of the world, the content of the news varies with the sources consulted, more information is kept secret every year than is revealed, and millions question some of the most established results of science (such as evolution, global warming, and the benefits of childhood immunization) even as they overlook genuine problems (such as conflict of interest) in other results of science. And the problem, many say, is growing worse. Still, despite its alarming proportions, all this ignorance is ignored by traditional epistemology and philosophy of science. As a result, within the last 10 years historians of science such as Robert Proctor, Londa Schiebinger, Peter Galison, and Naomi Oreskes, have been promoting a new area of enquiry—Proctor calls it agnotology, the study of ignorance—which they suggest is of as much relevance to philosophers and scientists and others as it is to historians. Indeed, the suggestion is that agnotology offers a new approach to the study of knowledge, an approach at least as complex and important as its more established philosophical sisters.
In this course, after briefly considering the way traditional epistemology and philosophy of science approach knowledge studies, we shall explore agnotology’s approach: focusing on ignorance construction and avoidance from a point of departure of knowledge rather than knowledge construction from a point of departure of ignorance. Here we will investigate not only the kinds of issues dealt with by the above historians of science—such as ignorance produced through government secrecy and censorship and the commercial shaping of scientific research—but also issues dealt with by a broad array of scientists, philosophers, journalists, and social critics as well as historians—such as ignorance produced through cognitive bias and cultural prejudice. We shall then be in a position to assess this new area of agnotology and map out its relationship with epistemology and philosophy of science.
This course will be run as a seminar. Students will lead class discussions, present the results of individual research projects to the group, and have the opportunity to further develop those projects using feedback from the group. The aim in all this will be for each student to develop a fully informed and defensible response to the new terrain we shall be exploring.
Joint Seminar: Aquinas & Soctus
PHIL 43801 01 (21856)
Philosophy of Mind
PHIL 43901 01 (27411)
This course examines fundamental questions about the mind and its place in nature. Questions to be addressed include: what is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Can the existence of consciousness be reconciled with a materialist view of the world? Does the mind have direct perceptual access to the external world, or is perception mediated by an awareness of internal sense data? Do we have free will?
PHIL 43907 01 (29749)
Crosslisted with PHIL 83901
PHIL 43913 01 (30452)
Crosslisted with PHIL 93921
PHIL 43920 01 (30414)
The question “What am I?” has received many (and startlingly different) answers: souls, living human bodies, combinations of souls and living human bodies, brains (or certain parts thereof), monads, simple physical particles, bundles of mental states (connected by various psychological relations), capacities for consciousness, centers of narrative gravity, complex functional patterns, nothing at all, and many others more. We start with a look at some modern philosophers: Descartes, Locke, and Hume, all of whose ideas are well and alive in the contemporary discussion. The 19th century will be represented by a reading taken from William James’s Psychology. The remainder of the course we will spend with works from the 20th and 21st centuries. The authors will include Thomas Nagel, Derek Parfit, Robert Nozick, Galen Strawson, Eric Olson, Barry Dainton.
there will be three papers, totaling roughly 25 pages.
Barry Dainton: Self, Penguin 2014 [you will have to get his on you own; the bookstore is not able to order it in]
All other readings will be provided on Sakai.
PHIL 46498 01 (20289)
PHIL 46498 02 (20375)
PHIL 48499 01 (21202)