2nd Courses in Philosophy

Second courses in Philosophy are designed for non-majors who would like to pursue philosophical questions beyond their introduction to philosophy. These courses typically focus on a sub-field of philosophy, to enable students to focus in on areas of interest in a way which is not possible in the typical introduction to philosophy.

We offer courses across every major field of philosophy; among the most commonly offered courses have been courses in the philosophy of science, in ethics and political philosophy, and in the philosophy of religion. All of the courses listed below satisfy the University Philosophy Requirement.

Spring 2023 Courses

Introduction to Philosophy
20101 01 (24446)
Rodriguez
9:25-10:15 MWF

A general introduction to philosophy, which may cover introductory topics in either topically or historically, with a focus on introducing students to some of the perennial problems and texts of philosophy. Specific course content varies by semester and by instructor. See https://philosophy.nd.edu/courses/1st-courses-in-philosophy/ for further details of specific sections offered this semester.


Introduction to Philosophy
20101 02 (23068)
Rodriguez
10:30-11:20 MWF

A general introduction to philosophy, which may cover introductory topics in either topically or historically, with a focus on introducing students to some of the perennial problems and texts of philosophy. Specific course content varies by semester and by instructor. See https://philosophy.nd.edu/courses/1st-courses-in-philosophy/ for further details of specific sections offered this semester.


Introduction to Philosophy
20101 03 (32500)
Scott
2:00-3:15 TR

Philosophy, according to the term’s Greek roots, is literally 'the love of wisdom.' As an academic discipline, philosophy is concerned with using human reason to explore fundamental questions of meaning and value. Some of these questions involve subjects which are cosmic in scope, such as the existence of God or the nature of the world around us. Others involve specifically human questions of ethics and meaning, including the moral, political, and aesthetic choices that we make every day. In this course, we will survey some of the basic questions of philosophy, as well as their implications for how we choose to live our own lives. Beginning with the life of the philosopher Socrates and going on to an assortment of classic texts, both historical and contemporary, we will assess what reason can tell us about the world we live in and, perhaps most importantly, how we are to live best within it.


Introduction to Philosophy
20101 04 (32501)
Scott
3:30-4:45 TR

Philosophy, according to the term’s Greek roots, is literally 'the love of wisdom.' As an academic discipline, philosophy is concerned with using human reason to explore fundamental questions of meaning and value. Some of these questions involve subjects which are cosmic in scope, such as the existence of God or the nature of the world around us. Others involve specifically human questions of ethics and meaning, including the moral, political, and aesthetic choices that we make every day. In this course, we will survey some of the basic questions of philosophy, as well as their implications for how we choose to live our own lives. Beginning with the life of the philosopher Socrates and going on to an assortment of classic texts, both historical and contemporary, we will assess what reason can tell us about the world we live in and, perhaps most importantly, how we are to live best within it.


Introduction to Philosophy
20101 05 (32614)

Comstock
11:00-12:15 TR

The course has three units: in the first, we consider questions of happiness in ancient Greek philosophy; in the second, we consider epistemological and metaphysical issues that arise in the wake of the scientific revolution in Descartes’ Meditations; and in the third, we explore questions of agency and personhood in Hume’s Enquiry


Introduction to Philosophy
20101 06 (32615)

Comstock
2:00-3:15 TR

The course has three units: in the first, we consider questions of happiness in ancient Greek philosophy; in the second, we consider epistemological and metaphysical issues that arise in the wake of the scientific revolution in Descartes’ Meditations; and in the third, we explore questions of agency and personhood in Hume’s Enquiry

 


Augustine's Confessions
20206 02 (30987)
D. Cory
2:00-3:15 TR

An in-depth examination of the philosophical themes, ideas, and arguments in Augustine's classic Confessions, with attention to historical, theological, and literary context.

 


Infinity
20607 01 (32582)

Hamkins
3:30-4:45 TR

Philosophical exploration of the concept of infinity. Content varies by semester


Minds, Brains, and Persons
20208 01 (32296)
Liu 
9:30-10:45 TR

What is the nature of the mind? How does it relate to a body and the external world? What makes someone the same person over time? Is it the persistence of the same body? Questions such as these have been the focus of philosophical thinking about the mind for hundreds of years. But they have taken on new urgency with the development of sciences such as psychology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience. In this class, we will consider some of the most important historical answers offered to the questions above, as well as some of the views philosophers have developed in response to the contemporary sciences of the mind.


Introduction to Metaphysics
20209 01 (30988)
Sullivan
2:00-3:15 TR

We’d like to know what there is in the world. (We’d like to know this for philosophical reasons, and for practical reasons, and also out of good old-fashioned curiosity.) This class will focus on one way to think rigorously about how to think about what there is. We’ll discuss key introductory questions in metaphysics: questions about the existence and nature of causation, dispositions, possibility, objective truth, and fundamentality. We’ll think about answers to those questions which are entailed by valid arguments with plausible premises. Thus, we’ll think about simple arguments for and against counterfactual theories of the phenomena above; simple arguments for and against skepticism about the existence of all those entities; simple arguments for and against primitivism about all those entities; and so on. Along the way we’ll introduce some basic logical vocabulary which will make evaluating the soundness of those arguments easier.The goal for this class is to improve your ability to reason clearly about what there is, or might be.

 


The Meaning of Life
20235 01 (28073)
Seachris
9:30-10:45 MW

Have you ever wondered (or worried) about the meaning of life? It may come as a surprise, but many philosophers are suspicious of the topic. And there is no shortage of parodies and jokes in pop culture making fun of it. Yet, the question—What is the meaning of life?—remains of deep and abiding human concern.In this class, we will give this question the attention it deserves. Over the course of the semester, we will explore divergent answers to questions like the following:

  • What are we asking when we ask, “What is the meaning of life?”
  • Does life have a purpose?
  • What is valuable? More fundamentally, what is value?
  •  Are we significant? Do we matter?
  • Does life (or my life) make any sense?
  •  Is God necessary for meaning?
  •  Is a happy life the same as a meaningful life?
  • Can a profoundly immoral life still be meaningful?
  • What should I do if I experience a quarter- or mid-life crisis?
  • How might experiences “at the margins” (e.g., solitary confinement, poverty) affect the prospects for meaningful life?
  •  What does it mean to die? Does death threaten meaning? Does death enhance meaning? Is death necessary for meaning?
  •  Would immortality be good or bad news for us?

We will not limit ourselves to philosophy. Given that this is humanity’s question, others both from within and outside of the Academy have as much to say—theologians, scientists, novelists, poets . . . our parents and grandparents. We will expand our investigation of life’s meaning beyond the written medium to include film as we carefully listen to some of the rich complexity of voices speaking on life’s grandest question. Most classes will consist of a combination of lecture, discussion, and group activities.

 


Work, Meaning, and Happiness
20255 01 (32064)
Blaschko
2:00-3:15 MW

Work plays a deeply important role in our lives. Finding good work -- which, for many of us, means getting a meaningful job you’re passionate about -- can seem like the crucial factor in determining whether your life goes well or poorly, and whether you end up happy and fulfilled or miserable and empty. But things aren’t nearly so simple. What kind of work is available to anyone in particular is largely determined by factors outside of our control. And when it comes to work, we’re notoriously bad at predicting what aspects of a job we’ll find meaningful and fulfilling, and which will drain us of life and energy. In this course, we will focus on the most urgent questions facing anyone trying to discern what their life’s work will be, such as:

  • What causes alienation, anxiety, and burnout at work, and are these things that can be avoided with foresight and careful planning?
  • What is “leisure” (as contrasted with “time off”) and what role should it play if we want to be healthy, flourishing persons? Is there such a thing as “work-life balance”?
  • Do we live in a genuine meritocracy? And, if so, is this a good thing or a bad thing? How should we think about equity and equality in the workplace?
  • Is it dangerous (or perhaps wise) to see your work purely as an instrument of financial gain? Does work have the power to nurture (or destroy) your soul?

The course will be organized by topic, and we’ll read a broad range of thinkers from St. Benedict to Karl Marx and Max Weber to more contemporary thinkers like Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, and David Graeber (author of the provocative book “Bullshit Jobs”). We’ll also watch a season of the TV show “Survivor.” Students will leave the course with their own “philosophy of work,” captured in a living document that details their core beliefs about the role of work in living a good life. Topics include: alienation, anxiety, and burnout (critiques of capitalism); leisure; the role of contemplation in life and “The Contemplative Life;” work life balance: leisure, time off, and what you should be doing when you're not working; meritocracy: whether our current system is meritocratic and whether this is a good thing or a bad thing; the relationship between professional skills and virtues; work as an essential human good, the dignity of work -- and many more!

 


Ethics as a Way of Life
20401 01 (29174)
Hibshman
2:00-3:15 MW
Cross list with HESB 20222 01 (3)

Title: Ethics as a Way of Life
 
Description: This ethics course is aimed at students with no background in ethics. We will survey three main moral frameworks (utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics) and their approaches to answering the kinds of ethical questions that you are likely to face in your life, e.g., How should I use money? What and how should I eat? Is abortion morally permissible? Is it ever good to be angry? Is life meaningful? We will read some of the best, philosophical answers to these questions while also reading fiction that engages with their ideas and trying out experiments in ethical living that give students a taste of the ethical approaches we are studying. Students will be asked to reflect on these experiences alongside the texts. (Students will be given choices in what experiments to try and will not be required to do anything that violates their conscience.) Although we will study a variety of ethical approaches, the most time and emphasis will be given to Christian virtue ethics. Texts will include the Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, Glittering Vices by Rebecca DeYoungand many short, primary sources. In place of exams, students will be asked to write regular reflection assignments. Feel free to ask me for a syllabus.

Virtues and Vices
20403 01 (30989)
O'Rourke
11:00-12:15 TR

How do I become a better person? How should I live my life? What does it actually mean to be a good person, or to live life well? We might think that good people have certain traits: like honesty, kindness, bravery, generosity and so on. Virtue ethicists would call admirable qualities like these ‘virtues’. Their approach to moral philosophy places special emphasis on virtues, what they tell us about how to live a good life, and even how they might help us make sense of other concepts like ‘right’, ‘wrong’, ‘good’, or ‘evil’.   This course will survey 20th and 21st century versions of virtue ethics, looking at writers like Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, Iris Murdoch, Alasdair MacIntyre, Christine Swanton, and Michael Slote. We will also read earlier thinkers like Aristotle and Mencius. In considering different and sometimes contrasting varieties of virtue ethics, we’ll ask questions like:

Individual virtues: How should we characterise specific virtues, like honesty or courage? Which traits count as virtues? Are the virtues all compatible? Mutually necessary for one another? What would a perfectly virtuous person be like? 

Overall theories:  What is a virtue?  How do we develop virtues? How do different kinds of virtue ethics provide us with frameworks for deciding what to do with our lives, or for resolving moral puzzles and dilemmas? Can virtue ethics give us clear rules of conduct or absolute prohibitions like ‘do not murder the innocent’? Should it? 

Motivations and objections: Do virtue ethicists have something distinctive to offer? Why be one? Is their approach too focused on self-improvement, too egoistic? Do some varieties of virtue ethics struggle to adequately explain our intuitions about self-sacrificial actions? Does modern psychology undermine virtue ethics?  

 


Philosophy of Law
20408 03 (30990)
Warfield
11:00-11:50 MW
This course explores philosophical issues arising in three areas of law: substantive criminal law, free speech law, and criminal procedure.
In-class exams and take-home essays are the primary modes of evaluation.

A Friday discussion section is required.


Plato's Republic
20410 01 (32308)
Gamarra-Jordan
12:30-1:45 TR

In 1965, when asked which book he would take on a deserted island, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. replied: “Well, I think I would have to pick Plato’s Republic.” The list of people who share Dr. King’s sentiment is long and varied: Greek aristocrats, Roman slaves, Egyptian pagans, Byzantine Christians, Italian poets, English politicians, Cambridge dons, German cultural critics, Latin American feminists, and so on. Countless have joined Socrates in conversation. Countless have admired in awe the wondrous work of Plato’s artistry. What starts as a simple conversation about old age and the end of one’s life quickly morphs into a conversation about justice. Is it actually better or more advantageous to live justly or unjustly? This question—how one should live one’s life—gives rise to a plethora of different questions in ethics, political philosophy, epistemology, metaphysics, psychology, philosophy of education, feminism, and literary criticism. It is here, in the Republic, where Plato finds himself at his best:one gets to see how Plato’s world interconnects and interacts. A unified vision is presented where reality is not compartmentalized into isolated pockets. So, although this journey might seem to some as primarily concerned with a political state, it carries inherently a deeper gravitas, it asks us to reflect on the state of our soul.

In this course, we will introduce and develop different tools for working historical texts in depth, especially Plato. We will devote our time to present different exegetical challenges that one faces such as the dramatic elements of the dialogues and how to reify arguments without introducing anachronism nor distorting Plato’s words. The aim is that by the end of the semester, students will be well-equipped to read any dialogue of Plato to a high degree of sophistication and delight as well as to be able to adventure into other texts from the history of philosophy.

In short, in this course we will dedicate ourselves leisurely to become familiar with the Republic along with the Gorgias (another dialogue where Plato presents similar concerns about how one should live one’s life). We will read both dialogues as Plato intended, that is, as organic wholes, cover to cover.


Data Ethics
20412 01 (32684)
Howard
5:30-6:45 TR
Cross lists with TEC 20201-01 (5)

Philosophical exploration of ethical issues involved in data science.

 


Philosophy as a Way of Life
20454 01 (32065)

Christy
12:30-1:45 TR

How does philosophical reasoning interact with lived practice? What is the relationship between a philosopher’s metaphysical views and their ethical commitments? Can philosophy help you live a better life? In this course, we will look at a range of positions on questions like these, with a focus on the philosophical tradition inspired by the works of Plato. We will explore Plato’s own approach to the philosophical life, as well as those developed by his philosophical predecessors (particularly by the Pythagorean movement and by Parmenides of Elea), by later Platonist philosophers like Plotinus and Iamblichus, and by related philosophical and religious movements from antiquity. We will seek to understand all of these not only through in-depth reading and discussion of primary texts, but also by trying out some of the practices they recommend.

 

 


Modern Physics and Moral Responsibility
20604 01 (32493)
Howard
11:00-12:15 TR

This course examines the moral choices that scientists sometimes have to make by looking at the
history of the development of nuclear weapons and the moral struggles of physicists like J.
Robert Oppenheimer, the head of the allied atomic bomb project, and Werner Heisenberg, the
head of the German atomic bomb project. We will ask ourselves how such individuals
understood the nature and limits of their moral responsibilities as scientists, both to their own
consciences and to society at large. We will also compare the moral situation of World War II
and the Cold War with the rather different moral situation that the world faces today, as nuclear
weapons have been developed by countries like North Korea, and as Russia and the United
States are now building new kinds of nuclear weapons for the first time since the end of the Cold
War. No background in physics is assumed.

 


Science and Catholicism
20627 01 (30992)
O' Callaghan
11:00-12:15 MW

Cross lists with STV 20627-01 (1)

A historical and philosophical examination of the relations, if there are any, between science and religion with particular reference to the Catholic intellectual tradition. Through the use of historical materials the course will attempt to isolate and examine philosophical difficulties that might be thought to obtain between the claims made by Christian revelation and various scientific theories about features of the world. Emphasis will be placed upon distinctive ways in which the intellectual tradition of the Catholic church has faced the issues raised. Figures to be considered may include Augustine, Aquinas, Galileo, Bellarmine, Darwin, Huxley, Dawkins, Newman, Leroy, Zahm, LeMaitre, and Hawking, as well as others. Topics to be discussed are Language, Meaning, and Revelation, the Nature of Science, Theory, and Hypothesis, Evolution, the Big Bang, Soul and Body, Creation versus Making, Providence and Chance.

 


Feminist Philosophy and Science Fiction
20644 01 (30993)

Rea
12:30-1:45 TR

Cross list with GSC 20644-01 (3) and STV 20644-01 (1)

The science fiction genre is rich with stories that explore classic philosophical questions or thematically engage large-scale philosophical movements and worldviews. In this seminar, we will discuss several science fiction novels, short stories, and films whose central themes or plot elements make significant connections with important ideas or topics in contemporary feminist philosophy.  Among the topics to be discussed are the nature of gender, sexism and misogyny, beauty ideals and objectification, and philosophical issues about "victim testimony" and the challenges certain kinds of victims face in having their stories believed.  


Philosophy of Religion
20801 02 (30994)

Dumont
3:30-4:45 TR

An examination of the rational basis of religious belief. Topics include whether the existence of a God can be demonstrated and whether such a concept of God can be reconciled with the fact of evil in the world and human freedom. Other topics include the concept of soul and immortality, whether religious language is meaningful, the historical conflict between religion and science, and whether religion can provide the basis of morality. Readings will be taken from both classical and contemporary sources.

Requirements:  Three term tests.


 


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