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.

Fall 2022 Courses

Augustine's Confessions
20206 01 (19968)
D. Cory
2:00-3:15 TR

This course in Augustine's Confessions offers a path for students to continue in philosophy through a deep encounter with a key text in the history of its development. Some key themes will be the tension between divine presence and divine transcendence, the metaphysics of evil, the emergence of the will as a philosophical theme, the limitations of human language to express truth, the relationship between the intellectual and the moral life, the role of friendship in the moral life, the nature of time, and the effect of embodiment on our moral and intellectual welfare. Above all, we will explore the idea that a human life is a confession or a proclamation of what one most deeply believes is true and good. Students will be introduced to other intellectual movements that form the background for Augustine's writings, especially stoicism, neoplatonism, and various forms of gnostic Christianity, but the primary focus will be on deep textual engagement with St. Augustine's most famous work. As a core text in the histories of both philosophy and theology, which plays a formative role in the Catholic intellectual tradition, the Confessions are an especially suitable subject matter for a second philosophy course, since Augustine introduces many problems and distinctions that become foundational in both disciplines. 

Minds, Brains and Persons
20208 01 (18652)
9:30-10:45 TR

20229 01 (19967)
12:30-1:45 MW

The Meaning of Life
20235 01 (16440)
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.

PHIL 20401 01 (22023)
9:25-10:15 MWF

PHIL 20401 02 (22024)
9:25-10:15 MWF

Social and Moral Philosophy
20406 01 (20904)
2:00-3:15 MW

This course surveys key issues in social and moral philosophy, with a particular focus on issues pertinent to marginalized groups. We will typically begin with an introduction to the general philosophical theories and then examine their implications for marginalized groups who may not straightforwardly fit within those theories, before finally considering how those theories may need to be adjusted to accommodate them. The topics we will cover include:

  1. Moral status: Why do we as persons matter morally? What is it to be a bearer of rights?
  2. Wellbeing: What does wellbeing consist in? Is what is good for us wholly self-determined? Is disability in itself bad for its bearer?
  3. Care ethics: How should our moral theories adjust to accommodate the vulnerable and dependent?
  4. Social Epistemology: What is it to take something on testimony? What should we make of testimony from a minority group that runs counter to general intuition? What is epistemic injustice?
  5. Social Ontology: What is a social group? What is race? What is gender? What is a team?

Philosophy and Film
20440 01 (19966)
11:00-12:15 MW

Film and philosophy can be studied together. On the one hand, films give rise to philosophical questions, for example, is justice simply the advantage of the stronger? On the other hand, if we have compelling philosophical categories, for example, on the nature of tragedy, we can ask richer questions of films. The course juxtaposes films by directors, such as Ford and Hitchcock, with works by philosophers, such as Plato, Hegel, and Nietzsche. Our goal is three-fold: (1) to interpret the films as films; (2) to weigh philosophical arguments; and (3) to enrich our understanding of both realms, film and philosophy, by bringing the two spheres into conversation with one another. Likely topics include knowledge, identity, evil, power, courage, love, and providence.

Philosophy as a Way of Life
20454 01 (17907)
2:00-3:15 TR

Medical Ethics
20602 01 (15006)
2:00-2:50 MW
A Friday discussion section is required.

Philosophy of Science
20617 01 (19965)
11:00-12:15 TR

This class is an introduction to scientific methods and reasoning, largely following the book "Recipes for Science: An Introduction to Scientific Methods and Reasoning," by Angela Potochnik, Matteo Colombo, and Cory Wright. Topics include: Defining Science, Experiments and Studies, Models and Modeling, Patterns of Inference, Statistics and Probability, Statistical Inference, Causal Reasoning, and Explaining, Theorizing, and Values. Each week we will look at the material covered in the book as well as journal articles that raise philosophical questions about these methods used in the various domains of science.

Ethics of Emerging Weapons Technology
20628 01 (17992)
11:00-12:15 TR

Ethics of Emerging Weapons Technology
20628 02 (17994)
12:30-1:45 TR

Game Theory
20652 01 (16608)
10:30-11:20 MW
A Friday discussion section is required, PHIL 22652.

Game theory is the study of strategic decision making, used to analyze decisions in situations where the outcome of your choice depends on the choices of others. Studying game theory can aid in your understanding of how to make rational decisions in various situations during your everyday life. Game theory is also used to study decision making in a variety of academic fields including economics, politics, biology, and philosophy.

Tech and Innovation Ethics
20655 01 (22038)

5:05-6:20 MW

This course will closely consider the ethical responsibilities inherent in the process of technological innovation from the perspective of the innovator. Innovation is here broadly framed as ethical and social intervention in the life of users and society rather than merely technical invention. Topics covered include the nature of responsibility, values in design, the roles of regulation and of business models, and cases from social media, AI, and robotics.

Philosophy of Religion
20801 01 (19964)
3:30-4:45 TR

An examination of the rational basis of religious beliefs. 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.

Philosophy of Religion
20801 02 (19963)
2:00-3:15 TR

This course will examine principal questions in the philosophy of religion relating to the nature and existence of God, religious beliefs, religious experience, divine hiddenness, religious pluralism and exclusivism, immortality, the relationship between God and ethics, and other questions.

Thought of Aquinas
20805 02 (17782)
3:30-4:45 MW

This course is an introduction to the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas is the most influential medieval philosopher, and a central figure in Catholic intellectual tradition. He wrote on all the major philosophical and theological topics of his day, and he wrote a lot, more than 8,000,000 (yep, million) words. We will just look at some central questions:

-Can religious faith be rational? Is philosophy the highest kind of human inquiry?
-What do all beings have in common? How is change possible? Do we survive death?
-Does God exist? What is God like? How can our limited words and concepts be applied to an infinite God?

Our main goal will be to understand and assess St. Thomas's theories and arguments, while placing them in a broader historical and theoretical context. Thus we will also touch on some of the background to St. Thomas's thought in the Aristotelian and Christian Platonic traditions, and some of the opposing views of his contemporaries.