Majors & minors courses
The courses below are, for the most part, restricted to Philosophy majors and minors. You can learn more about the various majors and minors we offer on our Majors and Minors page. If you are a non-major interested in taking one of the courses below, you should sign up for an appointment with Professor Jech, the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30301 01 (21203)
30301 02 (26291) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Cross-listed with MI 30301-01
This course is a (select) survey of ancient and medieval philosophy. This time around we will focus mainly on Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas.
History of Modern Philosophy
30302 01 (31357)
This course is an introduction to early modern European philosophy. Authors to be read include René Descartes (1596-1650), Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), G. W. Leibniz (1646-1716), George Berkeley (1685-1753), David Hume (1711-1776), and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Topics will include: (i) the widespread abandonment of Aristotelian natural science in the 17th century and the simultaneous advent of the “new science,” (ii) the existence and nature of God, (iii) the existence and nature of body, (iv) the nature of the soul (or mind), (v) the limits of human knowledge, and (vi) the challenge posed by the new science for the notions of human freedom and morality.
Gateway Seminar - David Lewis
30304 01 (26116)
Department Approval Required
David Lewis was one of the most influential philosophers of the late twentieth century, and his work still plays a central role in setting the agenda in areas of philosophy including metaphysics, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. This course will consist of engaging with over a dozen of Lewis's most influential papers and chapters, together with readings from subsequent philosophers which engage with the arguments Lewis offers. Topics include the nature of the mind, the nature of experience, possibility and necessity, causation, the role of context in language and epistemology, the nature of value, and reflection on Lewis's philosophical method.
Gateway Seminar - Deviant Logics and Philosophy
30304 02 (26117)
Department Approval Required
According to the standard account of logical consequence (logical validity, logical entailment) there’s no logical possibility in which a declarative statement (sentence, proposition, claim) is neither true nor false, and likewise no logical possibility in which a declarative statement is both true and false. But why think that the space of logical possibility is restricted in those ways? According to some “deviant logics” — that is, accounts of logical consequence that deviate from said standard story — there are logical possibilities in which a statement is neither true nor false, and likewise some logical possibilities in which a statement is both true and false.
This course is an introduction to a handful of “deviant” accounts of logical consequence. The goal is not only to master the basics of target accounts; the goal is also to discuss motivation for such accounts, including (but not limited to) strange paradoxical phenomena.
Required reading will be drawn from notes (to be distributed), problem sets (to be distributed), and the introductory book /Logic: The Basics/, 2nd Edition, by Jc Beall & Shay Logan.
Questions about the course may be directed to Professor Jc Beall at firstname.lastname@example.org using “Subject: S22 Deviant Logic” as the Subject line.
The Examined Life
30305 01 (24742)
Department Approval Required
In this course, open to new members of the God and the Good Life Fellows Program, we will consider what it means to live philosophically. We will first approach this question in a general way by considering the nature of philosophy and its relationship to the rest of life. We will then take a more in-depth look at specific philosophical frameworks that aim to inform how we live. We will seek to understand and assess these frameworks in their own right, in light of the contexts in which they were produced, and will also discuss the extent (if any) to which they are adaptable as guides to our own lives. In the final part of the course, we will break into small groups, each of which will prepare a dialogue and an immersion experience about other philosophical frameworks for living well.
This course also provides support and ongoing training to first-time dialogue leaders in the GGL Fellows Program. To that end, our class meetings will be formatted in the same way as the dialogue meetings in GGL, and will include time for dialogue about the experience of facilitating GGL dialogues, including collaborative troubleshooting of any issues that may arise within or across GGL dialogue groups. The philosophical content we engage with in this course will also enrich the GGL dialogue experience by introducing perspectives that challenge and/or illuminate many of the positions that your dialogue group members will be exposed to in GGL.
Pre-requisites: PHIL 10111, PHIL 20111, or PHIL 14101
30313 01 (20182)
30313 02 (26292) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
This course will provide an introduction to first-order formal logic. We'll begin by introducing a nice symbolic language and then learn how to "translate" between this language and ordinary English. Next, we'll study the notions of deduction and entailment as they are defined for this language. Finally, and on a more explicitly philosophical note, we'll discuss the degree to which these formally defined notions manage to capture ordinary language notions like "logical consequence" or "argumentative validity."
American Political Thought
30409 01 (27181)
30409 02 (27182) - Reserved for Philosophy Majors/Minors
30409 03 (29579) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Weithman & McGreevy
Cross-listed with HIST 30654 01
A Friday Discussion is Required.
Coming to grips with American political thought is at once an historical and a philosophical task. Students in this course will take on that task under the guidance of one faculty member from the Department of History and one from the Department of Philosophy. The guiding questions of the course are: How have ideas about freedom, equality and the social contract played out in the history of American political thought? When have we realized those ideas and when have we failed? Do those ideas provide us adequate guidance? The exploration of American political thought will be divided into six periods: The Founding, the Civil War era, the late 19th-century, the New Deal to the 1960s, the 1960s to the 1990s, and the 1990s to the present. The course has no prerequisites, though students wishing to count it toward the Philosophy requirement must previously have taken 'Introduction to Philosophy'.
43101 01 (31356)
43101 02 (32468) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
In this course we will read Plato's Laches, Protagoras, Meno, Gorgias, and Apology of Socrates, along with some secondary literature on the same. We will focus especially on the character Socrates, using him as a point of entry into Plato's thinking about the nature and value of philosophy itself.
43129 01 (31355)
43129 02 (32471) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Cross-listed with ASIA 43129-01
This is an introductory course in classical Chinese philosophy. We’ll focus on philosophy from the Warring States periods (475-221BC), which saw the rise of the “Hundred Schools of Thought.” In particular, we'll trace the development of early Confucianism, focusing on three philosophers: Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi. We’ll also look at the ways in which these philosophers influenced and were influenced by philosophers from rival traditions, like Mohism, Yangism, the School of Logic, Daoism, and Legalism.
Aquinas' Philosophical Theology
43149 01 (31353)
Cross-listed with MI 43341-01
A close examination of the philosophical arguments within the first thirteen questions of the first part of Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, as well as related texts elsewhere in his work, and related discussions in other authors as the occasion arises. We will read the entire 13 questions. However, we will not consider all of the topics that come up on them. The course will focus upon certain topics to the exclusion of others. One task of philosophy is to figure out what its subject matter is. So we will begin with an initial discussion of the nature of philosophy. And the topics of particular interest in the 13 questions are the relationship between Sacra Doctrina and the exercise of reason apart from Sacra Doctrina, the demonstration of the existence of a god, and its role within Sacred Theology, the simplicity of a god, the perfections that pertain to a god, our knowledge of a god, and how we speak about a god.
Proust and the Philosophers
43210 01 (32347)
Cross-listed with PHIL 93628 01
Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche Du Temps Perdue (In Search of Lost Time) has been called the most important novel of the twentieth century. Previous to its final inception, its author was uncertain of the work’s status. “Must I make of it a novel, a philosophical study, am I a novelist?” (Notebook of 1908). Recent research has revealed the extent to which Proust himself was substantially trained in philosophy (for example, the metaphysics of Schopenhauer or the aesthetics of Hegel and Schelling). Perhaps even more significant is the extent of the influence of The Search on philosophers after it. Among others, Proust’s work played an essential role in the arguments of Adorno or Benjamin, Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur, Kristeva and Deleuze, or Nussbaum, Pippin, and Taylor. This seminar will begin by reading extensive parts of this multivolume work in translation and considering the philosophical positions it transforms. We will then examine Proust’s influence in a number of areas of philosophy. This in turn will allow us to confront the relationship between philosophy and literature more particularly.
Requirements: Midterm, Research Paper, Seminar Presentation.
Philosophy of Music
43313 01 (31352)
43313 02 (32476) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
What is the nature of music? What is its meaning and value? Is it representational or expressive (or both), and how does it stand in relation to paradigmatically representational art forms such as painting? What role does tonality play in imparting meaning to music? These are some of the questions that we will explore in the course. We will consider various examples, including some drawn from Baroque music and (classically-inspired) jazz. The ability to read music is a prerequisite for this course, and some competence with an instrument will be extremely helpful.
Love, Beauty, & Objectification
43319 01 (31092)
43319 02 (32477) -Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Cross-listed with PHIL 83607 01, GSC 53702 01, GSC 63702 01
This class will take an interdisciplinary approach to addressing interconnected issues in feminist philosophy on the topics of love, beauty, and (sexual) objectification. Likely topics include (i) the nature of sexual objectification and its relationship to the phenomenon of dehumanization, (ii) objectifying and non-objectifying modes of “loving” others, with special attention to the role of empathy in this distinction, (iii) the idea that beauty norms function as global ethical ideals, (iv) the idea that norms of feminine bodily comportment are shaped both by the prevalence of sexual objectification and the threat of sexual assault, and (v) some of the consequences of various ways in which these different issues (especially iii and iv) are intertwined.
Science and Social Values
43704 01 (31351)
43704 02 (32478) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Science and social values? The established wisdom has it that science offers us the truth about the empirical world—what is rather than what ought to be—and that social values have little to do with it. How else explain the fact that science can be used for both good and ill and that science is granted authority by people of widely different ethical and political persuasions? According to this idea, in short, science is, or at least ought to be, “value-free” or “value-neutral.” In this course we shall explore the major strands of this idea, their origins in Western thought, and the hold they still have on us. Our main focus, however, will be on their current tangles with the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and the knotty questions that have developed as a result, questions concerning the prospects of scientific objectivity and the role of science in a democratic society.
This course will be run as a seminar with students sometimes leading class discussions, presenting the results of individual research projects to the group, and further developing those projects using feedback from the group. The aim, of course, will be for students to develop fully informed and defensible responses to the controversial terrain we shall be exploring.
Joint Seminar in Philosophy and Theology: Augustine and Aquinas on Knowing God
43801 01 (21385)
Jech & Astell
Cross-listed with THEO 43203 01
This course pairs two extraordinary Jewish women philosophers of the World War II period who died during the period of Nazi persecution—Stein (1891-1942) in Auschwitz, and Weil (1901-1943) in England. Both studied under (and with) noted male philosophers—Husserl, Heidegger, Scheler, Von Hildebrand, and Alain, among others—and they developed their original insights on empathy and education (Stein), decreation and affliction (Weil) partly in response to their teachers. Both women struggled with their Jewish identity—Weil exemplifying an unconventional Christian Platonism and mysticism, Stein becoming a Catholic nun and canonized saint. Both wrote autobiographies. Literary and artistic criticism, meditations on mystical writings and experiences, and creative expressions (poetry and plays), as well as important essays on politics, philosophy, and theology belong to their fertile writings. Their lives and letters have inspired, in turn, the creative expressions of others: novels, plays, and poetry. Their intellectual quests in the shadow of the Holocaust led them to take up theological questions, studying St. Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius the Areopagite, St. John of the Cross (Stein), St. Francis, Bernanos, Marx, Plato, and Pascal (Weil). The answers they gave to God and others testify to the heroism and brilliance of their spiritual searches for truth and help to explain their continuing influence within the Church.
Philosophy of Mind
43901 01 (24117)
43901 02 (26293) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Cross-listed with STV 43901 01 & CDT 43510 01
This course examines fundamental questions about the mind and its place in nature. Questions to be addressed include: what is the relationship between mind and matter? Can the existence of consciousness be reconciled with a materialist view of the world? What is the self? How does the mind perceive the world? What is the nature of artificial intelligence: could a machine have a mind like ours?
Philosophy of Language
43902 01 (31350)
43902 02 (32479) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
This course is an introduction to the philosophy of language, designed for fairly-advanced undergraduates.
The philosophy of language became, in the middle of the 20th century, an important center of gravity in the so-called “analytic” tradition in philosophy. A number of issues in epistemology, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and to some extent the philosophy of math and of logic, began in this period to be viewed as importantly related to issues concerning the working of language. This is one reason to spend some time learning about the philosophy of language: it comes up all over the place, and plays an essential role in various important debates in the above fields. The other reason is just that language itself is a fascinating topic: our relationships to each other, to the world around us, and even to our own thoughts, are importantly affected by the ways in which language works. Language plays an important political role, since the ways in which we speak about and to other people are instrumental in shaping our conceptions of each other and of ourselves. But much about the workings of language is quite mysterious: how, for example, do our words get to be about specific things, especially about abstract things? How are our thoughts and ideas related to the words we use? Do languages play an essential role in shaping, or are they merely contingent add-ons to, our theories about the world? The purpose of this course is to investigate some of these issues, with the hope that at the end of the semester, students will have some well-reasoned views, and some well-articulated questions, about some central philosophical issues related to language.
Philosophy of Mathematics
43906 01 (31349)
43906 02 (32481) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Cross-listed with MATH 40920 01
Philosophical conundrums pervade mathematics, from fundamental questions of mathematical ontology to deep questions of epistemology. What are numbers? What is the nature of infinity? How do or can we come to mathematical knowledge? What are the relations between truth, proof, and meaning? Does every mathematical truth admit of proof? What role do figures play in geometric argument? Do mathematical objects exist that we cannot construct? Can every mathematical question be solved in principle by computation? By what criteria are we to accept or reject mathematical axioms? These are merely a few of the questions we shall consider while exploring various philosophical positions, including platonism, realism, logicism, structuralism, formalism, constructivism, and many others. No specific mathematical knowledge is required for study in this subject, but a stronger mathematical background may enable a deeper understanding. The course is part of the philosophy major, but interested students from mathematics and computer science are welcome and indeed encouraged to participate.
Main text: Joel David Hamkins, Lectures on the Philosophy of Mathematics, MIT Press 2021. There will be supplemental readings from the philosophical literature.
Topics in Mathematical Logic
43922 01 (32511)
Cross-listed with MATH 40910 01 & CSE 40910 01
Logic is about truth, proof, and computation. This semester’s course will combine all these elements. Roughly speaking a statement or sentence is called logically valid if it is true just for logical reasons. Much of the course will be based around a certain method, the resolution method, for checking that suitable statements are logically valid. Some of our focus will be on complexity questions: can we check logical validity in an efficient or fast manner. We will also be discussing the famous undecidability result of Goedel, for predicate logic.
43924 01 (31348)
43924 02 (32482) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Cross-listed with PHIL 93931 01
48499 01 (10607)
Department Approval Required