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.

Fall 2022 Courses

Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30301 01 (11281)

T. Cory
9:30-10:45 TR
Cross-listed with MI 30301-01

This course is a survey of themes concerning metaphysics, mind, and knowledge, in key ancient and medieval philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Avicenna, Aquinas, and Ockham. We will read primary texts, and coursework will include papers, exams, and the practice of the medieval art of disputatio.

Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30302 01 (13368)

T. Cory
11:00-12:15 TR

This course is a survey of themes concerning metaphysics, mind, and knowledge, in key ancient and medieval philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Avicenna, Aquinas, and Ockham. We will read primary texts, and coursework will include papers, exams, and the practice of the medieval art of disputatio.

History of Modern Philosophy
30302 01 (10808)

12:30-1:45 TR

Gateway Seminar - Newman on Faith and Reason
30304 01 (14943)
3:30-4:45 TR
Department Approval Required

In this course we will use the writings of John Henry Newman--especially his University Sermons and Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent--as a way into thinking and talking about the relationship between faith and reason. Though not a philosopher by trade, Newman thought about this topic for most of his life and his writing about it is original and probing. We will focus in particular on two questions of Newman's own: how can you assent to what you don't understand, and how can you be sure of what you can't prove?

Gateway Seminar - Aristotle, Machiavelli, and the Modern Republic
30304 02 (17911)
9:30-10:45 TR
Department Approval Required

The Examined Life
30305 01 (15063)
3:30-4:45 MW
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

Formal Logic
30313 01 (14469)

11:00-12:15 TR

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."

Core Seminar in Philosophy, Science, and Mathematics
30329 01 (14151)

2:00-3:15 MW
Department Approval Required

43135 01 (19958)

11:00-12:15 TR
Cross-listed with PHIL 83229 01 and THEO 40211 01

This seminar will examine the major philosophical and theological writings of St. Anselm. His Monologion, Proslogion, and Cur Deus Homo will be of central concern, but several lesser-known Anselmian texts will also be read. Topics discussed in these writings include arguments for the existence of God, the divine nature, the Trinity, the Incarnation, human and angelic freedom (and their compatibility with divine foreknowledge), and truth.

Texts: The main text for the course will be Anselm: Basic Writings, a Hackett paperback; Thomas Williams is the editor and translator. Several chapters from Anselm, by Sandra Visser and Thomas Williams, will also be assigned. A few additional contemporary discussions of Anselm may also be read.

Requirements: The course will consist of loosely-structured lectures, with student participation expected and encouraged. Students will be required to submit three short (five-to-six page) papers (one of which will be discussed in class) and a final exam. The opportunity to make class presentations may also be offered.

Ethical Theory
43301 01 (19956)

3:30-4:45 TR

Seminar design. This course is designed as a seminar, which is much more discussion-oriented than most courses in the usual lecture setting and also presupposes that seminar members present ideas and even drafts to the group as a whole.  This provides experience both in writing for a readership wider than the instructor (and perhaps a few others) and in orally presenting ideas of one’s own—as the work of the world demands of almost everyone and, of course, of those exercising leadership.

Focus and subject. We often confidently make moral judgments, but do we have genuine moral knowledge?  If we do, how can we account for the ethical disagreements that are evident in and outside our own society? One some views, there is little if any moral knowledge and perhaps no good moral justification either. On other views, there is perceptual knowledge (of the physical world) but not much more, apart from knowledge in logic and pure mathematics.  For some philosophers, however, perceptual knowledge includes a kind of moral knowledge. Is perceptual moral knowledge possible? Must we accept moral skepticism? And might we have justification without knowledge?  What would that mean, and how much objectivity would it provide for in our moral judgments?

Readings and an intellectual aim. The great moral philosophers have had interesting powerful views on these questions.  So do many contemporary theorists.  This seminar will study and articulate both the main historically important positions in moral epistemology and a number of views proposed in recent philosophical literature. The seminar will invite students to formulate their own positions—both along the way in responding to the readings and in their writing assignments, which consist in short writings during the seminar and a substantial paper (on a topic agreeable to both author and instructor) at the close.  The result should be both a better understanding of ethics, an enhanced ability to deal with moral disagreements, and a reasoned position on some of the major ethical questions that face us.  Readings will begin—to get us on the “same page” and provide reference points for discussion—with selections from Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and W. D. Ross (a 20th-Century philosopher representing common-sense ethics).  (At least the first three of these are widely agreed to be required for basic literacy the field of ethics.) Selected contemporary readings will also be discussed, and at least one outside speaker is expected.

A vocationally practical aim. A related aim is to help participants both to write well and to acquire skill in discussing issues effectively in a setting conducive to wide-ranging inquiry and to development of distinctive views of one’s own. The instructor will help in this process through both seminar discussions and individual meetings. Discussion will also be stressed, and participants will have opportunities to make presentations.

Justice Seminar
43404 01 (11313)

Weithman and Keys
3:30-4:45 TR
Cross-listed with POLS 43640 01 and ECON 33250 01

Contemporary Political Philosophy
43443 01 (19955)

2:00-3:15 TR
Cross-listed with PHIL 93619 01

43501 01 (19953)
One Seat is Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

2:00-3:15 TR

Metaphysics and the Mind-Body Problem
43507 01 (20813)
43507 02 (21388) -Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

12:30-3:15 T
Cross-listed with PHIL 93502 01

What is Matter? The seventeenth century mathematician and philosopher René Descartes had an elegant answer to this question: the essence of matter is extension—extension in length, breadth, and depth. And since Descartes also held that the mind is indivisible while everything extended is divisible, the classic mind-body problem was born: How are we to find a place for the mind in a material world? But the material world has changed fundamentally since the seventeenth century, or at least our conception of it has, and we no longer have an elegant answer to the question, “what is matter?” if we have an answer to it at all. This course grapples with the difficulty of understanding the concept of matter (as well as its close relative, the physical) and explores some implications of “the thinning of matter” for our philosophical theorizing about mind and meaning in a post-physical world.

Topics in the Philosophy of Statistics
43702 01 (21018)
One Seat is Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

11:00-12:15 TR

This course is an introduction to some of the foundational questions about probability from a "statistics first" point of view. We will begin with an elementary review of statistical inference, hypothesis testing and asymptotics, which will provide a background context for our discussion of why probability is empirically relevant, and what we should think probabilities are (on the basis of being empirically relevant in this way). By way of illustration, we will discuss these philosophical questions about probability in the context of simple examples drawn from physics and economics. The assessment will include several problem sets, a midterm exam and a final exam. 

Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence
43903 01 (19952)
One Seat is Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

11:00-12:15 MW
Cross-listed with TEC 43101 01

This course examines a range of metaphysical, ethical, and social questions about artificial intelligence. Questions to be addressed include: Could a computer be conscious? Is there anything the human mind can do that a machine couldn't be programmed to do? What are the similarities and differences between human and artificial intelligence? What are the likely cultural and economic effects of AI? What moral principles should guide our use of AI? Is it likely that we'll create AGI (artificial general intelligence), and would this pose an existential threat to humanity?

Intermediate Logic
43907 01 (18351)
43907 02 (21391) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

3:30-6:15 R
Cross-listed with PHIL 83901 01

Game Theory
43926 01 (17505)
43926 02 (21386) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

10:30-11:20 MW
Cross-listed with PHIL 20652 01 and STV 43926 01
A Friday Discussion Section is Required - PHIL 42926.

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.

Senior Thesis
48499 01 (10547)
Department Approval Required