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 (21489)

Squires
2:00-3:15 TR

This course introduces students to topics in ancient and medieval philosophy. We will proceed historically beginning with certain pre-Socratic authors who had a profound impact on the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. After gaining this foundation, we will investigate what it means to be, to be alive, and to live well according to Plato and Aristotle. In the process, we will come to terms with Greek notions of being, soul, and happiness. From here, we will inquire into the adaptation of these notions in medieval philosophy, paying particular attention to medieval classical theology, viz. the proofs for the existence of God, as well as the doctrine of God's nature and our knowledge or lack thereof of that nature.


Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30301 02 (30123)

Squires
12:30-1:45 TR

This course introduces students to topics in ancient and medieval philosophy. We will proceed historically beginning with certain pre-Socratic authors who had a profound impact on the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. After gaining this foundation, we will investigate what it means to be, to be alive, and to live well according to Plato and Aristotle. In the process, we will come to terms with Greek notions of being, soul, and happiness. From here, we will inquire into the adaptation of these notions in medieval philosophy, paying particular attention to medieval classical theology, viz. the proofs for the existence of God, as well as the doctrine of God's nature and our knowledge or lack thereof of that nature.


History of Modern Philosophy
30302 01 (20745)

Kraus
9:30-10:45 TR

The 17th and 18th centuries brought about not only revolutionary changes in science, society, religion, and politics, but also crucial intellectual developments in philosophy. The so-called “modern philosophers” were deeply engaged in developing new approaches to understanding the relationships between human beings, God and nature. They decisively shaped the debates of intellectuals, scientists, and political and religious leaders in their own time and since. In this course, we will explore the central themes of modern philosophy, including issues such as: the nature of the human mind and its relationship to the body; conceptions of the self and of human rationality; the nature, role and knowledge of God; scepticism and knowledge of the external world; the nature of causation; the possibility of human freedom and its role for morality, religion, and politics; explanations of evil and human suffering. We will pay particular attention to the way in which the problems, methods, and proposed solutions that are central for the modern philosophers still inform the debates in contemporary philosophy.

Readings will be drawn mainly from Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.


Philosophy as a Way of Life
30305 01 (27991)

Christy
11:00-12:15 TR

In this course, we will consider what it means to pursue philosophy as a way of life.  More specifically, what does it mean for a philosophical argument to convert you to a new way of life or to actively inform how you live? We will begin the course by exploring some general issues this question raises, including what it is to undertake self-examination, whether it is psychologically healthy, how to do it well, and how to help others do it too. We will then look at specific case studies of individuals who have been “converted” by philosophy. We will discuss how and why these individuals have been converted, whether they are being reasonable, heroic, fanatical, etc. 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 ways philosophy might permeate a life.  Examples from previous semesters include pacifism, feminism, anarchism, and orthodox Judaism.


Philosophy as a Way of Life
30305 02 (30630)

Christy
12:30-1:45 TR

In this course, we will consider what it means to pursue philosophy as a way of life.  More specifically, what does it mean for a philosophical argument to convert you to a new way of life or to actively inform how you live? We will begin the course by exploring some general issues this question raises, including what it is to undertake self-examination, whether it is psychologically healthy, how to do it well, and how to help others do it too. We will then look at specific case studies of individuals who have been “converted” by philosophy. We will discuss how and why these individuals have been converted, whether they are being reasonable, heroic, fanatical, etc. 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 ways philosophy might permeate a life.  Examples from previous semesters include pacifism, feminism, anarchism, and orthodox Judaism.


Feminist Philosophy and Science Fiction
30307 01 (30124)

Rea
12:30-1:45 MW

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. Science fiction readings will include texts by Margaret Atwood, Joanna Russ, Octavia E. Butler, Alice B. Sheldon (under the pen name of "James Tiptree, Jr."), and Ursula LeGuin. Some of these texts will be paired with works of contemporary philosophy; others will not be. Course requirements will probably be as follows: Two short papers (max 1500 words), one longer paper (max 6000 words) submitted in two drafts, and participation in class discussions.

This course is restricted to first-year students who want to explore the possibility of majoring in Philosophy, with approval of the DUS.


Contemporary Political Philosophy
30308 01 (30125)
Weithman
3:30-4:45 TR

The last four decades have been an extraordinarily exciting time in the development of political philosophy. Many of the central questions in the subject have received their most authoritative formulation and treatment since the 19th century. This course will survey developments in English-speaking philosophical world in that period. We will begin with two sessions on current events. A good deal of attention will then be devoted to the ground-breaking writings of John Rawls. We will also look briefly at some writing of Pope Francis, asking whether it is as radical as it seems, and we will spend some time on human dignity and its political implications. Other topics to be covered include toleration and the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. The course will be run as a seminar.

This course is restricted to first-year students who want to explore the possibility of majoring in Philosophy, with approval of the DUS.


Philosophy of Sport
30309 01 (30631)
Warfield
12:30-1:45 MW

This course is primarily intended for students exploring the possibility of majoring in philosophy and requires Departmental approval. We will survey a range of questions about sports that have received significant recent attention from philosophers. These questions include but are not limited to questions about morality of sports and morality within sports. Along with this wide ranging survey of philosophy of sports, we will explore in some depth recent NCAA issues about amateurism and the role of high level athletics within major American research universities. 

Requirements – Several medium sized papers; regular in class activities; a day of partial class leadership

This course is restricted to first-year students who want to explore the possibility of majoring in Philosophy, with approval of the DUS.


Formal Logic
30313 01 (20233)
Franks
12:30-1:45 TR

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: Weekly problem sets and two exams.


Formal Logic
30313 02 (30126)
McEldowney
11:00-12:15 MW

This course serves as an introduction to formal logic. In particular, we will study practical and theoretical aspects of certain formal systems such as propositional logic and first-order logic. We will apply our understanding of these systems to analyze natural-language arguments and to address philosophical questions concerning the nature of consequence, validity, and logical form. 


Dante And Aristotle
43138 01 (30128)
Duarte and Karnes
12:30-1:45 TR

In this course, we will be reading Dante’s Commedia as well as works by Aristotle and various ancient and medieval philosophers. Our aim will be to understand the way an Aristotelian worldview informs the Commedia. We will look at the cosmology of the work and how it responds to ancient and medieval theories of the cosmos. We will also investigate the ethics of Dante’s famous journey to hell, purgatory, and heaven with a view to identifying its Aristotelian elements. For instance, what is the role of pleasure in the ethical life? What is the highest good of the human being? How should human beings live in such a way as to achieve their highest end? All readings will be in translation.


Phenomenology
43202 (30129)
Watson
5:05-6:20 TR

This seminar will survey contemporary work in phenomenology. The first third of the semester will be devoted to an examination of Edmund Husserl’s classical account. The second part will briefly examine both external challenges and internal developments to this account: for example by Schlick or Carnap, Heidegger or Merleau-Ponty, Cassirer or Adorno, Derrida or Deleuze. In so doing we will be particularly focused on modifying Husserl’s strong foundationalist commitments. Finally we will examine the contemporary status and applications of phenomenology, for example, in Ethics, Aesthetics or Philosophy of Religion.


Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
43312 01 (30130)
Rush
2:00-3:15 TR

This course is an introduction into certain key concepts and issues involved in thinking philosophically about art. There are five main topic areas covered: (1) the ontology of art, i.e., what differentiates art from what isn’t art; (2) the relation of art to art criticism; (3) art and ethical valuation; (4) debates over public art; and (5) art and technology. Readings are from both classical and contemporary sources. 


Philosophy, Gender, and Feminism
43318 01 (30131)
Bernstein and Rea
11:00-12:15 MW

This course aims to survey a variety of philosophical issues pertaining to gender and feminism. Over the past five years, interest in these topics has grown substantially within the profession, particularly (and most remarkably) among analytic metaphysicians, epistemologists, and philosophers of language. We will survey some of the more important issues that have been the focus of this recent surge of interest. Topics we expect to cover include the metaphysics of gender (e.g., the sex-gender distinction, the nature of masculinity and femininity, gender essentialism vs. gender constructivism); implicit bias and hermeneutic injustice; sexual harassment, violence, and the nature of consent; gender, feminism, and religion; and intersectionality.


Philosophical Issues in Law and Medicine
43324 01 (27878)
Warfield
2:00-3:15 MW

This course will be divided into three units. This semester’s version of the course focuses on legal and policy issues governing patient decisions.

1.    Assisted suicide – with a focus on the American legal debate
2.    Controversial medical decisions concerning children
3.    Case studies of a variety of adult patient decisions regarding treatment

Requirements – one medium sized paper per unit; a day of partial class leadership.


Radical Politics: Socialism and Anarchism
43429 01 (30133)
Rush
11:00-12:15 TR

We consider classic texts in modern political philosophy that pose direct challenges to liberalism. Three main lines of thought are discussed: social conservative, socialist, and anarchist. Readings from among: Burke, Maistre, Oakeshott, Marx, Lenin, Lukács, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin.


Pragmatism
43605 01 (30634)
Delaney
2:00-3:15 TR


Joint Seminar in Theology and Philosophy: Aquinas and Scotus
43801 01 (21735)
Astell and Reimers
9:30-10:45 TR

Karol Wojtyła (1920−2005), better known as Saint Pope John Paul II, studied philosophy at Jagiellonian University, where he wrote his Habilitation thesis on the ethics of Max Scheler (1874-1928), a noted philosopher in the circle of early phenomenologists. That circle, gathered around “the Master,” Edmund Husserl (1859−1938), included Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889−1997), Roman Ingarden (1893−1970), and Edith Stein (1891−1942), later canonized as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.  The tragedy of World War II was an experience shared by Stein, murdered in Auschwitz, and the young Wojtyła, a quarry worker and clandestine seminarian in occupied Poland.  Through Ingarden, Wojtyła later became acquainted with the life and writings of Stein, with whom he shared interests in personalism, Thomism, theatre, the mysticism of Saint John of the Cross, the history and theology of Jewish-Christian relations, the dignity of human work and of woman, and the complementarity of the sexes. This joint seminar is designed to facilitate an in-depth comparison of Stein and Wojtyła as philosophers and theologians.


Philosophy of Mind
43901 01 (26162)
Fricker
12:30-1:45 TR

FORMAT AND STYLE
The course will run for 13 weeks altogether (7; 6), plus a revision session and exam mid-term.
There are two sessions each week (Tues and Thurs 12.30-13.45).
The class is limited to twelve students, and I hope to have an informal style where students will all give short presentations at some point during the term, and there will be a relaxed atmosphere in which class discussion will be a main way in which learning is promoted. This will however be lead by me, and I expect also each week to give an explanation of the main ideas of the week’s topic.

In the first week I will talk to give a general introduction to the area, and then introduce class discussion. For this first week there will be an assignment of some introductory background reading, but no set reading on a specific topic. From week two onwards we will each week study a specific core topic in the area, with set reading of either two short articles/chapters, or one longer one. Further readings will be suggested for those who want to follow up a specific topic, e.g. for their term paper.
The teaching format each week will be thus: students will be expected to have done the set reading before the Tuesday class. In that class I will talk explaining the main ideas of the week’s topic, with breaks for questions and discussion. In the second (Thursday) class each week, the class will typically begin with a student or pair of students giving a very short presentation (10-15 mins). They will summarize what they see as the main issues of the topic, and suggest two questions for further discussion. Each student taking the class for credit will be expected to make at least one presentation during the term. Students are encouraged to join together in a pair to design and give a presentation. Students should not spend more than an absolute maximum of 2 hours over and above normal reading time, in preparing their presentations.

The course will be examined by a mid-term exam in the last week of the first half-semester (students will write short answers to two questions out of a choice of at least six; questions for this will be on 3 out of the topics already studied, which these are will be advised in advance of the exam); and a term paper due in at the end of term. Each student will have a one-on-one meeting with me to discuss the topic of their term paper and be given guidance on reading and structure, and a further one to discuss a first draft of it. Term papers should be between 3-4,000 words in length. Students’ grades will be assigned on the basis of their mid-term exam paper and term paper, NOT on the quality of their oral presentation in class.

CONTENT
Topics covered will include: what are mental states, and is there an essence of the mental?; self-deception and our concepts of beliefs and desires; our everyday explanations of actions in terms of reasons (beliefs and desires); behaviorism and functionalism as accounts of the nature of our everyday ‘folk’ mental concepts; we will spend several weeks on the nature of consciousness, and the relation of mind to brain. This will include a detailed examination of Descartes’ argument in Meditation VI for substance dualism, as well as contemporary discussions. Other topics are: our knowledge of other minds; perception; emotions; the nature of sensations or ‘qualia’. Over the term we will develop an understanding of the nature of our everyday concepts of mental states, and what this implies for both the relation between mind and brain, and how each one of us is able to know of the existence of other conscious thinking beings.

A detailed reading list for the first half-semester from January 2018 will be available by early December. (What precisely we do in the second half-semester will depend on how things go in the first half.)
Students will benefit greatly if they are able to do some recommended preparatory reading over the Christmas break, recommendations will be available in the final week of the fall semester.

I will be on campus in Notre Dame in the final week of the fall term, from Monday 4th December. If any student would like to meet with me, to ask questions about the class, they are welcome to contact me via my ND email address to arrange this.


Philosophy of Language
43902 01 (30134)
Blanchette
9:30-10:45 TR

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, and arguably to the world around us and even perhaps to our own thoughts, are importantly affected by the ways in which language works. It plays a central role in much of what makes life worthwhile. 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.

Requirements: several very short, and several medium-length papers; one final exam.


Philosophy of Mathematics
43906 01 (30636)
Detlefsen
11:00-12:15 MW


Perception
43909 01 (30135)
Stubenberg
2:00-3:15 TR

We begin with a survey of the theories of perception that were prominently discussed in 20th century analytic philosophy (Fish). For the most part, these theories have been driven by the conviction that our perceptual contact with the world cannot be a simple matter of us being directly related to the external objects that surround us. This naïve view of things was widely taken to be untenable. But currently we witness a revival of the naïve view. The remainder of the course we will focus on one way of defending the naïve view—the theory of disjunctivism. After reading a new introduction to the disjunctivist view (Soteriou), we will conclude the course with a careful study of Brewers detailed and intricate articulation of a disjunctivist theory of perception.

Requirements:
Two papers: a longer one that engages a topic central to the disjunctivist theory of perception (about 12 pages); and a shorter one that engages one of the other theories of perception that we studied (about 8 pages).

Books
William Fish: The Philosophy of Perception. A Contemporary Introduction. Routledge 2010
Matthew Soteriou: Disjunctivism. Routledge 2016
Bill Brewer: Perception and Its Objects. Oxford 2011.


Gödel's Theory
43924 01 (30136)
Bays
9:30-10:45 MW

This course looks at some of the famous incompleteness and undecidability results from the first half of the twentieth century. We’ll start by discussing the notion of computability and then use this notion to examine the limitations of (even ideal) computers. We’ll then move on to look at Goedel’s first and second incompleteness theorems, the undecidability of arithmetic and of second-order logic, and the undefinability of truth. Finally, if there’s time, we will discuss some of the technical and philosophical ramifications of this material.

Crosslisted with: PHIL 93931