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.

Spring 2023 Courses


Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30301 03 (30995)

T. Cory
2:00-3:15 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 (28068)

Bischof
2:00-3:15 TR

The end of the Middle Ages culminated in an era of revolutions in society, science, and culture propelled by bold philosophical ideas. Spanning roughly from 1600 to 1800, this era is what we now call ‘modern philosophy.’ To this day, many contemporary debates in philosophy take these ideas as their starting points. In this course, we will survey some of the most influential publications of this time.

This course will also take you on a guided tour of the so-called Republic of Letters. Hundreds of years before the advent of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, modern philosophers engaged in a lively debate behind the scenes of their publications. Traversing countries and continents, we will encounter an infamous theologian, distinguished ladies, and even a Jesuit in China.

In order to engage with the ideas of these philosophers ourselves and to put ourselves in their shoes a bit, we will all participate as citizens in our own little Republic of Letters. Come to class and make some philosophical pen friends!

 

 


History of Modern Philosophy
30302 02 (32307)

Bischof
3:30-4:45 TR

The end of the Middle Ages culminated in an era of revolutions in society, science, and culture propelled by bold philosophical ideas. Spanning roughly from 1600 to 1800, this era is what we now call ‘modern philosophy.’ To this day, many contemporary debates in philosophy take these ideas as their starting points. In this course, we will survey some of the most influential publications of this time.

This course will also take you on a guided tour of the so-called Republic of Letters. Hundreds of years before the advent of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, modern philosophers engaged in a lively debate behind the scenes of their publications. Traversing countries and continents, we will encounter an infamous theologian, distinguished ladies, and even a Jesuit in China.

In order to engage with the ideas of these philosophers ourselves and to put ourselves in their shoes a bit, we will all participate as citizens in our own little Republic of Letters. Come to class and make some philosophical pen friends!


Gateway Seminar - Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions
30304 01 (25724)
Ogden
2:00-3:15 TR
Department Approval Required

What happens when ancient Graeco-Roman philosophy (of Plato and Aristotle, for example) encounters the three Abrahamic and scriptural monotheistic religions––Judaism, Christianity, and Islam––in the first millennium and beyond? How did these traditions interact with the “pagan” philosophy of the ancients and how did they interact with one another? What could be preserved and what had to change? How did these confluences (often partially identified as “medieval” philosophy) produce some of the most important thinkers in these respective faiths (e.g., Maimonides; Augustine and Aquinas; Avicenna, al-Ghazali, and Averroes) and eventually lead to what we call “early modern” European philosophy and other, separate philosophical histories? This class will examine these larger questions by studying a wide range of the philosophy produced by classical and medieval Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers. Topics include some that are specifically religious in nature (e.g., the existence of God and the use of language to characterize God) and others which, while arising in religious contexts, are not specifically religious in content (e.g., the origin of the cosmos, the freedom of the will, the ontological status of universals, and the relation of body and soul).

 


Gateway Seminar - David Lewis
30304 02 (25725)
Nolan
12:30-1:45 MW
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 a reflection on Lewis's philosophical method.


The Examined Life
30305 01 (24472)
Christy
3:30-4:45 MW
Department Approval Required

In this course, open to students in their first semester in 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. In particular, we will focus on Cynicism, Stoicism, and philosophical Daoism. 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 to which they can serve 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 God and the Good Life 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.

 


Business and the Common Good
30310 01 (32306)
O'Connor and Hirschfeld

3:30-4:45 MW

This gateway seminar for the Minor in Business and the Common Good will be limited to 24 Mendoza College students, with priority given to students intending to pursue the Minor. The seminar focuses on the place of wealth and commerce in a well-ordered life, both for the individual and the community. Among other topics, the course takes a special interest in the rich Catholic tradition of reflection on these topics, especially the Catholic social teaching relevant to business that has emerged in the last two centuries.

 

 


Formal Logic
30313 01 (20176)

Blanchette
11:00-12:15 TR

Logic is the study of the principles of valid reasoning, by which we mean those principles in virtue of which one claim follows from (or doesn’t follow from) a given collection of claims. Whenever you give reasons for (or against) a particular view, or when you notice that one claim is consistent with (or inconsistent with) a given position on an issue, or when you say that an argument is valid (or invalid), you’re appealing to principles of logic.Formal logic is a particularly helpful way of studying those principles of valid reasoning.When you study formal logic, you get better at two things: (i) you get better at reasoning carefully from premises to conclusion, which is a skill that’s needed for all careful thinking and writing; (ii) you gain an understanding of the fundamental principles that govern the relation of following-from, a kind of understanding that’s critical to having a clear view of what’s going on when people reason well or badly.The course involves regular exercises, many of which are submitted electronically in away that gives you immediate feedback. There are also midterm and final exams.

Textbook:
Language, Proof and Logic, 2 nd Edition, by D. Barker-Plummer, J. Barwise and J.Etchemendy, CSLI Publications.
 *The easiest way to acquire the book is to buy it directly from the publisher at this website: https://www.gradegrinder.net/
(There’s an electronic version, and a paper version.)
 *Make sure not to buy a used version of the book; its grading program won’t work.


American Political Thought
30409 01 (26534)

Weithman
2:00-2:50 MW

Cross lists with PHIL 30409-02 (32), PHIL 30409-03 (4)

This course traces the history of American Political Thought from the Declaration of Independence (and its antecedents) to the present. Topics treated include: the philosophical origins of the Declaration of Independence, the meaning of the Declaration in the debate over independence, the Constitution and its legacy, the political meaning of the civil war. the legacy of slavery and segregation, the nature of political obligation in twentieth century U.S. history including during wartime and the contemporary crisis.  
Course goals include analyzing the various and contested conceptions of freedom and equality found in American political thought.  We will learn to locate those conceptions in political documents, speeches and court cases.  We will also study their more explicit development and analysis in philosophers -- both American and English -- whose works have been seminal to the development of American political thinking.

PPE Colloquium
43101 01 (26558)

Weithman
4:00-5:00 M

A one-or two-credit colloquium required for the PPE minor devoted to the critical reading and discussion of one or two major works, normally taken each semester for three semesters following the Justice Seminar for a total of 3 credits.

 


Chinese Philosophy
43129 01 (28066)
Zhao
9:30-10:45 TR
Cross-listed with PHIL 43129-02 and ASIA 43129-01

This course is an introduction to classical Chinese philosophy, written in the period from 500 to 200BC. This period saw the rise of the “Hundred Schools of Philosophical Thought,” including Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism. These traditions debated with each other over questions like whether human nature is good, how we should live, and how the state should be structured. In this course, we’ll read through the canonical works of classical Chinese philosophy: The Analects, Mozi, Mencius, the Daodejing, Zhuangzi, Xunzi, and Han Feizi

 


Aquinas on Justice, Pardon, and Mercy
43141 01 (30996)

O'Callaghan
11:00-12:15 MW

An examination of Thomas Aquinas' analyses of justice, pardon, and mercy. The course aims at understanding these virtues in Aquinas against the background of classical thought, examining both continuities with ancient Greek and Roman figures, like Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, and Cicero, as well as discontinuities. Central to the course will be delineating the role of compassion if any in the expression of these virtues.


Phenomenology
43202 01 (32076)

Watson
3:30-6:15 TR
Cross-listed with PHIL 93326-01 and HPS 93326-01

An introduction to the arguments and themes of phenomenology, a school of philosophy based on the description of lived experience that had a broad impact on 20th-century philosophy.


Love Beauty & Objectification
43319 03 (30997)

Rea
11:00-12:15 TR

 Over half of the top twenty Instagram accounts belong to celebrities who are famous, in part, for their beauty; countless more belong to models, actors and actresses, fitness instructors, and others who also have achieved seemingly impossible levels of beauty. We are daily bombarded with images defining what it is to be beautiful and promoting norms and ideals that most can achieve, if at all, only at considerable cost and often only with chemical or medical interventions. The toxicity of the contemporary cult of beauty for women in particular is well-documented and has been a major news item in recent years. But there seems to be no way to opt out. Being beautiful, we are told, is key to securing the most important goods in life—love, success, self-respect, contentment, and so on.  We are told in a myriad different ways that our value as a person is intimately connected with our efforts to stay fit, look young, and in other ways satisfy contemporary ideals of beauty. Some have argued that a single, relatively narrow set of beauty norms, shaped in part by racist and patriarchal ideologies, has risen to the level of a global ethical ideal – we have something like a duty to strive for beauty.

This class will examine some of the most important issues in feminist philosophy that arise in connection with the cult of beauty described above, with special attention to closely related questions about love and (sexual) objectification.  Here is a sampling of some of the topics on which our discussions will focus: We will talk about ways in which beauty ideals function as ethical ideals. We will talk about different theories of the relationship (or lack thereof) between disordered eating and beauty norms, and about how our own thoughts shaped by these norms can actually distort our perceptual experience of our own bodies.  We will discuss the nature of sexual objectification and the complicated question of whether objectification should always be regarded as bad, or whether instead people might reasonably allow themselves to be objectified or even promote their own objectification.  We will talk about how norms of feminine bodily comportment are shaped both by the prevalence of sexual objectification and the threat of sexual assault. We will discuss the different types of love, and the question whether it makes sense to talk about unjust patterns of love and sexual desire and, if so, whether that means that people might have a right to be (erotically) loved.  


Forbidden Knowledge
43717 01 (32077)

Kourany
2:00-3:15 TR

Cross listed with PHIL 93826-01, HPS 93826-01, STV 43717-01

Science has traditionally been billed as our foremost producer of knowledge. For more
than a decade now, however, science has also been billed as an important source of ignorance.
Indeed, Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor has coined a new term, agnotology, to refer
to the study of ignorance, a new area of enquiry, and it turns out that much of the ignorance
studied in this new area is produced by science. According to Proctor, ignorance is far more
complex than previously thought. Ignorance is not just the void that precedes knowledge or the
privation that results when attention focuses elsewhere. It is also—in fact, it is
especially—something socially constructed. This construction might be “active”: the confusion
produced, for example, when an increasingly politicized and commercialized science blocks
access to information or even creates misinformation. Or this construction might be “passive,”
the unintended by-product of methodological or conceptual or other kinds of choices made in the
research process. In either case, the ignorance so produced can be exceedingly harmful to both
science and society. But the construction might also be “virtuous”: when, for example, “not
knowing” is accepted in research as a consequence of respecting the right to privacy of research
subjects or protecting them from harm.
In this course we shall explore this new interdisciplinary area of ignorance studies and its
relation to the knowledge studies of philosophy—epistemology and philosophy of science. The
course will be run as a seminar: students will lead class discussions, present the results of
individual research projects to the group, and have the opportunity to further develop those
projects using feedback from the group. And readings will be drawn from the work of a broad
array of scholars—scientists, historians, journalists, and social critics as well as philosophers.
The aim in all this will be for each student to develop a fully informed and defensible response to
the new terrain we shall be exploring.

 


Topics in Philosophy and Logic
43905 01 (32585)

Beall
12:30-1:45 MW

Preq. for formal logic

This course is an introduction to various philosophical issues that have motivated work in non-classical logic. Topics may include truth, falsity, necessity, moral obligation, “future contingents” (e.g., it will be true that you take this course), negated existence claims (e.g., it’s false that Mickey Mouse exists), and more. We will discuss both the philosophical ideas and the target logical frameworks, focusing on how to construct your own “logic” for philosophically perplexing phenomena. 


Philosophy of Set Theory
43910 01 (32079)

Hamkins
12:30-3:15 Thursday
Cross-listed with PHIL 93904-01

This course provides an introduction to the basic concepts and results of mathematical logic and set theory.

 


Infinity in Philosophy
43923 01 (32080)

Nolan
3:30-4:45 MW

Thinking about infinity has been part of philosophy since its earliest days, and mathematical advances Thinking about infinity has been part of philosophy since its earliest days, and mathematical advances in the theory of infinity mean it remains an important area for philosophy today. This course will examine some ancient and early modern puzzles about infinity as well as contemporary philosophical issues. Issues to be discussed will include puzzles about infinite divisibility of space and time; paradoxes of infinite decision theory; infinite regress arguments; and paradoxes associated with the "absolute infinite" in mathematics.

 


 


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