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 2020 Courses

Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30301 01 (21306)
30301 02 (29046) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

 2:00-3:15 TR
Cross-listed with MI 30301 01 (22137)

A survey of Western philosophy from its beginnings in the early Greek physicists to the late middle ages. The emphasis in class will be on the reading and analysis of fundamental texts by main figures of the period: Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas. Concurrent reading of a standard history will supply additional background and continuity.

Requirements: Two papers (one each for the ancient and medieval portions of the course), a mid-term, and final examination.

History of Modern Philosophy
30302 01 (20647)
30302 02 (29048) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

11:00-12:15 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 God, nature and human beings. These philosophers decisively shaped the debates of intellectuals, scientists, and political and religious leaders in their own time and ever since. In this course, we will explore the central themes of modern philosophy, including issues such as: the nature and knowledge of God; the nature of the human mind and its relationship to the body; conceptions of the self and of human rationality; 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 were central for the modern philosophers still inform our debates in philosophy (and beyond) today.

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

Gateway Seminar: From Image to Reality: The Philosophy of Art and Science in Renaissance Florence
30304 01 (28342)
3:30-4:45 TR
Department Approval Required

This course will explore the following questions in the context of the Medieval to Renaissance transition in Florence: What is depiction? In what way does an artistic representation reference the object that it is representing? What are the philosophical currents that drove the development of linear perspective and “realism” in Renaissance Florence? To what extent are these perspectival developments related to the philosophical currents that drove the birth of “Renaissance science”, and how should the standard narratives about these currents be evaluated?

The course will proceed in three parts. Part I will discuss different theories of depiction and the birth of linear perspective. Part II will explore the close relationship between the development of perspectival depiction and natural philosophy in the Florentine Renaissance. Finally, Part III will discuss the philosophy of architecture.

Gateway Seminar: Self Knowledge and Identity
30304 02 (28343)

2:00-3:15 TR
Department Approval Required

Who am I? How did I become the person I am now? Who am I trying to be? – These are fundamental questions that we all ask ourselves from time to time, especially in moments of decision, reflection, or crisis. This seminar invites all participants to think through these questions by engaging in a dialogue with major figures of the history of philosophy and of psychology, as well as with contemporary philosophers. We will read texts, among others, from Aristotle, Augustine, D. Hume, J.-J. Rousseau, I. Kant, W. James, J.-P. Sartre, and C.G. Jung, as well as from Christine Korsgaard, Richard Moran, and Anthony Appiah. These authors will help us to understand the intricate relationship between self-knowledge, personal identity, and self-constitution. We will delve in particular into questions of self-expression (Part i), rational commitment (Part ii), self-fulfillment (Part iii), and social identity (Part iv).

The Examined Life
30305 01 (25831)
2:00-3:15 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 for philosophy to inform how a person lives and how a life so informed measures up against competing conceptions of the good life. To help focus our approach to these questions, we will examine how different cultures, at different times, have understood the social role of the philosopher. Course meetings will be conducted as participant-driven dialogues, and a central goal of the course will be to help participants excel as dialogue leaders for God and the Good Life.
Prerequisites: PHIL 10111 or PHIL 14101

Formal Logic
30313 01 (20203)
30313 02 (29049) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

9:30-10:45 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."

43102 01 (31563)
43102 02 (32171) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

12:30-1:45 TR

This course will be a survey, looking at Aristotle’s thought across a variety of texts and topics, including his logic, science, metaphysics, ethics, and politics.

The Rationalists
43183 01 (31973)
43183 02 (32172) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
9:30-10:45 TR

This course is devoted to a study of the thought of René Descartes (1596-1650), Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). Descartes’s views will be considered somewhat briefly, principally by way of background for an examination of the views of Spinoza and Leibniz. Descartes, sometimes hailed as the first ‘modern’ philosopher, is famous for his efforts to supplant the Aristotelian philosophy prevalent in his day and replace it with his own, which involved both a mechanistic account of physical processes and the view that the soul and body of a human being are two distinct substances. Spinoza held, among other things, that God and the entirety of nature are in some way the same, that God is the only substance, and that the human mind is part of God’s infinite intellect. He also asserted that the existence of finite beings (e.g., human beings) is just a necessary consequence of God’s nature. In other words, on Spinoza’s view, God’s production of finite beings is not the result of any choice on his part that is informed by considerations of goodness or by any providential plan for human beings. Leibniz was something of a universal genius, making original and important contributions to mathematics, logic, jurisprudence, history, the philosophy of religion and metaphysics. One of his philosophical aims was to defend the orthodox conception of a providential God whose decision to create this world was informed by considerations of goodness and justice—and to defend this conception, more specifically, against Spinoza and other philosophers like him. To this end, Leibniz developed a philosophical system of great complexity, involving (among others) the claim that God chose to create this, the best possible world, from among infinitely many possible worlds.

Philosophical Issues in Law and Medicine
43324 01 (31565)
43324 02 (32174) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
11:00-12:15 MW

Radical Politics
43429 01 (31566)
43429 02 (32175) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

2:00-3:15 TR

This course is a consideration of classic politically Left texts in modern political theory that pose direct challenges to liberal democracy.  The course typically takes one of two forms, depending on whether the emphasis falls on one of two traditions: anarchism or socialism. The subject matter for S20 is socialism.  The core readings for the course are from Marx and Engels, but the course also treats precursors (e.g., Saint-Simon, Fourier) and successors (e.g. Lenin, Gramsci, Lukács).

Topics in Metaphysics
43502 01 (31567)

11:00-12:15 MW

This course will cover four important topics in metaphysics: Time, Material Constitution, Modality, and Existence.  Each quarter of the semester will focus on one of these topics.  We'll begin by discussing some philosophical questions and puzzles about time, including whether time passes, whether the past and the future are unreal, and whether time is a thing.  Next, we'll cover questions about parts and wholes, and the relation between a thing and the matter that makes it up.  In the third quarter of the clas, we'll discuss the metaphysics of possibility and necessity, and essence and accident.  Finally, we will turn to questions about the nature of existence, including the question of whether everything exists, and whether everything exists in the same way.

Joint Seminar: Aquinas & Augustine
43801 01 (21496)

Daley and O’Callaghan
2:00-3:15 MW
Department Approval Required
Cross-listed with THEO 43203 01 (22467)

Speaking meaningfully and thinking truly about God, who seems to be by definition beyond the boundaries of human conception and human language, has always been an almost insuperable challenge to worship and to communication among people of faith. How do we refer to God, whom we believe to be the source, sustainer, guide and goal of our lives, and of the process of the universe? Where do our ideas about God's being come from? How do we know that they are true? In this seminar, we will examine key works and passages from two of Western Christianity's most influential and most philosophically sophisticated theologians and philosophers, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to see what help they can offer us in our quest to know God. We will also consider some philosophical and theological influences that seem to have shaped their thought, and the implications of their approaches for the Christian life of faith.

Philosophy of Mind
43901 01 (24993)
43901 02 (29057) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

11:00-12:15 TR

This course gives an introduction to the philosophy of mind for undergraduates who have taken at least two previous philosophy courses. During the semester you will be introduced to core issues in the philosophy of mind through reading and discussing in class a set of carefully picked classic articles on key topics including: the nature of consciousness and whether it can be explained by the physical sciences; how mental states such as beliefs, desires and emotions relate to the brain, and to observable behavior; what self-deception is, and how it is possible; what makes for the persistence of a person through time, and does this require the persistence of the body?  The course is examined by mid-term exam and two short term papers (5,000 words in all).

Topics in Mathematical Logic
43901 01 (32293)

10:30-11:20 MWF

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.

Set Theory
43925 01 (31942)
12:30-3:15 W
Department Approval Required
Cross-listed with PHIL 93933 01 (31941)

This seminar will cover recent work in the philosophy of set theory: reflection principles, the omega-conjecture, ultimate L, the multiverse, etc.  The course presupposes a substantial amount of set theory—if you are not already familiar with forcing, large cardinals, inner models, etc., then this isn’t the course for you.

Game Theory
43926 01 (28354)
43926 02 (29060) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
11:00-12:15 MW

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 (20993)

Department Approval Required