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 2024 Courses

Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
30301 01 (20195)
11:00-12:15 MW

This course will concentrate on major figures and persistent themes. A balance will be sought between scope and depth, the latter ensured by a close reading of selected texts.

Ancient and Medieval Philosophy 
30301 02 (20196)
Cory, D
9:30-10:45 MW

This course will concentrate on major figures and persistent themes. A balance will be sought between scope and depth, the latter ensured by a close reading of selected texts.

History of Modern Philosophy
30302 01  (17619)
3:30-4:45 TTH

This course examines the sweeping transformations of philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries by exploring some of the leading philosophers of that era. Topics include innovations in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophical theology, and the natural sciences, many of which continue to shape the agenda in contemporary philosophy.

Gateway Seminar: Life's Meaning: From Birth to Death and Beyond
30304 01 (18145)
9:30-10:45 MW

We are natal—we were born. We are mortal—we will die. In between cradle and grave, amidst the human drama, we sometimes ask what it all means as we live our lives in this complex, painful, beautiful world.

Have you ever wondered (or worried) about life’s meaning? It may come as a surprise, but many philosophers are suspicious of the topic. And there is no shortage of parodies and jokes in pop culture making fun of it. Yet, the question—What is the meaning of life?—remains of deep and abiding human concern.

A few of the many questions we will investigate in this course include: What does it mean to be born? What are we asking when we ask, “What is the meaning of life?” Is God necessary for meaning? Is a happy life the same as a meaningful life? Can a profoundly immoral life be meaningful? Can you lead a meaningful life without others? What is the role, if any, of suffering in a meaningful life? Can you be too focused on accomplishing goals? Should you work for money, meaning, or both? Does death threaten or enhance meaning? Would immortality be good or bad news for meaning?

We will not limit ourselves to philosophy. Given that this is humanity’s question, others both from within and outside of the Academy have as much to say—theologians, scientists, novelists, poets . . . parents, grandparents, and children. We will expand our investigation of life’s meaning beyond the written medium to include film as we carefully listen to some of the rich complexity of voices speaking on life’s grandest question.

Gateway Seminar: Love & Selfhood
30304 02 (18144)
11:00-12:15 TTH

Course Description: TBD

The Examined Life
30305 01 (17620)
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.

Formal Logic
30313 01 (17622)
12:30-1:45 MW

The aim of this class is to understand the role of a formal language in defining a consequence relation, particularly the relation called 'logical consequence' (which involves only so-called logical -- versus extra-logical -- vocabulary). We'll focus on the so-called classical account of logical consequence (which is not the account from classical times, but rather invented in the last 100-ish years), but we'll also explore some so-called subclassical accounts of logical consequence. Questions may be sent to Professor Beall at <>.


Formal Logic
30313 02 (20826)
12:30-1:45 MW

The aim of this class is to understand the role of a formal language in defining a consequence relation, particularly the relation called 'logical consequence' (which involves only so-called logical -- versus extra-logical -- vocabulary). We'll focus on the so-called classical account of logical consequence (which is not the account from classical times, but rather invented in the last 100-ish years), but we'll also explore some so-called subclassical accounts of logical consequence. Questions may be sent to Professor Beall at <>.

PSM Seminar
30329 01 (17623)
9:30-10:45 TTH

Gateway course for the minor in Philosophy, Science, and Mathematics. Offered annually in the Fall semester, covering topics falling in the intersection between these three disciplines.

PPE Colloquium
PPE 43101 01 (10834)
3:30-4:20 Monday

Plato’s Republic
43101 01 (20198)
2:00-3:15 TTH

This seminar will discuss the major themes of Plato’s ethics and metaphysics in the Republic. In this central text, Plato addresses problems that pertain to various domains of philosophy. The official theme of this work is the question ‘What is justice?’ After considering various answers that he regards as unsatisfactory, Plato adopts the strategy of discovering the nature of justice in human individuals by looking at the nature of justice in the state. In offering and defending his accounts of just persons and just states, he also raises important metaphysical questions and introduces his theory of forms, according to which only incorporeal abstract forms are fully real and the world of perception is merely appearance. In seminar, we will consider the plausibility of his accounts of these topics.

43102 01 (20199)
3:30-4:45 TTH
‘[H]e is the oracle of nature and of truth. While we are men, we cannot help, to a great extent, being Aristotelians, for the great Master does but analyze the thoughts, feelings, views, and opinions of human kind. He has told us the meaning of our own words and ideas, before we were born. In many subject-matters, to think correctly, is to think like Aristotle; and we are his disciples whether we will or no, though we may not know it.’ (J.H. Newman, Idea of a University, Discourse 5, pp.109-110) --Though statements such as this are not easily mustered nowadays, not even by Aristotle's warmest admirers, still they do prick the curiosity. In this course we will try whether they can be borne out, via a survey of some of Aristotle’s writings on science, nature, ethics, politics, and metaphysics.

Aquinas on the Soul
43142 01 (20678)
9:30-10:45 MW

Aquinas' Disputed Question on the Soul treats in a much more expansive way the questions raised in questions 75 and 76 of the first part of the Summa Theologiae. Distinct from and proceeding in a different order from his commentary on Aristotle's De Anima, it provides an opportunity to fill out various issues that arise in an abbreviated form in the Summa, including the status of the soul as both a bodily form and a particular subsistent, its incorporeality, immateriality, and incorruptibility, whether it is composed of parts, its relationship to its powers, and various questions concerning what it can know and what it can suffer or enjoy apart from and following bodily death.

After some introductory material introducing students to the terminology and principles that Aquinas employs, we will engage in a brief look at Plato's Phaedrus, Aristotle's De Anima. Thenwe will work our way through selected topics in the disputed question De anima as well as related texts in the disputed question On Spirituial Creatures, the Summa Theologiae. As the occasion arises, we will look at additional ancient and medieval texts on these topics, or contemporary discussions of mind and body, and personal identity.

43224 01 (20936)
3:30-6:15 Thursday

This seminar will involve an extended investigation of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s treatment of embodied experience in his Phenomenology of Perception. We will also examine his modifications of Husserl and Heidegger’s classical accounts of phenomenology. Further, some time will be spent comparing Merleau-Ponty’s treatment with similar formulations in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. Finally, in consultation with students’ varying interests, we will discuss subsequent challenges and developments to the account, including Merleau-Ponty‘s own later work.

Requirements: mid-term, final paper.

Ethical Theory: Seminar on the Epistemology of Ethics
43301 01 (18036)
11:00-12:15 TTH

This seminar explores major texts in the history of ethics as well as selected contemporary writings in the field, with a view to understanding both moral theories and their authors’ conceptions of how we can know moral truths—or even be justified in affirming moral statements.

Part I deals with Aristotle’s virtue ethics, Mill’s utilitarianism, Kant’s master principle view centered on the categorical imperative, and W. D. Ross’s commonsense intuitionism (the least famous, but not least practiced of these four most prominent kinds of moral theory). Some of these positions (other than Ross’s) will be familiar to some participants, but all of the positions merit further exploration. In each case there will be emphasis on the epistemology of ethics. Some general theory of knowledge and justification is introduced as needed in relation to both the background of the participants and a good understanding of the field of ethics.

Part II explores contemporary moral theories, including contractualism as found in John Rawls (A Theory of Justice) and T. M. Scanlon (What We Owe to Each Other); the theory of value and its relation to reasons for action as seen by selected contemporary authors; and some problems in applied ethics, including the abortion issue as presented by Bertha Alvarez Manninen (a “pro-choice” advocate) and Jack Mulder, Jr. (a “pro-life” advocate) in their recent joint book, Civil Dialogue on Abortion.

Part III is devoted to presentations of papers by the participants. These papers, revised in the light of both comments provided by the instructor and the give and take of the seminar discussions, constitute term papers. The papers normally go through several drafts, each discussed with the instructor, and are the main (though not the only) written work. The seminar has two broad kinds of aims: to enhance understanding of ethical perspectives, moral theories, and moral knowledge, and to improve skills in 2 both oral presentations and in writing.

The Ethics of Climate Change
43304 01 (20681)

3:30-4:45 TTH

There have been several mass extinction events in the history of the earth, most of them caused by global warming due to “sudden” releases of carbon into the atmosphere, and it only took an increase of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius to cause the

cataclysm. The current carbon emissions rate is 10 to 100x faster than during those events. And we’re already a quarter of the way there in terms of warming. Accordingly, climate change is, without a doubt, the most important moral problem of

our times and arguably the most important moral problem of all times. Appropriately, this course will be devoted to that problem. The course will have a discussion format, and your grade will be determined by your participation in classroom discussions

and by two papers you will write on assigned topics.

Texts:James Sterba, Ethics for Here and Now (Pearson)

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth (2020)

Bjorn Lomborg. False Alarm (Basic Books) (2020)

Nathaniel Rich, Losing Earth, A Recent History (2019)

Aviva Chomsky, Is Science Enough? (2022)

Hannah Ritche, Not the End of the World (2024)

Philosophy of Art
43312 01 (20499)
9:30-10:45 TTH

This course will be an exploration of the philosophy of painting and music. We will explore questions such as: What is the meaning of a work of art and what does it mean to say that a work of art *represents* some subject out there in the world? What is the value of painterly representation? Can music be said to be representational in this way, or should we rather think of it as "expressive"? What is the value of music? What is the relationship between the medium of a work of art (e.g. the marked canvas of a painting) and the subject of that artwork? How is "beauty" (and aesthetic value) related to our ethical judgment and sensibilities? Over the duration of the course, students will become familiar with central themes in the philosophy of painting and the philosophy of music. Our philosophical reflection will be motivated by the study of core examples: for instance, in painting, we will focus on the Italian Quattrocento and Cinquecento; and in music, on a selection of pieces from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.

Justice Seminar
43404 01 (17627)
3:30-4:45 TTH
Cross-listed with POLS 43640 01 & ECON 30260 01

An examination of major theories of justice, both ancient and modern. Readings include representatives of liberal theorists of right, such as John Rawls, as well as perfectionist alternatives. The course also serves as the core seminar for the philosophy, politics, and economics concentration.

Metaphysics of the Social World
43444 01 (20201)
12:30-1:45 MW

This class will use metaphysics to examine the natures of a wide range of social entities and phenomena. Topics discussed will include the metaphysics of social kinds, including gender, race, and disability; the metaphysics of social groups, like baseball teams, the Beatles, and the Supreme Court; the metaphysics of social entities, like restaurants; the metaphysics of social relationships and activities, like love and video games; the metaphysics of virtual reality and cryptocurrency; and the metaphysics of food. We will end by discussing the metaphysics of collective responsibility.

Research and Professionalization Seminar:
This course will teach students how to become professional academic philosophers. Research-related topics will include how to stay consistently productive throughout one’s writing career, what to do when one is stuck, how to stay passionate about one’s topic, how to deal with procrastination and writing avoidance, how to receive feedback and incorporate it into one’s work productively, and how to achieve work/ life balance.
Professionalization-related topics will include how to give a good talk, how and when to submit to journals, how to interact productively and professionally with colleagues, and how to plan one’s philosophical career.

Placement-related topics will encompass explanations of each step in the academic philosophy job market, including how to prepare one’s job market materials, how to perform well in a first-round interview, how to give a good job talk and teaching presentation, and how to negotiate a job offer.

43601 01 (20202)
11:00-12:15 MW
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with whether and how we make cognitive contact with reality (to borrow a nice phrase from Linda Zagzebski). In this class, we'll cover classic and contemporary readings, broadly in the analytic tradition, centered on five major topics: knowledge, rationality/justification, testimony, the ethics of belief, and understanding. Questions include: do any of us know anything? Can we analyze knowing that p as a special case of believing that p, and if so, how? Is rationality permissive, such that different people with access to the same total evidence might rationally believe different things, or is rationality "unique" relative to batches of evidence? Do we generally have a reason to believe what other people tell us, and if so why? What, if anything, do we owe to others, with respect to the way we form our beliefs? How might our practical and ethical reasons impinge on theoretical reasons to believe? And might there be states beyond knowledge, that describe a richer grasp of information, that should also concern epistemologists - e.g., understanding?

Probabilistic Reasoning in Philosophy
43705 01 (20679)
12:30-1:45 MW

Probabilistic methods are in use in a number of subfields in philosophy---and the influence of these methods, especially over the last couple of decades or so, appears to be growing. In this course we'll aim to develop a broad-ranging understanding of probabilistic reasoning in philosophy. We'll examine, in particular, how probabilistic methods have recently been applied to tackle some thorny philosophical problems. A self-contained introduction to more formal aspects of probability will be followed by an exploration of how probabilistic methods have been used to address, inter alia, various epistemological puzzles, as well as puzzles in the sciences (such as puzzles related to fine-tuning). (Note that only very minimal background in mathematics and in the sciences will be assumed---the course is indeed designed to be largely self-contained.)


The Science-Gender Connection
43721 01 (17628)
2:00-3:15 TTH
Crosslisted with HPS 93838 01, GSC 53515 01, GSC 63515 01

Through much of its history, academia has been gendered in a particular way -male dominated, focused on men¿s interests, and privileging those interests -and much of it still is. In response, the area of enquiry known as women¿s studies or gender studies emerged in the 1970s as part of the feminist movement. In this course we will explore gender, the concept that lies at the heart of this area of enquiry. We will find that this concept is as complex and multi-faceted as the diverse disciplines from which it now draws and as political as its feminist origins suggest. We will also find that it is fraught with controversy. Though the disciplines that contribute to the idea of gender comprise nearly all of academia, we will concentrate on the sciences, from which the concept of gender first emerged. We will start with the gendered origins of the concept - the gender of science - and then proceed to the science that developed as a result - the science of gender; and we will conclude with some questions concerning the connection between the two - the gender of science and the science of gender. No particular scientific background will be presupposed, and visits from science faculty will be organized to help us understand the terrain we will be covering. The rest of the time 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. Throughout, our aim will be for each student to develop a fully informed and defensible response to the controversial terrain we will be exploring.


Intermediate Logic
43907 01 (18559)
3:30-6:15 Monday
Crosslisted with PHIL 83901 02
An introduction to the basic metatheory of modern formal logic. Students learn how to define formal languages and two ways to specify a logical consequence relation on such a language, the "semantic" specification in terms of models and the "syntactic" specification in terms of proof systems. Basic algebraic, set-theoretic, and recursion-theoretic techniques (e.g., proof by mathematical induction) are introduced in order to prove results about models, proof systems, and formal languages. The same techniques are also used in order to prove how models and proof systems are related to one another (e.g., completeness results) as well as how different (e.g., classical and non-classical) semantic or syntactic specifications of consequence relations are so-related.
Topics include: The language of propositional logic. Its truth-functional interpretation(s). Decidability of and compactness theorem for the bivalent semantics. A Frege-style proof system. The deduction theorem. The soundness and completeness theorems. The idea of defining a connective with a universal property. Natural deduction style proof systems informed by that idea. The distinction between classical, intuitionistic, and other variations of the natural deduction framework. The non truth-functionality of the intuitionistic connectives. The disjunction property. The distinction between admissible and derivable inference rules. Alternative interpretations of the conditional. Lewis/Edgington's theorem that the Ramsey conditional is not propositional (has no truth conditions). Tarski's definition of logical consequence. Getnzen's proof that the basic calculus <cut, thinning> is complete with respect to Tarski's definition. The sequent calculus for propositional logic. A constructive proof of completeness of the classical sequent calculus based on cut-elimination. A constructive proof of the completeness of the intuitionistic sequent calculus with respect to frame semantics. Decidability of intuitionistic validity. Glivenko's theorem. The language of first-order quantification theory. Its classical set-theoretic interpretation. A description of how to extend propositional proof systems of each style to systems for quantification theory. The completeness theorem for classical quantification theory. The downward Lowenheim/Skolem theorem. (Mere statement without proof of: the undecidability of classical first order validity). How (notwithstanding Church/Turing) to extract from the completeness theorem an algorithm for semi-decidability.

Truth: It's Nature
43911 01 (20680)
2:00-3:15 MW

The aim of this class is to explore five representative answers to the question: What is the nature of truth? The question, in other words, is: In virtue of what feature are truths true? In yet other words: Is there a feature common to all and only the truths where that feature makes a truth a truth? (The question is in fact familiar. Example: is there a feature common to all and only tables that makes them tables? or a feature that makes humans humans (versus some other animal)? etc.) Some philosophers say that the target feature is "correspondence" -- that is, something is a truth if and only if it "corresponds to reality" (in the requisite way). Others say that the target feature is "verification" -- that is, something is a truth if and only if it is "verifiable" (in the requisite way). Others say that the search for "the nature of truth" is like the search for gold at the end of rainbows: it's a badly motivated quest, since there is no such "nature of truth". And there are other answers. In this class, we'll discuss these answers; we'll figure out which, if any, is the true (!) answer; and we'll explore implications, both theoretical and practical, of different answers.

Required text: Jc Beall & Ben Middleton, Truth: The Basics, Routledge 2024.

Questions may be sent to Professor Beall at <>.