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 2024 Courses
Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
30301 01 (31938)
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 04 (31939)
This course examines the sweeping transformations of philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries by exploring the works of René Descartes (1596-1650), David Hume (1711-1776) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). These philosophers were deeply engaged in developing new approaches to answering the most fundamental philosophical questions, including the possibility of human knowledge, the nature and knowledge of God, and the possibility of human freedom. Their views decisively shaped the debates of intellectuals, scientists, and political and religious leaders in their own time and ever since. This course will explore their respective contributions to these debates with a particular emphasis on how each, in their own way, revolutionized philosophy and impacted its development.
Gateway Seminar: Philosophy of Mind
30304 03 (31940)
This course examines fundamental questions about the mind and its place in nature. Questions to be addressed include: what is the relationship between mind and matter? What is the nature of artificial intelligence? Could a machine be conscious, and will there be machines whose intellectual capacities surpass our own? What is the self? How is the world revealed to the mind in perception?
Gateway Seminar: Life's Meaning: From Birth to Death and Beyond
30304 04 (32550)
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.
The Examined Life
30305 02 (31941)
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.
30313 03 (31942)
An introduction to the fundamentals and techniques of logic for majors.
American Political Thought
30409 04 (31943)
Cross-listed with HIST 30654 01
A Friday Discussion is Required.
Coming to grips with American political thought is at once an historical and a philosophical task. Students in this course will take on that task under the guidance of one faculty member from the Department of History and one from the Department of Philosophy. The guiding questions of the course are: How have ideas about freedom, equality and the social contract played out in the history of American political thought? When have we realized those ideas and when have we failed? Do those ideas provide us adequate guidance? The exploration of American political thought will be divided into six periods: The Founding, the Civil War era, the late 19th-century, the New Deal to the 1960s, the 1960s to the 1990s, and the 1990s to the present. The course has no prerequisites, though students wishing to count it toward the Philosophy requirement must previously have taken 'Introduction to Philosophy'.
43339 01 (32455)
Rea & Callahan
Description: The goal of this class is to think philosophically together about a variety of food-related issues in a way informed by feminist perspectives. What we eat, how much we eat, how we think about the relationships between food and eating on the one hand and, on the other hand, health, beauty, cultural traditions, care for nonhuman animals, respect for agricultural workers, and concern for the environment—all of these are significantly impacted by social norms and power structures involving gender, race, and class. In recent decades philosophers have given a lot of thought to these topics. Feminists have also given a lot of thought to beauty ideals and body norms for women and their relationships to diet culture and disordered eating, and questions about how gender, race, and class affect what we eat, how we eat, and what we think of as healthy eating. All of these issues and more are among the topics to be explored in this class.
Democracy and Virtue
43400 01 (32552)
Democracies make strong claims to be distinctively just communities, and they produce citizens with distinctive character traits and desires, habituated by democratic culture. “Democracy and Virtue?” is a team-taught course that scrutinizes democratic communities and the democratic soul from perspectives integrating Political Science, Political Philosophy, American constitutional history, Law, Classics, and Catholic Social Teaching. Primary readings will be Plato's Republic, Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, and post-World War II perspectives on the prospects for Christians and Catholics in the American polity.
Philosophy of Action
43503 01 (31944)
The Philosophy of David Lewis
David Lewis was a very influential philosopher 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.
43605 01 (31945)
Pragmatism is a label applied to a loose collection of philosophical ideas that emphasize the contingency, historical situated-ness, continuity with natural science, and behavior-dependence of what are sometimes thought of as fundamental philosophical categories such as knowledge, truth, beauty, existence, and social welfare. In this class we will try to learn about and compare some of the more prominent strains of pragmatism together with their frequent criticisms of other philosophical attitudes. We will read and discuss original pragmatist writings of Dewey, Addams, Holmes, Du Boise, Peirce, and James alongside Louis Menand's history of the "American Pragmatist" movement. Then we will look at later writings by people like Quine, Putnam, Austen, Wittgenstein, Maddy, Haack, West, and Rorty. The pragmatist program is sometimes thought of as purely destructive, but its aspiration has always been to prepare us to see something hidden away by our philosophical superstitions. So as well as tearing things down, we will try to catch a glimpse of something new.
Science and Social Values
43704 01 (32523)
Science and social values? The established wisdom has it that science offers us the truth about the empirical world—what is rather than what ought to be—and that social values have little to
do with it. How else explain the fact that science can be used for both good and ill and thatscience is granted authority by people of widely different ethical and political persuasions?
According to this idea, in short, science is, or at least ought to be, “value-free” or “value-neutral.” In this course we shall explore the major strands of this idea, their beginnings in
Western thought, and the hold they still have on us. Our main focus, however, will be on their current tangles with the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and the knotty questions
that have developed, questions concerning the prospects of scientific objectivity and the role of science in a democratic society.
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. The aim in all this will be for each student to develop a fully informed and defensible response to the controversial terrain we shall be exploring.
Philosophy of Mathematics
43906 01 (32944)
43913 01 (31948)
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."
Infinity in Philosophy
43923 03 (32460)
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.