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 2019

Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30301 01 (11501)
30301 03 (15182) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

11:00-12:15 TR
Cross-listed with MI 30301 01 (15288)

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.

Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30301 02 (14155)
30301 04 (17352) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

T. Cory
12:30-1:45 MW
Cross-listed with MI 30301 02 (15289)

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 (10997)
30302 02 (17353) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

12:30-1:45 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 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: David Lewis
30304 01 (16960)
3:30-4:45 TR
Department Approval Required

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.

Gateway Seminar: Existentialism
30304 02 (16959)

2:00-3:15 TR
Department Approval Required

In this seminar, we will study the works of several existentialist philosophers: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and de Beauvoir. Existentialists are often caricatured as black-clad, chain-smoking doomsayers who are obsessed with death, anxiety and meaninglessness. But we will discover that these existentialists were actually life-affirming philosophers who joyfully and artfully probed important questions that students still face today: What should I do with my life? How do I decide among competing options and values? Who or what am I? These philosophers also rejected mainstream philosophy as overly narrow, tame, safe, and incapable of addressing such pressing questions. They thought studying philosophy should be a risky and potentially life-changing undertaking, for reasons we will see. 

We will focus on several core existentialist themes, especially choice, commitment, values, personal transformation, religious devotion, rationality, social relations, and the nature of the self. Although our primary authors are all dead, our focus will not be historical. We will critically examine the arguments and ideas of existentialists as they relate to us here and now. Our historical readings will often be paired with contemporary readings from sociology, economics, philosophy, and popular culture in order to highlight their continued significance and relevance.

Gateway Seminar
30304 03 (16961)

9:30-10:45 MW
Department Approval Required

This gateway seminar examines fundamental questions about the mind and its place in nature. Questions to be addressed include: what is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Can the existence of consciousness be reconciled with a materialist view of the world? Is free will an illusion? Do we directly perceive the external world, or do we only directly perceive internal mental images? What is the self? 

The Examined Life
30305 01 (17670)
11:00-12:15 TR
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 (15850)
30313 02 (17355) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

9:30-10:45 TR

Core Seminar in Philosophy, Science, and Mathematics
30329 01 (15296)
Bays and Rubin
12:30-1:45 TR
Department Approval Required

This is the core seminar for the major and minor concentrations in Philosophy, Science and Mathematics.
Enrollment restricted to students registered in the major/minor.

The Good Class
33101 01 (19426)

Becker, Herbst, Sullivan
11:00-12:30 F
Department Approval Required

This Fall, the Philosophy and FTT departments are teaming up to teach a one-credit Exploratory Seminar on the Philosophy and Production behind NBC’s The Good Place.  This one-credit course will offer an interdisciplinary deep dive into the ground-breaking sitcom.  We’ll look at the philosophical theories of goodness and human flourishing that back the episode scripts. We’ll consider how moral change figures in comedy and how television helps shape the conversation between popular art and morality. We’ll look at the economic and aesthetic forces that guide work like this. And we’ll get into the details of how the show was devised, pitched, and produced. There will be five 90-minute class meetings, plus an in-depth session with showrunner Michael Schur. Participants will be expected to watch and critically analyze episodes of the series, engage with relevant secondary literature (including some secondary viewing), and submit writing assignments.

In order to be admitted into The Good Class, students must submit an application form no later than Sunday, April 7. Instructions for submission and a link to the application form can be found at Only FTT majors and Philosophy majors/minors are eligible to apply. (Declared or anticipated).

43101 01 (20000)
43101 02 (20337) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
3:30-4:45 TR

In this course we will work our way carefully through three important, connected, difficult Platonic dialogues: TheaetetusSophist, and Statesman.

Dante and Aristotle
43138 01 (20001)
43138 02 (20320) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
Duarte and Karnes
11:00-12:15 MW

In this course, we will be reading Dante’s Commedia as well as works by Aristotle and various medieval philosophers and theologians. Our aim will be to understand the way an Aristotelian worldview informs the Commedia. We will look at the cosmology of the work and consider 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. No prior knowledge of Dante or Aristotle is required.

43187 01 (20002)
43187 02 (20344) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

2:00-3:15 TR

A close consideration of Nietzsche’s thought in all its main phases, i.e. from his early work in the philosophy of art, in which he reacts squarely to Schopenhauer and Wagner, on to his mature work of the 1880s that stresses issues at the intersection of history, ethics, and religion, and finishing with his very last work, which explores the idea of radical self-transformation.

Abortion, Euthanasia, and Capital Punishment
43314 01 (20395)
43314 02 (20396) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

11:00-12:15 MW

We will read some of the best and most influential philosophical work on the 3 topics named in the course title.

This is a majors level course intended for philosophy majors wanting to use their philosophical knowledge, skills and orientation to examine important life and death moral topics. Some of the assigned readings will be philosophically complex. The course will be discussion intensive.

Requirements: 2 significant papers, several short (2 to 3 page) papers, and ongoing in class discussions and activities. No exams.

Non-majors interested in taking this course can request permission after the initial enrollment period.

Philosophy, Gender, and Feminism
43318 01 (20003)
43318 02 (20342) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

Rea and Bernstein
12:30-1:45 MW
Cross-listed with GSC 43525 01 (20004)

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.

Contemporary Ethics
43336 01 (20005)
12:30-1:45 TR
Cross-listed with PHIL 93602 01 (20011)

James P. Sterba, Ethics (2009)
Ibran X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning (2016)
Kate Mann, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (2019)

Reading Assignments:

              1) A. J. Ayer, The Emotive Theory of Ethics
                   Brand Blanshard, The New Subjectivism in Ethics
              2) John R. Searle, How to Derive 'Ought' from 'Is'
                   Antony Flew, On Not Deriving 'Ought' from 'Is'
              3) Alan Gewirth, The Justificatory Argument for Human Rights
                  Christine Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity 
              4) James P. Sterba, Justification of Morality & the Behavior of Women 
                   Alan Gewirth, The Rational Justification of Morality Revisited
                   Philippa Foot, Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives

              5)  Bernard Williams, Against Utilitarianism
                    Kai Nielson, Traditional Morality and Utilitarianism 
              6)  Michael  Stocker, The Schozophenia of Modern Ethical Theories
                    Peter Railton, Alienation, Consequentialism and the Demands of Morality 
              7) Fred Feldman, Kantian Ethics
                   Christine Korsgaard, Kant on Dealing with Evil
              8) John  Rawls, Welfare Liberalism
                   Charles W. Mills, Race and the Social Contract Tradition
              9) Jan Narveson, Liberty and Equality – A Question of Balance? 
                   James P. Sterba, Our Basic Human Right is a Right to Liberty and it leads to Equality
            10) Martha Nussbaum, Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach
                   Alasdair Macintyre, The Nature of Virtues
            11) Rosalind Hursthouse, Normative Virtue Ethics 
                   Robert N. Johnson, Virtue and Right 
            12) Sean Drysdale Walsh, Teleology, Aristotelian Virtue and Right 
                   Julia Annas, Ancient Ethics and Modern Morality

            Feminism: How is Gender Relevant to Morality?
            13) Carol Gilligan, Moral Orientation and Moral Development 
                   Virginia Held, Caring Relations and Principles of Justice 
            14) Claudia Card, Particular Justice and General Care
.                  James P. Sterba, The Masculine Bias in Traditional Ethics and How to Correct it
            Environmentalism: Who is to Count in Morality?
            15) Peter Singer, All Animals are Equal 
                   Paul Taylor, The Ethics of Respect for Nature 
            16) James P. Sterba, Kantians and Utilitarians and the Moral Status of Nonhuman Life 
                   Karen Warren, The Power and Promise of Ecological Feminism

            17) Ayaan Hirsi Ali, A Modern Clash of Cultures 
                  Madeleine Bunting, Can Islam Liberate Women?


18) Ibran X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning Part IV
19) Ibran X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning, Part IV &Part V
20) Ibran X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning Part V
21) Kate Mann, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny Chapter 6
22) Kate Mann, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny Chapter 7
23) Kate Mann, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny Chapter 8

Paper Topics Assigned After Readings 12, 17 and 22

Justice Seminar
43404 01 (11539)
Keys and Weithman
3:30-4:45 TR
Cross-listed with POLS 43640 01 (11538); ECON 33250 01 (14572)
Department Approval Required

Politics and Conscience
43431 01 (16181)
2:00-3:15 MW
Cross-listed with POLS 30653 01 (15716); CNST 30602 01 (15886); IIPS 30700 30 (16034); MI 30815 01 (16112)

43501 01 (20007)

43501 02 (20343) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
12:30-1:45 TR

The course divides into two unequal parts.  The first, larger part will offer a bread-and-butter advanced introduction to contemporary metaphysics, surveying such issues as: realism and nominalism about universals, diachronic identity, individuation, the modalities of possibility and necessity, essence, numbers and other abstract entities, propositions, causation, and time.  This survey will eventually give way to an intensive investigation of privileged ontology, focusing on issues in category theory. 

43601 01 (20008)
43601 02 (20333) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

2:00-3:15 TR

We often make moral judgments with confidence, but do we have genuine moral knowledge?  If we do, how can we account for the amount and kinds of ethical disagreement that are evident in and outside our own society? One some views, there is little if any knowledge of any kind. On other views, there is some perceptual knowledge (of the physical world) but not much more apart from logic and pure mathematics.  For many who think there is perceptual and scientific knowledge, there is still no genuine knowledge of moral claims. Must we accept this skepticism? And might we have justification without knowledge? What would that mean, and how much objectivity would it provide for in the moral realm?

The great moral philosophers have had interesting powerful views on these questions.  So do many contemporary theorists. This course will study and articulate both the main historically important positions in moral epistemology and a number of views proposed in recent philosophical literature. The seminar will invite students to formulate their own positions.  The result should be both a better understanding of ethics, an enhanced ability to deal with moral disagreements, and a reasoned position on some of the major ethical questions that face us.

A related aim of the seminar is to help participants both to write well and to acquire skill in discussing issues effectively in a setting conducive to wide-ranging inquiry and to development of distinctive views of one’s own. The instructor will help in this process through both seminar discussions and individual meetings. Discussion will also be stressed, and participants will have opportunities to make presentations.

Philosophy of Physics
43723 01 (20266)
43723 02 (20334) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

9:30-10:45 TR

This course will be an introduction to various themes in the philosophy of physics. The leitmotif will be the use and interpretation of "symmetry arguments" from Galileo through Einstein. Prerequisites are a previous course in philosophy and basic facility with linear algebra and calculus (please e-mail the instructor if you have any questions about the prerequisites).

Politics and Conscience
43431 01 (16181)
2:00-3:15 MW
Cross-listed with POLS 30653 01 (15716); CNST 30602 01 (15886); IIPS 30700 30 (16034); MI 30815 01 (16112)

Technology and Human Persons
43724 01 (20743)
43724 02 (20756) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

11:00-12:15 TR

This seminar explores metaphysical, moral, and social issues raised by digital technologies. Although the underlying questions are not entirely new, recent developments in artificial intelligence, data gathering, cognitive enhancement, virtual worlds, social media, and smartphones raise important philosophical issues about the nature and values of human persons that have consequences for the habits we form, the relationships we cultivate, the goals we pursue, the practices we allow, the institutions and cities we build – in general, for the kinds of lives we lead. We begin with a quick overview of the history and current state of artificial intelligence, with special attention to deep learning and neural networks. Our first unit explores the nature of persons, minds and consciousness in ways that connect artificial intelligence debates with the philosophy of mind and value theory. We then turn to philosophical discussions of more exotic digital topics, such as mind uploading, the singularity and virtual worlds. In the final arc, we hear voices of digital resistance and consider arguments against the increasingly pervasive intrusion of digital technology in our lives and society. 

This is a majors-level philosophy seminar. Before taking this course, students must have completed a minimum of two other philosophy courses, including PHIL 30302. Class expectations include regular contributions to discussion, several shorter writing assignments throughout the term, short review essays, and a longer, research-based seminar paper.

Philosophy of Language
43902 01 (20009)

43902 02 (20352) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program
11:00-12:15 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.

Intermediate Logic
43907 01 (20345)
43907 02 (20347) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

9:30-12:15 R
A presentation of the central meta-theoretical results in 20th Century logic, including Gentzen's formalization logical consequence, Bernays's completeness theorem for classical propositional logic, Goedel's completeness theorem for classical quantification theory, the basic cardinality theorems of Cantor, Lowenheim, and Skolem, Gentian's cut-elimination theorem, and properties of intuitionistic logic and its relationship to classical logic. We focus primarily on understanding the proofs of these main results and the historical/philosophical contexts that make them meaningful, and graded work is organized to this purpose. This is the required logic course for students in the Philosophy PhD. program. Others are welcome to take it also.

Senior Thesis
48499 01 (10716)