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 2021 Courses

Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
30301 01 (11354)
30301 02 (13586) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

12:30-1:45 TR
Cross-listed with MI 30301 04

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 (10872)
30302 02 (15413) - 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; skepticism 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 - The Human Mind
30304 01 (15324)
2:00-3:15 TR
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 mind and matter? What is the self? Could a machine (e.g., an advanced artificial intelligence) have a mind like ours? Is free will an illusion? What is the nature of human agency and moral responsibility?

Gateway Seminar - Virtues and Vices
30304 02 (20841)
11:00-12:15 TR
Department Approval Required

This Gateway Seminar will provide an historical and conceptual exploration of the idea of ethical character. We will survey significant attempts to articulate “virtue” and “vice” in general as well as tracing attempts to pin down some particular virtues (courage, patience, faith) and vices (hubris, pettiness, despair) throughout history. We will conclude by discussing what we might call the “disputed cases”: states of character over which significant philosophers have disagreed whether to count them virtues or vices, such as magnanimity, humility, and wholeheartedness.

Readings: Plato: Laches, Euthyphro, Protagoras; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Rhetoric; Aquinas, Treatise on the Virtues; Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses; selections from various contemporary authors, including Robert Adams, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Martha Nussbaum

The Examined Life
30305 01 (15479)
3:30-4:45 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 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. 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 (if any) to which they are adaptable 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 GGL 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.

Prerequisites: PHIL 10111, PHIL 20111, or PHIL 14101

Formal Logic
30313 01 (14807)
30313 02 (15414) - Reserved for Glynn Honors Program

2:00-3:15 TR

Formal Logic is the Philosophy Department's basic course in logic. Logic is one of the central philosophical topics, thus standing alongside aesthetics, epis­temology, ethics, hermeneutics, and metaphysics. It is the study of the rela­tionships that attain among facts, beliefs, and propositions independently of contingent features of reality. The modem approach to this study is through the development of formal languages, their interpretation, and their systematic implementation. Such will be the approach of this course. The formal language that we'll develop is that of classical, first-order logic. We will also learn to recognize the features of other logical systems (free, intuitionistic, second-order, and multi-valued logic) and to appreciate their significance.

Seminar in Philosophy, Science, and Math
30329 01 (14451)

12:30-1:45 MW
Cross-listed with STV 30329 01

As its title might suggest, this is the core seminar for the major and minor concentrations in Philosophy, Science, and Mathematics. We'll talk about some philosophy, we'll talk about some science, and we'll talk about some mathematics.

43171 01 (20350)

2:00-3:15 TR

Close interpretation and analysis of Kierkegaard’s Either/Or and Stages on Life's Way. Emphasis is given to Kierkegaard’s account of the substance and interrelation of the three "spheres of existence" that form human life: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. 

43188 01 (20753)

D. Cory
2:00-3:15 TR

Many of the deepest ideas about God, the mind, the soul, the nature of embodiment, and beauty spring from the highly influential but understudied school of philosophy often referred to as Neoplatonism. Neoplatonists took themselves to be the philosophical heirs of Plato, but also sought to reconcile Plato’s doctrines with Aristotle’s as well as bring systematicity to Plato’s famously unsystematic dialogues. Neoplatonists were system-builders interested in the connections among connecting metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, philosophical anthropology, and natural theology. The course will explore how neoplatonists approach these philosophical sub-disciplines are shaped in light of their foundational principles such as the priority of unity over multiplicity, the priority of intelligibile (mental) being over material being, the inherent link between beauty and desire, and that all caused things act as images or expressions of that which causes them.  

Much of the Neoplatonic tradition was explicitly and proudly monotheistic, and partly for this reason, was highly influential in the intellectual development of Judiaism, Christianity, and Islam. In fact, Neoplatonic representatives can be found in each of the major monotheistic religions (and course readings will reflect the diversity of religious traditions in which neoplatonic thought flourished).

Wagner and Nietzsche
43189 01 (20757)
O'Connor & Norton
2:15-4:45 T
Cross-listed with GE 43293-01, PHIL 83293-01

The topic of this team-taught graduate seminar (crosslisted for qualified advanced undergraduates) will be the thought and work of Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche and their complex relationship.  Neither figure needs an introduction: they both exerted extraordinary influence in their respective realms, reaching far into the twentieth century and beyond, and both left legacies that became entangled in some of the worst developments of the past one hundred years.  We plan to focus, however, on the works themselves: Wagner’s operas, particularly Der Ring des Nibelungen, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal; some of Wagner’s musicological and cultural-critical writings, such as Opera and Drama and Religion and Art; Nietzsche’s own books, beginning with his very first one, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music (1871), which was inspired by and dedicated to Wagner, and concluding with the scathing denunciation of him in The Case of Wagner, written in 1888, the last frenzied year before Nietzsche’s mental breakdown. The course materials will all be in English.

We will also offer a one-credit companion reading course on selected texts in the original German, discussing them with particular emphasis on their grammatical and stylistic qualities. This reading is intended to help students who already know some German to develop their capacities and to encourage those who have not yet begun studying German to do so.

Islamic Philosophy
43190 01 (21196)

3:30-4:45 TR

An introduction to some of the most important thinkers and issues in the Arabic-Islamic philosophical tradition. Some emphasis will be placed on the high classical period (9th to 12th centuries) (e.g., Ibn Sina [Avicenna], al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd [Averroes]), though we will also cover some significant post-classical, modern, and contemporary thought (e.g., jihad and feminism). Other broad topics to be addressed include the existence and attributes of God, the nature and order of the cosmos (including causality), human nature, the relation between religious revelation and philosophical reasoning, and the proper ethical ordering of human life and of the political state. We will discuss these ideas as they operate within the Islamic world and also how they interact with the Western philosophical tradition.

The Philosophy of Edith Stein
43226 01 (20871)

2:00-3:15 MW

This course will provide an introduction to the philosophy of Edith Stein. Edith Stein was an important member of the phenomenological movement: she was Husserl's first assistant (Heidegger followed after) and wrote important works in this tradition.  She was also a scholar of scholastic philosophy.  One of her last works is a treatise on systematic metaphysics that integrates insights from phenomenology, neo-Kantianism, and scholastic metaphysics.     

We’ll begin by discussing the general philosophical and contextual background to Edith Stein's early works. We’ll then discuss portions of several of her works, ranging from her first book The Problem of Empathy up to Finite and Eternal Being.

Philosophy, Gender & Feminism
43318 01 (20349)
43318 02 (20913) - Glynn Honors Program

Rea & Bernstein
12:30-1:45 TR
Cross-listed with GSC 43525 01

This course aims to survey a variety of philosophical issues pertaining to gender and feminism. Over the past decade, 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 (20347)

2:00-3:15 TR
Cross-listed with PHIL 93602

               James P. Sterba, Ethics
                David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth (Tim Duggan Books), Reprint edition 2020
               Bjorn Lomburg. False Alarm (Basic Books) 2020
  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
            Multiculturalism: Morality from whose Cultural Perspective?
            17) Ayaan Hirsi Ali, A Modern Clash of Cultures
18) Madeleine Bunting, Can Islam Liberate Women?
            19) The Uninhabitable Earth 1-53 (53pp)
20) False Alarm 1-48 (48 pp)
21) The Uninhabitable Earth 54-102 (48 pp)
            22) False Alarm 49-86 (47 pp)
            23)The Uninhabitable Earth 103-154 (51pp)
            24) False Alarm 87-183 (40 pp)

Justice Seminar
43404 01 (11387)

Keys & Weithman
3:30-4:45 TR
Cross-listed with POLS 43640-01 & ECON 33250-01

Application for the course is required.  A link to the application form can be found at

The Justice Seminar undertakes a critical examination of major theories of justice, using both contemporary works (e.g., John Rawls' A Theory of Justice and Kenneth Arrow's seminal papers on voting theory) and historical classics (e.g., Aristotle's Politics and the Lincoln-Douglas debates). The seminar requires substantial written work and discussion. This is the core course for the minor in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (P.P.E.).

Philosophy of Action
43503 01 (20704)

43503 02 (20915) - Glynn Honors Program
12:45-2:00 MW

This course is divided into two main units. We begin by surveying central issues concerning the nature and significance of human action. The second unit of the course focuses on debates about *free* action and the related (in what way?) topic of moral responsibility. 

Requirements: short and medium length paper writing, in class work, no exams. 

This course is restricted to undergraduates with permission from the philosophy department (majors, 2nd majors, and any others the department authorizes to take the course). 

Game Theory
43926 01 (20351)
43926 02 (20914) - Glynn Honors Program

10:30-11:20 MW
A Wednesday discussion section is required - PHIL 42926 (20874) - 2:00-2:50 W. 

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.

Intermediate Logic
43907 (21361)

12:30 - 1:45 TR

This course is an introduction to the metatheory of first-order logic, the central system of logic for both philosophical and mathematical purposes. We begin with the basics of set theory, and then move on to first-order logic proper, covering the completeness theorem and associated results. This material is essential for those who want to understand elementary philosophical debates about the use and the significance of logic, the history of logic, and the connection between languages and models. 

Prerequisite: for graduate students: Formal logic or equivalent; contact the professor if you are unsure about your preparation.

Prerequisite for undergrads: Philosophy or philosophy-associated major or minor + formal logic or instructor approval.

Senior Thesis
48499 01 (10607)
Department Approval Required