Philosophy Course Descriptions

Note:  All courses are 3 credit hours. Not all courses are offered every semester. Check the current semester listings for course offerings.

PHIL-101 Critical Thinking

Introduction to the study of persuasive devices, semantic pitfalls, informal fallacies, rational vs. emotional appeals, and the techniques used in evaluating arguments.

PHIL-102 Introduction to Philosophy

Introduction to the main problems of philosophy, i.e., knowledge, reality, morality, religion, and art.

PHIL-201 Logic I

Introductory course in symbolic logic, dealing with propositional calculus, quantification theory, and the logic of relations and classes.

PHIL-202 Comparative Religion

A comparative study of the main beliefs and practices of early and primal religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

PHIL-210 Writing Intensive Program: Arguing Philosophically

An in-depth examination of philosophical argumentation, with a particular emphasis on informal arguments and fallacies. This course satisfies the University Writing Intensive Program. Prerequisite: ENG-101, minimum grade of “C.”

PHIL-211 Philosophy of Religion

Philosophical scrutiny of some of the central themes in religion, i.e., the existence of God, the problem of evil, human freedom and immortality, the nature of faith, and the role of reason in theology.

PHIL-213 Ethics

Introduction to some of the main problems of ethics, including the nature of morality, the meaning of ethical terms, standards for evaluating choices and actions, and the major ideas of important moral philosophers.

PHIL-214 Medical Ethics

This course will focus on the ethical dilemmas both doctors and patients confront as practitioners and patients in medicine. We will pay careful attention to the issues of paternalism, voluntary informed consent and personhood and apply these ideas to actual cases.

PHIL-215 Business Ethics

Philosophical introduction to the ethical content of some of the current problems confronting the business community, such as the social responsibility of business, poverty and equal rights, the ethical implications of ecology, advertising, and consumerism.

PHIL-218 Philosophy of Sex

We will examine a wide range of philosophical topics related to human sexuality, perversion, prostitution, gender roles, and sex roles. Along the way will examine the role of power and coercion in sex and we will examine some of the psycho-social implications of sexual violence. The course will have a decidedly normative bent insofar as our analysis and discussion will be conducted through the lens of ethics.

PHIL-222 History of Ancient Philosophy

Critical survey of the development of philosophy in the West from the pre-Socratics to Plotinus.

PHIL-231 History of Medieval Philosophy

Critical survey of the development of philosophy in the West from the rise of Christendom to the dawn of the Renaissance.

PHIL-241 History of Modern Philosophy

A critical survey of the development of philosophy in the West in the 17th and 18th centuries. Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, Rousseau, and Kant are primary philosophers of this period.

PHIL-247 Phenomenology and Hermeneutics

This course will focus directly on the main views and debates in the phenomenological tradition, which studies consciousness as experience from the first-person point of view, and then look at one of its offshoots, hermeneutics, the study of interpretive practices. The course covers the works of Husserl and Heidegger, Scheler and Derrida, Gadamer and Ricoeur.

PHIL-251 Philosophy of Art

An examination of art and aesthetic experience, including personal, social, and political significance. Issues explored may include artistic concepts pertaining to form and content, representation and expression, meaning and truth, critical interpretation and evaluation.

PHIL-303 Logic II

Study of the theory and development of axiomatic systems, including the problems of definability, completeness, and consistency. Prerequisite: PHIL-201 or consent of instructor.

PHIL-306 Logic III

Systematic inquiry into some of the philosophical problems of logic, such as the nature of propositions, the logical paradoxes, undecidability, types of logic and the relation of logic to truth, language and existence. Prerequisite: PHIL-303 or consent of instructor.

PHIL-313 Ethical Theory

Study of theories about the meaning and justification of moral judgments: good and bad, right and wrong, human rights, justice, punishment, freedom and responsibility, self-interest, the common good, pleasure and happiness, religion and morality, relativism, subjectivism, and skepticism. Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-332 Contemporary Philosophy

This course will track some of the most salient schools of contemporary philosophy and critical theory, including post-structuralism, post-modernism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, postcolonialism, aesthetic theory, and existentialism. Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-333 American Philosophy

Intensive study of the trends prevalent in the modern American philosophical scene, notably pragmatism, idealism, naturalism, positivism, philosophical analysis, and phenomenology. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy, junior standing, or consent of instructor.

PHIL-335 Analytic Philosophy

Critical survey of the development of analytic philosophy in the 20th century.

PHIL-337 Existentialism

A study of the condition of human existence exploring themes such as freedom, alienation, despair, authenticity, self-consciousness, and bad faith from thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Camus. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-339 Post-Modernism

Developing out of problems arising from modern Western philosophy, post-modernism deconstructs meta-narratives such as universal man, autonomous man, ideal language, unitary consciousness, the mind/external world distinction, and objective truth, and the individual as producer (rather than product of social constructions). Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-341 Metaphysics

Systematic analysis of some of the main problems of metaphysics, such as existence, substance and attribute, change and permanence, essence and accident, universals and particulars, mind and body, identity, individuation, and causality. Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-343 Religion and Globalization

The course will examine the impact of various forms of religious expression of secularization and the resulting marginalization of religious ideology.

PHIL-344 Buddhism

The course will begin with an analysis of Buddhism's origins within Hinduism and the early development of its religious beliefs and philosophical concepts in India. It will continue with an in-depth look at its spread throughout Asia and the transformation of its core beliefs and concepts within the main traditions of Theravada, Mahayana, and the Vajrayana. The course will include a study of current global trends, such as the rise of political and social engagement and the impact of Buddhism on Western philosophical traditions including existentialism and phenomenology.

PHIL-345 Social and Political Philosophy

Systematic investigation of some of the salient issues currently discussed by social and political philosophers, such as the nature and origin of the state, political obligation, justice, human rights, authority, liberty, and evaluation of social and political institutions. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-346 19th Century Continental Philosophy

This course covers the development of German Idealism to Historical Materialism. We will explore Kant and Fichte’s Transcendental Philosophy, Schelling and Hegel’s dialectical philosophy, and Marx’s dialectical materialism. Thematically we will engage questions of knowledge, freedom, history, and oppression. We will also see how 19th Century philosophy remains a central movement in philosophy that relates to contemporary critical fields of inquiry.  

PHIL-351 Sexism and the Philosophy of Language
An investigation of ways language is involved in the social construction of reality, in particular, ways English is used to maintain sexism (as well as racism and classism), and also ways many speakers use language to break silencing and challenge standard meaning. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-353 Feminism and the Philosophy of Science

An investigation of ways science has been involved in the maintenance of sexism, racism, and colonialism in both content and structure; and the study of contributions feminist theorists have made to the development of the philosophy of science. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-362 Philosophy of Law

In this course, we will engage in an examination of law and legal systems, as well as of the ideas, ideologies, and principles that are at the core of the establishment and interpretation of law. The pervasive presence of law in our lives should encourage us not only to understand it, but to scrutinize its foundations and presuppositions. Toward this end, we will pay special attention to three aspects of philosophy of law: analytic jurisprudence, normative jurisprudence, and critical law theory. Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-364 Critical Race Theory

This course begins with the recognition that racism is prevalent in the United States. The course will examine the law's role in the construction and maintenance of social domination, and subordination in order to understand and articulate a critical race theoretical approach to the intersections of race, gender, class, and the law.

PHIL-365 Environmental Ethics

How ought we to behave toward nature, and what are the implications of human interactions with ecosystems? We will pay special attention to the value of restored nature and whether it is a form of human domination or whether restoration is a legitimate endeavor to be pursued out of moral obligation. We will integrate actual cases into the class in order to flesh out the policy implications of our philosophical commitments. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-366 Feminist Ethics

What is feminism? What is Feminist Ethics? How do feminists differ in their ways of thinking about the good life and acting in the world from a non-feminist? Why do they differ in their understanding of these issues? How should we live our lives in a way that reflects feminist values? These are just some of the questions we will explore in this class. Specifically, we will explore the key concepts of different types of feminist ethics and the ways to apply it to our everyday lives. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-367 Postcolonialism

Postcolonialism is a body of thought arising from the margins of Anglo-European discourse, within societies Europeans colonized. It challenges Eurocentrism, or the practice of understanding Anglo-European thought as the culmination of all rational thought, a practice that erases other cultural productions.

PHIL-370 Re-Thinking Race and Gender

This is an intensive summer course that runs for 10 days over three weeks and provides a concentrated exploration of how we read, see, and inhabit issues of race and gender. Grounded in a conceptual framework that opens to against-the-grain logics, it will engage students in re-reading relations of race and gender naturalized by dominant ideology. Students will participate in workshops, lectures, and sessions with invited speakers. Designed for graduates, undergraduates, and teachers. Prerequisites: graduate status or junior-senior status in philosophy, English, political science, sociology, women’s and gender studies, LLAS, AFAM, or LGBTQ.

PHIL-371 Theory of Knowledge

The course includes an investigation of different practices of knowing, including Cartesian epistemology, Kuhnian paradigm theory, and standpoint theory. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-373 Feminist Philosophy

Analytic investigation of the latest feminist theory in order to study the development of feminism. Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-375 Philosophy of Science

Examination of some of the main problems currently discussed by philosophers of science, such as the methodology and foundations of empirical science, the meaning and verification of scientific statements, theories, laws, hypotheses, and explanations. Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-381 Independent Study in Philosophy

Readings, discussions, and reports on a special topic with faculty supervision. Normally open to majors in their junior or senior year. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

PHIL-382 Marx, Theory and Politics

The primary aim of this course will be to understand and think with the work of Karl Marx. Comprehending any thinker is a challenging task, but reading Marx is especially complicated by the tradition of Marxism, the history and failures of state socialism, and the peculiar American perspective on Marx informed by the politics of the Cold War. We will proceed with the assumption that despite these complications—in some cases, because of them—we can learn from Marx’s philosophical perspective to understand 21st century political and economic order.

PHIL-384 Seminar in the Philosophy of Religion

This seminar course examines questions concerning the existence, nature of, and evidence for the primary and fundamental objects of religious belief. Topics may include the following: 1) Can we demonstrate God's existence? 2) Is faith irrational? 3) Can we know anything about God? 4) Is the existence of evil evidence against the existence of God? 5) Is religion necessary for morality? Prerequisite: major or minor in philosophy and junior or senior standing.

PHIL-385 Seminar in Philosophy of Mind

This course examines the central issues and debates in philosophy of mind from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Topics covered may include theories of the mind's relation to the body (dualism, monism, functionalism, behaviorism, identity theory, eliminative materialism), theories of mental content, free will, personal identity and first-person experience, among others. Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor.

PHIL-386 Nietzsche Seminar

This course will confront the forceful and elusive positions of Friedrich Nietzsche, noting the ways in which such a worldview both interrupted and transformed the history of philosophy.

PHIL-387 Seminar on Arendt

In this course, we will investigate the work of Hannah Arendt on politics, society, and political action. Our primary questions will be what does political action require and what can it accomplish? But we will also pay careful attention to how Arendt thinks about politics, because she moves with ease between theoretical abstraction and concrete political practice. Our readings will include texts on civil disobedience, the relationship between history and political theory, the meanings of power and violence, colonialism, totalitarian rule during the Third Reich and the Soviet era, and on racial prejudice as political tool.

PHIL-388 Philosophy of Language Seminar

This course focuses on language use and begins with theoretical challenges from both the analytic (Wittgenstein) and continental (Derrida) traditions in philosophy to idealized theories of language, particularly the reference theory of language as well as the idea that language is a pure and formal unity. We will explore strategies of using language to construct consensus through both syntax and semantics, generating commitment to particular and tacit understandings. We will also work on theories of metaphor and performatives to become skilled in articulating practical complexities of language use.

PHIL-389 Foucault Seminar

Michel Foucault is and will remain one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His work is influential not only in philosophy, but in history, sociology, gender studies, justice studies, art, and literary theory. We will focus on the shorter works and interviews found in Dits et Écrits both because they are often easier to read than the books, and because Foucault presents his philosophical conclusions most succinctly there.

PHIL-390 Classical Political Theory

Study of the philosophy and practice of just political order and virtuous action in the ancient Greek, Roman and Hebraic traditions. The course will address the classical distinction between public and private life, slavery, and the politics of sex and gender in antiquity, the relationships between the good soul and the good city, ancient democracy, and the politics of empire. Readings will include texts by Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Polybius, and the Book of Job, the Book of Matthew, and others. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.

PHIL-391 Modern Political Theory

The course will address the emergence of modern humanism and Machiavelli’s republican vision, analyze obligation and the rule of law in the contract tradition represented by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, and examine ongoing conflicts between authority and freedom and power and equality that plague the 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries.

PSCI-392. Writing Intensive Program: Contemporary Political Philosophy
State and governance are among the most traditional, and one might think settled, themes in modern political thought. But recent 21st century events have given these themes a new significance. Were these events, and related problems, prefigured in earlier crises of political order? How does "globalism" affect theories of state and governance? Are the liberal democratic and republican traditions able to meet the dilemmas of security and freedom presented by an increasing inter-connectedness among nation-states? To investigate these questions, this course will explore classics on state and governance and also read selected contemporary theories, histories and literary perspectives on political order.
Prerequisite: ENGL-101 minimum grade of C.