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“Philosophy” means "love of wisdom." Philosophers seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, human nature, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other. Philosophy’s method of inquiry differs from science since it relies mainly on thought as opposed to observation and experiments. It consists in a critical inquiry of life’s most basic questions (for example, how do we know anything? What is real? What is a mind and how does it work?). And yet philosophers’ answers to these basic questions are relevant to both science and real-world problems. For example, philosophers consider what we mean when we say that we "know" something, and different answers have implications for scientific research, psychology, and education. Philosophers debate how to define morality, and their definitions have implications for ethical dilemmas that arise in public policy-making, medicine, business, and so on.

Accordion Content

  • The Philosophy Department’s primary learning goals are:

    1.       familiarizing students with the metaphysical, epistemological, psychological and ethical issues which have engaged human beings for centuries by reading both classical and contemporary philosophical texts; and
    2.       providing students with the critical and analytical thinking skills that are necessary for assessing arguments and that will allow students to clearly articulate (either in oral or written form) arguments in defense of their own views.

    Acquisition of these skills will allow students not only to engage creatively with ongoing discussion of philosophical questions but also to evaluate the goodness of arguments from any discipline (the sciences, economics, public health, medical sciences, technology, and so on).

  • 21:730:103 Introduction to Philosophy (3)
    Introduction, for beginners, to central philosophical problems, primarily in the Western tradition, including such topics as morality, truth, knowledge, the nature of the mind, reality, and the existence of God.

    21:730:107 Critical Thinking (3)
    Develops and improves fundamental skills of clear, coherent, and critical thinking, speaking, and writing. Aims to foster confidence in the student's ability to solve problems by reasoning. Emphasizes rules of critical reasoning and techniques for applying them to real-world problems in science, management, law, aesthetics, and politics. Intended primarily for first-year students and sophomores.

    21:730:201 Introduction to Logic (3)
    Introduction to the concepts of valid reasoning and proof in modern logic. Approaches may include diagramming and pictorial representation.

     21:730:203 Human Nature (3)
    A study of human nature through the double lens of philosophy and psychology, and especially recent findings in cognitive science.

    21:730:205 Current Moral and Social Issues (3)
    Examines such issues as sexual morality and abortion, capital punishment, sexism, racism and affirmative action, censorship, privacy, drug abuse and drug laws, economic distribution and justice, and consumption and scarcity of natural resources.

    21:730:212 Introduction to Ethics (3)
    Theories about the definition of right and wrong, the nature of moral knowledge, and virtue and vice, primarily in the Western philosophical tradition, as explored by philosophers from Plato to the present.

    21:730:306 Greek Philosophy (3)
    Origins and development of Western philosophy among the ancient Greeks; study of the pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and later Greek and Roman philosophers.
    Prerequisite: 21:730:103

    21:730:307 Modern Philosophy (3)
    The formative period of modern Western philosophy from its emergence out of medieval thought; emphasis on works of major philosophers of the 16th to 18th centuries from Montaigne to Kant.
    Prerequisite: 21:730:103

    21:730:308 Existentialism and Continental Philosophy (3)
    The philosophical roots and dimensions of existentialism and its relations with phenomenology and the contemporary continental tradition; works by Kierkegaard, Nietzche, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Habermas, and Derrida.
    Prerequisite: 21:730:103

    21:730:312 The Nature of Morality (3)
    An examination of central issues in metaethics and moral psychology:  egoism and altruism; moral judgment and motivation; truth and objectivity in ethics; the nature of moral facts; moral knowledge; the sources of moral intuitions. 
    Prerequisite:  21:730:212 or by the permission of the instructor/chair.

    21:730:327 Philosophy of Religion (3)
    Major controversies over the nature of religious belief, the "logic" of religious language, and the justification of religious claims; contemporary and traditional positions considered, but primary emphasis given to those aspects of religion open to rational argument.

    21:730:328 Philosophy and the Arts (3)
    The nature of aesthetic experience as a significant form of human activity; aesthetic analysis, meaning and truth in the arts, the foundation of value judgment, and criticism in the arts.

    21:730:336 Critical Intelligence Theory (3)
    A course about the concept of "intelligence," addressing cognitive ability and disability as social categories that function similarly to and in relation with race, class, and gender, and examining the practices of IQ testing, standardized K-12 assessment and college entrance testing, immigration policy, and the eugenics movement.

    21:730:343 Philosophical Issues in Punishment and Human Rights (3)
    The reason(s) for which punishment is justified, and the conduct for which punishment is appropriate; examines relationships between punishment, justice, and human rights. Uses cases from American law as well as writings by philosophers on the legitimacy of punishment.

    21:730:345 Philosophy of Law (3)
    An examination of the relationship between morality and the law, including the nature of the law, the moral obligation to obey the law, the nature and morality of legal punishment, and the nature and scope of legal rights, such as the right to free speech and the right to privacy.

    21:730:351 Business and Professional Ethics (3)
    Ways of thinking about moral issues that arise in business and the professions: conflicts of interest and obligation, professional responsibility, whistle-blowing and loyalty, corporate social responsibility, dealing with local practices overseas, corporate culture, employees' rights, and the moral status of capitalism and other economic systems.

    21:730:358 Philosophy and the Black Experience (3)
    An analysis of what constitutes the black experience; issues in the black experience, e.g., racial integration, racial separatism, racism, and black values. Philosophical analysis of experiences of the African diaspora, e.g., freedom and slavery, racial integration, racial separatism, racism, and the philosophies and values of cultures of the African diaspora.

    21:730:360 Philosophical Ideas in Literature (3)
    Philosophical issues in literary works, primarily in the Western tradition; freedom and determinism, conceptions and reality of the self, the quest for meaning, the existence of evil.

    21:730:362 Eastern Philosophy (3)
    A comparative analysis of Eastern, mainly Indian, and Western perspectives on key issues, e.g., God, self, and the universe; explores the role of reason vis-à-vis contemplation; study of philosophies, including Vedanta, Buddhism, Jainism, and others.

    21:730: 380 Philosophy of Psychology (3)
    The philosophy of psychology is concerned with areas at the intersection of the philosophy of mind and the science of psychology, and its primary aim is to explore how the mind works. The course addresses issues such as the nature and function of intentionality, consciousness, intelligence, and creativity; what free will consists in and whether it exists; what persons are, and whether our understanding of mind and personhood is psychologically significant; what is the nature of happiness and morality, etc
    Prerequisites: 21:730:103 and any psychology course or permission of instructor/chair. 

    21:730:381 Philosophy of Neuroscience (3) 
    An examination of selected topics from the philosophy of neuroscience. Possible topics include: What does neuroscience tell us about consciousness? The emotions? Free will? Memory? Perception? How do neuroscientists learn about the brain and its structures? Does psychology reduce to neuroscience?
    Prerequisite: 21:730:103 or 21:830:101

    21:730:382 The Self: East and West (3)
    An investigation into how we do, and we should, conceive of ourselves as persons. Of particular interest for this course is the Buddhist insistence that these misconceptions about the self lie at the heart of human suffering.
    Prerequisite: 21:730:103

    21:730:385 Special Topics in Philosophy (3)
    A midlevel course on a philosophy topic not covered by an existing course listing. Please consult department for details.
    Prerequisite: 21:730:103 or permission of instructor/chair

    21:730:407 Advanced Modern Philosophy (3)
    A continuation of Modern Philosophy (Philosophy 307), with a closer critical analysis of selected epistemological, psychological, and metaphysical issues in the work of 17th- and 18th-century European philosophers such as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Malebranche, Locke, Hume, and Berkeley.
    Prerequisite: 21:730:307

    21:730:409 Contemporary Analytical Philosophy (3)
    Introduction to the origins and directions of present-day philosophy and its recent accomplishments, especially in the English-speaking world: the giants of the early 20th century; positivism and ordinary language philosophy; major postwar figures; and the present generation (Rorty, Putnam, Davidson). Emphasis on understanding what philosophers are doing now and why.
    Prerequisites: 21:730:103 and one additional philosophy course.

    21:730:412 Philosophical Ideas in the United States (3)
    American contributions to idealism, realism, and pragmatism; readings from Royce, Dewey, James, and Rorty.
    Prerequisites: 21:730:103 and one additional philosophy course.

    21:730:423 Advanced Topics in Applied Ethics (3)
    In-depth exploration of an area of applied ethics, with an emphasis on using philosophical thinking to frame and analyze important real-world moral problems.
    Prerequisites: 21:730:205 or 212, and one additional philosophy course.

    21:730:425 Philosophy of Science (3)
    Classical problems of induction and interpretation. The idealized picture of scientific method as fallible but self-correcting, converging to truth in the long run, is examined in the light of elementary probability theory. The problem of interpretation is introduced in the context of the theoretician's dilemma and illustrated by the case of geometric theory. The realist and instrumentalist interpretations are contrasted in the light of elementary concepts of logical theory.
    Prerequisites: 21:730:103 and 201.

    21:730:422 The Good Life  (3)
    What makes our lives go well? Is it a matter of how happy we are? Or does it all come down to getting what we want? Or are the best things in life independent of what we want and enjoy? What role should morality play in a life well lived? What would it take for our lives to be meaningful, and how does that relate to how good our lives are? In this course we will explore these and other central questions in the philosophy of the good life. 

    21:730:427 Philosophical Issues of Feminism (3)
    Examines different theories of nature and source of women's oppression; liberal, radical, Marxist, and socialist feminism; the concept of oppression, woman's nature, individual rights, and social justice; the meaning of equality; the role of the family (actually and ideally); and the importance of biological, social, and economic categories.
    Prerequisites: 21:730:205 or 212, and either one additional philosophy course or one course in women's studies (988).

    21:730:428 Social and Political Philosophy (3)
    The interrelationship of the state, law, and morality; examination of the interdependence of ideology and political obligation; the equivocal meanings of liberty, rights, and justice; and major approaches such as Social Contract Theory and Marxism.
    Prerequisites: 21:730:205 or 212, and either one additional philosophy course or one course in political science (790).

    21:730:432 Formal Logic (3)
    Completeness and consistency of classical sentential and predicate logic; the problem of decidability and elementary model theory.
    Prerequisite: 21:730:201 or permission of instructor.

    21:730:441,442 Individual Study in Philosophy (3)
    Prerequisite: Enrollment only by permission of department.

    21:730:446 Theories of Knowledge (3)
    The nature and limits of knowledge; the problems of rationalism and empiricism, realism and idealism, and meaning and truth.
    Prerequisites: 21:730:103 and one additional philosophy course.

    21:730:448 Philosophy of Language (3)
    Currently disputed issues arising from the philosophical study of language: its use, structure, and limitation; contemporary theories of meaning, speech acts, the relevance of transformational grammar, and exploratory consideration of the role of analogies; readings from Frege, Chomsky, Austin, and Davidson.
    Prerequisites: 21:730:201 and one additional philosophy course.

    21:730:450 Decision Theory and Ethics (3)
    Introduction to Bayesian decision theory and two-person game theory, with applications to ethical, ecological, and economic problems. Alternative foundations for the theory of utility and subjective probability are studied, and their philosophical significance examined. Alternative solutions to the cooperative game are studied, and their philosophical foundations examined.
    Prerequisite: 21:730:205 or 212, and one additional philosophy course.

    21:730:472 Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind (3)
    Analyzes such topics as time, universals, identity, causation and freedom, mind and body, and the relation of thought and reality in classical and contemporary texts primarily in the Western philosophical tradition. 
    Prerequisites: 21:730:103 and one additional philosophy course.

    21:730:485 Advanced Seminar in Philosophy (3,3) 
    An advanced course on a philosophy topic not covered by an existing course listing. Please consult department for details.
    Prerequisites: Two prior courses in philosophy (specific prior courses may be required depending on topic; please consult course listing).