Philosophy

Philosophy asks and attempts to answer questions about the nature of reality and our knowledge about it, moral goodness, justice, beauty and freedom. In the context of liberal arts, we help students develop critical thinking skills by focusing on argument construction and analysis. We offer a range of courses in traditional areas of philosophy, such as epistemology and ethics, as well as courses in history of philosophy and applied philosophy.

Our courses, except for the comps, are open to both majors and non-majors, although some upper level courses may require prior exposure to philosophy.

Requirements for the Philosophy Major

72 credits in philosophy, including:

1. Core Courses (24 credits)

2. Theoretical Philosophy Area Requirement (6 credits) Theoretical philosophy courses include, but are not limited to, courses that predominantly cover themes from metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of science, logic, or the philosophy of mind.

One course at or above 200-level in theoretical philosophy (6 credits)

  • IDSC 250 Color!
  • PHIL 203 Bias, Belief, Community, Emotion
  • PHIL 211 Being, Time and Identity
  • PHIL 217 Reason in Context: Limitations and Possibilities (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 223 Philosophy of Language (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 225 Philosophy of Mind (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 226 Love and Friendship (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 236 Proof, Knowledge, and Understanding in Mathematics (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 251 Evidence, Objectivity, and Realism in the Sciences (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 255 Comparative Philosophy
  • PHIL 273 Kant's Metaphysics (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 274 Existentialism
  • PHIL 287 Conspiracy Theories and Dogmatism (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 297 Kant’s Philosophy of Mind (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 306 Causation and Explanation
  • PHIL 319 Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 373 Reptiles and Demons

3. Practical Philosophy/Value Theory Area Requirement (6 credits). Practical Philosophy/Value Theory courses include, but are not limited to, courses that predominantly cover themes from ethics, political philosophy, social philosophy, or aesthetics.

One course at or above 200-level in practical philosophy/value theory (6 credits)

  • PHIL 203 Bias, Belief, Community, Emotion
  • PHIL 218 Virtue Ethics (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 221 Philosophy of Law (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 222 Topics in Medical Ethics (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 226 Love and Friendship (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 228 Freedom and Alienation in Black American Philosophy (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 232 Social and Political Philosophy (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 255 Comparative Philosophy
  • PHIL 257 Contemporary Issues in Feminist Philosophy
  • PHIL 260 Critical Philosophy of Race (not offered in 2022-23)
  • PHIL 274 Existentialism

4. Advanced Courses (12 credits)

  • PHIL Advanced Courses (12 credits in Philosophy at the 300-level, excluding PHIL 398 and 399)

5. Integrative Exercise (12 credits)

6. Philosophy Electives (12 credits)

  • 12 additional credits in Philosophy

Courses cannot be double counted to meet more than one of the above requirements. That is, if a student takes a 395 Advanced Seminar in the philosophy of mind, it cannot count as both a theoretical philosophy distribution requirement (#2 above) and an advanced seminar.

No more than twelve credits at the 100-level counts toward the major.

Depending on each student's individual educational goals, up to one course from another department can count toward the major. This is done in consultation with the chair of Philosophy.

Requirements for the Philosophy Minor

36 credits in Philosophy, including:

  • One course at the 100-level (6 credits). This course can be an A&I seminar or one of the department's regular Introduction to Philosophy courses.
  • Two courses from the following list (12 credits)
    • Logic
    • Ancient Philosophy
    • Modern Philosophy
    • Ethics
  • One advanced course (6 credits). This can be any philosophy course at the 300 level
  • Two electives (12 credits). At most one of these can come from the 100-level.

Philosophy Courses

PHIL 100 Family Values: The Ethics of Being a Family Everyone has a family of one kind or another. Whether you love them, hate them, or both at the same time, your family has played a huge role in making you the person you are. That fact raises all kinds of interesting philosophical questions such as: what limits should there be on how parents shape their kids' lives and values? Are there demands of justice that are in tension with the way families are "normally" constituted? What duties do parents have to their children and vice versa? And what makes a person someone else's parent or child in the first place--genetics, commitment, convention? This course will explore all these questions and more. 6 credits; AI, WR1, IDS; Fall; Daniel M Groll
PHIL 100 Science, Faith and Rationality This seminar will introduce the student to the study of philosophy through a consideration of various epistemic and metaphysical issues surrounding science and religion. What distinguishes scientific inquiry from other areas of inquiry: Its subject matter, its method of inquiry, or perhaps both? How does scientific belief differ from religious belief, in particular? Is the scientist committed to substantive metaphysical assumptions? If so, what role do these assumptions play in scientific investigation and how do they differ from religious dogma (if they do)? Our exploration of these questions will involve the consideration of both classic and contemporary philosophical texts. 6 credits; AI, WR1; Fall; Jason A Decker
PHIL 100 Utopias What would a perfect society look like? What ideals would it implement? What social evils would it eliminate? This course explores some famous philosophical and literary utopias, such as Plato's Republic, Thomas More's Utopia, Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed, and others. We will also consider some nightmarish counterparts of utopias, dystopias. One of the projects in this course is a public performance, such as a speech or a short play.  6 credits; AI, WR1; Fall; Anna Moltchanova
PHIL 105 The Complications of Heroism What does it mean to be heroic? Are heroes in the Western world consistent across contexts and vantage points? In this introduction to philosophy, we explore some lauded philosophical discussions on heroism, ethical complications, and shifts in the valuation of heroic and ethical acts. Students will read contemporary and historical philosophical texts by figures such as Thomas Carlyle, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and others. Students will explore illustrations of heroism by the primary authors and we will explore counter examples that challenge these views. Finally, students are invited to explore the meaning of heroism today utilizing the course's philosophical resources. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 113 The Individual and the Political Community Are human beings radically individual and atomic by nature, political animals, or something else? However we answer that question, what difference does it make for our understanding of the ways in which larger political communities come into existence and are maintained? In this course we will explore these and related questions while reading two of the most foundational works in political theory, Plato’s Republic and Hobbes’s Leviathan, as well as several contemporary pieces influenced by these thinkers. 6 credits; HI, IS, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 115 Skepticism, God, and Ethical Dilemmas If I can't rule out that I'm dreaming, does it follow that I don't know that I'm in Minnesota right now? Are there sound arguments establishing either the existence or non-existence of God? If I can divert a train from one track to another so that only one person loses her life instead of five, am I morally required to do so? In this course we will address questions concerning skepticism, God, and moral dilemmas, and explore some of their interrelations. We will pay close attention to issues of philosophical methodology along the way. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 116 Sensation, Induction, Abduction, Deduction, Seduction In every academic discipline, we make theories and argue for and against them. This is as true of theology as of geology (and as true of phys ed as of physics). What are the resources we have available to us in making these arguments? It's tempting to split the terrain into (i) raw data, and (ii) rules of right reasoning for processing the data. The most obvious source of raw data is sense experience, and the most obvious candidates for modes of right reasoning are deduction, induction, and abduction. Some philosophers, however, think that sense perception is only one of several sources of raw data (perhaps we also have a faculty of pure intuition or maybe a moral sense), and others have doubted that we have any source of raw data at all. As for the modes of "right" reasoning, Hume famously worried about our (in)ability to justify induction, and others have had similar worries about abduction and even deduction. Can more be said on behalf of our most strongly held beliefs and belief-forming practices than simply that we find them seductive---that we are attracted to them; that they resonate with us? In this course, we'll use some classic historical and contemporary philosophical texts to help us explore these and related issues. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 117 Reclaiming Argument Our lives are drenched in argument and persuasion. This course aims to teach you how to deftly and ethically manage argument and persuasion in your own life. Our goals: to develop your skill at recognizing how language can be used and misused as a tool for persuasion, by teaching techniques from formal logic, linguistics, and argument-mapping; and to show you how (and why) to construct your own arguments with honesty and logical transparency. Our hope is that you will come to see argument not primarily as a contest to be won or lost, but as something that should be “reclaimed” for a more noble purpose: building genuine understanding between people, even across profound differences of viewpoint. 6 credits; HI; Fall; Ned Hall
PHIL 119 Meaning of Life Does life have a meaning? To answer this, we will first inquire into more basic questions about agency that provide a foundation for our topic: Is everything fated? Is fate compatible with free will? Can we always do the right thing without moral remainder, or are there genuine moral dilemmas? Are there grey zones of compromised responsibility due to structures of oppression, or other factors? How do we know what lives are meaningful for us? Is there any objective truth about the meaning of life? After developing your ideas on the answers to those questions, we will turn to various approaches to meaning in life, both those that affirm meaning and deny it. We will cover, for example, approaches to the meaning of life grounded in narrative, divinity, creativity, and more. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Winter; Hope C Sample
PHIL 122 Identity and Leadership Leaders who face tragedy and violence inspire others with their personal narratives of self-creation and meaning-making. This course invites students to investigate the relationship between the subjective meaning-making experience and various manifestations of the ‘problem of evil’. We will read a variety of texts that highlight narrative experiences of tragedy, self-transformation, and models of leadership as empowerment. The course approaches these topics from a variety of philosophical lenses including: Existentialism, Feminist Philosophy, Africana Philosophy, Queer Studies, Disability Studies, and Religious Studies. The texts of this course will include: Book of Job, Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, Lucy Delaney’s From the Darkness Cometh the Light, Susan Brison’s Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of the Self, and Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 123 Topics in Medical Ethics This course examines a variety of topics in medical ethics. We begin with a unit on pandemic ethics: Who should get ventilators when there aren't enough for everyone? Do medical providers have a duty to treat during a pandemic? We then turn to the question "When is someone dead?" and consider how different answers to that question affect arguments over organ procurement. Our third unit is on the place of race, and racial judgments, in medicine. Is there a place for racial judgments in medicine? Finally, we turn to the question of how to think about decision making in a clinical context: what values are at play? And how should we think about disagreements between clinicians and patients? What about disagreements between patient's past wishes and their current wishes? Not open to students who have taken Philosophy 222. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 203 Bias, Belief, Community, Emotion What is important to individuals, how they see themselves and others, and the kind of projects they pursue are shaped by traditional and moral frameworks they didn’t choose. Individual selves are encumbered by their social environments and, in this sense, always ‘biased’, but some forms of bias are pernicious because they produce patterns of inter and intra-group domination and oppression. We will explore various forms of intersubjectivity and its asymmetries through readings in social ontology and social epistemology that theorize the construction of group and individual beliefs and identities in the context of the social world they engender. 6 credits; HI, WR2, QRE, IDS; Spring; Anna Moltchanova
PHIL 210 Logic The study of formal logic has obvious and direct applicability to a wide variety of disciplines (including mathematics, computer science, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, and many others). Indeed, the study of formal logic helps us to develop the tools and know-how to think more clearly about arguments and logical relationships in general; and arguments and logical relationships form the backbone of any rational inquiry. In this course we will focus on propositional logic and predicate logic, and look at the relationship that these have to ordinary language and thought. 6 credits; FSR; Spring; Jason A Decker
PHIL 211 Being, Time and Identity The aim of metaphysics has traditionally been to identify the nature and structure of reality. The topics of this course are the topology of time, identity of things and individuals, causality, free will, and the referents of general terms. We will read a variety of classic and contemporary texts, which are organized topically. Prerequisite: 100-level Philosophy course or instructor permission. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Winter; Anna Moltchanova
PHIL 213 Ethics How should we live? This is the fundamental question for the study of ethics. This course looks at classic and contemporary answers to the fundamental question from Socrates to Kant to modern day thinkers. Along the way, we consider slightly (but only slightly) more tractable questions such as: What reason is there to be moral? Is there such a thing as moral knowledge (and if so, how do we get it)? What are the fundamental principles of right and wrong (if there are any at all)? Is morality objective? 6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Spring; Daniel M Groll
PHIL 217 Reason in Context: Limitations and Possibilities Our reflection on significant human questions is often (perhaps always) embedded within a larger set of cultural or personal theoretical commitments. Such embeddedness suggests our reflection cannot achieve the standard of objectivity characteristic of a traditional ideal of rationality. Is this realization to be welcomed insofar as it weakens traditional dogmatic claims to truth and the associated implication that certain views or frameworks are superior to others? Or, in spite of the unmooring of the philosophical tradition from set criteria, do we still find ourselves committed to some ordering of rank and, if so, how do we make sense of this? In this course we'll examine these questions as they arise in the writings of Nietzsche, Heidegger and other continental philosophers. We will devote part of the course to the ancient sources (Plato and Aristotle) with whom the continental philosophers are in conversation. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 218 Virtue Ethics What is a good human life? Who is a good person? From the time of Plato and Aristotle onwards, many philosophers have thought about these questions in terms of two central ideas. Virtues, such as justice or courage, make us a certain type of person (they give us a certain character). Wisdom enables us to make good judgments about how to act. How do virtue and wisdom work together to produce a good human life? Is a good life the same as a happy life? We will reflect on these and related questions as we read texts from Alasdair MacIntyre, Philippa Foot, and other significant thinkers in the contemporary virtue ethics tradition. We will also consider the application of virtue ethics to specific areas, such as environmental ethics, as well as the parallels between Western virtue ethics and the tradition of Confucianism in ancient China. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 221 Philosophy of Law This course provides students with an opportunity to engage actively in a discussion of theoretical questions about law. We will consider the nature of law as it is presented by natural law theory, legal positivism and legal realism. Then we will deal with responsibility and punishment, and challenges to the idea of the primacy of individual rights from legal paternalism and moralism. We will next inquire into the explanations of why individuals should obey the law, and conditions under which civil disobedience is justified. Finally, we will discuss issues raised by feminist legal theory and some theories of minority rights. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 222 Topics in Medical Ethics This course examines a variety of topics in medical ethics. We begin with a unit on pandemic ethics: Who should get ventilators when there aren't enough for everyone? Do medical providers have a duty to treat during a pandemic? We then turn to the question "When is someone dead?" and consider how different answers to that question affect arguments over organ procurement. Our third unit is on the place of race, and racial judgments, in medicine. Is there a place for racial judgments in medicine? Finally, we turn to the question of how to think about decision making in a clinical context: what values are at play? And how should we think about disagreements between clinicians and patients? What about disagreements between patient's past wishes and their current wishes? 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 223 Philosophy of Language In this course we will look at how philosophers have tried to understand language and its connection with human thought and communication. The course will be split into two parts: Semantics and Pragmatics. In the first part, we'll look at general features of linguistic expressions like meaning and reference. In the second part, we'll look at the various ways in which speakers use language. Topics to be considered in the second part include speech acts, implicature, and presupposition. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 225 Philosophy of Mind What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Are they identical? Or is there mental "stuff" in addition to physical stuff? Or perhaps some physical stuff has irreducibly mental properties? These, and related questions, are explored by philosophers under the heading of "the mind-body problem." In this course, we will start with these questions, looking at classical and contemporary defenses of both materialism and dualism. This investigation will lead us to other important questions such as: What is the nature of mental representation, what is consciousness, and could a robot have conscious states and mental representations? 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 226 Love and Friendship This course will consider various philosophical views on the nature of love and friendship. It will focus on both the history of philosophical thinking about these notions from Plato and Aristotle to the twentieth century and a variety of contemporary views on the meaning of love and friendship that derive their insight from the most recent studies of emotion, agency, action, rationality, moral value, and motivation. We will also look at the variations in the understanding of love and friendship among the members of the same culture and across cultures. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 228 Freedom and Alienation in Black American Philosophy The struggle of freedom against forms of alienation is both a historical and contemporary characteristic of Black/African-American philosophy. In this course we will explore how a variety of Black/African-American philosophers theorize these concepts. The aim of the course is to both offer resources for familiarizing students with African-American philosophers and develop an appreciation for critical philosophical voices in the Black intellectual tradition. The course will range from slave narratives, reconstruction, and civil rights to contemporary prison abolitionism, intersectionality, and afro-pessimism. The texts of the course will include: Angela Davis’ Lectures on Liberation, Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells Southern Horrors, George Yancy’s African-American Philosophers 17 Conversations, and Afro-Pessimism: An Introduction. As well as select articles from historical and contemporary Black/African-American philosophers. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 232 Social and Political Philosophy We will study several prominent late twentieth century philosophers writing about social and political justice and representing a variety of views, such as liberalism, socialism, libertarianism, communitarianism, feminism and post-modernism. The following are some of the authors we will read: John Rawls, Gerald Cohen, Robert Nozick, Charles Taylor, Iris Marion Young, Seyla Benhabib, Jurgen Habermas, Jean-Francois Lyotard. 6 credits; HI, WR2, QRE, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 236 Proof, Knowledge, and Understanding in Mathematics An introduction to the philosophy of mathematics focusing on the history and development of mathematical proofs. The course is organized around three central questions: i. What is the relationship between a mathematical proof and our knowledge of the theorem that it proves? ii. Do some mathematical proofs go beyond establishing the truth of their theorems and actually explain why the theorems are true? iii. How has our mathematical knowledge grown throughout history? We will first address these questions by reading and discussing Imre Lakatos's book Proofs and Refutations. We will continue with readings drawn from classic and contemporary sources in the history and philosophy of mathematics. This course has no formal prerequisites, though it does presuppose a willingness to read, assess, and write about mathematical proofs.   6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 251 Evidence, Objectivity, and Realism in the Sciences Science gives us an objective view of ourselves and the world we live in. Or does it? In this course, we’ll pursue some fundamental questions about the nature of the empirical sciences. What makes something a science? What kinds of evidence are there for scientific claims? What, if anything, makes science objective? The main concepts of the course will be illustrated using examples of scientific reasoning from a range of sciences, including biology (e.g., research on gender), climate science (e.g., whether hurricanes are getting more damaging over time), and physics (e.g., the seventeenth century revolution in astronomy). One theme of the course will be feminist critiques of scientific practices and of traditional philosophy of science. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 255 Comparative Philosophy Philosophical problems are motivated by human concerns that are often shared across cultures. In this course, we will analyze how philosophers from different traditions have approached problems concerning the structure of reality, the nature of knowledge and experience, and how we ought to live. We will identify how their cultural context impacts their resolution of metaphysical, epistemic, and ethical problems. Moreover, beyond comparing and contrasting, we will consider how philosophers from different philosophical traditions could have learned from or inspired one another if they had engaged with one another. By engaging in this cross-cultural and critical investigation, we will gain a broader view of how philosophy has been used to make sense of the world and its limitations and prospects. 6 credits; HI, IS, WR2; Spring; Hope C Sample
PHIL 257 Contemporary Issues in Feminist Philosophy This course provides a survey of contemporary issues in feminist philosophy as well as a selection of feminist theories of gender. For the latter, we will cover intersectional theory, narrative theory, and feminist theories of embodiment, among others. For the former, we will attempt to answer the following kinds of questions in this course: How does feminism interact with nationalism? How do categories of gender, sex, sexuality, race, nationality, and class affect our willingness to attribute knowledge or epistemic authority to others? How does the application of these categories affect our awareness of the social spaces that we inhabit? How do we know our sexual orientation? What is oppression? Should gender impact custody decisions? How does the criminal justice system reinforce structures of oppression? This course will ask students to analyze feminist arguments that support diverse answers to these questions and more. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS; Fall; Hope C Sample
PHIL 260 Critical Philosophy of Race This course serves as an introduction to the philosophical subfield of Critical Philosophy of Race. In this course students examine issues raised by the concept of race, practices and methods of racialization, and the persistence of racism across the world despite efforts to end it. This method of doing philosophy opposes racism in all forms; it rejects racial pseudoscience and religious determinism, biological racialism, all forms of racial supremacy, and all forms of racial eliminativism. Instead, critical philosophy of race aims to help students understand how race is constructed and the multi-faced ways it operates in the world today. 6 credits; HI, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 270 Ancient Philosophy Is there a key to a happy and successful human life? If so, how do you acquire it? Ancient philosophers thought the key was virtue and that your chances of obtaining it depend on the sort of life you lead. In this course we’ll examine what these philosophers meant by virtue and how they understood its implications for your everyday life. We will situate the ancient understanding of virtue in the context of larger questions of metaphysics (the nature of being and reality), psychology, and ethics, as they arise in foundational works from Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. 6 credits; HI, IS, WR2; Fall; Daniel M Groll
PHIL 272 Early Modern Philosophy: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Philosophy We will read selections of writings from various seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophers on metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. This course will not be limited to any geographic region, as it is open to philosophical traditions from Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. On the metaphysical side, we will cover topics such as time and space, freedom, and divinity. Ethical issues that we will cover include, but are not limited to, moral responsibility, virtue, suffering, and the good life. Further, we will cover epistemic issues concerning belief, perception, and knowledge. In sum, we will gain a deeper insight into perennial philosophical problems as well as an awareness of the assumptions that drive their solutions, given the author’s personal, social, political, and philosophical context. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Winter; Hope C Sample
PHIL 273 Kant's Metaphysics In this course we aim to understand the metaphysics and the theory of cognition developed by Immanuel Kant in his monumental work, Critique of Pure Reason. Some of the main questions Kant addresses: How does the mind represent the world? Can we distinguish the way things appear to us from the way they are in themselves? What are space and time?  Does every event have a cause? Is it possible to have knowledge independent of experience? We will think about these questions and attempt to shed light on Kant’s systematic answers to them by means of careful reading and interpretation of Kant’s text.   6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 274 Existentialism We will consider the emergence and development of major themes of existentialism in the works of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, as well as "classical" existentialists such as Heidegger, Sartre and De Beauvoir. We will discuss key issues put forward by the existentialist movement, such as "the question of being" and human historicity, freedom and responsibility and look at how different authors analyzed the nature and ambitions of the Self and diverse aspects of subjectivity. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Winter; Anna Moltchanova
PHIL 287 Conspiracy Theories and Dogmatism Conspiracy theories hit us where we are intellectually most vulnerable. Like global skeptical scenarios that occupy and perplex philosophers, they suggest a gap between appearance and reality; they suggest that we have formed our beliefs on the basis of massively misleading evidence. Often, they concern possibilities that we have never even considered, let alone properly assessed. The volume of evidence and arguments that conspiracy theorists offer for their theories can be vast and intricate. Yet it seems that, in some cases, we are perfectly within our epistemic rights in dogmatically ignoring or avoiding this volume of evidence and arguments. This won't do as a general policy, though, for history forces us to admit that sometimes conspiracy theorists are right. Theories like Bayesian formal epistemology that seem well-suited to guide us through these difficult waters often make our situation even more puzzling and problematic. To make fresh headway on these issues, this course will look critically at how philosophers, psychologists and political scientists have approached conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. We will consider topics such as cognitive dysfunction and bias, epistemic trust, peer disagreement, the puzzle of misleading evidence, dogmatism, and formal theories of probabilistic reasoning. Along the way we will have occasion to consider many strange and fascinating conspiracy theories---a few of which have turned out to be true. 6 credits; HI, WR2, QRE; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 289 Death, Dinner, and Discussion We're all going to die. We all know that. But we seem to spend a lot of our lives avoiding thinking and talking about it. This course aims to remedy that. We will meet weekly to talk about death and, more specifically, the choices we think we might want to make about how we will die and how we want to live at the end of our lives. Students in the class will be asked to think seriously and share their thoughts about these issues. Students will read some popular books that invite people to think about the end of their lives, hold a Death Over Dinner discussion as a class (with the professor), and hold (and write about) a Death Over Dinner discussion with some of their peers outside of class. Be ready to talk and to listen! We'll provide the Kleenex.  3 credits; S/CR/NC; NE; Winter, Spring; Daniel M Groll
PHIL 297 Kant’s Philosophy of Mind In this class, we will read selections from various works by Kant on the structure of perception, aesthetic judgment, moral decision-making, and more as time permits! Kant’s contributions to philosophy of mind cover a diverse array of aspects of consciousness and have deeply influenced the history of philosophy. His phenomenological reflections on the perception of space and time and the basic categories through which we judge inspired subsequent Kantian philosophers and even contemporary debates about the role of concepts in perception. Further, Kant’s account of judgments of beauty and the sublime not only influenced his successors, but also provide essential background for contemporary aesthetics. In addition, Kant’s universal law formulation of his central moral principle provides an innovative way to understand moral decision making in terms of what can be collectively rationally acted upon. 6 credits; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 299 Ethics Bowl This course will prepare a team or two from Carleton to participate in the regional Ethics Bowl tournament. Ethics Bowl teams prepare analyses of contemporary moral and political issues which they present, and defend, at the competition, while also engaging with the analyses of other teams. While Ethics Bowl is a competition, the focus in our course will be on doing the research necessary to understand the cases and then thinking through the cases together. Students do NOT have to partake in the Ethics Bowl tournament in order to take (and pass!) the course. The class will meet once a week. Previous Ethics Bowl experience is not required. Prerequisite: Instructor consent. 3 credits; S/CR/NC; NE; Fall; Daniel M Groll
PHIL 303 Bias, Belief, Community, Emotion What is important to individuals, how they see themselves and others, and the kind of projects they pursue are shaped by traditional and moral frameworks they didn’t choose. Individual selves are encumbered by their social environments and, in this sense, always ‘biased’, but some forms of bias are pernicious because they produce patterns of inter and intra-group domination and oppression. We will explore various forms of intersubjectivity and its asymmetries through readings in social ontology and social epistemology that theorize the construction of group and individual beliefs and identities in the context of the social world they engender. Prerequisite: One Previous Philosophy course or instructor permission. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS, QRE; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 305 Frederick Douglass: The Philosophies of a Slave, Citizen, and Diplomat This course will be a study of Frederick Douglass: A man born into American chattel slavery who liberated himself and lived to become an abolitionist, orator, diplomat, and American hero. Through his autobiographies (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass 1845, My Bondage My Freedom 1855) and speeches (The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro 1852, We Welcome the Fifteenth Amendment 1869, Lessons of the Hour 1894), we will trace the evolution of Douglass’ views on the abolition of slavery, American citizenship, political and moral responsibility, and his lifetime of activist work for equality. Alongside these texts, we will read contemporary philosophical literature that celebrates, contests, and critically highlights the significance of Douglass’ philosophical legacy. The purpose of this course is help students underscore historical anti-discrimination philosophies and the diverse legacy of American philosophical figures. Prerequisite: One prior course in Philosophy, Africana Studies, American Studies or instructor permission. 6 credits; HI, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 306 Causation and Explanation Intimately related in deep but philosophically mysterious ways, the paired concepts of causation and explanation structure how we think about the reality we inhabit and our place in it, as well as our self-understanding as inquirers. After all, when we investigate just about anything, we aim to know not just the where and the when, but the how and the why. This seminar will introduce you to some of the most important philosophical investigations into causation, explanation, and their relationship to one another. Along the way, we’ll pay close attention to ways in which these investigations matter--well outside the confines of academic philosophy--by looking at stubborn disputes within the social sciences about what counts as “causal” or “explanatory”. 6 credits; HI; Fall; Ned Hall
PHIL 318 Buddhist Studies India Program: Buddhist Philosophy This course introduces students to major trends in Buddhist philosophy as it developed in India from the time of the Buddha until the eleventh century CE. The course emphasizes the relationships between philosophical reasoning and the meditation practices encountered in the Buddhist Meditation Traditions course. With this in mind, the course is organized into three units covering the Indian philosophical foundations for the Theravāda, Zen, and Tibetan Vajrayāna traditions. While paying attention first and foremost to philosophical arguments and their evolution, we also examine the ways in which metaphysics, epistemology and ethics inform one another in each tradition. Prerequisite: Acceptance into the Buddhist Studies program. 7-8 credits; NE, IS; Fall; Arthur P McKeown
PHIL 319 Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics Quantum theories of matter are astonishingly successful—and deeply mysterious. Niels Bohr is said to have remarked that “those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.” Richard Feynman said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Some quantum weirdness is unavoidable — it appears, for instance, that wholes really are more than the sum of their parts and that nature is non-local in a surprising way. Other weirdnesses are features of some ways of understanding quantum mechanics but not others: indeterminism, randomness, branching worlds, surprising connections between the physical and the mental. We will look at some currently popular approaches: Bohm's deterministic theory, spontaneous collapse theories, many-worlds and many-minds theories. Prerequisite: One Previous Philosophy course or instructor consent. 6 credits; HI, QRE; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 320 Virtue Ethics What is a good human life? Who is a good person? Virtue ethicists think about these questions in terms of two central ideas. Virtues, such as justice or courage, make us a certain type of person (they give us a certain character). Wisdom (phronesis) enables good judgments about how to act in particular situations. How should we think about the relationship between virtues and wisdom? How does being wise differ from being (merely) intelligent or clever? These will be central questions for us to reflect on as we read several core texts from the contemporary tradition of virtue ethics. We will also spend some time on related concerns, such as what view of human nature, if any, is presupposed by virtue ethics, and how we should understand the relationship between being virtuous and being happy. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 322 Social Construction The idea that various things are socially constructed is ubiquitous. But what exactly does it mean for something to be socially constructed? And what things are socially constructed? Race? Gender? Quarks? Mental Illness? Everything? We will read, among others, Sally Haslanger (Resisting Reality), Ian Hacking (The Social Construction of What?), Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking) and Ásta (Categories We Live By). Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS; Not offered 2022-23
PHIL 373 Reptiles and Demons Skeptical arguments—like Descartes' malignant demon argument—threaten to completely undermine our claim to have any knowledge of this world. Philosophers (and non-philosophers) have often met our apparent inability to answer these skeptical arguments with a shrug. The skeptical scenarios exert no gravitational pull on most minds and can be safely filed under "philosophical curiosities." Meanwhile, global conspiracy theories—like David Icke's theory that the world's governments are overrun with shapeshifting reptilians from the constellation Draco—also threaten to undermine our knowledge of the world.  Trying to answer them runs us into the very same cognitive and epistemic roadblocks that we run into with philosophical skepticism. We can't, however, meet these theories with a shrug. Conspiracy theories—even the wilder ones—do attract adherents and do have real-world (and sometimes devastating) consequences. Intensifying our predicament is the undeniable fact that we live in a world that is rife with conspiracies—some of them rather wild. In this seminar we will examine the cognitive architecture and evidential conditions that contribute to our predicament and then ask whether cognitive science or formal epistemology can offer any useful tools or strategies for confronting philosophical skepticism and conspiracy theories. Prerequisite: A prior 200-level course in philosophy. 6 credits; HI, WR2, QRE; Spring; Jason A Decker
PHIL 398 Comps Proposal This is the first part of the philosophy comps sequence. It is a five-week independent study to be enrolled in at the end of the Fall term Senior Year (or the year you will be compsing). The purpose is to give you the chance to do more reading on your comps topics and to start doing a bit of writing. By the last day of classes of Fall Term, you will turn in an official comps proposal (approximately 1500 words). The proposal will (a) articulate the main philosophical problem or puzzle that will be addressed in your comps; (b) describe some of the main moves that have been made in the relevant literature; and (c) include a bibliography. 3 credits; S/CR/NC; NE; Fall; Anna Moltchanova
PHIL 399 Senior Thesis The planning, preparation, and completion of a philosophical paper under the direction of a member of the department and as part of a seminar group. 6 credits; NE; Winter; Daniel M Groll
PHIL 400 Integrative Exercise A colloquium in which seniors defend their senior theses and discuss the senior theses of others. 3 credits; S/NC; Spring; Daniel M Groll