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

Seventy-two credits in philosophy, including:

1. Core Courses (24 credits)

  • PHIL 210 Logic
  • PHIL 213 Ethics
  • PHIL 270 Ancient Greek Philosophy or
  • PHIL 271 Tragedy, Myth and Philosophy (not offered 2016-17)
  • PHIL 272 Early Modern Philosophy

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)

  • MUSC 310 The Philosophy of Music (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 211 Being, Time and Identity (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 212 Epistemology (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 215 Alienation, Authenticity, and Irony: Selfhood in the Modern World
  • PHIL 216 Nietzsche and Foucault: History, Truth, and Power
  • PHIL 223 Philosophy of Language (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 226 Love and Friendship
  • PHIL 230 Philosophy of Gender (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 235 Analytic Philosophy's Greatest Hits (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 236 Philosophy of Mathematics: Methodology and Practice (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 243 Animal Ethics: The Moral Status of Animals (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 246 Probability: The Very Guide of Life?
  • PHIL 251 Philosophy of Science (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 274 Existentialism (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 301 Irrationality (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 303 Bias, Belief, Community, Emotion
  • PHIL 372 Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (not offered in 2017-18)

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 214 Ecology, Ethics, and Economics
  • PHIL 221 Philosophy of Law
  • PHIL 222 Topics in Medical Ethics (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 226 Love and Friendship
  • PHIL 229 Philosophy of Film and Emotion (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 230 Philosophy of Gender (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 231 Punishment and Imprisonment (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 232 Social and Political Philosophy (not offered in 2017-18)
  • PHIL 243 Animal Ethics: The Moral Status of Animals (not offered in 2017-18)

4. Advanced Courses and Integrative Exercise (24 credits)

  • PHIL Advanced Courses (12 credits in Philosophy at the 300-level, excluding PHIL 399)
  • PHIL 398 Comps Proposal (3 credits)
  • PHIL 399 Senior Thesis (6 credits)
  • PHIL 400 Integrative Exercise (3 credits)

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 six 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 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 112 Mind, Matter, Consciousness According to a common view of the mind, mental states are nothing more than states of the brain. There are certain features of human intellection, subjective experience, and action which have prompted some philosophers to argue that human mental activity is not reducible to brain activity. Some have gone on to argue that the human mind is immaterial and capable of surviving the death of the body. We will examine variants of these views as well as objections to them, reading selections from such historical figures as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes, and such contemporary philosophers as Churchland, Nagel, and Searle. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
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 questions through the work of three foundational political theorists: Plato, Hobbes, and Rousseau. 6 credits; HI, IS; Fall, Winter; Allison E Murphy
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 2017-18
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 2017-18
PHIL 117 Philosophical Problems: Mind, Free Will and Morality What is knowledge, and can we know anything at all? What is the mind, and how is it related to the body? What is consciousness? Is there free will? Are there universal moral truths, or is morality subjective? In this introduction to perennial philosophical questions (as well as the goals and methods of philosophy) we will read contemporary and historical philosophical texts.  6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 118 God, Mind, and the Human Condition In this course we explore the interrelations between questions concerning God’s existence, the nature of the mind, and the human condition. We begin by evaluating arguments for and against God’s existence. This will give us a basis upon which to consider Descartes’ arguments in the Meditations. We then turn to contemporary objections to Descartes’ claim that the mind is an immaterial thing. If the mind is a material thing, what does that tell us about the human condition? Do humans have free wills and moral responsibilities? Are our lives meaningful? Is death a bad thing and if so, for whom? 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 119 Life and Death Considered in the context of the universe humankind seems vanishingly insignificant. The entire history of humankind is but a blip on the map of space and time. Moreover, each of our lives is a blip on that blip. So what is the point of it all? In this course, we will look at the notion of "meaning" as it relates to human life, the universe, and the existence of God; whether death is something we should be afraid of; and the connections, if any, between happiness, morality and meaning. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 120 Philosophy of Sex Sex is a pervasive feature of our individual lives and of contemporary political debate, yet has until recently has rarely been subject to sustained philosophical scrutiny. In this course we will investigate the ethical, political, and conceptual issues surrounding sex, critically reflecting on our own assumptions about sexed bodies, sexual pleasure, sexual conduct, and sexual and gender identities. What is sex? How do others identify us and how do we come to identify ourselves as sexual beings along the intersecting axes of gender, race, class, orientation, and ability? Can sex and pleasure become sites for personal liberation or ethical existence with others? We will take an intersectional approach to a variety of issues, including consent, casual sex, sexual objectification and commodification, sexual violence, normative medical and legal discourse about sex, gender, and reproduction, and the struggle for political recognition by sexual and gender minorities. 6 credits; HI, IDS, IDS; Winter, Spring; Claire M Griffin
PHIL 197 Climate Matters What should we do, as individuals and countries, in the face of climate change? What does justice demand that we do for those currently suffering the ill effects of climate change? And what do we owe future generations for whom the problems will be far worse? This course will meet five times to discuss John Broome's Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World. Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in Biology 210, Environmental and Technology Studies 310 or Political Science 212. 1 credit; NE; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 198 CRISPR and You CRISPR is a new genetic engineering technology that, according to a recent article in Gizmodo, "allows scientists to edit genomes with unprecedented precision, efficiency, and flexibility." While offering the promise of revolutionary medical breakthroughs, CRISPR also raises all kinds of knotty ethical issues. The purpose of this discussion course is to understand how CRISPR works and to get to the bottom of some of the ethical issues. Prerequisite: Concurrent registration in Biology 234 or 240 required. 1 credit; NE; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 199 Ethics and Digital Ownership That song you were listening to last night: how did you get it? Did you buy it? Download it? Legally? Illegally? This course will meet five times throughout the term to discuss Stephen Witt's "How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy." Our discussion will focus not only on the story of how the music industry was transformed by piracy over the last twenty years, but also what that transformation means for us as consumers: are we obligated to get our music in some ways and not in others? Prerequisite: Concurrent registration in Music 126 or 136. 1 credit; NE; Not offered 2017-18
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; Winter; 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; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 212 Epistemology Do you know that you're not just a brain, floating in a vat, receiving stimulations through electrodes? Or perhaps an immaterial soul being conned by a malicious demon? In this course, we will use these skeptical worries as a launching point for thinking about epistemological issues: What exactly is knowledge? Do we ever have it? If so, when, and how? We will approach these questions through an examination of theories of epistemic justification, including foundationalism, coherentism, internalism, externalism, and virtue epistemology. We will then consider some critiques of traditional epistemology, including feminist epistemology and naturalized epistemology. Prerequisite: 100-level Philosophy course or instructor permission. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
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; Fall; Claire M Griffin
PHIL 214 Ecology, Ethics, and Economics In this course we will explore the hypothesis that the current ecological crisis is, at least in part, the product of an economic system that champions continual growth (hence ever increasing levels of production and consumption) and that the economic system is in turn supported by a specific set of materialist values. The course thus takes a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to its subject, and will include readings from across the disciplines of environmental science, economics, and ethics. 6 credits; SI, IS; Spring; Allison E Murphy
PHIL 215 Alienation, Authenticity, and Irony: Selfhood in the Modern World Who am I? What kind of world do I live in? What kind of life is possible or desirable for me? While these questions have been part of philosophy since its inception, there may be particular epistemic and ethical dilemmas of knowing ourselves as modern and post-modern subjects. Both theoretical and practical challenges to self-knowledge have emerged in the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Psychoanalysis, sociology, and evolutionary science have made us question whether there is an essential self to be known and, if so, whether we could have access to it. Historical events, including the world wars and the increased industrialization, bureaucratization, and secularization of western societies have made reckoning with finitude and alienation central to any project of self-knowledge. In this course we will consider the challenges to self-knowledge posed by life in the modern world, and ‘authenticity’ and ‘irony’ as two prominent responses to this fundamental self-estrangement. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Fall; Claire M Griffin
PHIL 216 Nietzsche and Foucault: History, Truth, and Power Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for his scathing criticisms of both conventional morality and academic philosophy. He developed a mode of historical research, genealogy, which takes a perspective “beyond good and evil” in order to expose our moral ideals (including altruism, personal responsibility, and equality) as the products of contingent historical formations and struggles for power. Michel Foucault, writing in the second half of the twentieth century, submitted the values of ‘normal’ and ‘pathological’ (in diverse areas of the human sciences including mental illness, criminology, and sexuality) to a genealogical method modeled on that of Nietzsche. This course will be devoted to a comparative reading of Nietzsche and Foucault’s genealogical works and the relation of these to their larger philosophical systems. Our guiding questions will be: What is the nature of power? What is the nature and value of truth? What bearing do the histories of our normative and scientific claims have on their truth-value? What is the status, in all of this, of the critical perspective of the genealogist? Where do the insights of Nietzsche and Foucault leave us in our own attempts to lead meaningful lives? 6 credits; HI; Spring; Claire M Griffin
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; Spring; Anna Moltchanova
PHIL 222 Topics in Medical Ethics Over the past forty years, the idea that competent patients have the right to make decisions about their own care has become paramount in medical ethics and medical practice. But the primacy of patient autonomy as a value raises a host of interesting questions: What can (or should) clinicians do when patients make poor decisions? What does it mean for a patient to be competent? Who should make decisions in those cases where the patient is deemed incompetent or too young to make decisions for herself? This course examines these questions and, depending on interest, larger policy questions (like debates about organ markets) that revolve around the relationship between autonomy and paternalism. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
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 2017-18
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; Winter; Jason A Decker
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, QRE; Winter; Anna Moltchanova
PHIL 227 Philosophy with Children Children are naturally curious. They want to know about the world and their place in it. In other words, children are naturally philosophical. This course is about helping children explore and develop their nascent philosophical abilities via children's literature. To that end, the bulk of this course is devoted to preparing for, and then making, visits to a first grade class at Greenvale Park Elementary School in Northfield. Along the way, we'll explore the philosophy that can be found in all kinds of kids' books and learn about presenting complicated ideas in simpler form. In consultation with the instructor, this course will count toward either the Practical/Value requirement or the Theoretical requirement in the Philosophy Major for students who elect to write a final research paper. Prerequisite: Previous Philosophy course. 6 credits; HI, IDS; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 229 Philosophy of Film and Emotion As moviegoers we have all had that wondrous experience of gasping, laughing or sniffling in response to fictional scenarios. However, sometimes we emotionally disengage from a film altogether (e.g., if it is morally offensive). These phenomena raise several philosophical puzzles, to be raised in this class: (1) Why do we care about the lives of purely fictional film characters? (2) Why do we enjoy films which evoke unpleasant emotions, like fear or sadness? (3) Why do we feel suspense even when we know a film's ending? (4) Why do we resist emotionally engaging with morally repugnant films? In exploring these and related questions we will survey various philosophers' views on the subject, relating them to particular films. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 230 Philosophy of Gender In this course we will study some of the ways feminist theorists have contributed to our understanding of gender in connection with knowledge, reality, and justice. We will consider both recent work in the field and classic discussions of these questions from the 70s, 80s, and earlier. In the first unit we will ask how a person's gender identity is related to knowledge and experience, particularly through a discussion of standpoint epistemology (according to which the experiences of marginalized and disadvantaged people provide special access to particular kinds of knowledge). In the second unit, we will discuss what gender difference is. This unit will begin with various approaches to the idea that gender is socially constructed, and then consider the connections between gender and other aspects of identity, like race and class. The third unit will ask how gender should inform our understanding of politics by considering a variety of feminist political projects and calls to action. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IDS; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 231 Punishment and Imprisonment This course looks at punishment from two quite different philosophical perspectives. First we'll consider a variety of arguments designed to make sense of the morality of punishment.  We'll consider the big three mainstream candidates (retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation) and other interesting accounts (e.g. that punishment is primarily communicative). In the second half of the course, we'll change gears; we'll turn to arguments that systems of punishment may call for critique rather than justification. In this second section, we'll take an extended look at mass incarceration in the United States. 6 credits; SI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
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 2017-18
PHIL 235 Analytic Philosophy's Greatest Hits Around the turn of the last century, a movement arose in philosophy which threatened to destroy philosophy itself. It started with a simple conviction that "what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence." This led to calls by analytically-minded philosophers to commit most of philosophy to the flames. After its self-destructive adolescence, however, analytic philosophy developed into something constructive. We'll look at some of the greatest hits from both phases. Authors to be read include Wittgenstein, Carnap, Quine, Anscombe, Goodman, Kripke, and Lewis. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 236 Philosophy of Mathematics: Methodology and Practice What is the relationship between a mathematical proof and our understanding of the result that it proves? Do some mathematical proofs manage to explain their results in addition to merely establishing them? How does mathematical knowledge grow? We will begin to address these questions by reading Imre Lakatos's classic text, Proofs and Refutations, along with reactions to Lakatos. We will then examine other philosophical accounts of mathematical thought and understanding sensitive to the history and practice of mathematics. No background beyond high school mathematics is presupposed. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 243 Animal Ethics: The Moral Status of Animals In an era of rapid globalization and increasing dominion of humans over the natural world, we are all (often unwittingly) party to practices that seemingly exact grave harm on billions of nonhuman animals. This raises a pressing ethical question: what are our moral obligations (if any) to nonhuman animals, and how might we practically fulfill such moral obligations (if they exist)? Also, what bearing does the latest scientific research on animal behavior have on these questions? In this course we will explore these and related questions, through a study of various philosophers and ethologists. The course will culminate in a class project that addresses animal ethics related issues in the community. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 246 Probability: The Very Guide of Life? Bishop Butler and David Hume claimed that “probability is the very guide of life.” But what exactly is probability and what---if any!---kind of guidance does it give us? In this course, we will look at (i) competing philosophical interpretations of probability, including frequentist, Bayesian, and best-system theories, (ii) recent work in cognitive science on probabilistic reasoning, (iii) uses of probability in formal epistemology, decision theory, and science, and (iv) paradoxes and puzzles of probability. 6 credits; HI, WR2, QRE; Spring; Jason A Decker
PHIL 251 Philosophy of Science In this course we survey the major developments in the philosophy of science since the 1920's, including: the rise of logical empiricism; Karl Popper's famous insistence that scientific claims must be subjected to possible falsification; Thomas Kuhn's account of scientific revolutions as paradigm shifts; recent attempts to understand scientific activities, including knowledge acquisition, as distinctively social processes. Some of the main questions we will consider: How can we understand the relationship between a scientific claim and the evidence for it? To what extent are the activities of scientists rational? In what sense is there progress in the sciences? 6 credits; FSR, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 270 Ancient Philosophy: The Good Life This course will center on a close reading of two texts, Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, both of which address what is arguably the core concern in the ancient ethical tradition: the relationship between the morally good life and the happy life. In keeping with the ancient tendency to resist a sharp divide between the private and political spheres, we will examine the significance of Plato and Aristotle’s reflections on the good human life both for the individual and for the broader community. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Fall; Allison E Murphy
PHIL 271 Tragedy, Myth and Philosophy In ancient Greece philosophy was continuous with poetry. Nevertheless, the modern distinction between the two shapes the way ancient texts are studied: philosophers focus on arguments and concepts, whereas classicists focus on literary and cultural dimensions. This class (taught by a classicist and philosopher) integrates these approaches and asks the following: Are epic and tragic poetry interested in the same questions as philosophy? Were philosophical texts crafted to produce effects similar to those of epic or tragedy? Can dramatic poetry be philosophy? The course culminates in a student production of Plato's Phaedo, as a test of the notions we develop. 6 credits; ARP, WR2, IS; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 272 Early Modern Philosophy The era of Modern Philosophy is characterized in part by the foundational importance of epistemological questions, including especially questions about the very possibility of knowledge. In this course we will read works from four authors who are all members of the Modern tradition in some sense, but whose widely differing epistemological frameworks lead them to propose radically different answers to these questions: Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Pascal. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Winter; Allison E Murphy
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; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 301 Irrationality Humans can be---and maybe are even systematically---irrational in so many ways. We fall prey to wishful thinking, gullibility, dogmatism, confirmation bias, rationalization, probabilistic fallacies, and formal fallacies (just to name a few of our problematic tendencies). From the epistemic point of view--that is, from the point of view of trying to get to the truth and avoid falsity---this looks lamentable. We might even be led to a general distrust of our ability to properly reason. On the other hand, it might be that "some" of these tendencies are tied to cognitive structures and mechanisms that are in fact good and desirable from the epistemic point of view. Or maybe it's just confused to think there is any such thing as "the epistemic point of view." In this seminar, we will consider these issues from the standpoints of epistemology, meta-epistemology, and cognitive science. Authors to be read include Kahneman and Tversky, Stephen Stich, Richard Nisbett, Edward Stein, and Ruth Millikan. 6 credits; HI, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
PHIL 302 Purpose in Nature We often explain our actions by appeal to goals or ends. For example, to explain why you run, you might state a practical end running serves - e.g., health. Such an explanation is "teleological" in character, in that it appeals to an "end" or "telos" (rather than your particular biochemical makeup). Are there good philosophical reasons for thinking that ends really operate in nature, over and above material processes, or are teleological explanations merely a heuristic or explanatory device helping us make sense of the world (but failing to capture any real feature of the world)? In the absence of a designer agent, how do we make sense of natural ends? What is the scope of natural teleology? Do natural ends operate only locally or more globally? This course explores these and related questions, through tracing the kinds of teleological explanations (and argument for teleology) philosophers, theologians and scientists employ, ranging from Presocratic natural science to contemporary biology, cosmology and philosophy. Prerequisite: 12 credits in philosophy or instructor permission. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Not offered 2017-18
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; Spring; Anna Moltchanova
PHIL 311 When Art is Not ‘For Art’s Sake’ A central idea in modernist thinking about the arts is that an artwork is meant to be appreciated ‘for its own sake.’ In this course, we shall challenge this idea and consider art that is not primarily ‘for art’s sake’ in order to explore more general questions about the nature of artworks and of artistic appreciation. We ask, under what conditions are such works artworks? Much of the course will address material in a new monograph upon which the professor is working. This course is co-taught. Prerequisite: One previous Philosophy course. 6 credits; LA, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
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 11th 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; Fall; Arthur P McKeown
PHIL 372 Kant's Critique of Pure Reason In this course we aim to understand the theories of knowledge and being developed by Immanuel Kant in his monumental Critique of Pure Reason. Although Kant's own text will remain our primary focus, we will also read helpful secondary works by Sebastian Gardner, Paul Guyer, Charles Parsons, and other recent interpreters. The main questions to be addressed include the following: How does the mind represent the world? Can we distinguish the way things are in themselves from the way they appear to us? What are space and time? On what basis do we make causal inferences? What substantive knowledge can we have about the world entirely independent of our experience of it? 6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Not offered 2017-18
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; Jason A Decker
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; Anna Moltchanova
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