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

Seventy-two 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! (not offered in 2021-22)
  • MUSC 239 The Philosophy of Music (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 203 Bias, Belief, Community, Emotion (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 211 Being, Time and Identity (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 217 Reason in Context: Limitations and Possibilities (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 223 Philosophy of Language (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 225 Philosophy of Mind
  • PHIL 226 Love and Friendship
  • PHIL 236 Proof, Knowledge, and Understanding in Mathematics
  • PHIL 246 Probability: The Very Guide of Life? (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 251 Evidence, Objectivity, and Realism in the Sciences (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 273 Kant's Metaphysics (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 274 Existentialism (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 287 Conspiracy Theories and Dogmatism (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 319 Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
  • PHIL 372 Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (not offered in 2021-22)

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 (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 214 Ecology, Ethics, and Economics (not offered in 2021-22)
  • PHIL 218 Virtue Ethics
  • PHIL 221 Philosophy of Law
  • PHIL 226 Love and Friendship
  • PHIL 228 Freedom and Alienation in Black American Philosophy
  • PHIL 232 Social and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 260 Critical Philosophy of Race

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; Winter; Eddie E O'Byrn
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 2021-22
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; Fall; 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 2021-22
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; Spring; Jason A Decker
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 2021-22
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; Spring; Daniel M Groll
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; Not offered 2021-22
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 2021-22
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; Daniel M Groll
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; Not offered 2021-22
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; Not offered 2021-22
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 2021-22
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; Spring; Allison E Murphy
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 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 2021-22
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; Spring; Anna Moltchanova
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; Spring; Eddie E O'Byrn
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; Winter; Anna Moltchanova
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; Winter; Douglas B Marshall
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; Not offered 2021-22
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 2021-22
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; Fall; Eddie E O'Byrn
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; Allison E Murphy
PHIL 272 Early Modern Philosophy This course offers an introduction to major aspects of European theories of being and knowledge during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Key topics to be examined include:  the distinction between the mind and the body; the existence and nature of God; the relationship between cause and effect; the scope and nature of human knowledge. We will place a special emphasis on understanding the philosophical thought of René Descartes, Anne Conway, G. W. Leibniz, and David Hume. Two themes will recur throughout the course: first, the evolving relationships between philosophy and the sciences of the period; second, the philosophical contributions of women in the early modern era. 6 credits; HI, WR2, IS; Spring; Douglas B Marshall
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 2021-22
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 2021-22
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 2021-22
PHIL 288 A Survey of Historical Ideas of Race In an effort to gain a perspective on the power of ideas, this class will trace the development of several ideas of race. We will look at attempts to define and create the concept of ‘race,’  and we will ultimately attempt to answer questions as to whether ‘ideas of race’ have improved our lives to date. We will address the topic of this course by progressing through four parts: 1. Race: Creating Socially Significant Difference, 2. Race: In the Interest of Science, 3. Race: Human Types and Being Human, 4. Race: Racial Identity?. We will draw on a range of significant texts representing several disciplinary perspectives, including philosophy, literature, film, and history. The overall goal of the course is to offer students a chance to learn, think, write, and discuss an idea that has been one of the forces engineering societal value and behavior in the U.S. for, at least, the past 400 years. 6 credits; HI, IDS; Not offered 2021-22
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, Bonnie C Nadzam
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 2021-22
PHIL 304 Epistemology and Oppression Today, there is an increased interest in epistemic oppression, i.e. the ways knowledge-related considerations systematically and unwarrantedly compromise one’s life and possibilities. As such, it has become integral to introduce students to writings by feminists of color who have grappled with knowledge-related problems for centuries. However, the women of color texts that develop understandings of epistemic oppression are difficult for typical philosophy/academic audiences to read. Not necessarily because the texts are opaque, but because the ambient assumptions of these thinkers can be radically different than most philosophical orientations prevailing today. There are differing metaphilosophical assumptions in women of color feminist thought that can make their insights around epistemic oppression difficult to identify and understand. The purpose and audiences of their writing often obscure the complexity of their thinking. The purpose of this course, then, will be to equip students with the ability to detect and comprehend women of color feminist epistemological projects for more comprehensive ways of understanding epistemic oppression. Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy. 6 credits; NE, IDS; Not offered 2021-22
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 2021-22
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; Spring; Laura M Ruetsche
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 2021-22
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; Winter; Daniel M Groll
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 2021-22
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; Allison E Murphy
PHIL 400 Integrative Exercise A colloquium in which seniors defend their senior theses and discuss the senior theses of others. 3 credits; S/NC; Fall, Spring; Anna Moltchanova, Allison E Murphy