Courses

Note: not all classes listed below are actually being offered the current academic year. Check the schedule of classes for the most up to date schedule of current and future classes.

Fall 2018

  • 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 credit; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2018 · Daniel M Groll
  • 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 credit; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2018 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2018, Spring 2019 · Allison E Murphy
  • 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 credit; Formal or Statistical Reasoning; offered Fall 2018 · Jason A Decker
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; offered Fall 2018 · 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2018 · Anna Moltchanova
  • PHIL 299: Ethics Bowl

    This course will prepare a team or two from Carleton to participate in the regional Ethics Bowl tournament in Chicago in November 2018 (dates TBD). 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 be able to attend the Ethics Bowl tournament in Chicago in order to take (and pass!) the course. The class will meet once a week. Previous Ethics Bowl experience is not required.

    Prerequisites: Instructor consent 2 credit; S/CR/NC; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Fall 2018 · Daniel M Groll
  • 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.

    Prerequisites: Acceptance into the Buddhist Studies program 7-8 credit; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Fall 2018 · Arthur P McKeown
  • 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 credit; S/CR/NC; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Fall 2018 · Daniel M Groll

Winter 2019

  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2019 · Claire M Griffin
  • PHIL 121: The Philosopher and the Sophist

    In 399 BC Socrates was executed for introducing new gods and corrupting the youth. He claimed these were not the real charges against him--instead the trouble was that the Athenians mistook him for a sophist. 'Sophist' remains a choice term of derision for the pseudo-intellectuals, salesmen, political pundits, and propagandists who populate public life to this day. Traditionally a sophist is marked off not only by their bad ethical character, but also by the content of their ideas -- most notably relativism, social constructionism, and realpolitik. The good standing of philosophers seems to depend on their success in distinguishing themselves from both the ideas and the actions of their evil twin, the sophist. In this course we will ask why this effort has seemed so important, and whether it is really possible to define philosophy in a way that excludes sophistry once and for all.  

    6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2019 · Claire M Griffin
  • PHIL 217: Reason in Context: Limitations and Possibilities

    In this course we’ll read works from Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, and Rorty, all of which touch upon questions stemming from the realization that 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?

    6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2019 · Allison E Murphy
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2019 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2019 · Douglas B Marshall
  • PHIL 288: A Survey of Historical Ideas of Race

    This course will critically investigate the development of concepts of race.

    6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2019
  • PHIL 304: Epistemology and Oppression

    This course will investigate how ways of thinking of about knowledge and knowing both contributes oppression and can be used to fight against it.

    Prerequisites: One previous course in Philsophy 6 credit; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2019
  • 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 credit; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Winter 2019 · Daniel M Groll

Spring 2019

  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2019 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2018, Spring 2019 · Allison E Murphy
  • 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. Prerequisites: 100-level Philosophy course or instructor permission 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2019 · 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2019 · 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 credit; Social Inquiry, International Studies; offered Spring 2019 · Allison E Murphy
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2019 · Douglas B Marshall
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2019 · Douglas B Marshall
  • PHIL 400: Integrative Exercise

    A colloquium in which seniors defend their senior theses and discuss the senior theses of others. 3 credit; S/NC; offered Spring 2019