Course Descriptions

Course Catalog for PHILOSOPHY
PHIL 101
Introduction to Philosophy
An introduction to fundamental topics and concepts in the history of philosophy, e.g., rationality, wisdom, knowledge, the good life, the just society, and the nature of language. This course is especially appropriate for first-year students or students beginning the college-level study of philosophy. Students contemplating majoring in philosophy are strongly urged to make this their first philosophy course.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 103
An introductory study of values, virtues, and right action. Major concepts of ethical theory (goodness, responsibility, freedom, respect for persons, and morals) will be examined through a study of Aristotle, Kant, and Mill. The course is not primarily a historical survey, but rather attempts to clarify in systematic fashion both moral concepts and moral action.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 205
Symbolic Logic
An introduction to the use of symbols in reasoning. Prepositional calculus and quantification theory will be studied. This background knowledge will prepare the student to look at the relation of logic to linguistics, computer science, mathematics, and philosophy. Students cannot receive credit for this course and Philosophy 255, Philosophy of Logic.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 212
Philosophy of Religion
A discussion of some of the philosophical problems that arise out of reflection on religion; the nature of religion and its relation to science, art, and morality; the nature of religious and theological language, the concept of God; the problem of evil; and the justification of religious belief.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 214
Philosophy of Art
“Art,” one writer has said, “is not a copy of the real world. One of the damn things is enough.” But then, what is art, and what is its relation to the world, to our experience, to the symbolic systems with which we create it? By consulting selected aesthetic texts of important philosophers, these and other questions will be posed to help us understand some of the traditional philosophical perplexities about art.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 215
Medical Ethics
This course will take up ethical, political, and legal issues relevant to the medical profession and patient population. Topics will include: death with dignity, treatment with dignity, abortion, mercy-killing, patient consent, the nature of physical versus mental illness, medical experimentation, and the socially conscious distribution of medical resources.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 221
Science, Reality and Rationality
Much of modern philosophy has focused on efforts to understand the rise of physical science since the 16th century. This course will focus on 20th-century efforts by philosophers to characterize science, explain its effectiveness, and interpret its findings.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 223
African Philosophy
What is African philosophy? Currently, among the scholars addressing this question, no single answer prevails. Some hold that philosophy, by its nature, transcends race, ethnicity, and region and hence that terms such as “African philosophy,” “European philosophy,”and “Asian philosophy,” are all rooted in misunderstanding what philosophy fundamentally is. Some argue that prior to the very recent work of African scholars trained in formal (often European) departments of philosophy, African philosophy did not (and could not) exist. Others argue that while (many of) the peoples of Africa have little or no tradition of formal (written) philosophizing, the differing worldviews embodied in the myths, religions, rituals, and other cultural practices of ethnic Africans constitute genuine African philosophy. Yet others find African philosophy in the critical musings of indigenous African (so-called) wise men or sages. In this course we will critically examine the variety of possibilities, forms, and practices in Africa and elsewhere that might be referred to appropriately as “African philosophy” and attempt to understand why the notion of “African philosophy” is so especially contentious. (May be counted toward African Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 226
Neuroscience, Ethics, and Agency
In this course, we will consider whether and how recent findings in neuroscience should inform our answers to traditional questions in metaethics concerning the nature and origins of morality, as well as our concepts of freedom, moral motivation, moral agency, and moral responsibility.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 228
Who’s the Animal, Here? Animal Rights, Human Responsibilities
Who is the animal? In an effort to explore this and related questions this course will serve as a philosophical investigation into the essence of non-human animals. Major philosophical and political theories regarding the status, value, and autonomy of non-human animals will be explored. Additional efforts will be made to address the discourse of animal rights, animal husbandry, and animal suffering, as well as broader issues of human rights insofar as they relate to and affect the non-human animal. Through a philosophical inquiry into the nature of animality, we will see that our understanding of animals bears immediately upon our understanding of the human being and of human rights. Thus, the question ‘who is the animal’ will lead us directly into the most pressing of philosophical questions – who is the human being?
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 237
Representations of Death in 20th-Century Philosophy, Literature, and Art
This course surveys different philosophical, literary, and artistic representations and conceptions of death in the 20th century. Our material will be drawn from different disciplines and cultural contexts.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 238
Media Philosophy
In the wake of the increasing significance of media technologies in all realms of society, media theory has moved to the center of discussion within the humanities. This course will introduce philosophical theories and texts that take a broad approach to the new media and communication technologies.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 239
African-American Feminism
This course is a historical survey of the writings of African-American women as they have historically attempted to negotiate fundamental philosophical questions of the "race problem" and the "woman problem." To this extent, we will be inserting black women's voices into the philosophical canon of both race and feminism. Along with exploring and contextualizing the responses and dialogues of women writers, like Anna Julia Cooper with their more famous male contemporaries such as Du Bois, up to more contemporary articulations of black women's voices in what is known as hip-hop feminism, we will ask the question of whether there is a particular black feminist thought, epistemology, and thus philosophy.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 240
Introduction to Feminist Philosophy
In the last several decades, feminist philosophy has developed with new vitality. It has influenced such diverse areas of philosophy as ethics, politics, and epistemology. Its contributors represent both Anglo-American and European philosophical traditions. This course will introduce students both to some of the major contributors and to the ways in which they have influenced various areas of philosophy. (May be counted toward Women, Gender, and Sexuality major and minor.)
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 241
Race, Racism, and Philosophy
An intensive examination of some philosophical discussions of race and racism. Topics include the origins of European racism, the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic racism, the conceptual connections between racist thinking and certain canonized philosophical positions (e.g., Locke’s nominalism), the relationship between racism and our notions of personal identity, the use of traditional philosophical thought (e.g., the history of philosophy) to characterize and explain differences between European and black African cultures, the possible connections between racism and Pan-Africanism, the nature of anti-Semitism, and recent attempts to conceptualize race and racism as social constructions.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 246
Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations, Issues, and Debates
This course will survey and critically assess arguments in favor of the existence of human rights, arguments about the legitimate scope of such rights (who has human rights and against whom such rights can legitimately be claimed), and arguments about which rights ought to be included in any complete account of human rights. Specific topics will include (but not necessarily be limited to) the philosophical history of human rights discourse, cultural relativist attacks on the universality of human rights, debates concerning the rights of cultural minorities to self-determination, and controversies concerning whether human rights should include economic and social rights.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 247
Latin American Social and Political Thought
An historical survey of important Latin American social and political thinkers. Thinkers covered may include las Casas, Sepulveda, Bolivar, Sarmiento, Marti, Mariategui, Vasconcelos, Jose Gracia, Enrique Dussel, Linda Alcoff, and Ofelia Schutte among others. No knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese is required. All texts are available translated into English.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 254
Shakespeare as Philosopher
Was Shakespeare a philosopher? The practice of philosophy entails sustained argument surrounding propositions of universal importance. We will examine selected plays and poetry of Shakespeare in search of coherent philosophical discourse, considering specifically Shakespearean treatments of themes in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics. This seminar is open to students in all disciplines, with no prerequisites. Background knowledge about Shakespeare or Elizabethan literature is not presupposed, however students should be capable of close reading of the original texts.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 255
Philosophy of Logic
This course will introduce students to propositional and (first order) predicate logic, while engaging in philosophical reflection on a range of issues related to modern formal logic. In particular students will first study techniques for representing and analyzing arguments using the symbolism of each formal system. We will then consider some of the many philosophical issues surrounding formal logic, such as the nature of truth and inference, semantic paradoxes, and the attempt by Russell and others to use advances in formal logic to resolve traditional problems in metaphysics and epistemology. Students cannot receive credit for both this course and Philosophy 205, Symbolic Logic.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 281
Ancient Greek Philosophy
This course looks at the origins of western philosophy in the Presocratics, Plato, and Aristotle. Students will see how philosophy arose as a comprehensive search for wisdom, then developed into the “areas” of philosophy such as metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy. This course fulfills part two of the writing intensive (WI) requirement for the Philosophy major.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 282
Medieval Philosophy
A study of representative thinkers of the medieval period. Discussion will focus on such major issues as the existence of God, the problem of evil, the nature of universals, the relation between philosophical reason and religious faith. Attention will also be paid to the cultural, historical and religious climates which helped influence the unique scholastic doctrines under discussion. (Students enrolling in Philosophy 282 must also enroll in Philosophy 290-01L.) Enrollment limited.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 283
Early Modern Philosophy
The history of Western philosophy from approximately 1600 to 1750, with major attention given to Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume. This course fulfills part two of the writing intensive (WI) requirement for the Philosophy major.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 288
Modern Philosophy
This course will provide a survey of 18th century European philosophy; to be more precise, we will examine texts by representatives of both French and German Enlightenment thought. The first section of the course will focus on Rousseau's and Diderot's contributions to political and aesthetic thought; the second section will be concerned with Kant's epistemology and with some of his shorter texts on political and aesthetic thought. The goal of this course consists in both defining Enlightenment thought and unearthing the fateful dialectic at its very heart. Methodologically, this course will employ an approach owed to the tradition of Critical Theory. This course fulfills part two of the writing intensive (WI) requirement for the Philosophy major.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 306
20th-Century Continental Philosophy
What are poets for in a destitute time?” asks Heidegger’s favorite poet, Holderlin. We add, “and what are philosophers for?” The tradition of 20th-century continental philosophy has responded, “certainly not just to analyze language!” We shall follow some of the leading figures and themes of this rich tradition from its roots in Nietzsche through the transformations of phenomenology, to existentialism and beyond. Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Derrida will be studied among others.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 310
Question of Justice
This course will be centered on the question: “What is justice?” The majority of the semester will be devoted to a historical survey of the different philosophical conceptions of justice from Plato to 20th-century political theorists like Rawls, Nozick, and Kelsen. In the final weeks of the course, we will turn our attention to the “crime against humanity,” which is arguably the greatest challenge to contemporary formulations of justice. Specifically, we will analyze the morality and political viability of recent truth commissions (like those in South Africa, Chile, Uganda, Haiti, and Argentina) and international criminal tribunals (like those set up by the United Nations for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia). We will also consider the theoretical and practical value of the discourses surrounding “restorative justice” and “transitional justice” over and against more traditional frameworks.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 316
Hume and the Limits of Reason
David Hume was one of the greatest and most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Yet he was also one of its most idiosyncratic. Driven by an uncompromising empiricism, Hume raised profound skeptical worries concerning causation, the external world, the existence of an enduring self and even reason itself. Hume was an equally trenchant critic of moral objectivism and the pretensions of both natural and revealed religion. Yet Hume’s philosophy does not end with this negative assessment of human reason. Rather, Hume attempts to construct a more positive vision of human nature and society, developing an ethical system based on benevolence and utility, and a vision of society freed from its dependence on religious belief. In this course we will look at both sides of Hume’s thought.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 320
A great deal of philosophical study has been devoted to the views of Karl Marx, yet much disagreement remains concerning what Marx actually thought. This course will examine some contemporary interpretations of Marx’s work against the background of some of his more important writings. Though we cannot realistically hope to arrive at the “correct” interpretation of Marx’s views, we can at least assess the merits of some of the contending accounts.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 320
Hegel's most famous work, The Phenomenology of Spirit, will be studied in depth. Attention will be paid to the significance of the work on our subsequent tradition, both philosophical and cultural.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 324
Sartre's Political Thought
This course will explore the political thought and essays of Jean-Paul Sartre. We will look at Sartre’s writings on Communism, colonialism, race, and racism, Sartre’s turn to materialism and his debate with fellow existentialist, Merleau-Ponty. The aim of this class is to examine the theoretical continuity, if there is any, between Sartre’s existential texts and his political thought as well as his activism.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 325
Nietzsche is one of those thinkers whose influence on our culture has been far wider than the number of people who have actually read him. Through a careful study of this 19th-century thinker’s major works we shall examine his own claim of thinking the most challenging thoughts of the next century.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 328
This seminar will concentrate on the works of Sigmund Freud. We will begin with Freud’s psychological writings, then move on to his more anthropological writings. Our aim will be to see how Freud’s psychological theories inform is arguments about religion and culture.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 329
Contemporary philosophy of mind, cognitive science, philosophy of evolution, and even philosophy of religion have all been usefully and creatively rocked by the thought of Daniel Dennett. This course will explore selected writings of Dennett and critical responses.
Prerequisite: C- or better in at least one course at the 200-level or above in Philosophy, Neuroscience, or Psychology.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 336
Michel Foucault was one of the most influential European thinkers of the 20th century. Using a selection of his writings, we shall examine some of his main contributions, seeking to understand both the philosophical and cultural influences that led Foucault to his positions, as well as the wide-spread influence he has had on subsequent philosophy and political, historical and cultural theory.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 345
Colonialism and Neocolonialism
This seminar will examine major theories of colonialism and neocolonialism. A historical-chronological approach will explore both Marxist, liberal, existentialist, and culturalist accounts. Authors to be discussed will include Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, and Edward Said.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 351
This course will provide both a survey and close readings of some of the most significant thinkers in the tradition of philosophical aesthetics. Its scope will include 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century positions in aesthetics; moreover, texts interrogated in the course will engage different artistic fields such as literature, painting, music, cinema, and new media.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 355
Moral Theory and Public Policy
The purpose of this course is to assist students in acquiring the skill in ethical reasoning and analysis needed for mature participation in society’s continuing debates over moral issues of public concern. The course will begin by examining some types of ethical theories and will proceed to consider a number of controversial social issues. Abortion, euthanasia, racial and sexual discrimination, world hunger, treatment of animals, and capital punishment are among the topics to be considered.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 361
What is a person? What makes you the same person as your past and future selves? Are some human actions free? What is the nature of time? Is the passage of time an objective feature of reality or only a product of our subjective experience? What does it mean to say that something that did not happen might have happened? In this course we shall consider some of the central metaphysical puzzles in contemporary western philosophy, such as the nature of time, freedom and determinism, personal identity and theories of possible worlds.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 374
Minds and Brains
The neurosciences have made striking progress in recent years toward understanding the brains of animals and human beings. Through readings in philosophy and science we will consider what contribution this explosion of neuroscientific data can make to our understanding of the mind.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 378
Philosophy of Mind
In this course we will investigate classical and contemporary theories of mind, such as dualism, logical behaviorism, materialism, and functionalism. Among the issues we will consider are what is the nature of the mental? Is the mind identical with or distinct from the body? What is the nature of consciousness? Is the mind a genuine cause? What, if anything, do contemporary investigations in cognitive science and artificial intelligence have to teach us about the nature of the mind?
1.00 units, Lecture
PHIL 383
If the past no longer exists, and the future is not yet, then what is time? This seminar will consider time and temporality as issues in philosophy of science, phenomenology, and cognitive science. Authors include Augustine, James, Husserl, and Einstein, with the thought-experimental contributions of Proust, Borges, and others.
1.00 units, Seminar
PHIL 399
Independent Study
Independent, intensive study in a field of special interest requiring a wide range of reading and resulting in an extended paper. Normally there will be only a few meetings with the supervisor during the course of the semester. Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment.
0.50 units min / 1.00 units max, Independent Study
PHIL 466
Teaching Assistantship
Work conducted in close consultation with the instructor of a single course and participation in teaching that course. Duties for a teaching assistant may include, for example, holding review sessions, reading papers, or assisting in class work. In addition, a paper may be required from the teaching assistant. This course may count as one of the 11 total required for the major, but will not count as one of the six required “upper-level” (300 and above) courses. Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment.
0.50 units min / 1.00 units max, Independent Study
PHIL 498
Senior Thesis Part 1
A two-credit course culminating in an extended paper to be read by two or more members of the department. It may be organized like a tutorial or independent study. This is a required course for all students who wish to graduate with honors in philosophy. To be eligible for this course a student must have an A- average in the major or must successfully petition the department for an exemption. Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for each semester of this yearlong thesis. (2 course credits are considered pending the first semester, and two course credits will be awarded for completion in the second semester.)
2.00 units, Independent Study
PHIL 499
Senior Thesis Part 2
A two-credit course culminating in an extended paper to be read by two or more members of the department. It may be organized like a tutorial or independent study. This is a required course for all students who wish to graduate with honors in philosophy. In order to be eligible for this course a student must have an A- average in the major or must successfully petition the department for an exemption. Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for each semester of this yearlong thesis.
2.00 units, Independent Study