Philosophy

PHIL 100 Introduction to Philosophy

Philosophy 100 is an introduction to the study of philosophy. It is intended to introduce you to philosophical questions, to give you an idea of what some of history’s greatest philosophers have said about them, and to help you learn how to articulate philosophical concerns of your own. The branches of philosophy considered in the course will be selected from ethics, aesthetics, logic, metaphysics, political philosophy and the theory of knowledge.

 

PHIL 150 Critical Thinking

(Formerly Logic 100)

Critical thinking—also called logic—is the study of how to distinguish good reasoning from bad, correct thinking from incorrect. It’s a little like grammar: we use it all the time, usually without thinking about it. But like grammar, critical thinking involves universal rules that you may not be familiar with. Studying these rules will help you to use them more effectively, and so to become a better thinker. In the first half of the course, we’ll study some of the basic concepts of critical thinking. We’ll pay particular attention to the concept of an argument, and to related notions such as classification and definition. We’ll also study techniques that you can use to assess the strength of an argument and to spot fallacies (errors in reasoning). The second part of the course will be devoted to somewhat more technical topics. We’ll spend several weeks studying classical deductive logic as developed by Aristotle. We’ll also take a look at modern propositional logic, at inductive logic, and at the connections between critical thinking and other important topics.

 

PHIL 210 Pre-Socratics and Plato

This course is an introduction to philosophy in Ancient Greece, beginning with the philosophy of the Pre-Socratic thinkers in the Milesian, Ionian, Eleatic, Atomist, and Sophistic traditions. It will then consider the figure of Plato's Socrates. We will begin with the Socratic "turn" away from the pre-Socratic focus on the material structure of the cosmos to the perennial human questions concerning piety, wisdom, virtue, beauty and goodness. We will conclude with a critical survey of the ethical, political, and metaphysical philosophy of the Platonic dialogues.

 

PHIL 211 Aristotle & Later Greek Philosophy

This course explores the main philosophical ideas and concepts developed by Aristotle and later Greek thinkers, including Epicurus, the Stoics, and the Sceptics. We will address a wide variety of issues concerning knowledge, morality, pleasure, beauty, and matter. These themes will be approached in their interconnectedness. We will constantly want to see what kind of view about the ultimate nature of reality underlies specific answers given to the more particular questions, and how a specific view about knowledge, for instance, determines a specific outlook of one's moral beliefs. 

 

PHIL 212 Medieval Philosophy

This course is a serious introduction to medieval philosophy. It will consist of a wide-ranging survey of European philosophy from the fall of the Roman empire to the end of the fourteenth century. Particular attention will be paid to the metaphysical and epistemological questions raised during this period, though we’ll look at other areas of philosophy as well. While most of the figures we’ll read belong to various Christian traditions, we’ll also pay some attention to medieval Islamic and Jewish thinkers. The recurring themes of the course will include the relation between reason and religious faith, the problem of universals, the nature of human knowledge, and the philosophical consequences of the doctrine of creation.

 

PHIL 214 Late Modern Philosophy

Late modern philosophy is a critical survey of the development of philosophy in the nineteenth century. While this development will be primarily concerned with this period, we will also consider the period as providing a background for contemporary philosophy. The historical continuity between then and now will be developed by considering in some depth some of Hegel’s later work and contrasting it with important works in Marxism, Existentialism, Positivism, Pragmatism, and Intuitionalism.

 

PHIL 216 Existential Philosophy

This course is a serious introduction to the philosophical movement known as existentialism. After taking a quick look at the historical background to this movement, we’ll turn to the work of three of the best-known existential philosophers: Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. We’ll pay particular attention to their views on freedom and the nature of consciousness. We’ll also spend some time discussing existentialism’s relevance for ethics, the arts, and our understanding of gender.

 

PHIL 240 Metaphysics

This course is dedicated to the study some of the most significant moments in the tradition of metaphysical preoccupations, focusing primarily on four thinkers: Plotinus, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Heidegger. We are going to address issues of a most fundamental nature for philosophy: What is the ultimate nature of reality? Can the ultimate reality be known or is it simply unknowable? What is freedom and how can we know whether we are free? What is the true task and mission of philosophy? Is there a final purpose to the universe as such? Why is there something rather than nothing? By the end of the course everyone will have been persuaded that ours is the best of all possible worlds!

 

PHIL 241 Philosophy of Science           

This course is an opportunity to think philosophically about science - about the fundamental features of one of the most important human enterprises. We will consider central themes in the history of 20th century philosophy of science, examine some of the most important philosophical theories of science, and pay special attention to the work of Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn. The course will conclude with contemporary philosophical considerations of science, from feminist, constructivist, naturalist, and realist philosophical approaches. This course gives students an opportunity to think about science, and treats science as genuinely exciting.

 

PHIL 243 Philosophy of Human Nature

A study of human nature in the history of philosophy, including the ancient and medieval understandings of human nature, early modern and 19th century views, and the human condition described by psychoanalysis, existentialism, and postmodernism. Thinkers studied may include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Freud, Sartre, and Rorty.

 

PHIL 244 Philosophy of Angels

This critical examination in speculative metaphysics aims at discovering what rationally can be said about angels.  Our primary concern is with reason and what it can reveal about the nature of angels.  In seeking this end, we will investigate arguments for the existence of such beings and try to understand what these arguments imply.  Further, we will explore, again by means of arguments, the implications that flow from the very idea of angels not only to help us understand the nature of angels but also what it means to be human.

 

PHIL 245 Philosophy of Feminism

This course is an introduction to feminist philosophy through some of the debates that have shaped the discipline since the early 1970's.These debates have re-focused feminist thinking on questions of difference. Race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, situation and material circumstance are just some of the areas of focus we will consider through feminist questions about knowledge, subjectivity and agency, rationality and emotion, "culture" and "nature".

 

PHIL 278   Aesthetics

This course is a serious introduction to aesthetics, the branch of philosophy that studies art and beauty. It is intended to familiarize you with some of the most important philosophies of art from Plato to the present day. It is also intended to give you some practice applying these theories to actual works of art, both in our class discussions and in your written work. Among other things, we’ll ask whether judgments of taste can be objective, why we enjoy painful or unpleasant works of art, and what the experience of beauty tells us about reality. 

 

PHIL 290AM Christian & Muslim Philosophy

What is the relationship of religion to philosophy? This course explores this question through a study of the Islamic and Christian contribution to the history of philosophy.

 

PHIL 291AB Pragmatism

A critical examination of American pragmatism from the late nineteenth century to the present. Figures to be studied may include Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey, and Richard Rorty.

 

PHIL 310AC/410AC Hegel

This introduction to the philosophy of Hegel will be developed through a critical textual analysis of one of the truly great philosophical works of the modern era: The Phenomenology of Spirit. In addition to learning how to approach and understand a major philosophical work, a concern of the class will be to give the student some idea of why Hegel has had such an enormous impact on contemporary philosophy.

 

 

PHIL 310AJ/410AJ Socrates

Socrates is widely regarded as the first political philosopher, the first philosopher not simply to investigate the natural world but to make political questions concerning the best form of rule, justice, virtue, and the good life for human beings central to philosophic inquiry. His political thought, which we know primarily through Plato's Socratic dialogues, takes its bearings from the good, or from the human soul. But what is the basis or justification for such an enterprise? This course explores Plato's Socrates, as well as ancient and modern critiques of Socrates, from Aristophanes' CLOUDS to Socrates' place in the philosophies of Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. We will conclude with Kierkegaard's contrast between Socrates and Christ, and with Nietzsche's contrast between Socrates and Dionysus. Can Socratic philosophizing sustain the powerful attacks made in the name of history, faith and tragedy? And does Socratic philosophizing adequately sustain political life, especially in the face of such attacks? Alternatively, do the positions of these later thinkers offer superior ways to understand and develop political communities.

 

PHIL 310AL/410AL Heidegger

Heidegger is one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century and one of the most important thinkers of all times. This course is dedicated to a careful study of his major work, Being and Time. We’ll be dealing extensively with themes like the meaning of being, space, time, world, death, conscience, finitude and anxiety. Heidegger’s Being and Time offers probably the best introduction to phenomenology, and an intelligent picture of the relation between traditional metaphysics and contemporary continental approaches to philosophy.

 

PHIL 310AN Aquinas

This course is a critical textual analysis of St. Thomas Aquinas's major philosophical work: Summa Contra Gentiles. In this work, St. Thomas explores the implications of the existence of God, His nature and His relation to both the spiritual and the material aspects of reality. The ultimate aim of this study is to show that reason and faith are not only compatible, but also enrich one another.

 

PHIL 310AO/410AO Being Human: The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir

This course is an historical reading of Simone de Beauvoir's philosophical work from Pyrrhus and Cineas to The Second Sex. Our focus will be her theories of human ambiguity, the tension between human freedom and responsibility, the relationship between metaphysics and literature.

 

PHIL 312/412 Aristotle's Ethics

This course explores Aristotle's ethical theory. It focuses on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and its articulation of moral virtue, intellectual virtue, and the role of friendship in ethical character and action. We also examine questions of justice, pleasure, philosophy and the highest human good. The course will also consider the relationship between ethics and politics in Aristotle's thought, and may compare Aristotelian conceptions of virtue with that of later thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas and Thomas Hobbes.

 

PHIL 313 Contemporary Continental Philosophy

This course will take an intensive look at French and German philosophy of the past century. We'll see how European philosophy of this period grew out of the work of Gottlob Frege and Edmund Husserl, and we'll trace the major stages of its development since then. We'll pay particular attention to the philosophical hermeneutics of Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Paul Ricoeur.

 

PHIL 328/428 Advanced Topics on Kant

This course will consist of a close study of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Topics to be discussed include transcendental argumentation; the nature of space and time; the role concepts play in organizing experience; causality; and the limits of reason. Students in Philosophy 328 will be required to write ten short papers (1-2 pages each) as well as a final exam. Students in Philosophy 428 will do all the work required for Philosophy 328, plus a term paper.

 

PHIL 332/435AG Philosophy of History

In Philosophy 332, we’ll reflect critically on the study of history. We’ll examine a number of philosophical questions that are raised by the kind of thinking that historians do, and we’ll ask how the study of history might be related to other important philosophical themes. The course will be divided into three parts. The first will focus on the epistemology of history—that is, on whether and to what extent we can acquire knowledge of the past. Among other things, we’ll ask what it might mean to explain an historical event, and whether historians can be objective. The second part of the course will address so-called “speculative” historians—that is, those who attribute a meaning or purpose to history as a whole. As an example, we’ll read Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of History. Finally, in the third part of the course, we’ll examine what might be called “existential” approaches to history. Our main text for this part of the course will be Nietzsche’s On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life.

 

PHIL 335AT/435AT Philosophy, Literature, and the Good Life

Its common to describe a novel or some other piece of literature as philosophical. Some theorists go even further, claiming that pieces of literature can themselves be pieces of philosophy. What could this mean? What reasons do we have to think that its true? If it were true, how would it challenge our understanding of what philosophy and literature are? Of what rationality is? Of what philosophers can, or should, hope to achieve?

In this course, well reflect on the boundaries and the intersections between philosophy and literature. Well pay special attention to the significance of these matters for ethics and our ideas about the good life. Authors to be discussed include Iris Murdoch, Cora Diamond, Martha Nussbaum, Wayne Booth, Onora ONeill, Richard Rorty, and Arthur Danto.

 

PHIL 335CF/435CF - Philosophy for Cyborgs: Technology in Peculiar Places

The root of “technology” is technē -- the combining of human reason and judgment with the material world. In this course, we look for technologies in peculiar places, including practices of care, eugenics, making race and disability, and philosophy. Reading works in philosophy, literature, and science and technology studies (STS), we’ll theorize technologies and discover that we are always already “cyborgs.”

 

PHIL 337/437 Metaphysics I/Metaphysics II

Metaphysics is an area of philosophy that deals with the most general and fundamental questions about the nature of reality.  We will read historical and contemporary works that deal with the following areas of metaphysical inquiry:  realism vs. anti-realism, the nature of being, universals and particulars, causation, the problem of possible worlds, time and space, persons, identity, the relationship between minds and bodies.