Courses

PHIL 1000 | INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Cameron
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-2:50+ disc sec                  Minor 125

An introduction to some of the major problems of philosophy. Questions we will look at include: Do you have free will? Is consciousness supernatural? Are there races and genders? Do you know you're not in the Matrix? When is it permissible to end a life? Is morality objective, subjective, or relative? What are the limits of state authority? Is there a God? Readings are drawn from classics in the history of philosophy and from contemporary sources.

PHIL 1410 | FORMS OF REASONING

Professor(s): Inst. Darcy
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 3:30-4:45                                        Maury 104

A philosophy course with a practical aim: to develop the student's ability to recognize and evaluate arguments. The course will not cover symbolic logic in any detail (for this take PHIL 2420), but will concentrate on actual arguments given in ordinary language. Some time will be spent studying those fallacies, or errors in reasoning, which occur most frequently in discussion and argument. The goal of this course is to give the student a working knowledge of logic which has an application to daily life.

PHIL 1710 | HUMAN NATURE

Professor(s): Prof. Langsam
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 12:00-12:50+ disc sec                       Wilson Hall 301

This course is concerned with the question of whether there are characteristics that all human beings have in common other than the obvious biological similarities. In particular, we shall address issues such as the following: 1) is rationality a part of human nature, and, if so, what is the nature of human rationality, and how does the rational part of human beings relate to their other characteristics? 2) what is the relation of human nature to morality: is it in the nature of human beings to act morally and/or to recognize moral obligations, or, on the contrary, are moral requirements in some sense contrary to our nature? 3) are human beings social animals: is it natural for human beings to live with others in societies and be governed by political institutions, or are such living arrangements contrary to our nature? Readings will include both contemporary and historical writers.

PHIL 1740 | ISSUES OF LIFE AND DEATH

Professor(s): Prof. Stangl
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 10:00-10:50+ disc sec           Clark 108

This course is an exploration, from the point of view of philosophical theory, of a number of ethical problems at the beginning and end of life. Questions to be addressed will include: What is the significance of death and the value of life? Under what conditions, if any, are abortion and euthanasia morally permissible? At what point ought we to discontinue medical treatment of the terminally ill, and who should be empowered to make this decision? Are we under any moral obligation to prevent the death of those threatened by hunger and easily treatable disease?

PHIL 2120 | HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY: MODERN

Professor(s): Prof. Secada
Credits: 3

This course satisfies the requirement for History of Philosophy: Modern

Monday & Wednesday 9:00-9:50+ disc sec              Maury 115

This course is a survey of the history of philosophy in the Renaissance and the early modern period. We will pay close attention to some of the metaphysical and epistemological issues arising in the central writings of Suárez, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant, though some other figures including some   XIXth-Century philosophers, such as Hegel, will also be discussed in the lectures. Students will be required to write a term paper, to submit an earlier draft of it, and to take several quizzes during the term. 

PHIL 2330 | PHILSOPHY AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGIENCE

Professor(s): Prof. Humphreys
Credits: 3

This course satisfies the Second Writing Requirement

Monday & Wednesday 10:00-10:50+ disc sec           Monroe 124

Artificial intelligence has presented us with new versions of old philosophical problems, as well as distinctively new philosophical and social questions. This course will approach AI from a philosophical perspective addressing such questions as: Do computers think? Can a persuasive case be made for the claim that the human mind is just a sophisticated computing device? How can humans understand deep neural nets? What effects is AI having on society, privacy, and human identity?

PHIL 2500-200 | AESTHETICS

Professor(s): Prof. Bagley
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 3:30-4:45                               Cocke 115

This course will examine some central philosophical issues raised by artistic activity. We'll pursue such questions as what art is, what artistic creation, aesthetic judgment, and aesthetic experience involve, whether judgments of aesthetic value are objective, and how aesthetic value is related to other kinds of value (such as moral value). In addition, we'll explore philosophical issues raised by specific media--including literature, music, photography, and film--and adjacent questions about things like the nature of metaphor, humor, and the sublime.

Readings will be from philosophers, historians of art, and philosophically minded artists. They'll include, among others, Stanley Cavell, John Dewey, Northrup Frye, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Susan Sontag, Leo Tolstoy, and Kendall Walton.

Course grades will be based on either two short papers (5 to 8 pages) or one long one (10 to 16 pages), plus an in-class final exam.

PHIL 2640 | RATIONAL CHOICE AND HAPPINESS

Professor(s): Prof. Barnes
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-2:50+ disc sec                  Maury 1104

In this class, we will examine philosophical puzzles about our ability to make rational choices that affect or determine our own happiness. How can we rationally decide to undergo a significant experience - such as having a child or moving to a new country - when have no way of knowing what that experience will be like? How can we rationally choose to make decisions about our future (such as what career path to follow or where to live), since who we will become in the future is in part determined by those choices? These kinds of questions will be the focus of the class

PHIL 2650 | FREE WILL AND RESPONSIBILITY

Professor(s): Prof. Bagley
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 11:00-11:50+ disc sec           Monroe 124 

In deciding whether someone is responsible for something they’ve done, we routinely consider whether the person freely chose to perform that action: that is, whether the decision to act was an exercise of free will. The existence and even coherence of free will has been challenged by both scientists and philosophers. According to these skeptics, genuine responsibility requires that we possess free will; but since our decisions ultimately stem from factors external to us, we do not possess free will. Other philosophers maintain that, so long as your decision to do something is suitably your own—e.g., a decision that you endorse, and that reflects your values—then you are responsible for the corresponding action. In this course, we examine the problem of free will, scientific challenges to free will, and philosophical accounts of moral responsibility. Readings will be drawn from contemporary sources.

PHIL 2652 | ANIMAL MINDS AND ANIMAL ETHICS

Professor(s): Prof. Ott
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 8:00-8:50+ disc sec                  Maury 104

Other species seem to represent objects in their environments, think about the thoughts of their conspecifics, and perhaps even use language. Some seem to have long-term memory, emotion, and self-awareness. Do they in fact do all of these things, and if so, how, and in what sense? We will engage philosophically with the best scientific evidence available to answer these and similar questions before considering their ethical implications: is it morally permissible to eat animals? What about keeping them in zoos, or keeping them as pets? What responsibilities, in short, do we have to the sentient creatures with whom we share our world?

PHIL 2660 | RELIGION

Professor(s): Prof. Merricks
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Prerequisites: Instructor Permission - First and Second Years only.

Tuesday & Thursday 9:00-9:50                                  Maury 104

This course will examine a number of different topics that have been of perennial interest to philosophers of religion and philosophical theologians. These topics include arguments for and against God's existence, the problem of evil, the relationship between human freedom and divine foreknowledge, and how to think about personal immortality and the nature of the human person.

PHIL 2780 | ANCIENT POLITICAL THOUGHT

Professor(s): Prof. Lomasky
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 5:00-5:50+ disc sec               Monroe 124

It isn’t possible to study politics adequately without looking to the great Greek political philosophers. For one thing, the word politics is Greek in origin. For another thing, democracy is born in Greece. For yet another . . . well, take the class and find out. If you do you will read several works by Plato, including a big chunk of Republic. You will also study Aristotle’s Politics and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian Wars. We will aim for a maximum of discussion to accompany lectures. I’ll ask you to write two or three short-to-medium length papers and in the fullness of time to take a final exam. There will also be occasional pop quizzes.

PHIL 3010 | DARWIN AND PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Eaker
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                              New Cabell 132

This course explores the history and the philosophical implications of Darwin’s revolutionary idea—that the unguided process of natural selection could explain the magnificent variety and adaptedness of living things and their descent from a common ancestor. We will look at Darwin’s historical, scientific and cultural context, and the evidence and arguments by which Darwin supported his theory. Philosophical topics will include:  How are scientific theories supported by evidence? What makes evolutionary theory an accepted scientific theory? What are its moral implications? What does it tell us about human nature, how we should treat one another, and how we should relate to the environment upon which we depend?

PHIL 3110 | PLATO

Professor(s): Prof. McCready-Flora
Credits: 3

This course satisfies the History requirement for those who have or will take PHIL 2120 – Modern

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-3:15                                  New Cabell 485

Prerequisites: The course presupposes introductory work in Philosophy but no acquaintance with Plato or other Greek thinkers.

This course introduces the student to Plato through a variety of his richest, most fascinating works. We will emphasize close reading aimed at philosophical understanding. This means we will treat texts not primarily as literary or cultural artifacts, but rich veins of argument, analysis, concepts and questions. We will engage Plato and his characters as fellow philosophers. This means understanding their arguments and assumptions, critically examining their reasoning, and proposing alternatives to their conclusions. We will cast this same critical eye on our own reasoning and come to terms with what these texts have to offer people (like us) who encounter them here and now.

PHIL 3140 | HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Inst. Toth
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 9:30-10:45                                New Cabell 309

In this course, we will look at philosophy from around the 4th to the 14th centuries. Although this is a long time-period that resists general claims about its philosophical tendencies, most authors we will consider were primarily concerned with the question of how to fit religion (whether Muslim, Jewish, or Christian) into a broadly speaking Aristotelian, scientific world-view — or on the converse, how to fit a scientific world-view into a broadly speaking theological framework. Topics of discussion will include, among others, questions concerning faith and reason, knowledge and skepticism, causation, and human nature. Representative figures include Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William Ockham, Nicholas of Autrecourt, and John Buridan.

PHIl 3320 | EPISTEMOLOGY

Professor(s): Prof. Langsam
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Instructor Consent Required.

This course satisfies the requirement for M&E.

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                               New Cabell 168

The course focuses on questions in the theory of knowledge. Topics include: skepticism about knowledge of the external world, the nature of justification, foundationalism, and coherentism, the Gettier problem, internalism and externalism, a priori knowledge, the analytic/synthetic distinction, induction, and the ethics of belief.

PHIL 3330 | PHILOSOPHY OF MIND

Professor(s): Prof. Ott
Credits: 3

This Course satisfies the Second Writing Requirement

Tuesday & Thursday 9:30-10:45                               Cocke 115

What is the nature of the mind and why do we find its nature so puzzling? We shall critically examine various theories about the nature of the mind; we shall also discuss the nature of particular kinds of mental states and events, such as beliefs, desires, feelings, sensory experiences, and others. We shall be especially concerned with the relations between the mind and the body, and, more generally, between the mental and the physical. Most of the readings will be by contemporary philosophers.

PHIL 3400 | INTRODUCTION TO NON-CLASSICAL LOGIC

Professor(s): Prof. Cameron
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Prerequisites: PHIL 2420

Tuesday & Thursday 11:00-12:15                              Cocke 115

An introduction to systems of non-classical logic, including both extensions and revisions to classical logic.  We will look at logical systems that extend classical logic to deal with the phenomena of possibility and time.  We will look at logics that revise classical logic to allow for sentences which are neither true nor false, or sentences which can be both.  We will show how these departures from classical logic can shed light on various philosophical questions.

PHIL 3500 | POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Adams
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 12:30-1:45                                Monroe 111

How should we live together? This question is at the core of political philosophy and is the main focus of the course. This question has various components, including: Who counts as one of us? How should we make decisions? Who should be in charge? How should we use our power? How should we treat others? How can we flourish? And who gets a say in how to answer these questions? The course focuses on contemporary democratic answers and considers to what extent our ideals have been realized in our shared life.     

PHIL 3710 | ETHICS

Professor(s): Prof. Brewer
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 12:30-1:45                                 Cocke115

In this course, we will engage in an in-depth study of the ethical thought of Plato, Aristotle, Hume and Kant—four figures who continue to have an extremely powerful influence on contemporary philosophical discussions of ethics. The main themes of the course will include: the nature of practical thinking, the place of particular and general judgments in practical deliberation, the nature and value of the virtues of character, and the source and content of the idea of right action.

PHIL 3800 | FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Barnes
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 11:00-12:15                              Cocke115

In this class, we’ll first examine the question ‘What is gender?’ Then we’ll look at ways in which gender can interact with traditional philosophical topics, including epistemology, philosophy of language, political philosophy, etc.

PHIL 5530 | SEMINAR ON A MODERN HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY TOPIC

Professor(s): Prof. Secada
Credits: 3

Monday 3:30-6:00                                                       Cocke 108

This is a seminar on Descartes’ Meditations. By closely reading the text of the Meditations, this seminar will study the metaphysics and epistemology of Rene Descartes (1596-1650). Topics that will be covered include skepticism and the Cartesian circle; the cogito; the reflection on a piece of wax; ideas and their material falsity; the proofs of the existence of God; causation; the individuation, essence and existence of substances; the distinction and relation between a mind and a body. Descartes’ thought will be examined in its Late Scholastic historical context, particularly the philosophies of Francisco Suarez (1548-1617) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), but we will also place the Meditations in the context of earlier meditative treatises, uncovering its relation to such works as St. Francis of Sales’ Treatise on the Love of God (1616), St Bonaventure’s Road of the Mind to God, and St Therese of Avila’s Inner Castle, and using it to address issues regarding the nature of philosophy and philosophical understanding. Some consideration will also be given to Descartes’ influence on subsequent philosophers, such as Spinoza, Malebranche, Leibniz or Berkeley.  Requirements will include a term paper, seminar presentations, and short written summaries and discussions.

PHIL 5560 | SEMINAR ON A POLITICAL PHILOSOPHICAL TOPIC: RAWLS

Professor(s): Prof. Lomasky
Credits: 3

Wednesday 6:00-8:30                                                 Cocke 108

English-language political philosophy had been in a century long slump until the appearance in 1971 of John Rawls’s A THEORY OF JUSTICE.  Since then nothing has quite been the same.  Not only philosophers but also political scientists, economists, sociologist and others have fed on his ideas.  Agree or disagree, all subsequent debate has had to confront Rawls at its center.  This course will study TJ in depth and, time permitting other Rawls writings, including LAW OF PEOPLES, an account of global justice, and his important early essay, “Two Concepts of Rules.”  Students should be prepared to contribute actively to seminar discussions, prepare several short discussion papers, and in the fulness of time prepare a substantial course paper.

PHIL 7510 | LANGUAGE, THOUGHT, AND LOGIC IN ARISTOTLE

Professor(s): Prof. McCready-Flora
Credits: 3

This course satisfies History (Ancient) area requirements

Thursday 3:30-6:00                                                     Cocke 108

Examination of topics in Aristotle’s philosophy of language and mind, plus a unit on his syllogistic and psychology of logic. Texts to be drawn from De Interpretatione, De Anima, Prior and Posterior Analytics, Nicomachean Ethics and Metaphysics (especially books 1, 4 and 12). Includes engagement with relevant secondary literature. Evaluation through short discussion papers shared with the class plus a 20-25 page term paper involving original scholarly research. All texts in translation; knowledge of Greek helpful but not required.

PHIl 7575 | PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Professor(s): Prof. Humphreys
Credits: 3

This course meets M&E area requirements

Monday 1:00-3:30                                                 Cocke 108

This seminar will provide a survey of central topics in contemporary philosophy of science such as scientific realism, instrumentalism, theories and models, and laws of nature.

PHIL 7710 | ETHICS

Professor(s): Prof. Stangl
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Ethics area requirements.

Wednesday 1:00-3:30                                                 Cocke 108
This course will focus on issues pertaining to supererogation: Are there any actions that are morally admirable, but not morally required? Common sense suggests there are. We admire the solider who sacrifices his life for his comrades, but we would not think him blameworthy had he refrained. Moral philosophers call such actions actions supererogatory. But supererogatory actions, in turns out, are theoretically puzzling. This course aims to answer the question of whether supererogation is possible.

PHIL 7770 | POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Adams
Credits: 3

  Tuesday 3:30-6:00                                                     Cocke 108

Democracy, Misinformation, and Propaganda: in this course we will read a variety of recent books on some challenges that contemporary polities face regarding truth, knowledge, and the formation of authentic public opinion and will. These include the spread of misinformation, propaganda, and censorship. As a graduate course, our focus will be on close readings, weekly writing assignments, and substantial papers. The course involves work in political philosophy but also philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of science, history, political science, and others. Our goal is to come to a more robust and holistic understanding of these challenges—and, perhaps, responses.

PHIL 8570 | VAGUENESS

Professor(s): Prof. Merricks
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Logic B area requirements.

Tuesday 1:00-3:30                                                      Cocke 108

This course satisfies M&E area requirements OR the second logic requirement (not both.) We shall read the book Vagueness by Timothy Williamson, and a lot of articles on vagueness and related topics.

PHIL 9700 | DISSERTATION SEMINAR

Professor(s): Prof. LoLorod
Credits: 3

Thursday 1:00-3:30                                                     Cocke 108

This non-credit course is taught every spring.  It combines discussions of the central aspects of professional life with multiple opportunities for students to present and receive peer feedback on their work-in-progress.  It is mandatory for all third-year students in residence, and optional for