Fall 2024 Philosophy Courses

IMPORTANT NOTICE: 100 and 200-level courses are without prerequisites and open to first year students. 300-level courses presume some previous exposure to philosophy or a related field of study. If there is any question in your mind about whether you have the right background for any particular philosophy course, talk to the instructor before you enroll.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophical Problems and Arguments
Four sections: TR 9:00-10:15 am; 1:30-2:45 pm –McDaniel; MW 3:00-4:15 pm –Staff; TR 3:00-4:15 pm –Bondurant
The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to philosophical problems and arguments. But what makes a problem or an argument “philosophical”? That is by no means a simple question, because there has always been widespread, and often deep, disagreement about what philosophy is and about how it should be done. Moreover, this disagreement about what counts as philosophy has historically been infected by ideology and by biases of various kinds. As such, this course proposes to introduce philosophical problems and arguments not by taking a conception of philosophy for granted, but by studying a wide range of ideas about and approaches to philosophy, beginning with Plato and extending to the present day, but with a special emphasis on underrepresented and non- or counter-canonical figures and methods. Coursework will focus on the careful interpretation, analysis, and comparison of primary texts, as well as on the ability to extract and probe arguments and theories from these texts. Potential topics include: the nature of justice, the "mind/body problem", the existence and nature of God, Marxism, racial equality, feminism, and the meaning of life. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Literary Studies. (1 unit)

PHIL 120 – Contemporary Moral Issues
Two sections: MW 10:30-11:45 am; 1:30-2:45 pm – Staff
This is an introductory level course concerned with contemporary, controversial, moral issues. We will examine and evaluate a variety of views about such issues as global poverty, immigration, hate speech, affirmative action and reparations. No previous background in philosophy is required, but participants should have an interest in thinking critically about how we live. (1 unit) 

PHIL 251Elementary Symbolic Logic
Two sections: MWF 9:00-9:50 am; 10:30-11:20 am – Goddu
A non-mathematical introduction to symbolic reasoning: translating arguments from English into a symbolic language, and demonstrating which ones are good (valid) and which ones are bad (invalid). Working with truth tables, formal rules of substitution and inference, and simple quantifiers, the course covers both sentence logic (If P then Q, etc.) and class logic (All S are P, etc.). There is frequent written homework, at least two midterm tests and a final examination. Grades will be based on performance. The techniques learned transfer readily to technical tasks such as programming, analyzing contracts, getting ready for the LSAT and debating, and also to everyday tasks such as understanding what one reads, arguing with authority figures, and evaluating editorials, sermons, advertisements and political speeches. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Symbolic Reasoning. (1 unit)

PHIL 271 – Ancient Greek Philosophy
Two sections: TR 10:30-11:45 am; 12:00-1:15 pm – Schauber
An introduction to ancient Western philosophy, with special attention to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Our aim will be to understand some of the key views and arguments of these philosophers, and to engage critically with them and their historical context. This will require close reading of the ancient texts, and discussion of the issues they raise. Topics may include questions about the nature of knowledge and reality, and about the nature of human action, such as: What is the difference between knowledge and belief? What are definitions? Must someone who understands a notion be able to define it? What sorts of things is it possible for a person to know? What is the connection between virtue and knowledge? How is morality connected to being human? Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Historical Analysis. (1 unit)

PHIL 362 – Philosophy of Religion
TR 10:30-11:45 am – McDaniel
In this course, we will discuss: (1) several objections to theism that cluster around the question “Where is God?”, including: the problem of evil (Why does an omnipotent, perfectly good God allow evil?), the problem of divine hiddenness (Why doesn’t a perfectly good, perfectly loving God reveal himself to those non-theists who are both capable of belief, and who faultlessly fail to believe in God?), the problem of insufficient evidence (Why doesn’t our generally agreed-upon evidence establish the existence of God?), and the problem of pluralistic disagreement (Why is there no widespread consensus on the existence, character, and behavior of God?); and (2) various theistic responses to the objections described in (1). Prerequisite(s): One previous philosophy course or permission of instructor. (1 unit)

PHIL 381 – Philosophy of Emotion
W 3:00-5:40 pm – McCormick
This course is an in-depth exploration of the nature and significance of emotions. We begin with the question: What are emotions? While some theorists analyze emotions as sensations of bodily change, others analyze them as experiences of value (e.g., sadness as an experience of loss). And as we shall see, others aim to combine bodily feelings and value experiences into a complex but cohesive theory of emotion. Other questions we will explore include: How are emotions different from other mental phenomena (e.g., judgments, beliefs, perceptions, desires, and moods)? Are human emotions similar to animal emotions, and what can the latter tell us about the former? Can emotions help us to learn about value or ethics? What makes an emotion “appropriate” or “fitting”? Is it sometimes wrong to have certain emotions? Can we be morally responsible for our emotions? The course will be divided into three parts: (i) The nature or emotions, (ii) The rationality of emotions (iii) Exploration of three specific emotions, (or emotion-adjacent phenomena). The seminar participants will decide on which three. Prerequisite(s): One previous philosophy course or permission of instructor. (1 unit)

PHIL 382 – Morality of Obedience and Disobedience to Law
MW 1:30-2:45 pm – Lefkowitz
This course will begin with a critical examination of competing accounts of law’s moral authority – its claim to legal subjects’ obedience.  These include consent, considerations of fair play, the nature and value of political association, and the necessity of deference to a common law in conditions of reasonable disagreement over the demands of justice.  We will then examine competing accounts of the grounds of justifiable civil disobedience; conditions on its permissibility (e.g., must it be non-violent?); and justifiable responses to it (e.g., holding civil disobedients criminally or civilly liable; permissible tactics for policing civil disobedience).  We will also compare civil disobedience to several forms of uncivil disobedience, such as hunger strikes and political riots, as well as forms of direct action such as boycotts and sabotage.  The class will conclude with a consideration of competing analyses of conscientiously objection (is it the assertion of a right, the offering of an excuse, or a plea for mercy?); the bases for accommodating conscientious objectors (respect for autonomy, preserving integrity, epistemic humility); and conditions or limitations on accommodating conscientious objectors. Prerequisite(s): One previous philosophy course or permission of instructor. (1 unit)

PHIL 390 – Independent Study
TBD – McCormick