Fall 2023 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
TR 9:00-10:15 am – McDaniel
This course is intended as an introduction to a number of related problems in philosophy. Can I know anything? Does God exist? What is the relationship between the mind and the body? Am I the same person now as I was in the past? Am I free? In discussing these questions, we will examine a variety of responses, ranging from those given by Descartes and his early modern critics to 20th and 21st-century responses to these philosophical problems. Throughout the course, special attention will be paid (a) to extracting precise arguments from the authors we read and (b) to evaluating these arguments. This procedure will reveal ambiguities and other flaws in many arguments that appear convincing at first; other times and it will show that often an “obvious” assumption stands in need of outside justification and/or has questionable implications. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Literary Studies. (1 unit) 

PHIL 120 – Contemporary Moral Issues
Two sections: MW 10:30-11:45 am; 12:00-1:15 pm – McCormick
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 the justice of war, capital punishment, terrorism, hate speech and abortion. No previous background in philosophy is required, but participants should have an interest in thinking critically about how we live. (1 unit)

PHIL 251  Elementary Symbolic Logic
MWF 9:00-9:50 am – Goddu
This course is an introduction to symbolic (or mathematical) logic. The focus is on the formal structure of arguments, their logical properties and the formulation and evaluation of proofs. We will be studying structure at different levels, beginning with sentential logic and then advancing to monadic and polyadic predicate logic. In each case, we will familiarize ourselves with the relevant logical grammar and (truth-functional) semantics and use these to provide translations of English sentences. We will also learn how to construct proofs of valid arguments and how to provide counterexamples to invalid arguments. In the study of sentential logic, truth-tables will be used to test for validity and other logical properties such as contingency and equivalence. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Symbolic Reasoning. (1 unit)

PHIL 260 – Philosophical Problems in Law & Society      
Two sections: TR 10:30-11:45 am; 12:00-1:15 pm – Schauber
This course will examine the purpose and justification for legal limits on individual liberty, with special attention to problems of liability and punishment. Topics include strict liability, good Samaritan law, and capital punishment. (1 unit)

PHIL 265 – Bioethics
Two sections: TR 10:30-11:45 am; 12:00-1:15 pm – Boxer
This course includes a survey of prevalent topics in recent bioethics, the study of ethical discussions surrounding the sciences of biology and medicine. Its primary aim is to help students improve their ability to think critically and to argue from the standpoint of a certain moral theory in the ethical evaluation of problems concerning the human body, health care, doctor-patient relationship, life and death, food, and animals. (1 unit)

PHIL 269 – Environmental Ethics
Two sections: MW 10:30-11:45 am; 1:30-2:45 pm – Platz
This course is about how we human beings ought to relate to our environment – to animals, plants, species, the climate, ecosystems, the universe. Which of these are of direct moral concern? Why are they of moral concern? How should we regard and treat them? Why? Cross-listed with ENVR 269. (1 unit)

PHIL 272 – Modern European Philosophy
Two sections: TR 1:30-2:45 pm; 3:00-4:15 pm – Reckner
The “modern” period in European philosophy includes, roughly, the years 1600 through 1800. Bookended by the work of René Descartes and Immanuel Kant, the modern period in European thought is characterized by its special interest in understanding the developments of the Scientific Revolution, and also by its focus on the nature and powers of the human mind, specifically with regard to our capacity (or lack thereof) for knowledge that can be justified without the use of the senses. In ethical theory, this modern period marks the development of moral sense theory, utilitarianism, the social contract tradition in (classical) liberal political theory, and Kant’s moral theory. This class will be a discussion-driven survey of this period, including its ethical theory, and it will include, besides Descartes and Kant, figures such as Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, George Berkeley, Gottfried Leibniz, Adam Smith, David Hume, and Jeremy Bentham. The class will also include work by overlooked women philosophers of this modern period, such as Elisabeth of Bohemia and Margaret Cavendish. Satisfies the General Education Requirement in Historical Studies.
(1 unit) 

PHIL 352 – TS: Kant, Phenomenology, and Existentialism 
WF 1:30-2:45 pm – Reckner
In the Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant famously argues that fundamental reality is essentially veiled from us: that we can have no knowledge of “things as they are in themselves”. Instead, Kant argues that we can only have insight into the appearances or “phenomena” that these “things in themselves” have to our minds. Almost immediately after Kant, however, GWF Hegel begins the “phenomenological” tradition, which argues that careful interpretation of these appearances can actually reveal to us the truth about fundamental reality. Later figures, primarily Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, then use versions of this phenomenological method to try to understand the structure of human existence, thereby laying a phenomenological foundation for 20th century existentialist philosophy. Interestingly, at one point Sartre argues that his phenomenological existentialism lays a foundation for a distinctively Kantian kind of ethical theory. And, more recently, Christine Korsgaard has argued for her own Kantian ethical theory on what could be described as existential grounds. Hence, this seminar will study these intersections of Kant, phenomenology, and existentialism. (1 unit)

PHIL 353 – Philosophical Methods
MW 10:30-11:45 am – Goddu
This course is required of all philosophy majors and limited to philosophy majors and minors. Its main purpose is the development of philosophical skills related to critical reading, writing, and evaluation. For example, we will work on extracting the author's goal, overall strategy for achieving that goal, and specific arguments, from a wide variety of philosophical texts. In general, we will closely read, discuss, and argue the merits of numerous writings with a wide array of content, including the very nature of philosophy itself. Seminar format. Departmental approval required. (1 unit)

PHIL 358 – Topics in Feminist Philosophy
TR 1:30-2:45 pm – Bondurant
In this course, we will explore definitional, psychological, ethical, and political issues related to gender and sexuality. Some of the questions we will cover include: What is gender? Why and how can someone identity as a gender that is different from than the one they were assigned as birth? Why do pronouns matter so much? What is sex? What distinguishes sex from love? From romance? What is faithfulness? What is a romantic relationship? What is marriage? Many sexual practices raise ethical issues such as masturbation, extramarital sex, sex work, pornography, pedophilia, zoophilia, bestiality, fetishism, sadomasochism, polyamory, age of consent, the nature of consent, sex in the workplace, etc. How should the law regulate sex, especially the issues just mentioned? Should the law forbid all or any unethical sexual activity? What principles govern these policies? We will approach these questions by looking at different frameworks such as social constructionism, philosophy of language, virtue theory, democratic justice, intersectionality, and queer theory. Assignments include personal reflections, preparing discussion questions, presentations, and a final paper based on the student’s topic of choice. (1 unit)

PHIL 381 – TS: Metaphysics
TR 12:00-1:15 pm – McDaniel
This course will provide students with an advanced survey of issues in contemporary metaphysics, including (but not necessarily limited to) the nature of: existence, identity, the self, abstract objects, ordinary material objects, properties, modality, causation, and grounding. (1 unit)

PHIL 382 – TS: Agency: Puzzles & Problems
T 3:00-5:40 pm – Schauber
This course will take up questions concerning human agency. Questions may include: What makes us agents? In virtue of what can individuals be said to lead lives? What makes our conduct ours, rather than something that just occurs?  We normally take ourselves to be responsible to one another and to ourselves; what makes us responsible? To what extent, if any, is choice necessary for moral responsibility? One previous philosophy course or department approval required. (1 unit)

PHIL 390 – Independent Study                                                                                                    TBD – McCormick
Limited to philosophy majors and minors.  Departmental approval required. (1 unit)