Richmond Home

Fall 2021 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
Three sections: TR 1:30-2:45 pm; 3:00-4:15 pm – Reckner; MW 4:30-5:45 pm – Driscoll
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 251Elementary Symbolic Logic
Four sections: MWF 9:00-9:50 am; 10:30-11:20 am – Goddu; TR 9:00-10:15 am; 4:30-5:45 pm – Ferrier
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 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 271 – Ancient Greek Philosophy
Two sections: MW 10:30-11:45 am; 12:00-1:15 pm – Driscoll
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 364 – Philosophy of Law
MW 1:30-2:20 pm – Lefkowitz
This course will address core questions in the philosophy of law, including: What distinguishes a legal order from other forms of social order?  What is the rule of law, and why is it desirable?  What are the truth conditions for propositions of law (i.e. what makes the claim “it is illegal to do X” true or false)?  How should we interpret legal norms, and/or apply them to particular cases?  What is the nature of law’s normativity (i.e. what sort of reasons for action does the law provide)?  How should we understand standards of proof at trial such as “beyond a reasonable doubt” or “clear and convincing evidence?” Finally, how does moral correctness or truth figure in answers to any of the previous questions? Prerequisite: One previous philosophy course, or PPEL 261 or PPEL 262, or permission of instructor.

PHIL 381 – Topics Seminar: Causation, Free will and Personal Identity
TR 3:00-4:15 pm – Ferrier
This course will examine three central issues in metaphysics. Causation: When a lightning strike causes a wildfire, there is some special relation that holds between these events. This involves more than just the lightning strike’s occurring, followed by the fire’s breaking out. But what is this “more than?” Free will: This morning, I freely chose to drink coffee. However, this decision took place in my brain, a physical organ governed by physical laws, over which I have no control. Is my free choice, then, merely an illusion? Personal Identity: I recognize a young boy’s photo as a photo of me. But how can the boy in the photo be the same person as the adult I am today? Did I survive my own childhood? Or am I now a different person? Could I survive the destruction of my own body? One previous philosophy course or permission of instructor required. (1 unit)

PHIL 382 –Immanuel Kant’s Practical Philosophy
MW 3:00-4:15 pm – Reckner
The central idea of Kant’s practical philosophy is that morality commands or requires certain modes of conduct through unconditional, absolute, or “categorical” imperatives. Famously, Kant argues that knowing this about morality is also enough to show that morality is, at bottom, a matter of three things: acting on principles that you can will to be laws for all rational agents, treating all rational agents as ends in themselves, and respecting the autonomy of all rational agents. Or, at least, Kant claims to show that morality would ultimately be a matter of these three things, if there is any such thing as morality at all. Beginning with the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, this course will study Kant’s arguments for these central ideas and for the reality of morality. Depending on student interest, other areas of focus could include topics such as: the application of Kant’s moral theory, Kant's political theory, Kant’s metaethics and moral epistemology, Christine Korsgaard’s idea that Kant is deriving the reality of moral obligation from constitutive features of agency, Kant's theory of rational agency more generally, the intersection of Kant’s moral theory with his discredited views on hierarchies of race and gender, the metaphysics behind Kantian autonomy, and Kant’s argument that morality requires a certain form of belief in God and in the immorality of the soul. One previous philosophy course or permission of instructor required. (1 unit)

PHIL 390 – Independent Study
Limited to philosophy majors and minors. Departmental approval required.


Visit our website ( for complete details on faculty, curriculum and major/minor requirements.