Richmond Home

Fall 2019 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: MW 10:30-11:45 am; 3:00-4:15 pm – McDaniel; WF 12:00-1:15 pm; 1:30-2:45 pm – Reckner
This course is an introduction to some of the major texts, problems and methods in Western philosophy. Readings will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources. Emphasis will be placed on the careful interpretation, analysis, and comparison of these texts, as well as the ability to extract 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.

PHIL 251Elementary Symbolic Logic
Three sections: MWF 9:00-9:50 am; 10:30-11:20 am – Goddu; MW 12:00-1:15 pm – McDaniel
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.

PHIL 265 – Bioethics
Two sections: MW 10:30-11:45 am; 1:30-2:45 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.

PHIL 271 – Ancient Greek Philosophy
Two sections: TR 10:30-11:45 am; 1:30-2:45 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.

PHIL 360 – Ethics
TR 1:30-2:45 pm – Boxer
This course will examine three leading theories of normative ethics— Mill’s utilitarianism, Kant’s deontology, and Aristotelian virtue ethics — and their different answers to the questions “What ought I to do?” and “What type of person should I strive to be?”. Prerequisite(s): One previous philosophy course, PPEL 261 or 262, or permission of instructor.

PHIL 364 – Philosophy of Law
MW 1:30-2:45 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 373 – Epistemology
W 3:00-5:30 pm – McCormick
In this course, we will be working to arrive at a better, deeper understanding of the nature and value of knowledge and rationality, as well as exploring the different ways we evaluate beliefs. The class will begin with a focus on skepticism; one central theoretical concern of contemporary epistemology has been to explain how knowledge is possible despite challenges posed by skepticism, and in so doing various ideas of what counts as knowledge and justification are put forth. After a grounding in these traditional topics we will turn to issues central to what is called the ethics of belief.: What norms guide our assessment of beliefs and are these norms distinct from moral or practical norms? We will end with questions central to social epistemology which recognizes that the what counts as justified belief and knowledge is partly constituted by our institutions and social practices. Of particular interest will be the notion of epistemic (in)justice and the question of if and how beliefs can wrong. Prerequisite(s): One previous philosophy class 200 level or higher, or permission of instructor.

PHIL 382 – Practical Identity, Character, and the Sources of Normativity
T 3:00-5:40 pm – Schauber/Reckner
Are we subject to any ethical rules or norms at all? If we are, why should we follow them? These questions are fundamental to ethics, and Christine Korsgaard has argued that they have the same answer: because we are rational agents, we must construct practical identities for ourselves, and ethical norms are the norms for how we construct our practical identities. However, Korsgaard’s picture has been challenged from several directions: if she is right, a properly built practical identity must be ethical. But aspects of our characters, such as the values and projects that give our lives meaning, might sometimes conflict with ethics. Must our practical identities then leave these parts of ourselves behind? On the other hand, criminals and tyrants at least appear to have practical identities, albeit immoral ones. So can the need for practical identities really solve the fundamental problems of ethics? This team-taught seminar will explore these questions, through the works of Korsgaard and figures such as Bernard Williams, Harry Frankfurt, Immanuel Kant, and TM Scanlon. Prerequisite(s): One previous philosophy class 200 level or higher, or permission of instructor.

PHIL 390 – Independent Study
M 8:00-8:50 am – Goddu
Limited to philosophy majors and minors. Departmental approval required.

Other Important Courses Offered by Philosophy Faculty

FYS 100 – Meaning & Value
TR 10:30-11:45 am – McCormick
Have you ever wondered what makes a person's life go well? Or have you ever wondered how you might make your own life go well? This course is a quest to identify the features of a good human life. In our quest to unravel the components of such a life, we will also gain some insight into how we can improve our own lives by, for instance, instilling our lives with greater meaning and finding ways to become happier. Some more specific questions we will consider are the following: What things are worth pursuing?
What is the relationship between a good life and a life of pleasure, happiness and virtue? What are some barriers to living a good life? Is there any meaning or purpose in human existence and can such meaning be found without a faith in God or religion?

Visit the major/minor page for complete details on curriculum and major/minor requirements.