Courses

PHIL 1410 | FORMS OF REASONING

Professor(s): Prof. Schwartz
Credits: 3

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday 9:00-9:50                 New Cabell 364

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

Tuesday & Thursday 3:30-4:20+ 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 1730 | INTRODUCTION TO MORAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Lomasky
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-2:50+ disc sec               Minor Hall 125

What is it to live a really excellent life, & how is this task complicated (or assisted) by the need to live among others who may have very different views from your own? Is the answer to this question simply a matter of taste, or can we learn about better & worse ways to live? We will look to various philosophers to help us think through these matters, including Plato, Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, David Hume, & John Stuart Mill. Additionally we will read the play Antigone by Sophocles, novel Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, & excerpts from the Bible. Students will be required to write two or three short essays, take unannounced short quizzes, & sit a final exam.

PHIL 1750 | THE MEANING OF LIFE

Professor(s): Prof. Ott
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 11:00-11:50+ disc sec           Minor Hall 125

What is the meaning of life? Does a meaningful life presuppose the existence of a divine being, or can human beings somehow create meaning? Does the certainty of death rob life of meaning, or provide it? These and related questions will be pursued through contemporary and classic texts by such authors as Sartre, Nagel, Nietzsche, Bernard Williams, and Epicurus. 

PHIL 2110 | HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY: ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL

Professor(s): Prof. Secada
Credits: 3

This course satisfies History area requirements.

Monday & Wednesday 9:00-9:50+ disc sec               Monroe Hall 124

This course is an introduction to the history of philosophy from its beginnings in the Greek colonies of Asia Minor to the Renaissance and the end of the Middle Ages. The lectures do not aim to offer a comprehensive summary; you will find that in any of several histories of philosophy, one of which is required reading for the course. In the lectures we will instead discuss a few selected major philosophers and we will concentrate on some of their doctrines and arguments. We will, however, look at cultural developments which took place during this period and we will study philosophical works in their more general social and historical setting. The course seeks to provide historical as much as philosophical knowledge and understanding. Requirements include several short quizzes and a term paper. 

PHIL 2420 | INTRODUCTION TO SYMBOLIC LOGIC

Professor(s): Prof. Cameron
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Logic area requirements.

Tuesday & Thursday 9:00-9:50+ disc sec                  Clark Hall 108

A basic introduction to the concepts and techniques of modern formal logic. The aim of this course is to give the student a working knowledge of both sentential and quantifier logic. Students will learn how to translate claims and arguments from English into a formal system, and to test arguments for validity.

                

PHIL 2450 | PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Professor(s): Prof. Humphreys
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                              New Cabell Hall 383

Science is often seen as being uniquely successful in producing knowledge. This course investigates what is characteristically different about scientific methods and why science appears to progress while other fields do not. We shall examine differences between the natural and social sciences, scientific realism and empiricism, different modes of scientific explanation, the reduction of one science to another, differences between deduction and induction, whether scientific progress is in fact illusory, and some special topics in time and indeterminism. Topics will be illustrated with historical and contemporary examples, ranging from Greek astronomy to current social sciences, but no background in any particular science will be presupposed. Requirements include regular short assignments, a term paper, and a final examination.

PHIL 2500-100 | MINDS AND MACHINES

Professor(s): Prof. Irving
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-2:50+ disc sec                  Maury Hall 104

This course surveys foundational issues in the philosophy of cognitive science and mind. Part 1 asks the fundamental question, what is a mind? Are minds brains? Computer? Do minds extend into the body and environment? We'll approach these questions by considering what it would take to make a machine with a mind (that is, to make genuine artificial intelligence). Part 2 turns to specific debates within the philosophy of cognitive science. Topics may include the following: are cognitive capacities innate or learned? What is rationality? What is memory?

PHIL 2500-200 | PHILOSOPHY OF HEALTH & HEALTHCARE

Professor(s): Prof. Barnes
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 9:00-9:50+ disc sec                  Maury Hall 115

In this class, we’ll first discuss the question ‘what is health?’ How do we define what it means to be healthy? Is there a difference between physical and mental health? Is there a difference between health and overall well-being? Is health a biological concept or is it something normative? Then we’ll look at specific puzzles that arise in health care related to how we understand health and disease. For example, how do we measure health outcomes? How do we deal with the inherent subjectivity of some aspects of health, such as pain? What is the relationship between what we consider ‘healthy’ and what our culture values or stigmatizes?  

PHIL 2660 | PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

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

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

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 2770 | POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Credits: 3

This course satisfies Ethics area requirements.

Monday & Wednesday 5:00-5:50+ disc sec               Monroe Hall 130     

This course is an introduction to Political Philosophy and has no prerequisites.  As any course should, it begins with Plato but then jumps into some major debates of the past few decades.  What are states for and how should they be limited?  Under what conditions are individuals rightly deprived of liberty?  What’s the proper place of markets in a decent society?  Among the authors we shall read on these topics are Robert Nozick, Michael Sandel, Debra Satz, and others. Students will be required to write two or three short essays, take some impromptu quizzes and sit for a final exam. 

PHIL 3110 | PLATO

Professor(s): Prof. McCready-Flora
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: The course presupposes introductory work in Philosophy but no acquaintance with Plato or other Greek thinkers.

This course satisfies History area requirements.

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-3:15                                  Cocke Hall 115

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 3160 | 18th CENTURY PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Ott
Credits: 3

This course satisfies History area requirements.

This course satisfies the Second Writing Requirement.

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                              New Cabell 332     

This course examines the work of various 18th century philosophers – usually European Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment philosophers such as Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Locke, Newton, or Rousseau. Particular figures and themes will vary from year to year.

PHIL 3180 | NIETZSCHE

Professor(s): Prof. Langsam
Credits: 3

This course satisfies History area requirements.

Tuesday & Thursday 12:30-1:45                                Cocke Hall 115

Nietzsche, Nietzsche, and even more Nietzsche on life, truth, philosophy, art, morality, nihilism, values and their creation, will to power, eternal recurrence, and a lot of other good stuff.  Readings will include The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of Morals, Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, and others.

PHIL 3330 | PHILOSOPHY OF MIND

Professor(s): Prof. Irving
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Metaphysics & Epistemology area requirements.

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

Part 1 of this course concerns the nature of minds, and what makes them so mysterious. How are the mind and body related? We'll survey physicalist theories on which minds are brains, behaviour, or computer programs. We'll also consider the so called "Hard Problems" of Consciousness: can a physicalist theory of mind explain conscious experience? If not, are minds immaterial spirits? Part 2 shifts to the problem of personal identity over time. Once you were a kid, now you are an adult, and one day you'll grow old. What (if anything) makes you the same person throughout these stages of your life? Can you survive the death of your body? Why does your survival matter?

PHIL 3500 | PHILOSOPHY OF ECONOMICS

Professor(s): Prof. Brinkmann
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 3:30-4:45                                  New Cabell 315

In this course, we will ask questions about the nature, scientific status, and implicit value assumptions in economics—for example: Is economics a science? Can there be laws of economics? Can economic models based on unrealistic assumptions explain the world to us? What is utility, and how does it relate to well-being? Do we always pursue our self-interest? What are the normative assumptions implicit in economic research? The course will fall into three parts: (1) historically influential views of economics (Popper, Lakatos, Friedman, McCloskey); (2) contemporary issues in economic research (models, causality, criticism of economics after the financial crisis); (3) moral and political issues in economics (utility, well-being, distributive justice). While we will not use it as a textbook, Julian Reiss’s “Philosophy of Economics” (Routledge, 2013) is an excellent introduction to many of the topics we will cover, and strongly recommended as supplementary reading. Students with no prior knowledge of economics are welcome, but are well-advised to have a look at standard economics textbooks in advance to get an impression of what economists do and how they reason (an alternative is to take an economics class in parallel to this course). You must have completed either an ECON or a PHIL class to take this course; exceptions are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

PHIL 3652 | ANIMALS AND ETHICS

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

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

This course will examine the moral status of non-human animals and what the major ethical theories imply for our treatment of animals, including for the purposes of scientific research and food.  In an effort to understand how we should think about their moral status, we will also examine questions concerning animal minds, including whether, and to what extent, animals experience pain and emotions.

PHIL 3720 | CONTEMPORARY ETHICS

Professor(s): TBD
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Ethics area requirements.

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                               Cocke Hall 115     

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

In this course, we will consider some of the liveliest topics of debate in contemporary ethical theory.  Among the questions that may be considered are: Are there moral facts, and if so what sorts of facts are they, how do we come to know them, and how do we explain their authority?  What would it mean to say that a life “has meaning” and what might entitle us to say such a thing?  Can we make sense of prohibitions to perform certain kinds of actions even when doing so would reduce the overall incidence of that very kind of action?  Do contemporary conceptions of our moral obligations leave us sufficient space to be true to our own ideals and loves?  Are we responsible for bad outcomes that we knowingly choose not to prevent others from bringing about?  Can we be held responsible for unchosen elements of our own character?  Are there “morally tragic” cases in which we will do wrong no matter what we choose to do?

PHIL 3810 | SEX, SEXUALITY, AND GENDER

Professor(s): Prof. Barnes
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 12:00-1:15                                New Cabell Hall 332

In this class, we'll be talking about philosophical issues at the intersection of sexuality, sexual experience, and gender experience. What is sexual consent? What is the relationship between sexual consent and sexual morality? What is sexual orientation, and what is its relationship to sex and gender? Is there such a thing as biological sex? Is there a difference between sex and gender?

PHIL 4010 | SEMINAR FOR MAJORS: METAPHYSICS OF TIME AND POSSIBILITY

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

Tuesday & Thursday 12:00-1:15                                New Cabell Hall 415

In this course we will look at metaphysical issues concerning the nature of time - what was and will be the case - and the nature of modality - what could and must have been the case.  Questions we will look at include: Is time real?  Is the future open, or is what will happen pre-determined? Is time objectively different from space? How do we persist through time? What makes it the case that some things are necessary whereas others could have been different?  Do I have an essential nature that makes me what I am even if I am different in other respects?

PHIL 5550 | SEMINAR ON PHILOSOPHY OF BIOETHICS TOPIC: RELATIONAL ETHICS

Professor(s): Prof. Zigon
Credits: 3

Thursday 3:30-6:00                                                     New Cabell 238

How might we begin to conceive a relational ethics? In the attempt to think through this question, we will slowly read and discuss some important texts in anthropology and continental philosophy that have attempted to think and articulate relationality, being-with and ethics.

PHIL 7500 | FIRST YEAR SEMINAR: METAPHYSICAL SURVEY

Professor(s): Prof. Merricks
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Metaphysics area requirements.

Required of all first year philosophy graduate students

Wednesday 1:00-3:30                                                       Cocke Hall 108

This seminar survey course will examine a variety of issues central to contemporary analytic metaphysics. We shall consider, among other things, possibility and necessity, identity over time, and personal identity. This course will be the graduate proseminar, and so is open only to incoming graduate students in philosophy

PHIL 7510 | ARISTOTLE

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

This course satisfies History-Ancient area requirements.

Thursday 3:30-6:00                                                     Cocke Hall 108

Graduate-level treatment, in translation, of Aristotle’s On the Soul and other relevant texts, e.g. Movement of Animals and parts of the Nicomachean Ethics. We will survey all parts of the work but give particular attention to book 3, which covers human reason (nous), imagination (phantasia) and the cognitive basis of animal movement. We will also consider the nature of the soul; function (ergon) and its place in Aristotle's natural philosophy; the varieties of human and animal perception; memory and recollection; practical reason and its various failure modes; and what makes humans cognitively distinct. Knowledge of Greek helpful but not required. Readings to include substantial amounts of secondary literature, with the aim of introducing students to the practices of scholarship and professional history of philosophy. Coursework to include three brief argumentative papers and a culminating term paper.

PHIL 7530 | THE MEDITATIONS

Professor(s): Prof. Secada
Credits: 3

Monday 1:00-3:30                                                       Cocke Hall 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; causations 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 philosophy of Francisco Suarez (1548-1617), but consideration will also be given to Descartes’ influence on subsequent philosophers, such as Spinoza, Malebranche, Leibniz or Berkeley. The seminar 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) and St Bonaventure’s Road of the Mind to God, and using it to address issues regarding the nature of philosophy and philosophical understanding. Requirements will include a term paper, seminar presentations, and short written summaries and discussions.

PHIL 7560 | INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Akhtar
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Ethics area requirements.

Tuesday 3:30-6:00                                                      New Cabell Hall 291     

There are a variety of morally pressing issues in political philosophy that involve the international level.  Some of these may be familiar: for instance, what are human rights, and what sorts of obligations do members of one state have to people living in other states? But there are also some less familiar ones:  do states have the moral right to unilaterally determine their actions and policies, including their membership policies?; what, if any, are the permissible forms of interference with other states?; who counts as a refugee and do we have duties to accept (all) refugees?  Who is entitled to admission and/or citizenship in a particular state? This class will examine such issues, many of which will be framed by the disagreements between globalists/cosmopolitans and statists. 

PHIL 7575 | REDUCTION AND EMERGENCE

Professor(s): Prof. Humphreys
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Metaphysics & Epistemology area requirements.

Tuesday 1:00-3:30                                                      Cocke Hall 108            

This seminar will examine contemporary literature on emergence from the philosophy of science and related fields.

PHIL 8540 | CONTEMPORARY ETHICAL THEORY

Professor(s): Prof. Brewer
Credits: 3

This course satisfies Ethics area requirement.

Thursday 1:00-3:30                                                     Cocke Hall 108

This course will consist in close reading and discussion of three or four influential books in contemporary ethical theory, together with selected texts to which the authors of these books are responding.  While the focal texts have yet to be finalized, they are likely to be drawn from the following list: Christine Korsgaard’s Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity and Integrity, Raimond Gaita’s Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception, R. M. Adams, Finite and Infinite Goods, Derek Parfit’s On What Matters, Thomas Scanlon’s What We Owe to Each Other, and Alasdair MacIntyre’s Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity.