Courses

PHIL 1000 | INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Cameron
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 12:00-12:50+ disc sec              Claude Moore G010

An introduction to some of the major problems of philosophy. Questions we will look at include: Do you have free will? Is consciousness supernatural? Are there races and genders? Do you know you're not in the Matrix? When is it permissible to end a life? Is morality objective, subjective, or relative? What are the limits of state authority? Is there a God? Readings are drawn from classics in the history of philosophy and from contemporary sources.

PHIL 1410 | FORMS OF REASONING

Professor(s): Prof. Schwartz
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 3:30-4:45                               New Cabell 168

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 1510 | THE ETHICS OF COMPUTING TECHNOLOGIES

Professor(s): Prof. Thyrion
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 8:00-9:15                                  Ruffner 173

Tuesday & Thursday 9:30-10:45                                Ruffner 173

Developments in computing technology have had a tremendous impact on our lives.  Changes have been swift and the human capacity to deal with them is limited.  In this course we will examine some of these changes and carefully consider their social and ethical implications, from the political and global to the personal and emotional.  We’ll end by thinking about computing changes that lie ahead – including the distant future.

PHIL 1740 | ISSUES OF LIFE AND DEATH

Professor(s): Prof. Bagley
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 3:00-3:50 + disc sec              Minor 125

This course is an exploration, from the point of view of philosophical theory, of a number of ethical problems at the beginning and end of life. Questions to be addressed will include: What is the significance of death and the value of life? Under what conditions, if any, are abortion and euthanasia morally permissible? At what point ought we to discontinue medical treatment of the terminally ill, and who should be empowered to make this decision? Are we under any moral obligation to prevent the death of those threatened by hunger and easily treatable disease?

PHIL 2060 | PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMS IN LAW

Professor(s): Prof. Simmons
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 9:00-9:50+ disc sec                  Minor 125

An examination and evaluation of some basic practices and principles of Anglo-American law. The course will focus on such problems as: the nature and extent of legal liability, strict liability statutes, "Good Samaritan" laws, the legal enforcement of community moral standards, and the justification of punishment and capital punishment. We will examine prominent legal cases and their underlying principles, but the emphasis will be on philosophical analysis and moral evaluation of the law in these areas.

There will be two lectures and one discussion section each week. Readings will be drawn from both classical and contemporary sources. Required written work will be two short papers, a midterm, and a final examination. This course is suitable for students who have done little or no previous work in philosophy.

PHIL 2120 | HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY: MODERN

Professor(s): Prof. Secada
Credits: 3

This course satisfies the requirement for History of Philosophy: Modern.

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

This course is a survey of the history of philosophy in the Renaissance and the early modern period. We will pay close attention to some of the metaphysical and epistemological issues arising in the central writings of Suárez, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant, though some other figures including some   XIXth-Century philosophers, such as Hegel, will also be discussed in the lectures. Students will be required to write a term paper, to submit an earlier draft of it, and to take several quizzes during the term. 

PHIL 2340 | THE COMPUTATIONAL AGE

Professor(s): Prof. Humphreys
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 12:00-12:50+ disc sec           Monroe 130

The course will address the effects of rapid technological advances, particularly in the area of computation, on a number of new and traditional philosophical topics. Among the topics to be covered will be the basis of computationally based artificial intelligence; arguments for and against computationally replicating human cognitive abilities; potential changes in our personal and online identities due to intensive internet use; future transformations in humans as a result of biological and cognitive enhancements; the loss of privacy resulting from massive data tracking and permanent video surveillance in major cities; and the extent to which these trends can or should be resisted.

A Caution: No previous knowledge of philosophy or computer science is presupposed but a willingness to discuss these topics using careful philosophical analysis, rather than through popular media, is essential. We shall not be discussing science fiction.

PHIL 2500 -100 | ANIMAL MINDS

Professor(s): Prof. Ott
Credits: 3

Monday and Wednesday 11:00-11:50+ disc sec        Monroe 124

What does the world look like to an octopus? Other species seem to represent objects in their environments, think about the thoughts of their conspecifics, and perhaps even use language to communicate. Some seem to have long-term memory, emotion, and self-awareness. Do they in fact do all of these things, and if so, how, and in what sense? We will engage philosophically with the best scientific evidence to answer these and similar questions. Finally, we will consider the implications of our answers: What have we learned about the nature of our own minds, and the place of humanity in the world?

PHIL 2500-200 | ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS

Professor(s): Prof. Brewer
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 12:30-1:20+ disc sec                Nau 211

An exploration of some fundamental philosophical questions in environmental ethics, including: Who or what should be regarded as “morally considerable”?  Human beings only?  All animals?  All living things?  What about species, eco-systems, or landscapes?  What environmental threats are posed by current practices of getting and spending, and what should we do to mitigate these threats?

PHIL 2500-300 | PHILOSOPHY OF NEUROSCIENCE

Professor(s): Prof. Irving
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 1:00-1:50+ disc sec               Monroe 130

This course surveys the philosophical foundations of neuroscience, with an eye to how those foundations are shifting in the 21st century. Part 1 considers whether psychology can be reduced to neuroscience, or whether the fields must work hand-in-hand to produce multi-level explanations of the mind. Part 2 looks critically at a foundational assumption in neuroscience: cognitive functions (such as speech production) are localized in brain regions (such as Broca’s area). We survey challenges to localization from neuroimaging (reverse inference) and philosophy (neural reuse). We then consider we must revise our ontology of the brain to meet these challenges. Part 3 considers other questions in neuroimaging, such as whether neuroimages are photos of the brain and how to interpret resting state data.   

PHIL 2640 | RATIONAL CHOICE AND HAPPINESS

Professor(s): Prof. Barnes
Credits: 3

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

In this class, we will examine philosophical puzzles about our ability to make rational choices that affect or determine our own happiness. How can we rationally decide to undergo a significant experience - such as having a child or moving to a new country - when have no way of knowing what that experience will be like? How can we rationally choose to make decisions about our future (such as what career path to follow or where to live), since who we will become in the future is in part determined by those choices? These kinds of questions will be the focus of the class

PHIL 2670 | GOD

Professor(s): Prof. Secada
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 8:00-8:50+ disc sec              Monroe 124

This course examines the Western philosophical notion of a supremely perfect being, God, and some of the main philosophical issues arising from it. After a brief historical survey of its origins, we will examine the notion itself, and consider the attributes of God (omnipotence, omniscience, benevolence, simplicity, eternity, necessity, immutability and immateriality). We will also discuss belief in the existence of God, including arguments for God’s existence or non-existence, and faith. Course requirements include a term paper and several quizzes. There are no pre-requisites for taking this course.

PHIL 2775 | CHINESE & GREEK PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Lomasky
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-2:50+ disc sec               Maury 104

Almost simultaneously some 2500 years ago thinkers in Greece (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) & China (Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, others) worked through what became the foundational philosophies of 2 great civilizations.  Although at the time they enjoyed no contact whatsoever, the questions posed about the nature of the world & how human beings may best live within it are strikingly complementary and serve as something of a mirror for each other.

PHIL 3120 | ARISTOTLE

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

This course satisfies the History requirement for those who have or will take PHIL 2120 – Modern.

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-3:15                                  New Cabell 383

An introduction to the philosophy of Aristotle, focusing on the theories and ideas of lasting importance in the history of Western philosophy. Readings will be drawn from his works on metaphysics, theory of science, natural philosophy, ethics, and political philosophy.

PHIL 3320 | EPISTEMOLOGY

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

This course satisfies the requirement for M&E.

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                               New Cabell 364

The course focuses on questions in the theory of knowledge. Topics include: skepticism about knowledge of the external world, the nature of justification, foundationalism, and coherentism, the Gettier problem, internalism and externalism, a priori knowledge, the analytic/synthetic distinction, induction, and the ethics of belief.

PHIL 3400 | INTRODUCTION TO NON-CLASSICAL LOGIC

Professor(s): Prof. Cameron
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Prerequisites: PHIL 2420

Tuesday & Thursday 9:30-10:45                                New Cabell 485

An introduction to systems of non-classical logic, including both extensions and revisions to classical logic.  We will look at logical systems that extend classical logic to deal with the phenomena of possibility and time.  We will look at logics that revise classical logic to allow for sentences which are neither true nor false, or sentences which can be both.  We will show how these departures from classical logic can shed light on various philosophical questions.

PHIL 3500 | SEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHY: PHILOSOPHY OF MEMORY

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

Monday & Wednesday 5:00-6:15                               Monroe 111   

Memory is central to human life. For better or worse, memory keeps our childhoods with us, shaping who we are and how we view ourselves. Memory gives us access to innumerable facts: the names of recent Prime Ministers, the capital of Ontario, Plato’s vocation, etc. Without memory, we would be doomed to repeat our mistakes, unable to follow through on our promises and projects, and incapable of taking responsibility for our sins and successes. This course explores the nature of memory and its philosophical significance, and breaks down into three topics. Part 1: What is Memory contrasts experiential and causal theories of memory, testing them against both philosophical, behavioral, and neural evidence. We will also ask whether memories extend into external objects such as smartphones. What we learn about memory in Part 1 will inform our discussions of the broader philosophical significance of memory throughout the course. Part 2: Memory and Knowledge asks whether we should dogmatically accept that our memories are true, especially in light of psychological research on the reconstructive nature of memory. Part 3: Memory and Personhood examines whether memory is required to remain the same person over time. We will discuss classic answers to this question, as well as complications that arise when we discuss empirical evidence for reconstructive memories, neurological deficits concerning memory, and the memories of children and non-human animals.

PHIL 3652 | ANIMALS AND ETHICS

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

Tuesday & Thursday 11:00-12:15                              New Cabell 383

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 the questions of whether, and to what extent, animals experience pain and emotions.

PHIL 3710 | ETHICS

Professor(s): Prof. Bagley
Credits: 3

This course satisfies the requirement for Ethics.

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

This course will be an in-depth study of ancient and early modern ethical theory. It will focus on Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill, figures who continue to set much of the agenda of contemporary moral philosophy. The main themes of the course will include: the nature of practical reason, the nature and value of the virtues of character, the importance of the general welfare, and the relationship between the individual and society.

PHIL 3800 | FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Barnes
Credits: 3

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

In this class, we’ll first examine the question ‘What is gender?’ Then we’ll look at ways in which gender can interact with traditional philosophical topics, including epistemology, philosophy of language, political philosophy, etc.

PHIL 4010 | SEMINAR FOR MAJORS: SELF AND OTHER IN ETHICS

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

Tuesday 3:30-6:00                                                      New Cabell 315

It is very nearly a fixed point in the history of western ethical theory that the “dear old self” poses a serious threat to ethical goodness, blinding us to other human beings and their full value, and inclining us to give preference to our own needs and interests.  It has, therefore, been a central preoccupation of ethical theorists to explain what it would mean to attain a lucid awareness of the nature and value of our fellow human beings, and what it would take to interact with them in ways that fully recognize this value.  In this seminar we will be looking at key writings on this topic from some of the most interesting and influential thinkers in the western philosophical tradition, including Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Kant, Fichte and Hegel.

PHIL 5560 | SEMINAR ON A POLITICAL PHILOSOPHICAL TOPIC: INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Akhtar
Credits: 3

Tuesday 3:30-6:00                                                      New Cabell 395

In this class, we will explore various topics in international ethics and political philosophy, such as state sovereignty, human rights, terrorism, armed intervention, and global poverty. The course will be framed by the debate between nationalists—who maintain that our primary political and ethical obligations are to our fellow compatriots—and cosmopolitans—who argue that we have equal duties to every person regardless of his or her nationality or citizenship.

PHIL 7560 | DEMOCRACY IN DECLINE?

Professor(s): Prof. Lomasky
Credits: 3

Monday  6:00-8:30                                                      Cocke 108

Some very strange and disturbing results of democratic determinations have transpired in the past couple years. The UK unexpectedly reversed a half century of engagement with Europe in its Brexit referendum, the Philippines has elected a president who boasts about sponsoring extrajudicial killings, Hungary (with Poland concurring) expresses a preference for “illiberal democracy,” Turkey has reelected a president who bears an uncanny likeness to Ottoman sultans, and Italy – no one can understand what is happening there. And then there is the 2016 US election. This seminar will explore the institutional foundations of democratic governance, reading important recent works by economists, political scientists and philosophers, aiming to understand how democracy works and can fail to work. Students will write several short discussion papers for class distribution and a course paper. People who are scared by economics or other social science literature should probably look elsewhere. Very well qualified undergraduates are welcome.

PHIL 7590 | SEMINAR ON LOGIC TOPIC: PHILOSOPHY OF MATHEMATICS

Professor(s): Prof. Humphreys
Credits: 3

This course satisfies the second part of the logic requirement.

Monday 3:30-6:00                                                      Cocke 108

This course will cover traditional and contemporary topics in the philosophy of mathematics including platonism, intuitionism, formalism, and empiricism, why mathematics is effective in representing the physical world, whether purely mathematical explanations of natural phenomena are possible, computer proofs and other topics.

PHIL 7770 | CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Simmons
Credits: 3

Tuesday 1:00-3:30                                                      Cocke 108      

This seminar will examine John Rawls’ political philosophy and recent Rawlsian (and related Kantian) attempts to modify and extend Rawlsian thought.  The first portion of the class will focus on Rawls’ own writings, from A Theory of Justice, through his “political turn” (culminating in Political Liberalism) and his “internationalization” of his view (in The Law of Peoples).  The second part of the class will look at recent developments (and criticisms) of Rawlsian/Kantian political philosophy, covering questions about  ideal and nonideal theory, civil disobedience, the natural duty of justice, democratic authority, states’ territorial rights, and the “supersession” of historical injustices.  We will read work by Waldron, Estlund, Stilz, and others (including – full disclosure notice – a fair bit of my own most recent work on these topics).

PHIL 8320 | CONTEMPORARY EPISTEMOLOGY

Professor(s): Prof. Langsam
Credits: 3

Thursday 1:00-3:30                                                     Cocke 108

In recent years there have been a variety of new theories on how perceptual experiences are able to justify beliefs. This course is a survey of such theories. We shall look at Pryor’s dogmatism, BonJour’s contemporary version of classical foundationalism, Hill on experience and reliabilism, McDowell’s epistemological disjunctivism, and Huemer’s phenomenal conservatism. We will look at skeptical arguments (Stroud, Hirsch), and consider how these theories can address them. We will also look at Siegel’s cognitive penetration problem.

PHIL 8530 | SEMINAR ON A MODERN HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY TOPIC: METAPHYSICS AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE IN THE MODERN PERIOD

Professor(s): Prof. Ott
Credits: 3

This course satisfies History area requirements.

Monday 1:00-3:30                                                       Cocke 108
This course examines debates in the modern period at the intersection of metaphysics and philosophy of science. Topics include the nature of space and time, causation, scientific explanation, force, and motion. Figures may include Descartes, Malebranche, Du Chatelet, Berkeley, Newton, Leibniz, and Kant.

PHIL 9700 | DISSERTATION SEMINAR

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

Wednesday 1:00-3:30                                                 Cocke 108

This non-credit course is taught every spring.  It combines discussions of the central aspects of professional life with multiple opportunities for students to present and receive peer feedback on their work-in-progress.  It is mandatory for all third-year students in residence, and optional for others.