Courses

PHIL 1000 | INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Gertler
Credits: 3

Online Asynchronous +Synchronous disc sec              

We will examine some perennial philosophical problems and some ways that philosophers have attempted to resolve them. You will learn to extract arguments from texts and to assess these arguments critically. We will read work from some leading historical and contemporary philosophers on questions central to the Western philosophical tradition, including the following. (I) Does it matter what you believe? If so, why? (II) Are there limits to knowledge? Can we know about things that we don’t directly observe? (III) Are a person’s choices fully determined by that person’s past circumstances? How does the answer to this question bear on the issue of moral responsibility? (IV) How should we live? What makes an action ethical, and what do we owe to others? (V) What sort of political arrangements does justice require? Do we bear obligations for past injustices?

PHIL 1410 | FORMS OF REASONING

Professor(s): Prof. Darcy
Credits: 3

1410-001 Tuesday & Thursday 8:00-9:15         

1410-002 Tuesday & Thursday 9:30-10:45       

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. Fung
Credits: 3

1510-001  Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                              

1510-002  Monday & Wednesday 3:30-4:45                                          

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 1730 | INTRODUCTION TO MORAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Adams
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 11:00-11:10+ disc sec                                  

In this course we apply the tools of philosophy to problems of human life, flourishing, and community. We investigate the mundane and the profound. We ask why we like to play games and what justice demands. We inquire into race, gender, and class. We look at theories of bullshit and assholes. We join the never-ending projects of self-reflection and social examination.

PHIL 1750 | THE MEANING OF LIFE

Professor(s): Prof. Ott
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 11:00-11:50+ disc sec  

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 authors including Sartre, Nietzsche, and Epicurus. Along the way, we’ll consider such issues as personal identity, moral luck, and the nature of the self.

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  

This course is a survey of the history of philosophy in the Renaissance and the early modern period, from Descartes to Kant. The course is wholly on-line and includes weekly asynchronous interactive discussion lines on several of the most important figures from this period, including Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley and Hume, and two 50-minute weekly zoom sessions where we will closely read three classical texts from the period, Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy , Leibniz’s First Truths, and the Introduction and Aesthetic of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Students will also read a general history of philosophy covering this period, for which there will be several reading controls during term. Students will also be required to write a term paper, to submit an earlier draft of it, and to take several quizzes during the term.  

PHIL 2330 | PHILSOPHY AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Professor(s): Prof. Humphreys
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 10:00-10:50+ disc sec

Artificial intelligence has presented us with new versions of old philosophical problems, as well as distinctively new philosophical and social questions. This course will approach AI from a philosophical perspective addressing such questions as: Do computers think? Can a persuasive case be made for the claim that the human mind is just a sophisticated computing device? How can humans understand deep neural nets? What effects is AI having on society, privacy, and human identity? No previous background in philosophy or computer science is presupposed.

PHIL 2420 | INTRODUCTION TO SYMBOLIC LOGIC

Professor(s): Prof. Cameron
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 9:30-10:15+ disc sec               

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 2500-001 | SLURS, BAD WORDS, AND UNRULY LANGUAGE

Professor(s): Prof. Fox
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 3:30-4:45                                 

Some words have incredible power in what their uses can convey and cause. Others are more inert. There are “bad words”, which can be met with sanctions from the mild to the severe. Words can also be used to subjugate individuals, groups, and collectives of various human identities. In this course we will study some pressing questions in the philosophy of language that connect to the study of slurs, bad words, and unruly language. In doing so, we will focus on what is often done with such language, while forging connections to some hallmark topics in the philosophy of language. Topics to be studied include: meaning, speech acts, presupposition, implicature, conversational norms, context-sensitivity, expression, derogation, silencing, subordination, and “fictional” discourses.

PHIL 2500-200 | CONSCIOUNESS

Professor(s): Prof. Irving
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-2:50+ disc sec                             

This course focuses on the place of consciousness in nature. Part 1 surveys theories of consciousness in cognitive science. Part 2 turns to the “hard problem” of consciousness: is it compatible with a scientific worldview? Part 3 examines types of experience that most theorists neglect––dreaming, mind-wandering, and dreamless sleep––that contain lessons about the methods of consciousness research and the conscious sense of self.

PHIL 2640 | RATIONAL CHOICE AND HAPPINESS

Professor(s): Prof. Barnes
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 8:00-8:50+ disc sec                 

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 2660 | PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

Professor(s): Prof. Merricks
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Instructor Permission

Prerequisites: Instructor Permission - First and Second Years only.

Tuesday & Thursday 10:00-10:50+ disc sec                         

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 3010 | DARWIN AND PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Eaker
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                               

This course explores the history and the philosophical implications of Darwin’s revolutionary idea—that the unguided process of natural selection could explain the magnificent variety and adaptedness of living things and their descent from a common ancestor. We will look at Darwin’s historical, scientific and cultural context, and the evidence and arguments by which Darwin supported his theory. Philosophical topics will include:  How are scientific theories supported by evidence? What makes evolutionary theory an accepted scientific theory? What are its moral implications? What does it tell us about human nature, how we should treat one another, and how we should relate to the environment upon which we depend?

PHIL 3140 | HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Secada
Credits: 3

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15 

This course satisfies the requirement for History of Philosophy: Ancient or Medieval

In this course, we will closely read three medieval philosophical masterpieces:  Anselm of Canterbury’s Proslogion , the Treatise on God from Thomas Aquinas’s Summa of Theology, and John Duns Scotus’s On the First Principle. Students will also be required to read Augustine’s Confessions and a general survey of the history of philosophy during this period, for both of which there will be several reading controls during term. Weekly zoom sessions will be wholly devoted to close textual analysis. Students will also be required to write a term paper.

     

PHIL 3310 | METAPHYSICS

Professor(s): Prof. Merricks
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Instructor Permission

Instructor Permission Required

This Course satisfies the Second Writing Requirement

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-3:15                                 

This 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 is meant for third and fourth year philosophy majors only.

PHIL 3320 | EPISTEMOLOGY

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

This course satisfies the requirement for M&E.

Instructor Permission Required.

Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15                              

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 3500-001 | PHILOSOPHY OF MEMORY

Professor(s): Prof. Irving
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 5:00-6:15                                             

We will explore the nature and philosophical import of memory. Part 1: What is Memory examines experiential and causal theories of memory and asks whether memory extends past our bodies and is distinct from imagination. Part 2: Memory and Knowledge asks whether we should dogmatically accept our memories as true, even if they are reconstructive. Part 3: Memory and Personhood asks whether memory is required to remain the same person over time.

PHIL 3500-002 | ANIMALS AND ETHICS

Professor(s): Instr. Greenway
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 3:30-4:45                                             

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 3620 | SCIENCE FICTION AND PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Cameron
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 3:30-4:45                                 

Science fiction is a distinctively philosophical genre. Science fiction stories can cause us to question the bounds of what is possible, explore ethical questions that arise in alien circumstances, explore the nature of the self and the very nature of reality, and so on.  This course has two main goals: (1) We will use science fiction literature to explore philosophical issues, thereby pursuing philosophical inquiry from an unusual perspective; (2) We will use philosophy to explore the nature of science fiction as a genre, and thereby to gain insight into the nature of art.

PHIL 3710 | CONTEMPORARY ETHICS

Professor(s): Prof. Stangl
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 12:30-1:45                               

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 3800 | FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY

Professor(s): Prof. Barnes
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 12:30-1:45                               

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 4020 | SEMINAR FOR MAJORS – PHILOSOPHY OF TIME

Professor(s): Prof. Darcy
Credits: 3

Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-3:15                                 

This course will focus on metaphysical issues in the philosophy of time. Questions we will consider include: What is the metaphysical status of past and future entities? Does time pass? What does it take for entities to persist through time? Is time travel possible? Furthermore, we will use the metaphysics of time as a starting point to explore a number of related issues in metaphysics including composition, truthmaking, and the methodology of metaphysics. 

PHIL 5530 | KANT AND THE EMPIRICISTS

Professor(s): Prof Ott
Credits: 3

Wednesday 1:00-3:30                                                

This course considers the Critique of Pure Reason in light of the empiricist philosophers to whom Kant was reacting, especially Berkeley and Hume.

PHIL 7540 | SEMINAR ON AN ETHICS TOPIC: The Virtues and the Vices: Contested and Otherwise

Professor(s): Prof. Stangl
Credits: 3

Tuesday 3:30-6:00                                                                                          Cocke 108

Many philosophers associated with the virtue ethical revival of the twentieth century have suggested that it is a mistake to focus our moral reflection principally on such thin ethical notions as the right and the good.  Insight is as likely, if not more likely, to emerge from reflections on the thick ethical concepts of the virtues and vices.  This course takes up this suggestion, and focuses on a number of the particular virtues and vices.  Of special interest will be those character traits whose status as a virtue or a vice is contested: anger and forgiveness, loyalty and patriotism, modesty and pride. 

                             

PHIL 7575 | SCIENTIFIC ONTOLOGY AND THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF SCIENCE

Professor(s): Prof. Humphreys
Credits: 3

Monday 1:00-3:30                                                      Cocke 108

This seminar will examine recent literature on a set of core topics in the philosophy of science. The course will be structured around Anjan Chakravartty’s recent book Scientific Ontology: Integrating Naturalized Metaphysics and Voluntarist Epistemology, but we shall often use the text as an excuse to wander into adjacent topics that look interesting. To achieve that, journal articles from the last few years, and an occasional classic, will be assigned and discussed. Course requirements will be a) a 2000 word mid-semester paper, b) a 4000 word final paper, and c) a short(ish) class presentation. The seminar will not presuppose any particular previous knowledge of the philosophy of science. Sessions will all be online and synchronous. More information is available, if needed, at pwh2a@virginia.edu

PHIL 7770 | POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: STATE LEGITIMACY

Professor(s): Prof. Adams
Credits: 3

Tuesday 3:30-6:00                                                     Cocke 108

State Legitimacy: States are the dominant form of political institution in our world. Do states have the right to exist? To coercively enforce the law? To be obeyed? To crush dissent? To our loyalty and allegiance? Under what conditions? In this course we will investigate the nature of state legitimacy as a political problem, historical and contemporary theories of state legitimacy, and challenges thereto. We aim for a holistic and comprehensive understanding of this core issue in modern political philosophy.

PHIL 8320 | CONTEMPORARY EPISTEMOLOGY

Professor(s): Prof. Langsam
Credits: 3

Thursday 3:30-6:00                                            

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 will look at dogmatism/phenomenal conservatism (Pryor, Huemer, Chudnoff, Markie, Smithies), BonJour’s contemporary version of classical foundationalism, Hill and Greco on perceptual experience and reliabilism, and McDowell’s epistemological disjunctivism. 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, and some recent treatments of the speckled hen problem (e.g., Sosa, Smithies).