Course Descriptions

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Professor Diane Michelfelder teaching outside Old Main.

Philosophy

PHIL 100 - Introduction to Philosophy

An introduction to philosophy through topics found in classical philosophical writings, such as the nature of truth and knowledge, mind and body, freedom and determinism, right and wrong, and the existence of God. Course content varies from instructor to instructor. Specific course descriptions will be available in the department prior to registration.

Frequency: Every semester.

PHIL 110 - Critical Thinking

This course introduces and explores the main principles and methods of Critical Thinking: distinguishing between good and bad arguments; identifying common fallacies; developing strong and persuasive arguments; the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning; constructing logical proofs; the nature of scientific, moral, and legal reasoning; evaluating polls and statistical hypotheses; understanding probability; deciding how to act under uncertainty. Students will apply these principles and methods to numerous academic and 'everyday' contexts, including journals, the print press, blogs, political rhetoric, advertising and documentaries. We will regularly reflect upon more broadly philosophical matters related to Critical Thinking - such as the nature of truth and objectivity and the distinction between science and pseudo-science - and examine a number of intriguing philosophical paradoxes. Students will improve their skills in writing clear and compelling argumentative papers and critically analyzing the writings of others. Course work includes reading, class discussion, regular homework assignments, quizzes, and short argumentative essays.

Frequency: Every year.

PHIL 111 - Introduction to Symbolic Logic

An introduction to formal methods for evaluating deductive arguments. Topics include formal fallacies, decision procedures, translation of arguments to argument forms, and natural deduction proofs in propositional and predicate logic.

Frequency: Every year.

PHIL 121 - Ethics

An introductory philosophy course that concentrates on concepts and issues, such as the nature of value, duty, right and wrong, the good life, human rights, social justice, and applications to selected problems of personal and social behavior. Topics may include liberty and its limitations, civil disobedience, abortion, affirmative action, capital punishment, terrorism and the morality of war, animal rights and environmental ethics.

Frequency: Every semester.

PHIL 194 - Topics Course

Varies by semester. Consult the department or class schedule for current listing.

PHIL 200 - Ancient and Medieval Philosophies

A study of major philosophers of ancient Greece, Rome and the medieval period, including the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas.

Frequency: Every year.

Cross-Listed as

CLAS 200

PHIL 201 - Modern Philosophy

A study of the 17th and 18th century philosophers, including the Empiricists, Rationalists, and Kant. The course considers issues regarding skepticism, justification, freedom of the will, personal identity, perception and the existence of God.

Frequency: Every year.

PHIL 202 - American Philosophy

Is there a distinct American worldview, or merely a confluence of intellectual traditions originating beyond and before the USA? This course explores the diverse intellectual strains that have contributed to the development of American philosophy in the last three centuries, including influences that have been somewhat neglected: the American Indian thought of Arthur Parker and Zit Kala Za (Gertie Bonnin); the puritan theology of Jonathan Edwards; the political theory of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson; the African American philosophy of
W.E.B. DuBois and Alain Locke; the transcendentalism of R. W. Emerson and H.D. Thoreau; the 'classical' pragmatism of C.S. Peirce and William James; the 'radical' pragmatism of John Dewey and Jane Adams. Special attention will be given to American conceptions of justice, freedom, democracy, religiosity, nature, pragmatism, progress and self-reliance.

Frequency: Every other year.

PHIL 210 - Existentialist Metaphysics

"All living is one's own living, feeling oneself live, knowing oneself to be existing, where knowing does not imply intellectual knowledge or any special wisdom but is that surprising presence which one's life has for every one of us" (Jose Ortega y Gasset). For those thinkers whose work is associated with the philosophical tradition of existentialism, the understanding of human existence represents a singular gateway to the understanding of being, the general object of the study of metaphysics. But just what does it mean to exist? In this course, we will reflectively consider responses to this and other questions that play a key role within existentialist metaphysics. Typically, readings will be drawn from works by philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Jose Ortega y Gassett.

Frequency: Offered alternate years.

Prerequisite(s)

Familiarity with the history of European philosophy recommended

PHIL 211 - Indian Philosophies

An introductory study of some of the great philosophers and philosophical problems of the Indian philosophical tradition focusing on Buddhist and Hindu philosophical debate from the time of the Buddha to around 1000 CE. Topics will include the role of philosophy in the Indian intellectual and religious tradition; Indian logic; the relationship between philosophy and practice (yoga, meditation); what counts as knowledge (pramana theory); ultimate truth versus conventional truth; Buddhist/Hindu debate on the nature of persons, rebirth and karma; competing theories of reality (momentariness, emptiness, non-dualism, realism) and methodologies of cross-cultural philosophy. Students will learn the basic Sanskrit terminology of Indian philosophy and will work with primary source material in translation.

Frequency: Every year.

Cross-Listed as

ASIA 211

PHIL 212 - Philosophy of Religion

Philosophical analysis of problems in religion and theology such as arguments for the existence of God and the nature of religious knowledge. The Philosophy of Religion seeks an understanding of religion by raising philosophical questions about its underlying assumptions and implications. When we believe something it is because we think it is true and because we think we have good evidence to support our belief. In the case of religious beliefs, however, we are immediately faced with questions concerning the nature of such beliefs. What claims do they make? What would count as good evidence for a religious belief? What is the nature of religious truth? In this course we will examine the nature of religious beliefs and the ways in which philosophers in different traditions have justified or argued against such beliefs. Perhaps in response to the increasing challenge to religion from the natural sciences, twentieth century philosophers have questioned the traditional philosophical approach to religion. Some philosophers, Wittgenstein for example, question traditional interpretations of religious language and re-examine the relationship between faith and reason. Can religious life be practiced without a theology or with skepticism or agnosticism regarding theological questions? Other topics covered in the course include the attempt to introduce intelligent design into public schools as part of the science curriculum; religious pluralism; the belief in life after death; and feminist critiques of religious language.

Frequency: Alternate years.

PHIL 213 - Philosophy of Mind

Materialism, rather than solving the problem of mind, consciousness and intentionality, has spawned numerous philosophical perplexities. This course will examine a variety of philosophical problems associated with contemporary models of the mind (mind/body dualism; mind/brain identity theories; behaviorism; functionalism and artificial intelligence; eliminative naturalism and folk psychology; biological naturalism). The course will also look at contemporary philosophical accounts of personhood and personal identity, particularly narrative accounts of the self. Readings will typically include David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, Owen Flanagan, Derek Parfit, Marya Schechtman, John Searle, Galen Strawson, and Kathleen Wilkes.

Cross-Listed as

NEUR 313

PHIL 214 - Darwin/Nietzsche/Freud

We all have values; but what are they based on? Perhaps no two thinkers have asked this question as persistently and approached it with such intrepid originality as Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. Writing in an age when religious belief had lost credence as a foundation for ethics, Nietzsche and Freud confronted the groundlessness of value systems while recognizing the impossibility of living without them. Both were reacting to Darwin's discovery of natural selection, which dispelled nature's divine aura and inaugurated what Nietzsche would call the "death of God." The course explores the challenges to value judgments in the wake of Darwin and attempted solutions to them, centering on the four domains of ethics, subjectivity, aesthetics, and cultural value. Readings will include excerpts from Darwin's The Origin of Species; Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals, The Gay Science, and the texts posthumously published as The Will to Power; Freud's Totem and Taboo, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Beyond the Pleasure Principle; as well as other works.

Frequency: Alternate years.

Cross-Listed as

GERM 314

PHIL 215 - Philosophy of Sport

Sports and games deserve close philosophical examination since they have always played an important part in human life. We first ask what exactly sports, games and athletics are, and how they are distinct from other modes of life. Next, we consider the main arguments for and against sports. For example, does sport promote virtue and 'fair-play' or, on the contrary, aggression and egoism? It is often said that sport is an essential part of the 'well-rounded' life and a liberal arts education. But why are well-rounded lives, and liberal arts educations, good? We will explore numerous ethical and conceptual issues that arise within sports, such as cheating and 'sportsmanship', violence and injury, doping and enhancement, and gender and racial equity. And we will consider whether sports can help us gain insight into more general philosophical concepts, such as virtue, justice, health, embodiment, friendship, consciousness, absurdity, death, and beauty. Our ultimate concern will be: what is the place of sport and games in a good and meaningful human life? Is it possible that life itself is a game? Along with numerous philosophical readings, contemporary and historical, we will also discuss philosophical treatments of sports in literature and film.

Frequency: Every other year.

PHIL 220 - Bioethics

Bioethics deals with a variety of ethical issues arising in the context of medical care and biomedical research. These issues include informed consent, euthanasia, reproductive rights, confidentiality, and the distribution of health care resources. The course uses ethical theory to shed light on issues in medicine, and issues in medicine to illuminate ethical theory.

Frequency: Alternate years.

Prerequisite(s)

PHIL 121 or permission of instructor.

PHIL 221 - Environmental Ethics

Emerging in the 1970s, the field of environmental ethics began by sparking a rich line of philosophical inquiry largely focused on the moral status of the natural world and the non-human entities within it. What reasons do we have to give moral consideration to the environment? And what do we mean when we say we have a moral duty toward the environment? Do we have moral duties to individuals within a species, or to species themselves, or to ecosystems, or to...? This course will invite you to reflect on key philosophical works that engage these and related questions. You will also have the opportunity to think about significant emerging topics in environmental ethics. Depending on the semester, these may include the debate over the ethics of wilderness preservation; the challenges of expanding environmental ethics to address issues of global climate change and resource sustainability; environmental rights; and environmental justice.

Cross-Listed as

ENVI 221

PHIL 222 - Philosophy of Human Rights

Although human rights play an obviously important international role, philosophers have found human rights puzzling and difficult to justify. What does it mean to say a person has a moral right or a human right? What is the relationship between human rights stated in international covenants and human rights that are said to be morally binding? Aside from questions about the nature of human rights, the course will consider possible justifications for human rights, both legal and moral, as well as arguments that ther are no human rights. The course will take up the issue of whether it is possible to adopt human rights while respecting the diversity of human cultures, religions, and moral views.

Frequency: Alternate years.

PHIL 223 - Health and Human Rights

Human rights and healthcare are intimately connected. Human rights are used both to protect human subjects in biomedical research and to support claims for adequate healthcare. The use of human rights to protect human research subjects raises issues of informed consent, privacy, and individual autonomy. The use of human rights to secure healthcare resources raises issues about what level of healthcare ought to be supported and what constitutes a just distribution of healthcare resources. The course also explores recent work on the way in which human rights and public health combine in the quest to secure overall wellbeing. In general the course views public health through the framework of human rights.

Frequency: Alternate years.

PHIL 224 - Philosophy of Law

An analysis of fundamental legal concepts and the problems of justifying various legal practices. Topics may include the relationship between law and morality, the distinction between the criminal and civil law, theories of constitutional and statutory interpretation, and the appropriate role of the judiciary.

Frequency: Alternate years.

PHIL 225 - Ethics and the Internet

This course looks at ethical questions connected with the internet as we know it today: an online environment where content is generated and shared through user activities such as blogging, media sharing, social networking, tagging, tweeting, virtual world gaming, wiki developing, and the like. We will start by considering debates over freedom of speech, privacy, surveillance, and intellectual property: issues that pre-exist the development of the Internet, but which because of it have taken on new dimensions. From here we will go on to take up some ethical questions arising from four different domains of activity on the social web: gaming, social networking, blog/wiki developing, and "hacktivism." In the third part of the course, we will consider broad questions connected to the integration of the Internet with devices other than the personal computer and mobile phone and which open the prospect of a world of integrated networked systems. What are some of the impacts of such integration on our everyday ethical relations with others and on the overall quality of our lives? How does being networked affect the meaning of being human?

Frequency: Offered alternate years.

Cross-Listed as

COMP 154 

PHIL 294 - Topics Course

Varies by semester. Consult the department or class schedule for current listing.

PHIL 300 - 20th Century Continental Philosophy

Close reading, reflection, and analysis of a work or works associated with a major figure or movement within the tradition of twentieth-century Continental philosophy.

Frequency: Offered alternate years.

Prerequisite(s)

one course in the history of philosophy or permission of instructor.

PHIL 310 - Philosophy of Science

Are quarks "real"? Does science lead to objective knowledge? Is there really a scientific method? How do we distinguish between creation "science" and evolution; or astrology and astronomy? These questions are asked in philosophy of science, which studies the fundamental processes, principles, and presuppositions of the natural sciences. The social and historical contexts of the sciences are also considered. Topics include: science vs. pseudoscience, scientific explanation, scientific revolutions, the philosophy of space and time, the theory of evolution, theories of confirmation, objectivity in science, and realism vs. relativism.

Frequency: Alternate years.

Prerequisite(s)

PHIL 111, PHIL 100, or permission of the instructor.

PHIL 311 - Philosophy of Language

What is language and what is it for? What makes a series of sounds into a meaningful sentence? What makes a sentence true? Why is language always changing? This course will introduce students to ways in which twentieth century philosophers have attempted to provide answers to such questions. Since the philosophy of language has been so crucial to contemporary philosophy, this course also serves as an introduction to philosophical thought from the beginning of twentieth century to the present. Topics will range from more technical problems (theories of meaning, reference and truth; synonymy and analyticity; universals and natural kinds; private languages) to broader issues examining the relationship between language and culture (language games; radical interpretation; social change). Readings typically include writings by Ludwig Wittgenstein, W.V. Quine, John Searle, Donald Davidson, Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault, and bell hooks.

Frequency: Alternate years.

Prerequisite(s)

PHIL 201, or permission of instructor.

Cross-Listed as

LING 311

PHIL 312 - Philosophy of Mathematics

Why does 2 + 2 equal four? Can a diagram prove a mathematical truth? Is mathematics a social construction or do mathematical facts exist independently of our knowing them? Philosophy of mathematics considers these sorts of questions in an effort to understand the logical and philosophical foundations of mathematics. Topics include mathematical truth, mathematical reality, and mathematical justifications (knowledge). Typically we focus on the history of mathematics of the past 200 years, highlighting the way philosophical debates arise in mathematics itself and shape its future.

Frequency: Alternate years.

Prerequisite(s)

PHIL 111, MATH 136, or permission of the instructor.

Cross-Listed as

MATH 212

PHIL 313 - Advanced Symbolic Logic

A second course in symbolic logic which extends the methods of logic. A main purpose of this course is to study logic itself-to prove things about the system of logic learned in the introductory course. This course is thus largely logic about logic. Topics include second order logic and basic set theory; soundness, consistency and completeness of first order logic; incompleteness of arithmetic; Turing computability; modal logic; and intuitionistic logic.

Frequency: Alternate years.

Prerequisite(s)

PHIL 111, MATH 136, or permission of instructor.

Cross-Listed as

MATH 313

PHIL 314 - Contemporary Metaphysics and Epistemology

Am I free? Is time an illusion? How can I know what is real? Metaphysics and epistemology are concerned with such fundamental questions about reality and knowledge. This class investigates contemporary research in these core areas of philosophy. Likely topics in metaphysics: freedom, causality, time, fictional or possible objects, moral realism, the origin and structure of the universe. Likely topics in epistemology: realism and relativism, theories of justification, perception, epistemic values and duties, naturalized and experimental epistemology. We will also consider certain questions in meta-philosophy: what is the aim of philosophy? what is philosophical method: what is the relation between philosophy and other disciplines? This class will be conducted seminar-style.

Frequency: Every other year.

Prerequisite(s)

A 100- or 200- level Philosophy course

PHIL 321 - Contemporary Social and Political Philosophy

This course will focus on some central topics in contemporary Anglo-American (or "analytic") social and political philosophy. Likely topics would include an examination of John Rawls's theory of justice and the work of critics of that theory, the value of equality, and issues about global justice.

Frequency: Every other year.

Prerequisite(s)

A 100- or 200- level Philosophy course

PHIL 394 - Topics Course

Varies by semester. Consult the department or class schedule for current listing.

PHIL 488 - Seminar: Topics

A study of some movement, philosopher or problem in the tradition of Western philosophy. Primarily for juniors or seniors majoring, or doing significant work, in philosophy.

Frequency: Offered on an occasional basis.

Prerequisite(s)

permission of instructor.

PHIL 489 - Senior Seminar

A capstone experience in philosophy for senior majors and others with sufficient background. Recent topics have included: realism vs. anti-realism, pragmatism, normativity, and Wittengenstein. The topics are usually addressed from various points of view and may involve several members of the department in some of the instruction. One aim of the course is for participants to get an overview of their major field by examining the fruitfulness of various ways of doing philosophy. It is also an opportunity for seniors to present for discussion their senior papers, written for this or for some other course.

Frequency: Every fall.

Prerequisite(s)

Philosophy major and senior status, or permission of instructor.

PHIL 494 - Topics Course

Varies by semester. Consult the department or class schedule for current listing.

PHIL 601 - Tutorial

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 602 - Tutorial

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 603 - Tutorial

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 604 - Tutorial

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 611 - Independent Project

The number of independent studies to be applied toward the major or core will be determined in consultation with the department.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 612 - Independent Project

The number of independent studies to be applied toward the major or core will be determined in consultation with the department.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 613 - Independent Project

The number of independent studies to be applied toward the major or core will be determined in consultation with the department.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 614 - Independent Project

The number of independent studies to be applied toward the major or core will be determined in consultation with the department.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 621 - Internship

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Internship Office.

PHIL 622 - Internship

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Internship Office.

PHIL 623 - Internship

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Internship Office.

PHIL 624 - Internship

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Internship Office.

PHIL 631 - Preceptorship

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Academic Programs.

PHIL 632 - Preceptorship

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Academic Programs.

PHIL 633 - Preceptorship

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Academic Programs.

PHIL 634 - Preceptorship

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor. Work with Academic Programs.

PHIL 641 - Honors Independent

Independent research, writing, or other preparation leading to the culmination of the seniors honors project.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 642 - Honors Independent

Independent research, writing, or other preparation leading to the culmination of the seniors honors project.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 643 - Honors Independent

Independent research, writing, or other preparation leading to the culmination of the seniors honors project.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.

PHIL 644 - Honors Independent

Independent research, writing, or other preparation leading to the culmination of the seniors honors project.

Frequency: Every semester.

Prerequisite(s)

Permission of instructor.