Professors Hight, Wilson; Assistant Professor Dale.
Chair: Patrick A. Wilson

PHILOSOPHY 101. (3) CRITICAL THINKING. What exactly is wrong with concluding that a team will be competitive because each of its players is skilled? Or that astrology must work because it’s been practiced for thousands of years? Critical thinking is a tool for analyzing these sorts of fallacies, for sifting fact from nonsense, for learning to think for oneself and about one’s life, and for fully engaging as a well-informed citizen. In a competitive world, the ability to think critically gives anyone a valuable edge over candidates for jobs in almost any field. The course is pitched to the beginning student, with absolutely no prior knowledge presupposed. It involves sustained discussion of examples of good and bad reasoning. Grades are based primarily on quizzes, homework, and tests. There are no papers. The course’s aim is to provide an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating environment in which to hone skills and prepare for a life of independent thinking. Prerequisite: none. Offered: most semesters.

PHILOSOPHY 102. (3) INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY. Does God exist? What makes life meaningful? How to explain consciousness? Am I somehow (how?) one and the same being over time? Could a computer think? What makes a person a person? What is the source of morality? And what does morality require of me? If I want to be a good man and good citizen, how should I live my life? This course welcomes students to the practice of philosophy via a careful examination of questions such as these. Be ready to think hard about your basic beliefs—and to be unsettled. Prerequisite: none. Offered: each semester.

PHILOSOPHY 201. (3) LOGIC. The ability to think critically and recognize unsound reasoning is fundamental to a liberal education and valuable in graduate and law school, as well as a wide variety of occupations. This course provides a traditional introduction to propositional logic and proof methods, accompanied periodically by an introduction to categorical and/or predicate logic. Prerequisite: none. Offered: each semester.

PHILOSOPHY 210. (3) ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHY. Emphasizing the thought of Plato and Aristotle, this course seeks to develop intellectual virtues in students today by examining the views of early western philosophers from the pre-Socratics through the medieval era. The course is typically the second course students take in philosophy but is suitable for any student seeking to improve his critical thinking skills. Prerequisite: none. Offered: fall semester.

PHILOSOPHY 211. (3) MODERN PHILOSOPHY: RATIONALISTS. Our contemporary ways of thinking (in science, religion, and elsewhere) are built upon the foundations of early modern thinkers such as Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, and Malebranche. This course examines the philosophy of the early modern tradition known as rationalism, engaging questions about the nature of the mind, whether the material world has empty space, the nature of identity, monads, and more! Prerequisite: one course in philosophy or consent of the instructor. Offered: spring semester of evennumbered years.

PHILOSOPHY 212. (3) MODERN PHILOSOPHY: EMPIRICISTS AND KANT. This course examines the philosophy of the early modern tradition known as empiricism, focusing on the work of Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Reid. It concludes by engaging Kant’s response to his predecessors. Topics include personal identity, arguments as to why material substance does not exist, and intriguing discussions about the limits of human knowledge. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy or consent of the instructor. Offered: spring semester of odd-numbered years.

PHILOSOPHY 216. (3) PHILOSOPHY OF POLITICAL ECONOMY. Under what circumstances is a government legitimate? For example, must a government guarantee rights? When is it politically appropriate to use authorized coercion in the service of the state? This course explores the intersection of political and economic theory as applied to the nature and functioning of contemporary states. The course focuses on contemporary work in political economy, which might include rights theory, democratic theory, public choice theory, theory of constitutions and more. Prerequisite: none. Offered: the fall of even numbered years.

PHILOSOPHY 217. (3) PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION. The tenets of various religions and the phenomenon of religion itself raise deep philosophical questions: Can God’s existence be proven? Why does God allow suffering? How central are humans to creation? What gives rise to religious experience? As an investigation of foundational questions in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, this course will appeal to believers and nonbelievers alike. Prerequisite: none. Offered: spring semester of odd-numbered years.

PHILOSOPHY 218. (3) PHILOSOPHY OF ART. What makes art “art”? Indeed, can “art” be defined at all? What is the difference between various types of art—a piece of music versus a sculpture, say? What is beauty? Are judgments regarding artworks and beauty subjective or objective? Is art important and valuable? Should the state support art and artists? What is the relation between art and morality? Should art ever be censored? Can you imagine a case where you would respond in the affirmative and, say, picket in front of a museum? In this course we’ll think about questions such as these—questions that will appeal to artist and non-artist alike. Prerequisite: none. Offered: on sufficient demand.

PHILOSOPHY 304. (3) NINETEENTH-CENTURY PHILOSOPHY. Is the world a fundamentally rational place? What is our role in such a world and how might we change it? Such questions are engaged in this course, which focuses on the thought of Hegel and Marx. The remainder of the course considers the views of philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Mill. Prerequisite: Rhetoric 102. Offered: fall semester of even-numbered years.

PHILOSOPHY 305. (3) CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY. Can there be two distinct material objects in the same place at the same time? How do words get their meanings and refer to the world? What are colors, and where are they located? What is consciousness, and what sorts of beings possess it? What does it mean to know anything, and how does that differ from being certain about things? What is the most just way to organize society? This course engages relatively recent work on these and similarly pressing questions. Typically the course content is shaped by student interest. Prerequisite: Rhetoric 102. Offered: fall semester of odd-numbered years.

PHILOSOPHY 312. (3) PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE. Modern science employs uniquely effective methods for obtaining knowledge of the natural world. This course explores the philosophical foundations of science: What does it mean for evidence to confirm a theory? For a theory to explain a phenomenon? What constitutes a scientific theory in the first place? Does the nature of science change through history? In this course students reflect on how science works and why it works so well. Prerequisite: Rhetoric 102. Offered: fall semester of even-numbered years.

PHILOSOPHY 313. (3) SCIENCE AND RELIGION. Does the Big Bang entail creation from nothing? Are rational beings central to the development of the universe or the evolution of life? Is any purpose evident in that development or evolution? Do explanations involving intelligent design conflict with those by natural selection? Questions like these motivate this course, which will appeal to students interested in religion, science, or any of the numerous philosophical questions to which these subjects give rise. Prerequisite: Rhetoric 102. Offered: on sufficient demand.

PHILOSOPHY 314. (3) ETHICS. Are all actions self-interested? Is altruism possible? How to explain human nature? Is it fixed and constant? Or might human nature change across time? Just how and why do others matter? (Or do they?) Is morality founded in reason or emotion? What are the virtues? What is happiness? How should I live my life? This course addresses these and other basic questions—questions at once both fun and challenging—in philosophical ethics. Prerequisite: Rhetoric 102. Offered: fall semester.

PHILOSOPHY 316. (3) SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. If persons are equal, how can anyone have legitimate political authority over others? Who defines justice, freedom, and equality? Where do rights come from, and what are the limits of tolerance? Which social and political institutions are worth defending? This course encourages students to think critically about the nature of human society, the role of the individual vis-à-vis the group, and the legitimacy of the state. Prerequisite: Rhetoric 102. Offered: spring semester.

PHILOSOPHY 411-413. (3-3-3) CAPSTONE SEMINAR. A capstone sequence, required for junior and senior philosophy majors, which usually focuses on an individual philosopher or issue in some depth. The seminar format encourages especially close reading of seminal texts, prompts vigorous discussions of the same, and develops students’ facility in the conventions of philosophical research. Students also have the special opportunity to work closely—discussing their ideas one on one and honing the arguments of their individual research essays—with two visiting scholars, both of whom are experts on the topic of the seminar. The capstone sequence is an exciting and fitting culmination of our majors’ experience in the department. Prerequisite: major in philosophy or consent of the instructor. Offered: 412 in spring semester of even-numbered years; 413 in spring semester of odd-numbered years.

updated 8/8/23