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Course Descriptions

Philosophy Courses

PHIL 100: Justice in the Shadows: Batman

Justice in the Shadows: Batman and Philosophy. "I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman." From the Golden Age (1939-1960s) to the Rebirth Era (2016-present), Bat-Man's profoundly human, all too human evolution has captured the popular imagination like no other superhero. The Avenger of the Night exemplifies the complexity of the human spirit in a manner unparalleled in the world of comics. This course examines the philosophical dimensions of the Dark Knight's graphic novels. We explore the fear and loathing that both plagues Gotham and gives birth to the World's Greatest Detective. Additionally, we venture into the rich cultural iconography of the Caped Crusader in television, film, and the animated series. This course offers students a unique opportunity to sharpen their skills in public speaking, literary and philosophical analysis, creative expression, and multimedia presentation. Some of the key questions we answer include: What is Batman's ethical code? What do Batman's villains tell us about the human condition? How did the death of Batman's parents move him towards fighting crime rather than becoming a criminal himself? Unmask the philosophy behind the hero and gain a deeper understanding of the multifaceted world of the Gotham Guardian. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 110: Introduction to Philosophy

(Introduction to Philosophy: Classical Questions.) Examination of perennial philosophical issues, such as questions about the nature of reality and how we can know it, discussions of human nature, the meaning of life, and our moral responsibilities. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)


PHIL 112: Civilization and Barbarism

This course examines the issue of violence and its relation to cultural rules and principles. We look at violence from two angles: its destructive and generating power and the rich cultural meanings it reveals. We look at civilization as a system of rules that govern human conduct united under a highly selective set of guiding principles. The central theme of this course is to study how the pressure of violence will give rise to different rules of human conduct subsumed under a few major principles. We will study those rules and principles through the actions in order to gain a basic understanding of the fundamental ways culture and civilization shape human behavior. Not open to students who have taken FIYS 182. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 114: Introduction to Global Philosophies

This course studies how various philosophies around the world configure the composition of the universe and the place of humans within that composition. With an understanding of how humans stand in relation to nature, divinity, or evil, we are able to locate how these philosophies鈥 insights impact categorically human pursuits, such as knowledge, morality, and governance. We study texts from Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, Native American Indigenous, Africana, and postcolonial LatinX traditions. In addition to discussing these traditions directly, we also address methodological topics relating to objectivity, cultural relativism, and colonial hegemony. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Global Perspective.)


PHIL 117: Political Philosophy

By tracing the development of political philosophy from its roots in Greek philosphy through the social contract tradition to modern liberalism and critiques of colonialism, this course will examine a number of questions central to political philosophy. What is the state? What model of government is best? What is the nature of political rights? How do governments gain legitimate authority? Readings will include Socrates, Plato, Locke, Mill, Marx, Martin Luther King Jr., Rawls, Nozick, Chomsky, Churchill, and Galeano. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)


PHIL 118: Why Philosophy Matters

We will examine ethical issues related to topics like killing, family, sex, race relations, and the state. Some of the questions we will explore include: Is killing in war wrong? Is abortion wrong? Is prostitution wrong? Is same-sex marriage wrong? Are reparations for slavery wrong? We will not only learn why philosophy matters when it comes to those views we hold most dear, but we will also learn how philosophers argue for their views and, in turn, how we should go about arguing for our own. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)


PHIL 120: BK's Finest: JAY-Z and Philosophy

(Brooklyn's Finest: JAY-Z and Philosophy.) From growing up in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn to selling out concerts at Madison Square Garden, JAY-Z has become a global hip-hop icon. Besides being the first rap artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and holding the record for the most number one albums by a solo artist, JAY-Z's body of work stands as a monumental contribution to American culture. In this course, we explore the poetics and philosophy of JAY-Z's music. As we cultivate an artistic appreciation for JAY-Z's rap skills such as storytelling, wordplay, and delivery, we also treat his music as an opportunity to critically engage topics such as racism, sexism, and economic inequality. Finally, we watch several of JAY-Z's music videos as well as documentaries focused on his life and work. No prerequisites. .
cross listed: AFAM 120


PHIL 130: Introduction to Cognitive Science

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of the mind. This project requires tools developed in experimental psychology, philosophy, computer science, artificial intelligence, linguistics, behavioral economics, neuroscience, and many other disciplines. This course introduces students to the major tools, theories, and findings from these disciplines' study of the mind. As such, it surveys various topics in cognitive science such as perception, memory, learning, reasoning, attention, language, intelligence, decision-making, and morality. This is an introductory-level course. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Social Science.)


PHIL 156: Logic and Styles of Arguments

Focus on the 'rhyme and reason' of language. Examination of the reasons arguments are constructed in the ways they are. Investigation of informal, Aristotelian, and propositional logics, with readings from magazine articles, advertisements, and classical philosophers. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Quantitative Reasoning.)


PHIL 200: Philosophy & Gender

What is gender? Is it the same as one's sex? Is it inborn or learned? In this course, we'll investigate these questions, as well as how gender differences do or ought to change our theories of human existence and human good. A comparison of classical, modern, and postmodern treatments of the effect of gender on love, knowledge, and ethical obligation. Reading may include Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Mary Shelley, Freud, de Beauvoir, and Irigaray. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: GSWS 200


PHIL 203: Business & Professional Ethics

This course examines the moral and ethical implications of our participation in the economy in a myriad of roles (consumers, workers, property owners, professionals, sellers/retailers/providers, members of society, and stakeholders more broadly). Course materials range from theoretical and classical to contemporary scholarship on particular cases to media. Goals for the course may include: reflecting on the way human nature underwrites our economic structures, determining characteristics and limits of morally beneficial relationships and interactions, critiquing socioeconomic arrangements in our contemporary sphere. (This course satisfies Humanities and Speaking Intensive.)


PHIL 205: Medical Ethics

The course will investigate the three primary strands of medical ethics: (1) issues of professional responsibility, such as confidentiality and informed consent, (2) moral dilemmas that arise in the course of treatment, such as decisions about euthanasia, and (3) public policy matters, such as universal health care. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 206: Letters to a Young Blk Philosopher

(Letters to a Young Black Philosopher.) This course examines the work of a single Black philosopher or a philosopher whose work is centered on the Black experience. We treat their entire body of work as a "love letter" to the next generation of Black philosophers and anyone who wishes to learn about the Black experience. We will study philosophers such as Charles Mills, Cornel West, Anita Allen, W. E. B. Du Bois, Bernard Boxill, Martin Luther King Jr., Joy James, Lewis Gordon, and Lucius Outlaw. Students explore the arc of a Black philosopher's philosophical development from their first efforts to their last or most recent. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: AFAM 206


PHIL 208: Death

What is death? When do we die? How should we think about our own death? How should we react to the death of others? Is death good or bad for the one who dies? Is death permanent? If not, is immortality desirable? As an introduction to the philosophy of death, this course considers classic and contemporary answers to these enduring questions. Students learn how to think carefully and deeply about the philosophical issues and problems surrounding death. At the same time, they are invited to contemplate the value and meaning of their lives in relation to their own mortality. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 210: Environmental Ethics

Examination of relationships between human beings and nature, drawing on literature, religion, and natural science as well as philosophy. What views have shaped our current perceptions, concerns, uses, and misuses of the natural world? What creative alternatives can we discover? How can these be applied to the practical problems of environmental ethics? No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Global Perspective.)
cross listed: ES 210


PHIL 212: Multicultural Approaches Environmnt

The central theme of this course is Humans and Nature. We will examine various motifs in the creation myths from different cultures, the images of man and woman, the theme of primeval flood or its absence, the alienation of humans from nature, and the beliefs (e.g., Chinese numerology) in the synchronicity between human affairs and natural events. We will search for answers to the following typical questions: What is the definition of environment? What is and ought to be the relation between humans and nature? What count as 'environmental issues' and what are their possible solutions? No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Global Perspective.)


PHIL 220: Philosophy of Education

Survey of significant theories of education, introduction to philosophical analysis of educational concepts, and development of analytical skills applicable to clarifying and resolving pedagogical and policy issues. (This course satisfies Humanities.)
cross listed: EDUC 220


PHIL 222: The Humanist Ethics of AI

(The Humanist Ethics of Artificial Intelligence) This course is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work effectively with AI in their future careers. It emphasizes the ethical development of AI, the advancement of technology in a manner that is equitable and just, and the importance of fostering meaningful collaborations between humans and AI systems. The curriculum delves into the relationship between AI and the humanistic tradition, drawing from interdisciplinary sources that focus on historical and practical questions, with a strong emphasis on ethics, justice, and fairness. The course explores questions of bias and safety in AI as those issues are connected to the humanist tradition. This course meets the Forester Fundamental technology skills requirement, and students directly use AI technology for a significant portion of their coursework.


PHIL 223: Does God Exist?

This course considers arguments for and against the existence of God, as well as the resources and methods those arguments use. After some discussion of logic and argumentation, we will consider questions such as: how could one demonstrate that God does or does not exist? What would constitute 'proof' of such a claim? How are faith and reason working for similar or opposed ends in such arguments? What does the character of arguments for or against God's existence say about human life and thought? To address these questions, we will consider the works of theologians and philosophers from monotheistic traditions.
cross listed: RELG 223


PHIL 225: Philosophy of Science

Examination of issues such as the nature of scientific knowledge, what counts as a 'true' scientific theory, the basis of observation, and empirical knowledge. Consideration of ethical issues generated by scientific practice, the politics of technology, and current work on the sociology of scientific knowledge. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)
cross listed: ES 225


PHIL 230: Philosophy and Literature

This course examines the long-standing tensions and affinities between philosophy and literature. What is the relationship between philosophical truth and story-telling? In what ways and to what degree do literary form and philosophical argument complement or impede one another? What exactly is a philosophical novel, and why exactly do some philosophers make intriguing literary characters, while others do not? We also consider a number of philosophical puzzles to which literature gives rise, puzzles, for example, about the nature of fictional discourse, about audience emotional investment in fictional suffering, and about poetic knowledge. We read a wide variety of philosophical and literary texts, taken from a wide variety of historical eras. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)


PHIL 233: Philosophy of Sport

This course will consider a host of philosophical issues that arise as one ponders sport in general and sports in particular, ranging from definitional questions (e.g., what is a sport?), through general value theory (e.g., is sport valuable, and if so, in what way or ways - and to whom?), to questions of applied ethics and public policy (e.g., what is the justification, if any, for allowing athletes to shorten their life expectancies - sometimes quite dramatically - for the sake of glory or pay or both?). Although many of the questions we will consider may seem simple at first - what for example, is the significance of winning, if any? - on reflection they reveal themselves to be deep and puzzling. The course will thus provide us with a concrete gate through which to access thorny philosophical questions about the nature of - and the complex interplay among - luck, effort, desert, intention, and result. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 235: Philosophy & 1960s Popular Culture

This course offers a demanding tour through the intellectual milieu of the 1960s in the United States. We will read philosophical works, social theory, popular and literary fiction, and occasional pieces of various sorts (speeches, journalism, etc.); we will watch films and television shows; we will listen to music: all with the goal of figuring out not just how people in the 1960s were thinking, but also of understanding how philosophy and popular culture reflected and refracted each other during a particular - and particularly volatile - historical moment. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)
cross listed: AMER 237


PHIL 240: Philosophy of Law

This course considers (1) the nature or concept of law, (2) whether and to what extent there is a duty to obey the law, (3) the nature of legal adjudication, (4) the bases for ascription of legal responsibility for acts or omissions, and (5) the justification or lack thereof for legally assigned punishments. We read philosophical and legal texts, and we also consider a few literary and cinematic representations of law and its discontents. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 242: Catastrophe & Risk: Phil Insurance

(Catastrophe and Risk: The Philosophy of Insurance.) This course examines the institution of insurance philosophically. Beginning with a consideration of the problem of induction, and ranging over philosophical discourses about miracles, apocalypse, and the nature of prediction, the course ponders the ways in which the concept of rationality is shaped, both by our knowledge and by our ignorance. The course explores the concepts of risk and luck, considering the extent to which political and social institutions can and should be used as risk-pooling devices to soften the effects of catastrophe and to buffer the effects of luck. We also pay some attention to insurance law, to the relationship between entrepreneurial projections and actuarial calculations, and to representations of insurance in literature and film. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 245: Philosophy of Humans and Animals

Western philosophers since Aristotle - at least - have claimed that human beings, as a species and alone among species, are capable of complex reasoning. From that premise, they have inferred a wide range of ethical and religious claims, e.g., it is ethically permissible to eat non-human animals. Alternative claims, however, have just as long a history, and in the last twenty or so years there has been a boom in the study of non-human animals and the relationships between humans and non-human animals. Not open to students who have taken Phil 420: Philosophy of Humans and Animals. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 250: Philosophy of Religion

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of religion. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of religious experience, ritual, prayer, and sacred books in articulating the idea of God. Course includes a philosophical encounter with mysticism as well as the more traditional metaphysical formulations of the divine, in both the West and East. The critical concern of a variety of rational skepticisms will also be examined. No prerequisites.
cross listed: RELG 250


PHIL 253: Philosophy of Self: East and West

The course will examine how great thinkers from East and West, ancient and modern times, have tackled the relation between reason, passion, and desire. We will study Plato's tripartite model of the soul, the Stoic monism, especially Chrysippus' theory of desire, and various Eastern concepts such as self-overcoming, unselfing, and self-forgetting. We will also include some basic readings from the scientific discussions on mirror neurons and Antonio Damasio's writings on self and emotion. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Global Perspective.)
cross listed: ASIA 253, IREL 283


PHIL 255: Philosophy of Race and Racism

This course examines philosophical approaches to race and racism. We pay special attention to the normative, metaphysical, and conceptual problems and solutions that inform philosophical race theory. Some of the key questions we answer include the following: Is race a natural kind, a social kind, or something else entirely? What does philosophy have to contribute to the study of race and racism? What is the relationship between race and racism? Ultimately, the aim of this course is to provide students with a philosophical toolkit that will allow them to engage in civil and informed critical discussions about the nature and consequences of race talk and the practice of racism. No prerequisites. (Not recommended for first-year students.) (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: AFAM 255


PHIL 256: Moral Psychology

Trying to understand the nature of morality, philosophers have theorized about the motivations for moral behavior, the cognitive processes behind moral judgment and decision making, and other morally relevant features of cognition. Moral psychologists empirically study moral cognition and inform these on-going philosophical debates. Framed by the major philosophical debates, this course reviews major topics in empirical moral psychology鈥攍ike moral responsibility and blame, intentionality, free will, moral character, cross-cultural disagreement, virtue development, and more鈥攁nd discusses the philosophical implications for ethics, moral cognition, and artificial agency. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Social Science.)
cross listed: PSYC 256


PHIL 258: Fight the Power

(Fight the Power: Spike Lee's Black Aesthetics.) As one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Spike Lee is both loathed and loved. His films challenge the stereotypes and paternalistic assumptions about African Americans that have become sacrosanct in America's popular imagination. We will explore how the aesthetic representation of race, class, and gender in Spike Lee's filmography have helped create a new genre of film called African American noir. In so doing, we will watch several of Spike Lee's films, documentary projects, and television ads. Ultimately, our goal will be to appreciate Lee's cinematic technique, examine his critique of white supremacy, and consider the cultural and historical events that have shaped his artistic vision. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: AFAM 258, CINE 258


PHIL 260: Aesthetics

A consideration of beauty and the nature and purpose of art and aesthetic judgment, through the theories of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Freud, and others. Artworks in different media and historical periods will be used as occasions for reflection. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 262: History of Social Thought

This course will examine some of the classical sources of social thought both in the East and the West. Texts by Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Aquinas, Alfarabi, Confucius, authors of the Vedas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Rousseau will be examined for the seeds of questions that were later to grow into the thicket of sociological problematics. Extensive weekly readings of original sources will be the basis of class discussions. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Social Science.)
cross listed: SOAN 262, CLAS 262


PHIL 265: Philosophy of Love and Emotion

This course explores the nature of love and other emotions. We start the course with a unit on love to address questions such as: How does love for another reconfigure the self? At what point is love narcissistic? How do we distinguish love worthy of the name from its lesser forms (such as love that becomes an exercise of control or fulfilling a social script)? What are the underlying commitments and performances entailed in both traditional forms of love and queer love? How do the structures of race and culture affect our exercise and experience of love? In addition to attending to a range of questions related to romantic love, we will also reflect on other types of emotion (e.g. hatred, desire, empathy, compassion) and their function in key aspects of human life (such as political association, knowing, and morality). Our readings will be diverse, pulling from ancient traditions of the world, contemporary feminist and queer theory, political philosophy, and literary sources. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: GSWS 266


PHIL 270: American Philosophy

American philosophy has a rich and diverse history. With the sometimes conflicting commitments to principles and pragmatism as a focus, the course will investigate topics such as (1) early debates over American political institutions: human rights and democracy versus aristocratic leanings to ensure good government; (2) eighteenth-century idealism (e.g., Royce) and transcendentalism (focusing on moral principle, as reflected in Emerson and Thoreau); (3) American pragmatism in its various forms (Pierce, James, and Dewey); (4) Whitehead and process philosophy; and (5) contemporary manifestations (e.g., human rights, environmental concerns, technology, and struggles with diversity). No prerequisites.
cross listed: AMER 269


PHIL 271: African Philosophy

This course is an introduction to African philosophies, reflecting the continent's vast diversity in languages, religions, and cultures. Such diversity is mirrored in Africa's philosophical landscape. We explore both precolonial and postcolonial philosophical traditions, examining indigenous communities such as the Yoruba, Akan, and Egyptian, alongside contemporary approaches such as African analytic philosophy, hermeneutics, and critical theory. Topics covered in this course include the role of communalism in African philosophical discourse, methodological debates within African philosophy, the significance of African oral philosophies, and the impact of European colonialism on the development of African philosophy. Major philosophers we may study include Kwasi Wiredu, Frantz Fanon, D. A. Masolo, Tsenay Serequeberhan, and Paulin J. Hountondji. (This course satisfies Global Perspective and Writing Intensive.)
cross listed: AFAM 271


PHIL 272: African American Philosophy

This course is an introduction to African American contributions to traditional areas of philosophy, such as metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Simultaneously, it is serves as an introduction to the many ways that the lived experiences of African Americans, from the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the Black Lives Matter Movement, have created new opportunities to challenge traditional philosophical narratives. We pay special attention to the unique ways in which African American philosophical concepts, theories, problems, and methods constitute both a "philosophy born of struggle," as Leonard Harris argues, and a new tradition within Western philosophy. Major philosophers we may study include Cornel West, Angela Davis, Tommy Curry, Joy James, and Alain Locke. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: AFAM 272


PHIL 275: Desire and Discipline: Asian Morals

This course offers a focused historical narrative of the development of Asian moral thinking. It shows, at its early phase, how a particular moral philosopher's thinking (such as Mencius and Xun-zi) is largely determined by his thinking on human nature. However, in later periods, particularly after the importation of Buddhism, the debates on human nature are replaced by an intense cognitive and metaphysical interest in the human mind. Moral cultivation begins to focus less on following moral rules but more on cultivating the mind. The effect of this nature-mind shift on Asian moral thinking is both historically profound and theoretically surprising. Readings: Confucius, Mencius, Xun-zi, Lao zi, Zhuang zi, Zhang Zai, Chen Brothers, Zhu Xi and D. T. Suzuki. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Global Perspective.)
cross listed: ASIA 275, IREL 285


PHIL 276: Social Justice and Human Rights

Examination of the concepts and debates surrounding social justice and human rights, with attention to the arguments between East and West. Applications to current global and domestic issues, such as globalization; poverty and disparities in wealth and opportunity; race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation; political liberties; and genocide. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: ETHC 276, IREL 286


PHIL 277: Identities, Rights, Social Justice

This course explores the philosophical foundations of contemporary understandings of rights and social justice. We study a variety of theoretical frameworks, including classical liberal theory, postcolonial critiques, and local philosophies of indigenous communities. Moreover, we consider the effects of each framework on various claims to identity, whether of an individual person, a group, community, institution, place, or state. We then attempt to apply these frameworks to a number of real-world cases to better understand how rights are deployed and denied in practice. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: ETHC 277, IREL 287


PHIL 280: Capitalism and Its Critics

This course is an introduction to the philosophical and historical treatment of capitalism in its various and current guises, beginning with its origins in 9th-12th century European merchant culture to its current form in contemporary America. This course will explore the definitions of capitalism, the conditions of its historical emergence, the implications of the system for both wealth and welfare, and the contrasting merits or detriments when placed against competing systems. For instance, we will consider Marx's criticism of capitalism and various forms of communism as responses to the system's perceived shortcomings, Piketty's modern diagnosis of social inequality, and post-2008 financial crisis critiques of the system. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 285: Topics in Japanese Thought

The course focuses on the Japanese understanding of nature, life, and history. We will focus on the ideas of fragility, impermanence, and beauty. Students will learn the central ideas of Zen Buddhism. Topics to be covered may include artistic representations in Noh plays, Tea ceremonies, and the Samurai culture. Prerequisite: any course in Asian thought or permission of the instructor. (This course satisfies Humanities and Global Perspective.)
cross listed: ASIA 285, IREL 288


PHIL 290: Ancient Greek聽Philosophy

The 20th century聽philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, once commented that all of Western聽philosophy has been merely a series of footnotes to Plato. What did he mean by this? As I see it, he meant that there are no questions or concerns in Western聽philosophy that were not at least anticipated in the Platonic dialogues. But Plato had formative influences in Socrates and the pre-Socratic聽philosophers. And his most famous pupil, Aristotle, criticized his views almost immediately. We explore in some depth the origins of Western聽philosophy in the ancient Greeks, particularly Plato and Aristotle. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)
cross listed: CLAS 290


PHIL 291: Descartes to Kant

Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European philosophers, with a primary focus on epistemology and metaphysics, including the essence of the mind and its relation to the body. Readings will include Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)
cross listed: NEUR 291


PHIL 294: Philosophy of Language

No pre-requisite is required, but logic is strongly recommended as a gateway for this course. The course will give a general survey of the main issues in philosophy of language of the twentieth century, including questions concerning the relations between meaning and truth, meaning and reference, language and thought, and meaning and meaningfulness. It will introduce some basic concepts and analytical apparatus in the three main branches of language study: semantics, syntax and pragmatics. Reading materials will cover writings by Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Austin, Quine, Davidson, and Kripke. No prerequisites.


PHIL 296: Philosophy of Mind

With the rise of Cognitive Science, Computer Science, and Neuroscience, questions about the nature of mind have become increasingly important, and in the last 40 years much work on philosophy of mind has been done in analytic philosophy. The class will begin with an examination of some of the most influential texts in philosophy of mind from the last 50 years, and then proceed to current topics. Central questions may include: What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Is it possible to offer explanations of mental states by reducing them to biological, chemical, or physical states? Can human consciousness be best explained in terms of a computer model? Is it possible to describe the functioning of human thought in terms of a rule-based system of processing? No prerequisites. (This course satisfies Humanities.)
cross listed: NEUR 296


PHIL 300: Writing Philosophy

In this course, philosophy students strategize with faculty members in the philosophy department about reading, brainstorming, planning arguments, organizing, and writing papers in philosophy, with an eye to strengthening their skills in the discipline. Prerequisite: Declaration of the philosophy major or minor. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)


PHIL 301: Romantic Comedies & Phil of Love

(Romantic Comedies and Philosophy of Love) Why do we like to watch romantic comedies? What's satisfying about them, even when they're not great films? Film theorist Leo Braudy claimed that 'genre [film] 鈥 always involves a complex relation between the compulsions of the past and the freedoms of the present. 鈥 [They] affect their audience 鈥 by their ability to express the warring traditions in society and the social importance of understanding convention.' In this course, following Braudy, we will investigate the relationship between the film genre of romantic comedy and age-old thinking about love, marriage, and romance. We'll read some ancient and modern philosophy of love, as well as some relevant film theory, and watch and discuss an array of romantic comedies, trying to unpack what we really believe about love. Prerequisite: One Philosophy course or permission of the instructor. ('Genre: The Conventions of Connection,' Film Theory and Criticism, eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford U. Press, 538). No prerequisites.
cross listed: GSWS 301, CINE 301


PHIL 302: Philos Issues in Documentary Film

(Philosophical Issues in Documentary Film) What is a documentary film? What does it mean for a movie to be 'non-fiction'? In this course, we will view and discuss a number of documentary films, e.g., those of Robert Flaherty, Leni Riefenstahl, Claude Lanzmann, Albert Maysles, Erroll Morris, and Seth Gordon. We'll also read some aesthetic and film theory, to try to understand what about these films is and is not 'true,' 'good' or 'beautiful.' Prerequisite: One Philosophy course or permission of the instructor.
cross listed: CINE 302


PHIL 304: Philosophy of Film

In this course, students consider the aesthetics of moving pictures: What is most "cinematic" about cinema? What is its relation to reality? Is cinema "high art" or "low art?" What are the secrets behind "movie magic"? What is the function of genre in film? Readings may include Eisenstein, Arnheim, Kracauer, Braudy, Bazin, Cavell, Carroll, Bordwell. Of course, we consider application of theory by viewing a number of movies. Prerequisite: One Philosophy or Cinema Studies course. (This course satisfies Writing Intensive.)
cross listed: CINE 304


PHIL 305: South Asian Philosophy

This course is an in-depth study of a particular topic or tradition within South Asian philosophy. Possible topics include South Asian Buddhist Philosophy, Buddhist Epistemology, and Self or No-Self in South Asia. Students study classical texts, secondary resources, and contemporary scholarship integrating this body of work in ongoing discussions about ethics, cognition, and metaphysics. Prerequisites: Either two philosophy courses, or one philosophy course and one Asian area course. (PHIL 114 recommended before taking this course.) (This course satisfies Global Perspective.)
cross listed: ASIA 305, IREL 385


PHIL 312: Doing Philosophy in the Dark

(Doing Philosophy in the Dark Ages: Introduction to Medieval Philosophy.) This course is an introduction to philosophy in the Middle Ages covering the period from roughly the 5th to the 15th century. Contrary to Petrarch's dismissive claim that this period is the "Dark Ages," we discover some of the most sophisticated accounts of the self and God in western civilization. We read philosophical works from the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions such as Augustine, Anselm, Ibn Rushd, Maimon, Ibn Sina, Aquinas, Dun Scotus, Ockham, and Christine de Pizan. Prerequisites: PHIL 110, 290, or 291, or permission of the instructor. (This course satisfies Global Perspective and Writing Intensive.)


PHIL 315: Soc Ethics Energy Production & Use

(Social Ethics of Energy Production and Use.) The course will explore the ethical implications of possible future energy initiatives. Emphasis will be given to the global implications of interdependency on primary resources and the technological initiatives of nuclear power and alternative sources. Students will focus on independent research projects, with both domestic and international components, surrounding the environmental, social, and ethical issues of future energy production and use. Prerequisite: junior standing or permission of instructor.
cross listed: SOAN 315, ES 315


PHIL 320: Back to the Things Themselves

(Back to the Things Themselves: Husserl, Heidegger, and Derrida.) Twentieth-century continental philosophy, moving from the primacy of lived existence to the problematics of texts. Readings in Husserl, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Buber, Barthes, Derrida, Levinas, Irigaray, and Lyotard. Prerequisite: Two philosophy courses. (This course satisfies Writing Intensive.)


PHIL 322: The Owl and the Hammer

(The Owl and the Hammer: From Hegel to Nietzsche) Arguably, the greatest flourishing of聽philosophy in the Western tradition since the ancient Greeks occurred in the nineteenth century. We study four聽philosophers from this period, namely Hegel (1770-1831), Marx (1818-83), Kierkegaard (1813-55), and Nietzsche (1844-1900). We examine Hegel's idealist metaphysics, Marx's communist vision, Kierkegaard's聽philosophy of religion, and Nietzsche's critique of morality. At the same time, we consider how these聽philosophers wrestled with Kant's聽philosophical legacy, the social and political consequences of the French Revolution, and the rationalist agenda of the Enlightenment. Besides these influences, we also examine how historicism, materialism, and fideism were enduring themes for many nineteenth-century聽philosophers. Our goal, then, is twofold: (1) understand and interrogate聽philosophers from Hegel to Nietzsche and (2) challenge ourselves to provide new answers to the systematic questions they pursued. Prerequisite: PHIL 290 or 291 or permission of instructor. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)


PHIL 325: Major Ethical Theories

Investigation of principal Western theories of ethics. Issues include the foundation of morality in reason or sentiments, the fundamental principles of morality, the relationship of morality to character, and the demands of morality on human action. Readings from philosophers such as Aristotle, Mill, Kant, Noddings, and MacIntyre. Prerequisite: Two philosophy courses.


PHIL 330: History and Philosophy of Slavery

An examination of American slavery and its aftermath from the slave ship to the Age of Neo-slavery. We will read slave narratives, historical accounts of slavery, and philosophical interpretations of slavery from the black radical tradition and contemporary philosophy. All three approaches will provide us with multiple angles from which to consider the institution of slavery and America鈥檚 supposed commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On the whole, our aim will be to wrestle with the tortured logic that is the tragic contradiction of American slavery and American freedom. Prerequisites: AFAM 110, one philosophy course, or permission of the instructor. (This course satisfies Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: AFAM 330


PHIL 341: Existentialism and the Modern Novel

Who am I? What is my place within the universe? Do human beings find or make meaning in their lives? Is meaning even possible in the face of life's absurdities? If so, what constitutes a meaningful life? This course explores these and other big existentialist questions through the lens of the novel, focusing especially on novelists from the nineteenth and twentieth century. Within the course, we compare and contrast major existentialist perspectives as well as examining significant critiques of existentialism. We also consider the unique possibilities afforded by the genre of the novel in exploring philosophical questions. Possible authors include Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Camus, and Murdoch. Other readings are drawn from shorter fiction by these and other writers as well as major nonfiction essays on existentialism. Prerequisite: A 200-level literature course or permission of the instructor. (This course satisfies Humanities and Writing Intensive.)
cross listed: ENGL 341


PHIL 350: The Good, the Bad, & the Beautiful

(The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Introduction to African Philosophy.) This course is an introduction to African philosophy. We examine the major concepts, questions, debates, and controversies at the center of this thriving philosophical tradition. Major themes explored include the philosophy of culture, precolonial vs postcolonial African philosophy, and the various schools, methods, and movements that constitute the development of Africa's philosophical heritage. Prerequisites: Two PHIL courses or consent of the instructor. (This course satisfies Humanities and Global Perspective.)
cross listed: AFAM 350


PHIL 352: Topics in Social Justice

Examination of a particular issue in social justice, through a research project. Common elements of the course will include examinations of theoretical issues and debates, allowing students to select from a range of possible research topics. Significant time will be devoted to periodic student reports on their projects. Prerequisite: Ethics Center/Philosophy 276 or 277 or permission of instructor. (This course satisfies Domestic Pluralism.)
cross listed: ETHC 352


PHIL 355: Wittgenstein & Analytic Tradition

A brisk and demanding tour through the analytic tradition in philosophy, from its beginnings around 1880 with the pathbreaking work of Frege in logic and in the philosophy of language, through the empiricist reception of that work in England (Russell, Moore), the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle (Carnap, Neurath), and ordinary language philosophy (Austin, Ryle), until the tradition proper begins to break up around 1960. The course emphasizes epistemological, metaphysical, and linguistic concerns, with some attention to issues in logic and in the philosophy of science. The central figure of Wittgenstein provides the organization backbone of the course. In addition to the work of philosophers already mentioned, the course may also consider the work of Mach, Brentano, Ayer, Popper, Strawson, Quine, Sellars, and Putnam, among others. No prerequisite, but the prior completion of PHIL 156 is strongly recommended.


PHIL 365: Race, Gender & Sexual Orientation

In this class we will examine a number of questions concerning the reality, or metaphysics, of social identities. When people speak of race, are they referring to something biological or something social? Are the gender roles of men and women shaped more by genetic forces or social forces? Is there a 'gay gene'? Does sexual orientation have a genetic basis? After examining recent literature on the metaphysics of social kinds, we will examine the recent debates surrounding the nature of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Possible readings will include: Foucault, Searle, Hacking, DuBois, Appiah, Taylor, Sundstrom, Butler, and Longino. Prerequisite: at least one philosophy class or instructor's permission. .


PHIL 370: Design Theory, Differing Abilities

(Design Theory, Differing Abilities, and the Good Life) In this course, we inquire into the philosophy behind industrial, architectural, and graphic design, with an eye to the tension between the requirements of mass production and those of individual users with a variety of different abilities and needs. Starting with socio-political philosophers and turning to aesthetics and design theorists, we consider how design can both extend and constrain human functioning. This course may include field trips to see artifacts and spaces in situ. Prerequisite: Any Philosophy, Art History or Enviromental Studies course or permission of instructor.


PHIL 375: Neuroethics

Neuroethics is an emerging interdisciplinary field that incorporates the findings of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and philosophy to tackle key ethical issues in science, philosophy, health, and medicine. In this discipline, we explore two primary areas of study. The first is the neuroscience of ethics, which asks what current research in neuroscience and related fields can tell us about ethics. The second is the ethics of neuroscience, which asks how the study of ethics can inform emerging technologies and findings from the rapidly developing field of neuroscience. This course introduces students to both areas of research. As such, the course investigates a variety of questions related to free will, moral reasoning, memory, neuroenhancement, neuromarketing, cognitive enhancement, and how the law deals with these issues. Prerequisite: at least one 100- level course in philosophy, neuroscience, or psychology, or permission from the instructor. (This course satisfies Humanities.)
cross listed: NEUR 375


PHIL 380: Topics


PHIL 386: Neurophilosophy

This course familiarizes students with topics in neurophilosophy鈥攊.e., the application of concepts and findings in neuroscience to traditional questions in philosophy. This course explores a range of such applications. For instance, what can the behavior of patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex tell us about theories of intentionality? What are the implications of neurological syndromes for the concept of a unified self? What can eye tracking teach us about causation? Can results from EEG studies inform theories of free will? This course reviews some of the newest methods and findings from neuroscience, primarily cognitive neuroscience, and apply these findings to some of the major questions in philosophy. Prerequisite: PHIL 130, PSYC 110, or permission from the instructor.


PHIL 394: Experimental Philosophy

This course introduces students to the new field of Experimental Philosophy. This burgeoning area of philosophy uses the methods of cognitive science to conduct quantitative research on philosophical questions. Experimental philosophers might ask, for instance, if people think there is something essential to the self over time, if judgments about philosophical thought experiments are culturally universal and representative, or if the consideration of alternative possibilities affects how people think about causation, intentionality, free will, and more. The course surveys work in Experimental Philosophy鈥攐n the topics of intentionality, free will, consciousness, morality, causation, the true self, and more鈥攁nd considers the potential limitations of this approach to philosophy. Prerequisite: At least one 200-level course in philosophy, neuroscience, or psychology, or permission from the instructor.


PHIL 410: Major Philosophers

(Spring 2018 Major Philosophers: Hobbes.) In this course, we will examine, in detail, Thomas Hobbes's arguments for a new conception of politics, put forth in his 1651 classic, Leviathan. Hobbes sought to inaugurate a modern science of politics, rejecting notions of legitimacy rooted in codes of honor, in divine revelation, or in Aristotelian human nature, arguing instead for a notion of political authority arising from universal human fear. We will consider how the goals of Hobbesian politics--peace and security--are related to Hobbes's commitments to nominalism, to materialism, and to secularism. We will also ponder the vexed question of Hobbes's relationship to liberalism. Although our focus will be on Leviathan, which we will read entire, we will make some attempt to situate Hobbes historically, and we will also discuss the influence of Hobbes on the theory of international relations and on contemporary political philosophy (e.g., Gautier, Hampton, Skyrms). Prerequisites:Three PHIL courses or consent of the instructor.


PHIL 420: Plato: Eros, Sexuality, & Memory

Fall 2016 Topic: Plato: Eros, Sexuality, & Memory. This course offers an in-depth look into Plato's concept of eros and his understanding of culture as a pursuit of knowledge, as the dynamic, communicative exchanges between equal and reciprocating citizens. A key topic has to do with the issue of memory (the vehicle of cultural transmissions) and the multifaceted impact on human condition from the proliferation of mnemotechnologies, such as writing (for Plato) and internet (for us). The general concern is quite basic: how shall we live and how shall we adapt to the world of iPhones and internet. Our focus will be on Plato's Phaedrus and Symposium, along with essays from other perspectives, such as those by Joseph Ledoux (a neuroscientist of the memory of fear) and Larry Squire (a memory psychologist), as well as excerpts from French philosophers Bernard Stiegler and Derrida.


PHIL 425: Feminist Epistemologies

This seminar course studies contemporary conversations feminist scholars are having about the nature of knowledge, knowing, and knowers. Topics of study in this course include: the epistemic functions of emotions, critiques of "objectivity", the relevance of moral virtues (such as care) to knowledge, the relevance of a knower's positionality, how knowledge is instrumentalized to entrench power dynamics, and how we can decolonize priority for particular epistemic models and positions. While the overarching theme of epistemology will offer many points of contact between units, these inquiries will also allow us to think through a variety of broader feminist insights about the nature of the self, self-relation, mental states, and socio-political issues pertaining to gender. Prerequisites: Two PHIL courses or permission from the instructor. (This course satisfies Senior Studies and Domestic Pluralism.)


PHIL 430: Plato, Kant, Freud

In this seminar, we study Plato, Immanuel Kant, and Sigmund Freud in some depth, analyzing similarities and differences in their conceptions of mind, motivation, and action. Plato claims that the soul has three parts, which resemble Freudian components of the mind. Kant also takes the mind to have three faculties. All three thinkers, moreover, believe that this tripartite structure is the key to understanding human motivation and action. Others have noted these similarities: Alfred Tauber, for example, claims that "Psychoanalysis . . . rests upon a basic Kantian construction," and Christine Korsgaard claims that Plato and Kant share a "Constitutional Model" of the soul, whereby "deliberative action by its very nature imposes unity on the will." This course explores the similarities between the perspectives of these philosophers that on the surface seem very different. Prerequisite: Two philosophy courses or permission of the instructor.


PHIL 440: Nietzsche

Nietzsche's influence on the present age is undeniable. Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, wrote the following to his wife in 1902: "I am sending you Nietzsche: learn to read and understand him. This is the best and the finest thing I can send you." The composer Richard Strauss named his symphonic poem after Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Even Freud reluctantly acknowledged his debt to the German聽philosopher. We read texts from Nietzsche's early, middle, and late periods.


PHIL 460: Cogn. Science & Experim. Philosophy

(Cognitive Science and Experimental Philosophy.) This course introduces students to Experimental Philosophy. This area of philosophy uses the methods of cognitive science to conduct quantitative research in order to investigate philosophical questions. Experimental philosophers might ask, for instance, if there is something essential to the self over time, if judgments to philosophical thought experiments are culturally universal and representative, or if the consideration of alternative possibilities affects how we think about causation, intentionality, and free will. The course surveys work in Experimental Philosophy鈥攐n the topics of intentionality, free will, consciousness, morality, causation, the true self, and more鈥攁nd considers the potential limitations of this approach to philosophy. Prerequisite: At least one 200-level course in philosophy, neuroscience, or psychology, or permission from the instructor. (This course satisfies Humanities.)


PHIL 470: Philosophy of Action

The philosophy of action aims to understand and explain what action is and what distinguishes it from complex movement and events. This course works to understand some of the following topics in philosophy of action and more: the problem of action, intentionality, group action and intention, theories of action, free will, reasoning, decision making, and motivation. The course explores traditional work in philosophy of action and recent work in experimental philosophy. The course ends by discussing philosophy of action in relation to artificial intelligence. Prerequisite: one Philosophy course or permission of instructor.


PHIL 480: Heidegger's Being and Time

This course is a reading- and writing-intensive study of Heidegger's major philosophical work Being and Time, published in 1927. Major themes to be explored include his relationship to Greek philosophy, ecstatic temporality, the question of the meaning of Being, his view of death, and the phenomenological method. We may also study Heidegger's 1924 The Concept of Time and parts of his 1927 lecture course The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Prerequisites: Three PHIL courses or consent of the instructor.


PHIL 481: Authority and Justification

We often justify our actions through an appeal to some sort of authority, e.g., we justify not parking in the most convenient factually available space on the ground that parking in that space is forbidden by law. How exactly do such appeals work, and when are they justified? This class considers the nature, role, and justification of authority. Although our emphasis is on political and legal authority, we pay some attention to authority in other contexts, both institutional and informal, and though our emphasis is on authority as a reason for action, we also pay some attention to authority as a reason for belief. In exploring these issues, we consider a number of thinkers both classical and contemporary, including, but not limited to, Plato, Aquinas, Hobbes, Wittgenstein, Arendt, Hart, and Raz. Prerequisites: Two Philosophy courses or consent of the instructor. (This course satisfies Humanities and Senior Studies.)


PHIL 490: Internship


PHIL 495: Sr Symposium and Thesis

Senior thesis project plus discussions of that research in meetings of seniors and faculty. (Students writing a thesis over two semesters would register for regular thesis credit in the semester without the symposium.) Open to senior majors.