Undergrad Courses

Some additional information about this semester's courses can be found at the Arts and Sciences course descriptions page.

Fall 2022 (Term 2231) 

PHIL 0010/21247 – Concepts of Human Nature  
Pendlebury, Thomas 
T & H 12:00a.m.-12:50p.m.    FFA 125 

An introduction to some ways in which ethical and social thought has been influenced by different views of human nature. Readings are from such authors as Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, and Freud. Human nature has long been a focus of philosophical thought. In this class we will consider several fundamental perspectives on the character and relevance of human nature, as it pertains to several important philosophical questions. For philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, thinking about human nature supports certain ways of structuring society and government. For thinkers like Hilary Putnam and Sigmund Freud, human nature has important implications for the ways we conceive of and study psychology and the human mind. As we will find throughout the course, human nature has been conceived in startlingly many different ways, and the very concept of a human nature can be subjected to interesting philosophical inquiry. The main object of the class will be to gain familiarity with a range of important philosophers, and a sense of the various ways the question of human nature has been approached. 

PHIL 0080/20229 – Introduction to Philosophical Problems 
T & H 11:00a.m.-11:50a.m.  Benedum 157 

An introduction to some classical problems of philosophy. Topics vary, but might include skepticism, free will, the existence of god, and the justification of ethical beliefs. This course is an introduction to some classic problems of philosophy. Topics vary, but may include truth, knowledge, freedom, beauty, free will, and personal identity. 

PHIL 0200/20858 – History of Ancient Philosophy 
Magrin, Sara 
T & H 12:00p.m. - 12:50p.m.   CL G24 

The aim of this course is to introduce students to some of the main achievements and leading ideas of ancient Greek philosophy up to classical times. Emphasis will be on understanding and evaluating the arguments and ideas of the Greek philosophical tradition. Western philosophy owes a great debt to ancient Greek thinkers. They were some of the first to develop principled theories about nature, reality, knowledge, ethics/morality, reason/the soul, and the human being, among other topics. Many of these ideas and arguments are still relevant today and serve as fuel for contemporary philosophy. This class will introduce you to the epistemological, metaphysical, psychological, and ethical thought of some of the most important ancient Greek thinkers, especially (but not limited to) Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. From the beginning of term the focus will not simply be to understand the views and arguments of these thinkers, but also to critically evaluate them. In other words, we will not just be reading about philosophy; we will be doing it. 

PHIL 0300/10355 – Introduction to Ethics 
Thompson, Michael 
M & W 1:00p.m. - 1:50p.m. LAWR 121 

This is an introductory course considering the question of one fundamental moral principle - right and wrong. The results are applied to moral problems of serious interest today. 

PHIL 0320/30339 – Social Philosophy 
Tuesday 11:00a.m. - 11:50a.m.   CL 142 

An introduction to some traditional philosophical perspectives on the nature of society. Philosophers studied might include Plato, Hobbes, Marx, and Twentieth-Century social theorists. 

PHIL 0350/23305 – Philosophy and Public Issues 
T & H 9:00a.m. - 9:50a.m.   Lawrence Hall 120 

The aim of this introductory undergraduate course is to encourage systematic and clear thought about issues of public importance by philosophic reflection which emphasizes the implications of different moral and political theories for these issues. In this course, we will examine a selection of ethical issues that are the subject of contemporary public debate. The course is split into four parts: social issues, like world hunger and immigration, biomedical issues, like euthanasia and abortion, environmental issues, like the treatment of animals and endangered species, and issues in business like corporate social responsibility and affirmative action. This course teaches how to rationally discuss controversial issues, critically and fairly assess differing views and logically argue for your own answers to ethical questions. 

PHIL 0360/24329 – Introduction to Biomedical Ethics  
Abma, Aaron 
Thursday 6:00p.m. - 8:30p.m.   CL 208A 

In this course we will examine some central questions in biomedical ethics.  We will begin by thinking more broadly about ethics and its goals and questions.  Then we will think about biomedical ethics specifically, focusing on familiarizing ourselves with what are often considered some of its central principles: autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice.  So prepared, we will move on to the application of some of these principles in the medical world, with special focus on areas where the principles may appear to conflict, and where explicit ethical thinking therefore becomes particularly salient.  We will consider questions around abortion, euthanasia, paternalism and competence, truth, scarcity, and some issues that arise around pandemics.  We will end the course by thinking about what medicine is for, what health is, and how different answers to these questions will result in different ethics. Special emphasis throughout will be placed on: (1) Considering what these (for most of us theoretical) issues would look like for those for whom they are a lived reality.  This will be an explicit focus when we engage with works of journalism and fiction, as we will do occasionally.  (2) Thinking about what the goals of medicine are, what they should be, and how medicine, health, and biomedical ethics all fit more broadly into our lives, ethics, and values.  This will be an explicit focus especially at the beginning and end of the course.

PHIL 0380/23316 – Women and Philosophy 
Cook, Kathleen 
T & H 1:00p.m. - 2:15p.m.     CL 313 

Primary objectives will be to acquaint students with the history of the relation between women and philosophy in the Western tradition and to teach students to think and write clearly. What did philosophers of the past, women and men, have to say about women¿s nature, moral character, education, and the roles they should play in society? How did these philosophers argue for their views? In this course we will consider women as both subject matter for, and participants in, a number of debates in the history of western philosophy from ancient Greece through the 19th century. Our reading will be selected from works by Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Musonius Rufus, Anna Maria van Schurman, Sor Juana de la Cruz, Marie de Gournay, Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Mary Astell, Francois Poullain de la Barre, John Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, and Harriet Taylor. 

PHIL 0440/30232 – Minds and Machines 
Stanton, Kate  
M & W 1:00p.m. - 1:50p.m.     CL 324 

This introductory level course is devoted to explicating and critically evaluating the thesis that the human mind, or at least its cognitive faculty, can be understood as a computing machine. Readings are primarily from contemporary authors, and include both scientists and philosophers. 

PHIL 0473/25822 – Philosophy of Religion 
Bahler, Brock 
T & H 9:30a.m. - 10:45a.m.    Public Health-Crabtree A215 

An examination of the arguments for and against the existence of god. This course examines topics central to philosophy of religion, including arguments for and against the existence of God, the nature of religious experiences, the relation between faith & reason, the personal and cultural usefulness of religion & religious practices, and religious responses to evil (theodicy). Members of the class will develop a working knowledge of the issues by reading and discussing traditional and contemporary scholarly texts. 

PHIL 0500/10312 – Introduction to Logic 
Batterman, Robert 
T & H  1:00p.m. - 1:50p.m. Chevron 154 

An introduction to the concepts and methods of modern deductive logic. Propositional logic is emphasized, but quantificational logic is touched upon. In a variety of contexts, we attempt to persuade each other by making arguments i.e., by providing reasons to think that some claim is true. Figuring out what to believe about a wide variety of subjects therefore requires you to be able to evaluate these arguments to discern which are good and which are bad, and in what ways they are good or bad. Logic is the study of which arguments are good, which are bad, and why. In this course, we will learn two important logical theories, with a focus on techniques for reasoning about which arguments are good, according to those theories. 

PHIL 0850/31390 – Philosophy and Liberal Democracy 
Ernst, Marc 
M & W  6:00p.m. - 7:15p.m.  CL 116 

This course is an introduction to central themes in the blossoming field of social and political philosophy of language. Throughout this course, we will investigate some of the socially and politically fraught ways people use language, and we will learn to appreciate how tools from philosophy of language may help us articulate how such problematic uses of language constitute harm. The course splits into four parts. We will begin (1) by considering how some examples of ‘bad words’ aren’t just words. Words may be used to insult, derogate or subordinate others, and we will focus in particular on how slurs enact harmful ideologies against marginalized groups. Jumping off from this introduction, we will (2) take seriously the idea that the harm in harmful speech is to be investigated at the level of the speech acts we perform. In doing so, we will investigate how hate speech constitutes harm by undermining others’ ability to freely do things with words, and thus by depriving them of their right to free speech. We will then go on to (3) consider a variety of manipulative, deceptive and coercive uses of language from political rhetoric to online bubbles to negotiations of sexual intimacy. This will help us appreciate how a broad range of mundane linguistic interactions are vulnerable to different types of problematic distortions. And finally, we will end on (4) prospects for countering and repairing the harms of harmful speech, including reforms of unjustly gendered language, counter-speech, and the reclamation of slurs. Through participation in this course, students will be introduced to several influential conceptual tools, themes and approaches in contemporary philosophy of language, including speech acts, generics, contextualism, inferentialist accounts of meaning, presupposition accommodation, epistemic injustice, and the semantics-pragmatics divide. Moreover, students will come to appreciate intersections between philosophy of language and other socially and politically engaged fields of inquiry, such as feminist philosophy, critical philosophy of race, and philosophy of sex. No familiarity with these topics will be presupposed. 

PHIL 1020/21004 – Plato 
Magrin, Sara 
T & H  9:30a.m. - 10:45a.m. CL 135 

This is an advanced undergraduate course examining Plato's main views both in their historical context, and as they influence our own thinking today; the relations between Socrates and the sophists are also studied. Alfred North Whitehead famously wrote that "The safest general characterization of the European tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato". Overstatement though this may be, there is no doubt that Plato had a deep and lasting influence upon the history of Western thought. This course is an advanced survey of this great ancient Greek philosophers' thought. The majority of the class will be spend examining his so-called "early" Socratic and "middle" Platonic dialogues. But, time permitting, we will also sneak in a late dialogue or two. A good deal of emphasis will be placed upon the evolution of his famous theory of Forms, but we will also take care to articulate and critically discuss the epistemological, ethical, political, and psychological issues that these dialogues raise. Grades will be determined by performance on a combination of exams and papers. 

PHIL 1110/30350 – Rationalism 
Rescher, Nicholas 
Wednesday  9:00a.m. - 11:30a.m.  CL 142 

A study of the key ideas of the major 17th century Continental Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz.  The course is based entirely on the writings of these three philosophers and will seek to convey a clear and comprehensive picture of their systems of philosophy. 

PHIL 1170/24249 – Kant 
Engstrom, Stephen 
T & H  4:00p.m. - 5:15p.m. CL 330 

An introduction to the philosophy of Kant, focusing on the "critique of pure reason". The course seeks to enable the advanced undergraduate to understand the theories and arguments of this revolutionary and rewarding work. The primary aim of this course is to reach a general understanding of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. To this end, we shall examine the Critique’s central logical and metaphysical doctrines, with attention to their historical context. Following Kant as he seeks to determine whether a science of metaphysics is possible, we shall consider the fundamental question he poses (“How are synthetic a priori judgments possible?”), the way of thinking he follows in answering it (the so-called “Copernican Revolution”), and the crucial doctrine of Transcendental Idealism on which his answer to this question depends. A second aim of the course is to gain some familiarity with Kant’s contribution to moral philosophy. The final weeks will accordingly be devoted to his Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, in which he undertakes an analysis of common moral knowledge with a view to reaching a formulation of its supreme principle. Prerequisite(s): Phil 0210 History of Modern Philosophy OR Phil 1110 Rationalism OR Phil 1140 Empiricism. 

PHIL 1180/30470 – 19th Century Philosophy 
Pendlebury, Thomas 
T & H   2:30p.m. - 3:45p.m.   Lawrence Hall 209 

A survey, at the advanced undergraduate level, of the thought and unity of the three great German philosophers of the nineteenth century; Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. 

PHIL 1300/30472 – Ethical Theory  
Theunissen, Nandi 
M & W 3:00p.m. - 4:15p.m.  Alexander J. Allen Hall 106 

This is an advanced seminar on the foundations of ethics in three parts. In Part I we think through some representative starting points for ethics in the history of the tradition. We consider how key concepts, variously, the right and the good, the moral and the non-moral good, virtue and benefit, and morality and happiness, are connected and understood. In Part II, we turn to Kant’s conception of the nature of morality and the task for moral philosophy, reading defenders and critics of Kant's approach. We consider Kant’s influential distinction between two kinds of should, or two forms of normativity, and his Groundwork claim that in the case of moral normativity there are special difficulties in establishing its validity. This will serve as a point of entry into contemporary discussions about the ground of normative reasons for action, kinds of reason, the “source” of moral norms, and the nature of motivation—the focus of Part III. In this way we will work through representative positions in meta-ethics: varieties of constructivism, realism, and naturalism. 

PHIL 1400/24504 – Rights and Human Rights 
Berry, Thomas  
Tuesday 6:00p.m. - 8:30p.m.   CL 135 

The points of departure for this course will be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, both adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. We will examine how these commitments relate to John Locke¿s foundational defense of the rights to life, liberty, and property. Extensive consideration will be given to the right to life and its coordination with liberty rights and private property rights. The course will finish with an examination of limitations of rights theory with regard to climate change. 

PHIL 1440/30473 – Philosophy of Mind 
Stanton, Kate 
M & W 4:30p.m. - 5:45p.m.   CL 139 

This is an advanced undergraduate course in the philosophy of mind, taking up problems of both historical and contemporary interest. Topics vary, but are likely to include many of mind-body dualism, materialist reductionism, phenomenalism, the other-minds problem, philosophical behaviorism, qualia, propositional attitude ascriptions, intentionality, and so on. 

PHIL 1460/27807 – Theory of Knowledge 
Dorst, Kevin 
T & H  4:00p.m. - 5:15p.m. CL 304  

This is an advanced undergraduate course in recent and contemporary epistemology. Topics vary somewhat, but generally include many of the following: skepticism, sense data and the myth of the given, induction and confirmation, definition of "knowing-that-p", holism and coherence, the status of common sense, and so on. 

PHIL 1500/10356 – Symbolic Logic 
Ricketts, Thomas 
T & H  11:00a.m. - 12:15p.m.  CL 339 

This advanced undergraduate course develops skills in formal and informal reasoning in predicate-quantifier logic, and covers formal semantics for sentential logic, informal semantics for predicate-quantifier logic, and elementary syntactic metatheory. 

PHIL 1600/30474 – Philosophy & Rise of Modern Science 
Wilson, Mark 
T & H 1:00p.m. - 2:15p.m.    Eberly Hall 228 

This advanced undergraduate course explores the mutually reinforcing relationships between modern philosophy and modern empirical science in and around the seventeenth century. Authors studied might include Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Newton, and Leibniz, as well as contemporary historians of science and philosophy. 

PHIL 1612/30475 – Philosophy of 20th Century Physics 
Batterman, Robert 
T & H 9:30a.m. - 10:45a.m.    CL 342 

An examination of the fascinating philosophical problems to which modern physical theories have given rise. No previous formal training in physics or mathematics will be presupposed, since the basic physical ideas needed will be introduced largely qualitatively with an emphasis on concepts rather than equations. Topics will vary from year to year with instructor, but center around classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and relativity theory. 

PHIL 1890/30476 – Issues in Philosophy (Various) 
Conner, William 
Wednesday 6:00p.m. - 8:30p.m.    CL 230 

Aristotle says that human beings by nature desire to know. Epistemology is the subfield of philosophy concerned with the questions “What does it mean to know something, and how can we do it?” and “What makes beliefs justified?” In addition to having an innate desire to know, however, Aristotle also tells us that human beings are social animals. In this course, we will take this second thought of Aristotle’s seriously and examine its epistemological consequences, investigating how our sociality and animality impact our abilities to form justified beliefs and to know things about the world. As social creatures, we learn from each other, and our ways of believing affect each other. As animals, we have imperfect cognitive systems, facts about which may help answer what we can and should believe in certain contexts. With these facts in mind, the guiding questions of the course will be these: (1) Can we arrive at knowledge, given that we are imperfect animals acting in complicated social and environmental contexts? (2) How should facts about our social identities and our cognitive systems determine what we should or should not believe? (3) How do our ways of believing affect each other, and how can we mitigate potential harms that may arise on account of our ways of believing? Because social epistemology is the branch of philosophy that addresses these and related questions, we may think of this course as an introduction to social epistemology. 


Summer 2022 (Term 2227)

6 WEEK 1 (5/16/22-6/25/22) 

PHIL 0080/14451 - Intro to Philosophical Problems    
Sophia Arbeiter 
T & H    6:00PM-9:15PM – CL 253 

This course offers an introduction to some classical problems of philosophy. We will focus on central questions within epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and ethics (the theory of good action). Exemplary questions are: Should we be skeptics? Are there different types of knowledge? Why do we pursue knowledge? What makes an action good? What is moral responsibility? How can we justify ethical beliefs? Students will be introduced to philosophers from various historical periods, and train their ability to argue rigorously in philosophical arguments. 
PHIL 0200/17522 - History of Ancient Philosophy                    
Michael Lang     
M & W     2:00PM-5:15PM – CL 235 

We will study the greatest philosophers of the ancient world: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus. These thinkers are not only brilliant in their own right; they have had significant influence on human thought—in its scientific, philosophical, cultural, literary, political, and theological forms—from their time to our own. As we study these thinkers, we will consider questions about the search for wisdom and the happy life; the existence of purpose in the universe; beauty, love, and friendship; the contemplation of the truth; and becoming like God. We will try both to understand these philosophers on their own terms and to see whether, and how, we might appropriate their ideas for ourselves. 
PHIL 0300/10186 - Introduction to Ethics
Travis McKenna      
M & W     6:00PM-9:15PM – CL 253 

This course is an introduction to ethics, with a focus on two key concepts: the Good and the Right. Some background in philosophy is helpful but not required. After some preliminary exploration in the Good and the Right, we will study some major moral theories (Kantianism, utilitarianism and, if time permits, virtue ethics) to see how these two concepts are understood by different theories and how they interact with each other according to these theories. We will also discuss some contemporary topics derivative from these theories along the way, including Effective Altruism, Animal Welfare, among others. Vivid examples will be used throughout the course. This is a philosophical introduction to ethics. Some background in philosophy is certainly helpful but it is not required. We examine three classic theories in ethics (Kantianism, consequentialism, and eudaimonism), and challenges to them. Topics include the nature of the highest good, the idea of pure practical reason, the nature of pleasure and the question of whether some pleasures are better than others, the well lived life for human beings, and the nature of virtue.
PHIL 0330/19370 - Political Philosophy            
Rajiv Hurhangee     
T & H     2:00PM-5:15PM – CL 204 

Contemporary Western politics has been historically committed to liberalism. This is the political philosophy that champions the values of individual liberty, free discourse, democracy, the market, private property, wage labor, equality, pluralism, and the rule of law. Several of these values are now in crisis. In most liberal nations, for instance, individual liberties have been curtailed in the name of public health, while various kinds of discourse have been banned from college campuses and social media platforms. Taking our political moment as our cue, our task in this seminar will be to understand what is to be said for liberal values and what against them. Our menu of questions will include: What are the philosophical foundations of liberalism? How do various philosophers conceive of liberal values? Are defenses of these values plausible, or is there reason to reject them? Are there non-liberal values we should care about? If so, can they be realized under liberalism or do they require transcending it? What might that look like? The first half of the course will be devoted to an investigation of classical and contemporary varieties of liberalism. Readings will draw from Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Rawls. The second half will be devoted to two non-liberal alternatives: one ancient (Aristotle’s), one modern (Marx’s). Throughout, special emphasis will be paid to the relation between political institutions and the realization of freedom – liberalism’s crown jewel. 

PHIL 0473/20525 – Philosophy of Religion 
Brock Bahler
T & H      9:00AM - 12:00PM – CL G8
Crosslisted with RELGST 0715

An examination of the arguments for and against the existence of god. This course examines topics central to philosophy of religion, including arguments for and against the existence of God, the nature of religious experiences, the relation between faith & reason, the personal and cultural usefulness of religion & religious practices, and religious responses to evil (theodicy). Members of the class will develop a working knowledge of the issues by reading and discussing traditional and contemporary scholarly texts. 

PHIL 0500/18913 - Intro to Logic                              
Sabrina Hao 
T & H     10:00AM-1:15PM – CL 204 

We reason and argue everyday: not just in philosophy, in courtrooms, or in political debates; but also in analytical reports, in our future plans, or even over Thanksgiving dinner. Whenever we are trying to answer the ‘WHY’, we are making an argument. In this class, we will learn the basics of arguments, proofs, objections, and fallacies, before exploring some basic technical tools such as syllogism, propositional logic and quantification. Throughout the course, we will see how these tools help us identify bad arguments, and, hopefully, make better arguments in our everyday lives. 
6 WEEK 2 (6/27/22-8/6/22) 

PHIL 0010/15598 - Concepts of Human Nature                                      
Anwar ul Haq
M & W      6:00PM-9:15PM – CL 253 

This course is a general introduction to philosophical thinking about human nature. Humans are generally regarded to be distinctively rational animals as well as moral and political animals, so any discussion of human nature will be both theoretical and practical: asking, roughly, who am I and how must I live? This course is designed as a general overview to these questions. We will study historical figures and ideas from both Western and non-Western traditions as occasions for critical engagement with these questions. Upon completing the course, the student should be able to articulate different views of human nature, compare and contrast them, as well as critically engage with them in their own voice.

PHIL 0210/17723 - History of Modern Philosophy              
Stephen Mackereth 
M & W     2:00PM-5:15PM – CL 226 

 The early modern period in philosophy spans the 17th and 18th centuries, beginning with Descartes and ending with Kant. It was the time of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. The rapid progress of science raised many philosophical questions which still resonate today, questions about mind and matter, science and religion. This course will be focused on two great books: Descartes’s Meditations and Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. We will read these books closely and reflect upon the questions they raise. Can we really know anything about the world around us? How is the mind related to the body? Is there a God? Do we have free will? Can it be rational to believe in miracles? What are the limits of human knowledge?  This course satisfies the General Education requirement in Philosophical Thinking or Ethics. 
PHIL 0350/18914 - Philosophy and Public Issues                                
Caleb Reidy
T & H     2:00PM-5:15PM – CL 213  
Public life confronts us with difficult questions: What are our duties to tackle different forms of inequality in our society? How should our beliefs change when confronted with disagreement? What are our responsibilities, if any, to future generations? What principles should guide our response to future pandemics? Is killing a human being always wrong, and are there important differences between killing, letting die, and failing to bring into existence? 
This course will cover philosophical theories and critical thinking skills that can help us reason about these issues of public concern. Students will learn how different moral, political, and epistemological theories relate to these questions, and will gain experience in analyzing and arguing for different answers to them. 
PHIL 0500/17722 - Introduction to Logic    
Marco Maggiani  
T & H     6:00PM-9:15PM – CL 253 

This course is an introduction to symbolic logic. Logic is the study of arguments, and symbolic logic is the study of arguments using formal languages. We will study how to translate between English and logic, how to construct derivations of valid arguments, and how to prove the invalidity of invalid arguments. We will do this first in the formal language of propositional logic, and then in predicate logic (with identity).