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Undergraduate Course Descriptions

All courses are 3 credits unless noted otherwise.

Introductory Courses

UCOR 132. Basic Philosophical Questions

Philosophy, “the love of wisdom,” is a discipline for discussing basic questions about ourselves and our world. Students read selected works by major figures throughout the history of philosophy; they are encouraged to think critically and to formulate their own answers to perennial philosophical questions. This course is required for all students in the university. It counts as the first course for the major and minor in philosophy.

UCOR 151. Philosophical Ethics

This course provides an introduction to some important ethical theories of past and present times.

UCOR 223. Meaning of Life

A quest to decide what the meaning of our lives should be, in critical dialogue with the visions of a meaningful life given by great books of the ancient world.

UCOR 254. Healthcare Ethics

Ethical questions that arise in medical care and research will be examines. Topics might include: doctor/patient relations, informed consent, euthanasia, the definitions of health, person, and death.

PHIL 106. Logic

Analysis of the requirements for valid reasoning, logical fallacies, types of definitions, and important informal aspects of arguments in ordinary discourse will be studied, in addition to the formal logic of inferences involving simple and compound statements. This course is taught at least once a year.

PHIL 108. Business Ethics

This course proceeds from the assumption that a business has certain ethical obligations to its identifiable stakeholders, shareholders, employees, consumers and the environment. The course analyzes the foundation of those ethical obligations from the perspective of various ethical theories. The course will empower students to critically assess both ethical and unethical business practices from the perspective of various ethical frameworks.

PHIL 109. Contemporary Moral Problems

.This course includes a discussion of several moral theories, which are then applied to concrete case studies from various fields.

PHIL 116. Environmental Ethics

This course examines several facets of the ethical demands that the environment, particularly now in the 21st century, places on us. Do we have a right to use non renewable sources of energy when renewable sources are available? As regards our relation to the environment, what are our responsibilities to future generations? Can an individual be faulted for misuse of resources, or are these uses determined only and sufficiently by market forces? Several key texts in environmental ethics will be examined to help address these questions.

Basic Courses

Basic courses are useful electives for general undergraduates. Prerequisite: at least one 100-level course in philosophy.

PHIL 200. Introduction to Phenomenology

The phenomenological method originated by Husserl will be explored. Possible topics may included intentionality, the phenomenological reduction, meanings, and signs.

PHIL 201. Race Matters: Philosophy and Literary Perspectives

Open to both philosophy and non-philosophy majors at all levels, this course raises significant and fascinating contemporary philosophical questions about the nature of race and racism: What does it mean to be “white”? What does it mean to be “black”? Is race a social construction? What is the meaning of racism and does it still exist? How does racism inform the works of many European philosophers? These questions and more are explored in the works of contemporary philosophers and literary figures.

PHIL 202. Film and Race

This course explores the meaning of race through the medium of film. This is done through a critical analysis of film content, symbols, discourse, character interaction, and the historical period of the film. Film is a perfect venue for examining race and it reveals us to ourselves.

PHIL 203. Philosophy of Religion

This course will ask such intellectual questions as, Does God exist? How can we think of God if God is ineffable? Is God a person? How can God be good if there is so much evil in the world? It will also include a comparative religion approach trying to identify the characteristics of religion and what all the great religions have in common. We will also discuss religious experience, the religious impulse, the authenticity of the religious dimension of human life.

PHIL 204. Philosophy and Literature

In this course, we'll read and watch Shakespeare's plays with an eye to Shakespeare's philosophical insights, and, we'll read philosophical texts written directly about the plays, or about a theme found in a play. We'll explore the nature of good and evil, conscience, wit, self-reflection, dreams, imagination and reason, asking questions such as, does Macbeth have a conscience? Was Hamlet a Hegelian "unhappy consciousness" or an existentialist? What is "seeming"? Is self-consciousness essentially comedic like a play within a play in A Midsummer Night's Dream? We'll discuss topics such as mercy and justice in The Merchant of Venice and ponder whether Henry V's or Falstaff's wit is good or bad, as well as what kind of thinker Shakespeare was to have written all that --dramaturge or philosopher or both? We'll also explore the colorful intersection of philosophy and literature as a topic on its own, asking, for example, whether literature is better able to teach us or philosophy is, or are they both necessary? Or are they really so different? We'll draw on selected plays from Shakespeare's tragedies, comedies, history plays, and tragi-comedies, and we'll read articles by famous philosophers (such as Hegel and Derrida), and not so famous ones (such as Cutrofello and Bates), as well as literary scholars (such as Eagleton, Wilson, Lupton and Kottman).

PHIL 205. Plato

This course is a treatment of several important platonic dialogues stressing key themes of the dialogues.

PHIL 206. Philosophy and Film

This course considers the art of cinema from a philosophical perspective. We will study aspects of film art such as montage and close-up, flashback and point of view, representational and abstract images, and audio-visual parallels and special effects compositing. We investigate these both for their aesthetic meaning, and as philosophical concepts that tell us about the nature of mind, knowledge, and reality.

PHIL 207. Philosophy of Animals

This course examines the moral status of non-human animals in the western philosophical tradition. We will read such philosophers as Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Bentham, and Singer. The course also looks at the mercy perspective developed by Primatt and Scully.

PHIL 208. Existentialism

We will work our way through a family of thinkers often labeled existentialists, such as Kiekegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus. Our study will be guided by means of a few shared themes: freedom, anguish, responsibility and meaning.

PHIL 209. African Philosophy

This course is meant to introduce students to some of the fundamental questions regarding the definition, nature, and the existence of African Philosophy. It aims at orienting them into the current debate on African Philosophy that revolves along the four major trends, namely: a) Ethno-philosophy; b) Professional African Philosophy; c) Philosophic Sagacity; and d) Nationalistic-Ideological Philosophy. It also explores how philosophers in Africa examine religion, culture, morality, wisdom, and social justice. The course is open to all students majoring either in philosophy or in other disciplines.

PHIL 210. Marx

This course is a close reading of several primary works of Marx and his followers.

PHIL 211. Philosophy of the Environment

This course offers a critical examination of a variety of current ways thinking about the environment, aimed at developing a satisfactory philosophical approach, especially from an ethical perspective.

PHIL 212. Political Philosophy

Fundamental political questions are explored. Topics may include: the origin of the state, justice, freedom, war, and revolution. Readings may be chosen from works by Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx. Prerequisite: at least one 100 level course in philosophy.

PHIL 214. Philosophy of Sex

This course provides an introduction to basic themes and texts, both traditional and contemporary, concerning the relation between sex and love. It also examines some issues of sexual ethics.

PHIL 215. Philosophy and African American Literature

This course explores various philosophical themes: agency, invisibility, double consciousness, and embodiment as these are developed in the works of Richard Wright Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and others.

PHIL 216. Social Justice

The course contains arguments encouraging non-violent, rational change through legislation. It aims at equipping citizens in a globalizing society to think critically for themselves about specific, timely issues. These include racial justice, economic justice, universal health care, and gender equality. As a service-learning course, students work with preselected community agencies related to social justice issues studied in the course.

PHIL 217. Philosophy in African Literature

This course explores how African / Diasporic literary works challenge how we think about questions of what it means to be-in-the-world.

PHIL 218W. African American Philosophy

This course examines the works of past and contemporary African American philosophers and other Black thinkers of the Diaspora in an effort to understand the philosophical significance of the Black experience.

PHIL 219. Christian Philosophy

This course studies the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ and other basic Christian symbols. It analyzes these in relation to the nature of religious knowledge, the problem of evil in biblical experience, and phenomenology of the holy.

PHIL 220. Philosophy of Death and Living

This course provides an introduction to traditional and contemporary themes and texts related to this topic. In asking how human beings can be happy in the face of death, it emphasizes the art of living.

PHIL 221. Epistemology

This course discusses the theory of knowledge, suitable objects of knowledge, and how we go about gaining knowledge and possible limits of knowledge.

PHIL 222. Problems in Feminism

In this course we address a variety of problems in feminist philosophy, from ethics, to politics, to metaphysics and ontology. A main focus will be to examine not only how feminism challenges certain presumptions in tradition disciplines but also some of the discussions arising within the different areas of feminism itself.

PHIL 224. African Political Philosophy

In this course, we will critically analyze the meaning of fundamental concepts of political philosophy as perceived by great African thinkers from 1860 to the present.

PHIL 226. Critical Race

This course explores the meaning of race, its historical emergence, and its current maintenance through power structures, normative and epistemological assumptions. The "critical" in Critical Race theory denotes the importance of resisting the calcification of race categories.

PHIL 227. Nietzsche

This course surveys Nietzsche’s thought, with samples from all his major works. Topics considered will include: Greek tragedy, philosophy, and their legacy for Western philosophy; the existence, endurance, and purpose of things in the world, as well as the world itself; human consciousness, rationality, and language; human individuality, selfhood, and self-knowledge; free-will and determinism; love, resentment, and other emotions; science and truth, religion and morality, meaning and nihilism; time and eternity; Jews and Germans, slaves and masters, war and democracy, women and marriage.

PHIL 228. Buddhist Philosophy

Indian and Tibetan Buddhism — are these religions or philosophies? What is Enlightenment? What is the Middle Way? Who was Siddhartha? What is the Buddhist critique of “Spiritual Materialism”? Is there any way to link these ideas to Western religious and philosophical traditions? We’ll answer these questions by looking at: 1) the history of Buddhism in India and its later adoption by the Tibetans in the Middle Ages (how the rich Tibetan tradition of scholarship and rituals develops and transforms the original Indian tradition); 2) the central tenets and philosophical ideas in the main branches of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism (including 21st century): 3) the amazingly varied and richly imaginative Indian and Tibetan Buddhist art from a variety of periods; 4) how all of this relates to Western philosophical and religious traditions. Prerequisite: Basic Philosophical Questions

PHIL 229. Philosophical Anthropology

This course gives a historical account of different philosophical views of the nature and value of the human person. It will then present a philosophical analysis of the different aspects of the person: as living, as conscious, sensing, talking, thinking, knowing, valuing, deciding and relating to God. It will conclude with a synthetic view of the unity and integration of all these activities in the notion of personhood. Selected readings on each topic.

PHIL 230. Exploring Liberty

This course explores political and economic and religious notions about liberty. Do certain political or economic arrangements foster liberty? Can the political set up be kept independent from the economic scheme, or are these intimately connected? What is the role of religion in a political community? Do existing theories adequately elucidate current situations?

PHIL 231. History of Political Philosophy

This course engages core texts, ideas, and arguments from the history of political philosophy, running from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century.

PHIL 232. Philosophy of Sex and Love

This course explores sex, sexuality, and the relationship between sex and love in terms of intimacy. We will be examining philosophical texts both from the ancient and the contemporary time periods. Questions for discussion will include: How should we define love? Is there a necessary connection between love and sex? What are the ethics associated with sex and love? What is the relation between sex, love, and perversion? These and many other questions will be considered throughout the course.

PHIL 233. Truth, Art, and Experience

In this course we will focus on the philosophy of an intellectually fertile period of German history, 18th and 19th centuries, paying special attention to philosophical accounts of aesthetic experience. In particular, we will learn how the concepts of art, beauty, ugliness, and taste were defined and evaluated in the movements of German Idealism and Romanticism, with a view to better understanding what role these concepts play in our lives today. This will lead us to examine broader questions that pertain to art and truth, and how philosophy seeks to systematically explain the world and our experience.

PHIL 235. Philosophy and the Holocaust

This course will be offered as both BPQ, UCOR-132, and as Philosophy 235, a Social Justice Theme Area course. In it we will read Plato, Descartes, Nietzsche, Adorno, Arendt, Frankl, Wiesel, and Bonhoeffer, among other relevant texts. The course will be primarily concerned with investigating a few key issues: 1) the role of the individual citizen with respect to a totalitarian government; 2) calling into question ethical, religious, and political beliefs in response to moral tragedies like genocide; 3) examining the various ways in which these moral tragedies become possible, and how we can evaluate contemporary life and prejudice in the wake of the holocaust. As a component of this course, we will spend Spring Break in Berlin, Germany, visiting relevant sites and museums, to deepen our philosophical investigation.

PHIL 236. Environmental Ethics

This course examines the various theoretical frameworks that address our moral obligations to the natural environment. We will discuss the Judeo-Christian perspectives, the land ethic, deep ecology, ecological feminism, social ecology and non-western perspectives. The course includes a community-engaged teaching component.

PHIL 237. Yoga Philosophy and Practice

Is the practice of yoga a form of philosophy? How do Western and Eastern traditions understand and make use of the mind and the body? We will investigate these questions by looking at classical yoga texts and contemporary philosophy of the body, dividing our time equally between classroom discussion and studio practice. No previous experience with yoga necessary.

PHIL 253. Native American Philosophy

This course will examine the philosophy of the Lakota Tradition. This is the tradition of Black Elk, Big Foot and those who lost their lives at Wounded Knee in 1890. The course will examine Black Elk Speaks and the Sacred Pipe.

PHIL 254. Animals in Antiquity

This course explores Greek and Roman attitudes toward non-human animals, with special attention to views on the mental and emotional characteristics of animals. Topics including use of animals in entertainment, food choices, religion and companionship will also be addressed.

PHIL 255. Philosophy of Technology

This course examines philosophically how our lives are shaped by technology and the relation of technology to science, art, and politics.

PHIL 256. Philosophy of Emotion

This course will question the traditional view and place of emotions. We will examine both historical and contemporary writings on the emotions and will consider how philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists, have portrayed the relationship between emotion and reason, knowledge, morality, gender, embodiment and law.

PHIL 257. America and Antiquity

This course begins with the Constitution of the USA, and the thinking of the founders who wrote it (especially the Federalist Papers). It then shows their debt to ancient Greek and Roman authors (Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Plutarch, and Tacitus, among others). One goal is therefore to appreciate the intellectual history that influenced the founders, but another is to understand and assess the philosophical principles they sought to enshrine.

PHIL 259. Philosophy and Star Trek

The five Star Trek television series focus on issues and topics that are extremely philosophically interesting. In this course, we will investigate several of those issues in detail. Each week, we will watch an episode of Star Trek from one of the five TV series, and will read contemporary or historical philosophical texts that discuss the issues raised by those episodes. The course will focus primarily on topics in moral philosophy or ethics, including social and political philosophy (although we will also discuss various issues in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and other areas). Science fiction has the unique ability to highlight the moral, social, and political issues we often take for granted - as those issues are presented in a highly fictionalized and futuristic context, we may come to appreciate analogous, morally important aspects of our own society to which we are currently blind. Thus, through the stories and ethical dilemmas presented in Star Trek and related philosophical writings, this course aims to help students gain a deeper understanding of their own world.

PHIL 260. Philosophy of Law

This course includes a study of major legal traditions. Other topics for discussion might be: justice, ethics and law, legal reasoning, and philosophical issues involved in evidence and procedure. Prerequisite: at least one 100 level course in philosophy.

PHIL 261. Introduction to Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

This course provides an introduction to aesthetics and the philosophy of art oriented by questions about the relationship between sensation, thought, and judgement, as well as image, sound, and concept. The philosophical texts, works of art, and other aesthetic phenomena to be studied will be both historical and contemporary and will include a variety of media (image, sound, performance, etc.). Students will be asked to write about work at local museums, galleries, and other venues.

PHIL 269. Special Topics

This course will be many different topics about different philosophers.

PHIL 270. American Philosophy

This course engages great texts in the American philosophical traditions of transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau), pragmatism (Peirce, James, Dewey, Rorty), and philosophy of freedom (Douglas, Chopin, DuBois, West). The aim is to understand critically and sympathetically the philosophical nature of what it means to be American.

PHIL 280. Asian Thought

How do meditative practices transform our way of thinking, seeing, and living? Why is our waking life comparable to a dream? What causes competing political forces to harmonize with each other? We will look at how these themes--meditation, unreality, and power politics--are addressed in the major philosophical traditions of India and China: Vedanta, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism.

PHIL 285. Introduction to Feminist Philosophy

This course examines the way in which issues of gender and sexual differences reshape our understanding of selfhood and personal identity, and thereby have an impact on traditional philosophical views of political and ethical relationships, or the nature and scope of knowledge, and of the relationship between power and language.

PHIL 286. Philosophy of Nature

A consideration of the mind’s access to the natural world, the relation between philosophy and natural science, change and its causes, chance and the principle of simplicity, the relation of the artificial to the natural, and problems about motion and time.

PHIL 299. Love and Friendship

A philosophical consideration of love and friendship: the nature of love, its causes, its effects, its many manifestations, the mutual love found in friendship, the kinds of friendship, and the importance of friendship in human life.

Historical Courses

Historical courses are designed for majors, minors, and serious students of philosophy. Prerequisite: at least two 100-level or 200-level courses or instructor’s permission.

PHIL 300W. Ancient Philosophy

This course spans the beginning of philosophy in Greece, from the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus, with readings taken primarily from Plato and Aristotle.

PHIL 301W. Medieval Philosophy

A sampling of Christian and Islamic thought from late antiquity through the thirteenth century, with emphasis on the continuity, the development, and the fruitful interplay of the Platonic and the Aristotelian traditions. We will weigh the difficulty of assimilating this complex pagan heritage within the context of revealed religion and consider how medieval thinkers worked toward a solution in connection with such themes as knowledge, God's existence, the problem of evil, the relation between divine and natural causes, and the soul.

PHIL 302W. Early Modern Philosophy

A study in the major issues in modern philosophy from the end of the Renaissance, through the mid-18th century. Readings may include Montaigne, Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Pascal, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, and others.

PHIL 303W. Plato

This course will survey the dialogues of Plato, attending primarily to their philosophical argumentation, but also to their dramatic composition and historical context.

PHIL 304W. Later Modern Philosophy

A study of the period of philosophy initiated by Kant, this course deals with some of the crucial thinkers of the late 18th and 19th centuries such as Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Marx, Mill, and Nietzsche.

PHIL 305W. Contemporary Philosophy

This course concentrates on philosophy from 1900 to the present and covers the methods of selected 20th century and 21st century movements, such as phenomenology, hermeneutics and deconstruction.

PHIL 306W. Medieval Women Philosophers

We will look at how the question of gender identity shaped the philosophical work of women and men in the Middle Ages by reading some of the most significant work of medieval women philosophers.

PHIL 307W. Philosophy of Science

This course is a study of the most central theoretical issues in the philosophy of science, including the following: Does it matter for scientific practice whether science's objects (such as atoms) are real or not? Do scientific instruments, such as microscopes, prevent scientists from ever seeing their objects as they really are? Is there such a thing as 'how things really are' in science? That is, can there be scientific truth? How does science evolve? Does gender affect scientific practice?

PHIL 310/310W. Confucianism and Zen

We will explore philosophy as a practice rather than a theory, by investigating these two living philosophical practices. We will then look at the historical Confucians who borrowed from Zen Buddhism even as they criticized it.

PHIL 311W. Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

This course explores a branch of philosophy concerned with questions of art and beauty, art theory, and art criticism, aesthetic judgments and the sublime. Selected readings are from the writings of Plato, Plotinus, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Adorno.

PHIL 312W. Philosophy of the Body

How can we carry out a philosophical analysis of the body? In other words, how can different embodies experiences, including those based on gender, enter into philosophy? How does the meaning ascribed to the body affect the subjectivity of those who are embodies in different ways? Readings will include at least some of the following: Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, Irigarary, Butler, Bordo, and Iris Young.

PHIL 314. Philosophy of Aging

This course will examine aging in terms of its meaning, the experience of aging, and ethics of aging. The course will examine retirement, healthcare, and the trans-humanist project of extending life expectancy. We will also address the major theories of aging and the distinction between geriatrics and gerontology.

PHIL 315W. Thomas Aquinas

An introduction to the philosophical thought of St. Thomas, focusing on such topics as God, nature, knowledge, language, the problem of evil, and the relation between faith and reason.

PHIL 318. Philosophy of the Human Person

“Our life is divided,” wrote Plotinus, “and we have many lives.” In what sense are we one? How are body and soul related? How do our many powers and possibilities interact? We will reflect on these and other questions with the help of classic texts in philosophical anthropology.

PHIL 319W. Metaphysics

Attempts to understand what kinds of things there are in the world through, in classical metaphysics, the question of Being and related concepts of existence, thing, property, event, matter, mind, space, time, and causality. Included is also a critique of classical metaphysics in the modern and post modern eras and attempts at post-metaphysical thinking.

PHIL 320W. Metaphysics: First Philosophy

Metaphysics is first philosophy, that is, the core, center and heart of the search for wisdom. Metaphysics asks and answers the following questions. What kind of a universe are we living in? What are the first principles, characteristics and causes operating? How does the knowledge of the sciences contribute to this broad vision? We will do a little history of various worldviews and some contemporary objections to any metaphysics.

PHIL 322W. Philosophical Roots of Psychology

Rationalism, empiricism, phenomenology, and genealogy / psychoanalysis are four important approaches to understanding the psyche. We will examine each of these approaches, considering their philosophical roots first and then their psychological incarnations. Once we grasp the philosophical roots of these approaches, we will be in a better position to understand and evaluate their psychological counterparts.

PHIL 323W. Aristotle

A survey if Aristotle’s major writings, from his logical and epistemological works through his physics and metaphysics, psychology and ethics, then finally his politics and poetics. Students will acquire not just an understanding of Aristotle’s particular philosophical concepts and arguments, but also an appreciation of his whole philosophical system.

PHIL 325W/425. Concentrated Philosophical Readings

Offers the opportunity for students and faculty to conduct in-depth study of a topic not covered, or covered only briefly, in other departmental courses. Special permission required.

PHIL 326. Special Topics

This course will be many different topics about different philosophers.

PHIL 327. Philosophy of Crime and Punishment

Philosophy of Criminology will examine various theories of crime and punishment beginning with the Enlightenment thinker and first criminologist Beccaria and include numerous other philosophers such as Bentham, Romily, Kant and Foucault. The course will address the justification of punishment and the type and length of punishment including the death penalty.

PHIL 332W. Aesthetics

This course is a study of beauty and how art works are assessed.

PHIL 337W. Modern Jewish Philosophy

This course is an introduction to modern Jewish philosophy through a study of philosophers who struggled to understand the relationship between their Judaism and philosophy. Is it possible to philosophize from within Judaism, or is there an irresolvable tension between the claims of philosophy to be universal and leading a committed Jewish life (however one understands this)? Does Jewish philosophy lead us to re-think the universality of philosophy, or to think universality otherwise? How have Jewish philosophers understood revelation? Is revelation compatible with reason, and if so, what might this mean for reason? We will engage with these and other questions by reading key works of Baruch Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas.

PHIL 349W. Analytic Philosophy

Analytic Philosophy is sometimes considered to be technocratic and unexciting. In this course, however, we will uncover its gripping discussions and discuss the reasons behind its methods.

PHIL 351W. Nietzsche and Freud

A survey of the major writings of Nietzsche and Freud, showing their remarkable similarity, and thus demonstrating the porous border between philosophy and psychology. Topics discussed include: human nature and motivation, consciousness and unconsciousness, reason and emotion, narcissism and love, guilt and morality, artistic creation and religious belief, freedom and the best life.

PHIL 352W. Contemporary Social and Political Philosophy

This course investigates Contemporary Social and Political Philosophy in light of what we can call the age of diversity and its attempt to reconcile unity and difference. We will read texts by Derrida, Rawls, Rancière, Agamben, Foucault, Butler, Badiou, and other contemporary social-political thinkers.

PHIL 353W. Nietzsche

This course surveys Nietzsche's thought, with samples from all his major works. Topics considered will include: Greek tragedy, philosophy, and their legacy for Western philosophy; the existence, endurance, and purpose of things in the world, as well as the world itself; human consciousness, rationality, and language; human individuality, selfhood, and self-knowledge; free-will and determinism; love, resentment, and other emotions; science and truth, religion and morality, meaning and nihilism; time and eternity; Jews and Germans, slaves and masters, war and democracy, women and marriage.

PHIL 366W. de Beauvoir and Cixous

This course looks at texts from both of these philosophers. We examine their contribution to philosophy, feminist philosophy, and feminism in general.

PHIL 367W. Kant's Moral Thought and the American Founding

In this course we will study Kant's Philosophy of Public Right as a virtual contribution to the constitutional debates of 1787 in Philadelphia. Kant's Philosophy of Public Right is supposed to solve the problem of how to construct a completely just society. In the year of 1784, Kant was still convinced that a solution was impossible since humanity was too crooked a timber. In stark contrast to that opinion, Kant presented 1797/97 a Metaphysics of Morals that gave a solution that convinced at least himself. His change of mind is usually interpreted as his reaction to the French Revolution (1789 ff.). Together we will try to interpret it also as a reaction to the constitutional debates of 1787 at Philadelphia.

PHIL 390W. Self and Black Autobiography

In this course, we will explore the philosophical importance of African American Autobiography. We will consider such themes as: doing philosophy through African American autobiography; narrative conceptions of the self; slavery and African American narrative voice; autobiography as a site of knowledge production; the epistemological and social ontological implications of a raced and gendered self and how African American autobiography helps to access these dimensions of the self; and others.

Advanced Courses

Advanced Courses are designed for majors, minors, and other serious students of philosophy. Prerequisites: at least one 100 or 200-level course and two 300-level courses or instructor’s permission. Many 400-level courses are also 500-level graduate courses. A list of specific courses taught is available each semester at preregistration. The following are a small sample from courses taught recently.

PHIL 400W. Plato’s Later Dialogues

One or several of the prominent “later” Platonic dialogues will be examined. The dialogue will be considered in terms of its setting and argumentation. It will be considered how the dialogue fits with other dialogues.

PHIL 401W. Plato’s Early Dialogues

The dialogues often call “early” will be studied to explore what occurs in Socratic elenchus. Do these dialogues refer to forms or do they suffer from not doing so?

PHIL 402W. Confucianism and Zen

We will explore philosophy as a practice rather than a theory, by investigating these two living philosophical practices. We will then look at the historical Confucians who borrowed from Zen Buddhism even as they criticized it.

PHIL 404W. Plato’s Republic

This course concentrates on Plato’s text, with a consideration of various interpretations.

PHIL 406W. Aristotle: Politics

This key part of Aristotle’s practical science will be studied in detail. How the various parts of the text fit together will be considered and the extent to which Aristotle manages to achieve a science that goes beyond his own time and the Greek polis.

PHIL 407W. Aristotle: Metaphysics

This course considers how Aristotle develops his first philosophy. The unity of the text is a major concern and also the coherence of the position developed. In addition there is interest in the viability of the Aristotelian approach to being as being.

PHIL 408W. Confucianism: Philosophy of Change

The Confucians regarded the Book of Changes as a central text. We will look at basic texts from the Confucian tradition, and then pursue a close reading of a Confucian commentary on the Book of Changes. Our goal is not only to understand Confucian thought, but also to understand change.

PHIL 409W. Aristotle: De Anima

This course traces Aristotle’s account of the soul and its various capacities. The credibility of Aristotle’s “philosophy of mind” has been challenged. To what extent does he manage to develop viable positions?

PHIL 410W. Plato’s Middle Dialogues

The course treats those dialogues that set out the theory of forms in glowing imagery. How do the forms fit within these dialogues and how coherent is their entrance into the central questions of these dialogues.

PHIL 411W. - Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

This course considers the opening great part of Aristotle’s practical science. Does he manage to develop a consistent and compelling account of the best life? To what extent is his position a continuing live possibility?

PHIL 412W. Aristotle: Physics

This course provides a close reading of the treatise that begins Aristotle’s natural science. Here he deals with what nature is, whether it works for an end, what are motion, place, void, time, and so on. He also argues for a first mover.

PHIL 414W. Idealism and German Idealism

This seminar discusses the concepts of idealism and German idealism, the latter in respect to the former against the background of the history of the Western philosophical tradition.

PHIL 415W. Plotinus

An introduction to the philosophical thought of Plotinus through his own writings, especially those on the relation between faith and reason, existence and attributes of God, knowledge, and language.

PHIL 416W. Aristotle’s Politics and Rhetoric

The Rhetoric tackles the question whether there can be an art of reined speaking. Though it seems part of productive science, in many places it links with practical science. The course also treats Aristotle’s philosophical approach to politics.

PHIL 417W. Seminar: Descartes/Spinoza/Leibniz

This seminar engages the tradition of Continental Rationalism, with specific attention to the writings of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. Rather than narrowly focusing on their contributions to epistemology, the course connects seventeenth century theory of knowledge to metaphysics, ethical and political thought, and early modern science.

PHIL 418W. Art and Truth

This seminar studies the post-Platonic Western aesthetic tradition centering on the theme of art and truth initially raised by Plato.

PHIL 419W. Metaphysics

Attempts to understand what kinds of things there are in the world through, in classical metaphysics, the question of Being and related concepts of existence, thing, property, event, matter, mind, space, time, and causality. Included is also a critique of classical metaphysics in the modern and post modern eras and attempts at post-metaphysical thinking.

PHIL 420. The Philosophy of Saint Augustine

This course covers the early works of Augustine, focusing on his appropriation of Platonic and Stoic sources. We will also look at his later reinterpretation of his early life works like the Confessions.

PHIL 421W. Epicureans, Stoics, Skeptics

After a brief introduction to the Greek originals of these three schools, this course considers how the following Roman philosophers adapted them: Cicero, Lucretius, Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Sextus Empiricus. Evaluating their relative merits, both for their times and our own, this course also considers their influence upon modern thought.

PHIL 423W. Aristotle

This course offers a survey of Aristotle’s philosophy through selections of all his major works.

PHIL 424W. Plato’s Parmenides / Aristotle’s Metaphysics

These are arguably the leading theoretical works of each author. They will each be examines in detail and brought in relation to each other inasmuch as Aristotle develops his position with constant attention to Plato’s.

PHIL 425W. Concentrated Readings in Philosophy

Offers the opportunity for students and faculty to conduct in-depth study of a topic not covered, or covered only briefly, in other departmental courses. Special permission required.

PHIL 426W. Phenomenology and Epistemology

This course examines the overlap and the divergence of epistemology and phenomenology. What is the interplay of appearance and knowledge? What methods are available to us for knowledge?

PHIL 427W. St. Thomas Aquinas — The Soul

An introduction to Thomas Aquinas' philosophical psychology through a close reading of the Treatise on Man in his Summa theologiae, complemented by excerpts from his commentary on Aristotle's On the Soul. Along the way, we will consider his theory of knowledge and the views of his near contemporaries, with whom he is in a dialogue.

PHIL 428W. Is God Illusion?: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard

The course requires careful study of various texts by both authors and seminar reports on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals and Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. It encourages a dialogue between atheistic and theistic existentialism, especially in the light of "will to illusion" in the neo-Kantian hypothesis of Hans Vaihinger's The Philosophy of "As If." The course examines the extent to which Nietzsche's critiques of morality and religion come from his finding them to be consciously or unconsciously illusory. Finally, it asks how the same method could show that the faith Kierkegaard attributes to Abraham is illusory, and how Kierkegaard might respond.

PHIL 429W. Freud and Psychoanalysis

The first half of this course surveys the major writings of Freud, critically examining his technique of psychoanalysis as well as his theories of human cognition, affection, and motivation. What, if anything, is a good life according to Freud? The second half of this course surveys recent psychoanalytic contributions, considering the ways in which practitioners since Freud have deepened their understanding of both these topics and their own technique. Is psychoanalysis an ethics?

PHIL 430W. Critique of Pure Reason

This course is a close reading and conceptual analysis of Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason.

PHIL 431W. Heidegger’s Contribution to Philosophy

This course touches on several of Heidegger’s works with an eye toward how they were taken up by other philosophers in contemporary philosophy. In addition, we look to Heidegger’s own analyses of certain works in the history of philosophy.

PHIL 432W. Kant — Critique of Judgment

A careful analysis of the Kantian theory of aesthetics in the third and last Critique. This course considers the relation of the Kantian theory of aesthetics to other main aspects of the critical philosophy.

PHIL 433W. Hegel — Seminar Phenomenology of Spirit

This course provides a line by line reading of parts of Hegel’s first and arguably most important treatise.

PHIL 435W. Philosophy of Emotion

This course will question the traditional view and place of emotions. We will examine both historical and contemporary writings on the emotions and will consider how philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists, feminists, and legal theorists, have portrayed the relationship between emotion and reason, knowledge, morality, gender, embodiment, and law.

PHIL 437W. Modern Jewish Philosophy

This course is an introduction to modern Jewish philosophy through a study of philosophers who struggled to understand the relationship between their Judaism and philosophy. Is it possible to philosophize from within Judaism, or is there an irresolvable tension between the claims of philosophy to be universal and leading a committed Jewish life (however one understands this)? Does Jewish philosophy lead us to re-think the universality of philosophy, or to think universality otherwise? How have Jewish philosophers understood revelation? Is revelation compatible with reason, and if so, what might this mean for reason? We will engage with these and other questions by reading key works of Baruch Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas.

PHIL 438W. Kant’s Moral Theory

Kant’s deontological approach is widely influential in modern moral theory. This course draws on readings from the Critique of Practical Reason and the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals in presenting main aspects of Kant’s view.

PHIL 440W. Heidegger’s Later Philosophy

This course focuses on Heidegger’s later works, after his “turn.” We touch on several of these later texts, addressing them in themselves and in how they identify a shift from Heidegger’s earlier works.

PHIL 442W. Foundations of Moral Philosophy

Many contemporary currents of thinking like to undermine the very foundations of moral philosophy. Fortunately, the foundations of moral philosophy are not found in books of theories but in the performance of individuals, asking questions about moral values, evaluating people, policies, actions, rules, and, coming to conclusions about right and wrong. This course focuses on moral values, how we know them, and consequently is a value ethics.

PHIL 443W. Hegel’s Logic

This course examines both the Greater and the Encyclopedia Logics of Hegel. Emphasis is on a close reading of the text that focuses on the development of the argument, and they key concepts that are used to build the various movements in the argument.

PHIL 444W. Nietzsche

This course examines the writings and key insights of the influential nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It also examines the extraordinary impact his work has had on subsequent philosophers, ranging from Heidegger to Adorno.

PHIL 448W. Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) lived in catastrophic times, and wrote about them with precision. He followed the consequences of his thinking, even when this meant abandoning the pretension that thought is adequate to grasp reality without remainder. We will read a selection of Walter Benjamin's texts (in translation), focusing on his early aesthetics and criticism of art, his theory of experience, ideas and language, and his understanding of historical time.

PHIL 449W. African American Philosophy

This course examines the works of past and contemporary African American philosophers and other Black thinkers of Diaspora in an effort to understand the philosophical significance of the Black experience.

PHIL 450W. Islamic Philosophy

An introduction to major philosophers from the classical period of Islamic thought through their own writings. Among the thinkers whose works we will sample are Alkindi, Alfarabi, Avicenna, Algazel, and Averroes. We will give special attention, as did they, to the relation between philosophy and prophecy and that between philosophy and theology, to divine and natural causality, and to the nature and destiny of the soul.

PHIL 451W. Nietzsche and Freud

A survey of the major writings of Nietzsche and Freud, showing their remarkable similarity, and thus demonstrating the porous border between philosophy and psychology. Topics discussed include: human nature and motivation, consciousness and unconsciousness, reason and emotion, narcissism and love, guilt and morality, artistic creation and religious belief, freedom and the best life.

PHIL 453W. Husserl: Inner Time Consciousness

This course includes careful readings from Husserl’s texts on inner time-consciousness: Part B of On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time, analysis of Active and Passive Syntheses, and possibly some manuscripts (untranslated). A prior understanding of the basics of Husserl’s phenomenology and method (the basic premises gained from a reading of Ideas I) will be extremely helpful to participants, and a basic understanding of German will also be a plus.

PHIL 454W. Philosophy of Time

This course addresses some of the more influential philosophical analyses of time and temporality in the history of philosophy, including those from Aristotle and Augustine, and more contemporary philosophers such as Husserl and Heidegger.

PHIL 456W. Foucault

This course investigates the geneological stage of the Philosophy of Michel Foucault, in particular his notions of archaeological structure, geneological critique, power, subjectivity and ethics.

PHIL 458W. Plato’s Phaedo

This course is a close examination of Plato’s dialogue on the self and immortality of the soul.

PHIL 459. Plato’s Timaeus and Cratylus

This course is a close investigation of these two important dialogues. The Timaeus was very historically important since it was how Plato was known for centuries. The Cratylus has recently received much attention since it concerns the correctness of names, and therefore it seems to be a philosophy of language.

PHIL 460W. Introduction to Phenomenology

This course touches on the works of several contemporary phenomenologists, such as Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and de Beauvoir. We look to how phenomenology has been taken up in other areas of contemporary philosophy as well as the historical roots of this movement.

PHIL 462W. Adorno

Theodor Adorno, a member of the Frankfurt school of critical theory, wrote voluminously on a number of topics, such as music, literature, history, morality, culture, and dialectics. This course provides a survey of his most important works, with particular emphasis on Dialectic of Enlightenment, Minimal Moralia, and Negative Dialectics. Some investigation of his writings are music and will also be offered.

PHIL 466W. de Beauvoir and Cixous

This course looks at texts from both of these philosophers, both in comparison with one another and as philosophical works in themselves. We examine their contribution to philosophy, feminist philosophy, and feminism in general.

PHIL 467W. Race Matters / Philosophy and Literature Perspective

This course “asks are we a post-racial society,” while theorizing the meaning of the concept of race/racism and seeking clarification of the meaning of race through various works of literature (fiction, autobiography, etc.)

PHIL 468. Honors Thesis

This is a course for independent honors thesis research on an approved topic pursued under the guidance of a faculty member. Available only to students who have been admitted to the Philosophy Honors Program.

PHIL 469W. Critical Race Theory

This course explores the meaning of race, its historical emergence, and its current maintenance through power structures, normative and epistemological assumptions. The “critical” in Critical Race theory denotes the importance of resisting the calcification of race categories.

PHIL 471W. Ricœur, Symbolism of Evil

Ricoeur wrote extensively on the philosophy of religion as hermeneutics. This course takes up arguably his most important work, examining the problem of evil by studying the symbolism of four kinds of mythology: Babylonian, Greek Tragic, Biblical, and Orphic. Special emphasis will be placed on a close textual reading of the argument.

PHIL 472W. Heidegger’s Being and Time

This course will focus on a careful reading of both divisions of Heidegger's Being and Time. The goals of the course are to gain a good comprehension of this early work by Heidegger, to be able to treat it on an expository as well as on a critical level, to understand the context of this work in relation to ontology, and to build the beginnings of a conversation with Heideggerian philosophy and with existentialism.

PHIL 474W. Sartre: Being and Nothingness

This course will focus on a careful reading of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. We will read much of this text closely, concentrating on Sartre’s methodology, goals, and philosophical accomplishments. The goals of the course will be to gain a fairly detailed understanding of this work in itself, to consider it with regard to its philosophical roots, and to address the influence it has had on important projects that followed it.

PHIL 475W. The Later Heidegger

This course focuses on Heidegger’s later works, after his “turn.” We look at these texts philosophically as well as beyond the realm of philosophy.

PHIL 476W. Husserl

This course touches on several works by Husserl, looking at the phenomenological method for itself, as well as how it is applied in such areas as the body, time-consciousness, logical meaning constitution, and inter-subjectivity.

PHIL 478W. Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Art, Religion, and Philosophy

Hegel's Encyclopedic Doctrines of Objective and Absolute Spirit (1830) present the base lines of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Art, Religion and Philosophy itself. Ernst Forsthoff declared 1933 in "The Total State" the end of any Hegelian Liberalism in Germany by demanding the submission 1. of family, civil society to and by the state, which were in Hegel's philosophy state-independent spheres of Sittlichkeit, and 2. art, religion, and science to and by the state, which were in Hegel's philosophy guises of a spirit that is even defined by his detachment ("ab-solvere") of any objective spirit, that is, state, nation, culture. By a close reading of the relevant parts of Hegel's Encyclopedia we are going to understand how Hegel could become the most prominent enemy of Carl Schmitt's Meisterschuler in the year of 1933.

PHIL 479W. Kierkegaard's Critique of Hegel

This lecture and discussion course on Kierkegaard's existentialism studies writings from his various periods, with special attention to the Concluding Unscientific Postscript in relation to Hegel's Science of Logic. It criticizes claims some make that Hegel's philosophy is indifferent to human existential concerns and that Kierkegaard's position is entirely anti-Hegelian. On the contrary, the lectures show some elements of Kierkegaard's critique of Hegel are derived from the Science of Logic. Other philosophers in addition to Hegel enter the dialogue with Kierkegaard, for instance, his arguments about God in relation to Kant's critical philosophy.

PHIL 482W. Deleuze

This course focuses on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's amazing book, A Thousand Plateaus (1980). This is one of the greatest and most influential books in the movement in French Philosophy known as post-structuralism, or postmodernism, or philosophy of multiplicity and difference. This work presents a new philosophical methodology that values multiplicity over unity, difference over identity, and becoming over essence. In a series of essays, Deleuze and Guattari analyze a very wide range of philosophical topics, from politics to language, from history to music, from the relation between humans and animals to the relation between concepts and machines. They sometime call their method "schizoanalysis": their goal is to describe the virtual transformations and hybrid assemblages that, in their view, make up reality. In this course, we will interpret and critique the complex, brilliant, and controversial ideas in this book. Students will also make their own attempt to use Deleuze and Guattari's methods to develop their own analyses of philosophical topics. Students will develop skills both of close reading and of imaginative conceptual invention.

PHIL 484W. Derrida

This is a course on Jacques Derrida's theory of language, meaning, and signifiers, concentrating on his great early works of the 1960's. Derrida has had an enormous influence on the philosophy of language, on political philosophy, and on the interpretation of the history of metaphysics. The issues around language and signifiers are connected to Derrida's other topics of writing, difference, presence, and deconstruction. His invention of "deconstruction" has often been misunderstood, but it is extremely interesting, important, and useful for anyone interested in meaning. Derrida's writing is difficult, and his ideas are highly controversial, but studying Derrida is essential for anyone who wants to understand and do philosophy in a contemporary way. We will study Derrida's texts closely (sympathetically as well as critically), and consider his work in relation to philosophy, linguistics, and semiotics (the theory of signs) of the period. The most important thing that students will take from this course is a range of options for thinking about how "signifiers" work.

PHIL 485. Gender, Nature, Being

Is gender natural or not? This is a recent debate among feminists (e.g., Grosz vs. Butler), even more recently enhanced by contributions from transgender theorists (Halberstam), but it has an ancient lineage, beginning with Plato, who used it not only to argue that women should become philosopher-queens, but also to introduce his doctrines of nature and being. This course begins and ends with the recent feminist debate, but tries to clarify it through an intervening survey of differing accounts: Greeks (Plato vs. Aristotle), Catholics (Aquinas & George), evolutionary biologists (Darwin & Roughgarden), philosophers of science (Dupre and Rosenberg), and philosophers of selfhood (Nietzsche & Foucault). The goal will be to answer the question, but more importantly to see how much is at stake whichever answer one chooses.

PHIL 487W. Plato’s Parmenides and Phaedrus

This course is a close study of two of Plato’s most important dialogues. The Parmenides raises difficulties about the theory of forms and the Phaedrus deals with direction of the soul.

PHIL 488W. Critical Whiteness Studies

This course explores what it means to be white, white privilege, white domination, white invisibility, and whiteness as normative. We explore the important works by critical whiteness theorists and how they have come to think about whiteness and how they have proposed ways of challenging its social, political, and epistemological hegemonic status.

PHIL 490W. Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics takes as its foundation Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, which emphasizes the role of character and excellence in our moral assessments. This course considers the directions in which contemporary virtue ethicists have taken Aristotle's character-based ethics as they have attempted to situate his notions of virtue, character, and happiness in a contemporary context and thereby to create an alternative to non-character based ethical systems such as Kantianism and Utilitarianism. The course will focus on the following questions: On what do contemporary virtue ethicists base the virtues (e.g., on some notion of human well-being; on the care of others; on our intuitions)? Which virtues are interesting and important? Are some virtues gender-specific? Practice-specific? How grounded in Aristotelian moral theory is contemporary virtue ethics? What are the major contemporary critiques of virtue ethics? Readings include works by Aristotle, Alasdair MacIntyre, Iris Murdoch, Susan Wolf, G.E.M. Anscombe, Susan Okin, Philippa Foot, Thomas Nagel, and others.

PHIL 491. Plato and Nietzsche

Each week juxtaposing a Platonic dialogue with excerpts from Nietzsche's books, this course examines and evaluates the obvious differences between them: on questions of metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, ethics, and aesthetics. But it also considers their remarkable similarities: their philosophical art, their aristocratic politics, and their salvific aspirations, among others. One central concern will be the relationship between love and time; another, the difference between reincarnation and eternal return.

PHIL 492W. The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir

This course attempts to elucidate the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir, which might be called a situated phenomenological existentialism, by a careful analysis of selected essays, novels, and autobiographical accounts. The class concentrates on the Ethics of Ambiguity, the Second Sex, and She Came to Stay.

PHIL 493W. Marx and Critical Theory

This course surveys both the early and the late writings of Karl Marx, and the subsequent influence they had on the development of economic, political, and philosophical thinking in many corners of the world. Particular emphasis will be on the impact it had on the so called Frankfurt School of Critical Theory in Germany. An analysis of the texts Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Jurgen Habermas will be included.

PHIL 495W. Phenomenology of Race

In this course we will examine the lived experience of race in relationship to key phenomenological concepts (embodiment, intersubjectivity, lived space, Erlebnis, etc.). Our objective is to work through what a phenomenology of race looks like by deploying important concepts from Fanon, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Sara Ahmed, et al.

PHIL 496. Special Topics

This course will be many different topics about different philosophers.

PHIL 497. Badiou's Being and Event

Badiou is perhaps the most important French philosopher following the generation of Derrida and Deleuze. Being and Event is his most important book. Like other recent French philosophers, Badiou emphasizes multiplicity. Almost every page of this long, fascinating, and difficult book develops brilliant and original concepts of ontology and ethics. The course of his argument is that "events" (whether they emerge from philosophy, politics, poetry, mathematics, or love) surpass "Being". Badiou is a political activist as well as a novelist, and he draws on political as well as aesthetic sources. Throughout, Badiou uses a unique approach to the logic of set theory to express his ontology. (Students do not need any background in mathematics to take this course, since Badiou's book explains the basic ideas of set theory.) There are many controversial ideas in Badiou's philosophy, and studying this book is essential for anyone who wants to know what is happening in Continental philosophy today.

PHIL 498W. Philosophy of God

This course introduces students to selected traditional and contemporary texts and basic themes in types of religious experience, such as Babylonian, Greek, and Judeo-Christian. It delineates such questions as: What is the Holy? What is the status of arguments for the existence of God? Why is there human suffering if God is good and all-powerful?