Course Descriptions

  • PHIL 110: Introduction to Philosophy
    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. (Meets GEC First-Year Writing Requirement.)
  • PHIL 112: Reason and the Irrational
    The confrontation and dialogue between rationality and the powers of desire, will, spontaneity, and freedom. Discussion will focus on readings from Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Kafka, Sartre, and Buber. (Meets GEC First-Year Writing Requirement.)
  • PHIL 114: Intro to Phil: Asian Thought
    Introduction, through representative Asian thinkers from India, China, and Japan, to fundamental philosophical issues such as the nature and meaning of human existence, what true happiness is, and what is real. (Meets GEC First-Year Writing Requirement.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.(Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: GSWS 200
  • PHIL 203: Business & Professional Ethics
    Analysis and evaluation of ethical problems in business and the professions. Attention will be given to the moral foundations for and limits on business activities, the idea of professional responsibility, and the relationship between professional and business obligations and general moral obligations. (Not recommended for first-year students.)
  • 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.
  • 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?
    Cross-listed as: 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? (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
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  • PHIL 214: Educational Reform in the U.S.
    This course will explore the meaning of educational reform in the United States, both from a historical and philosophical perspective and in the context of contemporary educational policy. Students will begin the course by studying the progressive educational reform movement of the early twentieth century. They will look at ways in which progressive education initiatives, including the open education movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, have been challenged by proponents of standardization in schools. Charter schools, magnet schools, school vouchers, and No Child Left Behind also will be examined in order to better understand how the notion of educational reform is one that can be viewed from a wide variety of perspectives and within multiple contexts.
    Cross-listed as: EDUC 212, AMER 212
  • 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.
    Cross-listed as: EDUC 220
  • 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 as: 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.
    Cross-listed as: ES 225
  • PHIL 230: Philosophy and Literature
    The question of meaning in and of literature. The philosophical study of works by Aeschylus, Euripides, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Nabakov, Philip Roth, and Milan Kundera as well as the poetry of Dylan Thomas and Wallace Stevens. Critical theories of Nietzsche, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Derrida are used. (Not recommended for first-year students.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Cross-listed as: AMER 237
  • PHIL 240: Philosophy of Law
    Survey of some main philosophical theories about the nature and justification of law, with intensive examination of several key philosophical problems as they arise in workings of the American legal system. Readings drawn from law and philosophy. (Not recommended for first-year students.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 253
  • PHIL 255: Philosophy and European Film
    This course explores the philosophical content of contemporary European movies with special emphasis on metaphysical, ethical, and aesthetic ideas developed and visually presented by recognized filmmakers including Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, Luis Bunuel, Francois Truffaut, DeSica, Erich Rohmer, Fellini, and Antonioni, and special emphasis on Krzysztof Kieslowski.
  • PHIL 256: Philosophy and American Film
    This course explores the philosophical content of contemporary American film with special emphasis on post-World War II ideas about human freedom, subjectivity, sex and love, and the problem of evil. Film makers include Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder, Orson Welles, Robert Altman, Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino.
  • PHIL 258: Spike Lee and 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. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: AFAM 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.
  • PHIL 265: Symbolic Logic

  • 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).
    Cross-listed as: AMER 269
  • PHIL 271: African American Philosophy
    African-American philosophy can be defined in two ways: (1) wide-ranging philosophical work done by Americans of recent black African descent and (2) philosophical work on the lived experience of Americans of recent black African descent. We will primarily read philosophers whose philosophical work emphasizes the African-American experience. Thematically, the course will be guided by one overriding question: Given the historical reality of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Three-Fifths Compromise, the anti-miscegenation laws, the Fugitive Slave Law, Lynch Law, and the Jim Crow laws, among many other inhumane practices, how does the experience of Africans in America constitute a unique combination of philosophical perspectives? Once we answer this question, we will understand how the African-American experience has created a new tradition in Western philosophy. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: AFAM 271
  • PHIL 272: Currents in Latin Amer Thought
    Taking a historical perspective, the course will examine important themes in Latin American thought such as philosophical anthropology (race, the nature of the human being, and Latin American character), the study of values (subjectivism versus objectivism), and debates about philosophy and history (universalist versus culturalist approaches, free will versus determinist outlooks). (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: LNAM 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. (Meets the GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 275
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  • 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.
    Cross-listed as: ETHC 276
  • PHIL 277: Social Justice versus Freedom?
    Examination of the perceived tensions between efforts to promote social justice and guarantees of individual freedom. Theoretical debates will be linked to practical issues, such as promotion of free markets versus government social programs and questions of government's legitimate role on personal issues, such as providing for gay marriage. Efforts to seek common ground will be explored. No prerequisites.
    Cross-listed as: ETHC 277
  • PHIL 280: Dialogue
    Examination of special topics not offered in regular courses.
  • PHIL 281: Evol Institut Values: LFC 1857-2007
    Collaborative research project culminating in a report on the evolution of the College's values from its inception to 2007. Investigations will examine visions of what should be taught and why, who should be taught and why, the identity of the College, its relationship to changing visions of higher education, and its place in the values debates of the broader community. Participation by invitation.
  • 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. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement).
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 285
  • PHIL 290: Ancient Greek Philosophy
    The nature of reality, knowledge, goodness, and beauty traced from the pre-Socratics through Plato and Aristotle. Some attention may be given to the transition to the medieval period.
    Cross-listed as: CLAS 290
  • PHIL 291: Descartes to Kant
    Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European philosophers, with a primary focus on epistemology and metaphysics. Readings will include Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Prerequisite: Philosophy 110, 290, or consent of the instructor.
  • PHIL 292: Hegel to Nietzsche
    Idealism, romanticism, existentialism, vitalism, and pragmatism. Intensive readings in Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Bergson, James, Husserl, and Freud. Prerequisites: Philosophy 110, 290, and/or 291, or consent of the instructor.
  • 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.
  • 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?
    Cross-listed as: NEUR 296
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  • 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] … always involves a complex relation between the compulsions of the past and the freedoms of the present. … [They] affect their audience … 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).
    Cross-listed as: GSWS 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.
  • PHIL 303: Gender and Character
    Studies of the effects of either femininity or masculinity on moral and aesthetic choices. Several philosophers of character, morality, and psychology, e.g., Aristotle, Nietzsche, Freud, MacIntyre, and Gilligan, will be examined in conjunction with various works of fiction and film. Prerequisite: One philosophy course or permission of the instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: GSWS 303
  • PHIL 305: Comp Philosophy: East & West
    Comparative investigation of Eastern and Western philosophical sources; elucidation and critical examination of fundamental presuppositions, unique conceptual formulations, and alternative approaches to general philosophical issues. Prerequisite: One Western philosophy course and one Asian area course, or consent of the instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 305
  • PHIL 310: Communication Ethics
    Examination of the ethical components at the heart of human communication. Discussions of practical issues, such as free speech, advertising, and privacy, will be based on theoretical investigations of both communication and ethics. Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of the instructor.
  • PHIL 315: Soc Ethics Energy Production & Use
    Course description: 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 as: SOAN 315, ES 315
  • PHIL 320: Phenomenol, Existent, Deconstruc
    (Phenomenology, Existentialism, and Deconstruction) 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.
  • PHIL 322: Religious Existentialism
    An epoch of European philosophy and religious thought culminated in the great system developed by Hegel. In its wake came a literature of protest, beginning with the Danish philosopher and religious thinker Soren Kierkegaard and moving through a later generation of European intellectuals who came to maturity between the two world wars. Included are Jewish voices such as Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig as well as Christian writers such as Paul Tillich and Gabriel Marcel. Readings include texts by these religious existentialists. Prerequisite: Any Religion course or permission of instructor.
    Cross-listed as: RELG 322
  • 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 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.
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  • PHIL 355: Wittgenstein & Analytic Tradition
    This course will provide students with a background in the analytic tradition, the philosophical outlook that has dominated Anglo-American schools for much of the twentieth century. Readings may include authors: Frege, Moore, Russell, Ayer, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Grice, Austin, Davidson, Kripke, Ryle, Quine, and Searle. Prerequisite: Philosophy 292 is strongly recommended.
  • PHIL 360: Identity & Dreams
    In this course we will explore philosophical issues of personal identity arising particularly from the phenomenon of dreaming. We will focus on the issue of how different dream interpreting techniques help give rise to different perceptions of personhood and one's relation to the world at large. We will read the Bible, Herodotus, Plato, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Freud, Jung, and some ancient Chinese documents. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • 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. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • PHIL 380: Topics

  • PHIL 410: Major Philosophers
    (Spring 2014 Major Philosophers: 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 philosopher. This course will examine the philosophical, religious, and literary influences on Nietzsche's thought as well as his affirmative response and alternative to traditional morality. Some of the key questions we will answer include: What is the doctrine of the 'will to power'? Who or what is an Übermensch? What is the eternal recurrence of the same?
  • PHIL 420: Topics: Phil of Humans and Animals
    Seminar designed for students with a background in philosophy. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Three philosophy courses or two such courses and permission of the instructor.
  • PHIL 490: Sr Symposium & Research Project
    Independent research plus discussions of that research in meetings of seniors and faculty. (Students undertaking a research project over two semesters would register for regular research project credit in the semester without the symposium.) Open to senior majors and others with permission of the department chair.
  • 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.