PHIL 100-010 Philosophies of Life. Professor Jordan
Plato, Christianity, Marxism, Freud, Philosophical Naturalism, and
Classical Liberalism are among the theories we will look at this
semester. The course is a survey of six theories concerning the nature
of humanity. There will be three tests.
PHIL 101-010 Great Western Philosophers. Professor Rogers
Western Philosophy began over two thousand years ago in
Greece when people began to ask, “What is really real?” “How can I know
anything?” and “What am I doing here, anyway?” In Great Western
Philosophers we take an introductory look, in chronological order, at
some of the most important thinkers and ideas from ancient Greece to
the present, including, for example, Aristotle on the Happy Life,
Thomas Aquinas on God, and Descartes on doubt and certainty. The
course is divided into four sections with a multiple-choice test after
PHIL 102-010 Introduction to Philosophy. Professor Pust
This course is an analytic introduction to Philosophy through
the study of the Philosophy of Religion, Epistemology, Metaphysics and
Ethics. Among the questions we will consider are the following: Does
God exist? Can we know that an external world exists? Is any belief
about the future rational? What is the relationship between the mind
and brain? What, if anything, makes our actions right or wrong? Doe
we ever act freely? Readings will be from both historical and
PHIL 102-010 Introduction to Philosophy. Professor Shabo
This course provides an introduction to the problems and
methods of philosophy as an academic discipline. We will focus on four
traditional areas of philosophical debate, including the existence of
God, the mind-body problem, knowledge and skepticism, and free will and
determinism. In each of the four areas, we will look closely at
influential arguments and positions with a view to understanding and
critically evaluating them. Grading will be based on four in-class
essay exams as well as class participation.
PHIL 105-010 Critical Thinking. Professor Shabo
Whether you are watching television, reading a book or
newspaper, or attending a class, some person or institution is trying to
influence your beliefs, attitudes or actions. Such influence takes
various forms. Our focus will be on attempts to influence you through
claims and arguments. More generally, our concern will be to understand
the critical skills that are needed to make effective assessments of
evidence, so that you have more control over how you respond to these
influences. Of course, we will not be deciding in detail what we should
believe about every issue. Rather, we will be doing a more general
study of the appropriate standards for determining what to believe.
Studying the general standards for acquiring or changing belief
involves exploring the nature of justification and the giving of
reasons. We will do this by examining valid and invalid argument forms,
informal fallacies, the use of analogy in argument, and ambiguity.
Later in the semester, we will apply these critical thinking tools to
arguments on a range of contemporary topics.
PHIL 125-010 Topics in Popular Culture.
Philosophical ideas expressed in popular media such as
science fiction or fantasy literature, films, and music. Topics are
PHIL 201-010 Social and Political Philosophy. Professor Cushing
This course takes a problem based approach to social and
political philosophy with an emphasis on historical authors. Topics
include the justification of government, the ideal form of government,
freedom, property, and rights. Authors read include Hobbes, Locke,
Rousseau, Mill, Marx, and Rawls with additional attention paid to
contemporary writers as time and student interest dictates. Students
will learn to approach complex topics analytically and express
themselves clearly in writing. The primary requirements for the class
will be short papers.
PHIL 202-010 Contemporary Moral Problems. Professor Greene
In conducting our ordinary lives, we often need answers to
ethical questions. Some of the most serious are literally matters of
life and death. These force us to ask questions like: is it ever okay
to kill another member of the human species? Is it always okay to
kill things which are not members of the human species? We shall
consider issues like abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, capital
punishment, terrorism and warfare, the welfare of future generations,
animals, the environment, and responsibility to those less fortunate
than ourselves. Along the way, we’ll consider the role of ethical
theory in helping us to address difficult ethical decisions. Students
will emerge from the course in a position to make a worthwhile
contribution to the discussion of ethical issues in our society.
PHIL 202-010 Contemporary Moral Problems. Professor Pust
This course will survey and investigate various answers to
philosophical questions regarding applied ethics. We will begin with a
consideration of some questions in moral theory: What does morality
require of us? Is morality objective? Does morality depend upon
religion? We will then turn to discussion of the following topics:
suicide, euthanasia, abortion, the treatment of animals, capital
punishment, sex, pornography, drug use and, finally, our moral
obligations with respect to people in great need, future generations,
and the natural environment.
PHIL 202-010, 080 Contemporary Moral Problems. Professor Hanley
In conducting our ordinary lives, we often need answers to
ethical questions. Some of the most serious are literally matters of
life and death. These force us to ask questions like: is it ever okay
to kill another member of the human species? Is it always okay to kill
things which are not members of the human species? We shall consider
issues like abortion, infanticide, contraception, euthanasia, capital
punishment, warfare, and the welfare of future generations, animals,
the environment, and of those less fortunate than ourselves. Along the
way, we’ll construct a picture of a plausible ethical theory, engaging
questions like, “Are there any objectively correct answers in ethics?”
and “Does ethics depend upon religion?” Students will emerge from
the course in a position to make a worthwhile contribution to the
discussion of ethical issues in our society.
PHIL 203-010 Ethics. Professor Cushing
This is a course in theoretical normative ethics. Our primary
objective in the course will be to understand the three most prominent
schools of ethical thought in contemporary philosophy:
Consequentialism, Deontology, and Virtue Ethics. We will look at the
classical sources of these schools as well as contemporary writers.
The course will begin with a short look at moral nihilism and cultural
relativism before moving on to our main project. Students will learn to
approach complex topics analytically and express themselves clearly in
writing. The primary requirements for the class will be short papers.
PHIL 204-010 World Religions. Professor Fox
In this course we will take a critical yet sympathetic view
of a wide range of religious traditions, including Native American
Religion, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam. This will require that we allow ourselves both to identify with
and maintain our distance from each of the traditions covered. We
propose to explore textual and historical roots and fundamental
concerns, and to look for similarities and differences. We will not be
experts on World Religions after taking this course, but we will be
more sensitive to the kinds of issues at stake in the study of
religion, and more familiar with the origins and evolutions of today’s
living religions, both Eastern and Western.
PHIL 205-010 Logic. Professor Draper
Elementary symbolic logic of truth-functions and
quantification. This course covers deductive reasoning: patterns of
argument that are logically conclusive by virtue of their form alone. A
formal language is developed for expressing the structure of arguments
involving connectives like “and” and “or”, and quantifiers like “all”,
“some”, “no”. When translated into this formal language, arguments in
ordinary English can be proved valid or invalid, and sentences can be
evaluated as logically true, logically false, or contingent.
PHIL 205-010 Logic. Professor Hanley
We will develop a simple but powerful formal language to
assist us in understanding and evaluating deductive arguments given in a
natural language like English. We’ll begin with a propositional
calculus and expand the language as we go to include predication,
quantification, and identity, as well as the traditional Square of
Opposition. Along the way I’ll introduce a range of indispensable
concepts, such as consistency and validity, and tools, including
natural deduction and truth tables.
PHIL 207-010 Scientific Reasoning.
Critical survey of basic concepts and forms of inductive
reasoning. Applications to the physical, social and biomedical sciences.
Topics include: interpretations of probability, probabilistic
fallacies, methods of statistical induction, logic of hypothesis
testing, judging correlations, criteria of causation, experimental
design and definitions of confirmation.
PHIL 208-010 Introduction to Jewish Philosophy.
This course examines, at an introductory level, fundamental
issues in the philosophy of religion. Students will be guided through a
survey of historically important philosophers who have approached
these issues, and will learn how they have utilized both general
theological approaches to resolving the tension between philosophy and
religion and the uniquely Jewish attempt to do so. Topics will
include: God, miracles, good and evil, divine commandments and free
PHIL 209-010 Philosophy of Religion. Professor Jordan
In this course we will examine the classical arguments pro
and con for the existence of God. The credibility of miracle-reports,
concepts of afterlife, the problem of religious pluralism, and the
nature of God are other topics discussed. There will be two in-class
exams and one take-home exam.
PHIL 210-010 Women and Religion.
Examines the impact of Near Eastern and Judeo-Christian
scriptures on women in the family and society especially focusing on
women’s roles as mystics and leaders within and outside of
institutional religion. Also covers recent feminist approaches to
PHIL 211-010 Basic Decision Theory. Professor Boorse
Rational decision-making using only elementary logic and
high-school algebra. Decisions under ignorance: max-min rules for
preference orderings. Decisions under risk: probability, utility, and
the expected-utility rule. Game theory: equilibrium strategies;
prisoner’s dilemma. Social choices: voting paradoxes and Arrow’s
PHIL 216-010 Introduction to Feminist Theory.
The concepts of love, marriage, sexuality, family, work,
power and equality of women. Theories of women and their position in
society, including classical Marxism, the status politics of the
suffragettes, radical feminism and socialist feminism.
PHIL 241-010 Ethical Issues in Healthcare. Professor Greene
Informed discussion of the ethics of healthcare must
acknowledge the constraints of political and economic reality. In this
course we will make an interdisciplinary examination of competing
considerations of ethics, justice, and practical policy in the
provision of healthcare. Among the questions addressed will be: What
are the aims of healthcare and how can success be measured? Is there a
right to healthcare? Who should pay? How should scarce resources be
distributed? (See also PHIL 444 for a class with a more clinical
focus.) More info on class website: classes.vole.org/241.
PHIL 244-010 Philosophy of Art. Professor Cushing
An introduction to main philosophic problems concerning art: the nature, evaluation and value of art.
PHIL 300 -010 Medieval Philosophy. Professor Rogers
Medieval Philosophy deals with the synthesis of Greek philosophy and biblical religion. We start with some background in Ancient Greek philosophy and Plotinus, the Neoplatonist who had a profound impact on later thought. Major figures include Christian philosophers, Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus and William of Ockham; Islamic philosophers, Avicenna, Alghazali, and Averroes; and Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, Though the material is presented chronologically, the key question throughout will be whether or not the ideas we study are philosophically viable today. Topics will include: Proving God, Evil, Freedom, Causation, Knowledge, The Good Life, Universals, Time, and more. There will be three essay tests, two short papers, and quizzes on assigned reading.
PHIL 301-010 Ancient Philosophy. Professor Rogers
We take a chronological survey of major figures in Ancient
Greek and Roman Philosophy from the beginning of philosophy with Thales
in the Seventh Century BCE up through Plotinus in the Second Century
CE, devoting the most time to the two most important figures in Ancient
(and perhaps in all) Philosophy, Plato and Aristotle. Questions
include (but are not limited to): What is everything made of? Can we
know anything, and, if so, what and how? Is there a God, and, if so,
what manner of Being is It? How can I be happy? What, if anything,
justifies the authority of the government?
PHIL 301-010 Ancient Philosophy. Professor Draper
The course is divided into six topics: the significance of
being mortal, the possibility and nature of change, the ideal society,
the fundamental nature of reality, the nature of the mind, and the
rationality of being moral. We will consider the attempts of various
ancient Greek philosophers to address these issues, with an emphasis on
Plato, Aristotle and Epicurus. Special attention will be given to
Plato’s Republic, widely recognized as one of the greatest works in
PHIL 303-010, 080 Modern Philosophy. Professor Shabo
This course is a study of works of the major philosophers of
the 17th and 18th centuries, including Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz,
Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. In reading these works, we will come
to understand some of their main positions and arguments in metaphysics
and epistemology. In addition, we will come to appreciate how their
discussions have shaped our contemporary understanding of such core
philosophical problems as the nature of minds, what the physical world
is like and what we can know about it, causation, and personal
PHIL 305-010 Twentieth-Century Philosophy. Professor Powers, Professor Swanson
In the 20th century, philosophical analysis broached new
questions and gave some convincing answers to older philosophical
problems. Philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of mind,
philosophy of science, and ethics all benefited greatly from the
several kinds of analysis practiced during this time. It was a period
in which philosophy, especially but not exclusively in the
English-speaking world, provided foundational and methodological
contributions to the sciences (e.g., in psychology and physics) and
contributed to several emerging disciplines, such as formal linguistics,
mathematical logic, and computer science. Philosophers also turned
their attention, in this period, to questions of distributive justice
in ways that aided inquiry in economics, public policy, and
jurisprudence. In this course we will read many of the great works of
20th century philosophy, mostly in article format, and explore the
significance of this fruitful period of inquiry.
PHIL 306-010 Philosophy of Science.
A survey of central topics in the philosophy of science which
may include the distinction between science (astronomy) and
pseudo-science (astrology), the role of values in science, scientific
realism, scientific reductionism, as well as the nature of scientific
theories, explanations, and confirmation.
PHIL 307-010 Black Thought and Philosophy. Professor Jeffreys
Readings and discussions of Black philosophies, ideologies
and concepts as reflected in the thought of significant Black figures.
PHIL 308-010 Topics in Jewish Theology.
Critical evaluation of the theological views of major
branches of Judaism on such topics as: the significance of Israel, the
status of Jewish law, the meaning of Jewish ritual and the mission of
the Jewish people.
PHIL 309-010, 080 Indian Religion and Philosophy. Professor Fox
This course will cover the philosophical and religious
traditions in the Indian culture, including the Vedic tradition,
Jainism, and the various philosophical schools of Hinduism. Special
emphasis will be placed on Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta. We will also
cover various more recent developments in Indian thought, including
Sikhism and the works of modern thinkers such as Gandhi, Ramakrishna,
The Honors section of Indian Religion and Philosophy will
operate as a subsection of PHIL 309 sec. 010. This means that besides
the regular work load for the course, students will be expected to meet
for an additional discussion every other week throughout the
semester. This means that students with extremely complex or
restricted schedules may not be able to take part. We will read
additional, more in-depth and sophisticated materials, and will spend
more time working with traditional texts. Increased emphasis will be
placed on class participation, in both the regular and the additional
honors section meetings. Class is limited to ten students.
Prerequisite: PHIL 204 World Religions.
PHIL 310-010, 080 Chinese Religion and Philosophy. Professor Fox
In this course we will read and discuss the works of several
important thinkers in the Chinese philosophical tradition, including
Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi from the Confucian tradition; Laozi and
Zhuangzi from the Daoist tradition; the Huayan and Chan Buddhist
traditions; and Zhuxi and Wang Yangming from the Neo-Confucian
tradition. We will also discuss representative figures from
Neo-Daoism, Chinese Yoga, and trends in Modern Chinese Philosophy. No
knowledge of the Chinese language is necessary. There will also be an
Honors subsection for 310 which will be limited to 10 students.
Students for this subsection will read additional materials and will
meet every other Tuesday at 4pm for an hour in a seminar format to go
into greater depth on issues raised in class.
PHIL 311-010, 80 Early Medieval Philosophy. Professor Rogers
Early Medieval Philosophy deals with the beginning of the
synthesis of Greek philosophy and biblical religion. We start with some
background in Ancient Greek philosophy and Plotinus, the neoplatonist
who had a profound impact on later religious thought. A major part of
the course is devoted to Augustine of Hippo, who, after the authors of
the New Testament, is the chief architect of Christian philosophy. We
move then to Boethius, Eriugena, Anselm and conclude with Peter Abelard.
Though the material is presented chronologically, the key question
throughout will be whether or not the ideas we study are philosophically
viable today. Topics will include: Proving God, answering skepticism,
leading the good life, universals, evil, time, Genesis and the theory of
evolution, and many more. There will be three essay tests, two
research papers, and quizzes on assigned reading.
PHIL 312-010, 080 Late Medieval Philosophy. Professor Rogers
In the middle of the Middle Ages Islamic philosophers
rediscovered the thought of Aristotle. What followed was centuries of
debates on a range of ever-timely questions, including: Can science
and religion be reconciled? Is morality universal and objective? If
you touch a match to cotton is the cotton more likely to burn than it
is to turn into a parrot and fly away? It was these debates which
laid the foundations for the so-called Renaissance, the Protestant
Reformation, and the world as we see it today. In Later Medieval
Philosophy we will study the chronological course of these debates,
ever mindful that our main question is always, Is the argument in
question valid and sound? Reading will be moderate. Discussion is
encouraged. There will be four essay tests, two short papers, and
daily quizzes on the reading.
PHIL 313-010 Killing and Letting Die. Professor Greene
Doctors are generally forbidden to actively cause the death
of terminally ill patients who are in great pain and want to die.
However, they are allowed to withhold treatment from such patients,
knowing this will hasten death. Both practices share the morally
salient feature that they result in avoidable earlier death. Why is
killing condemned but letting die allowed? We will explore this and the
acts / omissions asymmetry more generally. It seems that there are
cases in which moral attitudes diverge despite equivalence of ethically
relevant features. Are such asymmetries real or only apparent? What do
they mean for the ethical systems in which they arise?
PHIL 315-010 Metaphysics. Professor Hanley
Metaphysics is the study of how and what things really are.
Modern analytic metaphysics has been especially concerned with modality
(the nature of necessity and possibility), personal identity, the
mind‑body problem, the nature of time, causation, and freedom of the
will; and has been characterized by a fine attention to language and
logic. We shall touch on all these concerns, with the focus on
modality, an area which in the 1980s saw the publication of two
revolutionary works, by Saul Kripke and David Lewis.
PHIL 316-010, 080 Time Travel. Professor Hanley
The notions of time travel, and of a multiverse, are staples
of science fiction that have gained respectability in recent physics and
philosophy. We shall examine them in connection with traditional
philosophical issues concerning the nature of time, space, change,
causation, God, human beings, free will and personal identity.
PHIL 320-010 Theory of Knowledge. Professor Pust
This course is a thorough survey of contemporary analytic
epistemology (the theory of knowledge and justified belief). We will
begin with a consideration of various attempts to define knowledge.
Following that, we will examine contemporary theories of justified
belief such as foundationalism, coherentism and reliabilism. This
course will conclude with an investigation of responses to skepticism
about the external world. Readings will be mostly from recent journal
articles. This course will be a mixture of lecture and discussion.
Students will be expected to be prepared for active and informed
discussion of the readings.
PHIL 322-010 Existentialism.
Study of the origins and development of existential
philosophy. Emphasis on the fundamental insight into the nature of man
that separates the existentialists from the rest of the Western
philosophical tradition. Sources include Pascal, Kierkegaard, Nietsche
PHIL 327-010 Race, Gender, Science.
Critically examines a number of metaphysical,
epistemological, and ethical issues related to science of race, gender,
and sexual orientation. Topics include (a) evolution of sex and
gender, (b) gender and cognition, (c) biological basis, or lack
thereof, of sexual orientation/preference, (d) evolutionary, cognitive,
historical, and political origins of race thinking, (e) relationship
between everyday conceptions of race and gender as compared with
scientific conceptions of race and gender, (f) ethical issues raised by
human kind classification schemes.
PHIL 330-010 Philosophy of Mind. Professor Pust
Many people think that the self or mind (or center of
consciousness) is somehow different from the brain and the rest of the
body. For instance, the idea that there is life after death seems to
entail this. In fact the mere existence of consciousness seems to
suggest that the self or mind is totally different from the body.
Scientific research into the brain, however, finds no such center of
consciousness and promises to explain all mental activity physically.
But that is also puzzling since such mental states and activities as
choice, decision, belief, desire, and the like play a central role in
explaining how human beings think and act.
This course will examine such topics as whether the mind (or
self) is somehow a separate entity from the body, the nature of
consciousness, the intentionality of mental states, whether computers
can have minds, mental causation, and the relation between mind and
brain. Grades will be based on several short papers and a final exam.
Readings will be taken from both contemporary and classical sources.
PHIL 337 sec. 010 Daoist Thought. Professor Fox
Examine seminal primary and secondary works representative of the various Daoist traditions in Chinese culture. This includes philosophical Daoism, but also religious and yogic Daoisms as well. Emphasis placed on recent discoveries which have called into question many of the prevailing understandings of classical Daoist thought, such as the discovery of early manuscripts buried in tombs, and the connections between early Chinese yogic traditions and mature Daoist philosophies.
PHIL 344-010 Science and Religion. Professor Jordan/Shipman
In this team-taught course four topics will be the primary
focus of discussion: biological evolution, cosmology, the credibility
of miracle reports, and the scientific image of humankind. In
particular, the implications for religious thought, whether pro or con,
of current scientific thought will be examined. We will read and
discuss the writings of several prominent scientists and philosophers on
the four topics. Grades will be based on two tests, and several
short weekly papers which critique the readings.
PHIL 351-010 Advanced Logic.
Axiomatic quantified predicate calculus with identify;
axiomatic set theory and number theory; and demonstration of
metatheorems. Prereq: PHIL 205.
PHIL 367-010 Seminar: Daoism. Professor Fox
In this course we will read some seminal primary and
secondary works representative of the various Daoist traditions in
Chinese culture. This includes philosophical Daoism, but also
religious and yogic Daoisms as well. Emphasis will be placed on recent
discoveries which have called into question many of the prevailing
understandings of classical Daoist thought, such as the discovery of
early manuscripts buried in tombs, and the connections between early
Chinese yogic traditions and mature Daoist philosophies.
PHIL 389-010 Topics: Women and Health Issues.
Varying special topics related to women’s health. Topics may
include, but are not limited to: the relationship between women, health
and development; theoretical contributions of feminism to thinking
about relationship between gender and health; women’s health conditions
in various parts of the world.
PHIL 390 Honors Colloquium. Professor Hanley
See ARSC 390 for course description.
PHIL 444-010 Medical Ethics. Professor Greene
An examination of some of the most controversial issues in
medical ethics. Through discussion of specific, highly influential
cases, this seminar will join ongoing debates on the ethics of
euthanasia, human experimentation, reproductive rights, human cloning,
genetic engineering, mental disease and other topics. (See also
PHIL/CSCC 241 for a class with a more policy focus.) More info on
class website: classes.vole.org/444.
PHIL 446-010 Philosophy of Law. Professor Hanley
This course examines fundamental issues in the philosophy of law, including the nature and content of law, its relation to morality, theories of legal interpretation, and the obligation to obey the law, as well as philosophical issues and problems associated with punishment and responsibility, liberty, and legal ethics.
PHIL 448-010 Environmental Ethics. Professor Powers
This course will survey well-known theories of environmental
ethics (utilitarian, stakeholder, deontological, holistic,
game-theoretical, and rights-based views). In addition, we will
explore contemporary scientific issues related to environmental ethics
such as pollution, climate change, land use, endangered species,
habitat preservation, appropriate technology, human population
dynamics, future generations, and large-scale agriculture. The course
will require an original research paper that integrates environmental
science and ethical theory.
PHIL 465-010 Senior Seminar.
Professors Draper, Fox, Greene, Hanley, Jordan, Koltonski, Lee, Pust, Rogers, Shabo, and Swanson (The senior seminar is only offered in the fall semester).
Various authors and themes; e.g., Plato, Kant, epistemology, philosophy of mind.
PHIL 613-010 RAISE: Research Ethics. Professor Powers/Greene
The RAISE (Responsibility and Integrity in Science and
Engineering) seminar provides graduate instruction on research ethics
and professional practice. The seminar prepares participants as future
leaders of professional integrity in their fields. Issues include
attribution of authorship, data falsification, conflicts of interest,
plagiarism, and whistleblowing.