Undergraduate Courses

Below is a list of upcoming undergraduate courses with full descriptions (when available) and other specific information. For a full listing of undergraduate-level courses offered by the Department, please see the OSU Course Catalog. For a complete listing of courses offered in the current and upcoming semester see the schedule of classes.

Upcoming Undergraduate Courses


Autumn 2016


1100 Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: A. Silverman
UH 14 MW 12:40-1:35

This introduction will focus on historically significant texts, to include Plato's Republic and Descartes' Meditations. We will cover critical notions in the three broad areas of metaphysics--what is there?; epistemology--what is knowledge-- do we know anything and how did we come by that knowledge?; and ethics-what should we do and how should we be? Contemporary approaches will be considered in both the lectures and recitations. Course requirement will consist of 2 five page papers on topics chosen by the instructor, or requested by you and approved by instructor.

GE for culture and ideas course

1100H  Honors Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: L. Shabel
UH 43 WF 12:45-2:05

We will introduce ourselves to the study of philosophy, and approach a variety of philosophical questions about what it is to be human, by carefully examining both classic and contemporary philosophical texts. We will study these texts in order to explore answers to questions about the nature of the self and identity, the possibility of knowledge, the value of reflection, and what constitutes a good and moral life. We will supplement our reading and writing with viewing and discussion of contemporary films that illustrate and illuminate philosophical puzzles and their possible solutions. Along the way, we will develop our skills as critical readers and writers, learning to interpret, analyze, evaluate and construct arguments.

GE for culture and ideas course

1300  Introduction to Ethics
Instructor: T. McPherson
OR 110 MW 11:30-12:25

We guide our own actions, form opinions of others, and elect our political representatives partly on the basis of our assessments of right and wrong, good and bad. This course introduces some of the most powerful philosophical ideas about ethics, and some of the distinctive methods that philosophers use to evaluate those ideas. 

We begin by examining some deep and pressing contemporary ethical questions. For example: Under what circumstances is it permissible to have an abortion? Can we defensibly live in comfort while others suffer and starve? Is it okay to eat animals, or to make them suffer for our benefit? 

We then explore foundational philosophical questions about ethics: What is the relationship between morality and self-interest or personal excellence? Are we required to make the world as good as we can make it? Can we derive universal moral requirements from reason alone?  

We examine these and related questions through reading great authors from the history of philosophy, such as Aristotle, Hobbes, Kant, and J. S. Mill, as well as leading contemporary philosophers such as John Rawls, Judith Thomson, and Peter Singer.

GE cultures and ideas course.

1300H  Honors Introduction to Ethics
Instructor: A. Roth
HN 201 TR 2:20-3:40

This course is an introduction to ethics, the study of how we should conduct ourselves.  One issue that we confront is simply figuring out which actions are right, and which are wrong.  Sometimes an act might obviously count as right or as wrong, but not all cases are so clear.  How in general should we reason about right and wrong?  But even if we think that something is right, we might wonder what makes it right.  Why do some acts count as right, permissible, or good, while others are wrong, impermissible, or bad?  A presupposition of all this is that we care about what morality demands of us.  But why should we?  Is there some reason or motivation for doing the right thing? 

The course starts with considering the relationship between morality and religion.  Does morality depend on religion, or does it have its own standing or authority?  We then ask if principles of right and wrong are objective, or whether they are subjective or culturally relative.  Turning to the issue of moral motivation, we consider whether it make sense for us to do the right thing even when it doesn’t serve our personal interests?  If morality does have a grip on us, how should we figure out what the right thing to do is?  Do we just decide on which action to perform by looking to how good the results are?  Or are we guided by certain principles that define what our moral duties are, irrespective of the consequences?  We will also examine some particular moral issues, such as vegetarianism and the status of non-human animals, abortion, procreation, and the problem of reconciling affluence with famine.  Finally, we consider whether it makes any sense to act out of some moral concern (say about factory farming or climate change) when it is not at all clear that what one person does makes any difference.  

GE cultures and ideas course.

1332  Engineering Ethics
Instructor: TA

An examination of contemporary  issues in engineering ethics in the context of major ethical theories.

GE cultures and ideas course.

1337  Computing Ethics
Instructor: TA

This course is an introduction to ethical theory with a special focus on ethical issues that arise in the computing profession.

GE cultures and ideas course.

1338  Computing Ethics and Effective Presentation
Instructor: TA

An introduction to ethical theory with a special focus on ethical issues that arise in the computing profession. It includes student presentations and feedback to improve discussion skills.

GE cultures and ideas course.

1500  Introduction to Logic
Instructor: TA

Deduction  and  induction; principles of clear statement and valid reasoning; fallacies; and the methods by which theories and laws are established.

GE quantitative reasoning: math and logical analysis course

1501  Introduction to Logic and Legal Reasoning
Instructor: TA

An informal introduction to elementary deductive and inductive logic, concentrating on application to reasoning in legal contexts.

GE quantitative reasoning: math and logical analysis course

1520  Probability and Decision Making
Instructor: S. Shapiro
ML 191WF 10:20-11:15

Hardly a day goes by without our being bombarded with claims involving statistics.  Statistical reasoning can be very powerful and enlightening; it is not an exaggeration to say, with Bishop Butler in the eighteenth century, that probability is the very guide to life.  But statistics can also be misleading:  figures don’t lie, but some liars know how to figure.  Every election cycle and many advertising campaigns give us plenty of examples of misleading statistics.

In this course, we will be concerned with how statistical results are obtained, an how to evaluate those claims, culminating on the key notion of statistical significance.  The treatment will be mostly informal, with a minimum of mathematics involved.

This course satisfies the Quantitative and Logical Skills, Data Analysis subcategory of the Arts and Sciences GE requirements.

2120  Asian Philosophies
Instructor: S. Brown
HH 180 MWF 11:30-12:25

This class will explore the main philosophical traditions that underly the cultures of India, China, Korea, Japan, and a number of other countries in south and east Asia. Specifically, we will work toward understanding some of the essential texts from Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. However, we will not be approaching these texts merely for their historical value. We will be engaging them as potential sources of wisdom and insight into the nature of the world around us and our place within it. 

GE for literature and diversity global studies course

2367  Contemporary Social and Moral Problems in the U.S.
Instructor: TA

An intensive writing course concentrating on the analysis and evaluation of philosophical argumentation concerning contemporary social and moral problems about race, gender, class, and ethnicity. Does not count on a philosophy major or minor program.

GE writing and communication course: level 2 and diversity social diversity in the US course.

2400  Political and Social Philosophy
Instructor: A. Shuster
CZ 140 TR 11:10-12:30

How should we live together?  This course provides an introductory survey of leading answers to this question from the history of social and political philosophy.  We  contrast ancient and modern responses to this question in order to understand how an appreciation for anthropology and psychology might be at stake in a response.  But these responses do not contain a clear or distinct account of society, and its proper relationship to the state and the individual.  Is the state necessarily a crony of economic and social forces, or can it adequately serve as an opposing or limiting source of power?  How might we design and reform our public lives to eliminate or minimize the negative effects of majoritarianism, conformism, and capitalism?  Finally, we look at one recent effort to articulate a defensible set of principles to guide how we should live with each other under conditions of moral and political disagreement.  Do these accounts adequately respond to historical and structural forms of injustice, especially patriarchy, white supremacy, and colonialism?  How should we live together now in light of these inheritances?  

GE for culture and ideas course

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught PDF icon here.

2450  Philosophical Problems in the Arts
Instructor: R. Fletcher
140 West Nineteenth 207 WF 12:45-2:05

This course will focus on major questions in the philosophy of art, highlighting the relationship between aesthetics and ethics across a broad range of art forms (visual arts, poetry, fiction, dance, music, cinema, architecture). In addition to examining the key theoretical debates from the ancient Greeks to the present, this course will engage with two case-studies: the Wexner Center exhibition Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 and artist Walead Beshty’s recent Ethics anthology.

This course fulfills the GE for Visual and Performing Arts.

Students taking this course may also be interested in Art 5004/4004: Drawing Ideas taught by Prof. Fletcher and Prof. Suzanne Silver (OSU Dept. of Art).

2465  Death and the Meaning of Life
Instructor: J. Jorati
BE 144 MW 1:50-2:45

Some philosophers claim that if there is no afterlife, our lives are meaningless; all of our efforts are hopelessly and absurdly pointless.  Nothing we do in life, according to these authors, can have any genuine significance.  Others are far less pessimistic and argue that even without an afterlife, our existence can be meaningful.  They claim that things like achievement, happiness, and engaging in valuable projects can give meaning to our lives.  In fact, some philosophers even contend that death is a crucial feature of a meaningful life; immortality would inevitably drain our lives of meaning and undermine our happiness.  Which of these claims, if any, is correct?  The course will explore this and related questions.

GE for literature course.

2500  Symbolic Logic
Instructor: B. Caplan
WA 395 TR 11:10-12:05

We will study sentential and predicate logic. We will learn three skills: (i) how to symbolize natural-language sentences (e.g. ‘Rory is smart and Paris is intense’, ‘Someone who is smart is friends with someone who is intense’) in various formal languages; (ii) how to interpret those formal languages; and (iii) how to do proofs in those formal languages. These skills are learned, and we will learn them by working through many examples. 

We will use a free textbook (Parsons’s An Exposition of Symbolic Logic) and a free software program (Kaplan’s Logic 2010).

GE for quantitative reasoning math and logical analysis course

2660  Metaphysics, Religion, and Magic in the Scientific Revolution
Instructor: L. Downing
TO 247 WF 11:10-12:30

The seventeenth century saw revolutionary developments in natural science, specifically, in matter theory, mechanics, chemistry, and astronomy.  These developments were thoroughly intertwined with theological doctrines and disputes, magical traditions, and, especially, philosophical theories and arguments.  This course will examine some of these connections in the works of some of the most influential natural philosophers of the period, including Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, and Newton.  Our main goal is a richer understanding of this crucial period in the development of modern science.  In addition, as with any philosophy class, we will evaluate the cogency of the arguments and the consistency and plausibility of the views we encounter.

GE for historical study course

2860  Science and Religion
Instructor: R. Samuels
ML 175 WF 9:35-10:55

Some of the most fundamental questions of our era concern the nature of science and religion, and the relationship between them. This course focuses on such issues, including: What is science? What is religion? Are they in conflict? Are there good scientific reasons to accept or reject the existence of God?

GE for culture and ideas course

2900H  Honors Freshmen and Sophomore Proseminar
Instructor: C. Pincock
ML 131 MWF 9:10-10:05

Scientific Controversies: An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science

MWF 9:10-10:05am (Mendenhall Lab 131)

In this course we will consider how science has changed over time and investigate the significance of these changes for our understanding of contemporary science. The history of science has involved considerable controversy over the nature of science and what its goals should be. We will review six of these debates, starting with the “scientific revolution” of the seventeenth century and culminating in debates about quantum mechanics in the middle of the twentieth century.

Whenever possible, readings will focus on what scientists such as Newton, Darwin and Einstein wrote when defending their innovations. No prior background in science is assumed.

Textbook: Peter Dear, The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World, University of Chicago Press, 2006. Paperback. ISBN 978-0-226-13949-4.

3000  Gateway Seminar
Instructor: W. Taschek
UH 353 TR 9:35-10:55

The principal aim of this course is to provide newly declared majors in philosophy the sort of training in reading, researching, and writing about philosophy that will best prepare them to flourish in the higher-level courses that they will need to take as part of their major.  In general, topics covered in Philosophy 3000 will vary each time the course is taught.  This Spring Semester, the course will focus on a selection of important papers on a variety of subjects, including metaphysics, philosophy of language, epistemology, and value theory—all by contemporary philosophers.  Students are expected to come to the seminar meetings prepared to discuss the readings in detail—both with an eye to acquiring an analytical understanding of the positions and arguments of the authors and with the eventual aim of critically assessing them.  Learning to write clear and incisive philosophy papers will be a particular focus of the course.  There will be a number of short writing assignments, on which students will receive extensive feedback—both written and in the form of paper conferences.  There will also be a final seminar paper.  Students will be expected to submit a complete first draft of this paper, and will rewrite it based on feedback. 

3210  History of Ancient Philosophy
Instructor: A. Silverman
RA 100 MW 9:35-10:55

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Roughly, the semester will be divided in half: the first 7 weeks will be devoted to Plato; the second 7 to Aristotle. We will discuss the metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics of these seminal thinkers. Readings will include the Republic, Phaedo, and Timaeus, the De Anima, and Nichomachean Ethics. Course requirements are attendance, class participation and at least one paper.

GE for literature and diversity global studies course

3230  History of 17th-Century Philosophy
Instructor: L. Shabel
UH 38 TR 12:45-2:05

This course will focus on the metaphysical and epistemological ideas of three major philosophers of the 17th century, all of whom helped to revolutionize Western Philosophy: Descartes, Locke, and Leibniz. Topics to be discussed include the nature of substance and causation, the connection of mind and body, the existence of God, and the possibility of knowledge. We will also address the relation between Rationalism and Empiricism in the Early Modern Period. Students will learn to interpret historical texts; critically evaluate philosophical arguments; and engage in debate on fundamental philosophical topics.

GE for literature and diversity global studies course

3250  History of 19th-Century Philosophy
Instructor: C. Pincock
DU 12 WF 11:10-12:30

This course examines four of the most significant figures of nineteenth century philosophy: Hegel (1770-1831), Comte (1798-1857), Mill (1806-1873) and Nietzsche (1844-1900). We begin with a brief examination of Kant’s ambitious enlightenment program for advancing human knowledge. This allows us to see Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as both an extension of Kant’s program and a criticism of some of its core assumptions. Hegel emphasizes the process of coming to genuine knowledge in a way that Kant did not, and this places history at the center of much of nineteenth century philosophy. A stark contrast with Hegel is offered by the positivism and empiricism of Comte and Mill. They too value a historical understanding of human knowledge, but suppose that this understanding is best achieved via scientific methods. Finally, Nietzsche’s genealogical critique of morality shows yet another conception of how our history is related to what we take ourselves to know.

Prerequisites: Phil. 3230 or Phil. 3240 recommended. (Not open to students with credit for 305.)

Note: This course fulfills the GE requirement for Lit and Diversity Global Studies.

3300  Moral Philosophy
Instructor: J. D’Arms
UH 86 TR 2:20-3:40

What things are good? Is whatever we happen to want good? Or are there some standards of goodness that are independent of our actual desires? What is it right to do? Is this determined by consequences, or by considerations of some other kind? Should we expect that there are general answers to these sorts of questions, and general principles from which what is worth caring about and what is right to do can be derived? What is the relationship between being a rational person, on one hand, and wanting what’s good and doing what is right on the other? This course will look at some philosophically influential answers to these questions, and to other related ones.

This is a required course for philosophy majors. It will emphasize the development of certain important philosophical skills: reading texts carefully for philosophical comprehension, writing and rewriting papers in order to improve ideas and sharpen their exposition, discussing philosophical issues intelligently in a group setting.

3341H  Ethical Conflicts in Health Care Research, Policy, and  Practice
Instructor: C. Katz
ML 175 MW 2:20-3:40

This course introduces students to a range of issues in medical and bio-ethics and builds skills of ethical reflection and argument. It is expected that all will work to explain their ethical judgments by giving reasonable support for their positions. We review general moral theories in the Western tradition and bring these to philosophical questions about personhood, genetic testing and therapy, a "right" to health and ethical issues at the beginning and end of life. Students are also put into groups which meet periodically as a Hospital Ethics Committee to discuss mock cases.

3410  Philosophical Problems in the Law
Instructor: P. Turner
BO 412 TR 9:35-10:55

This is a course on Justice and Law. Is an unjust law no law at all? Is it ever justified to break the law? Who may legitimately make and enforce law? We will begin by reflecting on the “rule of law," on whether law’s authority depends essentially on its relationship to justice, and on how justice considerations should affect constitutional interpretation. We will also consider a series of important questions about freedom of speech, paternalistic interference with individual liberty, and the justification of criminal punishment.

3800  Introduction to Philosophy of Mind
Instructor: R. Samuels
UH 56 WF 12:45-2:05

Over the last few decades, the philosophy of mind has become a central –arguably the central— subfield of philosophy. The aim of this course is to provide a survey  of the major themes, theories and issues that have dominated this subfield. Specifically, we will focus on three fundamental issues:  the traditional mind-body problem (roughly, how mental and physical phenomena are related to each other); the problem of consciousness (roughly, what consciousness is and how physical organisms can have conscious experiences); and the problem of intentionality (roughly, how it is possible for our thoughts to represent the world).

5240  Studies in 18th-Century Philosophy
Instructor: J. Jorati
UH 353 WF 11:10-12:30

Are human actions ultimately determined by factors beyond the agent’s control? And if so, does that mean human agents lack freedom and moral responsibility? Or are some kinds of determination compatible with freedom and responsibility? These questions occupy philosophers today just as they did in the 17th and 18th centuries. The mechanistic worldview popular in that period, similarly to present-day neuroscience, may seem to imply that human actions are indeed determined by factors beyond the agent’s control. Thus, many early modern philosophers endorse theories of freedom and responsibility that are compatible with a deterministic physics. Interestingly, however, the apparent conflict between moral responsibility and the new scientific worldview is not the only dimension of the early modern free will debate. There is, secondly, a theological dimension: early modern thinkers also worried about the compatibility of human freedom with divine foreknowledge, providence, and divine concurrence. Yet another dimension of the debate is metaphysical: some early modern philosophers have metaphysical commitments—for instance the Principle of Sufficient Reason—that rule out certain types of freedom. In this course, we will investigate these three dimensions of the free will debate by exploring the views of a few prominent early modern philosophers. (If you’d like more information, please email jorati.1@osu.edu).

5300  Advanced Moral Philosophy
Instructor: E. Lin
UH 353 TR 11:10-12:30

We all hope that we and the people we care about will have good lives. That is, we hope that our lives will go well for us and that their lives will go well for them. What makes someone's life go well? Does it all come down to how happy you are? Is it just a matter of whether you are getting what you want? Or can other factors (such as how well your personal relationships are going, or the extent to which you achieve your goals) directly affect how well your life is going for you? What would it take for your life to be meaningful, and how does the meaningfulness of a life relate to how well that life is going? In this course, we will think carefully about questions like these.

5450  Advanced Aesthetic Theory
Instructor: R. Kraut
DU 12 TR 2:20-3:40

Advanced Philosophy of Art

This course is aimed at philosophy graduate students and advanced undergraduate majors.  The goal is to explore a number of issues that concern the interpretation and evaluation of artworks and artistic performances.  Philosophy 2450 is not a prerequisite; but reasonable background in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language is vital.  Familiarity with certain metaethical theories (e.g., expressivism) would also be helpful. PDF icon Here are the topics to be explored.

5750 Advanced Theory of Knowledge
Instructor:  T. McPherson
UH 353 MW9:35-10:55

If, as a developing philosopher, you have sometimes found yourself wondering what exactly you are up to, you are not alone. 

This course will introduce several influential contemporary views and controversies about philosophical methodology, including the method of reflective equilibrium, the Canberra plan, debates over the nature and evidential significance of intuitions, Williamson’s views on methodology, experimental philosophy, the Haslanger-style ameliorative approach to philosophical analysis, and related issues in conceptual ethics. 

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