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 2015


1100 Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: N. Tennant
UH 14 MW 12:40-1:35

This is an introduction to rigorous thought about a variety of concepts and problems of fundamental significance. You will be introduced to methods of philosophical analysis, the clarification of important concepts, the careful appraisal of arguments and theories, and the sheer breadth and variety of philosophical concerns. The course aims to enable you to write more clearly, think more deeply, and pursue your intellectual interests both with more attention to detail and with an eye to the 'bigger picture'. We shall be covering topics drawn from the following list: Existence of God; Naturalism; Skepticism and the External World; the Mind-Body Problem; Free Will v. Determinism; the Problem of Induction; the Paradoxes. We shall be studying some profoundly influential writings by various famous thinkers.

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

1100H Honors Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: A. Roth
HN 201 TR 2:20-3:40

This course introduces students to the concerns and methods of philosophy through reading and discussion of ancient, modern, and some contemporary texts. A broad range of issues in metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and ethics will be considered, including consciousness and the mind-body problem, causation, skepticism and the possibility of scientific knowledge, free will and moral responsibility, personal identity, and the meaning of life. (Sorry, no definitive answers will be given!) Historical figures to be covered will include a number of Pre-Socratics, Socrates/Plato, Descartes, and Hume.

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

1100H Honors Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: W. Taschek
HN 201 TR 11:10-12:30

From Plato to Nietzsche! This course is designed to introduce honors students with little or no background in philosophy to a range of central problems in philosophy—specifically problems in epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. Rather than try to provide a whirlwind survey of the history of philosophy, we will focus on certain enduring philosophical problems as they get introduced and explored in a selection of historically pivotal works that are representative of important different approaches and proposals concerning how to deal with these problems.

Your goal as philosophy students will be not merely to record my interpretations of our target texts—or those of anyone else—but to learn how to read, discuss, interpret, and critically evaluate these texts and their arguments for yourselves. One learns best what philosophy is by doing philosophy. And the best way to learn how to do philosophy it to examine with care and sympathy how some of the greatest philosophers have conceived of and approached the philosophical problems they found most gripping. Ultimately, though, you must yourself critically engage with these philosopher’s ideas, eventually providing your own well-reasoned arguments in support of your own conclusions about the issues involved. This is the point at which you will be doing, instead of merely studying, philosophy.

Probable requirements: In addition to (i) carefully reading the assigned texts, (ii) regular attendance, and (iii) focused and lively participation in class discussion, there will probably be (iv) several 1 or two page writing assignments (topics will be distributed in class), (v) one or two 5-7 page papers and possibly (vi) an take home final exam.

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

1300 Introduction to Ethics
Instructor: T. McPherson
MP 2015 MW 1:50-2:45

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.

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor

1332 Engineering Ethics
Instructor: TA

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

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

1337 Computing Ethics
Instructor: TA
BO 412 MW 12:45-2:05

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

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

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.

This course is a GE for quantitative reasoning: math and logical analysis. You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

1501 Introduction to Logic and Legal Reasoning
Instructor: TA
BE 198 MWF 12:40-1:35

An informal introduction to elementary deductive and inductive logic, concentrating on application to reasoning in legal contexts (e.g., courtroom argumentation and jury deliberation).

This course is a GE for quantitative reasoning: math and logical analysis.

1520 Probability, Data, and Decision Making
Instructor: TA

How to make rational decisions when confronted by uncertainty; foundational issues and techniques pertaining to probability, selection of utilities and analysis of data relevant to decision making.

This course is a GE for data analysis.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

1850 Introduction to Philosophy of Religion
Instructor: J. Jorati
SH 235 TR 12:45-2:05

Is there a God and if so, what is this God like? Is the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good creator compatible with the terrible suffering we observe in the world? Are there good arguments for or against the existence of a God, and is there anything wrong with believing in a God in the absence of good evidence? What is the relation between morality and religion?
If you are curious about these kinds of questions, this course is a great place to explore them, whether you are a believer, an atheist, or an agnostic.

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

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.

This course is a GE for literature, diversity and global studies.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

2367 Contemporary Social and Moral Problems in the US
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.

This course is a GE for diversity: social diversity in the US and writing and communication: level 2.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

2400 Political and Social Philosophy
Instructor: A. Shuster
DE 238 WF 9:35-10:55

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 begin with a look at Plato’s Republic to motivate why answering this question is difficult and open to disagreement, and how philosophy might help. We then contrast the answers of Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes to understand how an appreciation for anthropology and psychology might be at stake in a response. But neither of these philosophers has 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? We turn to the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx for ways that we might engineer our public lives to eliminate or minimize the negative effects of majoritarian tyranny, social conformity, 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 in the work of John Rawls. Charles W. Mills and Carole Pateman help us to ask: Do these accounts adequately respond to historical and structural forms of injustice, especially white supremacy and patriarchy? How should we live together now in light of these inheritances?

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

2450 Philosophical Problems in the Arts
Instructor: TA
140 W. 19th room 207 TR 12:45-2:05

Introduction to major philosophical issues in the arts; examination of artistic intention, representation v. abstraction, the grounds and objectives of art criticism, the import of cultural differences and their application to specific works of art.

This course is a GE for visual and performing arts.

2500 Symbolic Logic
Instructor: B. Caplan
SO N050 TR 11:30-12:25

We will study sentential and predicate logic. We will learn how to symbolize natural-language arguments in various formal languages, interpret those formal languages, and do proofs in those formal languages.

This course is a GE for quantitative reasoning: math and logical analysis.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

2660 Metaphysics, Religion, and Magic in the Scientific Revolution
Instructor: L. Downing
RA 115 TR 9:35-10:55

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.

This course is a GE for historical study.

You can find a sample syllabus from a recent time this class was taught here. To request the syllabus for this term’s class, please contact the instructor.

2860 Science & Religion
Instructor: R. Samuels
CL 277 WF 11:10-12:30

This course provides an introduction to some longstanding and fundamental issues regarding the nature of religion, science, and the relationship between the two.

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

2860 Science & Religion
Instructor: N. Jesser
MP 2017 TR 11:10-12:30

Do religion and science answer different questions? Does one rely on faith and the other evidence? Are they competing frameworks or do they have more in common than is acknowledged by either?

In this course we will examine the historical connections and disconnections between science and religion through controversies, explicit philosophies, and historical accounts of the development of scientific institutions and values from secular and religious sources.

We will then examine practices (from various cultures) that claim to be or are seen as both "religious" and "scientific."

Lastly, we look at contemporary attempts to reconcile science and religion, re-enchant nature, and bring non-western religious and cultural perspectives to bear on the global practices of science.

This course is a GE for culture and ideas.

3000 Gateway Seminar
Instructor: A. Roth
UH 353 MW 2:20-3:40

This course is meant for new philosophy majors. The purpose of the gateway seminar is to coach students in reading and thinking about philosophical texts, and to train them in expressing their ideas both orally and in writing. The aim is to provide the intellectual tools and resources that will help students succeed in more advanced philosophy courses as well as further afield, both inside and outside academic settings. Topics will vary, but on this occasion there will be a very broad range of subject matter, including history, metaphysics, epistemology, mind, language, action, and ethics.

3210 History of Ancient Philosophy
Instructor: A. Silverman
HC 250 TR 12:45-2:05

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.

This course is a GE for literature, diversity and global studies.

3240 History of 18th Century Philosophy
Instructor: L Shabel
LZ 002 TR 2:30-3:40

This course will focus on the ideas of three major philosophers of the Eighteenth Century: Leibniz, Hume, and Kant. Topics to be discussed include causation, substance, the nature of mind, and the possibility of knowledge, as well as the historical connections among the ideas of the three thinkers. Course requirements will include two exams and a paper.

This course is a GE for literature, diversity and global studies.

3261 Fundamental Concepts of Existentialism
Instructor: T. Rudavsky
AP 388 TR 11:10-12:30

This course will cover basic 19th and 20th century existentialist writings, selected from among the following authors: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Sartre, and Camus. We will read both literary and philosophical works, with an eye to understanding the underlying themes (nihilism; despair; angst) of classical existentialist writers. Requirements: midterm exam, final exam and several short written assignments.

3300 Moral Philosophy
Instructor: J. D'Arms
UH 353 MW 12:45-2:05

Moral Philosophy is concerned with questions like these:

What things are good? Whatever we want? Or are some things worth wanting in ways that others aren’t? What makes a person’s life go well?

What is it right to do? Is this determined by the consequences of actions, or by considerations of some other kind?

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 critically assess 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 essential philosophical skills: reading texts carefully for philosophical comprehension, writing papers that analyze arguments and philosophical positions clearly and raise critical points about them, discussing philosophical issues rigorously in a group setting.

3410 Philosophical Problems in the Law
Instructor: P. Turner
HA 24 MW 11:10-12:30

Is an unjust law no law at all? Who may legitimately make and enforce law? This course will begin with general questions about the “rule of law," whether law’s authority depends essentially on its relationship to justice, and how justice considerations should affect constitutional interpretation. We will focus on philosophical fundamentals rather than on the statutes of any current legal system. The course will end by examining a series of important questions about paternalistic interference with individual liberty, freedom of speech, and the justification of criminal punishment.

3420 Philosophical Perspectives on Issues of Gender
Instructor: A. Shuster
MQ 159 WF 11:10-12:30

Simone de Beauvoir inaugurated a new set of questions for philosophical inquiry when she wrote in 1949: “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman”. This course critically and sympathetically examines the premises, conclusions, significance, and implications of this statement. We consider the following metaphysical problems: Does gender exist? If so, what (sort of thing) is it? And (how) can gender be distinguished from sex, sexuality, class, race, ethnicity, and nation? We discover how leading answers to these questions point to epistemological problems: How are answers to these questions discovered and justified? What might be a more justifiable way of investigating these questions? Finally, these questions have important implications for social and political philosophy: To what extent are answers to these questions helpful to those who seek to resist domination, exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, imperialism, and/or violence? How does gender operate in our lived experiences? How does gender appear in surprising ways in contemporary politics, especially in the so-called War on Terror? Where can we find hope for change and by what method(s) should we pursue it? This course explores these questions from a broad range of feminist perspectives as well as from ones that are not feminist. This course fulfills the following General Education requirements: Social Diversity in the United States, and Culture and Ideas.

This course is a GE for cultures and ideas and diversity: social diversity in the US.

3650 Philosophy of Science
Instructor: C. Pincock
UH 28 WF 12:45-2:05

We will consider some of the difficult but important questions about science that often go unexplored in science classes and by scientists. To start, how should science be distinguished from other areas of knowledge and from disciplines like astrology that fail to generate knowledge? One answer to this question claims that science works by special methods and advances in a cumulative, rigorous fashion. However, the history of science suggests that there is no single method or objective set of values that determines the scientific theory that should be believed. So we will also consider how objective science can be over time and the appropriate role for values in scientific progress. Then we will turn to a consideration of how scientific evidence works: how exactly do experiments support or undermine a proposed hypothesis? The course will conclude with a review of more recent debates about the nature of scientific explanation and the scope of scientific knowledge. While scientific realists claim that science can provide knowledge of unobservable entities like electrons and the Big Bang, other anti-realists argue that at best our theories tell us only what the observable world is like.

Textbook: M. Curd, J. Cover & C. Pincock (eds.), Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues, Second edition, Norton, 2012.

Prerequisites: 2500. Also, one should be a major in Philosophy or have 9 credit hours of Philosophy course work. Students without these prerequisites should contact the instructor for permission to enroll.

3700 Introduction to Metaphysics
Instructor: B. Caplan
MP 1045 TR 3:55-5:15

We will talk about holes, statues, motorcycles, cakes, and stuff. We will also talk about race, gender, and disability.

5211 Ancient Philosophy-Plato
Instructor: A. Silverman
UH 353 TR 9:35-10:55

We shall study the Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics of Plato. The main texts will be the Phaedo, Republic, Theaetetus. Course Requirements: 1 ten page paper

5250 Studies of 19th Century Philosophy: Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
Instructor: C. Pincock
UH 353 WF 9:35-10:55

This class will involve a close and careful reading of the most important sections of Hegel’s challenging Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). We will consider Hegel’s project in the Phenomenology as a successor to Kant’s critical philosophy. Kant took his central question to be how a priori knowledge is possible and, as a result, is forced to take certain claims to knowledge for granted. Hegel complains that Kant and others fail to be sufficiently critical of these claims and what their truth involves. The alternative project of the Phenomenology is to trace “the path of the natural consciousness which presses forward to true knowledge” (section 77). If successful, this Hegelian project would offer significant answers to pressing philosophical questions about knowledge and the nature of reality. Our reading of Hegel will be primarily informed by Pippin’s influential Hegel’s Idealism. Additional secondary literature that we will consider will include writings by Hyppolite, Houlgate, Brandom and McDowell.

Required Books: Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, A. V. Miller (trans.), Oxford, 1976.

Robert B. Pippin, Hegel’s Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness, Cambridge, 1989.

Recommended Book: Stephen Houlgate, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit: A Reader’s Guide, Bloomsbury, 2013.

Prerequisites: Undergraduates: Two courses in philosophy are recommended, including one course in the history of philosophy. Graduate students: prior study of the history of philosophy, especially Kant, is recommended. Note: 3250 is not required for this course. Students should contact the instructor if they have any questions about enrolling in this class.

5750 Advanced Topics in Epistemology: A Priori Knowledge
Instructor: W. Taschek
353 UH MW 11:10-12:30

What is a priori knowledge? Is logic a priori? Is mathematics a priori? Indeed, are there any truths that are knowable a priori?

A number of philosophers in the 20th century sought to challenge many traditional views about a priori knowledge—including its very possibility. The logical positivists, for example, suggested a linguistic theory of a priori knowledge, according to which, roughly, a priori knowledge is possible only with respect to what is expressed by sentences that are analytic. Then W.V. Quine famously argued against the idea that there are any analytic sentences—and by extension against the possibility of a priori knowledge. After attempting to clarify and access Quine’s position, we will examine various critical reactions to Quine and, then, spend the bulk of the course considering some of the most recent work on this topic—including work by Tyler Burge, Paul Boghoassian, Hartry Field, and Timothy Williamson.

Open to graduate students and undergraduates. Familiarity with Symbolic Logic (equivalent to Philosophy 2500) will be presupposed. Ideally, students will also have a solid background in epistemology and/or the philosophy of language.

5840 Advanced Philosophy of Cognitive Science
Instructor: R. Samuels
UH 353 TR 11:10-12:30

Cognitive science is an exciting interdisciplinary field of enquiry that has, over the past few decades, exerted a profound influence on longstanding philosophical debates about the nature of the mind. In this course we focus on some of these debates, including: Is the human mind a computer of some sort? How much of the mind is innate and how much is learned? How do we represent the world in thought? Is consciousness amenable to scientific explanation?

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