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

Spring 2016


1100 Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: A. Silverman
SO E0001 MW 10:20-11:15

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/TAs, or requested by you and approved by instructor/TAs.

GE for culture and ideas course

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.

H1100 Introduction to Honors Philosophy
Instructor: D. Smithies
ML 129 TR 11:10-12:30

The topic of this course is free will and moral responsibility. We typically assume – both in our common sense thinking and in the law – that we are responsible for our actions because we are free in the sense that we could have done otherwise than we do. But is this assumption consistent with our scientific understanding of the world? In the first part of the course, we’ll consider whether our ordinary views about free will and moral responsibility can be reconciled with a scientific conception of the universe as governed by deterministic or indeterministic laws of nature. In the second half of the course, we’ll explore various challenges to our conception of ourselves as free and morally responsible agents that are raised by empirical results in psychology and neuroscience, including recent work on illusions of conscious will, situational influences on behavior, and the effects of implicit biases.    

GE for culture and ideas course

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.

1300 Introduction to Ethics
Instructor: TA

The nature of right and wrong, good and evil; the grounds of moral choice and decision; the resolution of moral conflicts.

GE for cultures and ideas course

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:  P. Turner
HI 031 MW 9:10-10:05

This course is a survey of major ethical issues facing engineers. It will provide students with the ability to express, and reflect critically on, their moral judgments by introducing them to leading ethical theories. It will encourage students to ask big picture questions about the role of science and technology in society, for instance with respect to robotics, artificial intelligence, and environmental geoengineering. It will also address codes of professional ethics and the potential for conflict among professional and other moral duties. For illustration and discussion, the course will consider classic historical case studies such as the Citicorp building, the Challenger explosion, and the BP oil spill.

GE for cultures and ideas course

1338 Computing Ethics and Effective Presentation
Instructor:  Scott Brown
UH 86 TR 9:35-10:55 & F 10:20-11:15

An introduction to ethical theory with a special focus on ethical issues that arise in the computing profession. 

GE for 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

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
MP 1041 MWF 12:40-1:35

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, Data and Decision Making
Instructor: C. Pincock
TO 255 MWF 11:30-12:25

In the eighteenth century Bishop Butler wrote “For us, probability is the very guide of life.” This claim applies even more to people living in the twenty-first century. We are surrounded with information that we must sort through and evaluate as we decide what to believe and how to live our lives. In this class we will introduce the central concepts of the theory of probability and explain how reflecting on probability can lead to more rational decisions. Among the questions that we will consider are: (i) How should these probabilities be calculated given our limited information? (ii) How should these probabilities inform our decisions about how to act? (iii) How do probabilities relate to our beliefs and the events that happen in the world? The class will conclude with an investigation of how the probabilities of individual events give rise to the statistical properties of whole collections of events. This will introduce some of the most important concepts of statistics and enable us to critically evaluate and use the statistical claims that we find in our everyday lives.

Textbook: Ian Hacking, An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic, Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN: 978-0-521-77501-4 (paperback).

Prerequisites: Math 1075 or equivalent, or an ACT Math Subscore of 22 or higher, or Math Placement Level R or better. (Not open to students with credit for 153.) 

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

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: TBA
MP 2019 MWF 10:20-11:15

A philosophical analysis of the nature of religion and the foundations of religious belief.

GE for cultures and ideas course

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: Steve Brown
HH 180 MWF 12:40-1:35

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

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.

2342 Environmental Ethics
Instructor: P. Turner
ML 129 MW 11:10-12:30

This course is a comprehensive survey of the major ethical issues associated with our treatment of, and reliance on, the natural environment.  These pressing issues require a clear-eyed understanding of the underlying values, risks, and responsibilities involved. What is the right moral response to climate change? Is sustainable development a realistic goal? Do we have duties to future generations? What is the moral status of non-human animals, plants, and ecosystems? Is nature intrinsically valuable or is it valuable only because of human attitudes toward it? In the Spring 2016, we will also incorporate events from the Sustainability COMPAS program (compas.osu.edu), giving students an opportunity to hear from a range of influential thinkers on these and related issues.

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.

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
ML 185 MW 2:20-3:40

 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 by Professor Shuster here.

2450 Philosophical Problems in the Arts
Instructor: Robert Kraut
TO 255 TR 12:45-2:05

Our goal is to understand (and evaluate) several theories about the nature and function of art.  We will consider such questions as: What is the difference between creative innovation and fraudulence?  Is there a "correct interpretation" of a literary text or painting?  Is objective criticism possible, or is art criticism merely the expression of subjective preferences?  Can artworks be understood in isolation from social-historical forces?  Do artworks express emotions?  Is it worth theorizing about art?  Why?  

We will consider these theoretical questions in the context of music, painting, film, architecture, literature, and other artforms.

GE for visual and performing arts course 

2465 Death and the Meaning of Life
Instructor: J. Jorati
ML 191 MW 9:10-10:05 (F 9:10-10:05 or F 10:20-11:15)

If we are all going to die, is our existence ultimately meaningless?  Or might the recognition that our days are numbered make our lives more meaningful? These questions are among the most profound and unsettling philosophical questions one can ask, and they have been the subject of numerous important works across many cultures and historical periods.  The course explores the relationship between death and the meaning of life by engaging with philosophical and literary texts from a broad range of traditions.  Students will also share their own reflections on a student-designed website.

GE for literature course.

2500 Symbolic Logic
Instructor: N. Tennant
LZ 002 TR 9:35-10:55

We aim to give the student a thorough grounding in the techniques of formal logic: translating sentences of English into formal logical notation, analyzing arguments for validity, providing formal proofs for valid arguments, and constructing counterexamples to invalid ones. We shall concentrate on the connectives of propositional logic, but shall also explain the workings of the quantifiers of first-order logic. This is not just a technical exercise, but involves philosophical consideration of issues such as reference, predication, quantification, identity, descriptions, truth and meaning. We shall explain the basic concepts of metalogic, which is the study of logical systems themselves. The most important properties to be studied are the soundness and completeness of systems of proof with respect to a chosen semantics. Our systems of proof will be those of natural deduction, with their characteristic introduction and elimination rules for the connectives and the quantifiers. This affords a unified approach to the study of classical logic and its most important subsystems.

GE  for quantitative reasoning math and logical analysis course

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.

3111 Introduction to Jewish Philosophy
Instructor: S. Shapiro
EC 243 TR 3:55-5:15

This is a general introduction to major figures, thoughts, and movements in ancient, medieval, and contemporary Jewish philosophy.  After a brief introduction to Judaism, we will take up Philo Judaeus, from the ancient world, Moses Maimonides, from the medieval period, and Joseph Soloveitchik, from the present.  If time permits, we will cover some of the early literature on Zionism.

Evaluation will be based on a series of short essays, group discussions, class participation, a term paper, and a take home essay-type final examination.

GE for culture and ideas course

3210 History of Ancient Philosophy
Instructor: T. Rudavsky
ML 115 WF 9:35-10:55

Is Western philosophy nothing but a footnote to Plato? In what ways have ancient thinkers influenced the content of subsequent philosophy? In this course we shall examine the works of the major Greek philosophers in an attempt to understand both their own theories as well as their contributions to modern philosophy.

 Readings will be drawn from the writings of the Presocratics, Plato, and Aristotle. REQUIREMENTS: one midterm exam, one final exam, and several short written exercises.

GE for literature and diversity global studies course

3230 History of 17th Century Philosophy
Instructor: L. Downing
MP 2017 MW 11:10-12:30

In this course, we will examine the transformation of western philosophy in the 17th century.  René Descartes developed a novel physics, metaphysics, and epistemology.  In doing so, he radically changed the history of western philosophy by framing problems that his successors continued (and continue) to grapple with.  We will seek to understand and critically evaluate the varying solutions posed by Descartes, Malebranche, Locke, and others to a range of connected problems including the nature of the physical world, self-knowledge, the relation between the human mind and the human body, causation and the laws of nature, the existence of God and God’s role in the world.

GE Literature and diversity global studies course

3300 Moral Philosophy
Instructor: D. Hubin
MP 1045 TR 11:10-12:30

What makes an action right (or wrong)? What makes a state of affairs good (or bad)?  What makes a person's life go well (or poorly)? These are the fundamental questions of normative ethics. This course is intended to be a rigorous introduction to normative ethics; it is designed to acquaint students who have a serious interest in philosophy with the major issues in normative ethical theory and the various approaches to these issues. We will examine the nature and basis of moral value and obligation. The main text book is Normative Ethics by Shelly Kagan. We will also read Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant, and several other works designed to augment Kagan's text. Requirements include midterm and final exams and a term paper.

3341H Ethics in Health Care
Instructor: A. Massof
HA 5 MW 2:20-3:40

An interdisciplinary approach to an analysis of central moral dilemmas in health care research, policy, and practice.

3430 Philosophy of Sex and Love
Instructor: A. Kerr
ML 175 WF 12:45-2:05

This course will explore both historical and contemporary philosophical perspectives on both sex and love.

3750 Introduction to Theory of Knowledge
Instructor: D. Smithies
SM 1138 TR 2:20-3:40

This course is an introduction to epistemology: the theory of knowledge. We will focus on skepticism – that is, the thesis that we know nothing at all. Skepticism is hard to believe. It is common sense that we know a great deal about the external world through science and through ordinary observation. As G. E. Moore once argued, I know that I have hands because I can see them. However, there are some powerful arguments for skepticism that threaten to undermine this commonsense assumption. What if I am dreaming, or being deceived by an evil demon, or being stimulated by a neuroscientist in a laboratory, or imprisoned in the Matrix? These skeptical scenarios may seem far-fetched, but how can I know that they do not obtain? And if I can’t know this, then how can I know anything at all, even something as seemingly obvious as the fact that I have two hands?    

3810 Philosophy of Action
Instructor: A. Roth
MP 1035 WF 12:45-2:05

This totally amazing course is concerned with the nature of human action: What is it to act intentionally? Is the explanation of action in terms of reasons a form of causal explanation? Do we have free will? What is the nature of self-knowledge that one has in acting? How is the practical reasoning leading to action related to intention? We will also be concerned with understanding shared agency or collective intentionality, as well as the status of some fundamental principles of practical reason. At the end of the course, we’ll be scratching our heads in amazement at how awesome this course was.

5241 Studies in 18th Century Philosophy
Instructor: L. Shabel
UH 74 TR 2:20-3:40

Immanuel Kant, an 18th Century German philosopher, is regarded as one of the most influential modern thinkers. His seminal work on the limits of human knowledge, Critique of Pure Reason (1787), represents both a culmination of the Early Modern period and a gateway to 19th and 20th century thought. We will study Kant's epistemology, metaphysics and theory of science by examining as much of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason as we can. We will discuss the problem of synthetic a priori knowledge; Kant's theory of pure sensibility; Transcendental Idealism; the Metaphysical and Transcendental Deductions of the categories; the System of Principles; and more. Our study will be illuminated by Sebastian Gardner's commentary, entitled Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason, or some similar secondary source.

5300 Advanced Moral Philosophy
Instructor: T. McPherson
UH 353 TR 9:35-10:55

Our own commitments about ethics can seem puzzling, upon reflection. On the one hand, it can seem plausible that there are objective ethical facts: for example, it does not seem that we are simply making up the idea that female genital mutilation is wrong, and we are unlikely to be satisfied with the idea that disagreement over this matter is merely a matter of differing tastes or cultural practices. On the other hand, it can seem profoundly unclear how (or whether) objective ethical facts could fit within our broader conception of how the world works.

This course will address puzzles like this one, exploring fundamental philosophical questions about ethics: What is the relationship between ethical thought, reason, and desire? How can we best understand ethical disagreements? How might ethical knowledge be possible? After exploring these questions, we will assess the most influential systematic packages of philosophical answers to these questions: error theories, response-dependence theories, non-cognitivism, fictionalism, and naturalistic and non-naturalistic versions of realism. 

This course will be a rigorous introduction to topics that connect to issues in contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. Some background in at least one of these areas is recommended. 

5500 Advanced Symbolic Logic
Instructor: Neil Tennant
UH 353 MW 9:35-10:55

This course will cover the important basic results of first-order metalogic. We shall characterize first-order deductibility within systems of natural deduction, and the model-theoretic definition of logical consequence. The main results will be the completeness (and soundness) theorem, the compactness theorem and the downward Lowenheim-Skolem theorem. There will be philosophical discussion of the aims of formalization or regimentation of mathematical and/or scientific discourse; the status of the notion of logical form; the theory of descriptions; the comparative virtues of inference-based v. truth-conditional theories of meaning; and intuitionistic logic as an important subsystem of classical logic. Students will acquire fluency in constructing proofs within these systems, and finding countermodels to invalid arguments. Thus the course aims to impart both intra-systematic and meta-systematic understanding.

Assessment will be based on exercises, a mid-term and a final exam.

The text will be Neil Tennant, “Natural Logic”  Edinburgh University Press, 2nd edition, 1990. If students cannot find copies in the bookstores, photocopies of the work will be authorized

Philosophy 5610/Linguistics 5410 Modality and Natural Language Metaphysics
Instructor: S. Shapiro & C. Roberts
UH 353 T 7:00-9:45pm

Modality has to do with possibilities, obligations, and conditional claims, among many other matters.  In order to develop systems with the expressive power necessary to capture the content of modal propositions, logicians have developed a variety of modal logics, adding operators for necessity and possibility to variants on the usual propositional and predicate calculus.  Standard semantic models for these systems use “possible worlds” to capture how possibilities—‘the way things might be’—can vary from circumstance to circumstance.

English expressions of interest include modal auxiliaries (would, could, should, might, can, shall, must and their ilk), adjectives and adverbs (possible/possibly, necessary/necessarily, plausible/plausibly and many others), and lexical items with a modal component in their meanings: purported, supposedly, reportedly, generally; embedding predicates like seem, know, believe, imagine, suppose, etc.; and even superficially simple predicates like come.  And when we extend our interest to other languages, we find even more challenging cases: languages in which modal statements make no distinction between necessity and possibility; languages with extensive evidential marking on all clauses, indicating the type of evidence on which the claim being proffered with the statement is based.

Linguists interested in formal semantics have borrowed the tools and techniques from modal logic and the use of semantic models with possible worlds to explore the meanings of utterances like the above.  From the other direction, the study of how we talk about such matters, using expressions which have a modal component in their meanings, sometimes sheds new light back on classical arguments among logicians about the meanings of modal statements and conditionals, and about the ontological status and nature of possible worlds—and the semantic status of modal propositions.

In this class, we will first offer a brief introduction to modal logic and to the linguistic treatment of modal expressions.  We will then concentrate on some puzzles and arguments concerning modal expressions.  We do not assume that participants have either a background in philosophical logic or formal semantics, though they should have some background in either philosophy or linguistics, and at least some familiarity with basic symbolic logic.

The course has two major goals: First, we aim to tease out how assumptions about natural language modality are used—explicitly or implicitly—by logicians and philosophers to argue for particular positions in the relevant debates.  Then, we plan to explore the extent to which supporting ontological claims by appeal to the use and interpretation of modality in natural language involves reasonable assumptions:  To what extent does the way we talk about the way things are (or might be) reflect the way they really are?  In any case, we expect that this exploration will help us learn to avoid the pitfalls of shallow assumptions concerning what language tells us about the world in which speakers (presumably!) exist.

Requirements for the course include (1) a series of short essays, on specific topics, (2) a commentary paper on some of the reading and/or a response to another student’s commentary, and (3) a draft of a substantial term paper, (4) a substantial term paper.

Philosophy graduate students have the option to petition for this course to count as a seminar, upon completion of seminar-level work.

5850 Philosophy of Religion
Instructor: T. Rudavsky
UH 353 WF 11:10-12:30

An in-depth analysis of the interrelated cluster of problems surrounding the problem of evil, as seen through the perspective of divine omniscience and human freedom. Readings will be chosen from both classical and contemporary sources, from both the analytic and continental traditions. Requirements: midterm exam, final exam and term paper.

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