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 PDF icon Course Bulletin. For a complete listing of courses offered in the current and upcoming semester see the schedule of classes.

Upcoming Undergraduate Courses


Spring 2017


1100 Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: R. Samuels
PA 20;  MW 10:20 - 11:15

This course is designed to introduce students  to some longstanding and fundamental philosophical issues, including issues regarding the existence of God, the nature and extent of human free will, and issues regarding personal identity. In discussing these issues, we will focus on influential historical texts and well as more contemporary texts.

GE culture and ideas course

1100H  Honors Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: B. Caplan
EC 206; TR 12:45 - 2:05

This course will be on identity and identities.

The first part of the course will be on numerical identity, a relation that every thing stands in to itself. The second part of the course will be on personal identity, a relation that you stand in to your former and future selves. The third part of the course will be on identity understood as essence: what it is for something to be what it is. And the fourth part of the course will be on social identities, relations that people bear to their races, genders, disabilities, and sexual orientations. 

Topics to be discussed include whether numerical identity is a relation that things stand in to the matter that they’re made of, whether narrative plays a role in personal identity, whether gender is a part of a person’s essence, and whether there is a difference between a person’s social identities and the social positions that they occupy.

GE cultures and ideas course

1300  Introduction to Ethics
Instructor: P. Turner
OR 110; MW 11:30 - 12:25

This course introduces students to major moral theories by focusing on difficult ethical problems including animal rights, abortion, aid to developing countries, legal paternalism, and euthanasia.

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, Data, and Decision Making
Instructor: C. Pincock
SH 235; MWF 9:10 - 10:05

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).

GE data analysis course

1850   Introduction to Philosophy of Religion 
Instructor: TA
MP 1041; TR 11:10 - 12:30

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

GE cultures and ideas course

2120  Asian Philosophies
Instructor: S. 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

2342   Environmental Ethics
Instructor: C. Katz
EC 214; TR 12:45 - 2:05

Environmental problems and the ethical questions they raise have become inescapable in the 21st century. This course introduces students to philosophical reflection on ethics. Are all ethical claims relative? Is ethics even real? We then apply this reflection to various questions relevant to environmental ethics. Possible questions include: What is the connection between the environment and human well-being? How should we weigh the interests of the current generation against the interests of future generations? Are the emissions of industrialized countries unjust? What is the value of the non-human world and do we have moral obligations to animals, plants, species and ecosystems? How do the perspectives of people of color, aboriginal people and women put into question common perspectives on environmental issues? Is capitalism fundamentally unsustainable?

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 comm course: level 2 and diversity soc div in the US course.

2450  Philosophical Problems in the Arts
Instructor: R. Kraut
140 West Nineteenth 207; WF 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

2500  Symbolic Logic
Instructor: N. Tennant
HC 250; 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 quantitative reasoning: math and logical analysis course

3000  Gateway Seminar
Instructor: T. McPherson
UH 353; TR 11:10 - 12:30

This course will introduce new Philosophy majors to central tools for reading, analyzing, discussing, and writing philosophy that are needed to flourish in upper-division philosophy courses.  We will very carefully read, discuss, and write about a small number of influential texts across central areas of philosophy, including Early Modern philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophies of mind and language. 

Note: new Philosophy majors who have nonetheless already taken three or more upper division Philosophy courses should contact their PHIL adviser before enrolling in this course. 

3210  History of Ancient Philosophy
Instructor: A. Shuster
CZ 180; WF 12:45 - 2:05

About 2500 years ago, the western philosophical tradition emerged from the myths, values, and politics of the peoples who inhabited the Mediterranean coasts around ancient Greece. Rather than appealing to conventional sources of authority like common opinion and faith, ancient philosophers used reflection and reasoning to answer fundamental questions about the natural and social world. This course will focus on the works of Plato and Aristotle, and also draw upon the pre-Socratics, Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics. This course will assess their responses to questions like:  What is the nature and origin of the universe?  What is real and what is a figment of our imagination or psychology?  What is the best life for a human to live and how should one pursue it?  Given the conditioning of culture and habit, what is the scope and value of freedom and moral action?  How, or to what extent, can we be certain of an answer to any of these questions?  Students will be asked to explain basic concepts and compare responses of various thinkers, and then argue for positions of their own.

PDF icon Course syllabus

GE literature courseGE diversity: global studies
3240  History of 18th-Century Philosophy
Instructor: L. Downing
SO N050; MWF 10:20 - 11:15

A survey of 18th century European philosophy, including Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.  We will read central works by these influential thinkers (and others) and address some of the questions they debated, including the following:  Is the world as it appears to be?  If not, how should we draw an appearance/reality distinction, and what consequences does it have?  If we start from our own experience, and generalize from it, what should we conclude about what can we know?  Can we have justified belief where we lack knowledge?  Is natural science possible?  How should it be understood?  What about knowledge of God?  Do we have free will?  (And how should we understand this question so that it is worth arguing about?)  Is metaphysics a project that makes sense?  If so, what sort of metaphysics?

GE literature courseGE diversity: global studies

3261  Fundamental Concepts of Existentialism 
Instructor: T. Rudavsky
MP 1040; WF 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.

GE literature course

3300  Moral Philosophy
Instructor: D. Hubin
UH 086; MW 2:20 - 3:40

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 and they will be the focus of this course.

Philosophy 3300 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.

3310   Morality and the Mind 
Instructor: A. Roth
DE 265; TR 2:20 - 3:40

An introduction to issues in moral psychology including various interactions between moral philosophy, the philosophy of action and mind, and issues in psychology and cognitive science.

Whether some action is morally good or right is thought to depend on what led one to undertake it.  Were you aiming just to help, or was there an underlying personal incentive? Did you act out of the judgment that helping was your duty – that it was the right thing to do?  Is it important that you felt sorry for the person in need, that you empathized with them in their circumstance?  Theories of right and wrong action thus precipitate discussion about the psychology that leads to action.  That psychology is also significant for an understanding of moral responsibility – of when one can be blamed or held accountable for the wrong action one performs.  This course will be concerned with explicating aspects of the psychological commitments of moral theory and theories of moral responsibility.  We’ll also consider whether and how this moral psychology might be reconciled with the empirical findings of social psychology and cognitive science.

3430  The Philosophy of Sex and Love 
Instructor: B. Weaver
JR 353; TR 2:20 - 3:40

Few things affect our lives in the ways that sex and love can. However, most people spend surprisingly little time thinking hard about the issues raised by sex and love. Indeed, sex and love have received very little attention from contemporary philosophers. All this leaves sex and love important topics in need of discussion and ripe for philosophical investigation.

In this course, we will look at a series of conceptual and ethical issues that have to do with sex and love. The aim of the course is to provide you with the resources to think critically about sex and love and to decide what you think about the often-controversial ethical issues surrounding them. You will also learn to clearly express what you think in conversation and writing.

We will explore historical and contemporary philosophical perspectives on sex and love, and we will ask and attempt to answer questions like:

What is sex? When we want to have sex, what is it that we want? Why do we want sex? Why does sex matter ethically, socially, psychologically, and physically? Is adultery wrong? What is adultery? What is the value of monogamy? What is a sexual perversion? What is the relation between sex and love? What is love? How do parental love, sibling love, friendship love, erotic love, and romantic love differ, if they do? Is love necessary for a flourishing life?

3440 Theorizing Race
Instructor: F. Barchiesi
room TBD, WF 11:10 - 12:30

In this course we will examine and discuss the rise and development of modern ideas of “race” and their use in racist theories, practices, and institutions, with a focus on the Atlantic world. We will also study how discourses of “race” informed definitions of “whiteness” and “blackness” in various historical and practical contexts, including chattel slavery in the Americas, the colonization of Africa, Jim Crow-style segregation and liberal social policies in the U.S., the South African apartheid regime, neocolonialism, neoliberalism, and current debates on identity, diversity and multiculturalism. Finally, we will look at how activists, writers, and thinkers (such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Aime’ Cesaire, Edouard Glissant, Sylvia Wynter, and Steve Biko) critiqued ideologies of race and the forms of white supremacy and antiblackness they sustained.

3680   Sex and Death: Introduction to the Philosophy of Biology 
Instructor: C. Pincock
MP 1008; MWF  11:30 - 12:25

Contemporary biologists present many startling and troubling claims about the nature of humans and their place in the natural world. In this class we will consider how biology works, with a special emphasis on evolutionary theory and its interpretation. Among the difficult issues raised by biology are the character of human nature, the status of human altruism and morality, the link between genetics and human behavior, and the impact of biology on other fields such as psychology and sociology. By tracing recent debates on these issues, we will consider the philosophical assumptions implicit in much of biology and also the philosophical implications of biology. Students will thus learn how to understand and critically evaluate the findings of biology. No prior background in biology or philosophy is presupposed.

Text: K. Sterelny & P. Griffiths, Sex and Death: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Biology, University of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-226-77304-9.

3700 Introduction to Metaphysics 
Instructor: R. Kraut
UH 043; TR 12:45 - 2:05

The world is complex and mysterious.  We will examine various metaphysical assumptions: that reality contains spiritual as well as physical entities; that the mind is distinct from the body; that there exist necessities in nature; that there are abstract objects knowable through reason alone; that moral and aesthetic properties, like physical properties, are real; that finite beings can have knowledge of the world as it is in itself. (Prerequisites: Symbolic Logic, and at least three other courses in Philosophy)

4900H   Junior-Senior Proseminar 
Instructor: A. Roth
UH 353; TR 9:35 - 10:55

This course will cover a range of topics – in epistemology, mind and action, moral responsibility, and metaphysics – as they arise in connection with thinking of ourselves as social beings.  We’ll start with the philosophy of action and consider what it is to act as part of a group.  Is the nature of one’s agency when acting with others fundamentally different from the agency one exercises when acting on one’s own?  What sense can we make of moral responsibility in connection with the actions of a group, and how does it relate to individual accountability?  Turning to epistemology, much of what we know depends on what others tell us.  But why should we believe what they say?   Is the reason simply a matter of one’s past experience of the reliability of the speaker?  Or is there some further special kind of reason for belief?  We often talk of a group believing or knowing something.  How does a group have a belief, let alone one that is epistemically justified?  If we take this sort of talk literally, does this mean that groups can have minds of their own?  What, in any case, is a group?  What sort of metaphysical relation holds between a group and its members?

Student interest will help determine which readings are emphasized.  Non-majors are welcome, although some coursework in philosophy is presumed.  Contact the professor if you have any questions.  Students will be permitted to use this course to satisfy one of the 3000 level core course requirements in the Honors Major. Please consult with your Advisor for details.

5230  Studies in 17th-Century Philosophy
Instructor: L Downing
UH 353; WF 12:45 - 3:05

Descartes’s legacy                           
René Descartes (1596-1650) sought to transform metaphysics and physics, and to provide a global replacement for the Aristotelianism that had dominated medieval European philosophy.  We will look at his dualist, mechanist system, and some of the debates that his system inspired.  We will consider a number of early critics of Descartes (Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, Margaret Cavendish, Henry More, Pierre Gassendi, Antoine Arnauld), as well as some followers of Descartes who nevertheless take different views about how his philosophical legacy should be understood (Malebranche, Cordemoy).

5460   Philosophy in Literature 
Instructor: T. Rudavsky
ML 129; MW 9:35-10:55

An introduction to some of the most interesting points of intersection between philosophy and literature. In this course we will explore two kinds of connections between them, most notably:  Philosophy on literature – philosophical approaches to understanding literary texts (truth; authorship; selfhood)  and Philosophy in literature – literary texts that explicitly invoke philosophical problems or approaches.  Specific topics and authors will be chosen from the following list:

a)     What is time; can we travel forward or backward in time? Is time even real? (Augustine; Borges; Lightman; McTaggart; Lewis; LeGuin)

b)    How can we, if at all, account for personal identity over time? (Kafka; Dostoyevsky; Parfit; Hume)

c)     Do we actually have free will – do we make free choices? (Sophocles; Borges; Chisholm; Taylor)

d)    Reality, Truth and Illusion (Plato; Borges; Baudrillard; Rashomon (film))

e)     If something is conceivable, is it possible? (Calvino; Yablo)  

f)     Is there a meaning to life? (Sartre; Tolstoy)

g)    The fine line between literary philosophy and philosophical literature (Kundera)

Course Requirements include: midterm essay exam (30%); take-home essay exam, week of finals (30%); Term paper (30%); Class participation, oral presentation and regular attendance may affect the grade as much as one-half letter grade (10%).

5500   Advanced Symbolic Logic 
Instructor: N. 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

5700   Advanced Metaphysics  
Instructor: B. Caplan
EC 218; TR 3:55 - 5:15

This course is on the ontology of arithmetic. The course does not presuppose any particular knowledge of mathematics. By and large, we will be reading work by metaphysicians rather than philosophers of mathematics. For the most part, we will be assuming that there are (natural) numbers, that we can know things about them, and that (at least in principle) questions about them can be answered.

Topics to be addressed include whether, if numbers exist, they nonetheless might have failed to exist; whether facts about numbers obtain in virtue of facts about other things; and how numbers are related to properties and relations. For example, are numbers properties of things, properties of pluralities of things, properties of sets of things, relations among things, or slots in properties of (or relations among) things or pluralities of things?

5830 Introduction to Cognitive Science
Instructor: J. Myung
CM 335; TR 5:30-6:50

This course introduces the exciting interdisciplinary field of cognitive science devoted to the study of human intelligence and intelligent systems. Researchers in philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, and linguistics realized that they were asking many of the same questions about the nature of the human mind/brain, that they had developed complementary and synergistic methods of investigation, and that the evidence led them to compatible answers to their questions. This course introduces cognitive science through a representative sample of such questions, methods, and answers. It is not a special-topic course for students who seek detailed knowledge in a specific area of cognitive science, but as a broad survey of different approaches within the field of cognitive science. We will try not to lose sight of the forest for the trees but we will take a closer look at a few trees too because science is in the details. Along the way, we will introduce the constituent disciplines and their respective contributions to the study of cognition. We will discuss the foundational concepts of computation and information processing from multiple points of view. Two unifying themes are emphasized throughout: (1) Information processing: The mind/brain is viewed as a complex system that receives, stores, retrieves, transforms, and transmits information. (2) Neuroscience grounding: Explicit effort is made to show how mental phenomena emerge from the interactions of networks of neurons in the brain.

5891-Proseminar in Cognitive Science
Instructor: L Wagner
RA 166; T 3:15-6:00

This class provides a broad overview of the main themes and methods of cognitive science and will highlight the research of Ohio State's Cognitive Science community.  This course is required for students wishing to complete the Cognitive and Brain Sciences Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization.

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