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 course catalog. For a complete listing of courses offered in the current and upcoming semester see the schedule of classes.

Please note the following regularities as you plan for upcoming semesters, but be aware that there will be exceptions in some semesters. Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Academic Advisor for Philosophy for help planning your Major or Minor in Philosophy.

  • Every Fall and Spring semester we typically offer 1100, 2120, 2450, 2465 and 2500, as well as a wide variety of other elective courses at the introductory level. 
  • Every Fall and Spring semester we offer 3000, the Gateway Seminar for Majors, as well as at least two courses from each category of courses required for the Major (i.e. at least 2 history of philosophy courses at the 3000 level; at least 2 topics courses at the 3000 level; and at least 2 advanced electives at the 5000 level, in addition to a variety of other electives.)
  • Every Summer we offer a variety of courses at the introductory level.

Upcoming Undergraduate Courses

Autumn 2019

Autumn Semester 2019

1100 Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: A. Roth
MQ 264, MW 10:20-11:15

Think of the tree you see through the window, or the computer in front of you.  How do you know that there really are these material things out in the world corresponding to the ideas you have of them in your mind?  Why couldn’t what you think of as the world just be an elaborate dream and that at any moment you will waken to a very different reality?  And what are these ideas and thoughts anyway? Might they – not to mention your hopes, desires, and conscious experiences – be nothing more than states of your brain or body, or something that could just as well be had by a sophisticated computer or robot?  Or does thinking of yourself in these purely material terms ignore something important about you? Science aims to accurately depict the world around us.  But what can be said about the reasonableness of the scientific method?  How can we defend its reliance on observation and experiment, and its use of the concept of causation, in giving us a powerful understanding of the natural world?  If everything that happens was determined to happen by the initial state of the universe and the laws of nature, do we have free will, and can we be morally responsible for our actions?  Does God exist? And does this question have a bearing on whether there is objective right or wrong?  What makes an action morally right, and does it matter whether what you do can make a difference?  These are some of the central questions in philosophy. In this course, we will attempt to answer them. 

We will be reading and discussing ancient, modern, and contemporary texts.  Historical figures will include a number of Pre-Socratics, Socrates/Plato, Descartes, and Hume. 

GE Culture and Ideas

1100 Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: N. Tennant
HA 006, TR 11:10-12:30

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

GE Culture and Ideas

1100H Introduction to Philosophy Honors
Instructor: R. Kraut
HN 201, MW 12:45-2:05

GE Culture and Ideas

1300 Introduction to Ethics

Instructor: E. D'Arms
OR 110, MW 11:30-12:25

Students will reflect on and discuss ethical issues. Some are foundational questions: Do value and morality depend on God’s commands? Are they relative to the views of an individual or culture? What makes a person’s life go well? Are people fundamentally selfish? Others are  social problems in our society: the moral status of abortion and euthanasia; the nature and justification of punishment and the criminal justice system; the justification of war. Some topics will be chosen by student interest. Possible options include: drugs and paternalism; freedom of speech and hate speech; the ethical treatment of animals; the case for and against affirmative action and reparations; performance enhancement through drugs, genes, and technology.

GE Cultures and Ideas

1332 Engineering Ethics
Instructor: Staff

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

GE Cultures and Ideas

1338 Computer Ethics and Effective Presentation
Instructor: Scott Brown

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

1500.01 Introduction to Logic
Instructor: J. Gleason
MP 1041, MWF 8:00-8:55

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

1500.01 Introduction to Logic
Instructor: J. Gleason
DE 214, TR 3:55-5:15;

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

1500.02 Introduction to Logic (online)
Instructor: Staff

Online version of Philosophy 1500.01, Introduction to Logic. Teaches students the construction and evaluation of deductive and inductive arguments; 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

1501 Introduction to Logic and Legal Reasoning
Instructor: Staff
CL 137, MWF 10:20-11:15

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

GE quantitative reasoning: math and logical analysis

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

This class will explore the main philosophical traditions that underlie 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, Jainism, 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

2340 The Future of Humanity
Instructor: E. Lin
HH 259, WF 9:35-10:55

What will life be like in a hundred, two hundred, or five hundred years? Some believe that further advances in technology will make human life unimaginably joyous and prosperous. Others have a much darker vision of our future—one in which our descendants are left with a depleted planet, and in which they face extinction at the hands of technological forces they cannot control. The future of humanity raises important philosophical and ethical questions. Why should we act more sustainably for the sake of future people? How large should the human population become? Should we use technology to enhance ourselves? Will we someday be able to transcend our physical bodies by uploading ourselves into computers—and if so, would this be a desirable thing to do? How might artificial superintelligence change human life—and could it destroy it? These are some of the questions that we will consider in this course.

GE Cultures and Ideas

2342 Environmental Ethics
Instructor: E. Thomas
EL 2003, TR 2:20-3:40

This course surveys major ethical issues concerning our treatment of, and reliance on, the natural environment. Questions include: What is the moral status of non-human animals, plants, and ecosystems? Is climate change a justice issue? What constitutes human well-being? And what does sustainability mean for our obligations to future generations?

2367 Contemporary Social and Moral Problems in the US
Instructor: Scott Brown
BO120, TR  3:55-5:15

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 Diversity: Social Diversity in the US, GE Writing and Communication: level 2

2400 Political and Social Philosophy
Instructor: P. Turner
UH 056, TR 11:10-12:30

Is democracy the best form of government? What limits should there be on government? Is equality always good? Philosophy 2400 examines the foundations of justice and legitimate political authority through classic works from Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, and Mill.

GE Cultures and Ideas

2450 Philosophical Problems in the Arts
Instructor: R. Kraut
SO E040, 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 Visual and Performing Arts

2465 Death and the Meaning of Life
Instructor: S. Brown
MQ 264, TR 9:35-10:55

What is a meaningful life? What role, if any, does the afterlife play in conceptions of meaningfulness? Can things like achievement, happiness, and engaging in valuable projects give meaning to our lives?   Would immortality or an extraordinarily long life increase or decrease the likelihood of a meaningful life? The course will explore these and related questions. 

GE for literature

2500 Symbolic Logic
Instructor: L. Shabel
OR 110, MW 12:40-1:35

This is a first course in symbolic logic, which satisfies the GE requirement in mathematical and logical analysis. We will study the basic concepts and techniques of logic, including truth values, arguments, validity and soundness, and will develop formal methods for symbolizing sentences and constructing truth tables and derivations. We will cover the syntax and semantics of both sentential logic (also called truth-functional logic) and first-order predicate logic (also called first-order quantificational logic.) In this course, students will develop an acute grasp of the structure of deductive arguments and, so will be better equipped to evaluate them.

GE quantitative reasoning: math and logical analysis

2680 Scientific Controversies
Instructor: C. Pincock 
BE 140, WF 11:10-12:30

Modern science raises many difficult questions about the nature of the universe and our place in it. This class considers several controversies that arise within science and investigates their broader philosophical significance. How does science work in different domains and at different times, and what can science tell us about ourselves and the nature of the world? This semester we will consider four questions: What is life? Can computers think? What is intelligence? Are there human races? Readings will be drawn from the sciences and the philosophy of science.

GE Cultures and Ideas

3000 Gateway Seminar
Instructor: T. McPherson 
UH 386B, TR 9:35-10:55

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, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, Early Modern philosophy and the philosophies of mind and language.

Prerequisite: Philosophy major or permission of instructor

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

3210 History of Ancient Philosophy

Instructor: T. Rudavsky
TO 247, TR 12:45-2:05

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Roughly, the semester will be divided into three parts: we will start with the Presocratics and Socrates, and then turn to Plato; the final chunk of the term we will devote to Aristotle. We will discuss the metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics of these seminal thinkers. Readings will be drawn from primary sources (in English translation). Course requirements are midterm, final, and several short writing exercises.

GE Literature, GE Diversity: Global Studies

3230 History of 17th Century Philosophy
Instructor: A. Spink
BE 140, WF 12:45-2:05

Do we have immaterial souls, or are we completely physical beings? 
Can we ever act in truly altruistic ways, or do we always have ulterior motives? 
Does happiness depend on one’s external circumstances, or just on one’s attitude?
If someone loses their memory, are they still the same person?
Can we know anything with absolute certainty?

Questions like these were at the center of heated philosophical debates in the seventeenth century. PHILOS 3230 explores some of these debates by discussing the contributions of philosophers such as René Descartes, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Anne Conway, Margaret Cavendish, John Locke, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

GE Literature, GE Diversity: Global Studies

3261 Fundamental Concepts of Existentialism
Instructor: T. Rudavsky
ML 191, 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

3420 Philosophical Perspectives on Issues of Gender
Instructor: D. Howard
BE 184, WF 9:35-10:55

What does it mean to be a woman or a man? Can one be neither? What is the relationship between sex, gender, sexuality, femininity and masculinity? How does one’s gender play a role in shaping one’s conception of the good, or of truth, or of justice? This course surveys these core philosophical issues surrounding gender, primarily but not exclusively from a feminist perspective. It explores the ways in which philosophers contributed to the development of feminism, and the ways in which feminist theory is expanding and challenging mainstream philosophy in turn. The course is thus intended to develop critical thinking skills that are broadly applicable in a myriad of major current philosophical topics in epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy.

GE Cultures and Ideas, GE Diversity: Social Diversity in the US

3650 Philosophy of Science
Instructor: N. Tennant
SM 2186, TR 3:55-5:15

Aims. We aim to become conversant with all the major concepts and controversies of mainstream discussion in the ‘general’ philosophy of science (as opposed to its more specialized areas, such as the philosophy of quantum physics).

Prerequisite. A prerequisite for this course is PHIL2500: Introduction to Symbolic Logic. We shall be making important use of techniques of logical analysis and regimentation, for these are required for a properly rigorous understanding of important concepts in the Philosophy of Science.

Topics. We shall be covering topics drawn from the following list: Scientific description, prediction, and explanation. The hypothetico-deductive method. Inference to the best explanation. Theory and evidence. Observable v. theoretical entities. The problem of induction. Criteria for theory-choice.

3830 Consciousness
Instructor: R. Samuels
UH 056, TR 2:20-3:40

Although consciousness is widely supposed to lie beyond the scope of systematic human enquiry, it has in recent years become the focus of intensive study. This course aims to provide an introduction to such research, with a focus on interactions between philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. Topics include: concepts of consciousness, the hard problem of consciousness, neural correlates of consciousness, global workspace theories, higher-order theories, representational theories, change blindness, the unity of consciousness, the function of consciousness, and the relationship between consciousness and free will.

5230 Studies in 17th Century Philosophy
Instructor: L. Downing
MQ 155, WF 12:45-2:05

Explaining body/matter

In this course we will look at seventeenth to early eighteenth century debates on the border between physics and metaphysics, focusing especially on questions about how to understand Newtonian gravity and its implications for the nature of matter.  Readings will include René Descartes, Isaac Newton, the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, Emilie du Châtelet.

5840 Advanced Philosophy of Cognitive Science
Instructor: R. Samuels
SO E105, 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. In particular: Is consciousness amenable to scientific explanation? How is possible for us to represent world in thought? Is the human mind a computer of some sort? Although a background in cognitive science is not assumed, we will read papers by prominent psychologists and neuroscientists, as well as philosophers.