Undergraduate Courses

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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

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Spring Semester 2021

1100 - Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: N. Tennant
TR 12:45-2:05
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

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: Cultures and Ideas

1100 - Introduction Philosophy
Instructor: A. Roth
MW 10:20-11:15 (+ recitation)
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

Think of the tree you see through the window, or the phone in your hand.  How do you know that there really are these material objects out in the world corresponding to the ideas in your mind?  Could the world just be a bad dream, and that at any moment you’ll awaken to a different reality?  And what are these ideas and thoughts anyway? Might they – along with 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 the mind in these purely material terms ignore something important about you? Science aims to accurately depict the world, and it has yielded a powerful understanding of nature.  But what can we say about scientific method that would account for its success?  How can we defend its reliance on observation and experiment, and its use of the concept of causation?  If everything that happens was determined to happen by the initial state of the universe and scientific 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?  What is the difference between a property or category being natural and it being socially constructed?  These are some of the central questions in philosophy. In this course, we will attempt to answer them. 

GE: Cultures and Ideas

1100H - Honors Introduction to Philosophy
Instructor: R. Kraut
TR 12:45-2:05
Delivery Mode: In Person

The world is complex and mysterious.  Various sciences--physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, linguistics, etc.--help us deal with some of the questions that arise.  But other areas are neglected by the sciences: questions and controversies persist regarding the nature of morality, freedom of the will, the existence of God, the nature of consciousness, the limits of political authority, and the just and fair solution to problems concerning abortion, our obligations (if any) to those less fortunate than ourselves, and the achievement of racial justice and equality.  This course provides in-depth exploration of these and related topics.  Requirements: Two midterm exams, cumulative final exam, a term paper, and participation in extensive, collaborative discussion of the issues and arguments. 

GE: Cultures and Ideas

1300 – Introduction to Ethics
Instructor: Staff
Delivery Mode: TBD

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

GE: Cultures and Ideas

1332/7080 – Ethics in the Professions: Introduction to Engineering Ethics
Instructor: E. Lin
MW 10:20-11:15 (+recitation)
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

The purpose of this course is to equip engineering students with the skills necessary for resolving moral issues that are likely to arise in professional contexts. We will begin the course with a brief introduction to ethics and will then turn to contemporary issues in engineering ethics. We will discuss whistleblowing, conflicts of interest, diversity in hiring, risk and uncertainty, sustainability, surveillance and privacy, autonomous vehicles, and the ethics of artificial intelligence.

This is a combined undergraduate/graduate class, with graduate students attending only the Monday lectures.

GE: Cultures and Ideas

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1338 – Ethics in the Professions: Introduction to Computing Ethics and Effective Presentation
Instructor: Staff
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

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: Staff
Delivery Mode: TBD

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

GE: Quantitative Reasons: Math and Logical Analysis

1500.02 – Introduction to Logic
Instructor: Staff
Delivery Mode: Online

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 Reasons: Math and Logical Analysis

1501 – Introduction to Logic and Legal Reasoning
Instructor: D. Stanley
MWF 12:40-1:35
Delivery Mode: In Person

This course equips students with the tools of logic and critical thinking especially as they apply to the assessment of legal reasoning. By examining court cases and legal materials, students will learn to assess the strength and validity of legal reasoning, and thus to be able to evaluate and weigh legal evidence and testimony to reach justified conclusions. The critical reasoning practiced in the legal context will generalize to other domains.

GE: Quantitative Reasoning: Math and Logical Analysis

1520 - Probability and Decision Making
Instructor: A. Aenehzodaee
MWF 11:30-12:25
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

Our everyday choices are often made under conditions of uncertainty. When confronted with uncertain situations, we must nonetheless act in ways that are rational. This course provides an introduction to decision theory – the theory of how we rationally should make choices under conditions of uncertainty. We will cover foundational issues and techniques pertaining to probability, the selection of utilities, and the analysis of data relevant to decision making.   

GE: Data Analysis

2120 – Asian Philosophies
Instructor: S. Brown
TR 11:10-12:30
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

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: Literature; Diversity: Global Studies

2342 Environmental Ethics
Instructor: E. Thomas
WF 9:35-10:55
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

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? What is the source of the environmental problems that we face today? Is climate change an issue of justice and what should we do about it? How do movements for climate justice relate to social justice movements? What does sustainability mean for our obligations to future generations? And, do we have any individual responsibility to address global environmental problems?  

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2367 – Contemporary Social and Moral Problems in the U.S.
Instructor: Staff
Various Locations and Time
Delivery Mode: TBD

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; Writing and Communication: Level 2

2400 - Political and Social Philosophy
Instructor: S. Shapiro
TR 9:35-10:55
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

What are the purposes of forming society and governments?  What should the goals of a society be—to maximize welfare, to maximize justice, to provide for common defense, . . .  (to paraphrase the Preamble to our Constitution)?  If there is more than one goal, what are the priorities among them? What is the impact of these issues on matters of race and gender? 

Many of the more  pressing political and social issues of this or any other country revolve around just these fundamental issues.   We will read a variety of historical and contemporary authors on these matters.

The main requirements of the course consist of regular postings on focused discussion boards, a series of short, informal papers, and an all essay final examination.

GE: Cultures and Ideas

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2450 – Philosophical Problems in the Arts
Instructor: R. Fletcher
WF 9:35-10:55
Delivery Mode: Online

This course will examine major philosophical problems in the arts (e.g. definition and identification, reality, representation, form, expression, taste, and judgment) through close readings of core texts in Western aesthetics (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Tolstoy, Freud, Bell, Benjamin, Heidegger, Danto, Lyotard). Our aim will be to engage with how these problems contribute to forming a working definition of art through analytic arguments, as well as through decolonial critique and Indigenous aesthetics inspired by an experimental encounter with the artists and other participants at the exhibition documenta 14 that took place in Athens, Greece and Kassel Germany in 2017.  

GE: Visual and Performing Arts

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2458 - Animals and Philosophy
Instructor: E. Thomas
TR 11:10-12:30
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

The subject of non-human animals raises profound philosophical questions. One reason for this is that we commonly think about and define our own humanity in terms of our similarities and differences to animals. Beginning especially with Darwin, biological science has told us that we are animals. But, it is commonly assumed that we have distinctively human qualities which raise us above the animals. Because of the interconnections between ideas of animality and ideas of humanity, an investigation into the nature of animals is simultaneously an investigation into what it means to be human. For the same reason, the subject of non-human animals provides a fruitful entry point for thinking about foundational questions in the major fields of philosophy. In this class we’ll engage foundational philosophical topics by thinking through questions such as the following. What ethical duties, if any, do we have towards animals? What is the relationship between movements for animal rights and social justice movements? Do animals have consciousness? What are the similarities and differences between human and animal cognition? Do animals have free will? What is the proper role of animals in society and the state?

GE: Cultures and Ideas

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2465 - Death and the Meaning of Life
Instructor: S. Brown
WF 11:10-12:30
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

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: Literature

2500 - Symbolic Logic
Instructor: L. Shabel
MW 11:30-12:25 (+ recitation)
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

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 in quantitative reasoning.

GE: Quantitative Reasons: Math and Logical Analysis

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2660 - Metaphysics, Religion, and Magic in the Scientific Revolution
Instructor: L. Downing
WF 12:45-2:05
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

The seventeenth century saw revolutionary developments in natural science, specifically, in matter theory, mechanics, chemistry, and astronomy.  These developments were intertwined with magical traditions, religious doctrines and disputes, 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.  Our main goal is a richer understanding of this crucial period in the development of modern science.  In addition, as with any philosophy class, we will evaluate the cogency of the arguments and the consistency and plausibility of the views we encounter. 

GE: Historical Study

3000 - Gateway Seminar
Instructor: A. Roth
WF 12:45-2:05
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

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.  Various topics will be covered, but on this occasion there will be some emphasis on the epistemology of testimony and trust, shared agency, and social ontology.   

3111 - Introduction to Jewish Philosophy
Instructor: S. Shapiro
TR 2:20-3:40
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

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. The course is approved for GE status, under the Cultures and Ideas category.

GE: Cultures and Ideas

3210 - History of Ancient Philosophy
Instructor: A. Silverman
TR 12:45-2:05
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

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 ApologyPhaedo, and parts of RepublicDe Anima, and Nichomachean Ethics. Course requirements are two five-page papers and Zoom attendance/participation in lectures and recitations.

GE: Lit and Diversity global Studies

3220 - History of Medieval Philosophy
Instructor: T. Rudavsky
WF 9:35-10:55
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

A general  introduction  to  major issues in  medieval philosophy, with texts  drawn from Jewish, Islamic and Christian traditions.  All texts will be read in English. Representative issues include: creation vs. eternity of the world; divine omniscience vs. human freedom; immortality of the soul; and the perennial tension between faith and reason.  In each of these areas, we shall examine  whether  the tenets of reason and science can be harmonized  with  those of faith.  

GE: Lit and Diversity global Studies

3410 - Philosophical Problems in the Law
Instructor: M. Bertrand
WF 3:55-5:15
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

This intermediate level, seminar-style course explores foundational topics in philosophy of law organized around questions about the authority of the law: why should we obey the law? Since answering this question requires us to know what laws are, we’ll begin with some classic work in analytic jurisprudence, which asks what it is for a norm to be a law. Are laws essentially authoritative so that we ought to obey them? We’ll use what we’ve learned here in the second, longer portion of the class, which concerns normative jurisprudence. We ask whether law really does have legitimate authority over us. Along the way, we explore potential limits to the law’s authority as well as possible justifications for the exercise of law’s authority in the form of punishment. 

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3650 - Philosophy of Science
Instructor: N. Tennant
TR 3:55-5:15
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

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. 

3800 - Introduction to Philosophy of Mind
Instructor: R. Samuels
WF 2:20-3:40
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

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

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5460 - Philosophy in Literature
Instructor: T. Rudavsky
WF 11:10 - 12:30 
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

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: S. Shapiro
TR 12:45 - 2:05 
Delivery Mode: Hybrid

An introduction to the meta-theory of first-order languages. The proof theory and model-theoretic semantics for a standard formal language will be developed. The course will include proofs of the completeness, compactness, and Löwenheim-Skolem theorems. The purpose of the course is to provide an introduction to mathematical logic, and to provide some of the logical background presupposed by many contemporary philosophical authors. Occasionally, issues in the philosophy of logic will be raised. There will be a midterm exam, a final exam, and several quizzes over homework exercises. Prerequisite: Philosophy 2500 or equivalent.

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5750 - Advanced Theory of Knowledge
Instructor: D. Smithies
WF 2:20 - 3:40 
Delivery Mode: Distance Learning

Knowledge, Certainty, and Proof

This course will examine the connections between knowledge, certainty, and proof. The course is divided into three parts:

  • In part 1, we’ll examine the skeptical argument that we cannot know anything at all, since nothing is certain. We’ll discuss why skepticism is hard to swallow and whether avoiding skepticism requires denying that knowledge requires certainty.
  • In part 2, we’ll examine the distinction between belief and credence, and some related puzzles in epistemology, including the lottery paradox and the preface paradox.
  • In part 3, we’ll discuss standards of proof in the law, and we’ll examine some puzzles in legal epistemology, including the proof paradox.

Readings will be drawn from Peter Unger, David Lewis, Jason Stanley, Gilbert Harman, Richard Foley, John Hawthorne, David Christensen, Sarah Moss, and Georgi Gardiner among others.

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