Note: not all classes listed below are actually being offered during the current academic year. Check the schedule of classes for the most up to date schedule of current and future classes.

  • PHIL 100: This Course is About Discourse: An Introduction to Philosophy Through Dialogues

    Most philosophy comes in the form of books or articles where the author expounds their view over the course of many pages. But there is a long tradition of writing philosophy as a dialogue between multiple characters. These dialogues are a hoot to read and philosophically illuminating. This course is an introduction to philosophy through dialogues from various philosophical traditions around the world. The dialogues we’ll read ask questions like: What is justice? Is there a God? What is the nature of personal identity? What is the nature of reality? What do we owe to nature? How does science work?

    6 credits; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Daniel Groll
  • PHIL 100: Utopias

    What would a perfect society look like? What ideals would it implement? What social evils would it eliminate? This course explores some famous philosophical and literary utopias, such as Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia, Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, and others. We will also consider some nightmarish counterparts of utopias, dystopias. One of the projects in this course is a public performance, such as a speech or a short play.

    6 credits; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Anna Moltchanova
  • PHIL 105: The Complications of Heroism

    What does it mean to be heroic? Are heroes in the Western world consistent across contexts and vantage points? In this introduction to philosophy, we explore some lauded philosophical discussions on heroism, ethical complications, and shifts in the valuation of heroic and ethical acts. Students will read contemporary and historical philosophical texts by figures such as Thomas Carlyle, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and others. Students will explore illustrations of heroism by the primary authors and we will explore counter examples that challenge these views. Finally, students are invited to explore the meaning of heroism today utilizing the course’s philosophical resources.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 113: The Individual and the Political Community

    Are human beings radically individual and atomic by nature, political animals, or something else? However we answer that question, what difference does it make for our understanding of the ways in which larger political communities come into existence and are maintained? In this course we will explore these and related questions while reading two of the most foundational works in political theory, Plato’s Republic and Hobbes’s Leviathan, as well as several contemporary pieces influenced by these thinkers.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 114: Philosophy of Love and Sex

    This course is an examination of theories and attitudes concerning love and sexuality that have been prevalent in the Western world. We will explore philosophical and theological conceptions of sex and love and ethical issues related to these topics (including monogamy, same-sex marriage, cultural differences, pornography, and consent.) The course will focus on contemporary U.S. beliefs and practices examined through the lens of the different beliefs and practices concerning intimacy within the cultures of the U.S. The lens of gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation will be ongoing themes of the class and included in all topics.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Fall 2023 · Cynthia Marrero-Ramos
  • PHIL 115: Skepticism, God, and Ethical Dilemmas

    If I can’t rule out that I’m dreaming, does it follow that I don’t know that I’m in Minnesota right now? Are there sound arguments establishing either the existence or non-existence of God? If I can divert a train from one track to another so that only one person loses her life instead of five, am I morally required to do so? In this course we will address questions concerning skepticism, God, and moral dilemmas, and explore some of their interrelations. We will pay close attention to issues of philosophical methodology along the way.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 116: Sensation, Induction, Abduction, Deduction, Seduction

    In every academic discipline, we make theories and argue for and against them. This is as true of theology as of geology (and as true of phys ed as of physics). What are the resources we have available to us in making these arguments? It’s tempting to split the terrain into (i) raw data, and (ii) rules of right reasoning for processing the data. The most obvious source of raw data is sense experience, and the most obvious candidates for modes of right reasoning are deduction, induction, and abduction. Some philosophers, however, think that sense perception is only one of several sources of raw data (perhaps we also have a faculty of pure intuition or maybe a moral sense), and others have doubted that we have any source of raw data at all. As for the modes of “right” reasoning, Hume famously worried about our (in)ability to justify induction, and others have had similar worries about abduction and even deduction. Can more be said on behalf of our most strongly held beliefs and belief-forming practices than simply that we find them seductive—that we are attracted to them; that they resonate with us? In this course, we’ll use some classic historical and contemporary philosophical texts to help us explore these and related issues. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Jason Decker
  • PHIL 117: Reclaiming Argument

    Our lives are drenched in argument and persuasion. This course aims to teach you how to deftly and ethically manage argument and persuasion in your own life. Our goals: to develop your skill at recognizing how language can be used and misused as a tool for persuasion, by teaching techniques from formal logic, linguistics, and argument-mapping; and to show you how (and why) to construct your own arguments with honesty and logical transparency. Our hope is that you will come to see argument not primarily as a contest to be won or lost, but as something that should be “reclaimed” for a more noble purpose: building genuine understanding between people, even across profound differences of viewpoint.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 119: Meaning of Life

    Does life have a meaning? To answer this, we will first inquire into more basic questions about agency that provide a foundation for our topic: Is everything fated? Is fate compatible with free will? Is happiness in our control? After developing your ideas on the answers to those questions, we will turn to various approaches to meaning in life, both those that affirm meaning and deny it. We will cover, for example, approaches to the meaning of life grounded in narrative, divinity, creativity, and more.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Hope Sample
  • PHIL 122: Identity and Leadership

    Leaders who face tragedy and violence inspire others with their personal narratives of self-creation and meaning-making. This course invites students to investigate the relationship between the subjective meaning-making experience and various manifestations of the ‘problem of evil’. We will read a variety of texts that highlight narrative experiences of tragedy, self-transformation, and models of leadership as empowerment. The course approaches these topics from a variety of philosophical lenses including: Existentialism, Feminist Philosophy, Africana Philosophy, Queer Studies, Disability Studies, and Religious Studies. The texts of this course will include: Book of Job, Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, Lucy Delaney’s From the Darkness Cometh the Light, Susan Brison’s Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of the Self, and Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 123: Topics in Medical Ethics

    This course examines a variety of topics in medical ethics. We begin with a unit on pandemic ethics: Who should get ventilators when there aren’t enough for everyone? Do medical providers have a duty to treat during a pandemic? We then turn to the question “When is someone dead?” and consider how different answers to that question affect arguments over organ procurement. Our third unit is on the place of race, and racial judgments, in medicine. Is there a place for racial judgments in medicine? Finally, we turn to the question of how to think about decision making in a clinical context: what values are at play? And how should we think about disagreements between clinicians and patients? What about disagreements between patient’s past wishes and their current wishes? Not open to students who have taken Philosophy 222.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Daniel Groll
  • PHIL 124: Friendship

    What is friendship? Are there different types of friendships? What makes a friendship good? While this course will familiarize you with a variety of scholarly views on friendship from both historically canonical and contemporary sources, our main goal is to become more reflective about our lived experience of friendship here and now.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024, Spring 2024 · Allison Murphy
  • PHIL 201: Fables, Stories, and Philosophy

    Storytelling is a universal human activity. We enculturate and educate children through picture books, fables, and fairy tales. How? Do they make us morally better? Epistemically better (even though they are, strictly speaking, false)? What makes a story or fairy tale effective (whatever that means) as opposed to boringly didactic? And how can non-semantic modes of communication like music and visual art amplify or complicate the ways stories impart lessons for humanity? This course will explore the nature of stories from a philosophical perspective. Among others things, students will work together to update a classic story, fable or fairy tale for a contemporary audience.

    3 credits; S/CR/NC; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Daniel Groll
  • PHIL 203: Bias, Belief, Community, Emotion

    What is important to individuals, how they see themselves and others, and the kind of projects they pursue are shaped by traditional and moral frameworks they didn’t choose. Individual selves are encumbered by their social environments and, in this sense, always ‘biased’, but some forms of bias are pernicious because they produce patterns of inter and intra-group domination and oppression. We will explore various forms of intersubjectivity and its asymmetries through readings in social ontology and social epistemology that theorize the construction of group and individual beliefs and identities in the context of the social world they engender.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 210: Logic

    The study of formal logic has obvious and direct applicability to a wide variety of disciplines (including mathematics, computer science, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, and many others). Indeed, the study of formal logic helps us to develop the tools and know-how to think more clearly about arguments and logical relationships in general; and arguments and logical relationships form the backbone of any rational inquiry. In this course we will focus on propositional logic and predicate logic, and look at the relationship that these have to ordinary language and thought. 6 credits; Formal or Statistical Reasoning; offered Spring 2024 · Jason Decker
  • PHIL 211: Being, Time and Identity

    The aim of metaphysics has traditionally been to identify the nature and structure of reality. The topics of this course are the topology of time, identity of things and individuals, causality, free will, and the referents of general terms. We will read a variety of classic and contemporary texts, which are organized topically.

    Prerequisites: 100-level Philosophy course or instructor permission not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 213: Ethics

    How should we live? This is the fundamental question for the study of ethics. This course looks at classic and contemporary answers to the fundamental question from Socrates to Kant to modern day thinkers. Along the way, we consider slightly (but only slightly) more tractable questions such as: What reason is there to be moral? Is there such a thing as moral knowledge (and if so, how do we get it)? What are the fundamental principles of right and wrong (if there are any at all)? Is morality objective?

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Daniel Groll
  • PHIL 217: Reason in Context: Limitations and Possibilities

    Our reflection on significant human questions is often (perhaps always) embedded within a larger set of cultural or personal theoretical commitments. Such embeddedness suggests our reflection cannot achieve the standard of objectivity characteristic of a traditional ideal of rationality. Is this realization to be welcomed insofar as it weakens traditional dogmatic claims to truth and the associated implication that certain views or frameworks are superior to others? Or, in spite of the unmooring of the philosophical tradition from set criteria, do we still find ourselves committed to some ordering of rank and, if so, how do we make sense of this? In this course we’ll examine these questions as they arise in the writings of Nietzsche, Heidegger and other continental philosophers. We will devote part of the course to the ancient sources (Plato and Aristotle) with whom the continental philosophers are in conversation.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Allison Murphy
  • PHIL 218: Virtue Ethics

    What is a good human life? Who is a good person? From the time of Plato and Aristotle onwards, many philosophers have thought about these questions in terms of two central ideas. Virtues, such as justice or courage, make us a certain type of person (they give us a certain character). Wisdom enables us to make good judgments about how to act. How do virtue and wisdom work together to produce a good human life? Is a good life the same as a happy life? We will reflect on these and related questions as we read texts from Alasdair MacIntyre, Philippa Foot, and other significant thinkers in the contemporary virtue ethics tradition. We will also consider the application of virtue ethics to specific areas, such as environmental ethics, as well as the parallels between Western virtue ethics and the tradition of Confucianism in ancient China.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 221: Philosophy of Law

    This course provides students with an opportunity to engage actively in a discussion of theoretical questions about law. We will consider the nature of law as it is presented by natural law theory, legal positivism and legal realism. Then we will deal with responsibility and punishment, and challenges to the idea of the primacy of individual rights from legal paternalism and moralism. We will next inquire into the explanations of why individuals should obey the law, and conditions under which civil disobedience is justified. Finally, we will discuss issues raised by feminist legal theory and some theories of minority rights. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Anna Moltchanova
  • PHIL 222: Topics in Medical Ethics

    This course examines a variety of topics in medical ethics. We begin with a unit on pandemic ethics: Who should get ventilators when there aren’t enough for everyone? Do medical providers have a duty to treat during a pandemic? We then turn to the question “When is someone dead?” and consider how different answers to that question affect arguments over organ procurement. Our third unit is on the place of race, and racial judgments, in medicine. Is there a place for racial judgments in medicine? Finally, we turn to the question of how to think about decision making in a clinical context: what values are at play? And how should we think about disagreements between clinicians and patients? What about disagreements between patient’s past wishes and their current wishes?

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 223: Philosophy of Language

    In this course we will look at how philosophers have tried to understand language and its connection with human thought and communication. The course will be split into two parts: Semantics and Pragmatics. In the first part, we’ll look at general features of linguistic expressions like meaning and reference. In the second part, we’ll look at the various ways in which speakers use language. Topics to be considered in the second part include speech acts, implicature, and presupposition.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Jason Decker
  • PHIL 225: Philosophy of Mind

    What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Are they identical? Or is there mental “stuff” in addition to physical stuff? Or perhaps some physical stuff has irreducibly mental properties? These, and related questions, are explored by philosophers under the heading of “the mind-body problem.” In this course, we will start with these questions, looking at classical and contemporary defenses of both materialism and dualism. This investigation will lead us to other important questions such as: What is the nature of mental representation, what is consciousness, and could a robot have conscious states and mental representations?

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 226: Love and Friendship

    This course will consider various philosophical views on the nature of love and friendship. It will focus on both the history of philosophical thinking about these notions from Plato and Aristotle to the twentieth century and a variety of contemporary views on the meaning of love and friendship that derive their insight from the most recent studies of emotion, agency, action, rationality, moral value, and motivation. We will also look at the variations in the understanding of love and friendship among the members of the same culture and across cultures.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 228: Freedom and Alienation in Black American Philosophy

    The struggle of freedom against forms of alienation is both a historical and contemporary characteristic of Black/African-American philosophy. In this course we will explore how a variety of Black/African-American philosophers theorize these concepts. The aim of the course is to both offer resources for familiarizing students with African-American philosophers and develop an appreciation for critical philosophical voices in the Black intellectual tradition. The course will range from slave narratives, reconstruction, and civil rights to contemporary prison abolitionism, intersectionality, and afro-pessimism. The texts of the course will include: Angela Davis’ Lectures on Liberation, Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells Southern Horrors, George Yancy’s African-American Philosophers 17 Conversations, and Afro-Pessimi sm: An Introduction. As well as select articles from historical and contemporary Black/African-American philosophers.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 232: Social and Political Philosophy

    We will study several prominent late twentieth century philosophers writing about social and political justice and representing a variety of views, such as liberalism, socialism, libertarianism, communitarianism, feminism and post-modernism. The following are some of the authors we will read: John Rawls, Gerald Cohen, Robert Nozick, Charles Taylor, Iris Marion Young, Seyla Benhabib, Jurgen Habermas, Jean-Francois Lyotard. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Anna Moltchanova
  • PHIL 236: Proof, Knowledge, and Understanding in Mathematics

    An introduction to the philosophy of mathematics focusing on the history and development of mathematical proofs. The course is organized around three central questions: i. What is the relationship between a mathematical proof and our knowledge of the theorem that it proves? ii. Do some mathematical proofs go beyond establishing the truth of their theorems and actually explain why the theorems are true? iii. How has our mathematical knowledge grown throughout history? We will first address these questions by reading and discussing Imre Lakatos’s book Proofs and Refutations. We will continue with readings drawn from classic and contemporary sources in the history and philosophy of mathematics. This course has no formal prerequisites, though it does presuppose a willingness to read, assess, and write about mathematical proofs.  

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 251: Evidence, Objectivity, and Realism in the Sciences

    Science gives us an objective view of ourselves and the world we live in. Or does it? In this course, we’ll pursue some fundamental questions about the nature of the empirical sciences. What makes something a science? What kinds of evidence are there for scientific claims? What, if anything, makes science objective? The main concepts of the course will be illustrated using examples of scientific reasoning from a range of sciences, including biology (e.g., research on gender), climate science (e.g., whether hurricanes are getting more damaging over time), and physics (e.g., the seventeenth century revolution in astronomy). One theme of the course will be feminist critiques of scientific practices and of traditional philosophy of science.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 255: Comparative Philosophy

    Philosophical problems are motivated by human concerns that are often shared across cultures. In this course, we will analyze how philosophers from different traditions have approached problems concerning the structure of reality, the nature of knowledge and experience, and how we ought to live. We will identify how their cultural context impacts their resolution of metaphysical, epistemic, and ethical problems. Moreover, beyond comparing and contrasting, we will consider how philosophers from different philosophical traditions could have learned from or inspired one another if they had engaged with one another. By engaging in this cross-cultural investigation inquiry, we will gain a broader view of how philosophy has been used to make sense of the world and its limitations and prospects philosophy.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 257: Feminist Philosophy

    This course provides a survey of contemporary issues in feminist philosophy and theories of gender. We will cover intersectional theory, narrative theory, and feminist theories of embodiment. We will attempt to answer the following kinds of questions in this course: How does feminism interact with nationalism? How do categories of gender, sex, sexuality, race, nationality, and class affect our willingness to attribute knowledge or epistemic authority to others? How do we know our sexual orientation? What is oppression? Should gender impact custody decisions? How does the criminal justice system reinforce structures of oppression?

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Hope Sample
  • PHIL 260: Philosophy of Race

    What is race? How do we define racism? How have philosophers defined race historically? What does it mean to examine race philosophically? US history, culture, and politics are haunted by the specters of race, racism, and slavery. Ideas about race and racism permeate nearly all aspects our lives evidenced by the mainstream media’s obsession with questions like: Does racism still exist? Should critical race theory be taught in schools? Do “Black Lives” or “All Lives” matter? In this course, we will investigate the ways in which ideas about race and racism in the US have been and are continuously re-defined for the sake of preserving white supremacy and white-supremacist institutions.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2024 · Cynthia Marrero-Ramos
  • PHIL 261: The Individual and the Political Community

    Are human beings by nature atomic units or oriented towards community? What does the difference amount to, and why does it matter for our understanding of the ways in which political communities come into existence and are maintained? In this course we will explore these and related questions while reading two foundational works in political theory, Plato’s Republic and Hobbes’s Leviathan, as well as several related contemporary pieces.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Allison Murphy
  • PHIL 270: Ancient Greek Philosophy

    Is there a key to a happy and successful human life? If so, how do you acquire it? Plato and Aristotle thought the key was virtue and that your chances of obtaining it depend on the sort of life you lead. We’ll read texts from these authors that became foundational for the later history of philosophy, including the Apology, Gorgias, Symposium, and the Nicomachean Ethics, while situating the ancient understanding of virtue in the context of larger questions of metaphysics (the nature of being), psychology, and ethics.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Allison Murphy
  • PHIL 272: Early Modern Philosophy: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Philosophy

    This seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophy course is not limited to any geographic region: it is open to Indigenous philosophical traditions as well as those of Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. On the metaphysical side, we will cover topics such as time and space, freedom, and divinity. Ethical issues that we will cover include, but are not limited to, moral responsibility, virtue, suffering, and the good life. Further, we will cover epistemic issues concerning belief, perception, and knowledge.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Hope Sample
  • PHIL 273: Kant’s Metaphysics

    In this course we aim to understand the metaphysics and the theory of cognition developed by Immanuel Kant in his monumental work, Critique of Pure Reason. Some of the main questions Kant addresses: How does the mind represent the world? Can we distinguish the way things appear to us from the way they are in themselves? What are space and time?  Does every event have a cause? Is it possible to have knowledge independent of experience? We will think about these questions and attempt to shed light on Kant’s systematic answers to them by means of careful reading and interpretation of Kant’s text.  

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 274: Existentialism

    We will consider the emergence and development of major themes of existentialism in the works of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, as well as “classical” existentialists such as Heidegger, Sartre and De Beauvoir. We will discuss key issues put forward by the existentialist movement, such as “the question of being” and human historicity, freedom and responsibility and look at how different authors analyzed the nature and ambitions of the Self and diverse aspects of subjectivity.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 287: Conspiracy Theories and Dogmatism

    Conspiracy theories hit us where we are intellectually most vulnerable. Like global skeptical scenarios that occupy and perplex philosophers, they suggest a gap between appearance and reality; they suggest that we have formed our beliefs on the basis of massively misleading evidence. Often, they concern possibilities that we have never even considered, let alone properly assessed. The volume of evidence and arguments that conspiracy theorists offer for their theories can be vast and intricate. Yet it seems that, in some cases, we are perfectly within our epistemic rights in dogmatically ignoring or avoiding this volume of evidence and arguments. This won’t do as a general policy, though, for history forces us to admit that sometimes conspiracy theorists are right. Theories like Bayesian formal epistemology that seem well-suited to guide us through these difficult waters often make our situation even more puzzling and problematic. To make fresh headway on these issues, this course will look critically at how philosophers, psychologists and political scientists have approached conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. We will consider topics such as cognitive dsyfunction and bias, epistemic trust, peer disagreement, the puzzle of misleading evidence, dogmatism, and formal theories of probabilistic reasoning. Along the way we will have occasion to consider many strange and fascinating conspiracy theories—a few of which have turned out to be true.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 289: Death, Dying and Discussion

    We’re all going to die. We all know that. But we seem to spend a lot of our lives avoiding thinking and talking about it. This course aims to remedy that. We will meet weekly to talk about death. Students will engage with an array of media (readings, speeches, documentaries) that deal with death and dying, both in America and abroad. We will partake in various activities that help us think about death in abstract, the death of those we love, and our own death. Be ready to talk and to listen! We’ll provide the Kleenex.

    3 credits; S/CR/NC; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Daniel Groll, Palmar Alvarez-Blanco
  • PHIL 297: Kant’s Philosophy of Mind

    Kant’s contributions to philosophy of mind cover a diverse array of aspects of consciousness and have deeply influenced the history of philosophy of mind. His phenomenological reflections on the perception of space and time and the basic categories through which we judge inspired subsequent Kantian philosophers and even contemporary debates about the role of concepts in perception. Further, Kant’s account of judgments of beauty and the sublime provide essential background for contemporary aesthetics. Finally, Kant’s universal law formulation of his central moral principle provides an innovative way to understand moral decision making in terms of collective rationality.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Hope Sample
  • PHIL 299: Ethics Bowl

    This course will prepare a team or two from Carleton to participate in the regional Ethics Bowl tournament. Ethics Bowl teams prepare analyses of contemporary moral and political issues which they present, and defend, at the competition, while also engaging with the analyses of other teams. While Ethics Bowl is a competition, the focus in our course will be on doing the research necessary to understand the cases and then thinking through the cases together. Students do NOT have to partake in the Ethics Bowl tournament in order to take (and pass!) the course. The class will meet once a week. Previous Ethics Bowl experience is not required.

    Prerequisites: Instructor consent 3 credits; S/CR/NC; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Daniel Groll
  • PHIL 303: Bias, Belief, Community, Emotion

    What is important to individuals, how they see themselves and others, and the kind of projects they pursue are shaped by traditional and moral frameworks they didn’t choose. Individual selves are encumbered by their social environments and, in this sense, always ‘biased’, but some forms of bias are pernicious because they produce patterns of inter and intra-group domination and oppression. We will explore various forms of intersubjectivity and its asymmetries through readings in social ontology and social epistemology that theorize the construction of group and individual beliefs and identities in the context of the social world they engender.

    Prerequisites: One Previous Philosophy course or instructor permission not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 304: Decolonial Feminisms

    This course familiarizes students with major issues and debates within the emerging field of decolonial feminist philosophy. We will start by considering some of the historical, geopolitical, and theoretical underpinnings from which decolonial feminisms emerged. We will then investigate core concepts and problems pertaining to decolonial feminisms as a critical methodology and as a practice to build solidarity between and across anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-sexist, anti-capitalist schools of thought and/or political coalitions. We will pay particular attention to Latina feminist philosopher María Lugones and her development of the “colonial modern gender system” and her articulation of “decolonial feminism.”

    Prerequisites: One prior course in Philosophy or a relevant area of studies or permission of the instructor. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Spring 2024 · Cynthia Marrero-Ramos
  • PHIL 305: Frederick Douglass: The Philosophies of a Slave, Citizen, and Diplomat

    This course will be a study of Frederick Douglass: A man born into American chattel slavery who liberated himself and lived to become an abolitionist, orator, diplomat, and American hero. Through his autobiographies (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass 1845, My Bondage My Freedom 1855) and speeches (The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro 1852, We Welcome the Fifteenth Amendment 1869, Lessons of the Hour 1894), we will trace the evolution of Douglass’ views on the abolition of slavery, American citizenship, political and moral responsibility, and his lifetime of activist work for equality. Alongside these texts, we will read contemporary philosophical literature that celebrates, contests, and critically highlights the significance of Douglass’ philosophical legacy. The purpose of this course is help students underscore historical anti-discrimination philosophies and the diverse legacy of American philosophical figures.

    Prerequisites: One prior course in Philosophy, Africana Studies, American Studies or instructor permission not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 306: Causation and Explanation

    Intimately related in deep but philosophically mysterious ways, the paired concepts of causation and expla nation structure how we think about the reality we inhabit and our place in it, as well as our self-understanding as inquirers. After all, when we investigate just about anything, we aim to know not just the where and the when, but the how and the why. This seminar will introduce you to some of the most important philosophical investigations into causation, explanation, and their relationship to one another. Along the way, we’ll pay close attention to ways in which these investigations matter–well outside the confines of academic philosophy–by looking at stubborn disputes within the social sciences about what counts as “causal” or “explanatory”.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 318: Buddhist Studies India Program: Buddhist Philosophy

    This course introduces students to major trends in Buddhist philosophy as it developed in India from the time of the Buddha until the eleventh century CE. The course emphasizes the relationships between philosophical reasoning and the meditation practices encountered in the Buddhist Meditation Traditions course. With this in mind, the course is organized into three units covering the Indian philosophical foundations for the Theravāda, Zen, and Tibetan Vajrayāna traditions. While paying attention first and foremost to philosophical arguments and their evolution, we also examine the ways in which metaphysics, epistemology and ethics inform one another in each tradition.

    Prerequisites: Acceptance into the Buddhist Studies program 7-8 credits; International Studies, Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Arthur McKeown
  • PHIL 319: Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics

    Quantum theories of matter are astonishingly successful—and deeply mysterious. Niels Bohr is said to have remarked that “those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.” Richard Feynman said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Some quantum weirdness is unavoidable — it appears, for instance, that wholes really are more than the sum of their parts and that nature is non-local in a surprising way. Other weirdnesses are features of some ways of understanding quantum mechanics but not others: indeterminism, randomness, branching worlds, surprising connections between the physical and the mental. We will look at some currently popular approaches: Bohm’s deterministic theory, spontaneous collapse theories, many-worlds and many-minds theories.

    Prerequisites: One Previous Philosophy course or instructor consent not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 320: Virtue Ethics

    What is a good human life? Who is a good person? Virtue ethicists think about these questions in terms of two central ideas. Virtues, such as justice or courage, make us a certain type of person (they give us a certain character). Wisdom (phrones is) enables good judgments about how to act in particular situations. How should we think about the relationship between virtues and wisdom? How does being wise differ from being (merely) intelligent or clever? These will be central questions for us to reflect on as we read several core texts from the contemporary tradition of virtue ethics. We will also spend some time on related concerns, such as what view of human nature, if any, is presupposed by virtue ethics, and how we should understand the relationship between being virtuous and being happy.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 322: Social Construction

    The idea that various things are socially constructed is ubiquitous. But what exactly does it mean for something to be socially constructed? And what things are socially constructed? Race? Gender? Quarks? Mental Illness? Everything? We will read, among others, Sally Haslanger (Resisting Reality), Ian Hacking (The Social Construction of What?), Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking) and Ásta (Categories We Live By).

    Prerequisites: One previous course in Philosophy not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 338: Philosophy East and West

    This course will cover philosophical themes within seventeenth and eighteenth century Eastern and Western philosophical traditions and put them in conversation with one another. Some examples of topics that may be covered include, but are not limited to, the following: nature, divinity, knowledge, virtue, animal ethics, philosophy of mind, change, and education. Further, we will analyze methodological issues of translation. We will also evaluate problems for comparative work such as incommensurability, anachronism, ideological imperialism, ethnocentrism, and more. The aim of this course is to gain a contextual understanding of these philosophical traditions to promote the creation of new dialogues.

    Prerequisites: One Prior course in Philosophy 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Hope Sample
  • PHIL 373: Reptiles and Demons

    Skeptical arguments—like Descartes’ malignant demon argument—threaten to completely undermine our claim to have any knowledge of this world. Philosophers (and non-philosophers) have often met our apparent inability to answer these skeptical arguments with a shrug. The skeptical scenarios exert no gravitational pull on most minds and can be safely filed under “philosophical curiosities.” Meanwhile, global conspiracy theories—like David Icke’s theory that the world’s governments are overrun with shapeshifting reptilians from the constellation Draco—also threaten to undermine our knowledge of the world.  Trying to answer them runs us into the very same cognitive and epistemic roadblocks that we run into with philosophical skepticism. We can’t, however, meet these theories with a shrug. Conspiracy theories—even the wilder ones—do attract adherents and do have real-world (and sometimes devastating) consequences. Intensifying our predicament is the undeniable fact that we live in a world that is rife with conspiracies—some of them rather wild. In this seminar we will examine the cognitive architecture and evidential conditions that contribute to our predicament and then ask whether cognitive science or formal epistemology can offer any useful tools or strategies for confronting philosophical skepticism and conspiracy theories.

    Prerequisites: A prior 200-level course in philosophy not offered 2023–2024
  • PHIL 398: Comps Proposal

    This is the first part of the philosophy comps sequence. It is a five-week independent study to be enrolled in at the end of the Fall term Senior Year (or the year you will be compsing). The purpose is to give you the chance to do more reading on your comps topics and to start doing a bit of writing. By the last day of classes of Fall Term, you will turn in an official comps proposal (approximately 1500 words). The proposal will (a) articulate the main philosophical problem or puzzle that will be addressed in your comps; (b) describe some of the main moves that have been made in the relevant literature; and (c) include a bibliography.

    3 credits; S/CR/NC; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Daniel Groll
  • PHIL 399: Senior Thesis

    The planning, preparation, and completion of a philosophical paper under the direction of a member of the department and as part of a seminar group. 6 credits; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Jason Decker
  • PHIL 400: Integrative Exercise

    A colloquium in which seniors defend their senior theses and discuss the senior theses of others. 3 credits; S/NC; offered Winter 2024, Spring 2024 · Jason Decker, Daniel Groll