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.

Fall 2023

  • 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 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 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 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, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2023 · Hope Sample
  • 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 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 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 credits; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2023 · Arthur McKeown
  • 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

Winter 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 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, Writing Requirement, International Studies; 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 219: American Pragmatism

    The class is a survey of this distinctly North American tradition, which understands knowing the world as inseparable from exercising one’s agency within it. We will especially focus on the tradition’s directedness towards various dimensions of social improvement and the notion that philosophy is a tool in the realization of an inclusive American democracy. We will start with the readings on how an indigenous philosophical perspective served as a crucial source of American pragmatism, we will then read works of African American Pragmatists as well as “classic” pragmatists and emerging theories such as Black Feminist Pragmatism.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2024 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2024 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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 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.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · 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 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, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2024 · Hope Sample
  • PHIL 340: Kant’s Practical Philosophy

    Kant’s deep influence on the history of ethics and political philosophy remains today. For example, Kant’s concept of equal respect for intrinsic human dignity is reflected in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our guiding question for the course will be as follows: according to Kant, who has equal moral worth? To answer that question, we will read selections from his ethics and politics as well as Kant’s anthropology and physical geography. Further, we will cover Kantian background distinctions necessary for our inquiry: practical versus theoretical reason, analytic versus synthetic propositions, and a priori versus empirical justification.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2024 · Hope Sample
  • 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 · Daniel Groll, Jason Decker

Spring 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 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, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; 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, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2024, Spring 2024 · Allison Murphy
  • 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 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?

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Spring 2024 · Daniel Groll
  • 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, Writing Requirement, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Spring 2024 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2024 · 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, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2024 · Hope Sample
  • 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 Álvarez-Blanco
  • PHIL 302: Philosophy of María Lugones

    This course is dedicated to the philosophy of María Lugones. We will read her work as well as the work of those whose ideas she engaged and inspired. The themes of the course are intersectionality and the debates surrounding it, liminality and complex communication, “world”-traveling and coalitional resistance to oppression, and coloniality of gender.

    Prerequisites: One course in Philosophy or in the subject areas covered by the seminar or permission of the instructor 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Spring 2024 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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 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 · Daniel Groll, Jason Decker