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 2022

  • PHIL 100: Family Values: The Ethics of Being a Family

    Everyone has a family of one kind or another. Whether you love them, hate them, or both at the same time, your family has played a huge role in making you the person you are. That fact raises all kinds of interesting philosophical questions such as: what limits should there be on how parents shape their kids’ lives and values? Are there demands of justice that are in tension with the way families are “normally” constituted? What duties do parents have to their children and vice versa? And what makes a person someone else’s parent or child in the first place–genetics, commitment, convention? This course will explore all these questions and more.

    6 credits; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2022 · Daniel Groll
  • PHIL 100: Science, Faith and Rationality

    This seminar will introduce the student to the study of philosophy through a consideration of various epistemic and metaphysical issues surrounding science and religion. What distinguishes scientific inquiry from other areas of inquiry: Its subject matter, its method of inquiry, or perhaps both? How does scientific belief differ from religious belief, in particular? Is the scientist committed to substantive metaphysical assumptions? If so, what role do these assumptions play in scientific investigation and how do they differ from religious dogma (if they do)? Our exploration of these questions will involve the consideration of both classic and contemporary philosophical texts.

    6 credits; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2022 · Jason Decker
  • 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 2022 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Fall 2022 · Ned Hall
  • PHIL 257: Contemporary Issues in Feminist Philosophy

    This course provides a survey of contemporary issues in feminist philosophy as well as a selection of feminist theories of gender. For the latter, we will cover intersectional theory, narrative theory, and feminist theories of embodiment, among others. For the former, 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 does the application of these categories affect our awareness of the social spaces that we inhabit? 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? This course will ask students to analyze feminist arguments that support diverse answers to these questions and more.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2022 · Hope Sample
  • PHIL 270: Ancient Philosophy

    Is there a key to a happy and successful human life? If so, how do you acquire it? Ancient philosophers thought the key was virtue and that your chances of obtaining it depend on the sort of life you lead. In this course we’ll examine what these philosophers meant by virtue and how they understood its implications for your everyday life. We will situate the ancient understanding of virtue in the context of larger questions of metaphysics (the nature of being and reality), psychology, and ethics, as they arise in foundational works from Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2022 · Daniel Groll
  • 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 2022 · Daniel Groll
  • PHIL 306: Causation and Explanation

    Intimately related in deep but philosophically mysterious ways, the paired concepts of causation and explanation 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”.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Fall 2022 · Ned Hall
  • 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 2022 · 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 2022 · Anna Moltchanova

Winter 2023

  • 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? Can we always do the right thing without moral remainder, or are there genuine moral dilemmas? Are there grey zones of compromised responsibility due to structures of oppression, or other factors? How do we know what lives are meaningful for us? Is there any objective truth about the meaning of life? 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 2023 · Hope Sample
  • 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 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2023 · Anna Moltchanova
  • PHIL 272: Early Modern Philosophy: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Philosophy

    We will read selections of writings from various seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophers on metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. This course will not be limited to any geographic region, as it is open to philosophical traditions from 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. In sum, we will gain a deeper insight into perennial philosophical problems as well as an awareness of the assumptions that drive their solutions, given the author’s personal, social, political, and philosophical context.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2023 · Hope Sample
  • 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. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2023 · Anna Moltchanova
  • PHIL 289: Death, Dinner, 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 and, more specifically, the choices we think we might want to make about how we will die and how we want to live at the end of our lives. Students in the class will be asked to think seriously and share their thoughts about these issues. Students will read some popular books that invite people to think about the end of their lives, hold a Death Over Dinner discussion as a class (with the professor), and hold (and write about) a Death Over Dinner discussion with some of their peers outside of class. 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 Winter 2023, Spring 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 2023 · Daniel Groll

Spring 2023

  • 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.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Spring 2023 · Anna Moltchanova
  • 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 2023 · Jason Decker
  • 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, International Studies; offered Spring 2023 · Daniel Groll
  • 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 and critical investigation, we will gain a broader view of how philosophy has been used to make sense of the world and its limitations and prospects.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2023 · Hope Sample
  • PHIL 289: Death, Dinner, 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 and, more specifically, the choices we think we might want to make about how we will die and how we want to live at the end of our lives. Students in the class will be asked to think seriously and share their thoughts about these issues. Students will read some popular books that invite people to think about the end of their lives, hold a Death Over Dinner discussion as a class (with the professor), and hold (and write about) a Death Over Dinner discussion with some of their peers outside of class. 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 Winter 2023, Spring 2023 · Daniel Groll
  • 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 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter; offered Spring 2023 · 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 Spring 2023 · Daniel Groll