Philosophy Department

Course Descriptions

PHI 102 Introduction to Philosophy: The Quest for Certainty
Philosophy has often been defined as the attempt to become aware of the hidden assumptions we make in our everyday outlooks on life. The present course will deal with one of the most pervasive of these assumptions–the thesis that human beings should pursue certainty and objectivity at any price. The history of philosophy will be utilized to trace and to criticize the identification of all true knowledge with certainty. Questions will be raised as to whether the quest for certainty is either feasible or beneficial to the human person. An analysis of some 20th-century alternatives, such as existentialism and pragmatism, will be undertaken.  Prerequisite: a college writing course. Cr 3.

PHI 103  Introduction to Philosophy:  Human Alienation
Why do human beings picture themselves as being alienated from nature and others?  How did the problem of alienation come about?  What possibilities exist for overcoming it?  This course will deal with these issues and attempt to suggest viable alternatives.  Prerequisite:  a college writing course, Cr. 3

PHI 105 Introduction to Philosophy: Philosophy Through Its History
An introduction to philosophy through its history and development, i.e., through an examination of central texts in the history of philosophy, up to and including contemporary works. Specific readings may vary from semester to semester, but will always include some canonical works by classic Western philosophers (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant).  Prerequisite: a college writing course. Cr 3.

PHI 106 Introduction to Philosophy: Why Philosophize?
The course centers about the exploration of a single question: what it means to think philosophically. In the context of this question, we will examine what are the sources of philosophical thought and whether philosophy can justify its claim to be the foundation of all reflective endeavor.   Prerequisite: a college writing course. Cr 3.

PHI 107 Introduction to Philosophy: World Philosophy
This course presents the world views of philosophers from ancient to contemporary times. The thinkers will be chosen from a broad range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Emphasis will be placed on the wide diversity and historical background of philosophical positions.  Prerequisite: a college writing course. Cr 3.

PHI 109 Introduction to Philosophy: Law, Politics, and Society
This course examines the traditional political questions that face every society: Who should rule? What should the rules be? Why should the rules be obeyed? The approach is largely historical, emphasizing the answers that major philosophical figures have offered to these questions. The relevance of these historical answers to current social issues is addressed using a number of contemporary topical readings.   Prerequisite: a college writing course. Cr 3.

PHI 110 Introduction to Philosophy: Gender and Society
To what extent are social norms influenced by assumptions about sex and gender? The course examines philosophical arguments on topics such as masculinity, femininity, sexualities, war, religion, fatherhood, motherhood, abortion, gay marriage, and politics.  Prerequisite: a college writing course. Cr 3.

PHI 111 Introduction to Philosophy: Philosophical Reading (and Writing)
This course aims to teach the student a particular skill: philosophical reading (and writing). On the most immediate level this will be a course in reading (and writing about) philosophical texts. The texts will give the student a sense of the immense history, wealth, and suggestibility of philosophical writing, its various genres, and its authors. On another level, the course will teach the skill of reading (and writing) philosophically. Any piece of writing can be read (and written about), with profit, philosophically. The second skill and its profit cannot be acquired without first studying the first, thus the bulk of the course will focus on reading (and writing about) philosophy texts philosophically. About one month will be devoted to the reading of each book.   Prerequisite: a college writing course. Cr 3.

PHI 112 Introduction to Philosophy: Feminist Perspectives
To what extent do cultural assumptions about gender shape a society's notion of rationality, and justice? The course explores this question by examining feminist critiques of Western Philosophy along with a selection of contemporary anti-sexist and anti-racist theories of social life.   Prerequisite: a college writing course. Cr 3.

PHI 205 Symbolic Logic
Techniques of modern deductive logic; properties of formal systems; logical implications and paradoxes of language. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 210 Ethical Theories
Critical evaluation of major ethical theories and systems. Extensive reading in original texts. Analysis of contemporary ethical issues. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 211 Media Ethics
In the information age, media play an increasingly large role in our lives. Our notion of living in a global society is largely shaped by media. What is responsible journalism? Does violent programming contribute to violence in America? What are professional ethics and how should they guide media practitioners? We will discuss these questions by examining key ethical values in media such as: privacy, confidentiality, truth telling, conflicts of interest, and social responsibility. We will also explore some fundamental issues in ethical theory such as: Why be ethical? What is ethics? How do ethical theories differ? What are the best ways to evaluate and apply ethical theories to media controversies today? The course is designed for majors in philosophy, media studies, and communication as well as other interested students.   Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 212 Environmental Ethics
This course analyzes the relations between human beings and the environment in terms of the concepts of justice, the good, and human responsibilities. It attempts to provide a new cosmological model for adjudicating between conflicting rights and duties. Issues to be discussed include animal rights, environmental protection, and ecological harmony.  Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 215 Philosophy of Literature
While many cultures accord a vital role to stories, myths, and poetry in the cultivation of wisdom, traditional European philosophy has tended to marginalize them. This course seeks to investigate the historical roots for this separation between philosophy and literature in European thought. It will then consider the perspectives of several contemporary thinkers (e.g., Robert Coles, Michael Ende, Martha Nussbaum, and Martin Heidegger) who are convinced that literature plays an indispensable role in the pursuit of wisdom. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 220 Philosophy of Art
What makes a person creative? What do artists think about their art? How do critics evaluate a work? If art is created for a cultural ritual or healing, is it to be understood differently? How do the circumstances of a work's creation and reception influence its evaluation? How do a person's class, ethnicity, and gender influence the artwork and its reception. Philosophers in the field of Aesthetics attempt to answer questions which artists, art historians, anthropologists, and critics ask about art. The works of art and philosophy considered will be drawn from a wide variety of cultural contexts. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 221 Philosophy of Film
This course concentrates on the construction of meaning in the context of cinema. Major emphasis is placed on cinema as a product of social construction. Issues to be discussed include perception, memory, images, and the use of social stereotypes. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 225 Philosophy of the Mind
An analysis of the major philosophical issues facing the science of psychology: language and the unconscious, body-mind interaction, freedom and determinism. Major figures to be studied include Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Freud, Merleau-Ponty, Lacan, and Skinner. Thematic emphasis will be on the historic interaction between psychology and philosophy in the development of Western thought. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 230 Philosophy of Religion
Analysis of the nature of religious experience, knowledge, and language. Special attention given to problems, classical and contemporary, exhibited in religious experience and relevant to areas of common concern in the sciences, humanities, and philosophy. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 235 Philosophy of Social Media
The course examines the moral dimensions of communicative social interaction in a digital context. The focus is how social media transform traditional ethical issues such as: truth, trust, privacy, autonomy, sexual responsibility, civility and community. Students will learn moral and legal frameworks for evaluating the digital dimensions of social life. Prerequisites: PHI 100 level course or EYE course. Cr. 3.

PHI 240 Political Philosophy
Critical evaluation of political philosophies, classical and contemporary; extensive reading in original texts; analysis of contemporary political issues. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 241 Philosophy & the Politics of Work
This course is an examination of work that is situated at the intersection of personal identity and social structure.  Philosophical perspectives on work and labor from such writers as Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Smith, Hegel, Marx, and Arendt will be examined.  Work in contemporary society will be examined through sociology, economics, and politics.  Student will be expected to attend film screenings outside of class.   Prerequisite:  PHI 100 level course or EYE course.

PHI 245 Africa, Social Justice, and Exile
Why are people forced to leave Africa, where do they go, what makes it difficult to return? This course examines exile, its effect on men, women and children. Looking at theories of social justice, personal narratives, short stories, and visual culture, will help us consider moral issues in the post-colonial landscape of Africa. Prerequisites: EYE course. Cr. 3.

PHI 250 Philosophy of Science
An examination of two different models generally used in approaching scientific activity philosophically: the logical model and the historical model. Questions to be raised include whether these two approaches are mutually exclusive or whether one can subsume the other, and at what cost. Issues to be covered include description vs. explanation; scientific vs. non-scientific explanation; the issue of whether to include pragmatic and psychological dimensions of meaning in scientific explanations; the question of whether all facts are "theory-laden"; and the relationship between facts, laws, and theories in science. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 260 Philosophy of Law
Critical evaluation of select issues in the philosophy of law. Possible topics include: the nature of law (positivism, natural law, legal realism); judicial decision making; constitutional adjudication; the justification of punishment; the legal enforcement of morality; legal responsibility; the judicial system. Readings are drawn from the disciplines of both philosophy and law, and include contemporary as well as historical selections. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 265 Philosophy and Gender
The course explores the contributions of feminist philosophers to gender analysis. It will examine the philosophical assumptions inherent in theories of gender difference that arise in sociobiology, biological determinism, physiology, and the social construction perspective. Assumptions about gender will be studied in some of the following areas: violence, war, religion, reproduction, family, sexualities, and sport. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 270 Epistemology
An analysis of various theories of knowledge in reference to their methodologies and consequences. Texts to be read include Berkeley, Hume, Descartes, Kant, and Hegel. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 275 The Nature of Compassion
Whether and how we respond to the suffering of others defines, in many ways, who we are as persons and communities. This course is an investigation into the emotion and compassion and its social role. Drawing upon a wide variety of sources such as Greek Tragedy, Buddhist scriptures, classical and contemporary philosophical thought, it will address philosophical defenders of the need to cultivate compassion (Rouseau, Schopenauer, and Adam Smith) as well as thinkers suspicious of this notion (Nietzsche, e.g.). The work of contemporary philosophers–Phillip Hallie and Martha Nussbaum–will also receive close attention. Students will have a chance to think through some important philosophical issues, such as the role of emotions in moral deliberation, the extent to which compassion can be both aided and obstructed by the use of language, and whether there are appropriate limits to compassion. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 285 Genetics & Society
This course examines key ethical controversies in new and future genetic technologies including: reproductive cloning, embryonic stem cell research, genetic testing, enhancement, gene patenting and regenerative medicine. Students will learn about the history of genetics, basic concepts in genetics, and the philosophical debates about the relationship between genetics and society.  Prerequisites: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 290 Problems in Philosophy
Consideration of selected problems or systems of philosophical significance, including general problems of metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, specialized areas, etc. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 291 Death and Dying
Recent success in life-prolonging techniques has resulted in the creation of new disagreements over the proper definition of death. Which definition of death is the most adequate? Some have argued that dying, not death, is the vitally important topic. Has the term death changed its meaning from time to time and place to place in human history? This course will deal with these and similar epistemological issues.  Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 295 Medicine, Madness, and Disease
Recent advances in modern medicine and medical technology challenge traditional notions of health, sanity, and the social order. The course will examine some of the controversial ethical dilemmas that patients, families, and health care providers confront, such as informed consent, truth-telling, prenatal screening, abortion, involuntary commitment for the mentally ill, drug testing, and patient rights.  Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 310 History of Ancient Philosophy
Philosophic thought from the pre-Socratics to the late Hellenistic period, with major emphasis on Plato and Aristotle.  Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 312 Gender in African Literature and Film
Intellectual, cinematic and literary movements will be examined through generations of thinkers in African national, cultural and geographical settings. The course will look at texts from West, East, and Southern Africa dealing with theory, fiction, and visual culture. Important recent controversies in gender and postcolonial philosophy are explored.  Prerequisites: Any 100-level course. Cr. 3.

PHI 315 Eastern Philosophy
This course examines the major texts of the great Asiatic religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Zen. Special emphasis is placed on the ethical and metaphysical dimensions of these traditions as well as their significance for contemporary theories of the person, social justice, and human fulfillment. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 320 History of Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
This course critically examines the merger of philosophical with the religious stream of thought by examining the ideas and text of Augustine, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Maimonides, Averroes, Dane, Ibn Kahldun, Erasmus and others.   Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 330 History of Early Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant
Main currents of rationalism and empiricism are explored, as developed in major writings from Descartes to Kant.  Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 340 History of Nineteenth-Century European Philosophy
Development of German idealism; emergence of social and scientific philosophies; contributions of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Feuerbach, and others. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 350 American Philosophy
History and background of the origin of philosophical ideas in America; particular emphasis given to Peirce, James, Royce, Dewey. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 360 Existentialism
An examination of the historical development and basic themes of existentialism as found in the writings of its major representatives: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Buber, Marcel, and others. Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course.
Cr 3.

PHI 370 Analytic Philosophy
An historical approach to twentieth-century linguistic philosophy. This course will begin with logical atomism, continue through the era of logical positivism, and end with ordinary language analysis. Extensive reading of primary sources and major commentators.  Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 380 Postmodernism and After
The course presents a survey of central movements within continental philosophy in the twentieth and twenty-first century:  structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, speculative realism, and new materialisms.  Possible figures of study are: Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Badiou, Butler, Malabou, Negri and Virno.  Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 390 Hermeneutics
How do we go about interpreting something that is foreign to us? What does it mean to understand a person or a text? Hermeneutics is a tradition of philosophical inquiry into the dynamics of interpretation and understanding. The course examines the historical roots of hermeneutics in the works of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey, and it proceeds with the close analysis of several twentieth-century thinkers–for example, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Martin Heidegger–whose works extend and develop the hermeneutical tradition.   Prerequisite: PHI 100-level or EYE course. Cr 3.

PHI 398 Independent Study
This course provides students with an opportunity to design a set of readings and learning objectives concerning a topic in the history of philosophy or a specific issue in philosophy. Students must complete an independent study proposal, and obtain permission of a faculty mentor and the Department chair. Students must meet regularly with the faculty mentor. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: a minimum of two 300-level philosophy courses plus written permission of the instructor involved. Cr 3.

PHI 400 Seminar in Philosophy
This is a seminar course dealing with a specific topic or person in philosophy. Topics or individual philosophers will change from year to year and the course may be repeated for credit. The prerequisite for any 400-level seminar course is two (2) 300-level courses in philosophy, or permission of the instructor. Cr 3.

PHI 409 Research Seminar
A research seminar designed to provide senior level students an opportunity to participate in the research efforts of individual faculty and collaborate with each other in the design, methodology and completion of their tutorials. Prerequisites: advanced standing as a philosophy major and permission of the Department. Cr 3.

PHI 410 Senior Thesis
Designed to furnish senior philosophy majors with extensive training, under tutorial supervision, in analysis of a philosophical problem or system or philosopher, with a view to producing and presenting a senior paper for oral defense. Prerequisites: advanced standing as a philosophy major, successful completion of PHI 400 and permission of the Department. Cr 3.