Courses in Philosophy

Philosophy courses numbered from 101 through 202 are introductory-level courses and do not have any prerequisites. All upper-level courses (above 202) have as a prerequisite the completion of at least one introductory-level course (and a few have additional or more specific prerequisites as well, noted in their descriptions).

Any introductory-level course may be taken as a first philosophy course. PHIL 101 is the broadest survey course, providing an introduction to a range of areas of philosophy, and is therefore a good choice for many as a first course; but many who have particular interests in the topics of other introductory-level courses begin with one of them, which is fine too.

The W versions of 200-level courses all count toward the upper-level writing requirement for the major. The course descriptions for the W versions are the same as for the standard version, the only difference being that the W version requires additional written work including a component of revision of at least one assignment. (Many 200-level courses also have a corresponding 400-level section for graduate students.)

Official Term Schedules

Upcoming Philosophy Department courses for Spring 2023 (pdf).

All Courses

The department offers a variety of undergraduate courses. Below is a complete list of all philosophy (PHIL) undergraduate courses that have been offered.

NOTE: Not all of these courses are offered in any given year.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy

Philosophers ask questions about a vast variety of topics, including what really exists, what we can know, how we should live, how we should treat each other, whether there is a God or a life after this one, how can we have free choices, and what it means to be a human with a particular identity. Philosophers seek answers to such questions by thinking carefully about them, using experience, reason and argumentation, and taking into account contributions of the sciences, literature, and other fields. This course will introduce students to some of the most interesting and exciting parts of philosophy.

PHIL 102 – Ethics

This course is an introduction to basic issues in the philosophical investigation of ethics. Topics include general theories of the nature of right and wrong and theories of the functions of ethical language. Classes are in the lecture and question format.

PHIL 103 – Moral Problems

An introduction to moral philosophy as applied to current topics. Some questions to be explored: What sorts of socioeconomic principles are morally justifiable? Does the history of racial injustice in the U.S. create a moral demand for reparations, and if so, what is the best argument for this? What is the relation, if any, between morality and religion? Do animals have moral rights? How should we understand the meaning and value of human life and death? Can abortion sometimes be justified, and if so, how? Is it okay to destroy embryos for stem cell research? Is active euthanasia ever permissible? Is capital punishment justifiable in principle? In practice? Is torture morally permissible in the fight against terrorism? How far does our moral duty to aid distant strangers extend? We will also explore related general questions: Is it always possible for a good enough end to justify bad means? Are there objective facts about right or wrong, or is morality ultimately relative to cultures or times? Are there situations in which every available action is wrong? Can we be morally assessed even for some things that are largely a matter of luck?

PHIL 105 – Reason and Argument

This course will provide you with the essential skills you need to distinguish good arguments from bad arguments, and to approach any given subject matter in a rational, systematic manner. In order to decide what to believe and what to do, we have to reason: we have to start with some initial beliefs or assumptions, and then draw conclusions from these starting points. For instance, you might wonder whether taking this course will be useful to you. You might reason as follows: “It would certainly be useful for me to be able to tell whether someone is giving me good reason to believe something, or whether they are only trying to trick me into believing something by appealing to my emotions. PHIL 105 will help me develop these skills. So, taking PHIL 105 will be useful for me!”

We can often make our reasoning processes explicit and express them in language, like in the case of your hypothetical reasoning above. Arguments are what we get when we make reasoning explicit. More precisely, an argument is a set of claims or statements, one of which is the conclusion, and some of which are the premises supposed to support the conclusion. Your hypothetical reasoning above was thus an argument for the claim that this course is useful for you. Was it a good one? That’s the kind of question you will learn to answer in this course. More generally, the goal of this course is to teach you how to identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments made by others, and to construct arguments of your own in order to decide what to believe and what to do about what matters to you. You will learn basic rules to follow when reasoning about any topic whatsoever, and common mistakes to avoid. You will also learn strategies to avoid being misled by falsehoods, including falsehoods that come from the media and from online sources. The skills you will learn in this course are essential to help you get at the truth, and to make good decisions in all aspects of your life.

PHIL 106 – Argument and Evidence Across Contexts

We will investigate broad models of argument and evidence from the interdisciplinary field of argumentation theory. Students will apply these models to specific academic and social contexts of their choice. Some questions we might ask are: Can argument or evidence be understood absent context? What do arguments in STEM fields have in common with those in the humanities? For instance, is there common ground in how we argue about English literature and how biologists argue about the natural world? How do audience and purpose in disciplines such as psychology, physics and philosophy shape what counts as an argument in their respective fields? Does political argument resemble academic argument? What strategies will enable experts to communicate more effectively with public audiences in fields such as public health and the environmental humanities? Students will write frequent reflections, develop several short papers, and the semester will culminate in the construction of a final project of the student’s own design (for example, a research paper, a website, a podcast…) that can focus on any aspect of academic, professional, or political argumentation.

PHIL 110 – Introductory Logic

Symbolic logic through first-order quantification theory. Skill in deductive inference is strengthened through construction of proofs and other methods of a rigorously defined artificial language.

PHIL 111 – Philosophy of Religion

Historical and contemporary readings are used to analyze philosophical issues that arise in connection with religion, such as: arguments for or against the existence of God, the nature of divine attributes, the relation of God to the world, the interaction of faith and reason, the relationship of religion to morality, the relationship of religion to science, the value of religious tolerance and the relations among different religious systems, the nature and meaning of mystical experience.

PHIL 114 – Philosophy and Science Fiction

In this course, we discuss science fiction that raises philosophical problems—about personal identity, time, free will, etc.—and investigate these problems.

PHIL 120 – Ethics of Technology

This course is an introduction to the ethics of emerging technologies and the value judgments that are integral to the engineering design process. The technologies addressed will include information technology (IT) and artificial intelligence (AI), biomedical engineering (BME), and environmental and agricultural technology. The course will examine ideals of professionalism and the influence of institutional settings on professional decision-making. The pedagogy, written work, and evaluation in this course will be strongly oriented to case-based analysis and value-driven science-based decision-making.

PHIL 135 – Environmental Ethics

This course is an introduction to the ethics of human beings’ interactions with the environment and the impact of those interactions on other human beings, other species, and ecosystems. It addresses basic questions about the nature of ethics itself, alternative ethical theories and considerations, and the value of individual human beings, individuals of other species, species as such, and ecosystems. Topics will include the interests of future generations, animal rights, the concept of nature, climate change, sustainability, and population and consumption.

PHIL 152 – Science and Reason

This is a course about understanding the methodologies and styles of reasoning employed in the sciences. The course will provide insight into testing of hypotheses as well as inductive and probabilistic reasoning and their applications in science and in everyday life. We will discuss case studies in the history of science as well as contemporary examples that raise the question of how we should apply reasoning to scientific questions, such as how to assess research carried out by private corporations, or how to weigh expert testimony in support of conspiracy theories. Topics may also include the distinction between science and non-science, whether science makes progress, what the role of values are in science, and the relationship between science and religious belief.

PHIL 167 – University Values

This course takes up a variety of ethical issues associated with higher education--for example, questions about free speech that clashes with other values embraced by the University or debates about names of buildings and statues with problematic historical connections. (This was recently debated at Washington and Lee University, for example, and the current president there will be meeting with the class to discuss their decision). We will read essays examining the meaning and significance of concepts such as freedom, respect, equity, and other values that the University espouses and then use examples of incidents that have occurred on campuses around the country to examine the challenges that arise in universities' efforts to live up to their values. (Note: although this course is 100-level it is appropriate for advanced-level students as well, and although it isn't officially listed as counting toward clusters (because it is new), the Undergraduate Adviser will approve petitions to count it as a 100-level elective toward the Ethics and Values cluster (possibly toward other clusters as well) or as satisfying the ethics requirement for the major.)

PHIL 171 – Philosophical Foundations of Feminism

Sometimes people think of feminist philosophy as its own little corner of the discipline, that sits off to the side and has more in common with other areas of academic inquiry than with philosophy. In this class, we’ll challenge that idea in two ways: by making the case that feminist concerns need to be taken seriously by every traditional area of philosophy, and by making the case that the tools of the traditional areas of philosophy have much to offer to feminism. We’ll investigate the metaphysics of gender, the epistemology of sexual harassment and assault, the ethics of abortion and the ethics of care, and the social and political philosophy of internalized oppression and the gendered distribution of labor. (Offered every other spring)

PHIL/MATH 199 – The Infinite

In this interdisciplinary seminar we will try to understand “the infinite”, one of the most fascinating and elusive concepts in human culture. It plays a vital role in biblical thought, ancient Greek philosophy and mysticism, scholastic theology, nineteenth century romantic literature, ancient and modern mathematics, and physics. (Offered through the math department.)

PHIL 201 – History of Ancient Philosophy

Survey of the philosophy of ancient Greece, from the Presocratics through Hellenistic philosophy six centuries later. We will study the work of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle on topics such as being, beauty, the soul, and the nature of justice, with special focus on the great dialogues of Plato. (Offered every spring)

PHIL 202 – History of Modern Philosophy

Often regarded as generating many of our contemporary philosophical questions and resources, the philosophy of 17th and 18th century Europe was shaped by the new science of Galileo, Descartes and Newton, geopolitical developments like the Thirty Years War and exploration and colonization of non-European places, and debates about religious and political freedom and toleration. Readings from among Montaigne, Descartes, Cavendish, Leibniz, Conway, Spinoza, Newton, Du Chatelet, Berkeley and Hume on methodology, motion, space and time, causality, perception, the mind-body problem, toleration and knowledge. (Offered every fall)

PHIL 212 – Probability, Inference, and Decision

This course will investigate the logic and metaphysics of probability and its applications to various philosophical and scientific problems. This course will not require math beyond simple algebra.

PHIL 214 – Logical Methods in Philosophy

This course is an introduction to some of the main logical concepts, techniques, and results employed in contemporary philosophy. Topics covered include non-classical propositional logics, modal propositional logic, counterfactuals, quantified modal logic, and two- dimensional modal logic.

PHIL 215 – Intermediate Logic

This course is an introduction to the major concepts, techniques, and results of modern logic, aimed at students who have taken at least one formal logic course (or equivalent) in the past. Topics covered include soundness and completeness for propositional and first- order logic, compactness for first-order logic, the Löwenheim-Skolem theorems, second-order logic, and philosophical implications of some these results.

PHIL 216 – Mathematical Logic

This course will cover the proof and some of the mathematical and philosophical applications of one of the most important results in mathematical logic: Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. The mathematical applications we will cover include some non-computability results, and the philosophical applications include questions in the epistemology of mathematics and the philosophy of mind.

PHIL 217/MATH 246 – Logic and Set Theory

Axioms of set theory, functions and relations, natural numbers, cardinals and cardinal arithmetic. (Offered through the math department.)

PHIL 218 – Philosophy of Mathematics

This course is a general survey of the philosophy of mathematics. Historically, philosophers of mathematics have concerned themselves with at least two different (though related) kinds of questions: How does mathematics, as mathematicians practice it, fit into our broader philosophical picture of the world? and How should mathematics be practiced? The latter question was investigated in depth during the so-called “three schools” period in the first half of the twentieth century (the three schools being logicism, intuitionism, and formalism). The “three schools” period saw a remarkable amount of interaction between philosophy and mathematics, as well as the development of a new field—modern logic—by philosophers and mathematicians of the time. At the end of this era, which roughly coincides with Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, philosophers of mathematics turned primarily (though not exclusively) to the first kind of question. In outline, answering this question involves understanding the working and nature of mathematical knowledge, objects, language, and thought, and understanding how these fit (or whether they fit) with more general views in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. In this course, we will aim to get a sense of both kinds of questions. The earlier parts of the course will focus on historical texts from the “three schools” period. In the later parts of the course, we will focus on a few important contemporary philosophical programs about the metaphysics and epistemology of mathematics, such as nominalism, structuralism, and naturalism.

PHIL 220 – Recent Ethical Theory

We will critically examine three main contemporary philosophical approaches to ethical theorizing: consequentialism, Kantianism, and virtue ethics. We will also consider arguments about whether ethical conclusions can be deduced from non-ethical premises and whether there are any irresolvable moral conflicts.

PHIL 221 – Philosophical Foundations of the American Revolution

In this course, we will study the American Revolution by examining the political theory which sparked the revolution itself and which lay behind the writing of the Constitution. We will begin by looking at the important predecessors to the revolution, particularly the works of John Locke, the Baron de Montesquieu, and David Hume. We will then consider important works from the period surrounding the revolution, including works by Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Finally, we will look at the debates surrounding the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, including the Federalist Papers and important anti-Federalist works, and at essays written in response to controversies in the early Republic. The eighteenth century was a time of remarkable intellectual activity in the West, and the Americans played a central role in it, both reflecting the thought in Europe and influencing the course of thoughts and events there. Although it was over 200 years ago, the eighteenth century was a modern period: their concerns are largely our concerns. But since they come from a different background, they approach these concerns in a different and (I hope) illuminating way. So we want to examine these ideas in their context, but we also want to see what these thinkers can tell us about the role and nature of government and of society. (Offered only on an occasional basis. Contact Professor Richard Dees with questions about when it may be offered next.)

PHIL 223 – Social and Political Philosophy

We do social and political philosophy to better understand how our social and political communities should be structured. This semester, our course will be broken into two parts. First, we’ll use both classic and contemporary works of political philosophy to explore how we might best balance two aims of political community: Freedom and Equality. While both of these aims are central to a just society, they also seem to be in deep tension with one another. In the first half of the course, we’ll grapple with this tension and how a just society might resolve it. In the second half of the course, we’ll turn to considering freedom and equality in light of the problems raised by racial injustice in our own non-ideal world. In this half of the course, we’ll investigate both obstacles to and the demands of equality in our current world, and what freedom might require in an unequal society. (Offered every fall)

PHIL 225 – Ethical Decisions in Medicine

Philosophical analysis of ethical issues in medicine and biotechnology, such as problems arising in connection with the relations between physicians and patients, challenges presented by cultural diversity in medical contexts, practices surrounding human and animal research, decisions about end of life care, embryonic stem cell research, genetic engineering, biotechnological human enhancement, and social justice in relation to health-care policy. Papers will focus on analyses grounded in case studies.

PHIL 226 – Philosophy of Law

In recent years, the U.S. legal system has been beset by claims of overcriminalization, racially discriminatory enforcement, and inadequate or unequal protection of individual civil rights. What should we make of these claims, and what, if anything, would be implied by their truth? In seeking to answer these questions, this course will examine the nature of the law and its enforcement. We will begin by discussing the issue of criminalization and whether the expansion of the criminal law is or is not problematic. From there, we will turn to the foundational questions of what, precisely, the law is, and what its connection to morality is or should be. Are we obligated to obey the law, and if so, why? Finally, we will ask whether it is possible for the law to remain neutral with regards to morality and politics, and whether the supposed “neutrality” of the law may itself be an instrument of oppression. If the legal system lacks the kind of neutrality that many legal theorists claim for it, what (if anything) does that license us (as citizens) to do? (Offered every spring)

PHIL 227 – The Meaning of Life

Difficult questions about meaning in life are of perennial concern to philosophers and many other reflective people. The course looks closely and critically at these questions and traditional and contemporary answers.

PHIL 228 – Public Health Ethics

Most health care ethics focuses on the individual decisions about health care, but many ethical questions have implications for society at large. The demands that individual health decisions make on the system may create collective problems, and conversely, the needs of society may limit the freedoms that individuals think they should have. Public health ethics then, lie at the intersection of medicine, political philosophy, and public policy. This course will examine the values of health, social needs, and freedom through a systematic examination of situations in which these conflicts arise. (Offered every fall)

PHIL 229 – Philosophy of Education

The course examines a variety of fundamental normative questions about education and some specific issues of education ethics and policy, using selections from philosophical classics, contemporary philosophy, and case studies. Topics will include the nature and aims of education, the boundaries of educational authority, educational equality and justice, intellectual virtues and vices, the nature and educational promotion of human flourishing, and some controversial educational practices.

PHIL 230: Environmental Justice

Environmental injustice occurs whenever some individual or group suffers unjust environmental risk, lacks fair access to environmental goods, or is unjustly denied opportunity to meaningfully engage in or be represented in individual or collective environmental decision-making. This course will examine issues of environmental justice, both local and global, for both present and future generations, bringing philosophical analysis to bear on such topics as toxic exposures, industrial accidents, water rights, climate disruption, and energy and food systems.

PHIL 231 – Philosophy of Race and Gender

In this course, we will explore several main questions: What are race and gender? What do we want race and gender to be? How might our treatment of applied issues in race- and gender-related areas change if we reimagined the concepts? When we look at the world around us, it seems clear that race and gender are real categories – after all, some people are obviously disadvantaged by their race or gender, and other people are obviously advantaged. But just how should we think about these categories? Are they biological realities? Are they “mere” social realities? Or are we mistaken, and do they not meaningfully exist at all? In this course, we will explore the roles that these concepts play in the real world and how these concepts could be reimagined as effective tools for changing our world for the better. (Offered every other fall)

PHIL 235 – Data, Algorithms, and Justice

This course focuses on a number of questions that arise in the design, development and deployment of machine learning algorithms. Topics include: Bias in algorithms (e.g., how should we measure unfairness in algorithms that determine who gets bail, parole, a job, or a loan? What about bias in health analytics?) Values disagreement and algorithms (e.g., how should self-driving cars or diagnostic algorithms make decisions, given that we disagree about the good?) Algorithms, social media, and public life (e.g., what is the impact of social media algorithms on public discourse and the future of democracy?) Algorithms and the future of work (e.g., how should we structure our society when many basic tasks will be performed by machines? How should we distribute the benefits of machine productivity?).

PHIL 242 – Metaphysics

Metaphysics is roughly the philosophical study of what there is, the nature of what there is, and how all the things there are fit together. This course will typically discuss 4-6 metaphysical questions, usually including at least a few of the following. Is it possible for two objects to have exactly the same properties? Are objects' properties special entities, and if so, what kind? Is space (or spacetime) an entity? Under what conditions to parts compose a whole? What is the nature of possibility and necessity? What makes it true that there used to be dinosaurs (or other entities that no longer exist)? What is the nature of time? Is change, including the passage of time, illusory?

PHIL 243 – Theory of Knowledge

The course addresses the following major questions in epistemology using a textbook and recent philosophical readings: What is knowledge? Do context or practical concerns affect what we know? Do people really know anything about the world around us? What makes a belief justified? When is disagreement rational?

PHIL 244 – Philosophy of Mind

An introduction to classic and contemporary problems in the philosophy of mind, this course investigates how the mind is related to the physical world. Topics include: What is the mind and how is it related to the brain? How is it possible for mental states to cause physical states, and vise versa? How do mental states get their intentional content? What is consciousness and can it be given a physical explanation? What are the minds of other beings - such as animals and artificially intelligent computers - like, and how could we know? [Prerequisite: One previous course in philosophy]

PHIL 246 – The Social Character of Knowledge

It is hard to overstate how much we rely on others in acquiring knowledge (for better or worse). In this course, we elucidate the many forms this reliance takes. We investigate how knowledge is distributed in the scientific community and elsewhere, including in society as a whole, and how information and misinformation spread in these communities. We also identify potential flaws in the existing structures in which knowledge is distributed and disseminated, and try to find ways in which these structures could be improved.

PHIL 247 – Philosophy of Language

General nature of language and specific puzzles about language: the nature of truth and meaning, speech acts, reference, propositional attitudes, metaphor, understanding, interpretation, indeterminacy, etc. (PHIL 110 is recommended prior to taking this course.)

PHIL 249/LING 265 – Formal Semantics

General nature of language and specific puzzles about language: the nature of truth and meaning, speech acts, reference, propositional attitudes, metaphor, understanding, interpretation, indeterminacy, etc. (PHIL 110 is recommended prior to taking this course.) (Offered through the linguistics department.)

PHIL 252 – Philosophy of Science

A survey of philosophical issues concerning the nature, scope, and practice of the sciences. Some questions explored are about science very generally: Must the entities posited by a scientific theory exist for it to be successful? Do laws of nature govern the world or simply articulate patterns? How are lower and higher level scientific theories related to one another? Is scientific explanation primarily concerned with laws, with causes, or with something else? Other questions concern particular sciences like physics, biology, and neuroscience.

PHIL 257 – Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

Many people believe that very soon, artificial intelligence is going to be everywhere. Artificial systems will steer cars, ships, and planes, care for the sick, fight fires and fight wars for us, organize our schedules, order our food, etc. But what exactly is an artificial intelligence? And can there be artificial systems that truly think, or feel? In this course, we will address questions like these from a philosophical perspective. In doing so, we will encounter some of the most fundamental issues in the philosophy of mind. For example, what are thoughts and feelings, and how might they relate to physical states of our brains, or to computational states? We will then examine how artificial systems, such as artificial neural networks, function, and discuss what they might teach us about the mind in general and about human minds in particular. Finally, we will consider the consequences that the development and application of artificial intelligence might have for humanity.

PHIL 265 – Selected Topics in Ancient Philosophy

This course will take up a selected topic in Ancient Greek philosophy. Please consult the course management system to learn the topic for an upcoming semester.

PHIL 270 – Selected Topics in Modern Philosophy

This course will take up a selected topic in 17th and 18th century philosophy. Please consult the course management system to learn the topic for an upcoming semester.

PHIL 293 – Politics, Philosophy, and Economics: How to Change the World

Consider the litany of problems we humans encounter across the globe: Environmental exploitation and degradation; dire poverty; profound and growing political-economic inequality; deep, often deadly divisions within nations along, among other dimensions, race, gender, and class; massive migration of populations, whether voluntary or not, across borders. The list goes on. It is daunting to the point of being intellectually and practically debilitating. For citizens, activists, government officials, and economic actors it is difficult to know where and how to start thinking about responses. In the face of such difficulties (and others) we urgently require responses that are both effective and justifiable. In order to identify and implement them we must not only understand how markets or individual elements of political systems work, or even how the various elements of our political and economic systems interact. We also must be able to think carefully about our obligations to our fellow human beings, and the values that we ultimately want our shared world to insatiate and be anchored by. Changing the world (let alone “saving” it!), then, requires a deeply interdisciplinary approach.

This course will be focused on helping students to develop the skills to bring ethical, microeconomic, and game theoretic analysis to bear on fundamental problems like those we mention above. Students should leave the course with a better understanding not just of how our political-economic practices and institutions do work – but also how they could work, how they should work, and how to make them work that way. (Offered every fall; teaching alternates between philosophy and politics, but all offerings should satisfy the same requirements)

PHIL 307 – Academic Leadership in Crises

This seminar explores academic leadership in crises. Through readings and accounts from the instructors whose leadership experiences provide perspectives on the topic, students will gain a more sophisticated understanding of organizational decision-making during crises. The course will explore ways in which leadership during a crisis differs from leadership in non-crisis times as well as the factors that differentiate leadership of colleges and universities from other kinds of organizations. Key questions will include: What considerations most shape crisis decision-making? What tensions arise from the diverse perspectives of key stakeholders? How well does their organizational structure equip academic institutions to deal with crises? How are communications managed during crises? Who takes the lead – senior administrative leaders, boards of trustees, faculty – in managing crises? Cases studies will include public health emergencies, natural disasters, campus violence, and protests over debates about institutional values and identity. (Co-taught by former Interim-President Feldman and President Mangelsdorf)

PHIL 311/PHLT 300 – Seminar in Bioethics

The Seminar in Bioethics is intended as a capstone experience for bioethics majors, but it is open to anyone who has taken PHIL 225 or 228 with permission of the instructor. In a discussion-based seminar format, we will examine the foundations of bioethics and then we will look at book-length treatments of several important issues, chosen by the participants as whole among topics like health care justice, global health justice, stem cell research, transplantation ethics, enhancement technologies, and issues in end-of-life care. The class satisfies the upper-level writing requirement. (Offered every other spring, in odd numbered years)

PHIL 312 – Neuroethics

Advances in neuroscience allow us to understand the brain and its functions more completely now than ever before. From these findings, new medical techniques and technologies are being developed that will allow us to peer into the working of others’ minds and to alter our cognitive functions, our memory, and our moods, raising fundamental questions about free will, about the basis for our identity as persons, and about morality itself. For these reasons, neuroscience may pose a deeper set of moral issues than any other science and this course will seek to explore the ethical issues that it raises. (Offered only on an occasional basis. Contact Professor Richard Dees with questions about when it may be offered next.)

PHIL 321 – Death

Death poses a number of philosophical puzzles which we will examine in this class: What does it mean to die? Am I harmed when I die? I don’t experience my death or being dead, so why would it be bad for me? Is it appropriate, then, to fear my death? Is it wrong to kill myself? Can I be harmed after I die? If dying is bad, would it be better if I never died, if I lived forever? Does the fact of that we will die change the way we should live? Does death shape the meaning of our lives? (Offered every other spring, in odd numbered years)

PHIL 326 – Global Justice

What do we owe to other human beings? Much philosophical work on justice focuses on domestic questions, as do many of the questions that are most hotly debated by politicians and their constituencies. But we live in an increasingly inter-connected world where many of the decisions made at the domestic level have extreme effects at the global level. How should we, as both citizens of our own countries and members of the human race, think about our justice-based obligations to those in the rest of the world? What do human rights require? What do we owe to refugees and potential immigrants? What does global gender justice require? In this course, we will explore these questions, challenge our assumptions, and debate together what special responsibilities we might have as citizens of one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations. (Offered only periodically)

PHIL 343 – Applied Argumentation in Ethics

Every fall, the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics ( hosts regional competitions in applied ethics. Ethics bowl is a unique form of competition that asks participants to seek the most compelling responses to difficult problems through respectful deliberation. Teams research cases that focus on a wide range of contemporary issues such as fake news, plagiarism, call out culture, biomedical issues, social justice, and automation. The purpose of this course is to prepare students to read, develop critical questions about, and evaluate Ethics Bowl cases. Students will construct written arguments and develop the oral skills to deliver those arguments in a manner that dynamically responds to specific questions about the cases. We will cultivate collaborative argumentative practices that are generative rather than adversarial. A team of 3-5 will be selected to attend the regionals competition. (*Prerequisite: Completion of the Primary Writing Requirement)

PHIL 344 – Performing Argument

The first half of this course will focus on preparing written and oral arguments that respond to the Ethics Bowl national cases. The second half of the course will critically reflect on that preparation in order to deliberate about the best methods for preparing, delivering, and engaging in argumentation. We will pay particular attention to what makes argument effective, the performative nature of argument, and the ways in which different argumentative strategies might be inclusive or exclusive. This reflection and discussion will be used to articulate and recommendations and document strategies for future ethics bowl participants. (*Prerequisite: Completion of WRTG 243 or PHIL 343)

PHIL 375 – Philosophy of Brain and Cognitive Science

We will seek to understand the mind-brain by integrating findings from several of the cognitive sciences, including philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, and artificial intelligence. This course will consider multiple perspectives on such topics as mental imagery, concepts, rationality, consciousness, emotion, language, thought, memory, attention, and machine intelligence.

PHIL 391 – Independent Study

The reading of philosophical literature under the guidance of a faculty adviser in the relevant area, typically involving a series of meetings with the adviser and culminating in a research paper. (Registration for independent study courses needs to be completed thru the instructions for online independent study registration.)

PHIL 393 – Seminar for Majors

Capstone seminar for majors, taken in the spring semester of senior (or sometimes junior) year. Writing-intensive and in-depth exploration of variable topics in philosophy. (Offered every spring. Please consult the course management system to learn the topic for an upcoming semester.)

PHIL 395 – Undergraduate Research

Students with philosophy concentration or minor may pursue a one-on-one guided research project under direction of a faculty member. Starting with a paper already written for another course, the student seeks a sponsor with relevant expertise and then develops the paper through research, analysis, and refinement of thesis and argument. The final paper is presented to the PhilosophyCouncil or Department. Submission for publication in an undergraduate philosophy journal and conference presentation is also encouraged. (Prerequisite: a minimum of two previous philosophy classes at the 200-level. Registration for independent study courses needs to be completed thru the instructions for online independent study registration.)

PHIL 396 – Honors Tutorial

Those wishing to pursue an Honors thesis track must first confirm with the Undergraduate Adviser that they meet the eligibility requirements, discuss how the other Honors requirements will be met, and secure the agreement of a Philosophy faculty member to serve as the thesis adviser. Then, in consultation with the thesis adviser (typically at the end of junior year), they will assemble a list of relevant texts in the area of thesis research and begin reading through the materials in the summer before senior year. In fall of senior year, they will enroll in PHIL 396, for which they will meet regularly with the adviser throughout the semester to discuss the texts and to hone the thesis topic and outline. (Registration for independent study courses needs to be completed thru the instructions for online independent study registration.)

PHIL 399 – Honors Thesis

After taking PHIL 396 to conduct research on the thesis topic, Honors thesis students enroll in PHIL 399 to continue the project, completing the writing of the thesis and then taking an oral examination (conducted by the thesis adviser and a second faculty reader) at least two weeks after submission of the final version of the thesis. (Registration for independent study courses needs to be completed thru the instructions for online independent study registration.)