Philosophy Courses

Below, you can find a list of courses from our current semester. A full listing of our regular courses, can be found in the College Catalog.

Course Catatlog

Fall 2016 Philosophy Courses

PHIL 150 Mind & Self, Professor Wisnewski
An exploration of philosophical treatments of the idea of consciousness and the self, both east and west, and their relation to happiness, death, and the good life.

The course will begin by examining some ancient philosophical ideas (mostly Buddhist) that argues for meditation as a key to understanding the impermanence of all things. We will then turn our attention to ancient Greece, reading work by Plato and some Pre-Socratic philosophers, examining the role of reason in understanding the mind and the nature of a ‘self.’ Our next stop will be the giants of early psychology: James, Freud, and Jung. Finally, we will consider some contemporary work in cognitive science and phenomenology on the nature of consciousness, the experience of the self, and the idea of happiness.

PLEASE NOTE: Because many of our sources utilize meditation as a means of examining the nature of the mind and various claims made about the self, we too will engage in this practice (it has many proven health benefits).

PHIL 201 Classics of Philosophy, Instructor Mark Brennan
An introduction to the methods, concepts, and aims of philosophical inquiry through critical study of major philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Hume.

PHIL 236 Logic, Professor Wisnewski
Principles of deductive inference; traditional syllogistic and basic modern symbolic logic.

PHIL 337 Philosophy of Art, Professor Rocknak
Analysis of various points of view on such topics as the definition of art, the aesthetic experience, the form, matter and content of art, emotion and expression, the psychological function of art, and art criticism and evaluation.

PHIL 350 Heidegger’s Being and Time, Professor Wisnewski
Martin Heidegger is without doubt one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th-century. This course is dedicated to coming to terms with his magnum opus, Being and Time, a book that is certainly among the most important philosophical texts of the 20th-century (some would say it’s the most important). Heidegger’s work has influenced multiple traditions in myriad ways. Indeed, the ripples of Being and Time can still be felt in much philosophical inquiry. This book left its mark on existentialism, structuralism, post-structuralism, postmodernism, logical positivism and deconstructionism. It would be impossible to tell the story of philosophy today without providing an account of the tremendous impact of Being and Time.

In exploring Being and Time, we will tackle a number of topics that have been at the core of philosophy since its inception, not the least of which is the nature of the human condition. Heidegger’s radical reappraisal of human existence, and the methodology appropriate to understanding this existence, marks a critique of traditional approaches to philosophical questions of all sorts. Our aim will be to get a clear picture of how Heidegger re-articulates the significance of our lives with and among other human beings, and the implications this has for our self-understanding. We will also discuss the possibility of authenticity, the significance of death, and the significance the past has on our ability to grapple with the present.

Our concentration on a single text will allow us to develop a detailed and sophisticated familiarity with one of philosophy’s giants. We will supplement this understanding with a look at some of the major criticisms of Heidegger’s work both within and outside of the phenomenological tradition. We will also have occasion to discuss the work of other phenomenologists who influenced or were influenced by Heidegger (or, in some cases, both).

PHIL 370 Philosophy of Mind, Professor Rocknak
What can a science such as psychology tell us about the workings of the mind? What are the philosophies of some of the major psychological movements? While these topics constitute the broader context of the course, we also will explore issues such as the following: To what extent is one born with one’s ideas, skills or talents, and to what extent do these depend on one’s environment? How does the mind represent the external world? Do computers “think;” are they “conscious?” How does understanding of the brain affect understanding of human psychology? To what extent is human intelligence like that of other animals?

PHIL 490 Senior Capstone Seminar, Professor Wisnewski
This course is designed to facilitate independent research in Philosophy. Every assignment is geared toward the production of a high-quality, independent research paper in the discipline. There are no required texts in this course, nor are there required topics. There will be no lectures. The course will be run, rather, like an actual seminar. Each week we will meet to discuss readings assigned by students. These readings will be briefly presented by those students who assigned them, and then discussed by the class.


January Term 2017 Philosophy Courses

PHIL 236 Logic (3 credits) (QFR), Professor Wisnewski: Online
Principles of deductive inference; traditional syllogistic and basic modern symbolic logic. Do you trust your ability to reason? When you provide evidence for a claim, how good is your logic? It’s easy to feel confident, but we often over-estimate our abilities. In fact, our reasoning is routinely sloppy. On the one hand, we make inferences where we shouldn’t, or deduce things that can’t be deduced. On the other hand, formal logic has been crucial in the development of much modern technology (like the computer you are using now). Logic matters. It’s worth being good at it.

Logic is the science of argument—of premise and conclusion. It examines the structure of good reasoning and attempts to formalize it in a way that eliminates error. This course will be an introduction to Logic, so understood. While we will begin with the basics of argument, we will quickly immerse ourselves in sentential logic, learning a system of inferential rules and methods for proving the validity (or invalidity) of arguments. We will also introduce predicate logic. Finally, we will spend some time considering the fallacies (errors in reasoning), both formal and informal.

You will complete this course in a collaborative online environment. The course involves numerous online exercises, as well as readings and participation in discussion boards. There is a heavy emphasis on doing formal logic rather than studying formal logic. The course thus involves lots of practice problems, where students are encouraged to help each other work through the more challenging problems together. The course also satisfies the College’s QFR requirement.

PHIL 273 Relativism (3 credits), Professor Rocknak: MTTHF, 8:30 -11 a.m.
Have you ever thought that “everything is relative,” or that “there is no truth” because “everything is a matter of opinion?” If so, believe it or not, you are already doing philosophy. In fact, you have ancient company: some 2,400 years ago, Protagoras championed the view that “knowledge is a perception,” and relatedly, that “man is the measure of all things.” In other words, he was one of the first full-blown relativists. In this class, we will examine just what it means to be a relativist, asking and answering the questions: Is it a good position to hold? Why or why not? To help us work through this topic, we will read one of Plato’s dialogues, some contemporary literature, and watch a number of related films.

PHIL 350 Mysticism and Philosophy (ILS), Professor Wisnewski: MTWTHF, 12-3 p.m.
This course will examine a variety of philosophical questions surrounding the mystical traditions of both East and West. Questions to be considered include: Are mystical and religious experiences sources of knowledge? Are all mystical experiences alike, or are they informed by cultural understanding? Can mystical experiences be explained in terms of brain processes, and what might this tell us about their nature? Is non-conceptual experience a source of insight into the self? This course will require daily meditation. (Instruction will be provided).


Spring 2017 Philosophy Courses

PHIL 201 Classics of Philosophy (3 credits), Instructor Jordan Corner: TTH, 10:10-11:30 a.m. 
An introduction to the methods, concepts, and aims of philosophical inquiry through critical study of major philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Hume.

PHIL 236 Logic (3 credits) (QFR), Professor Rocknak: TTH, 2:30-3:50 p.m. 
Principles of deductive inference; traditional syllogistic and basic modern symbolic logic.

PHIL 249 Existentialism (3 credits), Professor Wisnewski: MWF, 1:50-2:45 p.m. 
An exploration of the philosophical movement of existentialism as it has manifested itself in multiple contexts (in Europe, in the Caribbean, in Asia). Questions to be considered will include the nature of the self, the absurdity of existence, and how one might achieve a worthwhile life despite the inevitability of death. Philosophers to be read might include: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Fanon, Unamuno, Nishitani.

PHIL 250 Scientific Philosophy: Quine (3 credits) (W), Professor Rocknak: W, 5:15-8:15 p.m. 
How do we do philosophy? What method should we use? Should we use subjective insight as evidence, or “pure” rationality (if there is such a thing), or empirical data? Or maybe something else altogether, like religious epiphanies? “Naturalistic” philosophers like Quine argue that our data should be empirical. This is also called the “scientific” approach to philosophy and dates back to Aristotle. However, contemporary naturalistic philosophy is alive and well. In fact, it is arguably one of the most important and influential schools of contemporary philosophy, affecting the fields of (at least) philosophy of biology, philosophy of physics, ethics, philosophy of mind, epistemology and the philosophy of art. In this course, we take a careful look at Quine’s contemporary naturalism.

PHIL 250 (3 credits) Happiness, Instructor Mark Brennan: MW, 2:55-4:15 p.m. 
Many philosophers argue that happiness is the highest good, but there is still a great deal of disagreement as to how happiness ought to be defined. Is happiness pleasure, satisfaction, contentment, virtue, or something else? Is happiness central to a life worth living, and how difficult is happiness to achieve? In addition to these questions, this course will examine what contemporary neuroscience and psychology might be able to tell us about how happiness could be measured, and the extent to which human beings are able to judge their own happiness.

PHIL 336 Ethics (3 credits), Professor Wisnewski: MWF, 11:15-12:10 p.m. 
Exploration of the major moral theories of the western philosophical tradition (utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics), as well as challenges to this tradition. Students will examine questions concerning the possibility of moral knowledge and moral expertise, the relationship between reason and value, and the limits of our best attempts to grapple with the question of how to live. Prerequisite: at least one college course in philosophy.

PHIL 381 Ancient Greek Philosophy (4 credits) (W), Instructor Mark Brennan: MW, 10:10 a.m.-12:10 p.m. 
This course is a survey of the major achievements and figures of Classical Greek philosophy and their influence on thinkers in the Hellenistic period and late antiquity. There will be a special focus on the thinkers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Other schools of thought discussed will include the Sophists, Epicureanism, and Stoicism. Some major topics of the course will include Ancient Greek scientific views on the origins of the universe, the nature of the human soul, happiness, love and friendship, and the ideal government.

PHIL 383 Modern Philosophy (4 credits) (W), Professor Rocknak: TTH, 12:20-2:20 p.m. 
As Luther broke with the Catholic Church in the opening years of the sixteenth century, Copernicus dared to proclaim that the earth was not the center of the universe. The stage had been set for an intellectual revolution; in virtue of the burgeoning success of scientific inquiry, paired with a renewed confidence in rationality, human beings began to perceive themselves as the “masters of the universe.” “Modernity” was ushered in as a previously unquestioned obedience to Church and God slipped away. In this class, we will carefully examine four philosophers who helped to shape this dramatic and rich moment in history: Descartes, Leibniz, Hume and Kant (as well as a number of relatively unknown women philosophers. We will also watch the Matrix Trilogy, which, in many respects, reflects the struggle between the modern empiricists (e.g. Hume) and rationalists (e.g. Descartes and Leibniz).

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