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 2017 Philosophy Courses

PHIL 201 Classics of Philosophy, (3 credits). Instructor: Wisnewski: MWF 11:15 a.m.-12:10 p.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 250 Philosophy of Language,(3 credits). Instructor: Corner: M 6- 9 p.m. 
What is meaning? How does your name manage to pick you out from everyone else? How do we do things with words? How can we talk about our favorite fictional characters when we know they aren’t real? Can you have a language all your own? Language is a fundamental part of our world, and there are a number of interesting puzzles concerning how we use language. This course will serve as an introduction to the problems in Philosophy of Language, and no prior philosophical coursework is required. In this course we will look at writings from philosophers such as Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Hilary Putnam, J.L. Austin, and Saul Kripke.

PHIL 250 Bioethics, (3 credits). Instructor: TBA (contract in process): T 6-9 p.m.
Medical decisions are often very difficult to make. When is it okay to stop treatment for a dying patient? Is it ever justified to genetically alter a child before it is born? If two patients need a heart transplant, but there is only one heart available, how should we decide who gets it? Bioethics is a complex interdisciplinary field (philosophy, medicine, sociology, etc…) that tries to explore these kinds of questions. This course will focus on the philosophical study of ethics as it is applied to questions in the medical field. We will look at major ethical systems and explore how well they tell us what is right and what is wrong when making medical decisions and in settling moral problems in medical debates. We will explore contemporary medical policies and examine if they can be morally justified. We will also consider seemingly futuristic issues such as cloning and genetic modification and determine if they can be practiced in a morally justifiable manner. Along the way, we will practice the philosophical skills of argument analyses, writing, and problem solving.

PHIL 261 Philosophy in Literature, (3 credits). Instructor: Wisnewski: MWF 1:25-2:20 p.m.
Philosophical questions concerning the nature of responsibility, the nature of the self, the meaning of a valuable life, and the terror of choice will be explored in selected works of fiction (works by, e.g. Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, J. M Coetzee, Fyodor Dostoevsky)

PHIL 271 Values and Society, (3 credits). Instructor: Wisnewski: MWF 10:10-11:05 a.m.
An introduction to philosophical ethics, both theoretical and applied. Students are introduced to basic moral theories (deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics), as well as how these theories might be used to confront particular ethical issues. Students will analyze a variety of positions, critically assessing the merits and weaknesses of the available arguments. Topics to be considered may include: torture; animal rights; sexism, heterosexism, and racism; genetic engineering; consumerism and environmentalism; economic inequality and world poverty.

PHIL 370 Philosophy of Mind, (4 credits; ILS) Rocknak: TTH 12:20-2:20 p.m.
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 (Rocknak; majors only)

January Term 2018 Pilosophy Courses Coming Soon!

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 2018 Philosophy Courses Coming Soon!

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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