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 Catalog

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 Philosophy Courses

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 260 Zen and Philosophy (ILS), Professor Wisnewski: MTWTHF 1-4 p.m.
In this course we will explore the writings of some notable figures in the history of Zen and in ‘the Kyoto school’ of Japanese philosophy, examining the specific ways in which they try to articulate the philosophical underpinnings of Zen to a Western audience.

Spring 2018 Philosophy Courses

PHIL 236 Logic (3 credits) (QFR), Professor Rocknak: MW 10:50 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.
Principles of deductive inference; traditional syllogistic and basic modern symbolic logic.

PHIL 249 Existentialism (3 credits), Professor Wisnewski: TTH 10:10a.m. – 11:30 a.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 Environmental Ethics (3 credits) Instructor: TBA; Monday 6 – 9 p.m.
What is our ethical relationship to the environment? Should we care for the environment only because we need it to survive? Or are there other compelling reasons? How should we approach the topics of sustainability and climate change? In this course, students will learn how to use philosophical theories to answer these questions. In the course of doing so, we will examine the history of the environmental ethics as a recent and growing field.

PHIL 250 Moral Psychology (3 credits) Instructor: Scott Wolcott: T 6 – 9 p.m.
Moral psychology is an important interdisciplinary field in which philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and experts in other fields attempt to explore the relationship between ethics and the way human brains process information. Interesting work in this field has studied how our emotions and our moral reasoning interact; how moral responsibility is altered by various psychological conditions like sociopathy, bi-polar disorder, or depression; and whether the human brain is capable of consistent enough behavior to result in moral character traits like honesty, kindness, or bravery.

In this course our goal will be to analytically analyze research in philosophy and psychology on moral reasoning, judgments, and decision-making. We will explore the nature of belief and its relationship to practical and theoretical moral reasoning. We will also delve into the nature of character traits and ask if empirical psychology gives us reason to doubt that we have any such traits. We will try to examine what it means for us to trust someone and whether or not such a state is ever warranted or even possible. We will explore how our emotions influence our reasoning processes and ask if it is possible that our emotions are indispensable for ethics. And we will delve into questions about moral responsibility and try to understand if we can be responsible for our behavior when it is controlled by psychological processes that are beyond our control.

PHIL 250 Skepticism (3 credits) (ILS), Professor Rocknak: T 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
“It’s all a matter of opinion.” “There is no God—God is dead.” “I only know that I don’t know.” In this course, these phrases, which have become the pedestrian slogans of our nihilistic age, will be thoroughly examined in the context of a number of prominent Western skeptics (e.g. Sextus Empircus, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein). In particular, we will examine what it means to be a skeptic in regard to art, ethics, knowledge, existence and even philosophy itself.

PHIL 332 Philosophy of Religion (3 credits) (ILS), Professor Wisnewski: TTH 12:20  – 1:50 p.m.
What is religion? Is there a God? What is the value of religious experience? Is it possible to be religious without being superstitious? Answers to these and related questions will be examined in the analytical manner appropriate to philosophy.

PHIL 350 Kant’s First Critique (4 credits) (W), Professor Rocknak: MW 1:25 p.m. – 3:25 p.m.
This course is designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of Kant’s Critique of Pure
Reason, one of the most important texts of the Modern era, if not philosophy in general. Our particular
focus will be on the Doctrine of Elements, which is divided into three parts: The Aesthetic, the Analytic and the Dialectic.

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