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

J Term 2020 Courses

PHIL 273 Relativism: 3 credits, MTTHF, 8:30 -11 a.m.; Rocknak
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. No previous experience with philosophy required.

PHIL 260 Zen and Philosophy: ILS; 4 credits, MTWTHF, 12-3 p.m.;Wisnewski
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. Instructor permission required.

Spring 2020 Courses

PHIL 201 Classics of Philosophy: 3 credits, TTH 2:30-3:50 p.m.; Wisnewski
An introduction to the methods, concepts, and aims of philosophical inquiry through critical study of major philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Hume. No previous experience with philosophy required.

PHIL 236 Logic: QFR; 3 credits, MW 2:30-3:55 p.m.; Rocknak
Principles of deductive inference; traditional syllogistic and basic modern symbolic logic. No previous experience with philosophy required.

PHIL 253 Happiness: 3 credits, Monday 6-9 p.m.; Babcock
Many philosophers argue that happiness is the highest good, but there is a great deal of disagreement regarding how happiness should be defined. For instance, most normative ethical theories claim that happiness is integral to solving ethical dilemmas, but they provide conflicting accounts of how happiness is best achieved. In order to make sense of this, and other conflicts, we will examine the following questions: Is happiness pleasure, life-satisfaction, well-being, virtue, or something else entirely? Is happiness necessary for a life worth living? Is happiness difficult, or perhaps even impossible to achieve? Must one be moral in order to be happy? To supplement our consideration of philosophical theories, we will take recent findings of neuroscience and psychology into account. Doing so provides a potential methodology to measure happiness, and a way to determine the extent to which human beings are capable of judging their own happiness. No previous experience with philosophy required.

PHIL 250 Because I Promised: 3 credits, Monday, 6-9 p.m.; Tran
There are lots of things we have to do, and lots more that we don’t. Sometimes we have to do them because we promised we would. To explain why we have to do these things, we can simply say “Because I promised”. You didn’t HAVE TO before the promise but why do you HAVE TO after you’ve expressed these words? Likewise, “This meeting is now adjourned” makes it OK to go home, or “I knight thee Sir so and so…” turns someone into a knight, almost magically. Saying it does not make it so, but in these cases saying it really does make it so. What makes these cases so special? In this course we study these linguistic phenomena. In particular, we will study how promises commit us to doing something we were perfectly free to ignore before having made the promise. No previous experience with philosophy required.

PHIL 313 Classical Political Economy: ILS; 4 credits, MW 8-10 a.m.; Malone
Contemplates the economic, political and philosophical “visions” in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Karl Marx’s Capital, and John Maynard Keynes’ General Theory. The development of the liberal ideal of unrestrained individual freedom is traced through the ways these economists interpreted the social reality of their time. The evolution of neoclassical economics is also considered, and the contemporary relevance of these works is discussed throughout the course. No prerequisites if you take this as a philosophy class.

PHIL 350 Plato on Eros, Poetry and Philosophy: 4 credits, MW 10:10 a.m.-12:10 p.m.; Babcock
The tension between poetry and philosophy is a central theme in many Platonic dialogues. Plato’s dialogues also strongly associate philosophy with erotic longing and desire. This course will consider Plato’s position on the interplay between eros, poetry and philosophy. We’ll ask questions like: Why did Plato think that philosophical inquiry begins in eros? Do poets offer accounts of reality that rival those of philosophy? We’ll examine texts such as The Symposium, The Phaedo, The Phaedrus and The Ion which offer insights on the complicated relationship between eros, poerty and philosophy. These texts will be supplemented with other readings referenced by Plato like Aristophanes’ Clouds and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, alongside contemporary scholarship. No previous experience with philosophy required.

PHIL 350 Environmental Ethics: 4 credits, MW 10:10-12:10 a.m.; Rocknak
What is our ethical relationship to the environment? Should we care for the environment only because we need it to survive or does the natural world have value in itself? How should we approach the topics of sustainability, resources and climate change? Should we be conservationists or preservationists? In this course, students will learn how to use philosophical theories to approach these questions. In doing so, we will examine the history of the environmental ethics as a recent and growing field. No previous experience with philosophy required.

PHIL 350 Heidegger’s Being and Time: ILS, WL4; 4 credits, TTH 12:20-2:20 p.m.; Wisnewski
Martin Heidegger is without doubt one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th-century. This course is dedicated to coming to terms 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. Instructor permission required/prerequisites.