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

Spring 2019 Philosophy Courses

PHIL 236 Logic, 3 credits, TTH 10:10-11:30 a.m. (QFR); Rocknak
Principles of deductive inference; traditional syllogistic and basic modern symbolic logic.

PHIL 250 Environmental Ethics: 3 credits, Monday, 6 -9 p.m.; Babcock
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.

PHIL 250 Who’s to Blame?: 3 credits, Monday/Wed 2:30-3:55 p.m.; Wolcott
We usually think that someone should be blamed when they are responsible for something but, when is someone responsible? Are we only responsible for things we do intentionally? Does that mean we aren’t responsible for accidents?  What if my behavior is out-of-character and very different from what I would normally do? These kinds of questions are important to the way we live our everyday lives as well as to important public spheres like the legal system and medical decision-making. Is a doctor morally responsible for a patient’s death if they accidentally give the wrong medication? Should that effect their legal responsibility? What about a lawyer who knows her client is lying, but doesn’t speak up about it?

In this course, we will analytically explore research on what it means to be responsible and how to determine when someone deserves to be blamed. We will ask what it means to blame someone, what it means to be responsible, and how those two are related. This will touch on questions of free-will, human psychology, and what it means to be a person.

PHIL 250 Moral Psychology, 3 credits, Monday, 6-9 p.m.; Rocknak
Moral psychology is an important interdisciplinary field in which philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and experts in other fields 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. Studies have also been done to determine if the human brain is capable of consistent enough behavior to result in moral character traits such as honesty, kindness, or bravery. 

In this course we will analyze research in philosophy and psychology in regard to 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 ask, at least, the following questions: Does empirical psychology gives us reason to doubt that we have any such traits? What does it mean to trust someone? How do our emotions influence our reasoning processes? How do emotions affect our ability to make ethical decisions?

PHIL 250 Utopias and Dystopias: 3 credits, Monday/Wed 8:40-10 a.m.; Wolcott (cross-listed as POSC 250)
Could a group of perfect people exist without any disagreement or conflict? Would they need a government? Is it possible to take any imperfect society and raise it to the level of perfection or something close to it?

If there were a perfect society, what would it look like? From Plato’s The Republic in the 4th century BCE, to Thomas More’s Utopia in 1516, to contemporary political debates, theories have abounded about how to build a perfect society. The first half of this course will be dedicated to examining theories about utopian societies and attempting to construct such a society in the classroom. Of course, there are no actual utopias, so where does that leave us? If we found ourselves in the dire straits of a dystopian future such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, or perhaps in the 13th district of the Hunger Games, or Veronica Roth’s post-apocalyptic Chicago in Divergent, then what should we do? How should we behave? Do we have a responsibility to fight the powers that be? Is a revolution called for? Maybe it is better to just fall in line with the system. The second half of this course will be dedicated to examining approaches to repairing societies we deem damaged.

PHIL 250 Violence and Vengeance: A Philosophical Analysis of Quentin Tarantino’s Films: 4 credits, 12:20-2:20 p.m., TTH; Rocknak
Can criminals have a legitimate ethical code? Is violence ever justified? Revenge? How would we know?

To answer these questions, we will study and discuss philosophical conceptions of knowledge, ethics, moderation, postmodernism and relativism in the context of the Tarantino portfolio.  In the course of doing so, we will pay special attention to his treatment of women and minorities: Is Tarantino a champion of both or does he perpetuate harmful stereotypes?

No previous experience with philosophy is required.

PHIL 350 Plato on Eros, Poetry and Philosophy: 4 credits, Monday/Wed 1:25-3:25 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 prerequisites.

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