Academics > Curriculum

Philosophy Curriculum

The philosophy and religion department offers courses designed to lead students to reflect on their views concerning fundamental issues in life and thought. Since both the philosophical and religious traditions have had a central place in and an enormous influence upon the development of human culture, any student seeking a liberal education, whatever the major discipline, will profit from the departmental offerings.

Philosophy Major

  1. Two of the following, including at least one of either Early Modern Philosophy (PHL-240) or Late Modern Philosophy (PHL-335):
    PHL-220 Ancient Greek Philosophy
    PHL-230 Medieval Philosophy
    PHL-240 Early Modern Philosophy
    PHL-335 Late Modern Philosophy
  2. One of the following:
    PHL-300 Contemporary Analytic Philosophy
    PHL-305 Contemporary Continental Philosophy
  3. PHL-405, -415 Seminar in Philosophy
  4. Five additional philosophy courses
  5. PHL-800 Philosophy Colloquium (non-credit-bearing)

A grade of "C" or higher must be received in all courses counted toward the philosophy major.

The recommended beginning course in philosophy for those contemplating a major in philosophy is Introduction to Philosophy (PHL-015). However, Survey of Western Philosophy (PHL-025), Logic (PHL-115) and Morality and Moral Controversies (PHL-128) are also suitable first courses. Some courses numbered between 200 and 299 maybe suitable first courses for students with sophomore standing.

Philosophy Minor

  1. Two of the following, including at least one of either Early Modern Philosophy (PHL-240) or Late Modern Philosophy (PHL-335):
    PHL-220 Ancient Greek Philosophy
    PHL-230 Medieval Philosophy
    PHL-240 Early Modern Philosophy
    PHL-335 Late Modern Philosophy
  2. One of the following:
    PHL-300 Contemporary Analytic Philosophy
    PHL-305 Contemporary Continental Philosophy
    PHL-405, -415 Seminar in Philosophy
  3. Three additional philosophy courses

Courses in Philosophy

PHL-015 Introduction to Philosophy
An introduction to the perennial philosophical problems and the manner in which they have been addressed by major figures in the history of philosophy. Problems considered include the nature of reality and persons, the objectivity and certitude of knowledge, and the basis of morality and political authority. Readings include selections from philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and others.

PHL-025 Survey of Western Philosophy
An overview of major Western Philosophers from Ancient Greek times to the present, focusing on historically important themes, theories, and movements. Primarily a lecture course with opportunity for discussion. Short selections from major philosophical writings are used along with traditional textbook material.

PHL-115 Logic
An introduction to the discipline of logic on an elementary level. This course introduces skills that are essential to good critical reasoning-how to detect forms of arguments, how to test for validity, and how to construct valid arguments. This course focuses on both formal and informal logic.

PHL-128 Morality and Moral Controversies
A critical examination of important moral issues facing contemporary society. The course uses a variety of common ethical theories. Possible topics include environmental ethics, euthanasia, animal rights, humanitarian aid, abortion, and capital punishment.

PHL-135 Theories of Human Nature
An examination of views of human nature held by major Western thinkers from Greek times to the present. Using works of literature as well as philosophical texts, this course examines the similarities and differences among the views of human nature of such philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, as well as the views presented in works of fiction by such authors as Dostoevsky, Conrad, and Camus. Attention is also given to the views of major figures in the social and natural sciences, such as Darwin, Freud, and E.O. Wilson.

PHL-205 Environmental Ethics
Serves as a general introduction to environmental ethics. Students receive instruction in ethical theory and how it can be applied to issues in environmental ethics. Some topics likely to be addressed in the course are: defining our obligations to future generations, the definition of wilderness, sustainable agriculture, animal rights, anthropocentrism, the nature of the value of wilderness, environmental holism, and ecofeminism.

PHL-206 Buddhist Thought
A study of the beliefs and practices of the major traditions of Buddhism in Asia. An examination of various Buddhist views on the true nature of reality, the nature of the mind, and the path to enlightenment. This course examines both the historical development and contemporary expression of these Buddhist teachings. Prerequisite: Eastern Religions (REL-036) or consent of instructor.

PHL-220 Ancient Greek Philosophy
A survey of the central ideas and figures in the philosophy of the ancient Greek world. Figures studied include the pre-Socratic philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

PHL-230 Medieval Philosophy
A survey of the major philosophical and theological ideas of the Middle Ages. Special emphasis is placed on the writings of such thinkers as Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas. (This course is also applicable to the major in Religion.)

PHL-235 Philosophy of Science
An examination of the nature of scientific activity and theory. Views of scientific method are considered, in addition to the ways in which scientific theories develop. Both classical theories of science focusing on the structure of scientific explanation and more recent views focusing on the dynamic nature of science are considered. Attention is also given to the question of whether different branches of science have different types of explanation. Some previous experience with science helpful.

PHL-240 Early Modern Philosophy
An examination of the metaphysical and epistemological theories of major European philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Readings are drawn from the works of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.

PHL-245 Philosophy of Mind
An examination of the central issues in the philosophy of mind. The primary focus of this course is on the nature of consciousness and its relation to the physical processes of the body. Questions to be addressed include the following: are the mind and brain distinct entities? Does it make sense to think of the self as a unitary entity that underlies one’s many experiences? In what sense, if any, do persons possess free will?

PHL-255 Existentialism
An examination of the writings of major figures representing modern existentialist views. This course includes both philosophical and literary texts, primarily from authors of the 20th century, such as Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus, and also traces the origins of this movement from 19th century figures, such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.  Readings will explore themes such as finitude, authenticity, the absurd, bad faith, freedom and responsibility.

PHL-265 Political Philosophy
An investigation of the central issues in social and political philosophy concerning the individual’s relation to society and to the state in particular. Questions may include: on what basis can states legitimately exercise authority over individuals? What are the proper ends and limits of state authority? What principles should our society pursue in allocating goods such as property, education, health, and welfare?

PHL-270 Ethical Theory
An examination of central normative and meta-ethical theories. Some questions that may be addressed in the course are: should we seek to maximize the happiness of the universe in whatever we do? Are some actions good in themselves regardless of their consequences? Are there absolute moral truths? Or, are all moral truths relative? What justifies our moral claims, if anything does? Prerequisite: at least one previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

PHL-277 Philosophy of Gender and Race
An examination of various issues involving the manner in which gender and race have been conceptualized in Western thought. This course will consider ways in which gender and race pose problems for traditional conceptions of justice and equality will explore a variety of responses to these challenges by social and political theorists.

PHL-285 Law, Morality, and Punishment
An introduction to the central issues in the philosophy of law. This course includes a survey of central theories on the nature of law, such as natural law, positive law, and legal realism. It also covers such topics as the relationship between law and morality and various philosophical views on the nature and justification of punishment.

PHL-300 Contemporary Analytic Philosophy
An investigation of central topics and themes in 20th-century analytic philosophy. The course is likely to cover 20th century developments in areas such as philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethical theory. The thought of figures such as Frege, Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein, Ayer, Carnap, Ryle, Quine, and Davidson are studied. Prerequisite: junior standing.

PHL-305 Contemporary Continental Philosophy
An investigation of central topics and themes from the major movements of the 20th century in philosophy on the European continent, e.g., phenomenology, existentialism, critical theory, and post-structuralism. Readings are drawn from such philosophers as Heidegger, Sartre, Habermas, Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard. Prerequisite: junior standing.

PHL-335 Late Modern Philosophy
An examination of the works of influential European thinkers of the late 18th and 19th century. The course begins with the study of German idealism, a movement that includes philosophers such as Kant, Fichte, and Hegel, followed by an examination of later 19th-century figures such as Marx and Nietzsche. Prerequisite: at least one previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

PHL-375 Epistemology
An examination of the central issues in epistemology, which is the study of the nature of knowledge. The main topics of this study include skepticism, the definition of knowledge, the nature of justification, foundationalism, coherentism, and the concept of truth. Questions to be addressed in the course may include: is knowledge possible? Is all knowledge justified true belief? Are there self-evident beliefs? What is coherence and is the coherence of a set of beliefs sufficient for their truth? Prerequisite: at least one previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

PHL-405,-415 Seminar in Philosophy
An advanced seminar course designed primarily for the instruction of advanced majors and minors. Topics covered in the course vary in accordance with the instructor’s preferences. Prerequisite: junior standing.

PHL-8_5 Independent Study in Philosophy
Independent study in some philosophical problem or the thought of some major philosopher, under the direction of a faculty member of the department. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

PHL-800 Philosophy Colloquium—Non-Credit Bearing
Majors are required to submit 10-15 pages of finished philosophical prose, and present their work orally to students and faculty. Although the Colloquium is usually taken during Spring Term of the senior year, it is open to all juniors and seniors with appropriate background in philosophy. Satisfactory completion of the Colloquium is required for graduation with a major in philosophy. S/U basis only.

PHL-845 Directed Readings in Philosophy
A course of readings selected by the student and instructor to fit the individual student’s particular interests and educational needs. Readings may focus on either a philosophical problem or one or more philosophers. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

PHL-895 Internship in Philosophy
Exploration of a career area related to the student's interest in philosophy. A minimum of 140 hours on-site experience is required. S/U basis only. Supervision by a faculty member of the department in cooperation with the Director of Internships. This course does not satisfy any of the requirements for a major in philosophy. Prerequisites: declared major in philosophy, junior standing, and consent of department.