Department of Philosophy


PHIL 101 Introduction to Philosophy

Basic problems of philosophy and methods of philosophical thinking. Problems raised by science, morality, religion, politics and art. Readings from classical and contemporary philosophers. Normally given in multiple sections with different instructors and possibly with different texts. All sections share core materials in theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and ethics despite differences that may exist in emphasis. Phil 101, 204, 205, 302, 304, 334, 345, or 370 may be used to satisfy the sequence requirement in History, Philosophy and Religion.


PHIL 201 Introduction to Logic

This course will investigate the nature of deductive reasoning in general. The specific aim is to analyze and to evaluate English language arguments and informal mathematical proof by representing them in a formal symbolic system. Attention will also be paid to the scopes and limits of logic. The course covers propositional and predicate logic. Three in-class exams plus the regularly scheduled final. Text: Bergmann, Moor, and Nelson,The Logic Book


PHIL 203  Revolutions in Science (Natural Philosophy I)

Historical and philosophical interpretation of some epochal events in development of science. Copernican revolution, Newtonian mechanics, Einstein’s relativity physics, quantum mechanics, and evolutionary theory; patterns of scientific growth; structure of scientific “revolutions”; science and “pseudo-science”. First half of a yearly long sequence.


PHIL 204 Philosophy of Science (Natural Philosophy II)

Conceptual, methodological, and epistemological issues about science: concept formation, explanation, prediction, confirmation, and theory construction; the status of unobservable; metaphysical presuppositions and implications of science; semantics of scientific language; illustrations from special sciences. Second half of a yearlong sequence.


PHIL 205 Contemporary Moral Problems

Examination of selected contemporary moral problems and contemporary faces of perennial moral problems such as: when, if ever, lying is justified; the value of honesty and of confidentiality; under what circumstances, if any, various types of killing (suicide, execution, in war, euthanasia, killing of lower animals or ecosystems) is justified. Additional moral problems raised by new knowledge (such as genetic information) of new technology (such as rights to digital information, or the ability to), and responsible uses of these and other sources of power. Clarification of the concepts of value, ethical evaluation and justification, ethical argument, moral relevance, and the notion of a moral problem itself.


PHIL 221 Indian Philosophy

[Cross-listed as RLGN 221] We will survey the origins of Indian philosophical thought, with an emphasis on early Buddhist, Hindu and Jain literature. Our concern will be the methods, presuppositions, arguments, and goals of these schools and trajectories of thought. What were their theories on the nature of the person, the nature of reality, and the nature and process of knowing? What were the debates between the schools and the major points of controversy? And, most importantly, are the positions/ arguments internally incoherent?


PHIL 225 Evolution

[Cross-listed as ANTH/BIOl/GEOL/HSTY] Multidisciplinary study of the course and processes of organic evolution provides a broad understanding of the evolution of structural and functional diversity, the relationships among organisms and their environments, and the phylogenetic relationships among major groups of organisms. Topics include the genetic basis of micro- and macro-evolutionary change, the concept of adaptation, natural selection, population dynamics, theories of species formation, principles of phylogenetic inference, biogeography, evolutionary rates, evolutionary convergence, homology, Darwinian medicine, and conceptual and philosophic issues in evolutionary theory.


PHIL 270 Introduction to Gender Studies

[Cross-listed as ENGL/HSTY/PHIL/RLGN/207 & WGST 201] This course introduces women and men students to the methods and concepts of gender studies, women’s studies, and feminist theory. An interdisciplinary course, it covers approaches used in literacy criticism, history, philosophy, political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, film studies, cultural studies, art history, and religion. It is the required introductory course for students taking the women’s studies major. Recommended preparation: ENGL 150 or USFS 100. Global & Cultural Diversity.


PHIL 271 Bioethics: Dilemmas

We have the genetic technology to change nature and human nature, but should we? We have the medical technology to extend almost any human life, but is this always good? Should we clone humans? Should we allow doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill? This course invites students from all academic disciplines and fields to examine current and future issues in bioethics–e.g., theory and methods in bioethics; death and dying; organ transplantation; genetics; aging and dementia; fertility and reproduction; distributive justice in health care access. The course will include guest lecturers from nationally known Bioethics faculty.


PHIL 301 Ancient Philosophy

[Cross-listed as CLSC 301] Western philosophy from the early Greeks to the Skeptics. Emphasis on the pre-Socratics, Plato and Aristotle. Recommended preparation: PHIL 101 and consent of department. Prerequisite: 101 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 302 Modern Philosophy

After the Renaissance, Western philosophy gradually liberated itself from theology controlled by the Church, and its liberation became fairly complete in the 17th and 18th centuries. With its newly achieved autonomy from external authority, philosophy appealed to the authority of reason or sense experience, giving rise to opposed theories of thought, Rationalism and Empiricism. This course will examine the epistemological dispute between the two schools and the metaphysical constructions that incorporated the different epistemological views. The course will conclude with an examination of the way Immanuel Kant attempted to bring rationalism and empiricism to a synthesis. In appropriate contexts the continuity of today’s philosophy to 17th and 18th century philosophy will be explained. Works of Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant will be read. There will be two examinations, mid term and final, and one substantial paper. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 304/404 Science and Engineering Ethics

This course prepares students to recognize ethical problems that commonly arise in the engineering and scientific workplace, and to find, evaluate, use, and strengthen institutional supports for acting on ethical concerns. The course examines issues and practices in industry and at universities and other research facilities. The course will address questions such as: What are the criteria of fairness in crediting contributions to research? How safe is safe enough? What is a profession? What are professional responsibilities, and how do they change over time? What is negligence in science and engineering practice and research? What is research misconduct? When is ignorance culpable? What is intellectual property and what protections does it deserve? When is biological testing of workers justified? What are responsible ways of raising concerns, and what supports to good organizations give for raising concerns? What treatment counts as harassment or as an expression of prejudice. What are good means for controlling them? What responsibilities for environmental protection do engineers and scientists have? What is a “conflict of interest” and how is it controlled? What protections for human research subjects are warranted? What use of animals in research is justified? Prerequisite: Phil 101, 102 or 205 or junior/senior status.


PHIL 305/405 Ethics

Ethical theory can be understood as dividing up into three general categories: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. Metaethics, generally construed, is understood as the area of ethical investigation which concerns the meaning and nature of ethical concepts, and whether we can have any secure knowledge about ethical concerns. Normative Ethics is the area of ethics which is concerned to spell out principles by which human beings can conduct their actions and lives. Applied Ethics relates to specific issues of concern to human beings, such as abortion, the environment. Prerequisite: Phil 101, 102 or 205.


PHIL 306/406 Mathematical Logic and Model Theory

Propositional calculus and quantification theory; consistency and completeness theorems; goedal incompleteness results and their philosophical significance; introduction to basic concepts of model theory; problems of formulation of arguments in philosophy and the sciences. Prerequisite: Phil 201.


PHIL 309/409 Philosophical Issues in Genetics

A philosophical examination of the history and cultural connections of the science of genetics and its precursors. Genetics is a phenomenon of the twentieth century, thus, it is new. Yet, its implications and dilemmas are enmeshed in old traditions and stereotypes, and the dynamics of cultural change. To explore the breadth of philosophical repercussions of genetics, this course will draw on science, technology, medicine, and their histories, but will also range wider to include aspects of the social history of racism and class relations, changing attitudes toward sexuality, the intricacies of big business and international cooperation, and other such diverse areas. Recommended preparation: PHIL 101, PHIL 203, or PHIL 204.


PHIL 313/413 Philosophy of Mathematics

Logical paradoxes and their effects on foundations of mathematics. Status of mathematical entities and nature of mathematical truths. Formalist, logicist, and intuitionist positions. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or 201.


PHIL 314/414 Animal Consciousness and Cognition

This course examines the notions of intelligence, cognition, reasoning, consciousness, and mental content as they appear in the philosophical views and empirical studies of animals in individual and social contexts. Some philosophers have argued that animals have no mental lives (Descartes, Dennett) or that they are non-rational and thereby not of moral concern (Kant). Others (Montaigne, Griffin) have suggested that animals have rich mental lives, rudimentary rationality, and even linguistic ability. Bentham and Singer (among others) have suggested that moral status is not contingent upon rationality or intelligence. Cognitive ethology strives to scientifically measure the extent and limits of the mental lives of animals. We will review scientific findings that suggest striking likenesses and intriguing differences in the (apparent) thought processes of humans and animals, and ask whether the research techniques that brought us these results are fully adequate to measuring such unobservable entities as conscious experience and thought. Techniques of measurement range from naturalistic observation, to the processing of vocalizations, to memory and problem solving tasks, and the imaging of brain processes through fMRI scans, etc. Students will face the challenges and rewards of practicing these techniques and reworking philosophical theories in the service component of the course. Students will participate in veterinary or shelter work to provide needed animal care while studying animal behavior using cognitive ethological methods.


PHIL 315 Special Topics in Philosophy

Explanation of views of a major philosopher or philosophical school, a significant philosophical topic, or a topic that relates to philosophy and another discipline. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of instructor. Prereq: Phil 101 or 201


PHIL 316/416 African Political Thought

[Cross-listed as ETHS 316/416] Introduction to select themes in the work of contemporary African philosophers, with special emphasis on political thought. In this course, students will learn something about factors affecting the creation and flow of knowledge and ideas about Africa and discuss the relative importance of the “nation-state” as an idea in Europe, pre-colonial Africa, and postcolonial Africa. Prereq: PHIL 101.


PHIL 320/420 The Phenomenological Tradition

Husserl redefines philosophy as phenomenology, a science that seeks knowledge of the essential forms of consciousness and those of objects as intended through them. His idea of phenomenology appropriates diverse elements in the philosophical tradition including Descartes’ view that the human mind has evident cognition of its own existence, its own acts, its own states, and its own contents, Kant’s view that the subject of experience must construct an object to experience it, and Brentano’s view that a mental phenomenon contains an object within itself. We will examine the philosophical rationale of phenomenology, its epistemological and ontological assumptions and implications, its theses about human consciousness. We will then study Heidegger’s reinterpretation of phenomenology as interpretive ontology of human existence, some resonance with, and reactions to his ontology.


PHIL 322 The Science of Happiness 

Open to all students (no prerequisites) interested in happiness, this course provides an intellectually rigorous introduction to the philosophy and science of happiness. Philosophy is often considered a dry academic subject; however the best philosophy is personal and transforms our view of the world. In recent years, science has made huge strides in understanding the psychology and neuroscience of human happiness. This course blends these two sources of insight to address such critical questions as: What is happiness? To what extent is it determined by our genes? To what extent can we control our own happiness? What factors contribute to an individual’s happiness? Should we be concerned just with our own happiness, or also with the happiness of others? If happiness is a state of mind, can we change our thinking to make ourselves happier? Every self-proclaimed sage, and countless authors of self-help books, claims to know the secret to happiness. This course provides a more intellectually rigorous approach, based on the writings of great philosophers and cutting edge science.

PHIL 325/425 Philosophy of Feminism

[Cross-listed as WGST 325] What is feminism? What is gender? Are sex and gender different? Is gender a social construction? How might the answers to these questions affect traditional philosophic approaches and solutions to problems of personal identity, knowledge, morality, politics, and the emphasis of the role of logical reasoning in our lives? In our exploration of these issues we will be looking at source material from the whole spectrum of feminist thought, from significant works in the history of the feminist movement, liberal feminist writings, radical separatist writings, to lesbian non-separatist writings. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 330/430 Topics in Ethics

Examination of views in ethics of a major philosopher or philosophical school, a significant philosophical topic in ethics, or a topic that relates ethics to philosophy and another discipline. Prerequisite: Phil 101, 102, 205 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 332/432. Classical Jewish Religious Thought

[Cross=listed as JDST/ RLGN 330] The thought of some major biblical and Rabbinic writings and of the classic age of medieval Jewish philosophy.


PHIL 333/433 Philosophy of Religion

We shall first address the question as to what characterizes the philosophical approach to religion, what differentiates it from a non-philosophical approach, and what sort of understanding of religion is expected to generate. Second, we shall discuss selected topics in the Judeo-Christian tradition: arguments for God’s existence; divine foreknowledge and freedom; problem of evil and theodicy, among others. Third, we shall broaden the scope of inquiry and address such topics as: varieties of religious metaphysics such as those of Hinduism, Buddhism, and monism, and their relative strengths. In so doing, we shall inquire how some of the problems germane to the Judeo-Christian philosophy of religion either disappear, get re-interpreted, or get replaced by other problems, in other traditions. Finally, we shall address selected critical questions about religion in general, such as: the nature and significance of religious experience; mysticism; knowledge, belief, and faith; ethics and religion; and the nature of religious language and discourse. The authors of works to be read include: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietsche, Otto, Bultmann, Tillich, Ricoeur., as well as selected contemporary philosophers and philosophical theologians. The course will stress class discussions. At least two papers and an examination will be required. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 334/434 Political and Social Philosophy

[Cross-listed as POSC 354] Justification of social institutions, primarily political ones. Such distinctions as that between de facto and legitimate authority; analysis of criteria for evaluation, such as social justice and equality; inquiry into theories of justification of the state; theory of democratic government and its alternatives. Readings from classical and contemporary sources. Prerequisite: Phil 101.


PHIL 335/435 Philosophy of Law

[Cross-listed as LAWS 353] This course is designed to introduce a student to the general nature of law, the broad concerns of jurisprudence, the study of comparative law and many of the issues raised in the literature of legal philosophy. Students will examine the principles of legal positivism, mitigated natural law, and rights theory. To illustrate these theories, students are assigned selected readings and cases. In addition, the legal theories studied are examined in the context of rule selection by a new government in new or revolutionary societies. The course also looks at the general nature of legal systems, particularly how politics, morality, and individual views of justice and right affect the and development of law generally and particular court cases. Specific topics covered include: abortion; obscenity and sin; civil disobedience; affirmative action; surrogatehood; and the death penalty. This course is open to and attended by both law students and students of the colleges. Students of the colleges are graded on a separate system than the law students. Recommended preparation: Phil 101.


PHIL 345/445 Epistemology and Metaphysics

Traditional problems of epistemology, such as definition of knowledge, justification of belief, nature of evidence and foundationalism, skepticism, the a priori, and the role of sense perception in knowledge. Metaphysical presuppositions and implications of epistemological views. Forms of realism and anti-realism. Prerequisite: Phil 101.


PHIL 355/455 19th/Early 20th Century Philosophy

19th century philosophy is full of drama. Before the turn of the century, Kant had pronounced transcendent metaphysics impossible yet various attempts were made in the new century to revive speculation around or against Kant’s critical considerations. Schopenhauer built a metaphysical system incorporating Kant’s view that space and time are the forms of phenomena and interpreting Kant’s thing-in-itself as the Will that manifests itself through them. Hegel built the most comprehensive and complex metaphysical system that human history had seen or would see. He constructed his system of Absolute Idealism with a critique of Kant’s critique of reason. But a number of philosophers made special efforts to dismantle Hegel’s system. Kierkegaard attacked it from an existential and religious perspective. Rudolph Feuerbach reinterpreted Hegel on a materialist basis. Marx appropriated Hegel’s idea of dialectic and combined it with materialism to produce a theory of society and history that he made serve a revolutionary cause. Nietzsche’s significance consists not so much in his critique of his predecessors as in his forecast of the shape of future thought. His thought has only recently begun to be understood in depth and appreciated. Radical ideas he expressed ahead of their time, such as civilization as defense of self-deception, perspectival relativity of human belief and value, eternal recurrence as postulate required for human authenticity, and the need for human transcendence of belief in the transcendent and acceptance of the immanence of the ground of being, are live topics in today’s philosophical discourse. Prerequisite: 101 or consent of instructor for 355, consent of instructor for 455.


PHIL 356/456 Comparative Philosophy

This course is a rubric for comparative studies of selected Western and non-Western philosophical texts. The comparative studies to be conducted at this offering of the course includes: Confucian Analects, Doctrine of the Mean, and Great Learning,with excerpts from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, and Kant’s works; Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, compared with Fragments of Heraclitus, excerpts from Spinoza’s Ethics, excerpts from Schopenhauer, and excerpts from Bergson. Excerpts from Zen Literature compared with excerpts from Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre. We Shall attempt to discover and interpret East-West affinities and differences-doctrinal, methodological, and stylistic. We shall reflect on our comparative inquiry itself, addressing such questions as: What presuppositions do we bring to our interpreations of these texts, especially the Eastern ones? How do the presuppositions make our interpreations possible and limit it at the same time? Can we interpret the Western Texts from an Eastern point of view? Are there transcultural criterions of truth and a transculturally valid method of inquiry? The course requirements consist of two substantial papers and a final examination. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 363/463 Philosophy and Social Neuroscience

[Cross-listed as COGS363] A philosophical examination of recent research in human cognition and emotion at the intersection of the social sciences and neurological sciences. The course provides the student with background knowledge of brain processes underlying such social and cultural phenomena as bonding, aggression, imitation, mind-attribution, language, sexual behavior, moral action, and creativity. The approach of this course is at once scientific (comparing methods, findings and questions as they arise in clinical and experimental neuropsychology, brain imaging, neurolinguistics, and behavioral neuroscience) and humanistic, asking critical questions about the nature and methods of a science of cognition, and surveying moral responses from a neurologic and philosophic perspective.


PHIL 365/465 Philosophy of Mind

Traditional problems such as the relation of mind and body, knowledge of other minds, free will, and determination and nature of psychological examination. Analysis of chief theories of mind. Analysis of mental concepts such as intention, action, decision, emotion, and will. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 367/467 Topics in Evolutionary Biology

[Cross-listed as ANTH/BIOL/GEOL] The focus for this course on a special topic of interest in evolutionary biology will vary from one offering to the next. Examples of possible topics include theories of speciation, the evolution of language, the evolution of sex, evolution and biodiversity, molecular evolution. ANAT/ANTH/GEOL/PHIL 467/BIOL 468 will require a longer, more sophisticated term paper, and additional class presentation.


PHIL 368/468 Evolutionary Biology Capstone

This course focuses on a special topic of interest in evolutionary biology that will vary from one offering to the next. Examples of possible topics include theories of speciation, the evolution of language, the evolution of sex, evolution and biodiversity, molecular evolution. Students will participate in discussions and lead class seminars on evolutionary topics and in collaboration with an advisor or advisors, select a topic for a research paper or project. Each student will write a major research report or complete a major project and will make a public presentation of her/his findings. SAGES Senior Cap.


PHIL 370/470 Philosophy and Literature

[Cross-listed as CMPL 370] Affinities and tensions between philosophy and literature and issues that arise in their interface. Topics include: philosophical uses of literary devices; literary philosophy and philosophical literature; hermeneutics of literature and philosophy. Readings from traditional and contemporary sources. Team taught by the faculty of the philosophy and literature departments. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 373 Intelligence and Cognition.

This course will focus on the notion and meaning of intelligence. What is intelligence? How is it measured, and are these measures adequate to the task? Is there more than one kind of intelligence? What is the relationship between individuals, genetic factors, biological factors, and socio-cultural-economic factors in the development of intelligence? How are language and thought related to intelligence? What is the difference between intelligence and talent? Intelligence seems to be necessary for culture, art, religious belief, the creation of theories, and the quest for knowledge, truth, and morality; thus, intelligence is a necessary condition for the study of itself. To attempt to understand intelligence is an undertaking in which we will ask questions about the self and the common nature of humanity, while simultaneously examining the abilities of animals and machines. What is the mark of intelligence?


PHIL 375/475 Issues in Aesthetics

This course will seek to offer insight into the nature of artistic expression, the role of criticism in the arts, and the place of the arts in society. The term “arts” will be construed broadly to include painting, photography, theater, film, music, dance, poetry, etc. The following are examples of questions we will discuss. What does the term “beautiful” mean? Are there other measures of aesthetic value besides beauty? Do the arts, like the sciences, offer us knowledge of the world? What value do the arts have for society? Can aesthetic value conflict with moral value? Do artists have a responsibility to society? Should art ever be censored? What is the relationship between art and entertainment? Is the meaning and value of an artistic work a matter of individual opinion? What is the purpose of art critics? How are interpretations and evaluations of art influenced by race, gender, class, etc.? What is creativity in the arts? Does it differ from creativity in the sciences? How important is originality in art?


PHIL 383L/483L Vocalization and Cognition Lab

This is a laboratory section intended to provide hands-on training and experience with sound processing and analysis of animal vocalizations in the context of cognitive science, philosophy, and biology. Students will ask and answer questions surrounding language, meaning, mind, mental states, animal and human cognition. How does a science of content and language actually proceed? How do we measure behavior for use as an indicator of cognition? What pragmatic constraints are found when we explore the natural world? What causes us to interpret certain symbols as systematic? The laboratory work begins with an understanding of different software for sound analysis with an emphasis on the bioacoustics experimental method. Frog vocalization exercises will familiarize students with the process of data categorization, analysis, and comparison, and will be the foundation for understanding hypothesis testing within a Darwinian theoretical backdrop. Cetacean vocalization analysis will press students to move beyond comparison and analysis to consider and evaluate the standard evidence types used in cognitive science to measure the mind. Recommended preparation: PHIL 101 or COGS 201.


PHIL 385/485 Philosophy of Language

Nature of language; problems of meaning, reference, and truth. Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of instructor.


PHIL 394/494 Seminar in Evolutionary Biology

(Cross-listed as ANTH 394) Prerequisite: Phil 101, or 201 or 203.


PHIL 369/496 Research in Evolutionary Biology

(Cross-listed as ANTH 396) Prerequisite: Phil 101, or 201 or 203.


PHIL 399 Directed Study

Open to students in either of the major programs, and to minors. PHIL 600, Tutorial, 1-36


PHIL 499. Independent Study MA Level. 1 – 3 Unit.

This course enables graduate students in departments or interdisciplinary programs with an MA to pursue intensive directed study with a faculty member in Philosophy. Students should consult with the Instructor and with their MA director or graduate program director before enrolling. Prereq: Graduate Standing.

PHIL 699

Advanced Tutorial and Dissertation for New Candidates in Fields Related to Philosophy 1-3

Page last modified: April 19, 2016