Department of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy

PHL 301 • Introduction To Philosophy

40965 • Montague, Michelle
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM JGB 2.202
show description

The purpose of this course is to introduce a selection of the major problems in philosophy, to some of the solutions that have been offered to them, and to some of the arguments for these solutions.  These problems concern God, freedom, mind, knowledge, and ethics.  Does God exist?  Are we free? What is the mind? Do we know anything? Is value objective?

PHL 301 • Introduction To Philosophy

40970-40980 • Gubka, Steven
Meets MW 12:00PM-1:00PM BUR 220
show description

A survey of principal topics and problems in areas such as ethics, theory of knowledge, and philosophy of religion. 

PHL 301K • Ancient Philosophy

40990 • Pincin, Taylor
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM WCP 5.102
(also listed as C C 304C)
show description

An introduction to the philosophical achievements of the ancient world, concentrating on Plato and Aristotle. 

PHL 301L • Early Modern Philosophy

40995 • Dunlop, Katherine
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM JES A218A
show description

An introduction to the philosophical achievements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, concentrating on such figures as Descartes, Hume, and Kant. 

PHL 303M • Mind And Body

41005-41015 • Tye, Michael
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:00PM WAG 420
show description

This course examines the relationship of the mind to the body. Topics covered include whether a machine could think, the Turing Test for intelligence, the reduction of the mind to the brain, whether consciousness can be captured materialistically, and the nature of persons and personal identity.We'll be thinking about immaterial spirits, futuristic computers and robots, Martians who behave like us but who have an internal structure very different from ours, brains in vats. We will consider whether these strange characters have thoughts and feelings. The point is not to consider bizarre cases just for the sake of it, but to see what light we can shed on our own nature as beings with mental lives.

PHL 304 • Contemporary Moral Problems

41020-41030 • Smith, Nicole
Meets MW 11:00AM-12:00PM WAG 302
show description

Chances are you’ve confronted an ethical choice recently: Should I pay someone to write my essay or do it myself? Should I refuse the plastic straw or not worry about it? Ought I give my spare change to the homeless person or walk on by? Should I donate blood or can it wait until next time? Should I report the harassment I witnessed or pretend it didn’t happen? By contrast, there are many other ethical questions that you may never have explicitly considered, but that nonetheless apply to you, such as: Should I give up a healthy organ to a dying stranger? Is it wrong to use non-human animals as a food source? Is it permissible to buy clothes that contribute to child labor and unsafe working conditions? A further set of questions in ethics concerns the moral status of institutions or policies: what moral (and legal) constraints or permissions should exist with respect to decisions related to both the beginning of life (e.g., the ethics of abortion) and the end of life (e.g., the ethics of euthanasia)? Is the institution of punishment justified? What is terrorism and is it ever justified? Is torture ever permissible? This course will introduce you to the concepts, ideas, and theories relevant to understanding what these questions are asking, as well as evaluating possible answers.

PHL 304 • Contemporary Moral Problems

41045 • Casser, Laurenz
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM WAG 302
show description

An introduction to ethics by way of an examination of a number of contemporary moral problems, including problems of abortion, sexual morality, capital punishment, pornography and hate speech.

PHL 304 • Contemporary Moral Problems

41040 • Matherne, Matthew
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM WAG 302
show description

An introduction to ethics by way of an examination of a number of contemporary moral problems, including problems of abortion, sexual morality, capital punishment, pornography and hate speech.

PHL 304 • Contemporary Moral Problems

41035 • Zhang, Ju
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM JES A203A
show description

Course Description

This course is essentially an introduction to ethics. It carries an “ethics” flag. But unlike a typical intro to ethics, the focus of our discussions will be on a variety of very controversial moral/ethical issues which we probably encounter in our everyday lives rather than abstract ethical/moral theories. For example, is it morally wrong for us to farm non-human animals and to consume their meat? Is it morally permissible to have abortions and under what circumstances? Is censorship ever justified? Should patients be granted the right to die by way of refusing life-saving treatment, physician assisted suicide, or euthanasia? Is it morally permissible or even right to enhance future human beings using gene editing technologies? Are we obligated to protect our environment? You probably have already had strong opinions with regard to these issues, but have you ever wondered whether your opinions are supported by good reasons? It is a long shot that we will be able to find any solutions to these issues in this course, but we will discuss arguments for and against each side of the debates revolving around these issues from various different perspectives.


Course Objectives


  • Becoming a better writer and thinker than when you started the class
  • Having a commanding understanding of the various moral problems covered in this course
  • Being able to make and critically evaluate arguments




This course carries the Ethics flag. Ethics courses are designed to equip you with skills that are necessary for making ethical decisions in your adult and professional life. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from assignments involving ethical issues and the process of applying ethical reasoning to real-life situations.

PHL 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

41050 • Del Rio, Andrew
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM JES A209A
(also listed as CTI 310)
show description

A critical examination of various conceptions of God and of the relationship of the human and the divine. 

PHL 310 • Knowledge And Reality

41055-41065 • Buchanan, Lawrence
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:00AM GDC 4.302
show description

This course is an advanced introduction to philosophical issues concerning the nature of
belief, truth, and knowledge with an emphasis on the latter. Topics to be discussed include,
but are not limited to, the following:
• What is knowledge? For example, what is the difference between knowledge and
mere true belief?
• What are the basic sources of knowledge (i.e., perception, memory, testimony of
• Why, if at all, should we value the acquisition of knowledge?
• Is it really possible to know anything at all?

PHL 312 • Introduction To Logic

41130 • Miller, Taylor-Grey
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM WAG 302
show description

This is a course in the basic principles of logic. The student will come out of this course with an understanding of deductive inference and of argument generally, as wells as the notions of logical consequence, validity, soundness, and logical truth. Specifically, we will be looking at sentential logic (which treats the inferential relations among simple sentences) and predicate logic. Predicate logic is distinguished from sentential logic by its use of quantifiers.

PHL 313 • Introductory Symbolic Logic

41150-41160 • Quaranto, Anastasia
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WAG 420
show description

This is a first course in deductive symbolic logic. We'll study formal languages for representing sentences
in logically precise ways, we'll study algorithms for evaluating arguments as logically valid or invalid, and
we'll get an introduction to some of the surprising discoveries logicians have made about what tasks no
algorithm can possibly do.

PHL 313 • Introductory Symbolic Logic

41135-41145 • Mussell, Charles
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM WAG 420
show description

This is a first course in deductive symbolic logic. We'll study formal languages for representing sentences
in logically precise ways, we'll study algorithms for evaluating arguments as logically valid or invalid, and
we'll get an introduction to some of the surprising discoveries logicians have made about what tasks no
algorithm can possibly do.

PHL 317K • Intro To Philos Of The Arts

41180-41205 • Higgins, Kathleen
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:00PM WAG 302
show description

Description: This course will consider some of the answers given in the Western philosophical tradition to questions about the nature of art and beauty, with some comparison with the aesthetic traditions of other societies. Particular attention will be given to the nature of aesthetic experience from the standpoint of both the artist and the observer, the relationship between art and reality, and the questions contemporary art raises about the purpose of art.

David Goldblatt, Lee B. Brown, and Stephanie Patridge, Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts, 4th ed.

Exams 20%

Exercises and Writing Assignments  50%

Final Project 15%

Participation (including attendance, section participation, and quizzes)      15%

PHL 317K • Intro To Philos Of The Arts

41175 • Armijo, Alicia
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM WAG 214
show description

Classic issues in the philosophy of art and beauty, illustrated from the fine arts and contemporary media: literature, drama, music, painting, film, and television. 

PHL 318 • Introduction To Ethics

41210 • Jimenez Cordero, Bulmaro
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM WAG 302
show description

Study of basic principles of the moral life, with critical examination of traditional and contemporary theories of the nature of goodness, happiness, duty, and freedom.

PHL 318K • Intro To Political Philosophy

41215-41225 • Salmieri, Gregory
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:00PM GSB 2.122
show description

Views of major political philosophers on humanity, nature, and society; discussions of contemporary political ideologies.

PHL 321K • Theory Of Knowledge

41234 • Sorensen, Roy
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM WAG 308
show description

Epistemologists ask: What is knowledge? What principles govern it? Is knowing a truth any better than merely believing it? Just what is the value of knowledge? Is everything knowable in principle? Does science give us knowledge or merely useful fictions to predict and control phenomena? What are the sources of knowledge? Is testimony good enough for knowledge? Or must I check it out firsthand through observation or experiment? Is perception the most basic source of knowledge? 

            Skepticism and the Veil of Perception is an opinionated introduction to issues of perceptual knowledge. Chapters from this accessible book will be interleaved with readings in the anthology Human Knowledge. This historical section begins with ancient Greeks and Romans (Plato, Aristotle, Sextus Empiricus) proceeds through medieval philosophy (Augustine, Aquinas); then early modern philosophy (Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, Reid, Kant); classical pragmatism and Anglo-American empiricism (James, Russell, Ayer, Lewis, Carnap, Quine, Rorty); and other influential Anglo-American philosophers (Chisholm, Kripke, Moore, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Putnam). The anthology has expanded selections on contemporary epistemology. This will be supplemented with articles suggested by students.  

PHL 321K • Theory Of Knowledge

41230 • Smith, Nicole
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM RLP 1.108
show description

What is knowledge? What are the principal types of knowledge, and what does a person's knowing a claim or proposition p amount to? Philosophers have commonly supposed that a person's having justification, or warrant, for believing that p is a necessary condition of his/her knowing that p. Accordingly, this course will be concerned with theories of justification as well as of knowledge, along with the question of whether there can be knowledge without what is called epistemic justification. Views in ancient, early modern, and contemporary philosophy—also one Eastern view—will be surveyed.

PHL 322 • Science And The Modern World

41235-41245 • Dunlop, Katherine
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:00PM WAG 420
show description

The historical development and impact of scientific ideas through the modern period to the present.

PHL 323K • Metaphysics

41250 • Koons, Robert
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM WAG 208
show description

An examination of the classic problems and questions of metaphysics (change, composition, time, space, existence, possibility, causation, universals), using the tools of contemporary analytic philosophy.

PHL 323M • Philosophy Of Mind

41255 • Montague, Michelle
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM GAR 0.128
show description

This course is an introduction to many of the central issues in philosophy of mind. Some of the questions we will discuss include the following. Can computers think? Is the mind an immaterial thing? Or is the mind the brain? Or does the mind stand to the brain as a computer program stands to the hardware? How can creatures like ourselves think thoughts that are "about" things? (For example, we can all think that Aristotle is a philosopher, and in that sense think "about" Aristotle, but what is the explanation of this quite remarkable ability?) Can I know whether your experiences and my experiences when we look at raspberries, fire trucks and stop lights are the same? Can consciousness be given a scientific explanation?

PHL 325J • Health And Justice

41260-41270 • Smith, Nicole
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:00PM WAG 214
E (also listed as H S 341)
show description

Mass disparities exist in the health of humans across the globe. It may seem obvious from a moral point of view that if we can do something to alleviate the global and local disparities in health and access to healthcare, that we should do something about it. Once we scratch the surface of this apparent truism, however, we find a number of assumptions in need of defense. What would ground such an obligation after all? Do humans have a right to health? If so, do they also have a right to healthcare? It may seem that these two concepts are intertwined, but consider an analogy. Someone’s right to life makes it impermissible to kill that person (unless you would be justified in doing so, say, in a case of genuine self-defense). Nevertheless, the right to life plausibly does not entail that you are obligated to protect or preserve the life of everyone who has such a right. Similarly, if humans have a right to health, then it would be impermissible to undermine their health. But it is a different question whether individual’s are obligated to protect and preserve the health of others by, for example, ensuring their access to healthcare. The course will evaluate rights-based arguments, among others, that aim to show the injustice of current disparities in health. Proponents contend that we do have a moral obligation to secure health and access to healthcare across racial, gender, socio-economic, as well as national boundaries.

PHL 325K • Ethical Theories

41275 • Dancy, Jonathan
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM WAG 308
show description

This course will consider three classic moral theories in detail, those of J. S. Mill, W. D. Ross and I. Kant – otherwise known as Utilitarianism, Intuitionism and Kantianism. We will do this by studying one classic text by each author in detail.

PHL 325L • Business, Ethics, And Publ Pol

41280 • Bonevac, Daniel
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM WAG 201
show description

Issues in ethics and politics that are relevant to the organization of business and industry and the distribution of power in society; topics include the role of industry; concepts of profit, property, and moral responsibility.

PHL 325M • Medicine, Ethics, And Society

41285-41310 • Sarkar, Sahotra
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:00PM RLP 0.130
show description

The application of ethical theory to medical practice is an important part of modern public policy. We look at several approaches to ethics and several areas of medicine to gain insights into medical ethics. This course carries the ethics and leadership flag. Consequently, a substantial portion of the grade will involve ethical issues and reasoning.

PHL 328 • 19th-Century Philosophy

41315 • Schafer, Karl
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM WAG 308
show description

This course will survey the history of German philosophy during its “classical period”, starting with Kant, running through the German Idealists, and concluding with the critique of idealism in Marx and Nietzsche. In considering these authors, our focus will be on four issues prominent in German philosophy during this period: the relationship between mind and world, the nature of self-consciousness, the intersubjective dimension of thought and morality, and various attempts to critique received conceptions of philosophy, religion, and morality.

PHL 329L • Early Mod Phl: Descartes-Kant

41320-41330 • Proops, Ian
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM WAG 302
show description

This course is an introduction to early modern philosophy. The objectives of the class are to identify and analyze arguments in philosophical texts of the early modern period, and to become familiar with central themes and problems. Topics include causation, substance, and the possibility of knowledge. The relationship of philosophical theories to contemporary science will be an ongoing theme.

PHL 332 • Philosophy Of Language

41335 • Sainsbury, Richard
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CAL 200
show description

The first part of the course focuses on classic views of reference, regarded as the principal link between language and world and the basis of “semantics”. In the forms now discussed, these views go back to Mill and Frege in the nineteenth century, and continue unto the twentieth and the present century with the work of Russell, Strawson, Donnellan, Quine and Kripke. There is an excellent text for this part if the course: Reference, by Barbara Abbott.

In the middle of the last century, Grice drew attention to the importance of speakers’ intentions. In general, they determine what words refer to. But on specific occasions they may contribute something else, including an emotional or evaluative component that may not be counted as part of the meaning of the word. This leads to issues in “pragmatics”, and we’ll discuss the role of context, and the nature of moral language and the kinds if language-use exemplified by slurs. In this part of the course we’ll be looking at published papers available through PCL.

Class discussion is an essential part of the course. This is facilitated by the classroom, which seats everyone round an oval table.

PHL 342 • Natural Law Theory

41340 • Budziszewski, J
Meets MW 11:30AM-1:00PM GDC 1.406
Wr (also listed as GOV 335D)
show description

Critical examination of leading theories of the state, including analysis of such concepts as sovreignty, obligation, rights, and freedom. 

PHL 342M • Marx And Marxist Theory

41345 • Matysik, Tracie
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM PAR 306
GCWr (also listed as CTI 335M, EUS 346)
show description

Introduction to the writings of Karl Marx as well as to those of his intellectual successors in Europe and around the globe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

PHL 342P • Four Modern Political Theories

41350 • Koons, Robert
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WAG 208
show description
An examination of some central texts representing each of four modern political philosophies: Marxism, welfare-state or social democracy, libertarianism, and traditional or Burkean conservatism. We will try to uncover the metaphysical, epistemological, anthropological, and ethical commitments of each system and understand how the constitutional, legal, and economic framework recommended by each follows from their philosophical foundations. We will look at how each  deploys philosophical arguments and strategies against the other three, identifying the points of commonalty and tension with respect to each of the six pairings. Students will be encouraged to develop and defend their own understanding of the foundations of politics through in-class disputations and through written essays critiqued by their peers.
Proposed Readings:
The Marx-Engels Reader
Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
John Stuart Mill, Basic Writings
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Basic Political Writings
G. A. Cohen, Why not Socialism?
André Gorz, Farewell to the Working Clas
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
Michael Sandel, Liberalism and its Critics
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Robert Nisbet, The Quest for Community
Roger Scruton, A Political Philosophy
Proposed Grading Policy:
Attendance and Participation: 15%
Short Oral presentation 4%In-class debates (with three other students): 30%
Eight short papers (300-500 words): 16%
15-20 page essay, critiqued by peers, revised: 35%

PHL 346K • Aesthetics

41355 • Woodruff, Paul
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WAG 201
show description

A broad introduction to philosophy of the arts, starting with Plato’s criticism of poetry and moving through Aristotle’s Poetics to a set of modern theories.  We will focus on the experience of art, especially with regard to the emotions.

After the first few weeks, you will be working, alone or with a team, on developing own philosophy for the kind of art that you love the most.

Plato’s attack on poetry gives us a target:  How can we answer Plato’s type of criticism for any art form?

Aristotle’s account of tragic poetry gives us the classic example of a definition in our field

Each student will choose a form of art and ask certain questions about it.  The reading will be variable; students will read about the art form that interests them, focusing on these questions (if they are appropriate):

- How should your art form be defined?

- When your kind of art is good, what makes it good?

- How does your kind of art affect our emotions?

- Can we live human lives without your art?


Art forms include architecture, painting, cartoons, pottery, furniture design, poetry, theater, novels, music (of all kinds), dance, and more.


List of Proposed Texts /Readings :

We will use a reader with texts from these authors:

Plato’s Ion and selections from Republic, Book 10.

Aristotle’s Poetics

Selection from Tolstoy’s What is Art?

Oscar Wilde’s “The Decay of Lying”

Selections from Paul Woodruff, The Necessity of Theater

O.K. Bouwsma’s “The Expression Theory of Art”

PHL 347 • Philosophy Of Law

41360 • Leon, Jeffrey
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM WAG 302
show description

This course, intended to introduce students to certain basic issues in philosophy of law, will be organized around the question: What should a legal system be? What are the fundamental features that are vital to a proper legal system, and what are some of the competing understandings of what these are?

By reading both historical and contemporary authors, we will examine the theoretical bases of proper law as well as the appropriate practical implementation of key ideals in legal systems today. Correspondingly, along the way, we will consider the meaning of several concepts that are arguably crucial to a proper legal system, such as rights, freedom, representation, popular sovereignty, democracy, and republic. 

PHL 356D • Hist Christian Philosophy

41365 • Bonevac, Daniel
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM WAG 308
(also listed as CTI 335C)
show description

Philosophy courses often jump from Aristotle to Descartes—a two-thousand-year gap—with hardly a word about what went on in between. This course fills in the gap.

From its beginnings in the words of Jesus and the letters of Paul, Christian thought has struggled with fundamental philosophical questions concerning the nature of God, the self, the world, and the good life.  Christianity arose from Judaism in a Hellenistic world.  Christian thinkers immediately began developing their theological views in the context of Greek philosophical thought.  Starting with Paul, and continuing through the Reformation, we’ll look at philosophical contributions of central thinkers of the Christian tradition.  Among the thinkers we’ll discuss are Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin.  We’ll focus on a variety of philosophical issues, falling into three main categories.

Ethics: What is virtue?  How do we tell right from wrong?  Can our conscience be our guide?  What does the Fall imply about ethical knowledge and conduct?  What is sin? What is weakness of will, and why do Christian thinkers from Paul onward consider it central?

Epistemology: How is it possible to know anything about God?  How should Christians interpret the Bible?  What epistemic authority does it have?  How does epistemic authority arise in religious matters, and how can it be transferred?  Are religious experience and testimony legitimate sources of religious knowledge?  What is the relationship between faith and reason?  To what extent are we capable of understanding God?

Metaphysics: Are there arguments for God’s existence?  What is God’s nature?  How can God be both three and one?  What is substance?  What are essences?  Are there forms or universals?  If so, what are they?  Did God create the universe?  If so, how?  Do human beings have free will?  Is freedom compatible with divine foreknowledge?


Prerequisite: Upper-division standing.

PHL 358 • Philosophical Logic

41370 • Sorensen, Roy
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM
show description

The textbook, R. M. Sainsbury’s Logical Forms, patiently covers all of the standard topics of philosophy of logic – with an ear out for ordinary language. The emphasis is on understanding and motivating logical concepts and issues, not honing technical proficiency. The survey will be deepened with articles. Some of these will be chosen by students, in accordance with their interests.  

            Bertrand Russell advised logician to keep a stock of paradoxes; they play the role of experiments in testing theories of inference. Accordingly, the instructor will illustrate the issues with paradoxes such as the surprise test, Aristotle’s sea battle, the problem of negative existentials, puzzles of identity, the sorites paradox, and the liar. For more details on paradox, see Sainsbury’s classic Paradoxes or the instructor’s A Brief History of the Paradox (both available on-line through the PCL web site). 

            These riddles motivate supplemental logics that expand the range of valid inferences beyond classical logic (the modern “Symbolic Logic” widely taught at universities such as ours, specifically first order predicate logic with identity). More destructively, the paradoxes also motivate deviant logics that challenge the classical laws of logic: many-valued logic, supervaluationism, paraconsistent logic, intuitionism, and so on. 

PHL 361K • Philosophy In Literature

41375 • Kubala, Robbie
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM GAR 0.120
show description

Can literature be philosophical? Can we do philosophy with literature? This course will consider some great literary works—plays, poetry, short stories, and novels—mostly in their own right, though occasionally together with what some philosophers have said about them. We will explore philosophical themes as they emerge from close reading, including love, evil, freedom, authenticity, and modernity. Authors will include Sophocles, Sappho, Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Dostoevsky, James, Proust, Beckett, and Morrison. Course requirements include regular discussion posts, class participation, and two analytical papers.

PHL 363L • Biology And Society

41385 • Sarkar, Sahotra
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM CAL 22
show description

This is a course on biology and society, including in its purview both how the results of biology impinge on society and how social concerns have modulated and continue to influence the historical development of biology. The emphasis throughout this course will be on how biological theorizing and model building influences and, in turn, is modulated by social ideology. For example, Malthusian worries about overpopulation critically influenced the concept of natural selection of individuals; in return the theory of evolution led to social Darwinism and eugenics. Breeding better plants and animals facilitated a theory of heredity based on "hard" Mendelian inheritance; Mendelism led to genetic reductionism and the medicalization of social problems. Worries about the depletion of natural resources influenced the creation of a science of conservation biology that in turn led to the forcible displacement of forest peoples. Meanwhile theories of ecological resilience have come to view local and global communities as irreducible social-ecological systems.

The aim of this course is to make explicit and explicate these and other complexities of biosocial interactions. Students will be expected to approach these issues without any prior commitment to the direction of determinative influence, whether it be from social ideology to biological theory or the reverse. The course will cover the following six topics with two weeks devoted to each (followed by lectures drawing out further philosophical implications): evolution and social change; genetics and eugenics; genomics and biotechnology; biology, race, and ethnicity; biodiversity and ecological-social resilience; and agriculture and food security.

PHL 363L • Science And Metaphysics

41380 • Juhl, Cory
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM WAG 208
show description

Examine questions about the nature of reality informed by science and metaphysics, such as the nature of time, space, minds, meanings, identity, infinity, abstract vs concrete objects.

PHL 365 • Process Phil And Pragmatism

41390 • Leon, Jeffrey
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM WAG 208
show description

This course is a study of the pragmatism of William James and John Dewey; and the process philosophy of A. N. Whitehead. We will also treat some developments in science and other areas that influence these philosophical movements.

PHL 366K • Existentialism

41395-41420 • Higgins, Kathleen
Meets TTH 3:30PM-4:30PM WAG 302
show description

“Existentialism” was hardly a philosophical movement in the traditional sense, for few of its major figures would have described themselves as existentialists. And yet the existentialists do represent a movement in the sense that they share certain concerns, such as emphasis on how reflective thought relates to our actual lives, skepticism regarding reason, reevaluation of traditional approaches to ethics, and insistence on passionate engagement as essential for a meaningful life. Among the figures we will consider are Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, and Simone de Beauvoir.



    "Plague" by Albert Camus

    "Stranger" by Albert Camus

    "Fall" by Albert Camus

    "Basic Writings of Existentialism" edited by Gordan Marino

    "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" by Friedrich Nietzsche

    "Introduction to Existentialism" by Robert L. Wicks



Exam I                  25%

Exam II                 25%

Exam III                25%

Participation           25%

Participation includes a daily journal, attendance, engaged participation in sections, directed journal entries, pop quizzes, and possibly other activities.

PHL 375M • Philos Of The First Amndmnt

41430 • Smith, Tara
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM WAG 210
show description

Course Description: PHL 375M - Philosophy of the First Amendment Tara Smith

Philosophy Department

Spring 2022


The US Constitution’s First Amendment names five kinds of freedom: of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. This seminar will examine the philosophy beneath a legal system’s respecting these types of freedom and, correspondingly, the proper understanding and application of these freedoms to specific legal disputes.

To begin, we will consider the broad philosophical underpinnings of intellectual freedom as such, as found in the works of John Locke and some of the Founding Fathers’ writings. Then we will turn to focus on three of the Amendment’s specific areas of concern: assembly (more popularly referred to as freedom of association), religious freedom, and press freedom. (We will not devote time directly to speech or petition per se, although both will factor into our consideration of intellectual freedom and the Amendment as a whole.)

With each of these three, we will first consider the essential nature of the relevant activity – e.g., what constitutes the press, or a journalist? What forms of association does “assembly” encompass and exclude? What makes a body of beliefs or a set of practices a religion, and how does that differ from a (non-religious) philosophy?

We will then examine some of the central arguments for competing understandings of the freedom’s meaning, rationale, and application to contemporary conflicts. Among the specific questions we will consider:

Does freedom of association include the freedom to dis-associate? And thereby, the freedom to discriminate on certain grounds? (e.g., should the Boy Scouts be free to exclude girls?) What are the implications of demands for transparency and debates over privacy for freedom of association? Would mandatory disclosure of certain personal information, for instance (such as of your membership in particular organizations or of your financial contributions to political candidates) compromise your privacy and indirectly inhibit your freedom of association?

What does state “neutrality” in the treatment of citizens demand? When is a government’s quest to avoid supporting a religion (and thereby violating the establishment clause) a case of its imposing an undue burden on that religion? Should business owners with certain religious views be legally compelled to serve clients of whom they morally disapprove? (e.g., bake a wedding cake for a gay couple?) Are religious exemptions from particular legal requirements (such as having your child vaccinated, or from a dress code) a necessary component of religious liberty?

Are the proper boundaries of press freedom any different from the proper boundaries of speech freedom? Is the press a “public service” institution? And as such, subject to different legal privileges and responsibilities? Should the press enjoy greater access to information than others do, for instance? Should the press be permitted to publish certain information (classified information) that others may not? Should working in journalism require a license? Should the press be government-subsidized? Should “shield” laws protect journalists from prosecution for defying court subpoenas and refusing to reveal the identity of their sources?

While we will naturally consider specifics to address many of these questions, throughout, the discussions will be firmly grounded by our efforts to understand the governing principles. Philosophically, what are the through-lines that justify particular understandings and applications of these ideals?

Readings: Still Tentative

Selections will be taken primarily from the following authors and works, but two or three others may still be added. Don’t be alarmed by the length of this list – the number and length of assigned readings will be pared to manageable proportions. As befits a seminar, our focus will be on drilling into very select readings, rather than superficially “covering” a large swath of territory. (It also remains possible that a few of these works will be omitted all together.)

  John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration Jonathan Rauch, Kindly Inquisitors

 Jeremy Waldron, “Locke: Toleration and the Rationality of Persecution”

Onkar Ghate, “A Wall of Separation between Church and State – Understanding This Principle’s Supporting

Arguments and Far-Reaching Implications”

Margaret M. Russell, ed., Freedom of Assembly & Petition

Andrew Koppelman, A Right to Discriminate? How the Case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale Warped the

Law of Free Association

David Hume, Of the Liberty of the Press

William Brennan, “Liberty of the Press”

Lee Bollinger, Uninhibited, Robust, & Wide Open

Garrett Epps, ed., Freedom of the Press – Its Constitutional History and Contemporary Debate

Thomas Jefferson, The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom

Brian Leiter, Why Tolerate Religion?

Tara Smith, "What Good is Religious Freedom? Locke, Rand, and the Non-Religious Case for Respecting It" Tara Smith, “Religious Liberty or Religious License? Legal Schizophrenia and the Case Against Exemptions”

Excerpts from court cases, such as Masterpiece Cakeshop, Hobby Lobby, NAACP v. Alabama, New York Times v. Sullivan, Branzburg v Hayes, Telescope Media


Requirements (still tentative)

Two papers and a final take-home essay exam.

[Paper 1: 20%; Paper 2: 40%; Exam: 25%; Participation 15%]

The second paper will be a substantial “independent inquiry” project. Each student must choose one of the three freedoms of focus (association, religion, or press), build a rigorous case for its most sensible meaning, and show how that interpretation should be applied to resolve a relevant contemporary controversy.

Before submitting the final paper, students will give oral presentations of their (tentative) major conclusions and arguments, and should then use the feedback to inform their final revisions.

The earlier, shorter paper will undergo peer or professor review of drafts.

The exam will be comprehensive, intended to ensure that students acquire a solid understanding of all subjects examined in the seminar.

PHL 375M • Wittgenstein

41425 • Deigh, John
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM WAG 210
show description

The seminar will be a study of Wittgenstein's later philosophy.  The main focus of the study will be his Philosophical Investigations.  The seminar will also cover The Blue and the Brown Books, as preliminaries to the study of the Philosophical Investigations, and Wittgenstein's last works On Certainty and Remarks on Color.

PHL 380 • Philosophy Of Action And Mind

41450 • Kamp, Johan
Meets TH 9:30AM-12:30PM WAG 316A
show description


Details to be announced. 




This seminar satisfies the M & E requirement.

PHL 381 • Ancient Philosophy

41455 • Hankinson, Robert
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM WAG 310
show description

Aristotle on the Structure of the Universe.

Course Description: 

In this seminar we will principally be reading Aristotle’s treatise On the Heavens (de Caelo). In spite of its title, de Caelo concerns more than merely the architecture and functioning of the heavenly bodies; it also contains an account of the physical, terrestrial (‘sub-lunary’) world as well, couched in terms of the theory of the four basic elements, Earth, Water, Air and Fire, and their intrinsic motile tendencies. So it is, in fact, a very general account of everything that there is (in the physical world at least). We will be examining Aristotle’s account of the elements and their natural tendencies to move, and how it is supposed to provide a framework for a very general account of the structure and functioning of the entire material ensemble of things, in terms of, among other things, the theory of natural places. One central general concern will be to determine how far Aristotle’s account is simply supposed to derive from a priori considerations, and how far (if at all) it is supposed to be at least responsive to empirical concerns (Disclosure: Aristotle has often been accused of an unwarrantedly a prior-istic physics – I think this charge is mistaken). As I said, the central text will be de Caelo, but we will also be looking at selections from other relevant texts, in particular Physics, Generation and corruption, and Meteorology.


There is as yet no good contemporary translation of de Caelo; and nor is there a decent commentary. Years ago, I was working to develop both, and then lost interest – but I will make available my translation and draft commentary on de Caelo Book 1. For a text, we will be using

W.K.C.Guthrie, Aristotle On the Heavens Loeb Classical Library (Harvard)

Which is a good translation, along with a perfectly serviceable Greek text (although I stress that this seminar does not require any knowledge of Greek).

Assessment: 1 term paper (90%); participation (10%).

This seminar satisfies one of either the HISTORY requirement, or the M & E requirement.

PHL 381 • Plato's Metaphysics

41460 • Evans, Matthew
Meets T 3:30PM-6:30PM WAG 310
(also listed as GK 390)
show description


Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

In the most famous of his so-called “middle period” dialogues, Plato articulates and defends various views about the structure of fundamental reality that have been enormously influential and continue to fascinate. Yet he appears to adjust and revise these views dramatically, and in striking directions, in some of his later and more challenging works. Our project in this seminar is to examine and assess these apparent developments: What are the considerations that move him to make the changes he does, when he does, and how should we evaluate those considerations ourselves? Was he (ever) on the right track, or did he go off the rails at some point? We’ll begin by looking carefully at the classic “theory of forms” as it appears in dialogues such as the Phaedo, the Republic, the Timaeus, and the Symposium. Then we’ll turn to the Parmenides, where Plato starts by subjecting his own theory to a withering critique, and then goes on to unveil what appears to be a new approach, illustrated by an elaborate series of conflicting deductions. After that we’ll take a look at the Sophist, where this new approach inspires a similarly new account of the basic principles of reality — the so-called “greatest kinds.”

Discussion will frequently touch on points of translation, so some knowledge of ancient Greek will be useful; but it is neither expected nor required.

Secondary readings will be drawn from the work of recent and current historians of ancient philosophy, including Annas, Broadie, Burnyeat, Fine, Harte, Owen, and Vlastos.

Grading Policy

Term Paper: 70%

Presentations: 20%

Participation: 10%


Plato: Complete Works, edited by John Cooper (Hackett, 1997).


This seminar satisfies one of either the HISTORY requirement, or the M & E requirement.


PHL 382 • Perception And Action

41465 • Strawson, Galen
Meets W 12:00PM-3:00PM WAG 310
show description

Past topics include basic issues in metaphysics; particulars and universals; identity and individuation; realism and antirealism; mind-body issues. 

PHL 383 • Epistemology

41470 • Sorensen, Roy
Meets TH 3:30PM-6:30PM WAG 310
show description

Argue with Me! 

The Uses, Misuses, and Excuses of Arguments in Philosophy, Math, Science, Psychology, and Politics


Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

Description: The seminar will examine many different ways arguments play a role in philosophy, life, and social organization. General themes may include:
  • arguments and persuasiveness in human psychology
  • the relationship between arguments, testimony, trust, and reputation
  • the social effects of arguments, the usefulness of arguments
  • the relationship between arguments and logic, validity, conditionals, credences
  • circular arguments, closure principles and warrant transmission, Wittgensteinian hinges and cornerstones, skepticism

Grading Policy

Grading is based on one term paper and a required class presentation.


Potential Texts/Authors: articles and excerpts by many authors including Frank Jackson, Kenny Easwaran, Cailin O'Connor and Jim Weatherall, Michael Strevens, Julia Staffel, Hugo Mercier, Crispin Wright, Annalisa Coliva, and Sinan Dogramaci and Roy Sorensen.

PHL 385 • Metaethics

41475 • Driver, Julia
Meets TH 12:30PM-3:30PM WAG 310
show description


Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

In this seminar, we will look at competing theories of practical reasons, practical reasoning, and the role reasons play in views about normativity.  Beginning with early work on practical reasons by philosophers such as Michael Bratman and David Velleman, we will work our way through some contemporary views about practical reasons and practical reasoning and end by examining arguments for and against reasons-first accounts of normativity. 

Throughout the semester, we will also discuss how to write for publication, framing a philosophical project, and becoming a good editor of one’s own writing.

Grading Policy:

Term paper, with draft submitted prior to final version.


Selected articles and excerpts (additional readings TBD)

Michael Bratman, Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason (excerpts)

J. David Velleman, “Practical Reflection”

This seminar satisfies the ETHICS requirement.







Julia Markovits, Moral Reason (excerpts)

Sarah Buss, “What Practical Reasoning Must Be If We Act for Our Own Reasons”

Mark Schroeder, Slave of the Passions (selections) and Reasons First (selections)

Chris Howard, “The Fundamentality of Fit”



PHL 387 • Legal Liberalism-Wb

41479 • Markovits, Richard
Meets MW 10:30AM-11:30AM • Internet; Synchronous
show description

Past topics include contemporary ethical theory; theories of justice; philosophy of law; social contract theories; political philosophy. 

PHL 387 • Politics/Law/Moral Character

41478 • Budziszewski, J
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM BAT 1.104
(also listed as GOV 382M)
show description

Past topics include contemporary ethical theory; theories of justice; philosophy of law; social contract theories; political philosophy. 

PHL 387 • Recent Work In Ethics

41480 • Dancy, Jonathan
Meets T 12:30PM-3:30PM WAG 310
show description


Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.


Course Description

In this course we will be reading Mark Schroeder’s Reasons First, along with some other related work in epistemology and ethics.


Grading Policy

Grading will be determined by the grade of your final paper, along with a possible seminar presentation.



As above



This seminar satisfies the ETHICS requirement.

PHL 387 • Smnr: Law/Philosophy Workshop

41484 • Deigh, John
Meets TH 3:45PM-5:45PM JON 6.207
show description

Past topics include contemporary ethical theory; theories of justice; philosophy of law; social contract theories; political philosophy. 

PHL 389 • Core Logic

41500 • Schoenfield, Miriam
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM WAG 310
show description


This course is restricted to First Year Philosophy Graduate Students.

Course Description

This course is the required graduate logic seminar. The course will introduce students to a variety of issues in logic that are of importance for work across philosophy. Possible topics include: modal logic and systems of propositional modal logi;  quantified modal logic, de re and de dicto readings, possiblist and actualist quantifiers, and necessitism and contingentism; counterfactual conditionals; multi-valued logic; formal theories of truth including Kripke’s fixed-point construction and revision theories; supervaluationism and the semantics of vagueness; proof theory and Gentzen systems; intuitionistic logic; relevance logic and contradiction-friendly paraconsistent logics; systems of non-monotonic inference; generalized quantifier theory; Bayesianism, probabilistic decision theory, and game theory; social choice theory; and core results of classical first-order metatheory including completeness, compactness, and the Godel incompleteness results.


Grading will be based on periodic problem sets.


Readings will be made available as required.

PHL 394K • Philosophy Of Language

41505 • Dever, Joshua
Meets M 12:00PM-3:00PM WAG 310
(also listed as LIN 394K)
show description

Title:  Content and Cognitive Significance


Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

One of the many consequences of Naming and Necessity was a renewed focus on the semantics and pragmatics of propositional attitudes and, more generally, the relation between linguistic content and cognitive significance.  Whereas proponents of the new theory of meaning and reference (so-called direct reference theorists) attempted to tell a plausible story on which their minimal semantic values could be a part of a plausible theory of mind and rationality, proponents of Fregean theories attempted to tell a plausible story on which their cognitively-determined contents could be part of a plausible theory of language. This focus led to an increasingly sophisticated literature on content and cognitive significance throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

By the late 1990s, the philosophical territory seemed thoroughly mapped out, and all sides knew the moves to make to defend their views from opponents’ objections. Interest in the propositional attitudes died down over the next decade. But in the last ten years, there has been a resurgence of work in this area,  The resurgence has been driven in large part by increased interaction with work in formal semantics attempting to produce detailed formal modelling of propositional attitudes.

In this seminar we will bring together Propositional Attitudes Mark 1 and Propositional Attitudes Mark 2 in order to see whether the sophisticated philosophical understanding achieved in Mark 1 has been adequately carried forward into the Mark 2 discussion, and what (if any) formal problems discussed in the Mark 2 literature pose real problems for the Mark 1 approaches. We’ll read earlier work by Heck, Perry, Richard, Schiffer, Salmon, Soames, and others; and more recent work by Aloni, Charlow, Kratzer, Lederman, Ninan, Sosa, Yalcin, and many others (including us), bringing pairs of papers from the two time periods together where useful.  Though the focus will be on the semantics and pragmatics of attitude ascription, we will periodically turn to issues more squarely in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics.   

Grading Policy

Grades for the course will be determined on the basis of one substantive term paper (due at the end of term).


All readings will be posted on our course Canvas Site. 


PHL 398T • Supv Teaching In Philosophy

41525 • Tye, Michael
Meets TH 12:30PM-3:30PM WAG 316A
show description



Consent of Graduate Advisor required.

Offered on the credit/no credit basis only. Students may register for this course as many as four times, but only three semester hours of credit in this course may be applied toward a graduate degree

Course Description

This seminar, required for the PhD in philosophy, prepares students to teach and to finish the PhD with a teaching portfolio that includes syllabi for courses at undergraduate and graduate levels.


The grade will be based on the following items:

Course Syllabi (2 introductory, 2 upper-division, 1 graduate) 50%

A Statement of Teaching Philosophy 10%

Teaching Observation Reports (2) 20%

Participation 20%


Readings will be made available online.


PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41070-41080 • Sainsbury, Richard
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM WAG 302
show description

The aim of this semester is to introduce topics in epistemology and metaphysics, initially through the works of two major philosophers, René Descartes (f. 1640) and David Hume (f. 1745). They will serve to introduce two main themes: the nature of knowledge and skepticism; and the nature of the human mind and action.

Descartes is known for two highly influential ideas. His skepticism arises from his reflection that we might be deceived by an “evil demon” who makes it seem as if our ordinary world exists whereas in reality there is nothing. Although Descartes hoped to defuse skepticism, it has lived on, inspiring not only generations of philosophers, but also leaving its mark in such movies as Matrix and Solaris.

Descartes’ dualism is his view that mind and body are entirely distinct. This view has been supported by religious thinkers, by many philosophers impressed by the distinctive character of consciousness, and by some defenders of free will.
Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is famous for supposedly arguing for a form of skepticism that Descartes did not explicitly consider: skepticism about whether the future will resemble the past. His discussion of this issue is closely intertwined with a remarkable theory of causation, a theory which led him to hold that an action can be free, and so can merit praise or blame, even though it is causally determined. We will also discuss some aspects of Hume’s philosophy of religion, notably his section on miracles, and his presentation of the problem of evil. 

PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41085-41095 • Evans, Matthew
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WAG 302
show description

There are some questions we should all ask ourselves at least once before we die, and many of them are philosophical. In this course we will pick out a few of the most pressing of these questions, and try to answer them as best we can. In the spring semester we will ask questions about valuation — good and bad, right and wrong. Among them will be: What is it about right actions that makes them right? Is it only that they bring about the best available outcome? What is it for one outcome to be better or worse than another? What is it for one life to go better or worse than another? Could it be wrong to bring someone into existence? Do we owe anything to future generations? Are there some things that it would be wrong to say, regardless of whether they are true? Are all of us leading immoral lives? Readings will be drawn primarily from recent work in philosophical ethics.

PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41100-41110 • Woodruff, Paul
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM WAG 420
show description

A continuation of Philosophy 610QA, this course will carry the class discussion beyond ethics to the support for ethics—reality and our ability to know it.  In this we are following Plato’s journey from Socrates’ questions to a theory of transcendent being.  We will start by looking at recent theories of relativism and then ask whether we can have access to knowledge of objective truth.  We’ll look at Plato’s Theaetetus and ask whether relativism can be coherent, and we’ll go on to seek a definition of knowledge.  In the middle of February, in time for Valentine’s day, we will arrive at the subject of love, which Plato believes leads us to a grasp of reality, as we will learn from the Symposium.  After a foray into the history of skepticism, we will leap forward to the modern era, where we join the debate between the advocates of reason (such as Descartes) and the team of passion and experience (Hume).   We will see how these two sides handle proofs for the existence of God (with a brief look back into the middle ages). After that, we leap forward again to discuss contemporary issues about the mind and brain, then advance to a serious excursion into Buddhist metaphysics, which centers on the challenging idea that a human being has no real self. 

PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41115-41125 • Proops, Ian
Meets MW 4:00PM-5:30PM WAG 302
show description

This course examines some of the central problems of philosophy, drawing on both contemporary readings and historical texts. Students will be introduced to philosophy’s “tool kit” as well as to some of its “greatest hits.” Topics include: History of philosophy (Descartes’s Mediations), metaphysics (including, for example, time travel), and some issues in the theory of knowledge (including the question whether we know we are not living in a computer simulation), and issues in applied ethics (for example, “Is there a moral right to own a gun?”, “What are the reasonable limits on free speech?”). There are no prerequisites for this class.