Fall 2021 Courses

PHL 245: Writing Philosophy

TR 1:15pm - 2:35pm - Dr. Keith Fennen

This course will explore and practice the reading, writing, and reasoning skills necessary for philosophy majors in achieving the successful presentation of philosophical ideas in written work. Students will practice writing that is oriented toward both specialized (philosophically experienced and disciplinarily appropriate) and non-specialized (non-philosophical) audiences. 


PHL 273: Formal Logic

MWF 10:05am – 11:20am – Dr. Michael Hicks 

It is tempting to characterize a really good argument this way: if you accept its premises you must accept its conclusion. This course begins by analyzing this “must”—in what sense can one be logically compelled? What is it for an argument to be valid? A simple trick called “formalization” allows us to focus on certain structural features that are often relevant to the validity of an argument. In this course, we consider two formalizations, sentential logic and a first-order quantification-theory that builds on it, and figure out how to use them to show the validity of arguments. The primary task will be to master these mathematical representations of argument. As such this class is very different from other philosophy classes: homework will often be pseudo-mathematical, and there is very little writing. (Philosophy and Law minor)


PHL 301: Ancient Philosophy

TR 10:05am – 11:55am – Dr. Pascal Massie

To be concerned with ancient Greek philosophy is to be concerned with philosophy’s beginning. It is commonly acknowledged that philosophy, as it developed in the Western tradition, originated in Greece, about 2,400 years ago. Our task, however, is to move beyond this commonplace in order to think about the problem raised by the ascription of such a beginning. The Greeks themselves understood the beginning as archē. In this sense, a beginning is not a starting point left behind in subsequent developments, nor does it refer to some archaic, primitive or outdated stage of thought; rather, archē constitutes the living source and guiding principle that endures throughout what has grown out of it. Thus, to study ancient philosophy is to be concerned with what initially and still today motivates philosophy.

The leading question throughout this course will be: ‘what is philosophy?’ In order to articulate it, we will begin with the Pre-Socratic conception of the cosmos and being raised by Parmenides and Heraclitus in particular; then, we will focus on the works of Plato and Aristotle (the main part of the semester) and conclude with a representative text from the Hellenistic period (Epicureanism, Stoicism or Skepticism).


PHL 310D: Action and Responsibility

W F 11:40am – 1:00pm – Dr. Facundo Alonso

In this course, we will reflect on key philosophical questions about agency. These include: What is it for one to act intentionally? What is it to try to act? Is one responsible (only) for one’s intentional actions? What is it to act for a reason? Are the reasons for which one acts the causes of one’s action? What is intention? Is intention a special kind of belief? What kind of knowledge, if any, does one have of one’s own actions? When are one’s intentions and actions rational? What is weakness (or strength) of will? What is it for one to be an autonomous or self-governing agent? In addition, we will discuss how these questions about agency bear on foundational issues in the law, such as the relation between mens rea and criminal responsibility, completed v. attempted crimes, accomplice liability, and more. (Ethics, Society, and Culture minor; Philosophy and Law minor)


PHL 312: Contemporary Moral Problems

T R 10:05am – 11:55am – Staff

Moral argument and bases of moral decision. Discussion of such issues as sexuality, career and professional ethics, environmental responsibility, individual conscience and authority, abortion, suicide, and war. Prior completion of PHL 131 is recommended, (Ethics, Society, and Culture minor; Philosophy and Law minor).


PHL 335: Philosophy of Law

MWF 1:15pm – 2:30pm – Dr. Christopher King

It is often said that constitutional democratic societies are unique insofar as they are ruled by laws, not by persons. Yet such societies manifest deep conflicts motivated by differing views about morality, religion, the significance of economics, et. al. From these conflicts stem disputes about the nature of law, its proper interpretation, the relation between morality and law, the conditions under which it is legitimate, and whether there is a duty to obey. This course in the philosophy of law aims to discuss ways in which philosophers have tried to make these conflicts tractable by shedding light on the nature and content of law, the relationship(s) between law and morality, problems of constitutional interpretation, and the nature of rights. We will examine the main theoretical proposals on these topics, and we will practice applying them to particular cases. (Ethics, Society, and Culture minor; Philosophy and Law minor)


PHL 373: Symbolic Logic

MWF 11:40am – 12:55pm – Dr. Michael Hicks

This course is an examination of the acceptability and usefulness of various logical systems, with attention to the question of what it could mean to criticize or think about logic itself.  We'll focus especially on first order predicate logic and conclude with an outline of Godel's first incompleteness theorem. Though this course does not have official prerequisites, students who have not taken PHL 273 are advised to consult with Prof. Hicks before registering. (Philosophy and Law minor)


PHL 394: Existentialism

TR 1:15pm – 2:35pm – Dr. Elaine Miller

This course will explore questions of human existence in philosophy and literature, focusing on the themes of freedom and responsibility, facticity and transcendence, anguish, embodied agency, and rebellion through art and self-creation. The course will begin with so-called “pre-existentialist” philosophers and writers (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kafka), move from there to 20th century French existentialism (Beauvoir, Sartre, Camus), and conclude with a look at more recent writers who took up and reworked these themes to address urgent social issues (Fanon, Baldwin, Wright). (Ethics, Society, and Culture minor)


PHL 420A/520A: History of Analytic Philosophy

MW 2:50pm – 4:40pm – Dr. Michael Hicks

Revolutionary developments in logic and science in the late 19th and early 20th century captured the imagination of philosophers, especially in Cambridge and Vienna, who became convinced that the distinctive task of philosophy had finally been established.  Focusing primarily on the so-called Vienna Circle (Schlick, Neurath, and Carnap especially), we will explore four questions: what influences led to the development of analytic philosophy? What is (was) analytic philosophy?  How did this tradition understand itself in relation to other traditions, notably Heideggerian phenomenology? And what is the legacy of this revolutionary movement? (Ethics, Society, and Culture minor; Philosophy and Law minor)


PHL 440B/540B: Self and Action (Early Modern)

T 2:50pm – 6:25pm – Dr. Keith Fennen

This course is a conceptual and historical study of self and action in early modern philosophy. We will read works by Montaigne, Descartes, and Pascal, along with selections from other thinkers that might include Malebranche, Spinoza, and Hobbes, among others. We will examine the nature of the self, action, how physiological, social, and emotional forces determine thought and action, the degree to which such forces can be known and overcome, and freedom. (Ethics, Society, and Culture minor)


PHL 450C/550C: Foucault

R 2:50pm – 6:25pm – Dr. Emily Zakin

How does power work? What are the conditions for knowledge? In what ways is subjectivity a practice of freedom? This course will address these questions by studying the work of twentieth century French philosopher Michel Foucault. Foucault’s writings are often divided into 3 periods, the earlier archaeological work on discourse and the production of knowledge, the middle genealogical work on power and the production of individuals, and the later ethical work on subjectivity, freedom, and care of the self. We will be reading writings (and selections from lectures, courses, and interviews) that represent all 3 of these methodological and theoretical approaches. A major point of reference for us will be the transition (from genealogy to ethics) that marks the move from the first to the second volume of the History of Sexuality. Themes of import will include the relations between truth, power, and freedom; the connection (and distinction) between Enlightenment and critique; forms of governmentality; technologies of the self; and Foucault’s development of the Greek ideas of ascesis and parrhesia. (Ethics, Society, and Culture minor; Philosophy and Law minor)