The School of Arts & Sciences

Department of Humanities

PHL Course Descriptions

PHL210 Critical Thinking [3-0, 3 cr.]

Critical Thinking is an introductory course intended for all students, regardless of academic major. The course focuses on clear and careful reasoning. It aims to improve students’ sensitivity to language so that they are better able to extract arguments, distinguish good from bad argumentation, and construct their own arguments. These analytic tools are also applied to various texts, which include opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines, as well as short philosophical passages, and passages from other academic disciplines.

PHL211 Symbolic Logic [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course is an introduction to formal or symbolic logic. Students will begin by looking at different types of arguments, before focusing on deductive arguments. They will learn how to symbolize statements from natural language, distinguish between valid and invalid argument forms, construct truth tables, and provide different types of proofs in both propositional and predicate logic.

PHL301 Ethics [3-0, 3 cr.]

Ethics is classically the study of what is right, just, appropriate, or desirable, all of which are among the various meanings given to “the good,” the central concern of ethics. Typically, this course will have historical, theoretical, and applied dimensions. The historical dimension will provide acquaintance with the various kinds of ethical and moral theory that have emerged over the last two and half millennia; the theoretical dimension will examine the content of these ideas closely; and the applied dimension will sharpen the student’s ability to think through distinctively ethical and moral problems.

PHL302 Theory of Knowledge [3-0, 3 cr.]

The theory of knowledge, or epistemology, focuses on questions concerning the nature of human knowledge. Some of the questions raised in this class concern the possibility and extent of human knowledge, the correct definition of knowledge, different types of knowledge, different theories of justification, and the ethics of forming epistemic attitudes.

PHL303 Metaphysics [3-0, 3 cr.]

Metaphysics is that study of the basic structure of reality or being. Different topics might be covered under this heading. Some of these are: the nature of personal identity, the nature of free will, the nature of time, the relation between our concepts and reality, the relation between the mind and the body, the relation between particulars and universals, and how we should understand modal concepts.

PHL311 Philosophy of Religion [3-0, 3 cr.]

The philosophy of religion seeks to address different aspects of religion in a rational and systematic manner. The course focuses on a variety of questions. Some of these are metaphysical, concerning the concept of God, traditional as well as contemporary arguments for God’s existence, and formulations of the problem of evil as well as different responses to the problem. Others are epistemological, focusing on the relationship between faith and reason, the ethics of religious belief, and issues concerning religious pluralism.                 

PHL201 Ancient Philosophy [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course examines the roots of Western philosophy in Ancient Greece, and serves as an introduction to the history of philosophy. While the course emphasizes the works of Plato and Aristotle, it will also consider pre-Socratic philosophy, and post-Aristotelian philosophy time permitting. The course’s central themes are the origins of the universe, the nature of reality, the basis of our knowledge, and what constitutes a virtuous life and a good society.

PHL202 Medieval Philosophy [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course examines the works of major medieval philosophers. In particular, it emphasizes the connection between ancient, medieval, and early modern philosophy. The course covers thinkers from the Christian and Islamic traditions, and in particular their attempts to reconcile religious teachings with ancient philosophy, in particular the works of Aristotle. Some of the major themes include the the existence and nature of God, faith, and evil, as well as the place of philosophy in relation to religion.

PHL203 Early Modern Philosophy [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course examines some of the major works of early modern philosophers. In particular, the courses focuses on the developments in epistemology and metaphysics in light of the scientific developments of the period, and/or developments in moral and political theories. These include the rational/empiricism debate, different views of the mind’s relation to the body and the world, issues of personal identity, causation, moral psychology, and political theory.

PHL304 19th Century Philosophy [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course focuses on post-Kantian philosophy. The course traces the developments of thought through various thinkers such as Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Marx. Thematically the course focuses on the ideas of idealism, materialism, transcendental and naturalistic philosophy, as well as various issues that arise out of these conceptions. These issues include the nature of reason, freedom, culture, and history.

PHL328 Arabic and Islamic Philosophy [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course is an introduction to some of the key figures, seminal texts, and main themes of Islamic philosophy in the classical period.  The authors include al-Razi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Ghazali, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Maymun (Maimonides) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). Among the questions to be discussed are the following: What is the nature of the good life? What is the best form of government? Can we know anything at all? Is knowledge gained through rational thought or through mystical apprehension? What is the relation between reason and faith? How is the soul related to the body? What is the nature of prophecy? Can miracles occur? What are the limits, if any, of God’s power?

PHL306 Phenomenology [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course introduces the 20th century phenomenological movement while developing its connections to existentialism. The course begins with the early phenomenologists like Husserl, or early existentialists like Kierkegaard, and traces a line of development that proceeds through thinkers like Heidegger, Sartre, De Beauvoir, and Levinas. The focus on the course is on questions about the nature of consciousness, freedom, being, and their connections to moral, political, and religious thought.

PHL307 Philosophy of Language  [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course focuses on theories of meaning and reference particularly as they emerged in the early 20th century. The course begins with Gottlob Frege and proceeds through various philosophers who contributed to that tradition, including Russell, Donnellan, Grice, Davidson, and Kripke. The focus of the class will be largely on how proper names successfully refer, how sentences acquire their meaning systematically from their constituent parts, how there can be empty names, and how successful communication is possible.

PHL325 Philosophy of Mind [3-0, 3 cr.]

This class is an introduction to various issues in the philosophy of mind. The course covers issues such as the mind-body problem and the various solutions to it, the problem of consciousness, the nature of mental states, and different mental faculties, such as perception, memory, and the imagination.

PHL324 Philosophy of Science [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course is a basic introduction to the main philosophical questions confronting scientific knowledge and methodology. The course considers questions like: What are scientific explanations and the scientific method, and how do they relate to other forms of knowledge? How should we understand theory and paradigm changes in science? How are scientific theories related to the structure of reality?

PHL321 Philosophy of Art [3-0, 3 cr.]

The course deals with (1) how we can discern whether something qualifies as art, in what sense our aesthetic judgments are subjective or objective, what qualifies as a good, bad, correct, or an incorrect interpretation of an artwork, and whether we can learn from art (epistemological issues); (2) the nature of art and artworks and the kinds of experience associated with them, how art relates to reality, the creative process, and aesthetic experience (metaphysical issues); and (3) the moral dimension of art (moral issues).

PHL326 Social and Political Philosophy [3-0, 3 cr.]

This class focuses on social and political thought in philosophy from Plato onwards. The class considers different political theories, the nature of power, the difference between good and bad governance, the role of reason in social and political life, ideology, and the relation of ethics to politics, amongst other topics. 

PHL322 Philosophy in Literature and Film [3-0, 3 cr.]

This class aims to bring philosophical issues to life by considering their appearance in different artforms. The focus of the class is on drawing philosophical arguments and conclusions from different types of art, in particular literature and film. The questions raised concern the nature of different aspects of reality, including the nature of human beings, knowledge, morality, God, as well as questions about the meaning of life.

PHL323 Philosophy of History [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course focuses on how we should understand history in general, as well as specific histories, in particular the history of philosophy. Typically the course takes Hegel’s work as its departure point, but other variations are possible. These variations include Marx’s materialist critique of Hegelian philosophy, Nietzsche and Foucault’s method of Genealogy, as well as the pragmatist understanding of history, amongst others.

PHL327 Philosophy and Mythology [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course examines different ways in which philosophy and mythology are connected. One set of issues revolves around classical mythology and its influence on the emergence of philosophy. Another focuses on a comparative look at philosophy and mythology. A final route follows Schelling’s attempt to construct a philosophy of mythology, focusing on the interpretation and definition of myths. 

PHL350 Individual Philosophers [3-0, 3 cr.]

The course is an in-depth study of the work of a particular philosopher, and reflects the sustained rigor and depth of the approach of the philosopher to universal questions. It also examines the work of scholars who have studied the thought and works of individual philosophers. This helps students to appreciate the nature and virtue of the scholarly tradition. Primary as well as secondary sources are examined in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the life, works, thought and influence of the philosopher.

PHL 401 Topics in Philosophy [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course focuses on specific topics in the philosophical tradition, classical and modern. It may cover topics such as contemporary philosophy, interactive combinations among individual philosophers, specific philosophical themes, Arabic and Islamic philosophy, world philosophy, Phenomenology and Analytical Philosophy.

PHL 499 Senior Study [3-0, 3 cr.]

This course is designed as a final project for senior students. In it, the student must prepare a high quality writing sample in an area of philosophy of their choosing. Students perform both their own research and are assigned readings by the course instructor.


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