Philosophy Department

Philosophy as a discipline reflects both speculatively and critically on the world, our actions, and our claims to knowledge. The Department of Philosophy offers a variety of courses of study that not only introduce students to the great philosophical achievements of the past and present but also aim to teach them how to think, write, and speak philosophically themselves.

Requirements for Concentration: The Philosophy major requires a total of 12 units.

100-level: Majors must take two 100 level courses one of which must be Philosophy 101 (History of Western Philosophy: Ancient) or Philosophy102 (History of Western Philosophy: Modern)

200-level: Majors must take Philosophy 230 (Logic) and also one course from each of the following:

Cluster 1: Philosophy 220 (Metaphysics), 222 (Philosophy of Language), 224 (Philosophy of Mind), 226 (Philosophy of Science) and 228 (Epistemology).

Cluster 2: Philosophy 205 (Nineteenth Century Philosophy), 215 (Phenomenology and Existential Thought), 240 (Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics), 242 (Philosophy of Music) and 260 (Philosophy and the Arts).

Cluster 3: Philosophy 210 (Neo-Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism), 234 (Ethics), 238 (Social and Political Philosophy), 250 (Feminist Theory) and 270 (Queer Theory).

300-level: Three 300-level seminars, two of which must be differently numbered. The department will not entertain any requests to count a seminar under a number different from the one it is assigned in the curriculum.

300-301 (Senior Thesis) is optional. Majors will consult with their faculty advisor about opting to write a senior thesis. Students who choose not to do a senior thesis will take an upper-level course instead.

NRO Policy: After the declaration of major, no required philosophy courses may be elected NRO.

Advisors: The Faculty

Recommendations: Individual programs should be designed, in consultation with a faculty advisor, to give the student a representative acquaintance with major traditions in philosophy, competence in the skills of philosophic investigation and argument, and opportunities for exploration in areas of special interest. Students considering a concentration in philosophy are advised to take Philosophy 101 or 102 early in their careers. German, French, and Greek are languages of particular importance in Western philosophy; Chinese will be of special interest to those taking Philosophy 110, 210, or 350.

Correlate Sequences in Philosophy: The philosophy department offers six different correlate sequences. In each sequence a total of 6 units is required. The required 300-level seminar may be taken twice if the topics differ; students may also petition to count an appropriate Philosophy 280 as equivalent to a 300-level seminar.

Correlate Sequence in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art: Philosophy 101 or 102; Philosophy 240, 242, 260; one of 205, 215 or an appropriate 280; two appropriate 300-level seminars. Advisers: Ms. Borradori, Mr. Murray and Ms. Church

Correlate Sequence in Comparative Philosophy: Philosophy 110 and one of 101 or 102; Philosophy 210 and 234; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 350. Adviser: Mr. Van Norden

Correlate Sequence in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: 1 unit at the introductory level, selected from Philosophy 101, 105, 106 or 110; 3 units at the intermediate level, selected from 234, 238, 250 or 270; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 330. Advisers: Ms. Narayan and Mr. Seidman and Mr. Kelly

Correlate Sequence in Continental Philosophy: Philosophy 101 or 102; 205, 215, and one of Philosophy 240 or 260; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 340. Advisers: Ms. Borradori and Mr. Murray

Correlate Sequence in the History of Western Philosophy: Philosophy 101 and 102; Philosophy 205 and 215; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 320. Adviser: Mr. Miller

Correlate Sequence in Analytic Philosophy: Philosophy 230 and either 102 or 105; 2 units from Philosophy 220, 222, 224, 226, 228; two appropriate 300-level seminars, including Philosophy 310. Advisers: Ms. Church, Mr. Lam and Mr. Winblad

Correlate sequences may also be designed for certain other subfields in philosophy (such as philosophy and gender, philosophy of science, and classical philosophy). However, students must obtain approval from the department for any alternative correlate sequences prior to the beginning of their senior year.

I. Introductory

101a. History of Western Philosophy: Ancient (1)

101-01: This course studies philosophy from its Greek origins in the Pre-Socratics such as Heraclitus and Parmenides through classical thought in Plato and Aristotle, and in the medieval period thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, and Eckhart. Mr. Murray

101-02: The course will concentrate on the ethical and metaphysical thought of Plato and Aristotle. We will consider their answers to two questions that both see as intimately connected: What is a good life for a human being? And: what is it for something to exist? Mr. Seidman

102b. History of Western Philosophy: Modern (1)

102-51: Descartes inaugurated modern philosophy by turning philosophical attention away from questions about what the world is like and directing it onto the question: how is it possible for us to know what the world is like? He made this question urgent by offering arguments that suggest that we cannot know what the world is like – arguments suggesting that there is an unbridgeable “gap” between the mind and the material world. We will carefully examine the ways in which Descartes himself, Hume, and, finally, Kant, seek to answer these arguments and bridge the “gap” that Descartes’ arguments open up. We will see how their various approaches to this task shape and are shaped by their conceptions of the human mind, the material world, the relation of the mind to the human body, and the nature of the ‘self.’ Mr. Seidman

102-52: This course studies the main currents of modern philosophy, from the Continental rationalism of Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza to the British empiricism of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, to the critical-transcendental philosophy of Kant. Mr. Murray

105. a and b. Problems of Philosophy (1)

105a: What is philosophy? This course will introduce you to philosophy as the assimilation of human experiences—perceptual, imaginative, moral, and emotional—with the power and limitations of human reason. We will look at how philosophers apply reason and argumentation to perceptual experiences in their search for knowledge and rationality. We will investigate the issues of personal identity, and the existence of unperceivable things, to see how philosophers use reason to make sense of our imaginative experiences. Finally we will look at the application of reason to moral and emotional experiences in the search for the right account of moral good, freedom, and moral responsibility. Students will leave the course with an appreciation for the breadth and scope of philosophical thinking. Mr. Lam

105b: This course is an introduction to some of the issues, methods and classic texts of philosophy. Among the topics we will address are the following: Is ethics purely subjective? Can we know anything? Can we trust our senses (sight, hearing, etc.)? Do humans only act out of self-interest? Do the ends justify the means? What makes life worth living? Readings include classic texts by Aquinas, Descartes, Hume and Kant, as well as some contemporary essays. There will be some lectures in this class, but also much discussion, and several written assignments. Regular attendance and at least some class participation is required. There is a final exam but no midterm. Mr. Van Norden

106. a and b. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues (1)

106a.-01: This course introduces students to the philosophical study of moral issues, focusing upon topics such as war, terrorism, our food choices, abortion, and euthanasia. Emphasis throughout will be placed upon argumentative rigor, clarity, and precision. Mr. Kelly

106a.-02: The course is aimed at exposing students to a number of social, ethical, and political questions that define our age. Topics studied will include child soldiers, terrorism, global migrants, the environment, and ecological injustice. Emphasis throughout will be placed upon argumentative rigor and the development of critical skills, in both oral and written communication. Ms. Borradori

106b: Philosophic investigation of a range of positions on current issues such as freedom of speech, abortion, animal rights, pornography, affirmative action, gay rights and distributive justice. Instructor to be announced.

110a. Early Chinese Philosophy (1)

An introduction to Chinese philosophy in the period between (roughly) 500 and 221 B.C., covering Confucians, Taoists and others. Among the topics discussed by these philosophers are human nature, methods of ethical education and self-cultivation, virtues and vices, and the role of conventions and institutions in human life. Mr. Van Norden

150b. The Limits of the Universe and the Limits of Understanding (1)

(Same as Physics 150). This course allows students to combine their interests in physics and in philosophy, recognizing common concerns and actively engaging in joint difficulties. The guiding questions of this course can be formulated as follows: In what ways, and to what extent, do recent developments in physics (e.g. the notion of space that is both infinite and bounded because curved) either solve or bypass traditional philosophical paradoxes concerning space and time, causality, and objectivity? In what ways, and to what extent, do traditional philosophical worries (e.g. worries about incoherence, worries about theories that cannot be falsified, or worries about concepts whose application cannot be imagined) cast doubt on the accuracy or the methodology of current physics? Readings are from physics and philosophy. Ms. Church, Ms. Schwarz

Two 75-minute meetings

II. Intermediate

205b. Nineteenth Century Philosophy (1)

Philosophy in the nineteenth century has as its point of departure Hegel's attempt to articulate a rational comprehension of the whole of reality. The very precision with which he is able to subordinate religious and secular social life within his dialectical vision of the whole of Spirit helps to light the way for his principal critics, the Christian existential thinker, Kierkegaard, and the social revolutionary, Marx. Their challenges raise a host of fundamental issues, including, for example, the rationality of reality and the reach of philosophy, the (ir)reducibility of the religious, the relation of the social whole and the individual, the historicity of ideas, and the implications for the human condition of the emergence of mass culture and the industrial division of labor. At the same time, it is first possible for Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Marx to have such deep disagreements because they are agreed in looking to or contesting specifically dialectical reason in facing the question of the intelligibility of existence. It is Nietzsche, above all, who seeks to break with this agreement. The course will trace and rethink the movements of this self-expanding and self-undermining conversation. Mr. Miller

Prerequisite: 1 unit of philosophy or permission of instructor.

210b. Neo-Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism (1)

Introduction to Neo-Confucianism, one of the most influential intellectual movements in China and all of East Asia. Neo-Confucianism combines a profound metaphysics with a subtle theory of ethical cultivation. There will also be some discussion of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism whose views of the self and ethics are the primary targets of the Neo-Confucian critique. No familiarity with Chinese culture is assumed, but a previous 100-level course in philosophy is a prerequisite because this course assumes students have the ability to tackle subtle issues in metaphysics, personal identity, and ethics. Mr. Van Norden

215a. Phenomenology and Existential Thought (1)

Since the ancient Greeks, philosophy has interpreted the drama of human life in terms of knowledge rather than will, truth rather than passion. During the 20th century, phenomenology and existentialism offer the most radical critique of this “intellectualist” view of both philosophy and the self. A new cognitive value is attributed to moods, beliefs, and states of consciousness as well as to some spheres of human interaction such as authenticity, temporality, and intentionality. In this course, we shall explore the great arch of existential and phenomenological thought as developed by such figures as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas. Ms. Borradori

Prerequisite: 1 unit of philosophy or permission of instructor.

220a. Metaphysics (1)

A study of the nature of reality, including the nature of existence, essence, identity, and persistence of things. Mr. Winblad

Prerequisite: 1 unit of philosophy or permission of instructor.

222b. Philosophy of Language (1)

An examination of truth, meaning, reference, intentions, conventions, speech acts, metaphors, and the relation between language and thought. Mr. Winblad

224b. Philosophy of Mind (1)

An exploration of competing theories of the mind—including theories that equate the mind with the brain, theories that regard the mind as a social construction, and theories that define the mind by reference to its characteristic functions. The strengths and weaknesses of each of these theories are compared—especially with respect to their understandings of consciousness, self-knowledge, emotion and moral responsibility. Ms. Church

226. Philosophy of Science (1)

(Same as Science, Technology and Society 226)

Not offered 2011-12

228. Epistemology (1)

Not offered 2011-12

230. a and b. Symbolic Logic (1)

A study of the concepts and methods of formal logic. Topics include truth functional and quantificational validity, soundness, and completeness. Mr. Winblad

234a. Ethics (1)

Why be moral? What does morality ask of us? What is the relation between morality and self-interest? What is happiness? What is the relation between a happy life and a meaningful life? Are there objective answers to ethical questions? or are whatever answers we give no more than the expressions of our subjective attitudes? These are some of the questions this course seeks to address. We proceed by reading seminal texts in the Western moral philosophical tradition alongside writings by contemporary moral philosophers. Mr. Seidman

238a. Social and Political Philosophy (1)

This course introduces students to both the history of political philosophy and to contemporary debates within it. Our focus is upon the relationship between justice and equality. Mr. Kelly

240. Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics (1)

Not offered in 2011-12

250a. Feminist Theory (1)

(Same as Women's Studies 250a.) The central purpose of the course is to understand a variety of theoretical perspectives in feminism - including liberal, radical, socialist, psychoanalytic and postmodern perspectives. We explore how each of these feminist perspectives is indebted to more 'mainstream' theoretical frameworks (for example, to liberal political theory, Marxism, and psychoanalysis). We also examine the ways in which each version of feminist theory raises new questions and challenges for these 'mainstream' theories. We attempt to understand the theoretical resources that each of these perspectives provides the projects of feminism, how they highlight different aspects of women's oppression and offer a variety of different solutions. We look at the ways in which issues of race, class and sexuality figure in various theoretical feminist perspectives and consider the divergent takes that different theoretical perspectives offer on issues such as domestic violence, pornography, housework and childcare, economic equality, and respect for cultural differences. Ms. Narayan

Prerequisite: 1 unit of philosophy or women's studies.

260a. Philosophy and the Arts: Censorship in the Arts (1)

Acts of censorship—political, religious, social—base themselves upon certain truth claims and are reactions to rival truth claims made by the arts. This course examines the role that censorship and truth play in the arts, with cases drawn chiefly from twentieth century literature, painting, and photography. Mr. Murray.

Not offered in 2012/13.

270b. Queer Theory: Choreographies of Sex and Gender (1)

This course examines contemporary theoretical work on the meaning of gender and sexuality with special reference to gay and lesbian studies. We consider questions such as the identity and multiplication of gender and sexes, forms of erotic desire, the performativity of gender norms, styles of life, marriage, and their relationship to medical, psychiatric, legal and criminological discourses. Mr. Murray

290. a and b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

Supervised by the department faculty.

298. a and b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

Supervised by the department faculty.

III. Advanced

300a. Senior Thesis (1/2)

Year-long development of an extended philosophical essay in consultation with a faculty adviser. Students must register for 300 for (a) term and 301 for (b) term. Full year course. Advisors: All Faculty

301b. Senior Thesis (1/2)

Year-long development of an extended philosophical essay in consultation with a faculty adviser. Students must register for 300 for (a) term and 301 for (b) term. Full year course. Advisors: All Faculty

302a or b. Senior Thesis (1)

By special permission only. This one semester course may be substituted for 300a-301b after consultation with your advisor.

310. a and b. Seminar In Analytic Philosophy (1)

310a: Linguistic and Philosophical Semantics. Linguistic semantics is the study of the meaning of natural language expressions. Philosophical semantics is the study of the meaning of natural language expressions for the purpose of shedding light on metaphysical and epistemological issues. In this course, we will study the linguistic semantics of a range of very specific constructions of natural language. We will study (1) indexical and context-sensitive expressions, expressions that seem to shift their references indifferent contexts of use like “you,” “now,” “here,” (2) expressions of personal taste that do not seem to admit of objective extensions like “tasty” and “fun,” (3) vague expressions, expressions that seem to have indeterminate references and borderline cases like “heap,” “pile,” or “pornographic,” (3) generic expressions that appear to make reference neither to individuals, groups, nor specific quantities of individuals like "The tiger" in “The tiger migrated from Southern to Northern Asia” or "Mosquitoes" in “Mosquitoes carry the West Nile Virus,” and (4) spatial location expressions like “on top of,” “across from,” “through” and so forth. From these linguistic semantic studies, we will investigate philosophical issues concerning objectivity, ontology, the law of excluded middle, and the nature of knowledge, as well as issues in the philosophy of mind about the nature and structure of inferential generalizations and spatial cognition. Mr. Lam

Prerequisites: Philosophy 230, Symbolic Logic, and another relevant course, such as Philosophy 222, Philosophy of Language. Students should contact the instructor if they are interested in enrollment for approved prerequisites.

310b: The Possibilities of Perception. Perception provides us with an especially rich and immediate sort of knowledge. This course will consider different philosophical understandings of that richness and that immediacy, and it will explore the possibility of perceiving (as opposed to figuring out) such things as: the cause of an event, the solution to a problem, the mental state of another person, and the right thing to do. The risks as well as the advantages of perceptual knowledge will be considered. Ms. Church.

Prerequisite: Upper level Philosophy courses or by permission of the instructor.

320a. Seminar in the History of Philosophy: Wittgenstein (1)

A study of the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, with attention to recent interpretive and critical responses to his work. Mr. Winblad

Prerequisite: Upper level Philosophy courses or by permission of the instructor.

330. a and b. Seminar: Ethics & Theory of Value (1)

330a: Capitalism, Globalization, Economic Justice and Human Rights. This seminar focuses on questions about capitalism, globalization, and economic justice. We address debates on private property and the division of labor, and examine the functions of states, markets, corporations, international institutions like the IMF and WTO, and development agencies in economic globalization and their roles in securing or undermining human rights. Ms. Narayan

330b. An exploration of topics in contemporary ethical theory. Mr. Seidman

340. a and b. Seminar in Continental Philosophy (1)

340a: Derrida and His Umbrella. This advanced seminar seeks to explore the philosophy of Jacques Derrida and his deconstructive exchanges with thinkers past and present, including Kant, Heidegger, Blanchot, Bataille, Marx, Levinas, and Habermas. The focus of the course will be Derrida’s ethical and political writings. Special emphasis will be given to the cluster of issues that occupied Derrida after the end of the Cold War: these include democracy, hospitality, witnessing and the politics of memory, religion, terrorism, the human and the animal. Ms. Borradori

340b: Heidegger . A critical examination of Heidegger's most influential work,Being and Time (1927) with emphasis on three aspects: the revisionary ontology of human existence that leads to the existential phenomenology of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty; the foundational conception of hermeneutics as practice of interpretative understanding that is developed by Gadamer, and the project of a deconstruction of metaphysics that is advanced by Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe . Some attention will be given to Heidegger's writings in the Nazi period and to the post-war texts, Letter on Humanism(1947) and Question of Technology (1954). Mr. Murray

350a. Seminar: Chinese Philosophy: Comparative Methodology(1)

(Same as Chinese and Japanese 350) This course explores some of the methodological issues raised by the prospect of one culture understanding and making judgments about another. The effort to understand another culture raises fundamental issues about the nature of rationality, ethics, and truth. Consequently, this course is structured around the three major approaches to these issues in the contemporary world: Modernism, Postmodernism and Hermeneutics. Very roughly, these three approaches argue over whether rationality, truth, and ethics are universal (Modernism), incommensurable (Postmodernism) or historical and dialogical (Hermeneutics). Requirements include regular class participation that shows familiarity with the readings and many brief essays. Mr. Van Norden

380b. Plays of Logos: Readings in Greek Poetry and Philosophy(1)

(Same as College Course 380b. and Greek and Roman Studies 380b.) A cross-disciplinary study of Homer, Presocratics, Aeschylus, and Plato. Possible texts: Iliad, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Oresteia, Republic. Mr. Miller, Ms. Kitzinger

382. Seminar in Analytic/Continental Philosophy (1)

Not offered in 2011-12

383. Seminar in Philosophy and the Arts (1)

Not offered in 2011-12

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

The department