Philosophy (2018 - 2020)
The department treats its course prerequisites seriously. Students not satisfying a course’s prerequisites must seek the permission of the instructor to register.
All introductory courses provide training in philosophical argument and writing. Only one introductory course can count toward the major or minor.
Central Problems in Philosophy
PHIL-UA 1 Formerly PHIL-UA 10. Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of selected central problems. Topics may include free will; the existence of God; skepticism and knowledge; the mind-body problem.
Great Works in Philosophy
PHIL-UA 2 Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of some of the most important and influential writings in its history. Authors studied may include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein.
Ethics and Society
PHIL-UA 3 Formerly PHIL-UA 5. Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of selected moral and social issues. Topics may include inequalities and justice; public vs. private good; regulation of sexual conduct and abortion; war and capital punishment.
Life and Death
PHIL-UA 4 Formerly PHIL-UA 17. Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of issues bearing on life and death. Topics may include the definition and value of life; grounds for creating, preserving, and taking life; personal identity; ideas of death and immortality; abortion and euthanasia.
Minds and Machines
PHIL-UA 5 Formerly PHIL-UA 15. Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of issues in cognitive science. Topics may include the conflict between computational and biological approaches to the mind; whether a machine could think; the reduction of the mind to the brain; connectionism and neural nets.
PHIL-UA 6 Offered every year. 4 points.
Introduces three broad traditions of normative thinking: one Confucian tradition, one based in Islamic law, and one derived from European liberalism. Addresses three current areas of normative debate: global economic inequality, gender justice, and human rights. Explores these first-order questions against the background of the three broad traditions.
PHIL-UA 7 Offered every other year. Block. 4 points.
Examines conceptual and empirical issues about consciousness. Issues covered may include the explanatory gap, the hard and harder problems of consciousness, phenomenal concepts, the mind-body problem and neural correlates of consciousness, higher-order theories of consciousness, and arguments for dualism.
Group 1: History of Philosophy
History of Ancient Philosophy
PHIL-UA 20 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered in the fall. 4 points.
Examination of the major figures and movements in Greek philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle.
History of Modern Philosophy
PHIL-UA 21 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered in the spring. 4 points.
Examination of the major figures and movements in philosophy in Europe from the 17th to the early 19th century, including some of the works of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.
PHIL-UA 22 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Close study of selected dialogues, including his masterpiece, the Republic. Explores issues in ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, and political philosophy, learning Plato's views on these topics as well as working to critique them and to engage with them philosophically.
PHIL-UA 24 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines various aspects of Aristotle's philosophy: ethics, psychology, physics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Aims to understand Aristotle’s ideas and to engage with them philosophically through careful reading of his works.
Philosophy in the Middle Ages
PHIL-UA 25 Identical to MEDI-UA 60. Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Study of major medieval philosophers, their issues, schools, and current philosophic interests. Includes, among others, Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham.
PHIL-UA 30 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Study of Kant’s metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.
From Hegel to Nietzsche
PHIL-UA 32 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Study of principal philosophic works by Hegel and Nietzsche, with some attention to some of the following: Fichte, Schelling, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Marx.
Existentialism and Phenomenology
PHIL-UA 36 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines the characteristic method, positions, and themes of the existentialist and phenomenological movements and traces their development through study of such thinkers as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre.
Recent Continental Philosophy
PHIL-UA 39 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Surveys and evaluates the ideas of the major figures in continental philosophy in the latter part of the 20th century. Authors include (late) Heidegger, Gadamer, Habermas, Foucault, and Derrida.
Topics in the History of Philosophy
PHIL-UA 101 Prerequisite: History of Ancient Philosophy (PHIL-UA 20) or History of Modern Philosophy (PHIL-UA 21). Offered every year. 4 points.
Careful study of a few topics in the history of philosophy—either one philosopher’s treatment of several philosophical problems, or several philosophers’ treatments of one or two closely related problems. Examples: selected topics in Aristotle, theories of causation in early modern philosophy, and Kant’s reaction to Hume.
Group 2: Ethics, Values, and Society
PHIL-UA 40 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every semester. 4 points.
Examines fundamental questions of moral philosophy: What are our most basic values, and which of them are specifically moral values? What are the ethical principles, if any, by which we should judge our actions, ourselves, and our lives?
The Nature of Values
PHIL-UA 41 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Examines the nature and grounds of judgments about moral and/or nonmoral values. Are such judgments true or false? Can they be more or less justified? Are the values of which they speak objective or subjective?
PHIL-UA 42 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Explores contemporary debates regarding contentious ethical issues. It has two aims: (1) to identify the moral theories and concepts shaping these debates and (2) to use these debates to refine and evaluate these theories and concepts. Topics may be drawn from areas such as environmental ethics, business ethics, and medical ethics.
Empirical Moral Psychology
PHIL-UA 43 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Surveys recent empirical studies of how humans make moral judgments and decisions, and assesses the significance of this work for some of the traditional concerns of moral philosophy. Readings are drawn from social psychology, evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophical texts from the Western ethical tradition.
PHIL-UA 45 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines fundamental issues concerning the justification of political institutions. Topics may include democratic theory, political obligation and liberty, criteria of a just society, human rights, and civil disobedience.
PHIL-UA 50 Offered every year. 4 points.
Examines moral issues in medical practice and research. Topics include euthanasia and quality of life; deception, hope, and paternalism; malpractice and unpredictability; patient rights, virtues, and vices; animal, fetal, and clinical research; criteria for rationing medical care; ethical principles, professional codes, and case analysis (for example, Quinlan, Willowbrook, Baby Jane Doe).
The Idea of Law in the West: From Natural Law to Natural Right
PHIL-UA 51 Offered in the spring. 4 points.
Examines the two main traditions of thought that shaped the Western idea of law from the Middle Ages to the 19th century: the so-called natural law tradition, represented by Thomas Aquinas and others, and the voluntarist or positivist tradition, represented most fully by Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant. Additional readings will be drawn from Ockham, Luther, Suarez, Spinoza, Hegel, Nietzsche, and others.
Philosophy of Law
PHIL-UA 52 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines the nature of law, its relations to morality, and its limits. Topics: positivism and natural law theory; theories of criminal justice and punishment; concepts of liberty, responsibility, and rights. Considers the views of such thinkers as Austin, Bentham, Dworkin, Fuller, Hart, and Rawls.
Philosophical Perspectives on Feminism
PHIL-UA 55 Offered every other year. 4 points.
Evaluation of the morality and rationality of typical female and male behavior and motivation, and of the social institutions relating the sexes. Critical examination of proposals for change. Topics include development of gender- and non-gender-typed personalities; heterosexuality and alternatives; marriage, adultery, and the family; concepts of sexism and misogyny; and political and economic philosophies of sex equality and inequality.
PHIL-UA 60 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Introduces problems raised by the nature of art, artworks, and aesthetic judgment. Topics include the expressive and representational properties of artworks, aesthetic attention, and appreciation; and the creation, interpretation, and criticism of artworks. Readings from classical and contemporary sources.
Topics in Ethics and Political Philosophy
PHIL-UA 102 Prerequisite: Ethics (PHIL-UA 40), The Nature of Values (PHIL-UA 41), or Political Philosophy (PHIL-UA 45). Offered every year. 4 points.
Thorough study of various concepts and issues in current theory and debate. Examples: moral and political rights, virtues and vices, equality, moral objectivity, the development of moral character, the variety of ethical obligations, and ethics and public policy.
Group 3: Logic, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Mind and Language
PHIL-UA 70 Offered every semester. 4 points.
An introduction to the basic techniques of sentential and predicate logic. Students learn how to put arguments from ordinary language into symbols, how to construct derivations within a formal system, and how to ascertain validity using truth tables or models.
PHIL-UA 72 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70). Offered every other year. 4 points.
An introduction to the basic concepts, methods, and results of metalogic, i.e., the formal study of systems of reasoning.
PHIL-UA 73 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70). Offered every other year. 4 points.
An introduction to the basic concepts and results of set theory.
PHIL-UA 74 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70). Offered every other year. 4 points.
Modal logic is the logic of necessity, possibility, and related notions. In recent times, the framework of possible worlds has provided a valuable tool for investigating the formal properties of these notions. Provides an introduction to the basic concepts, methods, and results of modal logic, with an emphasis on its application to such other fields as philosophy, linguistics, and computer science.
PHIL-UA 76 Formerly Belief, Truth, and Knowledge. Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Considers questions such as the following: Can I have knowledge of anything outside my own mind—for example, physical objects or other minds? Or is the skeptic’s attack on my commonplace claims to know unanswerable? What is knowledge, and how does it differ from belief?
PHIL-UA 78 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Discusses general questions concerning the nature of reality and truth. What kind of things exist? Are there minds or material bodies? Is change illusory? Are human actions free or causally determined? What is a person, and what, if anything, makes someone one and the same person?
Philosophy of Mind
PHIL-UA 80 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Examination of the relationship between the mind and the brain, of the nature of the mental, and of personal identity. Can consciousness be reconciled with a scientific view of the world?
Philosophy of Language
PHIL-UA 85 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70) and one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Examines various philosophical and psychological approaches to language and meaning, as well as their consequences for traditional philosophical problems in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Discusses primarily 20th-century authors, including Russell, Wittgenstein, and Quine.
Philosophy of Science
PHIL-UA 90 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Examination of philosophical issues about the natural sciences. Central questions include the following: What is the nature of scientific explanation? How does science differ from pseudoscience? What is a scientific law? How do experiments work?
Philosophy of Biology
PHIL-UA 91 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines the philosophical or conceptual issues that arise in and about biology, including the proper role, if any, of teleology in biology; the analysis of biological functions; the structure of the theory of evolution by natural selection and the sense of its key concepts, such as fitness and adaptation; the unit of selection; essentialism and the nature of species.
Philosophical Applications of Cognitive Science
PHIL-UA 93 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered in the fall. 4 points.
The relevance of recent discoveries about the mind to philosophical questions about metaphysics, logic, and ethics. Questions include the following: What is causation? Is there a right way to “carve up” the world into categories? Why do we see the world as consisting of objects in places? Are the rules of logic objective or just the way we happen to think? Is there such a thing as objective right and wrong?
Philosophy of Physics
PHIL-UA 94 Identical to PHYS-UA 190. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Different approaches to understanding space and time, including the debates between Newton and Leibniz and Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity. Mathematics above the level of algebra is neither used nor required.
Philosophy of Religion
PHIL-UA 96 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Among the topics discussed are the nature of religion, the concept of God, the grounds of belief in God, the immortality of the soul, faith, revelation, and problems of religious language. Readings from both classic and contemporary sources.
Philosophy of Mathematics
PHIL-UA 98 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70) and one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Critical discussion of alternative philosophical views as to what mathematics is, such as Platonism, empiricism, constructivism, intuitionism, formalism, logicism, and various combinations thereof.
Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology
PHIL-UA 103 Prerequisite: Epistemology (PHIL-UA 76) or Metaphysics (PHIL-UA 78) or Philosophy of Science (PHIL-UA 90). Offered every year. 4 points.
Careful study of a few current issues in epistemology and metaphysics. Examples: skepticism, necessity, causality, personal identity, and possible worlds.
Topics in Language and Mind
PHIL-UA 104 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70) and either Philosophy of Mind (PHIL-UA 80) or Philosophy of Language (PHIL-UA 85). Offered every year. 4 points.
Careful study of a few current issues in language and mind. Examples: theory of reference, analyticity, intentionality, theory of mental content and attitudes, emergence and supervenience of mental states.
Honors for Students Graduating in and After May 2019
PHIL-UA 200, 201 Prerequisite: open to all students with a GPA of 3.65 or higher both in philosophy and overall, whether or not they plan to apply to the honors program. For students applying to the honors program, both seminars are required, and at least one of these two seminars must be taken before the end of the junior year. PHIL-UA 200 is offered every spring; PHIL-UA 201 is offered every fall. 4 points.
Introduces students to a variety of topics that are appropriate for honors theses. For students not completing honors, these seminars will count as electives toward the philosophy major. See requirements in the description of the departmental honors program.
Honors Thesis Workshop
PHIL-UA 202 Prerequisite: upon admission into the honors program, students are expected to read for the thesis over the summer between junior and senior years. Offered every fall. 6 points.
A seminar taken in fall of senior year. Consists of independent thesis work (under the advisor’s supervision) plus a thesis-writing discussion workshop (led by a member of the faculty). The thesis is due at the end of January term of the senior year, with oral thesis exams to be held in the first week of the spring semester. See requirements in the description of the departmental honors program.
PHIL-UA 301, 302 Prerequisite: approval of a faculty supervisor. Available only for study of subjects not covered in regularly offered courses. 2 or 4 points per term.