Philosophy

Courses

Philosophy 201 - Logic

One-unit semester course. This course is an introduction to the formal logic of propositions, identity, and quantification, which may include metalogic, philosophy of logic, alternate and deviant logics, and applying formal logic when evaluating real arguments. This course meets the department’s logic requirement. Lecture.

Philosophy 202 - Introduction to Metaphysics

One-unit semester course. An examination of selected topics in metaphysics, such as: What kind of beings are we? Do we have free will? Does God exist? Is time real? Does anything exist independently of our minds? This course meets the department’s metaphysics requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 203 - Introduction to Ethics

One-unit semester course. An examination of selected historical and contemporary accounts of how we should live, of what makes life good, of what does harm, of what constrains our actions, and of what gives our lives meaning. This course meets the department’s ethics requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 204 - Introduction to Epistemology

One-unit semester course. An examination of the sources, structure, and scope of knowledge and justification. This course meets the department’s epistemology requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 205 - Introduction to Philosophy of Science

One-unit semester course. An examination of selected questions in the philosophy of science, such as: Are scientists discovering the real structure of nature or creating models that fit the data? Do our data dictate our theories? Do our expectations about the future have any rational basis? Does science explain anything, help us understand anything, or does it just describe things? How do sciences develop? Do they undergo revolutions? If so, how should that affect our views of science’s aims, activities, and products? This course meets the department’s epistemology requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 207 - Persons and Their Lives

One-unit semester course. What is it to be a person, and to live a life distinctive of persons? This course will explore a variety of philosophical issues relevant to answering these questions, among them: What is it to be the same person across time? Is a person essentially a mind? Is there something distinctive about the way persons act? Must their actions always be rational, and must agents always pursue some perceived good? Do persons have free will? What makes a life meaningful? Is immortality required for a meaningful life, or can only mortals have meaningful lives? This course meets the department’s ethics requirement. Conference.

Philosophy 209 - Minds, Computers, Worlds

One-unit semester course. This course will introduce and consider a number of interrelated philosophical questions about minds, computers, and the world(s) they inhabit: Is the human mind identical with the human brain? What exactly is a computer, and could a computer have a genuine mind? How “real” are the “virtual” realities created by actual and possible computers and minds? Could our minds, and could the physical world, turn out to be parts of a computer or computer simulation? This course meets the department’s metaphysics requirement. Conference.

Philosophy 210 - Introduction to Ancient Philosophy

One-unit semester course. This course explores the metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology of the pre-Socratics, the Sophists, Plato, Aristotle, the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Skeptics. All these schools explored still-essential questions, such as: What are the ultimate constituents of reality? What is the nature of causation? What is a soul? What is knowledge, and what can we know? Is there a best way to live, and, if so, what is it? What is justice? How is my good related to the goods of others? The course seeks both to understand and situate the ancient texts historically and to discover philosophical insights that remain relevant in the social and scientific context of the twenty-first century. This course applies to the department’s history of philosophy requirement. Conference.

Philosophy 213 - Philosophy of Religion

One-unit semester course. This course is an analysis of the nature and grounds of religious belief. Topics include classic and contemporary arguments for the existence of God, the problem of evil, the problem of freedom and foreknowledge, the relation between faith and reason, the meaningfulness of religious language, and the prospects for religious pluralism. This course meets the department’s epistemology requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 214 - Philosophy of Memoir

One-unit semester course. In this course we will read memoirs alongside philosophical texts exploring personal identity, the nature of the self, mind, memory, imagination, truth, justice, friendship, and the meaning of life. The course will raise questions like the following: If a memoir is a work of art, does it matter if it is true? Do narrative arcs truthfully represent life? Are lives and persons unified in the way that stories are unified? How are you related to your past? How is your present well-being related to time and to the overall shape of your life? How are you related to others, and how do those relationships generate obligations? Should you tell your story even if it hurts others? In what sense is your story yours to tell? This course meets the department’s ethics requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 301 - Ancient Philosophy

One-unit semester course. This course focuses on the relationship between ethics and metaphysics in Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics and the Skeptics. For these ancient thinkers, ethics begins with and focuses on the agent’s life as a whole. Their ethical theories view lives intricately embedded into the social context, and their distinctive approach to ethics takes root in natural science. The course seeks both to understand and situate the texts historically and to discover philosophical insights that remain relevant in the social and scientific context of the 21st century. Prerequisite: two 200-level philosophy courses. This course applies to the department’s history of philosophy or ethics requirement. Conference.

Philosophy 302 - Modern Philosophy

One-unit semester course. This course is an introduction to the metaphysical and epistemological views of major modern philosophers such as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one other 200-level course in philosophy. This course applies to the department’s history of philosophy requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 306 - History of Modern Social and Political Philosophy

One-unit semester course. This course is an introduction to modern social and political thought and its epistemological foundations, covering authors from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, such as Machiavelli, More, Erasmus, Luther, Montaigne, Galileo, Descartes, Pascal, Hobbes, and Locke. This course applies to the department’s history of philosophy or ethics requirements. Prerequisite: two 200-level philosophy courses. Conference.

Philosophy 310 - Metaphysics

One-unit semester course. This course is a study of the central topics and problems of metaphysics, including the mind-body problem, free will and determinism, persistence and change, and the natures of particulars, properties, time, space modality, causality, identity, and persons. Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one other 200-level course in philosophy. This course meets the department’s metaphysics requirement. Conference.

Philosophy 311 - Epistemology

One-unit semester course. This course is an introduction to the central topics in the theory of knowledge, including the nature of knowledge, the nature of epistemic justification, and varieties of skepticism. Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one other 200-level course in philosophy. This course meets the department’s epistemology requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 312 - Ethical Theories

One-unit semester course. This course is an introduction to the central theories and problems of ethics. Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one other 200-level course in philosophy. This course meets the department’s ethics requirement. Conference.

Philosophy 313 - Color

One-unit semester course. Do colors really exist? If so, what are they? These simple questions launch a grand tour of philosophy. We begin by surveying the current science of color and color perception and reviewing the philosophical theories of color from the Enlightenment (Boyle, Locke, Berkeley). We then ask how color terms refer, examine color-based arguments for dualism, and finally evaluate the various contemporary metaphysics of color: eliminativism, relativism, dispositionalism, identity theory, and sense data theory. This course meets the department’s metaphysics requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 315 - Philosophy of Language

One-unit semester course. This course is a study of such topics as truth, reference, meaning, convention, linguistic and nonlinguistic communication, and the relationships between language, thought, and reality. Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one other 200-level course in philosophy. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 316 - Philosophy of Science

One-unit semester course. A philosophical investigation of the nature of science and the light science sheds on the world. Topics covered include the difference between science and pseudoscience, the Quine/Duhem thesis on the underdetermination of theory by evidence, the problem of induction and the grue paradox, the problem of scientific confirmation, Bayesian approaches to confirmation, the nature of scientific explanations and scientific theories, the nature and philosophical implications of scientific revolutions, the rationality of science, the social construction of scientific facts, scientific realism and scientific social responsibility. Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one other 200-level course in philosophy, or consent of the instructor. This course meets the department’s epistemology requirement. Conference.

Philosophy 318 - Philosophy of Biology

One-unit semester course. This course is a philosophical study of such topics as adaptation; units of selection; emergence and reduction; function and teleology; the nature of life; the nature and epistemological status of biological mechanisms; the nature and epistemological status of species; evolutionary trends; implications of evolutionary theory for psychology, culture, epistemology, and ethics; and the social implications of contemporary biology and biotechnology (such as the human genome project, genetic engineering, and artificial life). Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one other 200-level course in philosophy, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Philosophy 320 - Topics in Logic

One-unit semester course. The course covers topics in logic relevant to contemporary philosophy, beyond the basic elements of first-order logic. Topics covered may include: definite descriptions and scope; elementary metalogic (e.g., soundness and completeness theorems); plural logic; nonexistence and free logic; higher-order logic; generalized quantifiers; temporal and modal logics; epistemic logic; vagueness; paraconsistent logic. Prerequisite: Philosophy 201. This course meets the department’s logic requirement. Conference.

Philosophy 321 - Modal Logic and Metaphysics

One-unit semester course. This course is an introduction to modal logic, possible-world semantics, and associated philosophical issues. Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one other 200-level course in philosophy. This course meets the department’s logic or metaphysics requirement. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 370 - Junior Seminar (Philosophy)

One-unit semester course. An intensive study of selected philosophical problems or works. The course aims to develop in each student the skills needed to do independent work in philosophy by having the student write a long research paper on a topic defined by the readings. Prerequisite: junior standing and two 300-level courses in philosophy, or consent of the instructor. Conference. May be repeated for credit.

Philosophy 411 - Advanced Topics in Metaphysics

One-unit semester course. See descriptions for prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit.

Personal Identity
One-unit semester course. A discussion of the topics raised when we ask “What am I?” “Will I survive?” and “Why should I care?” Prerequisite: one 300-level philosophy course. This course meets the department’s metaphysics requirement. Conference. 

Ontology
One-unit semester course. This course will consider several contemporary debates concerning ontology, including whether a minimalist (sometimes called “nihilist”), common-sense, or plenitudinous ontology of (material) objects has a stronger claim to being true; the ontology of the social (groups, “socially constructed” entities); whether “abstract” objects exist and what their abstractness consists in; and the “meta-ontological” issue of the nature of ontological commitment. Prerequisite: one 300-level philosophy course. This course meets the department’s metaphysics requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 412 - Advanced Topics in Epistemology

One-unit semester course. See descriptions for prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit.

Classification and Natural Kinds
One-unit semester course. This course surveys contemporary philosophical and scientific work on classification and kinds. Special focus is given to whether certain classifications and kinds are especially objective or natural, and contemporary theories of natural kinds and biological species will be reviewed and applied. The course will also examine new methods for classifying the evolution of technology, using natural language processing and machine learning tools to analyze big textual data repositories. Readings will be taken primarily from contemporary philosophy. Prerequisite: two 300-level philosophy courses, or consent of the instructor. This course meets the department’s epistemology requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Computation
One-unit semester course. This course surveys the important epistemological roles of computation in philosophy and science, especially concerning complex systems. The course surveys computation theory, and it includes computer laboratory exercises involving programming and computer simulations. Key course topics are illustrated with case studies, such as cellular automata, artificial life, and intelligent robot scientists. Prerequisite: two 300-level philosophy courses, or consent of the instructor. This course meets the department’s epistemology requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Testimony and Trust
One-unit semester course. Most knowledge rests, either directly or indirectly, on the testimony of others. But the nature of testimony and its proper role in our epistemic lives remains poorly understood. This course takes up both of the issues just mentioned, as well as related questions of the nature of epistemic authority, the contours of epistemic injustice, and the relation between self-trust and trust in others. We will aim to investigate these general and abstract questions with an eye towards understanding the shifting social epistemic landscape of our own time, including debates over censorship in social media, political polarization, and decentralized systems of knowledge transmission. Prerequisite: two 300-level philosophy courses or consent of the instructor. This course meets the department’s epistemology requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 413 - Advanced Topics in Ethics

One-unit semester course. See descriptions for prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit.

The Ethics of Partiality
One-unit semester course. This course will examine the extent and limits of morally justified partial treatment. Some questions we will examine are: Is loyalty a virtue? Is it ever morally justified? How might we distinguish morally acceptable forms of loyalty (e.g., patriotism) from morally reprehensible forms (e.g., racism)? How can we justify special obligations toward some individuals (e.g., members of our family) without thinking that they are morally more important? What is it to treat others “equally?” Is impartiality really a moral ideal we should strive toward? Prerequisite: one 300-level philosophy course. This course meets the department’s ethics requirement. Conference. 

Metaethics
One-unit semester course. This course will focus on the nature and justification of ethical claims. Possible questions to be addressed include: Is ethics objective? What are the prospects for ethical realism, antirealism, quasi-realism? What is the relation between ethics and practical reason? Does evolutionary theory have any bearing on the truth of moral claims? Prerequisite: two courses in philosophy at the 300 level or higher, or consent of the instructor. This course meets the department’s ethics requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Morality at the Margin: What We Owe to Animals, A.I., and Future Generations
One-unit semester course. This course will examine issues around the moral status of, and our moral obligations to things at the margin of what we might call “the moral circle.” Beginning with questions of what constitutes “moral standing,” we will go on to ask whether there is reason to think that moral standing might be limited to our species, and whether species membership could be sufficient. If not, how far might it extend? How should we understand our obligations to animals? How could we have moral obligations to the merely possible people that make up future generations? And to what extent might sufficiently sophisticated A.I “agents” lay claim to our moral concern? Prerequisite: two courses in philosophy at the 300 level or higher, or consent of the instructor. This course meets the department’s ethics requirement. Conference. 

Narrative and Aging
One-unit semester course. Drawing on ancient through contemporary texts, we situate ethical issues in aging within the context of larger questions of what it means to be a person, to have a life, to have a good life, and to be part of a just society. How should a life be valued? Is the present value of a person related to time and to the narrative arc of their life? If so, how is the overall value of a life related to its last stages? What is a just distribution of scarce resources among young and old? How does the science of evolution impact the value of life’s last stages? The syllabus will include Helen Small’s The Long Life, Greg Bognar and Hirose Iwao’s The Ethics of Health Care Rationing, and Frances Kamm’s Bioethical Prescriptions. Prerequisite: two courses in philosophy at the 300 level or higher, or consent of the instructor. This course meets the department’s ethics requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 414 - Advanced Topics in Contemporary Philosophy

One-unit semester course. See descriptions for prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit.

Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics
One-unit semester course. We will examine central topics within and spanning the philosophy of logic and the philosophy of mathematics. Likely topics include mathematical Platonism, formalism, logicism, intuitionism, structuralism, conventionalism, Tarski’s theory of logical consequence, free logic, other nonclassical logics, and the status of second-order logic. Prerequisite: Philosophy 201 or one 300-level mathematics course, and one 300-level philosophy course, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy of Money
One-unit semester course. What is money? Is it a certain kind of stuff, or is it debt? Must money come from a state? Are cryptocurrencies a form of money? These are metaphysical questions, a subset of social ontology. But they are simultaneously anthropological-historical questions about the origins of money, economic questions about a certain natural kind, and disguised ethical questions about what money ought to be and whose interests it ought to serve. This course surveys answers to the questions above with the twofold goal of clarifying the nature of those questions and attempting to answer them. Prerequisite: two 300-level philosophy courses, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Meaning and Interpretation
See English 393: Meaning and Interpretation for description. Not offered 2022–23.

English 393 Description

Philosophy 415 - Major Figures in Philosophy

One-unit semester course. See descriptions for prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit.

Descartes
One-unit semester course. A course on the philosophy of René Descartes primarily through close reading, study, and discussion of Descartes’s Meditations. Other works by Descartes are to be discussed occasionally, and some secondary literature is to be considered. Prerequisites: two 300-level courses in philosophy. This course applies to the department’s history of philosophy requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

David Hume
One-unit semester course. This course will study some of the major themes and problems from Hume’s work in philosophy of mind, epistemology, philosophy of religion, and ethics. Among the topics to be discussed are: the theory of ideas; skepticism about the external world and causation; arguments against miracles and the existence of god; the scope and nature of practical reason; and the nature of emotions. Prerequisites: Philosophy 201 and one 300-level philosophy course. This course applies to the department’s history of philosophy requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Philosophy 470 - Thesis

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester.

Philosophy 481 - Individual Work in Special Fields

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.