Skip to Main Content

Course Descriptions

Philosophy Course Descriptions

1301 Philosophy and the Ethical Life:  Why philosophize? What is the best way of life? This course explores what philosophy is, why one should philosophize, and how philosophy fits into (and perhaps makes possible) a consideration of ourselves as moral beings. The course explores, then, how philosophy addresses the quest for the right way of life and what we can know about it. In this way, the course represents a cornerstone of liberal education. Works to be covered include the whole of Plato's Republic, major parts of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, and texts from Thomas Aquinas exemplifying the Christian appropriation of ancient ethical thought. Fall and Spring.

2141 Philosophy Colloquium:  A weekly forum for discussing philosophical topics not normally encountered in the first two years of undergraduate studies. Oral presentations selected for their interest and accessibility. Speakers include faculty members, visiting lecturers, and students. Highly recommended for majors. Visitors are welcome. Graded Pass/No Pass. May be repeated. Fall and Spring.

2323 The Human Person:  What does it mean to be human? Is there soul and, if so,what is it? In light of contemporary reductive materialism and its claims for the sufficiency of scientific naturalism, this course explores the relationship between nature and soul. In the classical philosophical understanding, the human person finds himself or herself in tension between the immanent spheres of nature (or body or history) and the call to a commitment to a transcendent dimension of reality—a transcendent dimension associated with psycheanima, mind, or spirit. The investigation includes an account of the parts and powers of the soul, such as sense, desire, intellect, and will. Readings feature texts by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, and Nietzsche. Prerequisite: Philosophy 1301. Fall and Spring.

3311 Philosophy of Being:  Is the universe an intelligible Whole or a chaos, an unintelligible aggregate of "All"? If the former, what are the origins of such intelligibility: is it founded in metaphysical structure of being, or in the ordering power of the human mind? Addressing these questions will take us a long way toward discovering whether wisdom, conceived as the comprehensive understanding of reality in light of its first principles and causes, is available through philosophic inquiry. Such metaphysical considerations also open the door to reflection on the order of learning and on the unity of the arts and sciences. As students follow their curriculum into a major course of studies, this course offers the opportunity to wonder about the place of their disciplines within the broader consideration of being and wisdom. The course revolves around four key thinkers—Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, and Heidegger. Prerequisite: Philosophy 1301. Fall and Spring.

3329 American Philosophy:  A study of major thinkers and trends in philosophy in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries, such as Thoreau, Emerson, Peirce, James, Dewey, neo-positivism, analytic philosophy, and American movements influenced by continental European philosophy. Offered as needed.

3332 Aesthetics:  The philosophy of art and beauty. An examination of questions concerning beauty as a transcendental, artistic production, the work of art, the appreciation of art and beauty, and the place of art in human life. Classical positions on these questions from Plato to Heidegger. Spring.

3334 Business Ethics:  Analysis of moral issues in the contemporary business world from the viewpoints of major philosophical traditions. Topics such as: moral theories and the nature of business; obligations in business relationships; using principles and cases to guide business practices; contemporary corporate culture and its social context; justice in international trade. Fall and Spring.

3335 Philosophy of Education (Education 3335):  Consideration of themes such as the nature of the student and of the teacher, goals of education, curriculum and methodology, the nature and division of knowledge, education and the common good. Inquiry is cast in the light of more fundamental considerations such as the nature of the human person, of mind, of being, and of the good, chiefly through the study of classical texts of the Western philosophical tradition (e.g., Plato's Republic and Rousseau's Emile). Attention given to contemporary issues in education in light of these prior inquiries. Fall.

3339 Logic: Introduction to logic. Emphasis on expressing and evaluating natural language statements and arguments using formal systems; methods for validating arguments; the value and limits of logic. Fall.

3343 From Ancient to Medieval Philosophy:  This course follows the development of Platonic and Aristotelian thought from their pre-Socratic origins through the twelfth century. Plato’s attention to pre-Socratic thinkers and his fertile exploration of philosophical methods, styles, and ideas. The schools and systems of post-Platonic antiquity, especially Aristotle and Plotinus. Platonic thought in Hellenistic Judaism and in the formation of the Christian intellectual tradition. The development of Platonic and Aristotelian themes by Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thinkers. The origins of scholasticism. Spring.

3344 From Medieval to Modern Philosophy:  This course examines the changes in the understanding of philosophy and philosophical activity from the time of Europe’s recovery of Aristotle (ca. 1200) until the conclusion of the first phase of the Scientific Revolution (ca. 1700). It explores the differences among and between the scholastic philosophers and the early modern empiricists and rationalists. Thinkers to be studied will include figures such as Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, and Benedict Spinoza. Topics to be investigated include the changing conceptions of the natural world, differing accounts of the human being and of human knowledge, alternative understandings of the divine, different interpretations of moral-political action, the changing relations between philosophy and science, and the competing accounts of the relations between philosophy and religious faith. Fall.

3345 From Modern to Postmodern Philosophy:  This course follows the development of Western philosophy from the 17th to the early 20th century. Exploration of the contrast between empiricism (Locke, Hume) and rationalism (Spinoza, Leibniz, Wolff) as a background to Kant’s “Copernican revolution.” In-depth study of Kant’s transcendental idealism, followed by a consideration of German Idealism—in particular, Hegel—as a response to Kant’s critique of metaphysics. The rejection of German Idealism by figures such as Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. The early Heidegger’s attempt to revive the question of Being phenomenologically. Spring.

3346 Contemporary Philosophical Approaches: In this course students will investigate contemporary philosophical approaches to a related set of topics rooted in three traditions: Continental, Analytic, and Thomistic, broadly construed. This tripartite structure provides students with opportunities to become familiar with three significant 20th- or 21st-century thinkers, to enter into the different approaches that they embody, to recognize the richness of each approach, and to integrate these approaches into their own thought. Fall.

3347 Analytic Philosophy:  What unifies recent styles of Anglo-American philosophy? One common (though controversial) answer is that they aspire to attain with regard to perennial philosophical problems the clarity and precision that characterize contemporary logic. This course offers a broad survey of the tradition of analytic philosophy, ranging from its origins in figures such as Russell and Wittgenstein to some ongoing debates in metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics, and metaethics. Fall.

3348 Continental Tradition: The tradition of continental philosophy, like the analytic tradition with which it is usually contrasted, conceived twentieth-century thought as breaking with the past; unlike analysis, it mined the past to help differentiate philosophy from science, to articulate fundamental contingencies of human understanding and existence, and to reveal structures of consciousness other, and perhaps more basic, than logic. This course explores the origins and development of the continental tradition by considering its various strands (like phenomenology, structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, hermeneutics, critical theory, post-structuralism, and postmodernism) and their interactions. Fall.

3351 Junior Seminar:  Extensive reading in the works of a single philosopher or philosophical movement, to be determined by the department. Major objectives are to gain the habit of sustained philosophical discussion and to appreciate the breadth and depth of philosophical thought by concentrating on a single thinker or movement. The seminar format requires a research practicum resulting in a major paper, formal oral and written presentations, and sustained discussion with fellow students and the seminar director throughout the course. Required of junior philosophy majors; others admitted with permission of the Chairman. Spring.

4331 Epistemology:  The philosophy of knowledge. The critical problem as it developed in Western philosophy after Descartes. Metaphysical realism; a theory of judgment and truth; symbol and myth in man's cognitive life; types of knowledge such as mathematical, poetic, historic, religious. 

43XX Philosophy of Technology:  Since the advent of industrialization it has become clear that modern technology is not simply tools and instruments, nor merely the application of scientific principles to human practice and production in fundamental ways. This course examines the nature and scope of technology with the aim of understanding its contemporary manifestations and their causes. Offered as needed.

4333 Philosophy of Science:  Study of the nature, methods, and principles of modern science. Treatment of topics such as the nature of facts, laws, and theories; the role of mathematics in science; explanation, description, and proof; the philosophical presuppositions of realism and other approaches to nature; rationality of scientific change; philosophic problems posed by relativity and evolution. Offered as needed.

4334 Bioethics:  Analysis of contemporary moral issues in the biomedical sciences and biotechnology from the viewpoints of major philosophical traditions. Treatment of topics such as moral theories and scientific knowing; ethical questions and principles; stages of moral development and the law of reason; realists, relativists, determinists, emotivists; moral dilemmas; axiology; obligations in the healing relationship; ethical "work-up" procedures. Spring.

4335 Philosophy of Language:  Study of the nature and kinds of language, with particular attention to syntactical, semantic, and logical characteristics. Examination of major past and contemporary theories. Offered as needed.

4336 Ethics:  Systematic treatment of ethics and morality with an overview of major ethical theories. Treatment of topics such as the nature and categories of human motivation; the nature of values and moral values; dimensions of human freedom; human acts as bearers of morality; the sources and forms of moral goodness, moral evil, and moral obligation; evaluations of major theories; specific nature of Christian ethics. Fall.

4337 Philosophy of God:  Religious experience and its explication in natural theology. Historical factors in the development of the Philosophy of God. Speculative and practical proofs of God's existence; the nature of God. The contemporary challenge, especially from naturalism, positivism, and language philosophy. The relations between God and the world. Spring.

4339 Information Ethics: The digital revolution is a further step in the exteriorization of human thought and memory: ideas and information are no longer shared simply in the medium of speech (as in oral cultures), in handwriting (as in literate cultures that employ scrolls or manuscripts), or in print (as in the world after Gutenberg), but rather through digital storage devices and screens. What are the effects of this transition for the human mind and for society? How does digitalization affect human activities and their evaluation, ranging from teaching and learning to war? Are we seeing the rise of a new subjectivity, one devoid—for example—of a private sphere and personal agency? Offered as needed.

4340 Thomas Aquinas: Synthetic consideration, based on primary texts, of Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy in several of its dimensions, such as metaphysics, natural theology, anthropology, ethics, and epistemology. Offered every other year

4341 Senior Seminar:  Intensive study of a philosophical problem or issue, to be determined by the department. Seminar format with discussions, presentations, and reviews. Special emphasis on the preparation of the senior thesis due in the spring of the senior year. Required of senior philosophy majors. Fall.

4342 Senior Thesis:  A continuation of 4341 required of philosophy majors in the spring semester of the senior year. Research, writing, and presentation of the senior thesis paper, and occasional consultation with the thesis advisor to discuss and evaluate work in progress. Prerequisite: Philosophy 4341. Spring.

4350–4359 Special Courses:  Established according to the interests of professors and the desires of students. Advanced students only. Offered as needed.

4360 Directed Readings and Research:  Special programs of inquiry, approved by the Chairman, determined by mutual consent of student and professor. For advanced students only. Offered as needed.

5311 Philosophy of Law:  The concept of right and its different kinds; the moral law and its ground; the positive law of the state and the authority on which it is based; the a priori foundations of civil law; legal and moral punishment. Offered as needed.

5321 Philosophy of History:  The nature of historical knowledge and the problem of historical interpretation. Great theories of history, both classical and contemporary. Christian and pagan views. Offered as needed.

53XX Philosophy of Religion:  The tasks of the Philosophy of Religion as distinguished from the Philosophy of God. Nature of religious experience; theories about the origin of religion and their critiques. Major issues in the study of religion such as: the relationship between religion and morality; natural and supernatural religion; subjective and objective elements in religion; man's eternal quest of God through religion; the ordination of man to God. Offered as needed.

5341 Asian Thought:  A study of three leading traditions of Asian thought: Hinduism, Chinese thought, and Buddhism. Texts selected from Hinduism may include the Rig Veda, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita; from Chinese thought works of Confucius, Mencius, Lao-tzu; and from Buddhism selections from the Hinayana and Mahayana traditions. Secondary literature on the historical, cultural, and linguistic background of these traditions. The role of Asian thought in thinkers like Nietzsche and Heidegger. Offered as needed.

5351 Analytic Tradition:  Analytical techniques and standards; the origins of modern philosophical analysis in mathematical logic (e.g., Frege and Russell); science and logical positivism (e.g., Ayer and Carnap); ordinary language philosophy (e.g., later Wittgenstein, Strawson, and Austin). Offered as needed.

5361 Scholastic Tradition:  An overview of Scholastic thought with a study of selected major figures and works from the medieval to the contemporary world. Offered as needed.

5371 Phenomenological Tradition:  The origins of phenomenology and the achievement of Husserl; the ideal of returning to the "things themselves"; the division between realist and transcendental phenomenology; the relation of phenomenology to the Western tradition of metaphysics. Offered as needed.

5381–5389 Senior/Graduate Elective:  Offered according to the interests of professors and the needs of students. Enrollment is open to advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students, with the approval of the Chairman. Offered as needed.



Opening the Imagination to Beauty

We teachers dream of reaching our students, of sharing our passion for what we have learned with eager, intelligent, receptive students. Alas! how rarely most of us seem to...

+ Read More