Philosophy (PHI)

Academic Catalog 2010–2011

  • Deane Curtin, Chairperson
  • Kara Barnette (Visiting, 2010–2011)
  • George Georgacarakos
  • Lisa Heldke (On leave, Fall 2010)
  • Douglas Huff
  • Margaret O’Connor
  • Ron Yezzi (Visiting, 2010–2011)

The Department of Philosophy offers a unique opportunity for the serious student. Its courses enable the student to come to an understanding of the historical traditions that shape fundamental issues in religion, morality, metaphysics, and epistemology; in addition, courses in philosophy are designed to allow students to acquire an increased measure of conceptual clarity, as well as rational belief of their own, about these fundamental issues. The department is also committed to assisting students to reflect on living responsibly in the contemporary world.

A major or a minor in Philosophy is recommended to all students who desire to pursue graduate study in any of the disciplines in the humanities or social sciences, and also to those who expect to enter one of the professions—especially law, the ministry, or teaching.

The Philosophy Department strongly encourages its majors and minors to take advantage of the College’s international study programs. Professor Lisa Heldke is the academic adviser for the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA). Students should consult with faculty in advance to be sure that courses taken abroad will count toward the major or minor.

Major in Philosophy:

The Philosophy major consists of a minimum of nine courses in Philosophy chosen in consultation with a departmental adviser, including PHI-201, PHI-202, and one 300 level class (PHI-370 or PHI-371). Majors should complete PHI-201 and PHI-202 before enrolling in a 300-level class. No more than two 100-level courses will count toward a major. A minimum grade of C– is required for all courses counting toward the major. Majors are encouraged to study at least two years of a foreign language.

Students should consult with their faculty adviser on a focus with the major. Possible sequences include:

  1. Ethics/Value Theory: Individual and Community, Individual and Morality (CII), Philosophies of the Environment, Racism and Sexism, Ethical Theory, Applied Ethics, Philosophy of Art, Philosophy of religion, Social and Political Philosophy, Ethics of International Development, Buddhist Philosophy.
  2. History of Philosophy: The Great Philosophers, Mind and Matter, Ancient Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, Contemporary Analytic Philosophy, Existentialism, American Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy.
  3. Metaphysics/Epistemology: The Great Philosophers, Mind and matter, Ancient Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, Contemporary Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of the Mind, Philosophy of Science, Formal Logic.
  4. Philosophical Critiques of the Western Philosophical Tradition: Philosophies of the Environment, Racism and Sexism, Feminist Philosophy, Ethics of International Development, Buddhist Philosophy.


PHI-201 or PHI-202, and four additional courses selected in consultation with a departmental adviser. A minimum grade of C– is required for all courses counting toward the minor. No more than two 100 level courses will count toward the minor.

Honors Program in Philosophy:

Students who anticipate application to graduate schools in Philosophy should pursue the Honors major since it represents the type of course sequence that will make a strong case for admission to Philosophy graduate programs. The Philosophy major with Honors consists of a minimum of ten courses chosen in consultation with a faculty adviser. The Honors sequence includes: PHI-201, PHI-202, PHI-233 or PHI-234, PHI-236, PHI-246, and two 300 level courses (PHI-370 and/or PHI-371). Honors majors should complete PHI-201 and PHI-202 before enrolling in the 300 level courses. No more than two 100 level courses will count toward the Honors major. A minimum grade of C- is required for all courses counting toward the major.

Majors wishing to graduate in Philosophy with Honors should applying writing to the department chair before May 1 of the junior year. Applicants must have at least a 3.2 overall grade point average and a 3.5 average in Philosophy courses at the time of application.

The application should include the following information:

  1. Overall grade point average and average in Philosophy at the time of application;
  2. List of the ten or more Philosophy classes that will count toward graduation with Honors; and
  3. Statement of reasons for wishing to take part in the Honors program, (e.g., it will provide preparation for graduate school).
  4. A specific plan for research and regular consultation with the professor offering one of the 300 level classes during the senior year will be presented. This will include a research program that allows the student to complete an honors paper prior to the state student philosophy conference, with is usually held in April.

The Honors paper will be presented orally to the department and to the state student philosophy conference. Significant revisions may be required at the discretion of the faculty.

Course Levels: Courses numbered below 200 are considered introductory and require no previous coursework in Philosophy. Courses numbered in the 200s are considered intermediate level, and generally at least one course at the introductory level is advisable before enrolling in them. Prospective majors and minors, however, should consult with members of the department about starting directly with PHI-201 or PHI-202. Courses numbered in the 300s are advanced courses for students with substantial previous coursework in philosophy. A selection of introductory courses is offered each semester. Please consult registration materials for specific information.

102Racism and Sexism(1 course) A philosophical exploration of the concepts of race and gender, with an emphasis upon the nature of racism and sexism. Questions to be considered include: Are the categories of race and gender constructed or “natural”? How have philosophers used these categories to justify and explain the hierarchical structures of societies? How can individuals engage in constructive resistance to racism and sexism? This course counts toward fulfillment of the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies major/minor and Peace Studies minor. HIPHI, WRITI. Offered occasionally.

103Mind and Matter(1 course) A critical introduction to the traditional and contemporary problems and issues surrounding the nature of mind and matter. Topics that may be included are the distinction between mind and body, the existence of other minds, the existence of matter, the nature of causation, free will and determinism, personal immortality, and computer simulation and artificial intelligence. HIPHI. Offered occasionally.

104The Individual and Community(1 course) This course explores topics of moral and political philosophy by focusing on the dynamic between the individual and the community. Typical questions include: What is the extent of legitimate authority that a community has over an individual? What obligations does a citizen have toward a government? Under what conditions, if any, is civil disobedience justifiable? What is the role of education in creating a citizenry? Emphasis is generally given to classic texts such as Plato’s Apology or Rousseau’s The Social Contract. HIPHI, WRITI. Offered occasionally.

105School and Society(1 course) How is education used to promote the status quo? How do schools support and reproduce societies in the process of producing “good students”? Conversely, how can education be used to bring about changes in a society? In this course, we’ll explore education both as a tool for preserving the status quo and as a mechanism for social and political change. This course counts toward fulfillment of the Peace Studies minor. HIPHI, WRITI. Offered occasionally.

108Great Philosophers(1 course) This course introduces students to philosophy by examining some of the writings of philosophical greats, such as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, and Wittgenstein. The issues considered may include: Does God exist? What is knowledge and how can we acquire it? What is the meaning of life? What is the “good life”? HIPHI. Offered occasionally.

109Philosophies of the Environment(1 course) This course examines the ways in which contemporary attitudes toward the environment developed as well as alternative philosophical theories of the environment. Issues include the treatment of nonhuman animals, instrumental vs. intrinsic theories of environmental value, the impact of “first world” environmental perspectives on Third World peoples, and women’s perspectives on the environment. Alternative approaches include Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, deep ecology, and eco-feminism. This course counts toward fulfillment of the Environmental Studies major and the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies major/minor. HIPHI, WRITI. Spring semester.

201Ancient Philosophy(1 course) Philosophy began in ancient Greece, and the problems that these first philosophers raised are still profound and significant. There are characteristically Greek philosophical problems: the nature of the soul, the state, the good, and the nature of reality. However, Greek philosophy is also a distinctive way of thinking about these problems. This course will focus on Greek modes of thought by examining in some detail its two principal representatives, Plato and Aristotle. Some attention may also be given to pre-Socratic, Hellenistic, and Roman philosophers. HIPHI, Fall semester.

202Modern Philosophy(1 course) The questions of modern philosophy are among the most perennial questions in Western thought. What is the relation between minds and bodies? What is a substance? What is the nature of knowledge? Can we know anything with certainty-even our own existence? This course surveys the works of several major figures in European philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries, including Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Conway, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. HIPHI, WRITD, Spring semester.

233American Philosophy(1 course) An exploration of philosophy in the United States from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries. Issues to be discussed may include: philosophical responses to slavery, conceptions of the individual and the community, and the nature of knowledge and truth. Philosophers may include Emerson, DuBois, Peirce, James, Dewey, Goldman, Addams, and Alain Locke. HIPHI, WRITD, Fall semester, even years.

230Buddhist Philosophy(1 course) This course examines Buddhist philosophy from its origins in India 2500 years ago, through its migration to China and Japan, and in its contemporary forms around the world. The principal focus will be on Mahayana philosophies of emptiness (Nagarjuna) and compassion (Shantideva). These philosophies will be traced in relation to their cultural and historical backgrounds as Buddhism evolved across Asia. The course concludes with examination of Buddhism in the contemporary world as seen in such figures and the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh with emphasis on Buddhism and social/environmental activism. HIPHI, NWEST, WRITI, Fall semester.

234Contemporary Analytic Philosophy(1 course) A study of some of the major developments in philosophy during the 20th century. Philosophers examined typically include Russell, Moore, Whitehead, Carnap, Ayer, Wittgenstein, Austin, Ryle, Quine, and others. Prerequisite: PHI-202. Fall semester, odd years.

235Existentialism(1 course) A survey of the prominent existentialist literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. Writers examined may include Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Berdyaev, Heidegger, Jaspers, Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset, Marcel, Camus, Sartre, and Tillich. HIPHI. Fall semester, odd years.

236Formal Logic(1 course) This course is concerned with a vigorous examination of the concepts of validity, consistency, logical equivalence, and law of logic from both syntactic and semantic points of view. Criteria for the evaluation of arguments in natural language are developed by making use of artificial languages and the techniques of formalization. The course includes a treatment of statement logic (propositional logic) and predicate logic. MATHL, Spring semester.

240Philosophy of Religion(1 course) A philosophical scrutiny of some of the central concepts and doctrines of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, seeking understanding of the peculiar logic and function of religious discourse through readings and discussions of the thought of outstanding philosophers and theologians with respect to such topics as the existence of God, religion and myth, faith and reason, the problem of evil, and life after death. Spring semester, odd years.

241Philosophy of Art(1 course) An analysis of the concepts employed in aesthetic judgment and a critical scrutiny of some possible methods of verifying or justifying aesthetic claims requiring those concepts in their formulation. Philosophies of beauty, creativity, and the arts are surveyed and critically examined. ARTS, WRITI, Spring semester, odd years.

243The Ethics of International Development(1 course) Peoples of the Third World outnumber those of the “first world” by a ratio of six to one. Some of the most urgent international moral questions are those concerning relationships between these groups. Moral issues in international development include the following: Do all people have “basic rights” to safe food, clean water, adequate health care, and a healthy environment? What are the responsibilities of first-world consumers to Third World producers? Can the rich help the poor without reproducing relations of dependence? This course focuses in particular on the roles of women in community development. This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. HIPHI, NWEST, WRITI, Spring semester, even years.

244, 344Special Topics(1 course, 1 course) Special topics in philosophy. Content will vary from semester to semester. Courses will explore a topic or problem in depth and students will read, discuss, and write. More than one special topic may be taken. Fall and/or Spring semesters.

245Social and Political Philosophy(1 course) An examination of some classical and recent views of the individual and society. Typical issues addressed include: What is the nature and function of the state? On what basis do states derive their authority? Under what circumstances are states justified in curtailing individual liberty? What individual rights are inviolable? Spring semester, odd years.

246Ethical Theory(1 course) A detailed examination of selected topics of central importance to ethical theory, such as freedom, responsibility, rationality, good, bad, right, wrong, duty, obligation, virtue, and happiness. HIPHI, WRITI, Fall semester.

247Applied Ethics(1 course) Most of the decisions we make and the actions we undertake have moral implications and involve the use of moral reasoning. When I go to the store to purchase a pair of tennis shoes, am I willing to buy a pair of shoes costing close to ninety dollars, but produced by a Korean worker who is paid pennies an hour? When I hear a racist remark, do I speak up? Do I drop off food at a food bank or make charitable donations? How do I engage in a disagreement about core values? These situations are so common and ordinary that we often forget or fail to see that they are moral in nature. Morality is pervasive and the use of moral reasoning ubiquitous. Engaging in moral practices requires skills, and one objective of this course is to equip students with particular skills that will enable them to think and act more creatively and constructively on moral matters. In this course, we will look at moral issues that are related to all of our lives such as human rights, justice and economic distribution, welfare, marriage, racism and sexism, and health care. HIPHI, Offered annually.

248Feminist Philosophy(1 course) An exploration of central issues in historical and contemporary feminist philosophy. The focus of the course will vary, and may be drawn from social and political philosophy, ethics, or epistemology. It will generally consider such issues as: “woman” as a socially-constructed category; the nature of women’s oppression; and the relations between gender, race, and class as they function as structures of domination. This course counts toward the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies major/minor and the Peace Studies minor. HIPHI, Spring semester, odd years.

251Philosophy of Science(1 course) An examination of the concepts, methodology, and scope of science. Topics typically studied include the positivist model of scientific theories, the observational-theoretical distinction, the underdetermination of theory, reductionism, antireductionism, supervenience, the structure of scientific explanation, historicism and revolutionary science, social constructivism, the genderization of scientific knowledge, and the realism-antirealism debate. HIPHI, Fall Semester, odd years.

370Advanced Studies Seminar: Great Philosophers(1 course) This course provides an intensive examination of the works of one of the great philosophers. Topics will be announced by the department. Offerings may include courses on Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, and Kant. Prerequisites: PHI-201 and 202. Either PHI-370 or 371 is offered each fall.

371Advanced Studies Seminar: Selected Topics(1 course) An intensive study of some problems or author in philosophy. The student is expected to demonstrate an ability for independent thinking, study, and research. Prerequisites: PHI-201 and 202. Either PHI-370 or 371 is offered each fall.

291, 391Independent Study in Philosophy(Course value to be determined) Fall and Spring semesters.