Philosophy Major

Philosophy develops tools for critical inquiry, explores how knowledge is acquired, and examines how diverse forms of knowledge (e.g., scientific, humanistic, religious) both conflict with and complement one another. Philosophy further examines the nature of values and how diverse values define ethical, political and religious beliefs.

The philosophy major consists of 30 credit hours in the department, which includes Capstone Research Seminar. Students need to complete five upper-level courses, which include 300 level courses and HPRL 493: Capstone Research Seminar. The philosophy major requires a minimum of 30 credit hours.

All prerequisites must be completed prior to enrollment in the following courses.

Introductory Course (3 hrs.)

PHIL 100: Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking
3 credit hours

This course helps students learn to think clearly, concisely and analytically, through a familiarity with the reasoning methods of logic in terms of learning how to define terms, formulate arguments and analyze statements critically and objectively. The course deals with the language of logic and the methods of deductive and inductive reasoning.

Choose one course from the following (3 hrs.)

PHIL 101: The Meaning of Life
3 credit hours

The meaning of life is a question that all people confront at some point in their lives. This course will take up this question, reading selections from the writings of great thinkers in both the Eastern and Western intellectual traditions, and using the tools of conceptual analysis and critique to assess the various answers that have been given to it. The following is a partial list of themes that will be covered during the course of a semester. The course seeks to provide students with an introduction to the fundamental issues at stake, along with the means for assessing these issues. The aim is to get students to reflect on their lives and what makes them meaningful, and then to articulate their own vision of a meaningful life.

PHIL 200: Classical Problems in Philosophy
3 credit hours

An introductory survey of a number of perennial philosophical questions such as “How can a physical body produce a mind?” “Does free will exist?” “What is the self?” “Can we know if God exists?” and “Is there really an external world?” Offered annually. This course has been approved as an Honors qualified course.

Ethics (3 hrs.)
Choose one course from the following:

PHIL 305: Ethical Issues in Health Care
3 credit hours

This course explores the ethical dilemmas confronting contemporary medicine. It both inquires into a broad range of topics (abortion, euthanasia, health-care costs, organ transplantation, etc.) and provides a thorough study of ethical theories that may be applied to address the dilemmas of modern medicine.

RELG 309: Christian Ethics
3 credit hours

This course explores the biblical resources for Christian moral decision-making, examines the historical development of moral theology (from the early church through the twentieth century) and addresses selected moral issues.

PHIL 310: Asian Ethics
3 credit hours

In this course, students will be expected to confront, reflect on, and critically think through the central ethical traditions as offered by the West and then work to see if these traditions find analogues in the Eastern Asian tradition. Specifically, this course will require a close examination of western ethical theories and then a close reading and examination of the central texts of Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism.

PHIL 316: Ethics
3 credit hours

Students will be expected to confront, reflect on, compare and contrast, apply, and critically think through, the central ethical traditions offered throughout human history— particularly virtue ethics, deontology, and consequentialism. The course begins with a discussion of critical questions relevant to the study of ethics, such as relativism, human nature, and free will, then turns to examining the main theories and ends with criticisms of ethics.

PHIL 320: Environmental Ethics
3 credit hours

This course seeks to develop a better understanding of both the factual and ethical dimensions of our current and possible future environments. Explores several contemporary approaches in environmental ethics (including deep ecology, ecofeminism, animal rights, market efficiencies, the loss of biodiversity and responses from deontological, utilitarian and virtue ethics, etc.) and representative theoretical problems (e.g., Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” vs. natural rights views, ecological holism vs. moral atomism, market efficiency vs. moral obligations, etc.). Using a case-study approach, students then learn to apply different ethical frameworks to several ethical choices occasioned by human interaction with the natural order.

History of Philosophy (6 hrs.)

PHIL 300: Ancient Greek to Medieval Philosophy: Socrates to Aquinas
3 credit hours

An introduction to the prominent figures and doctrinal developments in the history of philosophy from the ancient Greek philosophers to Medieval philosophy. The course focuses on the primary texts of the pre-Socratics, the Sophists, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, among others, examining their reflections on metaphysics, science and epistemology, as well as ethics and political philosophy.

PHIL 313: Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant
3 credit hours

A thorough examination of the period of philosophy stretching from the late 1500s to the late 1700s. We will critically analyze original works by Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. Attention will be given to questions concerning the nature of mind, metaphysics and epistemology.

Non-Western Philosophy (3 hrs.)
Choose one course from the following:

PHIL 218: Confucianism
3 credit hours

In this course we will study the ancient pre-Qin Confucian ethical tradition, concentrating first on the classic Four Books -Confucius’ Analects, the Mengzi, the Daxue (the ‘Great Learning’) and the Zhongyong (the ‘Doctrine of the Mean’) and then moving to the last pre-Qin Confucian work, the Xunzi. Once we have completed this fundamental survey, we will turn to selected works from later neo-Confucians and then turn for the last part of the course to an application of the Confucian ethical tradition to the modern world, specifically looking at political questions emerging in modern Asian societies.

PHIL 219: Daoism
3 credit hours

Whereas modern Western ethical theories and philosophers spend a great deal of time focused on understanding what kinds of actions people ought to perform, ancient Eastern thinkers focus instead of what one should be, and on the kind of overall life that a person ought to live. In other words, ancient thinkers tend to focus more on developing character (or virtue) than on foregrounding action. Of those ancient Eastern philosophies, the most well- known are Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. In this course, we will concentrate closely on Daoism, focusing on understanding the kinds of people that this philosophy seems to suggest that we ought to embrace becoming more like (the “sage”). As we will see, Daoist writings place a great deal of emphasis on naturalness (ziran), a way of achieving a state of ‘flow’ (or harmony) with the natural world that rests on developing a number of key virtues or character traits such as emptiness, receptivity, and compassion. In this course we will strive to understand how the philosophical Daoists understood (in different ways) these key aims by centering on the two most famous Daoist texts, the Daodejing (~500 B.C.E) and the Zhuangzi (~300 B.C.E). As we proceed through these difficult and challenging texts, you will be expected to use these ancient philosophies as a springboard for thinking critically your own beliefs regarding the constitution of a truly authentic lifestyle.

PHIL 310: Asian Ethics
3 credit hours

In this course, students will be expected to confront, reflect on, and critically think through the central ethical traditions as offered by the West and then work to see if these traditions find analogues in the Eastern Asian tradition. Specifically, this course will require a close examination of western ethical theories and then a close reading and examination of the central texts of Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism.

RELG 315: Buddhism and the Joy of Being Awake
3 credit hours

An in-depth study of Buddhism through the critical reading of primary source texts in translation. The course examines the conceptual framework of early Buddhist understandings of an overall worldview, ultimate Reality, the origin, nature and destiny of the cosmos, and of human beings as well, the human condition, the ultimate aim of human existence and a prescription for actualizing that goal. The course then explores the subsequent historical and doctrinal developments of Theravada, Mahayana, Zen and Vajrayana Buddhism. The course concludes with a look at contemporary Buddhism, its presence in the West, and its modern challenges, some contemporary Buddhist political leaders, and the lives and contributions of Buddhist women.

PHIL 290, 390, 490: Selected Topics
1-3 credit hours

Selected Topics are courses of an experimental nature that provide students a wide variety of study opportunities and experiences. Selected Topics offer both the department and the students the opportunity to explore areas of special interest in a structured classroom setting. Selected Topics courses (course numbers 290, 390, 490) will have variable titles and vary in credit from 1-3 semester hours. Selected Topic courses may not be taken as a Directed Study offering.

Electives (9 hrs.)
Choose three courses from the following:

PHIL 214: Free Will
3 credit hours

No question in the history of philosophy has been debated for a longer period of time than the free will problem. Are we merely dominoes falling in accordance with fate, history, causation, genetics, or socialization; or are we the “final arbiters of our own wills”? The question of human freedom goes right to the center of the meaningfulness of our very existences - after all, if we are not free, what is the point of making decisions, formulating life plans and striving for goals? Throughout this course we will survey all of the major “camps” in the free will debate. Along the way you will learn that each camp, in providing its own answer to the debate, also reveals further and perhaps more disturbing problems and issues.

PHIL 216: What is Knowledge?
3 credit hours

Every discipline (whether the sciences, humanities or social sciences) makes claims to knowledge that practitioners in those disciplines take seriously. Consequently, any serious practitioner of a discipline must ask: “How does my discipline define knowledge and so make claims about what is true? What are the limits, strengths and weaknesses of such methods of knowing?” Clearly, not all claims to knowledge are equally worthy of our assent, so it is crucial that a practitioner of any field be able to investigate these questions. Armed with such an understanding of knowledge, a practitioner of any field is given the tools to be more critical of the claims of his/her own field and those of others. Given these concerns and questions, in this foundational course we will survey the various origins and sources of knowledge, the different ways in which knowledge could be justified, the limits and possibilities of those various approaches and the ways in which skepticism about knowledge can be generated as well as avoided when different methods of knowledge are employed.  This course has been approved as an Honors qualified course.

PHIL 277: Philosophy of Science
3 credit hours

Our world is embedded within a powerful narrative that sees science as the epistemic path towards understanding what reality is and how it behaves, providing science with a tremendous amount of authority and power in modern discourse (cultural, scientific, and interpersonal). Is this power and authority legitimate? In this course we will analyze science philosophically, questioning the assumptions underlying the scientific method, asking whether science is objective or value neutral, and asking whether science makes historical progress, or whether science can ever reveal anything to us about the true nature of reality itself.

PHIL 314: Contemporary European Philosophy
3 credit hours

A study of the most prominent types of philosophy and their influence in contemporary Europe. The course begins with Nietzsche, Husserl and Heidegger, and works through the reaction to their work in Critical Theory, Derrida, Foucault, Levinas and others. The course seeks to provide students with an understanding of the philosophical issues and the impact of philosophy on European culture.

PHIL 317: Single Philosopher
3 credit hours

Prerequisite: Sophomore status or higher.
This course provides an in-depth study of a single philosopher. May be repeated when philosophers vary.

PHIL 336: Philosophy of the Self
3 credit hours

Although many tend to treat selfhood and its structure as an obvious given, philosophers have developed a complicated variety of doctrines to talk about what selves are and how our modern idea of the self-came into existence. In this course, students will survey this rich philosophical history.

PHIL 351: Existentialism in Philosophy, Film and Literature
3 credit hours

Does life have a meaning? If not, then what’s the point of living? In this course we will study the movement known as existentialism, famous for exploring these questions. We will read various philosophers; such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre; watch four existential films; such as Kirosawa’s Ikiru and read four literary works that deal with existential themes; such as Dostoyevski’s Notes from the Underground.

PHIL 374: Philosophy of Mind
3 credit hours

One of the most perplexing problems to haunt philosophy, but particularly since the 1600s, is the mind-body problem. Fundamentally, we will concern ourselves with investigating the (purported) connection between consciousness (the mind) and the physical world (specifically, the body). In this course, we will engage in a very in-depth theoretical investigation into the (perhaps limited) degree to which psychology can explain consciousness, and relatedly whether a complete study of consciousness necessarily requires inquiries outside of science as a whole, whether a coherent explanation of consciousness permits or rejects traditional notions of free will, how information and consciousness are related, the degree to which artificial intelligence (the creation of consciousness) is possible and the possibility of forging a link between explaining consciousness and understanding foundational metaphysics.

PHIL 376: Philosophy of Religion
3 credit hours

A critical examination of some of the major interpretations of God, humanity, evil, human destiny and history, and immortality. Each student is encouraged to work out a personal constructive philosophy of religion.

PHIL 290, 390, 490: Selected Topics
1-3 credit hours

Selected Topics are courses of an experimental nature that provide students a wide variety of study opportunities and experiences. Selected Topics offer both the department and the students the opportunity to explore areas of special interest in a structured classroom setting. Selected Topics courses (course numbers 290, 390, 490) will have variable titles and vary in credit from 1-3 semester hours. Selected Topic courses may not be taken as a Directed Study offering.

PHIL 291, 391, 491: Research
Variable credit hours

Many academic departments offer special research or investigative projects beyond the regular catalog offering. Significant responsibility lies with the student to work independently to develop a proposal for study that must be approved by a faculty mentor and the appropriate department chair. The faculty member will provide counsel through the study and will evaluate the student’s performance. Sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible. Students must register for research (291, 292, 391, 392, 491 or 492) to receive credit and are required to fill out a Permission to Register for Special Coursework form. It is recommended that students complete not more than 12 hours of research to apply toward the baccalaureate degree.

PHIL 397, 497: Internship
Varies credit hours

Interns must have at least 60 credit hours, completed appropriate coursework and have a minimum GPA of 2.5 prior to registering for academic credit. Also, approval must be obtained from the student's faculty sponsor and required forms must be completed by the deadline. Note: *Architecture, Music Therapy and Education majors do not register internships through Career Planning & Development. These students need to speak with his/her advisor regarding credit requirements and options. S/U grading.

PHIL 495: Honors Research
Variable credit hours

Many academic departments offer special research or investigative projects beyond the regular catalog offering. Significant responsibility lies with the student to work independently to develop a proposal for study that must be approved by a faculty mentor and the appropriate department chair. The faculty member will provide counsel through the study and will evaluate the student’s performance. Sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible. Students must register for research (291, 292, 391, 392, 491 or 492) to receive credit and are required to fill out a Permission to Register for Special Coursework form. It is recommended that students complete not more than 12 hours of research to apply toward the baccalaureate degree. This course has been approved as an Honors qualified course.

PLSC 253: Political Philosophy
3 credit hours

This course is a foundational exploration of the key theories and principles of political philosophy, including the discussion of the issues of political authority, the justification of the state and its coercive power, social contract theories and the role of consent, rights and justice, civil disobedience, race and gender, issues that shaped political and moral thinking from antiquity to the present. Students will have the opportunity to read and discuss authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Rousseau, Mill, and John Rawls. Attention will also be given to contemporary discussions of these issues.

Capstone Course

HPRL 493: Capstone Research Seminar
3 credit hours

Prerequisite: At least two upper-level HIST courses before enrolling in HPRL 493: Capstone Research Seminar.
In this senior capstone seminar, students design and direct a research project as a culminating experience. Students choose, contextualize, and explicate a series of documents, artifacts, and/or images to shape an argument. Through the process, students demonstrate strong research, writing, and interpretive skills. As a result each student produces a 16-18 page paper and presents at the Capstone Conference. This course fulfills the Core Engaged Learning requirement. Offered fall only.