Philosophy

From reading the works of Plato and Aristotle to studying logic and phenomenology, the Department of Philosophy provides a broad-based learning experience. One of the arts and humanities disciplines in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the program also examines the intersection of philosophy with other subjects, including law, biomedicine, science, and politics.

Two options are offered for the major, both of which are designed to give a broad background in philosophy, but with somewhat different emphases. The first option reflects the traditional structure of the discipline and its subfields; it is especially (but not exclusively) recommended for those considering graduate study in philosophy. The second option is designed for those primarily interested in the relationship of philosophy to public affairs.

Professors D. DeGrazia (part-time), G. Weiss 

Associate Professors J.C. Brand-Ballard, M. Friend, T. Zawidzki (Chair)

Assistant Professors A. Archer, L. Papish, M. Ralkowski, E.J. Saidel, J. Trullinger, V.C. Wills

Adjunct Professors M. Sigrist, C. Venner

Affiliated Faculty D. Malone-France (UWP/Religion)

Professorial Lecturers N. Andonovski, R. Carr, M. Davis, L. Eby, D. Kirilov, C. Meyers, T. Wilk

Explanation of Course Numbers

  • Courses in the 1000s are primarily introductory undergraduate courses
  • Those in the 2000s to 4000s are upper-division undergraduate courses that can also be taken for graduate credit with permission and additional work
  • Those in the 6000s and 8000s are for master’s, doctoral, and professional-level students
  • The 6000s are open to advanced undergraduate students with approval of the instructor and the dean or advising office

PHIL 1000. Dean's Seminar. 3 Credits.

The Dean’s Seminars provide Columbian College first-year students focused scholarship on specific intellectual challenges. Topics vary by semester; see department for more details.

PHIL 1051. Introduction to Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Readings from major philosophers and study of their positions on the most basic questions of human life. Topics include such issues as: What is justice? What is knowledge? What is reality? Does God exist? What is the mind? Do humans have free will?.

PHIL 1062. Philosophy and Film. 3 Credits.

Philosophical problems and theories of perception, meaning, personal identity, and moral agency and their illustration in the context of cinema. Cinema and its derivatives (TV, video) as prime routes to experience of the natural and social worlds in an age of communication. Readings in classical and contemporary philosophy and in film theory; screening of a series of films.

PHIL 1153. The Meaning of Mind. 3 Credits.

Introductory course for students with no background in philosophy or the sciences of the mind. The central questions, assumptions, and hypotheses about the human mind. The nature of thought, consciousness, and self; knowledge of other minds; implications of the sciences of the mind for freedom of the will and responsibility; and the relationship between the mind and the brain.

PHIL 1193. Introduction to Existentialism. 3 Credits.

The philosophical themes of selfhood, mortality, authenticity, and ethical responsibility from an existentialist perspective, including the writings of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Camus, and Sartre. The place of existentialism in the history of philosophy.

PHIL 2045. Introduction to Logic. 3 Credits.

Introduction to informal logic, scientific argument, and formal logic. The informal logic component focuses on fallacies of reasoning and practical applications of logic. The formal logic component focuses on translation from English into propositional logic, truth tables, and proofs in propositional logic.

PHIL 2111. History of Ancient Philosophy. 3 Credits.

History of Western philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the Stoics (sixth century BCE to first century CE). Major emphasis on the writings of Plato and Aristotle. Among themes to be covered: knowledge and reality, political and moral philosophy.

PHIL 2111W. History of Ancient Philosophy. 3 Credits.

History of Western philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the Stoics (sixth century BCE to first century CE). Major emphasis on the writings of Plato and Aristotle. Among themes to be covered: knowledge and reality, political and moral philosophy. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement.

PHIL 2112. History of Modern Philosophy. 3 Credits.

History of Western philosophy of the 16th through 18th centuries; Continental Rationalism and British Empiricism from the scientific revolution through the Enlightenment; major emphasis on Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Prerequisite: PHIL 1051 .

PHIL 2124. Philosophies of Disability. 3 Credits.

Disability presents an intense and interesting challenge to traditional philosophical presuppositions and principles. This course examines various philosophical approaches to disability—historical, individual, and medical paradigms as well as those that rely on frameworks of social or human rights.

PHIL 2124W. Philosophies of Disability. 3 Credits.

Disability presents an intense and interesting challenge to traditional philosophical presuppositions and principles. This course examines various philosophical approaches to disability—historical, individual, and medical paradigms as well as those that rely on frameworks of social or human rights. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement.

PHIL 2125. Philosophy of Race and Gender. 3 Credits.

A theoretical examination of the bodily, social, discursive, and political effects of patriarchy, racism, and classism.

PHIL 2125W. Philosophy of Race and Gender. 3 Credits.

A theoretical examination of the bodily, social, discursive, and political effects of patriarchy, racism, and classism. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement.

PHIL 2131. Ethics: Theory and Applications. 3 Credits.

Examination of leading ethical theories (e.g., utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics), and methodology in ethics. Engagement with contemporary problems.

PHIL 2132. Social and Political Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Philosophical theories about how economic, political, legal, and cultural institutions should be arranged. Topics include the meaning and significance of liberty, the legitimate functions of government, the nature of rights, the moral significance of social inequality, and the meaning of democracy.

PHIL 2132W. Social and Political Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Philosophical theories about how economic, political, legal, and cultural institutions should be arranged. Topics include the meaning and significance of liberty, the legitimate functions of government, the nature of rights, the moral significance of social inequality, and the meaning of democracy. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement.

PHIL 2133. Philosophy and Nonviolence. 3 Credits.

Violence and nonviolence in the personal and social struggle for meaningful, just, and peaceful existence; philosophical foundations of pacifism and nonviolent resistance in the thought of Tolstoy, Gandhi, King, and others; philosophical inquiry into war, terrorism, genocide, and ethnic conflict, as well as human rights, humanitarian intervention, and just war theory.

PHIL 2134. Philosophy of Human Rights. 3 Credits.

Conceptual, ethical, and theoretical analyses of human rights with emphasis on the justification of human rights, the debate over cultural relativism, and the application of human rights norms in domestic and global contexts.

PHIL 2135. Ethics in Business and the Professions. 3 Credits.

Ethical theories and basic concepts for analysis of moral issues arising in business and in professional practice.

PHIL 2136. Contemporary Issues in Ethics. 3 Credits.

Introduction to a range of debates in applied ethics, including both classic debates concerning topics such as the permissibility of abortion, animal treatment, and suicide as well as more current debates concerning our interactions with the environment and our obligations to the poor in a global context.

PHIL 2281. Philosophy of the Environment. 3 Credits.

Three models of environmental sustainability: the current paradigm in economic and cultural thinking (neoclassical economics); redistribution of resources toward greater global equity (a macroeconomic perspective); and de-growth in the developed economies (ecological economics). The models offer different perspectives on what environmental sustainability means and how it can impact the cultural, religious, moral, metaphysical, and existential situation.

PHIL 3100. Selected Topics. 3 Credits.

Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

PHIL 3100W. Selected Topics. 3 Credits.

Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement.

PHIL 3113. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy. 3 Credits.

European philosophy of the nineteenth century, with major emphasis on Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. Prerequisite: PHIL 1051.

PHIL 3121. Symbolic Logic. 3 Credits.

Analysis and assessment of deductive arguments, using propositional, predicate, and other logics; philosophical basis and implications of logical analysis; metatheory of logic; modal and non-standard logics. Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor.

PHIL 3142. Philosophy of Law. 3 Credits.

Systematic examination of fundamental concepts of law and jurisprudence; special emphasis on the relationship between law and morality.

PHIL 3142W. Philosophy of Law. 3 Credits.

Systematic examination of fundamental concepts of law and jurisprudence; special emphasis on the relationship between law and morality. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement.

PHIL 3151. Philosophy and Science. 3 Credits.

Analysis of the structure and meaning of science, including scientific progress and theory change, objectivity in science, the drive for a unified science, and ways science relates to everyday understandings of the world. Attention given to various sciences, including physics, biology, and neuroscience. Prerequisite: PHIL 1051 or a 2000-level philosophy course.

PHIL 3151W. Philosophy and Science. 3 Credits.

Analysis of the structure and meaning of science, including scientific progress and theory change, objectivity in science, the drive for a unified science, and ways science relates to everyday understandings of the world. Attention given to various sciences, including physics, biology, and neuroscience. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement. Prerequisites: PHIL 1051 or two semesters of college-level science.

PHIL 3152. Theory of Knowledge. 3 Credits.

Inquiry into the basis and structure of knowledge, the problems of skepticism and justification, the relations between subjectivity and objectivity, and the contributions of reason, sense experience, and language. Prerequisite: PHIL 1051. Recommended background: PHIL 2112.

PHIL 3153. Mind, Brain, and Artificial Intelligence. 3 Credits.

Investigation of the nature of mind from a variety of perspectives, including neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and artificial intelligence, as well as traditional philosophy of mind. Possible additional topics include consciousness, mental disorders, animal minds, and the nature and meaning of dreams. Prerequisites: PHIL 1051 or PHIL 1153 or PHIL 2112 or permission of the instructor.

PHIL 3161. Philosophy and Literature. 3 Credits.

Critical investigation of the sociopolitical commitments that inform the practices of reading and writing as discussed by Sartre, Barthes, Foucault, and others. Focus on the development of existentialist themes, including authenticity, freedom, temporality, and death in the work of Kafka, Tolstoy, Mann, Woolf, and others.

PHIL 3162. Philosophy of Art. 3 Credits.

The problem of artistic representation and the nature of aesthetic experience as related to the creation, appreciation, and criticism of art. Special emphasis on nonrepresentational works of art and their interpretation. Prerequisite: PHIL 1051 or PHIL 2111 or PHIL 2112 or PHIL 3113.

PHIL 3162W. Philosophy of Art. 3 Credits.

The problem of artistic representation and the nature of aesthetic experience as related to the creation, appreciation, and criticism of art. Special emphasis on nonrepresentational works of art and their interpretation. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement. Prerequisites: PHIL 1051 or PHIL 2111 or PHIL 2112 or PHIL 3113.

PHIL 3172. American Philosophy. 3 Credits.

A survey of American philosophical thought, focusing on the late 19th through mid-20th centuries. Covers American Pragmatism (Peirce, James, Dewey) in depth; other authors may include Thoreau, Emerson, Royce, Santayana, Mead, Quine, and Rorty.

PHIL 3172W. American Philosophy. 3 Credits.

A survey of American philosophical thought, focusing on the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries. Covers American Pragmatism (Peirce, James, Dewey) in depth; other authors may include Thoreau, Emerson, Royce, Santayana, Mead, Quine, and Rorty. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement.

PHIL 3251. Philosophy of Biology. 3 Credits.

An introduction to conceptual and methodological issues raised by contemporary biology, including teleology, reductionism, units of selection, the structure of evolutionary theory, genetics, taxonomy, and the nature of scientific explanation. Other issues may include the nature–nurture debate, creationism/intelligent design, the evolution of altruism, and the relevance of evolutionary theory to ethical questions.

PHIL 4000. Special Topics in the History of Philosophy. 3 Credits.

In-depth reading of two Kantian masterpieces, Critique of Pure Reason (1781; second edition 1787) and Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Restricted to juniors. Prerequisites: PHIL 2111, or PHIL 2112, or PHIL 3113 or PHIL 4193.

PHIL 4192. Analytic Philosophy. 3 Credits.

The dominant movements of twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy, including logical positivism, British ordinary language philosophy, and neopragmatism, as represented by Russell, G.E. Moore, Wittgenstein, Ayer, Quine, Kripke, et al. Students must have completed one other upper-division philosophy course prior to enrollment. Recommended background: PHIL 2112 and PHIL 3121.

PHIL 4193. Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy. 3 Credits.

An intensive, systematic introduction to the phenomenological and hermeneutic traditions in philosophy through some of their best-known representatives: Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Sartre, Beauvoir, and Merleau-Ponty. Central topics of discussion include consciousness, anguish/anxiety, discourse, interpretation, the Other, death, and ambiguity. Prerequisites: PHIL 2112 or PHIL 3113.

PHIL 4193W. Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy. 3 Credits.

An intensive, systematic introduction to the phenomenological and hermeneutic traditions in philosophy through some of their best-known representatives: Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Sartre, Beauvoir, and Merleau-Ponty. Central topics of discussion include consciousness, anguish/anxiety, discourse, interpretation, the Other, death, and ambiguity. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement. Prerequisites: PHIL 2112 or PHIL 3113.

PHIL 4195. Topics in Value Theory. 3 Credits.

Variable topics in ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other subfields in normative philosophy. Prerequisite: one upper-division course on related subject matter or permission of the instructor.

PHIL 4195W. Topics in Value Theory. 3 Credits.

Various topics in ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other subfields in normative philosophy, such as contemporary philosophy of religion. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs. Consult the Schedule of Classes for more details. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement.

PHIL 4196. Topics in Theory of Knowledge. 3 Credits.

Variable topics in epistemology, philosophy of science and mathematics, philosophy of mind, and similar subfields. Prerequisite: one upper-division course on related subject matter or permission of the instructor.

PHIL 4198. Proseminar. 3 Credits.

Variable topics; preparation and presentation of a major research paper. May be repeated for credit. Restricted to juniors and seniors in the philosophy program with permission of the major advisor.

PHIL 4198W. Proseminar in Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Preparation and presentation of a major research paper. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs. Topics vary by semester. Consult the Schedule of Classes for more details. Restricted to juniors and seniors in the philosophy program with permission of the major advisor.

PHIL 4199. Readings and Research. 1-3 Credits.

Independent study to be arranged with a faculty sponsor. Permission of the department required prior to enrollment.

PHIL 6000. Topics in Advanced Analytic Philosophy. 3 Credits.

The application of the methods and insights of twentieth and twenty-first century analytic philosophy to contemporary questions and/or social issues; philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and value theory. Topics vary by semester. See department for details. Restricted to graduate students; undergraduate students may enroll only with the permission of the instructor.

PHIL 6201. Readings and Research. 3 Credits.

Advanced readings and reports. Investigation of special problems.

PHIL 6202. Readings and Research. 3 Credits.

Advanced readings and reports. Investigation of special problems.

PHIL 6211. Topics in the History of Ancient Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6212. Topics in the History of Modern Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6221. Advanced Logic. 3 Credits.

Intensive reading of a difficult text in an advanced logical system or a series of logical systems. Focus on analyzing reasoning under partial information, using the formal system to analyze fallacies of reasoning and analyzing quantum phenomena using the formal system. Restricted to graduate students. Recommended background: Good formal training in logic - propositional logic: natural deduction, tables and trees; first-order logic: language (translation from English), trees and natural deduction; some limitative results, eg, decidability, compactness, completeness, Lovenheim-Skolem properties, soundness, etc.

PHIL 6222. Philosophy of Mathematics. 3 Credits.

Examination of several philosophies of mathematics, with in-depth concentration on Field’s “fictionalism.” A fictionalist believes that all of the ontology of mathematics is favorably compared to a fictional object, so it does not literally exist. Students develop reactions to Field’s philosophical position using the resources of alternative philosophical positions. Restricted to graduate students. Recommended background: Basic understanding of first-order logic.

PHIL 6223. Philosophy of Logic. 3 Credits.

Central concepts in the philosophy of logic, including truth, reasoning, inference, deduction, induction, judgment, assertion, warrant, proof, demonstration, meaning, semantics, syntax, paradox, mathematical models, and the relationship between a formal representation of logical reasoning and the philosophical ideal of the practice of reasoning. Recommended background: Some grounding in first-order logic will be presupposed.

PHIL 6225. Queer(ing) Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Examination of how queer theory, which emerged as a field in its own right in the early 1990s, has posed significant challenges to traditional, taken-for-granted understandings of time, space, the body, race, sexuality, normality, culture, violence, and disability. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6230. Ethical Issues in Policy Arguments. 3 Credits.

Critical analysis of ethical foundations of public policy arguments, e.g., about protection of the environment or health and safety, equality of opportunity. Case studies of appeals to “welfare improvements,” to norms of duty, to “the social contract,” and to rights–claims. Attention to historical contexts and biases. May be taken for undergraduate credit with permission of the instructor.

PHIL 6231. Seminar: Economic Justice. 3 Credits.

Ethical and economic analysis of equity and efficiency of current U.S. income distribution patterns. Theories of justice; economic theories of distribution; assessment of redistribution policies. May be taken for undergraduate credit with permission of the instructor.

PHIL 6232. Topics in Contemporary Political Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6233. Contemporary Moral Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Investigation of contemporary debates in normative ethics and/or metaethics. Topics may include the virtue ethics revival in the twentieth century, the distinction between the right and the good, or important metaethical positions such as fictionalism, expressivism, and constitutivist accounts of moral principles. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6234. Consequentialism and Its Critics. 3 Credits.

An overview of the debate over consequentialism, culminating in discussion of recent literature. Forms of consequentialism (act, rule, motive, cooperative); direct versus indirect; classic objections and replies; partiality; friendship; agent-relative considerations; doctrine of doing and allowing; doctrine of double effect. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6236. Moral Status. 3 Credits.

Examination of the question of what sorts of beings matter morally in their own right and how much they matter. While the paradigm bearers of moral status are persons, the course considers competing ways of thinking about the possible moral status of human nonpersons, nonhuman persons, great apes, dolphins, other sentient animals, nonsentient lifeforms, the environment, future people, and advanced forms of artificial intelligence. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6237. Animal Ethics. 3 Credits.

The moral status of animals and the ethics of human use of animals. Major topics include models of moral status, animals' mental life, and specific ethical issues associated with the eating of animal products, the use of animals in research, and the keeping of animals in homes and zoos. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6238. Feminist Ethics and Policy Implications. 3 Credits.

Feminist critiques of traditional ethical reasoning; alternative feminist ethical frameworks examined and applied to contemporary social problems, such as respecting cultural differences, dependency, disability. Prerequisites: PHIL 2125 or PHIL 2131. (Same as WGSS 6238).

PHIL 6239. Virtue Ethics. 3 Credits.

Historical and/or contemporary approaches to virtue ethics and key readings in the virtue ethical tradition. Topics include empirical work on virtue in philosophy and psychology, the divide between “radical” virtue ethics and contemporary virtue ethics, “hybrid” approaches to virtue ethics (e.g., consequentialist virtue ethics), and meta-ethical issues relevant to the study of virtue. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6242. Philosophy, Law, and Social Policy. 3 Credits.

Consideration of the relationship between legal interpretation and policy goals. Theories concerning the role of the judiciary in a constitutional democracy and methods of constitutional and statutory interpretation. Representative policy topics include capital punishment, pornography, affirmative action, welfare, property rights, racial gerrymandering, gun control.

PHIL 6245. Biomedical Ethics. 3 Credits.

An in-depth introduction to the field of biomedical ethics. Following a brief review of ethical theory, the course proceeds to several central topics in biomedical ethics before ending with students' presentations of their original research. The emphasis is on normative ethical reasoning, with considerable attention to the empirical assumptions underlying particular ethical judgments and to policy dimensions of several of the central topics.

PHIL 6250. Topics in Health Policy. 3 Credits.

Topics in health policy from the perspective of philosophical ethics, including human and animal research, the enhancement of human traits, justice and health care allocation.

PHIL 6251. Advanced Introduction to Philosophy of Mind. 3 Credits.

Critical examination of classical philosophical arguments pertaining to the mind/body problem, the problem of consciousness, the problem of intentionality, the problem of freedom of the will, and the problem of personal identity. Focus on careful analysis of classical philosophical writings on these topics. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6252. Advanced Introduction to Philosophy of Cognitive Science. 3 Credits.

The emergence of cognitive phenomena in phylogeny and ontogeny, social cognition, nativist vs. empiricist approaches to cognition, models of reasoning and decision-making, representationalist vs. embodied/embedded/enactive approaches to cognition, and theories of perception, memory, and concepts. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6253. Cognitive Science and Public Policy. 3 Credits.

The cognitive sciences are providing new insights into the nature of human decision making at an accelerating pace. Cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, neuroeconomics, evolutionary psychology, and developmental and comparative psychology are rewriting theories about human nature with significant implications for public policy. The course examines recent work in the cognitive sciences with the intent of drawing out its public policy implications.

PHIL 6254. Mental Representation. 3 Credits.

Thoughts are like pictures of the world in that they represent the world. But thoughts sometimes represent the world in ways that don’t correspond to the way it actually is. How do thoughts come to have representational content? Why do we have thoughts? Such questions are considered through the careful reading of recent work on the subject. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6257. The Nature of Animal Minds. 3 Credits.

Do nonhuman animals have minds? If so, what are they like? How are they similar and how are they different from our minds? What might count as evidence that an animal has a mind? Consideration of some of the questions philosophers and scientists have been asking and issues these questions raise when we think about the possibility that nonhuman animals are thinking creatures. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6262. Normative Issues in Foreign Policy. 3 Credits.

Selected issues on foreign policy from a normative perspective; emphasis on human rights, economic globalization, global poverty, sustainable development, and the ethics of military intervention.

PHIL 6281. Environmental Philosophy and Policy. 3 Credits.

Examination of philosophical frameworks for assessing policy approaches to environmental problems. Representative topics include duties to future generations, environmental justice, legal rights for natural objects, critiques of cost–benefit analysis, sustainability, risk measurement, the intrinsic value of nature.

PHIL 6290. Special Topics in Public Policy. 3 Credits.

Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

PHIL 6293. Contemporary Continental Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Focus on several powerful philosophical concepts introduced by late twentieth/early twenty-first-century continental scholars, and the influence these scholars have had upon one another. Critical examination of the theoretical resources the works provide in articulating some of the most urgent ethical, social, and political demands of contemporary human existence. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6294. Special Topics in Continental Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. Restricted to graduate students.

PHIL 6998. Thesis Research. 3 Credits.

PHIL 6999. Thesis Research. 3 Credits.