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Courses in the Department of Philosophy consist of a variety of topics, ranging from introductory-level courses in logic and philosophy to courses dedicated to works of notable philosophers, including Kant and Wittgenstein. Many of our courses also fulfill the University's liberal education and/or writing-intensive requirements. 

Introductory Courses

We offer a number of different introductory courses that prepare students for the minor or major. These courses are also excellent options for students majoring in other subjects who want to get a taste of philosophy, and many of them meet liberal education requirements.

Related Courses

  • PHIL 1001 - Introduction to Logic
  • PHIL 1002W - Introduction to Philosophy
  • PHIL 1003W - Introduction to Ethics
  • PHIL 1004W - Introduction to Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 1005/1005W - Scientific Reasoning
  • PHIL 1006W - Philosophy and Cultural Diversity
  • PHIL 1905 - Topics: Freshman Seminar
  • PHIL 1910W - Topics: Freshman Seminar

Aesthetics is the philosophical study of the arts, especially in regard to such questions as: What is art, and how is it connected to the world? What is the role of beauty in art? Are there objective truths about artistic value, or is the appreciation of art merely a matter of individual preference? How does art differ (if it does) from craft? What is the value of art to society and humanity? How do the individual arts achieve their effects? Are all forms of art equally valid? Are there situations in which artistic activity should be restricted or suppressed?

Study of aesthetics pairs well with majors in the arts and in art history, literature, and such subjects as sociology, anthropology, psychology, and education.

Related Courses

  • PHIL 3502WL - Intro to Aesthetics
  • PHIL 4501 - Principles of Aesthetics
  • PHIL 4510/5510 - Philosophy of Individual Arts
  • Freshman seminars: What's so Great About Classical Music?; Amadeus: In Search of Mozart; Comics as Art
Practical Ethics

Many of the questions we confront in our personal, professional, and civic lives are questions of ethics. Should I buy locally or organically produced food in order to minimize harms to the environment? Should I support affirmative action policies in education or the workplace, or are such policies unfair? Do medical professionals have an obligation to protect the welfare of their patients or to respect their autonomy to make choices that may sacrifice their welfare? Is the political candidate who supports the death penalty, abortion, or gun control deserving of my vote? Is mass incarceration unjust? Why?

The opportunity to think carefully about such questions and to defend one's answers in response to those inclined to disagree is of immense value to anyone, and especially so to students who anticipate pursuing professions that require clear thinking and effective argument about such questions—among them business, education, human resources, law, and medicine.

Related Courses

  • PHIL 3301 - Environmental Ethics
  • PHIL 3302W - Moral Problems of Contemporary Society
  • PHIL 3304 - Law and Morality
  • PHIL 3305 - Medical Ethics
Ethics or Moral Philosophy

In these courses, you will explore questions such as: What it is to be a good person? Are there universal principles that distinguish right from wrong? What are our moral obligations? Is morality relative or absolute? Are human beings ever truly morally responsible?

Consider taking courses in this area if you are heading for professional school (business, law, medicine), in combination with some courses from the practical ethics group, to give you some theoretical background. Ethics courses also pair well with a major in psychology or political science.

Related Courses

  • PHIL 1003W - Intro to Ethics
  • PHIL 3201 - Free Will & Responsibilty
  • PHIL 3311W - Intro to Ethical Theory
  • PHIL 3302W - Moral Problems of Contemporary Society
  • PHIL 4310W - History of Moral Theories
  • PHIL 4320W - Intensive Study of a Historical Moral Theory
  • PHIL 4330 - Contemporary Moral Theory
Epistemology, Language, Metaphysics, Mind (ELM)

These courses cover a wide ranging set of issues in contemporary philosophy.

In Epistemology, philosophers explore questions such as: What is knowledge? Do we have any knowledge about the world around us? How is knowledge shaped by society and culture?

In Metaphysics: What kinds of things exist? Does God exist? What are persons? Are we free to act the way we choose?

In Philosophy of Mind: What is the relationship between the mind and body? What is consciousness? What is thinking?

In Philosophy of Language: How does language work? What is the relationship between thought and language? What is it for a word or sentence to be meaningful?

These courses are excellent for honing your critical thinking skills and for developing the ability to understand and evaluate arguments.

Related Courses

  • PHIL 3201 - Free Will & Responsibility
  • PHIL 3231 - Philosophy and Language
  • PHIL 3234 - Knowledge & Society
  • PHIL 3521 - Philosophy of Religion
  • PHIL 3607 - Philosophy of Psychology
  • PHIL 4085/5085 - Wittgenstein
  • PHIL 4101 - Metaphysics
  • PHIL 4105W - Epistemology
  • PHIL 4231 - Philosophy of Language
  • PHIL 4615 - Minds, Bodies, and Machines
  • PHIL 4622/5622 - Philosophy & Feminist Theory
History of Philosophy

In these courses, you will reflect on writings by philosophers of the past that explore questions such as: What makes a life worth living? How can I tell if I am doing the right thing? What justifies punishment? Can a contradictory statement be true? Could I be wrong about pretty much everything I believe? What is beauty? What is love?

You will find that some past authors have ideas wildly different from yours, while others articulate thoughts that underlie institutions and practices within which you think and live today. Comparing the wildly different with the familiar gives you the opportunity to notice, to understand, and to critically evaluate your own assumptions.

A main reason to take history of philosophy courses is to experience works that have been of riveting interest to many thoughtful readers for hundreds and even thousands of years. Share the passion!

Related Courses

  • PHIL 3001W - History of Philosophy: Ancient
  • PHIL 3003 - Medieval Philosophy
  • PHIL 3003 - Medieval Philosophy
  • PHIL 4010/5010 - Ancient Philosophers
  • PHIL 4040/5040 -Rationalists
  • PHIL 4055 - Kant
  • PHIL 5601 - History of Philosophy of Science
Logic/Philosophy of Logic; Philosophy of Mathematics

Logic (and its philosophy) studies the differences between truth and falsity, good and bad arguments, correct and incorrect reasoning, necessity and possibility, and the finite and the infinite.

In logic courses, we introduce precise symbolic methods for representing various kinds of reasoning, including deductive arguments, and we develop systematic tools for differentiating the good arguments from the bad.

Courses on the philosophy of logic focus on the connections between our everyday informal reasoning and the precise logical frameworks used to study reasoning, asking questions such as: Why do we care about good reasoning? Is there is a single symbolic logic that ‘gets it right’? What, exactly, is truth?

Finally, the philosophy of mathematics examines the nature of mathematics and its role in our intellectual lives, asking questions such as: What, if anything, is mathematics about? Why is mathematics necessarily true, and why is it (or does it appear to be) certain? Why is mathematics so useful in science and engineering? How can we have mathematical knowledge of the infinite?

Since it involves the basic reasoning patterns used in all disciplines, and in everyday life, logic is applicable to almost any field or endeavor, but it pairs especially well with formal, mathematical areas of study such as mathematics, statistics, economics, and physics.

Related Courses

  • PHIL 1001 - Intro to Logic
  • PHIL 5201 - Symbolic Logic I
  • PHIL 5202 - Symbolic Logic II
  • PHIL 5211 - Modal Logic
  • PHIL 5221 - Philosophy Logic
  • PHIL 5222 - Philosophy Math
Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Law

What is justice? What is the purpose of the state? What obligations does the state have to its citizens and vice versa? What is law? What is the relationship between law and justice? What may or must citizens do in the face of unjust laws? Does it matter if those citizens are also judges or legislators?

These are some of the questions that you can expect to address in courses in political philosophy and philosophy of law. They are questions that prepare you well to study law, or for a career in politics or public service. They are also questions that prepare you well for responsible citizenship.

Courses in these areas can fill out or augment majors in political science, history or economics as well as any major that focuses on an aspect of social or legal justice.

Related Courses

  • PHIL 1004W - Intro to Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 3304 - Law & Morality
  • PHIL 4321W - Theories of Justice
  • PHIL 4414 - Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 5414 - Philosophy of Law
Philosophy of Science

What makes a claim "scientific"? How do scientists know when they have a good explanatory theory? How can we make informed evaluations of scientific claims in order to participate knowledgeably in society and make the best choices in everyday life?

Philosophy of science courses address these and other conceptual questions about the nature and consequences of scientific reasoning. This includes exploring characteristics of theoretical, causal, and statistical hypotheses in a variety of case studies from past and present scientific research, as well as analyzing key ideas that have emerged in modern science: How should we understand space and time in light of general relativity? What is quantum non-locality and how does it affect our view of matter? What is a gene and how do biologists use them to explore living systems? How does evolution affect arguments from design? Can psychologists and physicians measure "happiness" or "pain" objectively? Discussions of divergent answers to these questions leads into more general issues about scientific practices, such as the use of models and metaphors, and their potential relevance for contemporary society.

A second major or a minor in philosophy of science will enrich course work in sciences such as biology, physics and psychology.

Related Courses

  • PHIL 1005/1005H - Scientific Reasoning
  • PHIL 3601W - Scientific Thought
  • PHIL 3602 - Science, Technology, and Society
  • PHIL 4605 - Space and Time
  • PHIL 4607 - Philosophy of Biological Sciences
  • PHIL 5601 - History of Philosophy of Science
  • PHIL 5602 - Scientific Representation & Explanation
  • PHIL 5603 - Scientific Inquiry
  • PHIL 5605 - Space and Time
  • PHIL 5606 - Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics