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Philosophy Major (PHL)

Philosophy majors, whether pursuing the general course of study in philosophy or concentrating in Law and Philosophy or in Ethics, are required to complete a total of 10 PHL courses, for a total of 10 course units. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA for retention in the major.

Logic (1 course unit)
PHL 120/Introduction to Logic or  PHL 220/Metalogic

History of Philosophy (2 course units)
PHL 201/History of Ancient Philosophy and  PHL 205/History of Modern Philosophy

Ethics (1 course unit)
PHL 350/Ethical Theory or PHL 375/Equality in Law and Ethics

Epistemology or Metaphysics (1 course unit)
PHL 410/Theory of Knowledge or  PHL 420/Metaphysics

Philosophy Electives (4 course units)
Four additional philosophy courses including at least two at the 300 or 400 level.

Senior Capstone (1-2 course units)*
PHL 494/Senior Project  (1 course unit)

or

PHL 495/Senior Thesis Research and PHL 496/Senior Thesis  (2 course units — 1 course unit each)

*Senior Capstone: The senior capstone is independent work guided by an advisor with whom the student will be working closely on a mutually agreed upon topic. The goal of the senior capstone is to give students the opportunity to unify skills and knowledge they have previously gained in the major. Prior to registering for either PHL 494 or PHL 495, students must consult with the department faculty member they wish to work with on the capstone, and registration can take place only with the permission of that faculty member. For students completing the Senior Thesis, PHL 495 is normally completed during the fall term of the senior year and PHL 496 during the spring term. Significant work as determined by the advisor should be completed for each of the research and writing portions of the Senior Thesis.   

Philosophy Major Specializations: 

  • Law and Philosophy
  • Ethics

Like the traditional majors, the specializations in Law and Philosophy and in Ethics require students to complete 10 courses in philosophy as described above. However, students who wish to pursue a concentration will be required to select specified courses as options and a senior project or thesis particularly related to the concentration, as follows:

Law and Philosophy
PHL 275/Philosophy of Law
PHL 375/Equality in Law and Ethics
Senior project or thesis on a topic in the area of law and philosophy.

Ethics
PHL 255/Biomedical Ethics
PHL 350/Ethical Theory
PHL 430/Advanced Ethics
Senior project or thesis on a topic in the area of ethics.

Students interested in pursuing a concentration in Law and Philosophy should contact Professor Roberts. Students interested in pursuing a concentration in Ethics should contact Professor Winston.

Honors in Philosophy and Capstone Honors

The Department awards honors in philosophy at graduation to students who have completed a distinguished undergraduate record in philosophy. Rising seniors are admitted to the honors program in philosophy provided they have a GPA of 3.6 or better after having completed six courses in philosophy, in those courses. Students who then complete the major with a 3.6 GPA or better in their philosophy courses will be awarded honors in philosophy upon graduation. The department may also designate still other students as having achieved honors in philosophy in exceptional cases (to be determined by vote of the whole department).

The award of honors in thesis will be given to students who have completed PHL 496 (Senior Thesis) with distinction, as follows. All thesis students will have, in addition to their advisor who will serve as first reader, a second reader. If both readers judge the thesis to meet the standard for thesis honors, the student will be invited to defend the thesis orally. The two faculty readers will then determine whether the thesis, in the light of the oral defense, merits thesis honors. The grading of the thesis itself, however, will remain the responsibility of the original advisor.

The award of honors in project will be given to students who have completed PHL 494 (Senior Project) with distinction, as follows:  Project students whose advisor recommends their project for distinction will have a second reader.  If both readers judge the project to the meet the standard for project honors, the project will be awarded project honors.  The grading of the project itself, however, will remain the responsibility of the original advisor.

Course Sequence

Many students who choose to major in philosophy do so late in their sophomore year or even early in their junior year; and some courses are offered only in alternate years. The program that follows is thus an idealized sequence; the exact semester and particular order in which the courses are taken will probably vary. To ensure that students entering the major in their sophomore or junior year complete the program on a timely basis, specific requirements may be waived for students who have covered pertinent subject matter in other ways. Many courses in the College Honors Program will satisfy one or another philosophy requirement; and, where necessary, students can complete course requirements on an independent study or special arrangement basis. The substitution of another course for a specific requirement does not reduce the total number of units required for the major.

To graduate, students must complete, in addition to the courses required for the major, a number of liberal learning requirements. Some of the requirements (in, for example, language, laboratory science and quantitative reasoning) are noted in the idealized sequence that follow. Others include courses, programs, or sustained experiences in (1) community engaged learning, (2) gender, (3) global perspectives and (4) race and ethnicity.

Freshman Year

FSP/ First Seminar   (1 course unit)

WRI 102/Academic Writing—if required*  (1 course unit)

Language* (2 course units)

Quantitative Reasoning (1 course unit)

One Elective* (1 course unit)

PHL Electives in Philosophy (at any level)  ( 2 course units)

*Students must determine whether or not they can be exempted from language course (by examination or other means); otherwise three courses are required. It is recommended that students exempted from these courses take other liberal learning courses.

*Either through electives or otherwise, students must, in addition, complete courses, programs, or sustained experiences that cover (1) community engaged learning, (2) gender, (3) global perspectives and (4) race and ethnicity

Sophomore Year

Language  (1 course unit)

Laboratory Science ( 2 course units)

Literature (1 course unit)

PHL 120 Introduction to Logic (1 course unit)

or

PHL 220 Metalogic

PHL 201/ History of Ancient Philosophy (1 course unit)

PHL 205/History of Modern Philosophy (1 course unit)

One elective (1 course unit)

Junior Year

Social Science/History (3 course units)

PHL 350/Ethical Theory  (1 course unit) or PHL 375/Law and Ethics

PHL 410/ Theory of Knowledge (1 course unit) or PHL 420/ Metaphysics

Two electives (2 course units)

One elective in philosophy at the 300 or 400 level (1 course unit)

Senior Year

Art (1 course unit)

PHL 494/ Senior Project   (1 course)

or

PHL 495/ Senior Thesis Research and 496 Senior Thesis  (2 course units — 1 course unit each)

One elective in philosophy at the 300-400 level (1 course unit)

Five electives  (5 course units)

COURSES

PHL 100/Introduction to Philosophy  (1 course unit)

(every semester)

An introductory-level, problems-based course that includes the fundamentals of philosophical argument, analysis and reasoning, applied to a series of issues in logic, epistemology, metaphysics and ethics. Topics covered may include: logical validity, theories of knowledge and belief, the nature of mind, the nature of reality, arguments for the existence of God, and theories of the nature of right and wrong.

PHL 120/Introduction to Logic  (1 course unit)

(every semester)

Instruction in the basic principles and techniques of correct reasoning in ordinary life and the sciences. Study of the formal systems of sentence logic and predicate logic. Translation of the natural language and analysis and evaluation of deductive arguments through the construction of proofs. Focus particularly on the power and precision of the natural language with the aim of helping students increase their ability to think and write with creativity, precision, and rigor.

PHL 135/Contemporary Moral Issues  (1 course unit)

(every semester)

This course provides an introduction to ethics, one of the main branches of philosophy. It aims to familiarize students with basic concepts and theories in ethics, and with how they may be applied to a range of contemporary moral issues. Topics addressed may include racism, sexism, the treatment of the handicapped, abortion, euthanasia, cloning, capital punishment, our obligations to the disadvantaged, the treatment of non-human animals, just war, and the like. Students will be encouraged to learn from great thinkers of the past and of the present, to examine their own moral values and beliefs, and to take reasoned and informed stands on the issues treated.

PHL 170/Topics in Philosophy (1 course unit)

(occasionally)

This is a Topics Course with no prerequisites, open to and appropriate for first-year students.

PHL 201/History of Ancient Philosophy (1 course unit)

(fall)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of instructor

A course tracing the development of philosophy in the West from its beginnings in 6th century B.C. Greece through the thought of Plato and Aristotle, especially focusing on questions concerning reality, knowledge, human nature, and the good life. Attention is also given to the influence of the Greek philosophers on the Western tradition to the present day.

PHL 205/History of Modern Philosophy (1 course unit)

(spring)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of instructor

A course tracing the development of major philosophical ideas in the West from the beginning of the 17th century to the close of the 18th century.  Philosophers whose works are examined typically include some or all of: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.  Special emphasis is placed on the development of epistemology and metaphysics during the Enlightenment.

PHL 210/Indian Philosophy (1 course unit)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or religion or permission of instructor

A course critically examining major issues and positions in Indian philosophy of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions. The course will revolve around four main questions: What is Indian philosophy? Who or what am I? What is reality and how can it be known?  How should I live? Students will be encouraged to learn from great thinkers of the past and of the present, to examine their own values and beliefs, and to take reasoned and informed stands on the issues treated. (Course is the same as REL 210/Indian Philosophy.)

PHL 215/American Philosophy (1 course unit)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of instructor

A course examining the history of American philosophy and influence that American philosophers have had on the development of philosophy throughout the world.  Much of the course will focus on the creation of pragmatism by Pierce, James, and Dewey (1870-1938) and the reworking of pragmatic ideas since 1950 by American philosophers such as Quine, Putnam, and Rorty.  In addition, selections will be made from other traditions, movements, and thinkers such as Jonathan Edwards, transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau, idealists such as Josiah Royce, and recent work by American philosophers using “lenses” of race and gender. 

PHL 220/Metalogic  (1 course unit)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite: PHL 120 or permission of the instructor.

A course exploring selected topics in logical theory and the philosophy of logic, including soundness and complete theorems for sentence and predicate logic and related proof techniques.  Depending on student interest and time, we may also cover aspects of probability theory, modal logic and set theory.

PHL 240/Political Philosophy  (1 course unit)

(annually)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of instructor

A course providing a systematic historical survey of the main issues in political philosophy.  The main topics to be discussed include: the justification of political authority, modern social contract theories of the state, conceptions of distributive justice, and contemporary liberal, communitarian, and cosmopolitan theories of political organizations.  Significant attention will be given to contemporary debates in political philosophy such as social justice and duties beyond borders.

PHL 245/Existentialism (1 course unit)

(same as HON 245)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of instructor

A course examining existentialism and the work of philosophers and writers associated with existentialism.  Since the name “existentialism” is a covering term for a diverse group of post-Hegelian, European philosophers, this course emphasizes the distinctive views of individual figures.  Among the figures considered are Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre, Beauvoir, and Camus.

PHL 246/Aesthetics  (1 course unit)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of instructor

A course examining the principal issues and theories in the philosophy of art and beauty.  Readings include works by philosophers of historical importance such as Plato and Aristotle as well as the writings of contemporary aestheticians.  Consideration is also given to selected issues associated with particular arts such as meaning in music and the interpretation of poetry, and the cinematic in film.

PHL 250/Philosophy of Religion  (1 course unit)

(same as HON 272)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or religion or permission of instructor

This course critically examines major issues, views, and positions in the philosophy of religion. Topics treated include the nature of religion and divinity, religious diversity, the problem of evil, philosophical arguments for the exis­tence of God, religious experience, ethics and religion, and science and religion. Students will be encouraged to learn from great thinkers of the past and of the present, to examine their own religious values and beliefs, and to take reasoned and informed stands on the issues treated.

PHL 251/Knowledge and the Divine (1 course unit)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or religion or permission of instructor

This course critically examines major issues and positions in the epistemology of religion. Topics treated include the nature of religious belief, the relationship of faith and reason, religious experience, knowledge of the divine, the evidence of miracles, and the relationship between science and religion. Students will be encouraged to learn from great thinkers of the past and of the present, and to take reasoned and informed stands on the issues treated.

PHL 252/Existence and the Divine (1 course unit)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or religion or permission of instructor.

This course critically examines major issues and positions in the metaphysics of religion. Topics treated include the nature of divinity, divine attributes, the problem of evil, arguments for divine existence, and immortality. Students will be encouraged to learn from great thinkers of the past and of the present, and to take reasoned and informed stands on the issues treated.

PHL 255/Biomedical Ethics (1 course unit)

(same as HON 355)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of instructor

A course dealing with questions concerning the ethical and social policy dimensions of medicine, nursing and other health care professions.  Topics examined include: the professional-patient relationship, abortion, euthanasia, research involving human subjects, justice in health care, and the ethical implications of possibilities such as eugenics, genetic engineering, and markets in transplant organs.

PHL 265/Environmental Ethics (1 course unit)

(same as HON 265)

(alternate years)                                                                                       

Prerequisite: One course in philosopy or permission of instructor

A course providing a comprehensive overview of the key issues and arguments within the field of environmental ethics.  The course includes an examination of some basic issues in metaethics and normative ethical theory, and several kinds of ethical arguments for animal rights and environmental protection.  We will also study major environmental movements, such as deep ecology, social ecology, ecofeminism and the environmental justice movement, and will consider selected public policy issues such as habitat preservation, land-use management, or pollution abatement.

PHL 270/Topics in Philosophy (1 course unit)

(occasionally)

This is a Topics Course with no prerequisites, offered primarily for sophomores, juniors and seniors. It may not be appropriate for freshmen.

PHL 275/Philosophy of Law  (1 course unit)

(fall)

Prerequisite: One philosophy course or sophomore standing or permission of instructor

This course presents leading theories of the nature of law and the relation between human law and moral law, including classical natural law theory, positivism, formalism, legal realism, the “new naturalism” and legal skepticism.  A focus of the course is the problem of indeterminacy in the law:  how should judges go about deciding cases when the law itself is indeterminate as to meaning and application?

PHL 306/20th-Century Philosophy (1 course unit)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: One 200-level or higher philosophy course or permission of instructor

A seminar providing both conceptual and historical consideration of issues and problems characteristic of 20th-century analytic philosophy, with an emphasis on the evolution from its 19th century roots in psychology and neo-Hegelianism through the work of Frege, Russell Moore and Wittgenstein in the early part of the century. The course may include tracing the consequences of those early views through the work of, among others, Fodor, Quine, Putnam and Kripke. Topics include anti-psychologism in logic and psychology, sense and reference, logicism, theories of the nature of the proposition, theories of description, Wittgensteinian theories, causal theories of content, analyticity, and necessity.

PHL 311/Philosophy of Science (1 course unit)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite: One philosophy course and one natural or social science course or permission of instructor

A seminar examining the epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical issues raised by science.  Issues addressed may include: scientific realism vs. anti-realism, scientific explanation, the historical development of science, induction, scientific observation, confirmation theory, and the ethical responsibility of scientists.  Students will be encouraged to learn from great thinkers of the past and of the present, to reflect on their own values and beliefs concerning science, and to take reasoned and informed stands on the issues treated.

PHL 347/Philosophy and Literature (1 course unit)

(same as HON 346)

(alternate years)

Prerequisites: One 200-level course in philosophy and one course in literature or literary theory, or permission of instructor

A seminar studying literary works and the nature of literature from the vantage point of philosophy.  Using a variety of literary, critical, and philosophical texts, this course examines similarities and differences between belletristic literary works and other forms of verbal expression.

PHL 350/Ethical Theory  (1 course unit)

(annually)

Prerequisite: One 200-level or higher philosophy course or permission of instructor

A seminar examining major theories in ethics and metaethics such as: utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, relativism, intuitionism, emotivism, natural law, and theories of justice, rights and duties.  Concentrated study of works of major historical and contemporary thinkers.

PHL 370/Special Topics in Philosophy (1 course unit)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: One 200-level or higher philosophy course or permission of instructor

An advanced course examining a problem, text, philosopher, historical period, or other philosophical topic not covered in depth in regular courses. Topics will vary. May be repeated for credit with permission of the department. 

PHL 375/Law and Ethics (1 course unit)

(annually)

Prerequisites: Two courses in philosophy or permission of instructor

A seminar on the moral foundations of the law and the relation between law and ethics.  In that connection, we explore utilitarianism and objections to that theory grounded in considerations of equality and in privacy. Readings for the course will come from both traditional and contemporary sources in moral philosophy and from Supreme Court and other court opinions.

PHL 391/Independent Study in Philosophy (1 course unit)

(every semester)

Prerequisite: Two 200-level or higher philosophy courses or permission of instructor

Independent study of a particular philosophical topic, in close consultation with a member of the department.

PHL 399/Applied Internship in Philosophy (1 course unit or 0.5 course unit)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: none

An applied internship designed to enable students to integrate research in philosophy with practical experience in a professional setting. It is intended for students in the discipline who wish to supplement traditional learning with relevant work or community-based experience under the guidance of a departmental advisor. Normally the internship will carry I unit and will require commensurate work at the 300 level, but 0.5 unit internships are also possible. The internship is intended to accommodate a wide-range of students and placements. Individual PHL 399 internships may count toward ACEL, when approved by that committee.

PHL 410/Theory of Knowledge (1 course unit)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite: Two 200-level or higher philosophy courses or permission of instructor

A seminar examining the central topics of epistemology including truth, belief, epistemic justification, knowledge, perception, skepticism and the responses thereto.  Students will be encouraged to learn from great thinkers of the past and of the present, to reflect on their own epistemic values and beliefs, and to take reasoned and informed stands on the issues treated.

PHL 420/Metaphysics  (1 course unit)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite:PHL 120 and two 200-level or higher philosophy courses or permission of instructor

A seminar promoting deeper understanding of core issues in contemporary metaphysics in the analytic tradition. Topics covered may include: necessity, analyticity, existence, identity, possible worlds, realism/anti-realism, and causation.

PHL 421/Philosophy of Language (1 course unit)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite: PHL 120 and two 200- level or higher philosophy courses or permission of instructor

A seminar promoting deeper understanding of core issues in contemporary theories of meaning and truth in the analytic tradition.  Issues and problems are considered both historically and conceptually, through the work of (among others) Frege, Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein, Quine, Putnam and Kripke, and may include: theories of meaning, theories of truth, theories of judgment, the nature of a proposition, the logic of descriptions, the logic of identity, necessity and contingency and analyticity.

PHL 422/Philosophy of Mind (1 course unit)

(alternate years)

Prerequisite: PHL 120 and two 200- level or higher philosophy courses or permission of instructor

A seminar promoting deeper understanding of core issues in contemporary theories of consciousness in the analytic tradition.  Topics covered may include: dualist theories, type-identity theories, token-identity theories, the logic of identity, the nature of causation and scientific explanation, models of explanation, causation, theories of mental representation, artificial intelligence and zombies.

PHL 430/Advanced Ethics (1 course unit)

(annually)

Prerequisite: Two 200-level or higher philosophy courses and PHL 350 or PHL 375 or permission of instructor

A seminar on contemporary issues in ethical theory, applied ethics or the philosophy of law. Topics treated will vary depending on the instructor, but will always involve concentrated study at the advanced level.

PHL 470/Advanced Topics in Philosophy ( 1 course unit)

(occasionally)

Prerequisite: Two 200-level or higher philosophy courses or permission of instructor

A seminar on a problem, text, philosopher, historical period or other philosophical topic not covered in depth in regular courses.  Topics will vary depending on the instructor but will always involve concentrated study at the advanced level.

PHL 494/Senior Project   ( 1 course unit)

(every semester)

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

Independent research and completion of substantial paper under the guidance of a full-time faculty member on a mutually agreed-on topic.  Students are expected to define their topic, conduct a review of the appropriate literature and complete a substantial paper.  Students should initiate discussion regarding their proposed topic with an appropriate faculty member and begin their review of related materials during the term prior to the term for which they register for this course.

PHL 495/Senior Thesis Research    (1   course unit)

(every semester)

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

Independent research under the guidance of a full-time faculty member on a mutually agreed-on topic suitable for a Senior Thesis. Students are expected to define their topic, conduct a review of the appropriate literature, prepare a bibliography and outline and develop a writing plan. Students should initiate discussion regarding their proposed topic with an appropriate faculty member and begin their review of related materials during the term prior to the term for which they register for this course.

PHL 496/ Senior Thesis   (1 course unit)

(every semester)

Prerequisite: PHL 495 and permission of instructor

Writing of a substantial paper suitable for a senior thesis in close consultation with a full-time faculty member on a mutually agreed-on topic.

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