Philosophy (2022 - 2024)
The department treats its course prerequisites seriously. Students not satisfying a course’s prerequisites must seek the permission of the instructor to register.
All introductory courses provide training in philosophical argument and writing. Only one introductory course can count toward the major or minor.
Central Problems in Philosophy
PHIL-UA 1 Formerly PHIL-UA 10. Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of selected central problems. Topics may include: free will; the existence of God; skepticism and knowledge; the mind-body problem.
Great Works in Philosophy
PHIL-UA 2 Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of some of the most important and influential writings in its history. Authors studied may include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein.
Ethics and Society
PHIL-UA 3 Formerly PHIL-UA 5. Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of selected moral, social, and political issues. Topics may include criminal justice and punishment; political authority and civil disobedience; toleration and free speech; racial justice.
Life and Death
PHIL-UA 4 Formerly PHIL-UA 17. Offered every year. 4 points.
An introduction to philosophy through the study of issues bearing on life and death. Topics may include: definition and value of life; grounds for creating, preserving, and taking life; personal identity; ideas of death and immortality; abortion and euthanasia.
Minds and Machines
PHIL-UA 5 Formerly PHIL-UA 15. Offered every year. 4 points.
Introduction to philosophy through the study of issues in cognitive science. Topics may include: conflicts between computational and biological approaches to the mind; whether a machine could think; the reduction of the mind to the brain; connectionism and neural nets.
PHIL-UA 6 Offered every year. 4 points.
Introduces three broad traditions of normative thinking: one Confucian tradition, one based in Islamic law, and one derived from European liberalism. Addresses three current areas of normative debate: global economic inequality, gender justice, and human rights. Explores these first-order questions against the background of the three broad traditions.
PHIL-UA 7 Offered every other year. Block. 4 points.
Examines conceptual and empirical issues about consciousness. Issues covered may include: the explanatory gap; the hard and harder problems of consciousness; phenomenal concepts; the mind-body problem; neural correlates of consciousness; higher-order theories of consciousness; arguments for dualism.
Philosophical Approaches to Race and Racism
PHIL-UA 8 4 points.
A philosophical exploration of race and racism. Explores the concept of race, and examines normative and conceptual issues surrounding the most morally significant of the ways in which “race” has mattered for social life. Asks what racism is, what sorts of things can be racist, and what makes racism wrong. Considers some possible responses to racism: for example, should the state, or we in our private lives, be colorblind?
Group 1: History of Philosophy
Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy
PHIL-UA 20 Formerly History of Ancient Philosophy. Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered in the fall. 4 points.
Examines some of the most important philosophical ideas and developments in Ancient Greece and Rome. Covers major writings by Plato and Aristotle, and a selection of writings by such thinkers as the Presocratics, Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics.
Early Modern European Philosophy
PHIL-UA 21 Formerly History of Modern Philosophy. Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered in the spring. 4 points.
Examines some of the most important philosophical ideas and developments in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. Covers some of the major writings of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, and Hume, and concludes with a brief examination of some aspects of Kant’s philosophy. (Kant is examined in more detail in PHIL-UA 30.) May also include writings of Hobbes, Malebranche, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Conway, Berkeley, and Shepherd, among others.
PHIL-UA 22 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Examines various aspects of Plato’s philosophy: ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, and political philosophy. Aims to understand Plato’s ideas and to engage with them philosophically through careful readings of selected dialogues.
PHIL-UA 24 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines various aspects of Aristotle's philosophy: ethics, psychology, physics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Aims to understand Aristotle’s ideas and to engage with them philosophically through careful reading of his works.
PHIL-UA 25 Formerly Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Identical to MEDI-UA 60. Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Examines some of the most important philosophical ideas and developments of the medieval period. Authors discussed may include, among others, Augustine, Ibn Sina, Anselm, Ibn Rushd, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham.
PHIL-UA 30 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Study of some of Immanuel Kant’s major works, including the Critique of Pure Reason, the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, and the Critique of Practical Reason.
Nineteenth-Century European Philosophy
PHIL-UA 32 Formerly From Hegel to Nietzsche. Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Examines some of the most important philosophical ideas and developments in Europe in the nineteenth century, preceded by a brief examination of some aspects of Kant’s philosophy. (Kant is examined in more detail in PHIL-UA 30.) Covers major writings by Hegel, and a selection of writings, determined by the special focus of the particular version of the course, from such thinkers as Fichte, Schelling, Feuerbach, Schopenhauer, Mill, Comte, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche.
Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy
PHIL-UA 39 Formerly Recent Continental Philosophy. Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Examines some of the most important philosophical ideas and developments in the “Continental” tradition in Europe in the twentieth century. After a review of some nineteenth-century developments, covers major works by Heidegger and Sartre, and some selection, determined by the instructor's particular focus, of writings by such figures as Husserl, Gadamer, Arendt, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, and Deleuze.
Topics in the History of Philosophy
PHIL-UA 101 Prerequisite: one course from those listed in Group 1: History of Philosophy. May be repeated once for credit as topics change. Offered every year. 4 points.
Careful study of a few topics in the history of philosophy—either one philosopher’s treatment of several philosophical problems, or several philosophers’ treatments of one or two closely related problems. Examples: Confucianism; ancient skepticism; theories of causation in early modern philosophy; Indian and Buddhist philosophy of mind; existentialism.
The Greek Thinkers
PHIL-UA 122 Identical to CLASS-UA 700. Offered periodically. 4 points.
The origins of nonmythical speculation among the Greeks and the main patterns of philosophical thought, from Thales and other early speculators about the physical nature of the world through Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Epicureans, and the Neoplatonists.
Readings in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
PHIL-UA 123 Identical to EAST-UA 123. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Basic introduction to the writings of Confucius, his adversaries, and his successors, followed by a reading of several novels regarded as national classics.
Group 2: Ethics, Values, and Society
PHIL-UA 40 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every semester. 4 points.
Examines fundamental questions of moral philosophy: What are our most basic values, and which of them are specifically moral values? What are the ethical principles, if any, by which we should judge our actions, ourselves, and our lives?
The Nature of Values
PHIL-UA 41 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Examines the nature and grounds of judgments about moral and/or nonmoral values. Are such judgments true or false? Can they be more or less justified? Are the values of which they speak objective or subjective?
PHIL-UA 42 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Explores contemporary debates regarding contentious ethical issues. It has two aims: (1) to identify the moral theories and concepts shaping these debates and (2) to use these debates to refine and evaluate these theories and concepts. Topics may be drawn from areas such as environmental ethics, business ethics, and medical ethics.
Empirical Moral Psychology
PHIL-UA 43 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Surveys recent empirical studies of how humans make moral judgments and decisions, and assesses the significance of this work for some of the traditional concerns of moral philosophy. Readings are drawn from social psychology, evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophical texts from the Western ethical tradition.
PHIL-UA 45 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines fundamental issues concerning the justification of political institutions. Topics may include: democratic theory; political obligation and liberty; criteria of a just society; human rights; and civil disobedience.
PHIL-UA 50 Offered every year. 4 points.
Examines moral issues in medical practice and research. Topics include: euthanasia and quality of life; deception, hope, and paternalism; malpractice and unpredictability; patient rights, virtues, and vices; animal, fetal, and clinical research; criteria for rationing medical care; ethical principles, professional codes, and case analysis (for example, Quinlan, Willowbrook, Baby Jane Doe).
Philosophy of Law
PHIL-UA 52 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines the nature of law, its relations to morality, and its limits. Topics: positivism and natural law theory; theories of criminal justice and punishment; concepts of liberty, responsibility, and rights. Considers the views of such thinkers as Austin, Bentham, Dworkin, Fuller, Hart, and Rawls.
Ethics & the Environment
PHIL-UA 53 Identical to ENVST-UA 400. Offered periodically. 4 points.
Environmental philosophy is a large subject that involves questions in metaphysics, philosophy of science, and history of philosophy, as well as in such normative areas as ethics, aesthetics, and political philosophy. This class is primarily devoted to these normative areas. Beginning with some basic concepts in value theory, the goal is not to arrive at definite solutions to specific environmental problems, but rather (i) to improve your ability to think critically, read closely, and to argue well about environmental issues; (ii) to introduce you to some major controversies in environmental philosophy; and (iii) to aid you in arriving at your own rational and clear-minded views about the matters under discussion.
Philosophical Perspectives on Feminism
PHIL-UA 55 Offered periodically. 4 points.
A survey and analysis of social, political, and epistemological issues concerning sex and gender.
PHIL-UA 60 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Introduces problems raised by the nature of art, artworks, and aesthetic judgment. Considers the expressive and representational properties of artworks, aesthetic attention, and appreciation, as well as the creation, interpretation, and criticism of artworks. Readings from classical and contemporary sources.
Topics in Ethics and Political Philosophy
PHIL-UA 102 Prerequisite: Ethics (PHIL-UA 40), The Nature of Values (PHIL-UA 41), or Political Philosophy (PHIL-UA 45). May be repeated once for credit as topics change. Offered every year. 4 points.
Thorough study of various concepts and issues in current theory and debate. Examples: moral and political rights; virtues and vices; equality; moral objectivity; the development of moral character; the variety of ethical obligations; ethics and public policy.
Living a Good Life: Greek and Jewish Perspectives
PHIL-UA 422 Identical to HBRJD-UA 422 and RELST-UA 422. Counts as an elective toward the philosophy major, and satisfies group 2 (ethics, values, and society) in the philosophy minor. Students may not count both PHIL-UA 422 and 428 toward the philosophy major or minor. Offered every one to two years. Gottlieb. 4 points.
See description under Hebrew and Judaic studies.
Creating a Good Society: Christian and Jewish Perspectives
PHIL-UA 428 Identical to HBRJD-UA 428 and RELST-UA 428. Recommended prerequisite: Living a Good Life: Greek and Jewish Perspectives (PHIL-UA 422). Counts as an elective toward the philosophy major, and satisfies group 2 (ethics, values, and society) in the philosophy minor. Students may not count both PHIL-UA 422 and 428 toward the philosophy major or minor. Offered every one to two years. Gottlieb. 4 points.
See description under Hebrew and Judaic studies.
Group 3: Logic, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Mind and Language
PHIL-UA 70 Offered every semester. 4 points.
An introduction to the basic techniques of sentential and predicate logic. Students learn how to put arguments from ordinary language into symbols, how to construct derivations within a formal system, and how to ascertain validity using truth tables or models.
PHIL-UA 72 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70). Offered every other year. 4 points.
An introduction to the basic concepts, methods, and results of metalogic, i.e., the formal study of systems of reasoning.
PHIL-UA 73 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70). Offered every other year. 4 points.
An introduction to the basic concepts and results of set theory.
PHIL-UA 74 Prerequisite: Logic (PHIL-UA 70). Offered every other year. 4 points.
Modal logic is the logic of necessity, possibility, and related notions. Provides an introduction to basic concepts, methods, and results, with an emphasis on applications to the fields of philosophy, linguistics, and computer science.
PHIL-UA 76 Formerly Belief, Truth, and Knowledge. Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Considers such questions as: Can I have knowledge of anything outside my own mind—for example, physical objects or other minds? Or is the skeptic’s attack on my commonplace claims to know unanswerable? What is knowledge, and how does it differ from belief?
PHIL-UA 78 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Discusses general questions concerning the nature of reality and truth. What kind of things exist? Are there minds or material bodies? Is change illusory? Are human actions free or causally determined? What is a person, and what, if anything, makes someone one and the same person?
Philosophy of Mind
PHIL-UA 80 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Examination of the relationship between the mind and the brain, of the nature of the mental, and of personal identity. Asks whether consciousness can be reconciled with a scientific view of the world.
Philosophy of Language
PHIL-UA 85 Prerequisites: Logic (PHIL-UA 70) and one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Examines various philosophical and psychological approaches to language and meaning, as well as their consequences for traditional philosophical problems in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Discusses primarily 20th century authors, including Russell, Wittgenstein, and Quine.
How Science Works
PHIL-UA 88 No prerequisite. Offered every other year. 4 points.
What is science? Is there a scientific method? How do experiments provide evidence for theories? Which aspects of scientific argument and reasoning are subjective and which are objective? What role do aesthetic considerations play in scientific thinking? How does the social organization of science contribute to its success? How should politicians and public policy makers “follow the science”? Investigates these questions using logical argument, sociological methods, and historical contexts.
Philosophy of Science
PHIL-UA 90 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every year. 4 points.
Examination of philosophical issues about the natural sciences. Central questions include: What is the nature of scientific explanation? How does science differ from pseudoscience? What is a scientific law? How do experiments work?
Philosophy of Biology
PHIL-UA 91 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Examines the conceptual issues that arise in and about biology, including: the proper role, if any, of teleology in biology; analysis of biological functions; structure of the theory of evolution by natural selection and the sense of its key concepts, such as fitness and adaptation; the unit of selection; essentialism and the nature of species.
Philosophical Applications of Cognitive Science
PHIL-UA 93 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered in the fall. 4 points.
The relevance of recent discoveries about the mind to philosophical questions about metaphysics, logic, and ethics. Questions include: What is causation? Is there a right way to “carve up” the world into categories? Why do we see the world as consisting of objects in places? Are the rules of logic objective or just the way we happen to think? Is there such a thing as objective right and wrong?
Philosophy of Physics
PHIL-UA 94 Identical to PHYS-UA 190. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Different approaches to understanding space and time, including the debates between Newton and Leibniz and Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity. Mathematics above the level of algebra is neither used nor required.
Philosophy of Religion
PHIL-UA 96 Prerequisite: one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Among the topics discussed are the nature of religion, the concept of God, the grounds of belief in God, the immortality of the soul, and faith, revelation, and problems of religious language. Readings from both classic and contemporary sources.
Philosophy of Mathematics
PHIL-UA 98 Prerequisites: Logic (PHIL-UA 70) and one introductory course. Offered every other year. 4 points.
Critical discussion of alternative philosophical views as to what mathematics is, such as Platonism, empiricism, constructivism, intuitionism, formalism, logicism, and various combinations thereof.
Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology
PHIL-UA 103 Prerequisite: Epistemology (PHIL-UA 76) or Metaphysics (PHIL-UA 78) or Philosophy of Science (PHIL-UA 90). May be repeated once for credit as topics change. Offered every year. 4 points.
Careful study of a few current issues in epistemology and metaphysics. Examples: skepticism, necessity, causality, personal identity, and possible worlds.
Topics in Language and Mind
PHIL-UA 104 Prerequisites: Logic (PHIL-UA 70) and either Philosophy of Mind (PHIL-UA 80) or Philosophy of Language (PHIL-UA 85). May be repeated once for credit as topics change. Offered every year. 4 points.
Careful study of a few current issues in language and mind. Examples: theory of reference, analyticity, intentionality, theory of mental content and attitudes, emergence and supervenience of mental states.
Junior Honors Proseminar
PHIL-UA 201 Formerly Advanced Seminar. Prerequisite: admission to the department’s honors program (contact the director of undergraduate studies). Offered every spring. 4 points.
To be taken by honors program students in the spring of junior year. Students study a variety of potential topics for honors theses, determined in part by the interests of those enrolled. Students then present and discuss their own original work, leading toward the development of an honors thesis prospectus. At the end of the semester students submit a prospectus; approval by the course instructor and a faculty advisor is required to pass the course.
Senior Honors Thesis Workshop
PHIL-UA 202 Prerequisite: admission to the department’s honors program and completion of Junior Honors Proseminar (PHIL-UA 201). Offered every fall. 4 points.
To be taken by honors program students in the fall of their senior year. Students write an honors thesis under the direction of an approved faculty advisor while participating in a weekly thesis-writing discussion workshop. The final thesis should be 7,000-10,000 words. The deadline for submission is one week before the start of spring semester. An oral thesis examination administered by the faculty advisor and another appointed faculty member follows submission of the final thesis; this should be held during the first two weeks of the spring semester.
PHIL-UA 301, 302 Prerequisites: approval of a faculty supervisor, as well as the approval of either the department chair or the director of undergraduate studies. Available only for study of subjects not
covered in regularly offered courses. 2 or 4 points per term. This course may be used in connection with an internship or practical training, but must also include substantial philosophical reading and writing. Only one Independent Study in connection with an internship may count toward the program requirements.