Core Curriculum features
both "knowledge goals" and "skills goals." Like writing and mathematics, the
techniques of logical reasoning are considered to be valuable (and transferable)
skills. Logic is the science of correct reasoning. Everyone thinks
and reasons, but it can be done well or poorly, and one can become a better reasoner
through study, care, and practice.
PHIL111, Foundations of Logical Reasoning, satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Foundations of Logical Reasoning (CLOR). This class is offered every semester, and is required of all Freshmen effective Fall 06. There are more than 45 sections; please consult InfoBear for times and availability.
PHIL310, Symbolic Logic, satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Application of Quantitative Skills (CQUR), and is offered regularly.
All other Philosophy courses satisfy Core distribution requirements in Humanities (CHUM) (except for First- and Second-Year Seminars, which satisfy the CFYS and CSYS requirements respectively). Many of them satisfy the writing-intensive requirement (CWRT); consult the Catalog.
The department offers a range of elective classes, which reflects the diversity of interests of the faculty. As a general rule, each elective we have is offered every other year; i.e., every four semesters. This coming semester (Fall 2013), we will be offering the following: (Please click the titles below (or see College Catalog (pdf)) for more detailed descriptions.) Not all courses are available each semester; to preview open classes, check Current Courses)
Fall 2013 Electives -- Click title for description. For further information on individual courses, ask your advisor or contact the instructor.
PHIL135- Honors Colloqium in Philosophy - open to all students with
consent of instructor (1 credit)
135-H01 Philosophy of Film Noir -- Dr. Skoble -- M 9:05-9:55
135-H02 Theism and Human Inquiry -- Dr. Dasti -- F 12:20-1:10
135-H03 Lost and Philosophy -- Dr. Devlin -- M 11:15-12:05
135-H04 Philosophy of Alfred Hitchcock -- Dr. Devlin -- W 12:20-1:35
PHIL 199- First-Year Seminar in Philosophy
199-001 - Philosophy of Gender and Society -- Dr. McAlinden -- TR 11:00-12:15
199-002, 003, 004 - Ethics of Harry Potter -- Dr. Mogg -- MWF 8:00-8:50; 9:05-9:55, or 11:15-12:05
199-005, 006 - Everyday Ethics -- Dr. Steinhofer -- MW 12:20-1:35 or 1:50-3:05
199-008 - Ideas Worth Fighting For: God and Politics, East and West -- Prof. Luddy -- W 6:00-8:40
199-010 - God: Is there one, and how would we know? -- Prof. Spencer -- MWF 11:15-12:05
199-011 - Naming Names: Definitions, Concepts, and Nature -- Dr. Kober -- MW 1:50-3:05
PHIL298 -- Speaking-Intensive Second-Year Seminar in Philosophy
298-001 - Human Flourishing: Integrating Critical Thinking and Creativity - Dr. Torosyan - TR 3:25-4:40
PHIL299 -- Writing-Intensive Second Year Seminar in Philosophy
299-001 - Paradoxes -- Prof. Johnson - TR 12:30-1:45
299-002 - Ethics and Politics in The Hunger Games - Dr. Mogg - T 6:00-8:40
299-F01 - Religious Experience and Mysticism - Dr. Wallace - W 6:00-8:40 (meets at Attleboro site)
PHIL151 - Introduction to Philosophy - Dr. Skoble -- TR 9:30-10:45 - This course is designed to introduce you to some of the fundamental methods and problems of philosophy, and some possible solutions to those problems. Philosophy is literally the love of wisdom, and it has also been described as the science of wonder. Philosophy is an unusual discipline in that part of its subject matter is itself. More concretely, though, we can say that philosophy concerns itself with fundamentals: about reality, knowledge, morals, justice, and art. The objectives of the course are twofold: (a) that you gain a familiarity with some of the key questions and important thinkers in the field and (b) that you come to develop a sense of yourself as a participant in the grand dialogue of philosophy.
PHIL199-010 First-Year Seminar in Philosophy (Writing Intensive) - God: Is there one, and how would we know? - Prof. Spencer - MWF 11:15-12:05 -- Is there some all-powerful being (God) who has set all things in motion, or does the universe exist entirely by chance? If there is a God, what attributes might we ascribe to this deity? How can one possibly argue for the existence of God? Doesnt the existence of evil lead us to conclude that there can be no God? Can we even know the answers to these questions? Throughout the history of philosophy, many thinkers have developed arguments either in favor of the existence of God or against this particular idea with varying levels of success. Throughout this course we look at a number of different arguments either for or against the existence of God, and evaluate how effective they are. Surveying arguments such as the ontological argument, Aquinas' "five ways," Pascal's "wager," the Problem of Evil, and others, students will be able to appreciate the complexity of these arguments and their consequences. By embarking on this journey, students will learn to appreciate both the importance of these arguments on our intellectual history as well as the importance of these arguments on our own lives and the decisions we make.
PHIL298 -- Speaking-Intensive Second-Year Seminar in Philosophy -Human Flourishing: Integrating Critical Thinking and Creativity - Dr. Torosyan - TR 3:25-4:40 -- What are your life dreams? How do you make your dreams real? What key ways of knowing do you need to develop to achieve your goals? What tells you youre succeeding? These are the questions that thinkers and artists have explored over the centuries. By exploring theory, empirical studies, videos, and live experiences in and out of the classroom, we will use ways of knowing from the humanities, arts and sciences to apply learning to personal life, the workplace, and community life through individualized projects.
PHIL152 - Contemporary Moral Problems -- Dr. Womack -- TR 2:00-3:15 -- This course is an introduction to how philosophers think and reason about moral issues that apply across many areas of life. We will look at both theoretical and applied considerations about complex topics within medical ethics, philosophy of law, environmental ethics, and other areas that concern us as humans, citizens and thinkers. Topics vary, but may include issues like abortion, capital punishment, sexual morality, animal rights, drugs, pornography, cloning, war, welfare and social justice, discrimination, etc. Students will learn how to apply critical reasoning and reflection to these often highly charged issues, so to conduct civil discussion, dispassionate thinking, clear writing, and deep reflection.
PHIL310 - Symbolic Logic -- Dr. Pearson -- TR 11:00-12:15 This course explores the formal systems of truth-functional logic and quantificational logic. By developing a symbolic system, we can more easily see the logical structures we are concerned with. We will examine what can be legitimately inferred from a given statement or set of statements, whether a given statement can be false at all (or is necessarily true), whether a set of statements is consistent or inconsistent, and what it means to "prove," "deduce," and "imply." We will study modes of statement composition, how quantificational analysis works, the difference between universal and existential quantification, the logical properties of statements or sets of statements (such as validity and consistency), and logical relations between statements (such as equivalence and entailment).
PHIL199-005,006 - First-Year Seminar - Everyday Ethics - Dr. Steinhofer - MW 12:20-1:35 or 1:50-3:05 This seminar is a philosophical examination of the ethical implications of certain familiar (perhaps everyday) activities including eating meat, gossiping, copying software, smoking, owning pets, and telling jokes.
PHIL199-002,003,004 - First-Year Seminar -Ethics of Harry Potter - Dr. Mogg - WMF 8:00-8:50, 9:05-9:55, or 11:15-12:05 -- The Harry Potter series is a worldwide phenomenon. Despite the assertion from some that the books promote witchcraft, many take seriously the proposition that they are full of philosophical significance. This proposition is exemplified in The Chamber of Secrets, when Dumbledore raises the question of character when he says, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" (333). In this course, with the assistance of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, we will view Harry Potter through a philosophical lens to determine what Harry's choices reveal about the nature of virtues such as courage, temperance, magnanimity and justice.
PHIL299-F01 - Second-Year Seminar - Religious Experience and Mysticism - Dr. Wallace - W 6:00-8:40 (meets at Attleboro site) What exactly is religious experience, and how ought we best understand its epistemic status as a source of religious truth? Often beyond the bounds of ordinary description, mysticism typically entails a transformative (even ecstatic) encounter of the individual person with transcendent reality. As a special type of religious experience, what do the common features of mysticism reveal about the human condition, intellectually, morally, and existentially, on both a universal and individual level? Following a rational approach to this intriguing aspect of our spiritual awareness as human beings, this course will advance a philosophical analysis of the various expressions of religious experience. In so doing, we will undertake a close examination of some of the most significant examples of mysticism in both Western and Eastern religious traditions. This seminar course will be discussion-based. There will be an emphasis on expressing the discussion topics through critical writing. This will consist of a total of three writing assignments. Each assignment will be five to six pages in length and will focus on the central questions addressed in selected readings. The objective of these assignments, as guided by the instructor's feedback, will be to demonstrate one's understanding of the subject as well as to cultivate the skills necessary for clearly articulated writing.
PHIL299-001 - Second-Year Seminar - Paradoxes -- Prof. Johnson - TR 12:30-1:45 Is the following sentence true or false: This sentence is false? What is the smallest number that can't be described in less than fourteen words? If you change every part of your car over a ten year period is it the same car? Could you go back in time and kill your grandfather? If God knows youre going to take this class then do you really have a choice? If reason is the principle tool of Philosophy, then paradoxes are its principle foil. This course will introduce the student to many of the most interesting and perplexing puzzles and paradoxes throughout history. These paradoxes span topics such as, infinity, morality, vagueness, self-reference, material constitution, decision theory, and much more. Our investigation into these deep questions will help the student develop their critical thinking and problem solving talents, as well as greatly increasing their writing skills. It wont be easy, but it will be fun.
PHIL299-002 - Second-Year Seminar in Philosophy (Writing Intensive) - Ethics and Politics in The Hunger Games - Dr. Mogg - T 6:00-8:40 -- Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games trilogy provides an extended treatment of fear as it applies to both political and ethical questions. For example, is fear a legitimate source of power and/or an effective way to maintain control? In the presence of fear, are one's actions limited by an understanding of right and wrong? In this course, we will address questions such as these through a close analysis of the trilogy. Our reading of The Hunger Games will be informed by the philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and Niccolo Machiavelli.
PHIL199-008 - Ideas worth fighting for: God and Politics, East and West - Prof. Luddy - W 6:00-8:40 -- This course examines the idea of God in the history of the major religious groups. It investigates the source and inspiration of their conception of God, and its implication for morality and politics. The course pays particular attention to the phenomenon of fanaticism, the tendency of some factions within religious groups to follow a perilous path toward radicalism and possibly violence. We highlight the connection between fanaticism and nationalism, as well as the fighting words of various religious and political leaders in current conflicts. It is not merely Foreign Service employees who must understand contemporary religious issues and strife; it is a prerequisite for an informed citizenry
PHIL199-011 - First-Year Seminar - Naming Names: Definitions, Concepts, and Nature -- Dr. Kober -- MW 1:50-3:05 We are always attempting to identify, define, and name the objects around us. Nature, however, seems to challenge language, and escape neat classifications. This course will examine the practice and aims of scientific definitions and classification. We will ask whether the distinctions we make are discovered or created; which distinctions are natural; what kinds of classifications there are; and why they are needed. We will discuss issues such as the formation of concepts, essentialism, pluralism, natural kinds, laws of nature, and generalizations. As case studies, we will look more closely at particular systems of classification (taxonomies), and discuss the specific questions and problems they give rise to. We will discuss case studies such as biological taxonomy, chemistry, psychiatry, psychology, and social categories. Further cases and fields may be added according to students' interests.
PHIL215 - Environmental Ethics -- Dr. Kober -- MWF 9:05-9:55 This class will explore key ethical questions regarding the relationship between humans and the environment. We will discuss various issues pertaining to these relationships, such as intrinsic or instrumental value in nature; humans' place in nature; animal rights; obligations to future generations; resource allocation; and food politics. Our focus will be on the ethical aspects of these discussions. Arguments representative of different approaches and positions will be considered, allowing students to gain familiarity with both the history of these debates and their current state.
PHIL199-001 - First-Year Seminar - Philosophy of Gender and Society -- Dr. McAlinden -- TR 11:00-12:15 All of us come in to the world with some facts of biology, but do those facts determine our gender? What is "gender" at all? How are woman and men different, and why? Recent research indicates that society plays a large role in how we construct our gendered sense of ourselves. In this course, well take a brief look at some of the science of sexual differences between humans, then in the remainder of the course well look at two versions of how society influences the gendered identity of men and women.
PHIL303 - Major Modern Philosophers -- Dr. McAlinden -- TR 9:30-10:45 This course is an introduction to the philosophy of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. During this important time many of the foundations of modern ways of looking at the world were developed, while several interesting tangents were taken. In this survey of major modern philosophers we will read selected texts from some of the most interesting and most influential thinkers of the period, including Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. We will focus on their metaphysical and epistemological views, as well as the systematic approaches they take to solving some difficult philosophical puzzles. Students will be expected to learn the central arguments in texts, and to represent and critically assess these arguments in class discussions and in written work. Students will a) prepare a one page reflection paper for every class meeting; b) take turns facilitating small group discussion; c) write 3 drafts of seven page final paper.
PHIL257 - World Philosophy -- Dr. Dasti -- MWF 10:10-11:00 World Philosophy is a study of how thinkers within disparate cultural traditions engage with some of the central themes of philosophy. Guiding our course are questions such as: What is the best kind of life to live? How can be sure about our ethical choices? What is the appropriate response to the fact of death? Time permitting, we will examine five separate loci of philosophical development: Ancient China, Ancient Greece, Classical India, Early Modern Africa and Modern Europe.
PHIL135-H02 - Honors Colloquium - Theism and Human Inquiry -- Dr. Dasti -- F 12:20-1:10 (1 credit) This colloquium examines various questions, debates, and issues that stem from the relationship between theism (belief in some kind of transcendent being which is a source of ultimate value) and human inquiry. Although we will likely consider some of the traditional questions of the rationality of theistic belief and arguments for and against God, we will primarily be concerned with broader socio-philosophical problems like the relationship between theism and science, theism and ethical mores, and theism and the rationale for war. There is no required text to purchase; the participants in the course will work with me to select the major topics for inquiry, and I will locate and provide materials. Many of the essays we read will be taken from the recently published Routledge Companion to Theism. We will read the materials in advance, and meet for discussion. Open to all students with consent of instructor.
PHIL231 - Amoralism, Egoism, Altruism -- Dr. Devlin -- MW 1:50-3:05 This course explores the philosophical concepts of amoralism, egoism, and altruism through the works of such philosophers as Friedrich Nietzsche, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, and Susan Wolf. In particular, we will focus on the moral philosophy of Nietzsche and ask, Is Nietzsche an amoralist, an immoralist, an egoist, or a general moralist? Through this exploration, we will address further questions, such as: What does it mean to be moral? Why should we be moral? What does it mean to be immoral? Does being an egoist entail being an immoralist? Is it possible to be a moral saint? Students are expected read, participate in philosophical dialogue, write one midterm paper, write one research paper, and take a cumulative final exam.
PHIL135-H04 Honors Colloquium- Philosophy of Alfred Hitchcock -- Dr. Devlin -- W 12:20-1:35 (1 credit) From the shower scene in the Bates Motel, to the airplane that chases Cary Grant through a cornfield, to James Stewart's experience of vertigo in a church tower, award winning filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock has provided us with some of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history. Yet, behind the veil of imagery, Hitchcocks films explore philosophical questions concerning human nature and existence, human emotions, human ethical dilemmas, horrors, and crime, and madness. In this colloquium, we will follow the philosophical questions, themes, and issues of such Hitchcock films as Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, Rope, North by Northwest, Sabotage, Shadow of a Doubt, and Lifeboat). We will use the book Hitchcock and Philosophy as our guide. Students will write a 3-5 page paper concerning a specific philosophical topic related to the readings, class discussion, and Hitchcock's films. Students will also be expected to be familiar with, and have access to, these films for review. Open to all students with consent of instructor.
PHIL135-H03 - Honors Colloquium - Lost and Philosophy -- Dr. Devlin -- M 11:15-12:05 (1 credit) ABCs hit television series Lost (2004-2010) focuses on passengers from Oceanic Flight 815, who become castaways on a remote and mystical island with mysterious inhabitants and strange, unnatural, and seemingly unexplainable events unfolding. Initially seeking physical rescue, the castaways come to rescue themselves, spiritually, emotionally, and existentially. Throughout its six seasons, Lost provide us with a broad scope of philosophical characters (including historical philosophers by name John Locke, David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, Edmund Burke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau), philosophical topics (existentialism, time travel, consciousness, personal identity, free will, faith, and rationality), and philosophical problems (ethical dilemmas, becoming a better human being, and paradoxes). In this colloquium, we will follow the philosophical themes of the show, using the book Lost and Philosophy (Sharon Kaye, ed.) as our guide. Students will write a 3-5 page paper concerning a specific philosophical topic related to the readings, class discussion, and the series. Students will also be expected to be familiar with the show and have access to episodes for review. Open to all students with consent of instructor.
PHIL404 - Mind and Language -- Dr. Womack -- M 1:50-4:35 We know we have bodies and we think we have minds. But what is a mind? How does it relate to a person's brain? How does it relate to their body and the external world? Can a mind exist in a very different kind of body (e.g., a computer or a robot)? What is it to have a mental image or to experience a pain? We will examine these questions from a philosophical perspective, also incorporating work from areas such as psychology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience, each of which has brought sophisticated research methodologies to the task of understanding how the mind works.
PHIL235 - Human Rights and Human Liberties -- Dr. Skoble -- TR 12:30-1:45 This course will explore different theories of the grounding, nature, and scope of rights and liberties. We will consider a variety of questions in social and political philosophy such as: What does it mean to call something a "human right"? How should we understand liberty? Are there different conceptions of liberty underlying different political theories? Why are some theorists, both from the left and right, critical of the very idea of rights or liberty? What, if anything, justifies political authority? Other topics might include such things as the relation between rights and responsibility, the relation between a theory of morality and a system of legal rights, concepts such as property and consent, and the possible conflicts between liberty and community. Our main objectives are to understand, among other things: theories of justice, the nature of authority, the different theoretical approaches to defending and criticizing the notion of rights, the relationship between rights and duties, the distinction between liberty-rights (or freedoms) and claim-rights (or entitlements), what is meant by "human" rights, the relationship between "economic" and "civil" liberties.
PHIL135-H01 - Honors Colloquium - Philosophy of Film Noir -- Dr. Skoble -- M 9:05-9:55 (1 credit) The classic period of Film Noir is generally taken to range from The Maltese Falcon (1941) to Touch of Evil (1958), in a cycle of films notable for their unusual lighting, disorienting photography, mysterious characters, sinister plots, and a "dark" (noir) atmosphere that mirrored concerns about corruption, crime, and social decadence. This course is aimed at examining the philosophical roots, and ramifications, of these films. We will also consider some films from the "neo-noir" catalogue, and examine how the noir legacy was translated to the small screen, with an eye towards their philosophical dimensions. Some of the issues involved this semester include: existential themes, issues of values and nihilism, moral ambiguity, reasoning and detection. Open to all students with consent of instructor.
Last Modified: April 1, 2013