Course Offerings

Fall 2015

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Introduction to Philosophy

PHIL 100 - STAFF / Gregory, Paul A.

The course provides a broad historical survey of Western Philosophy. Students read selections from the work of a number of great women and men from the ancient to the contemporary period, dealing with questions of ethics, knowledge and reality, and social and political philosophy. Starting with Socrates who stands trial for questioning his fellow citizens, we consider how philosophy can be way of life and how we can pursue wisdom through careful argumentation and analysis of the foundations of our beliefs about the world, god(s), mind and body, truth and falsehood, morality, human nature, good and evil, government and society, justice, and equality.

Introduction to Philosophy

PHIL 100 - Verhage, Florentien

The course provides a broad historical survey of Western Philosophy. Students read selections from the work of a number of great women and men from the ancient to the contemporary period, dealing with questions of ethics, knowledge and reality, and social and political philosophy. Starting with Socrates who stands trial for questioning his fellow citizens, we consider how philosophy can be way of life and how we can pursue wisdom through careful argumentation and analysis of the foundations of our beliefs about the world, god(s), mind and body, truth and falsehood, morality, human nature, good and evil, government and society, justice, and equality.

Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 110 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

An examination of the metaphysics of the pre-Socratic philosophers, especially the Milesians, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, and the Atomists, and the ethics and political philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Topics include the origin and nature of the kosmos, the nature and existence of the god(s), the trial and execution of Socrates, theories of virtue, the nature of knowledge and truth, justice and the ideal state, the nature of eudaimonia (happiness, flourishing), and the possibility of akrasia (weakness of the will).

Introduction to Ethics

PHIL 140 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

The aim of this course is to sharpen your understanding of some important issues concerning value and morality. We read classic works and contemporary writings in considering such questions as: Is pleasure the only ultimate good? Are individuals' preferences the only basis for assessing the quality of their lives? What makes right acts right? What makes for a just society? What is the role of character in ethical behavior? We examine a number of influential ethical theories, including Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Contractualism, and Virtue Ethics, and assess their competing answers to these and other questions. The aim is to help you to understand the arguments put forward by defenders of these views and, by examining them, to refine your own understanding of the questions.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - Gregory, Paul A.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - STAFF / Gregory, Paul A.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - STAFF / Gregory, Paul A.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - STAFF / Gregory, Paul A.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Religion and Existentialism

PHIL 214 - Kosky, Jeffrey L.

A consideration of the accounts of human existence (faith and doubt; death and being-in-the-world; anxiety, boredom, and hope; sin and evil; etc.) elaborated by philosophers, theologians, and literary figures in the 19th and 20th centuries. The central figures considered are Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Attention is paid to their significance for future philosophers, theologians, artists, and literary figures, and consideration may also be paid to forerunners in earlier centuries.

Postmodernism: Power, Difference, and Disruption

PHIL 239 - Verhage, Florentien

While many things are said to be "postmodern" --architecture, pop-culture, literature, art, philosophy-- the term itself escapes many attempts at definition. In this seminar, we examine the philosophical roots of postmodern thought in an effort to gain better insight to its fluid character. The course concentrates especially on the writings of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Gilles Deleuze. We read Foucault's account of power and the docile body in Discipline and Punish; we discuss Derrida's deconstructionist project and his concept of "differance"; and we explore the fascinatingly complex world of Deleuze's and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus. After carefully exploring these complicated texts, we read several critical appropriations of these works in contemporary race theory, postcolonial studies, and feminist philosophy.

Philosophy of Law

PHIL 252 - Bell, Melina C. (Melina)

An examination of topics in the philosophy of law, such as the concepts of a law and of a legal system; Natural Law theory; legal positivist and legal realist theories of law; the nature of the relationship between law, morality, and religion; civil disobedience; rights in the U.S. Constitution; freedom of speech and pornography; abortion and the right to privacy; punishment and the death penalty; and different forms of legal liability. Readings include United States Supreme Court opinions.

Intermediate Logic

PHIL 270 - Gregory, Paul A.

An examination of alternative formal logics and issues in the philosophy of logic. Topics include formal ways of modeling possibility, actuality, and necessity; obligation and permissibility; pastness, presentness, and futurity; and others. They also include informal considerations of topics like conditionals, counterfactuals, intuitionism, and others.

Metaphysics: Existence and Reality

PHIL 274 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

An examination of central Issues in metaphysics. Topics include existence, the relationship between an object and its properties, time, space, persistence, and cause and effect. Topics may also include the nature of possibility, actuality, and necessary, and discussions about why anything exists at all.

Philosophy of Biology

PHIL 282 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

An examination of philosophical issues raised by biology, with an emphasis on current evolutionary theory. Topics include the structure of the theory of evolution by natural selection, an examination of the concepts of fitness and adaptation, the role of teleological explanation in biology, reductionism, the nature of biological species, individuality, levels of selection, and sociobiology.

Seminar on Philosophical Topics

PHIL 295B - STAFF / Gregory, Paul A.

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2015 topic:

PHIL 295A-01: Seminar: Honor Beyond the Classroom: Philosophy of Honor (3). What is honor? It lies at the heart of Washington and Lee's values, yet its hold on the wider American society is tenuous, and its meaning is unclear to many, not least to students struggling to comprehend a revered honor system. This discussion-based seminar seeks to explore the concepts of W&L's core values, including honor, civility, integrity and respect, and to provide a foundation for students to develop their own philosophical interpretations of these values. Our readings include selections from Honor for Us, a book by W&L Emeritus Professor Lad Sessions, who taught a course on the concept of honor at W&L for more than a decade; John Stuart Mill's famous essay On Liberty; Immanuel Kant's celebrated account of ethics based on respect for persons; and W&L's own White Book, which sets forth the principles of The Honor System at W&L. The central philosophical question of this course is: how can honor, civility, integrity and respect thrive, at W&L and beyond, in the 21st century? (HU) Bell.

PHIL 295B-01: Asian Philosophies (3). This course provides an overview of various Asian philosophical traditions while exploring a number of important philosophical themes, such as the self, the relationship between self and the world, the relationship between human and non-human, and the motivation for ethical behavior. Texts include Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy and What the Buddha Taught. (HU) Staff.

Phil 295C-01: Philosophy of Art (3). The course divides roughly into two parts: the nature of art and the value of art. In the first part, we look at issues in the nature of art. In the second part, we discuss the nature of aesthetic value, and its relation to other values, including moral value. (HU) Staff.

Seminar on Philosophical Topics

PHIL 295C - STAFF / Gregory, Paul A.

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2015 topic:

PHIL 295A-01: Seminar: Honor Beyond the Classroom: Philosophy of Honor (3). What is honor? It lies at the heart of Washington and Lee's values, yet its hold on the wider American society is tenuous, and its meaning is unclear to many, not least to students struggling to comprehend a revered honor system. This discussion-based seminar seeks to explore the concepts of W&L's core values, including honor, civility, integrity and respect, and to provide a foundation for students to develop their own philosophical interpretations of these values. Our readings include selections from Honor for Us, a book by W&L Emeritus Professor Lad Sessions, who taught a course on the concept of honor at W&L for more than a decade; John Stuart Mill's famous essay On Liberty; Immanuel Kant's celebrated account of ethics based on respect for persons; and W&L's own White Book, which sets forth the principles of The Honor System at W&L. The central philosophical question of this course is: how can honor, civility, integrity and respect thrive, at W&L and beyond, in the 21st century? (HU) Bell.

PHIL 295B-01: Asian Philosophies (3). This course provides an overview of various Asian philosophical traditions while exploring a number of important philosophical themes, such as the self, the relationship between self and the world, the relationship between human and non-human, and the motivation for ethical behavior. Texts include Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy and What the Buddha Taught. (HU) Staff.

Phil 295C-01: Philosophy of Art (3). The course divides roughly into two parts: the nature of art and the value of art. In the first part, we look at issues in the nature of art. In the second part, we discuss the nature of aesthetic value, and its relation to other values, including moral value. (HU) Staff.

Kant

PHIL 310 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

A close reading of the Critique of Pure Reason , Kant's most important work in metaphysics and epistemology and one of the most influential philosophical works ever written.

Ethics of Globalization

PHIL 335 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie) / Reiter, Sandra L. (Sandy)

This seminar examines a number of ethical issues raised by the phenomenon of globalization. Though globalization is not new, recent business, technological, and policy developments have made the world more integrated and interdependent than ever before. Increasing economic, cultural, and political interconnections have created a host of new questions about how to conceive of the moral rights and responsibilities of individuals, multi-national corporations, nation-states, and global institutions within this new global framework. This course identifies and clarifies some of these questions, and considers how they have been addressed from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives. Questions concerning the ethics of globalization are approached through an analysis of a few specific topics, such as immigration, humanitarian intervention, and global poverty and inequality. Because the issues raised by the phenomenon of globalization cross disciplinary boundaries, readings are drawn from a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, business, economics, political science, and anthropology.

Advanced Seminar

PHIL 395 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

An intensive and critical study of selected issues or major figures in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2015 topic:

PHIL 395: The Environmental Philosophy of Aldo Leopold (3). No prerequisite. Student may not also register for ENV 395. Aldo Leopold is arguably the seminal figure in the history of environmental ethics. This course is an in-depth examination of his thought. Using primary and secondary sources, we explore the development of his major contributions to environmental philosophy. Among the topics included are 1) his land ethic; 2) the nature of his environmental aesthetic; 3) his views on the value of wilderness; 4) his prescient focus on the role of apex predators; 5) his emphasis on the connection between biodiversity and ecosystem function; 6) his development of an ecology of place; and 7) his philosophy of outdoor recreation. (HU) Cooper.

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

Honors Thesis.


Spring 2015

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Ethics of War

PHIL 248 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

An investigation of important ethical issues concerning the justification, conduct, and consequences of war. The course concentrates, in particular, on traditional just war theory and on recent challenges that have been raised to the central tenets of this theory in light of the rise of terrorism and "asymmetric conflict" (i.e., conflicts waged between state and non-state parties), on the one hand, and reflection upon the moral responsibility of individuals who choose to support or participate in unjust wars, on the other. We address questions such as the following: Should we regard all combatants in war as having the same moral status, regardless of whether they are fighting for a "just cause"? Is it ever morally permissible to attack non-combatants? Is terrorism ever morally justified? Is torture ever morally justified? Is there a moral obligation to engage in humanitarian intervention to stop genocide? Can the conditions of war constitute an excusing condition for acts of moral atrocity?

Philosophy and Science Fiction

PHIL 272 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

Discussion of one or more major works in science fiction and in philosophy that explore related themes.

Human Enhancement and Transhumanism

PHIL 382 - Gregory, Paul A.

What does it mean to be human? Must we stay that way? We address these questions by looking critically at the technological enhancement of human capabilities. We have the means--robotic, pharmaceutical, computational, neurological, and genetic--to alter and enhance our biological endowments. We can increase our lifespan, improve our physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities like never before. What is currently possible? What will be possible in the short, medium, and long term? Could we change ourselves to such an extent that we are no longer human--becoming transhuman or posthuman? What if our technological descendants far surpass us and enslave us? What are the dangers and moral/ethical considerations, and how are we to adjudicate them? We read authors ranging from essentialist bioconservatives to radical transhumanists.


Winter 2015

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Introduction to Philosophy

PHIL 100 - Burstein, Matthew A. (Matt)

The course provides a broad historical survey of Western Philosophy. Students read selections from the work of a number of great women and men from the ancient to the contemporary period, dealing with questions of ethics, knowledge and reality, and social and political philosophy. Starting with Socrates who stands trial for questioning his fellow citizens, we consider how philosophy can be way of life and how we can pursue wisdom through careful argumentation and analysis of the foundations of our beliefs about the world, god(s), mind and body, truth and falsehood, morality, human nature, good and evil, government and society, justice, and equality.

Modern Philosophy

PHIL 120 - Mahon, James E.

An examination of the metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion in the rationalist philosophers Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Willhelm von Leibniz, and the empiricist philosophers John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. Topics include skepticism about the external world, mind-body dualism, the existence and nature of God, theories of substance, free will and determinism, personal identity, and causation.

Ethics and the Environment

PHIL 150 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

This course is a philosophical exploration of one's responsibilities to the natural world. It has three main objectives: first, to provide an understanding of different dominant ethical theories and their application to animals, plants, and ecosystems; second, to provide an understanding of major environmental issues in current political debates, such as climate change, species preservation, and sustainable development; and third, to facilitate the development of a student's own ethic towards the environment.

Ethics and the Environment

PHIL 150 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

This course is a philosophical exploration of one's responsibilities to the natural world. It has three main objectives: first, to provide an understanding of different dominant ethical theories and their application to animals, plants, and ecosystems; second, to provide an understanding of major environmental issues in current political debates, such as climate change, species preservation, and sustainable development; and third, to facilitate the development of a student's own ethic towards the environment.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - Gregory, Paul A.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Plato

PHIL 221 - Crotty, Kevin M.

An in-depth examination of the philosophy of Plato. We look at Plato's epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, ethics, and political philosophy through a careful analysis of several dialogues, including some or all of the following: Euthyphro, Laches, Apology, Gorgias, Meno, Phaedo, Symposium, Phaedrus, and Republic. In addition, we consider certain challenges posed by Plato's use of the dialogue form, such as whether we are justified in assuming that Socrates is a mouthpiece for Plato's own views, and how we should interpret Plato's frequent appeal to myths and other literary devices within his dialogues. 

Nietzsche

PHIL 232 - Burstein, Matthew A. (Matt)

An examination of Nietzsche's central philosophical conceptions - revaluation of values, genealogy of morality, self-overcoming, eternal recurrence - through selected readings from various periods in Nietzsche's authorship.

Contemporary Ethics

PHIL 240 - Mahon, James E.

An examination of different normative ethical theories, including consequentialism (utilitarianism), Kantian deontology, moral intuitionism, and virtue ethics, followed by an application of these normative theories to a selection of ethical problems, including famine and world hunger, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, suicide, and self-defense. Philosophers include W.D. Ross, J. J. C. Smart, Bernard Williams, Susan Wolf, Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, Judith Jarvis Thomson, and Shelly Kagan.

Poverty, Ethics, and Religion

PHIL 241 - Pickett, Howard Y. / Rowe, Barbara L.

This course introduces students to some of the most influential and compelling ethical arguments (both secular and religious) about our moral obligations regarding poverty. The course also examines the benefits and challenges of doing comparative religious and philosophical ethical analysis of a pressing moral and social problem. In particular, students will consider the arguments for and against including religiously inflected arguments in public deliberation about anti-poverty policy.

Social Inequality and Fair Opportunity

PHIL 242 - Bell, Melina C. (Melina)

An exploration of the different range of opportunities available to various social groups, including racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and the poor. Topics include how to define fair equality of opportunity; the social mechanisms that play a role in expanding and limiting opportunity; legal and group-initiated strategies aimed at effecting fair equality of opportunity and the theoretical foundations of these strategies; as well as an analysis of the concepts of equality, merit and citizenship, and their value to individuals and society.

Philosophy of the Family: Beyond Tradition

PHIL 254 - Bell, Melina C. (Melina)

This course considers philosophical issues raised by family as a social institution and as a legal institution. Topics addressed include the social and personal purposes served by the institution of family, the nature of relationships between family members, the various forms that family can take, the scope of family privacy or autonomy, and how family obligations, mutual support, and interdependency affect individual members of families.

Ethics of Globalization

PHIL 335 - Reiter, Sandra L. (Sandy) / Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

This seminar examines a number of ethical issues raised by the phenomenon of globalization. Though globalization is not new, recent business, technological, and policy developments have made the world more integrated and interdependent than ever before. Increasing economic, cultural, and political interconnections have created a host of new questions about how to conceive of the moral rights and responsibilities of individuals, multi-national corporations, nation-states, and global institutions within this new global framework. This course identifies and clarifies some of these questions, and considers how they have been addressed from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives. Questions concerning the ethics of globalization are approached through an analysis of a few specific topics, such as immigration, humanitarian intervention, and global poverty and inequality. Because the issues raised by the phenomenon of globalization cross disciplinary boundaries, readings are drawn from a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, business, economics, political science, and anthropology.

Medical Ethics

PHIL 346 - Burstein, Matthew A. (Matt)

An examination of the issues arising out of the human impact of modern biomedical research and practice. Specific issues are selected from among the following: abortion, contraception, death and dying, experimentation/research, genetics, in vitro fertilization, intellectual and developmental disabilities, public health/community medicine, science/technology, transplantation and patients' rights.

Self and Social World

PHIL 357 - Verhage, Florentien

This course takes as its starting point the question of the 'other.' We explore such questions as: how do we perceive, and communicate with others who have different bodies, genders, cultures and histories? How do we see ourselves through the eyes of others? Can we speak for others? Can we build bridges across differences and forge common ground? We begin with traditional philosophical accounts of selves and others, i.e., Hegel's dialectic of master and slave, Husserl's alter ego, Buber's philosophy of dialogue, Sartre's account of shame, Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of embodied intersubjectivity, and Levinas' ethics of alterity. Later, we concentrate on the work of feminist philosophers, race theorists, and post-colonialist thinkers who critique these traditional philosophies and offer alternative ways of speaking about self and other.

Seminar on A Living Philosopher

PHIL 399 - Gregory, Paul A.

Philosophy has a long and distinguished history. It is also an amazingly lively and active area of current research. In this seminar, students engage in an in-depth examination of the work of a major contemporary philosopher, including relevant material from other authors. Toward the end of the term, that philosopher visits campus for a few days to meet with students in class and give a lecture open to the university at large. Students have the opportunity to exchange ideas with, and critique the ideas of, someone at the forefront of the field. This course may be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different. Majors who are pursuing Honors may also chose to take PHIL 399 in place of one of their 10 courses in philosophy.

For Winter 2015, Jesse Prinz is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Author of five books and more than 100 articles, Prinz focuses on issues in philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, cognitive science, moral psychology, aesthetics, and experimental psychology. His work--informed by psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology--aims to vindicate the core tenets of classical empiricism in the 21st century. Prinz will visit campus toward the end of the term to lead class and give a public lecture.

Directed Individual Study

PHIL 403 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Senior Thesis

PHIL 473 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

Senior thesis.

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

Honors Thesis.