Course Offerings

Winter 2018

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 - McGonigal, Andrew J.

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 European Philosophy: Descartes to Hume

PHIL 120 - McGonigal, Andrew J.

An examination of some of the metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion of the European Enlightenment, including views of the rationalists Rene Descartes, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz; and the empiricists Catharine Cockburn, John Locke, and David Hume. Topics include skepticism about the external world, mind-body dualism, the existence and nature of God, theories of substance, personal identity, and causation.

Contemporary Moral Problems

PHIL 145 - Valentine, Melissa B. (Beth)

Philosophical consideration of some of the main moral and political issues we confront in society and the world today, such as war, terrorism, global climate change, poverty, capital punishment, affirmative action, abortion, the treatment of animals, and hate speech. Topics vary.

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 - McGonigal, Andrew 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.

Heidegger and Being in the World

PHIL 218 - Kosky, Jeffrey L.

This course explores the work of Martin Heidegger and the development of its themes in the work of select philosophical, literary, and/or film artists. A close reading of the magisterial account of being in the world in Being and Time is followed by careful study of representative essays from his later work. After our reading of Heidegger, we consider the literary, cinematic, and/or philosophical work of major 20th- and 21st-century artists who let us reflect on the possibilities and/or problems that his account of being in the world poses for ethical, religious, and existential concern.

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.

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.

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.

Metaethics

PHIL 342 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

This course focuses on contemporary issues in metaethics. For example, we address questions such as the following: Do moral judgments express truths that are independent of our feelings and conventions? Are "goodness" and "wrongness" real properties of things, or do we simply use these terms to express our subjective preferences toward states of affairs? Can we reason about morality? Do moral considerations provide practical reasons for all rational agents, or does the normative force of these considerations depend upon an agent's subjective desires? We also consider some meta-theoretical questions about the aims, methods, and authority of moral theory.

Medical Ethics

PHIL 346 - Taylor, Erin P.

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.

Legal Ethics

PHIL 348 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

An examination of the issues associated with lawyers' roles in society and their impact upon and obligations to the client, the court, and the legal profession. The course also addresses questions of the role and function of law and the adversary system.

Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 375 - Gregory, Paul A.

A consideration and assessment of dualism and materialism and of various theories of the relation between the mental and the physical, such as the identity theory, functionalism, and supervenience.

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Gregory, Paul A.

Honors Thesis. Students must petition the department via the listed instructor. While awaiting a decision, the student must ensure a full credit load not including PHIL 493. The department honors program is outlined at https://www.wlu.edu/philosophy-department/about-the-department/about-the-major-and-the-minor/honors-program .

Fall 2017

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 - McGonigal, Andrew J.

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 Greek Philosophy

PHIL 110 - Taylor, Erin P.

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 - McGonigal, Andrew 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.

FS: First-Year Seminar

PHIL 180 - Dudley, William C. (Will) / Strong, Robert A. (Bob)

A seminar for first-year students.

Fall 2017, PHIL 180-01: Philosophy of Education: Why Are We Here? (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-Year class standing. What is education? Which purposes can and should it serve? What obligations do private colleges have to the communities and societies in which they operate? These questions about the nature of education are essential to philosophy, and also to the history and future of Washington and Lee University. In this course, students read and discuss classic texts in the philosophy of education in close conjunction with materials concerning the public policy commentaries about present practices in American liberal arts colleges. Special attention is paid to Washington and Lee, and students are encouraged to reflect upon their own educational goals and choices in light of the philosophical works that they read. (HU) Dudley, Strong.

FS: First-Year Seminar

PHIL 180 - Valentine, Melissa B. (Beth)

A seminar for first-year students.

Fall 2017, PHIL 180-02: FS: Equality and Difference (3) . First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year standing only. How should differences affect equal treatment? Do we treat persons equally in light of their differences or in spite of them? These questions, among others, motivate our study. We first explore why equality matters and then seek to determine what equal treatment might look like in particular contexts (applied philosophy). After some theoretical background, we ask how we should distribute benefits in light of differences in well-being when we have a finite supply of resources, followed by an examination of how bad luck affects equal treatment. Other topics include distribution of health care resources, and commonly discussed differences in public life, relying on legal cases and op-eds as well as academic articles, including debates surrounding what equal treatment with regard to race and gender means in education and the military. (HU) Henzel.

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.

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.

Epistemology: Knowledge and Doubt

PHIL 278 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

An examination of the basic problems in epistemology with an emphasis on contemporary discussions. Topics include skepticism, knowledge, justification (foundationalism, coherentism, reliabilism), relativism, and rationality.

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.

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.

Advanced Seminar

PHIL 395A - 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 2017, PHIL 395A-01: Environmentalism in the Anthropocene (3).   No prerequisites. Students may not also register for ENV 395A-01. Many people believe we have entered a new geological epoch: The Anthropocene, or Age of Human Domination. Some of the central questions explored in this seminar include: What does it mean to be an environmentalist in the Anthropocene? Are the traditional goals of wilderness preservation and conservation of biodiversity still appropriate? Should conservation biology shift its goals in the direction of conserving valuable ecosystem goods and services? Should our attitudes towards introduced and/or invasive species be transformed?  Should we assist the migration of species that are unable to respond on their own to the habitat shifts that will result from global warming? Has the planet become, in effect, one large human garden to be managed as best we can?  (HU) Cooper

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

Honors Thesis. Students must petition the department via the listed instructor. While awaiting a decision, the student must ensure a full credit load not including PHIL 493. The department honors program is outlined at https://www.wlu.edu/philosophy-department/about-the-department/about-the-major-and-the-minor/honors-program .

Spring 2017

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.