Course Offerings

Winter 2020

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 Theories of Knowledge and Reality

PHIL 105 - Kang, Li

An introduction to philosophy, covering the following puzzles and questions: Do we really know anything? What is time like? Is time travel possible? What are selves? Does God exist? Do we have free will? Students see how these big questions are pursued in both Western and Eastern traditions and how they impact everyday life. The main goal of this course is to develop rigorous and disciplined methods of thinking and writing. Emphasis is especially placed on developing the abilities to extract, present, explain, and evaluate positions and arguments.

Modern European Philosophy: Descartes to Hume

PHIL 120 - Goldberg, Nathaniel 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.

Classical Chinese Philosophy

PHIL 130 - Kang, Li

An introduction to philosophy via classical Chinese philosophy. We cover major schools in classical Chinese philosophy, including Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism. Many ideas of these schools have significantly shaped cultural practice in East Asia. We focus on the philosophical articulation and defense of these schools, and we reflect on issues in cosmology, epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. We also discuss the relevance of classical Chinese philosophy to Western philosophy as well as empirical research. No background is presupposed.

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.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 196 - Weissman, Jeremy L.

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

Winter 2020, PHIL 196-01: First-Year Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Ethics and Emerging Technologies (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. By some accounts, technology is the defining aspect of modern society that shapes how we experience the world. At the same time, technology is accelerating at a pace that challenges our ability to take stock of the ethical issues at hand. In this seminar, we take a critical look at a number of cutting-edge technologies that are still largely on the horizon and attempt to decipher the ethical issues they present and how such problems might be mitigated. Some emerging technologies we critically analyze include artificial intelligence, human enhancement, virtual reality, surveillance technologies, synthetic biology, self-driving cars, and killer robots. (HU) Weissman.

Plato

PHIL 221 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

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. 

Social Inequality and Fair Opportunity

PHIL 242 - Bell, Melina C.

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.

Political Philosophy: The Social Contract

PHIL 260 - Taylor, Erin P.

Is the government's power over its citizens morally legitimate? Do citizens have any political obligations to their government? What is individual liberty and how should it be respected? How should a commitment to liberty be balanced against a concern for equality and the common good? Social Contract doctrine--to which the Declaration of Independence adverts--provides answers to these questions. This course surveys the Social Contract theories of three of the most influential political philosophers of the modern age, whose writings shaped our conception of the republic and its principles: Thomas Hobbes. John Locke, and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Virtue Ethics

PHIL 344 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

This course examines the recent resurgence of interest in virtue-based theories in ethics. These theories, which trace back to the Ancient Greek philosophers (particularly Aristotle), emphasize the importance of the virtues and good character to living a flourishing human life. Such views are increasingly being defended as an alternative to traditional rule-based (deontological) and consequence-based (consequentialist) theories in ethics. We begin by looking at some of the seminal articles that sparked this renewed interest in virtue ethics, and then examine a fully developed neo-Aristotelian virtue ethical account (and some criticisms that have been raised to this account).

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.

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.

Fall 2019

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 Moral and Political Philosophy

PHIL 104 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

The course provides a broad historical survey of moral and political 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 and moral and political philosophy. 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, morality, human nature, good and evil, government and society, justice, and equality.

Introduction to Theories of Knowledge and Reality

PHIL 105 - Kang, Li

An introduction to philosophy, covering the following puzzles and questions: Do we really know anything? What is time like? Is time travel possible? What are selves? Does God exist? Do we have free will? Students see how these big questions are pursued in both Western and Eastern traditions and how they impact everyday life. The main goal of this course is to develop rigorous and disciplined methods of thinking and writing. Emphasis is especially placed on developing the abilities to extract, present, explain, and evaluate positions and arguments.

Ancient Greek Philosophy

PHIL 110 - McGonigal, Andrew 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 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.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 196 - Weissman, Jeremy L.

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

Fall 2019, PHIL 196-01: First-Year Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Ethics and Emerging Technologies (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. By some accounts, technology is the defining aspect of modern society that shapes how we experience the world. At the same time, technology is accelerating at a pace that challenges our ability to take stock of the ethical issues at hand. In this seminar, we take a critical look at a number of cutting-edge technologies that are still largely on the horizon and attempt to decipher the ethical issues they present and how such problems might be mitigated. Some emerging technologies we critically analyze include artificial intelligence, human enhancement, virtual reality, surveillance technologies, synthetic biology, self-driving cars, and killer robots. (HU) Weissman.

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.

Philosophy of Sex

PHIL 246 - Bell, Melina C.

This course explores questions related to contemporary conceptions of sexuality and its proper role in our lives. Questions addressed include: What is the purpose of sex? Are sexual practices subject to normative evaluation on grounds of morality, aesthetics, and/or capacity to promote a flourishing human life? We consider the relation between sex and both intimacy and pleasure, viewed from the perspective of heterosexual women and men, and gay men and lesbians. What are our sexual practices and attitudes toward sex? What should they be like?

Philosophy of Law

PHIL 252 - Bell, Melina C.

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.

Free Will and Moral Responsibility

PHIL 256 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

This course provides an introduction to the problem of free will and moral responsibility. It is natural to wonder what place there is for freedom in a natural world of cause and effect. Our ordinary practices of holding people responsible (which includes not just blame, but also, e.g., credit, where credit is due) seem threatened equally by either determinism or indeterminism, fate or chance. In this class, we ask: What sort of concepts are freedom and responsibility, and what must a person be for those concepts to be applicable? The course begins with a brief historical overview of the problem of free will and moral responsibility, and then examines a number of contemporary philosophical perspectives on this problem, including the seminal work of P. F. Strawson, Harry Frankfurt, Gary Watson, John Martin Fischer, Susan Wolf, and T. M. Scanlon, among others.

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 in History of Philosophy or Major Figures

PHIL 295A - Kang, Li

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

Fall 2019, PHIL 295A-01: Seminar in History of Philosophy or Major Figures: Chinese Buddhist Philosophy (3). An advanced survey of Chinese Buddhism. Buddhism was founded in India. After it entered China, Chinese Buddhists created four distinct forms of Buddhism—namely, Tiantai, Huayan, Chan/Zen, and Pure Land—by integrating Indian Buddhism with native Chinese ideas. We focus on the philosophical articulation and defense of these schools, and reflect on issues in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics. By examining the origin, development, and influence of Chinese Buddhism, students see how the three major trends of Chinese thoughts—Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism—are entangled with one another. We also discuss the relevance of Chinese Buddhism to Western philosophy. (HU) Kang.

 

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 296A - Dudley, William C. (Will)

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

Fall 2019, PHIL 296A-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Virtue Ethics and Liberal Arts Education (3). The mission of Washington and Lee is to provide a liberal arts education that helps students develop their capacities to think freely, critically, and humanely and to act with honor, integrity, and civility. These capacities are known as virtues, positive traits of intellect and character that are believed to be conducive to living well. Virtue ethics is one of the oldest and most important approaches to moral theory. Plato famously asked whether virtue can be taught. Aristotle's Ethics attempts to answer Plato by giving an account of how the traits that are necessary to human flourishing can be acquired. In this seminar, students read classic and contemporary texts in virtue ethics, with the aim of evaluating W&L's mission and the university's efforts to fulfill it. What does it mean to think freely, critically, and humanely? What are the distinguishing characteristics of honor, integrity, and civility? Are these traits beneficial in every circumstance? Are there other virtues that the university should strive to cultivate in its students? How effectively do the culture, curriculum, and extra-curricular programs at Washington and Lee teach the virtues to which our mission commits us? Students reflect upon their own educational goals, choices, and experiences in light of the philosophical works that they read. (HU) Dudley.

 

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 Topics in Environmental Ethics

PHIL 365 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

This course examines selected topics in environmental ethics. Topics may vary from year to year, and include the proper meanings and goals of environmentalism; the goals and methods of conservation biology; major environmental issues in current political debates; and balancing the ethical concerns of environmental justice and our responsibilities to future generations.

Philosophy of Language

PHIL 372 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

A survey of central topics in the field, including some or all of the following: reference, meaning, truth, analyticity, speech acts, pragmatics, verificationism, indeterminacy, innateness, metaphor, and development of language in the species and in the individual.

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 .

Spring 2019

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.

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.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 296 - McGonigal, Andrew J.

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

Spring 2019, PHIL 296-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Film, Philosophy, and Nature (4). An examination of a range of issues in philosophy of film, and their relationships to the natural world. What is film? What does it mean to appreciate film landscapes as nature? In what ways do motion pictures stand in a distinctive relationship to the emotions? To ethics? What does it mean to claim that something is part of nature? For example, do claims about ethics, religion, possibility or consciousness describe elements of the natural world, or are they true in virtue of special non-natural properties? What implications do movies have for environmental aesthetics? How should we understand the art(s) of film? Can fiction films communicate important or distinctive forms of knowledge about environmental threats such as global warming? Can popular movies be sublime? What is the distinctive nature of documentary film? Why is it valuable? How do film narratives differ from other narrative forms? We discuss these and related questions in the context of film texts that originate from different national cultures and historical periods. (HU) McGonigal.