Course Offerings

Fall 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 Moral and Political Philosophy

PHIL 104 - Valentine, Melissa B. (Beth)

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 - Gregory, Paul A.

The course provides a broad survey of theories of knowledge and reality. 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 knowledge and reality. 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, and human nature.

Introduction to Theories of Knowledge and Reality

PHIL 105 - Verhage, Florentien

The course provides a broad survey of theories of knowledge and reality. 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 knowledge and reality. 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, and human nature.

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 - 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.

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.

Seminar in Metaphysics and Epistemology

PHIL 197 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

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

Fall 2018, PHIL 197-01: FS: Animal Minds (3). Prerequisite: First-year standing. First-year seminar. This course explores the philosophical and scientific literature on animal cognition. It examines questions such as: Do rats laugh? Does the praying mantis have the concept of prey? Do primates exhibit rudimentary moral behavior? Do animals attribute "mindedness" to other creatures? Does animal cognition involve beliefs, concepts, and rationality? Can the study of animal cognition tell us something about human cognition? How do we investigate these kinds of questions scientifically? What role does philosophical inquiry play? We explore both the history of thought on animal cognition as well as the most current scientific and philosophical literature to arrive at our best current understanding of these issues. (HU) Cooper.

American Pragmatism

PHIL 234 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

A survey of historical and contemporary American pragmatist philosophers, who believe that truth is linked to concrete consequences, meaning is a social phenomenon, and the line between philosophy and politics is permeable.

Existentialism: Meaning and Existence

PHIL 238 - Verhage, Florentien

Overview of existential thought in the 19th and 20th centuries. The course presents core existentialist thinkers and their critics - e.g. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Fanon, Heidegger, Camus - and explores important existential themes such as human experience, anxiety, freedom, authenticity, and absurdity.

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.

Metaphysics: Existence and Reality

PHIL 274 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

An examination of central issues in metaphysics. Topics include free will and determinism; cause and effect; space and time; being and existence; and possibility, actuality, and necessity.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 296 - Dudley, William C. (Will)

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

Fall 2018, PHIL 296-01: 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 conduct themselves 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 course, 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 are encouraged to reflect upon their own educational goals, choices, and experiences in light of the philosophical works that they read. (HU) Dudley.

Seminar in History of Philosophy or Major Figures

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 2018, PHIL 395A-01: Environmental Values and Environmental Policy (3). What values shape environmental decisions? In economic terms, we seek to allocate resources so as to maximize social utility. However, our policy decisions regarding the environment also pursue certain ecological goals, such as the preservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of healthy and functioning ecosystems. In addition, environmental policy is constrained by ethical concerns such as the pursuit of environmental justice and our responsibilities to future generations. This course addresses such questions as: To what degree are these three kinds of policy goals in tension with one another? How can we clarify our thinking about these policy goals so as to harmonize them where possible and reasonably negotiate the tradeoffs when they come into conflict? (HU) Cooper.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 396 - Valentine, Melissa B. (Beth)

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 2018, PHIL 396-01: Great Moral Debates: Consequentialism and Its Critics (3). Prerequisite: One course in philosophy other than PHIL 170. If we could wish for anything in the world, would it be enough to wish for everybody to be merely happy, instead of really happy? Is it morally better for me to take the high-paying-but-kinda-morally-icky corporate job rather than join the Peace Corps, just so I will have more money to donate to charity? We explore these questions and others as we examine in-depth various forms of modern consequentialist moral theory and the criticisms raised against them. Topics include a mix of normative ethics and applied ethics, meaning we debate the merits of different types of utilitarianism and other forms of consequentialism in both theory and practice. (HU) Valentine.

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 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.

The Second Sex: Beauvoir on the Power of Gender

PHIL 235 - Verhage, Florentien

Sixty years after its initial publication, The Second Sex is as eye-opening and relevant as ever. Simone de Beauvoir's masterpiece weaves together history, philosophy, economics, biology, and a host of other disciplines to analyze the Western notion of "woman" and to explore the making and the power of gender and sexuality. The Second Sex is an important philosophical and political document about inequality and enforced "otherness." Referring to the history of philosophy, new developments in existential thought, and drawing on extensive interviews with women, Beauvoir synthesizes research about women's bodies and psyches as well as their historic and economic roles.

Medicine, Research, and Poverty

PHIL 247 - Taylor, Erin P.

This seminar introduces students to central ethical issues in the provision of medical care and the conduct of medical research in the context of poverty. Specific topics include medical research on prisoners and the indigent; ancillary care obligations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs); meeting the standard of care in LMICs; access to essential medicines; allocation of scarce medical resources; and compensated donation for organs or tissues.

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.

Directed Individual Study

PHIL 401 - Bell, Melina C. (Melina)

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

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Gregory, Paul A. / Verhage, Florentien

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 .