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Undergraduate Course Offerings


For a complete listing of Undergraduate Philosophy courses, click here.

Course # Course Title Instructor Crosslisting/Meets
PHI 107        Theories/Knowledge & Reality - Lect. and 8 disc. Mark Heller N / A
PHI 107 Theories/Knowledge & Reality - 6 ind. sects. 5 Senior TAs/PTIs N / A
PHI 109 Introduction to Philosophy (Honors) André Gallois N / A
PHI 125 Political Theory - Lect. and 4 disc. Pamela Ryan PSC 125
PHI 175 Social & Political Philosophy - 2 ind. sect. Neelam Sethi/Nicole Fortier N / A
PHI 191 Ethics & Contemporary Issues Laurence Thomas N / A
PHI 192 Intro. to Moral Theory - Lect. and 4 disc. David Sobel N / A
PHI 192 Intro. to Moral Theory - 2 ind. sect. Hamed Shirmohammadi/Megs Gendreau N / A
PHI 197 Human Nature - Lect. and 6 disc. Christopher Noble N / A
PHI 197 Human Nature - 2 ind. sect. Carolyn Garland/Megs Gendreau N / A
PHI 200 Selected Topics:  Chinese Philosophy Paul Prescott N / A
PHI 241 Christian and Muslim Philosophy Ahmed Abdel Meguid REL 292
PHI 251 Logic - Lect. and 6 disc. Michael Rieppel N / A
PHI 251 Logic - 3 ind. sect. James Lee/Scott Looney/Dante Dauksz N / A
PHI 293 Ethics and the Media Professions Paul Prescott N / A
PHI 297 Philosophy of Feminism Nathaniel Sharadin WGS 297
PHI 307 Ancient Philosophy Christopher Noble N / A
PHI 311 The Rationalists Kara Richardson N / A
PHI 317 Social Contract Tradition Kenneth Baynes PSC 373
PHI 319 God in Political Theory Ahmed Abdel Meguid REL 371/PSC 399
PHI 325 Existentialism Gregg Lambert N / A
PHI 378 Minds and Machines Joseph Hedger N / A
PHI 379 American Slavery and the Holocaust  Laurence Thomas PSC 379/JSP 379
PHI 387 Epistemology André Gallois N / A
PHI 393 Contemporary Ethics Hille Paakkunainen N / A
PHI 394 Environmental Ethics Lorenza D'Angelo N / A
PHI 396 Stem Cells and Society Paakkunainen/Erdman BIO 396/REL 359
PHI400 Selected Topics: Philosophy and Psychiatry Kim Frost N / A
PHI 401 Seminar for Philosophy Majors Samuel Gorovitz N / A

Class Descriptions


PHI 107 - Theories of Knowledge & Reality

Students should enroll either in Lecture section (M002) (Instructor: Mark Heller, MW 11:40 - 12:35) + one of the discussion sections (M003-M012); OR in one of the 6 independent small class sections (M101-M107).  

COURSE TOPIC:   An introduction to some of the main issues, theories and arguments in the areas of philosophy concerned with knowledge (epistemology) and with fundamental and basic features of reality (metaphysics).  The course will have 4 equal units concerned with four core issues:                 

            • the existence of God,                                                                                                                         

            • the nature and limits of Knowledge,                                                                                     

            • the relation of Mind & Matter (Mind-Body problem),                                                         

            • the problem of Free Will.                                                                                                            

As well as providing an understanding of the philosophical theories and debates on those four topics, the course is intended to introduce students to the methods and skills of philosophical thinking and reasoning, both in evaluating the arguments of others and in constructing and defending arguments of one's own.

Two lecture meetings & one discussion section weekly. Midterm & Final examtwo essays.  Satisfies Liberal Art Core, writing intensive course requirement.


PHI 109 - Introduction to Philosophy (Honors)
Instructor:  André Gallois
TTH  9:30 - 10:50
This course will familiarize students with the scope and methodology of contemporary analytic philosophy, as well as with a selection of major questions in the field. Such questions include: Does God exist? Is free will possible? What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? What, if anything, can we know with certainty? Course content will be drawn from an assortment of historical and contemporary works, with an aim towards illustrating both the historical development and the current state of the debates over these questions. This course is designated as writing intensive by the University, and students will be guided through the process of writing and revising an essay on a philosophical topic of their choosing.


PHI 125/PSC 125 - Political Theory
Instructor:  Pamela Ryan
TTH  5:00 - 5:55
This is a course covering the great political thinkers of Western Civilization. Covering the major political theories from Plato to Rawls, we will discuss issues of human nature, the justification of the state, democracy and its difficulties, liberty and rights, economic justice, war and peace and alternatives to liberalism. Students will also have the opportunity to apply this knowledge to current political issues and events. 

We will be reading some of the classic texts of Western civilizations as we make our way through the human nature, liberty and rights, economic justice, justification of the state and war and peace. It is expected the student will be a more informed, reflective and critical citizen after this course. 

PHI 175 - Social & Political Philosophy

Students should enroll in one of the 2 independent small class sections (M001-M003). 

Social and Political Philosophy will focus on issues concerning what, if anything, gives governments the right to rule, what a just government would look like, and how benefits and burdens ought to be distributed in society.  We will read classic and contemporary sources.

PHI 191 - Ethics & Contemporary Issue

Instructor:  Laurence Thomas

TTH - 12:30 - 1:50

This class will provide a background in general ethical theory, both about the content of morality and the status of morality.  Different ethical frameworks will be considered and critically assessed.  Additionally, that background will be used to help us address ethical issues of special contemporary concern.

PHI 192 - Introduction to Moral Theory

Students should enroll either in Lecture section (M101) (Instructor: David Sobel, MW 10:35 - 11:30) + one of the discussion sections (M102-M105); OR in one of the 2 independent small class sections (M001-M003).  

This course is an introduction to major theories about moral rightness and wrongness, about virtue and vice, and about value and disvalue. We examine historically influential theories that continue to be of contemporary interest, such as utilitarian, Kantian, Aristotelian, and social contract theories. Along the way, we discuss the relationship between morality and self-interest, as well as a range of disputed moral issues, such as our duties to non-human animals, the obligations of the affluent towards the poor, and the ethics of radical human enhancement. We use both historical and contemporary readings.

Course goals: To enable students to (a) gain a basic understanding of major moral theories, and of their merits; (b) gain a firm understanding of core ethical concepts and distinctions; (c) gain a facility for independently grappling with ethical issues in an articulate and informed manner; and (d) gain improved critical reading and analytical writing skills.

Credit cannot be received for both PHI 192 and PHI 209.

PHI 197 - Human Nature

Students should enroll either in Lecture section (M100) (Instructor:  Christopher Noble, TTH 12:30 - 1:25) + one of the discussion sections (M101-M106), OR in one of the 2 independent small class section (M001-M002).

What are we? What does it mean to be human? Are we rational animals? What does that even mean? Are we free? What is freedom anyway? Do facts about human nature have consequences for how we ought to live? How could facts about human nature have such consequences? (How could they not?)

This course is a wide-ranging introduction to key texts about human nature drawn mostly from the Western philosophical tradition. We will read historical texts by Plato, Aristotle, Mill, Freud, Marx, Sartre, and Russell. We will also read some more contemporary texts by Nozick , the Dalai Lama, Kahneman, Fine, Nussbaum and Le Guin. You will learn how to read philosophical texts drawn from different periods of history, how to identify philosophical arguments, and how to critically evaluate and construct philosophical arguments.

PHI 200 - Selected Topics: Chinese Philosophy
Instructor:  Paul Prescott
TTH  2:00 - 3:20

Chinese Philosophy is an introduction to the major philosophers of the classical period in China (ca. 600—221 BCE). Topics include Kongzi (Confucius), Mozi, Yang Zhu, Mengzi (Mencius), the Daodejing, Zhuangzi, Xunzi, and Han Feizi. The course also attends to issues in East-West comparative thought, and to the relevance of Chinese philosophy for the contemporary world.

PHI 241/REL 292 - Christian and Muslim Philosophy
Instructor:  Ahmed Abdel Meguid
TTH  11:00 - 12:20

The question of the relation between the human and the divine is one of the key and rather complex, foundational questions in both theology and the philosophy of religion. It is inextricably related to and underlies central questions pertaining to both domains including those related to the problems of pantheism, ineffability, spirituality and the quest for attaining communion with God and the relation between religion on one hand and ethics, society and politics on the other. 

This course puts forward a comparative study of how this question was tackled in both Christian and Islamic philosophy and theology. The approach of the class will be both thematic and historical. It will be thematic in the sense that we will trace the main themes pertaining to or often associated with the way this question has been addressed in Christian and Islamic theology and philosophy respectively. On the other hand, it will be historical inasmuch as it tries to trace the development of the approach to and different modes in which these themes were formulated by key thinkers from both traditions. For instance, we are going to investigate how an essentialist classical view of human nature led to different responses to the question of the relation between the human and the divine in the Christian and Muslim traditions. By comparing and contrasting these responses we will be able to deduce, at least on a preliminary level, the main aspects of agreement and disagreement between the two traditions. 

The first part of the class traces the key characterization of the human being in the Christian and Muslim traditions respectively. Key questions about whether or not there is a Christian/Muslim universal theory of human nature will be addressed. Also ethical questions about the freewill versus determinism will also be tackled. The second part of the class investigates the conception of God and the relationship between the divine and the human in both traditions. It examines this relationship through a brief survey of Christian versus Islamic theories of hermeneutic and political subjectivity. 

PHI 251 - Logic

Students should enroll either in Lecture section (M001) (Instructor: Michael Rieppel, MW  2:15 - 3:10) + one of the discussion sections (M002-M009), OR in the independent small sections (M102 - M104).

In a good deductive argument the conclusion follows from the premises.  But what exactly does this involve?  Logic aims to answer that question by giving a mathematically precise account of the relation of logical consequence.  In this course we will study three increasingly complex systems of logic: sentential logic, monadic predicate logic, and first-order logic.  We will learn how to represent the logical forms of English arguments, and then develop a semantics as well as a system of natural deduction in each system to determine the validity of arguments given such formal representations.  Upon completing the course students will be familiar with basic model- and proof-theoretic concepts and techniques, and be able to apply them to analyze and evaluate natural language arguments.

PHI 293 - Ethics & The Media Professions

Instructor:  Paul Prescott

TTH  5:00 - 5:55

Ethics and the Media Professions is an introduction to the ethical issues raised by the media, including television, radio, film, graphics, and photography. The goal of the course is to provide students with the resources and background required to recognize, navigate, and constructively respond to the ethical challenges faced by entertainment media professionals. Toward that end, the course focuses on three interrelated topics:

1.       Ethical concepts and methods, including traditional views about ethical standards and how they should be determined.

2.       Specific areas where ethical issues arise for the entertainment media: including the portrayal of sex and violence; the representation of race, class, and gender; and the ethical implications of digital technology.

3.       Questions concerning personal, professional, and institutional responsibility, and the ethical challenges of professional life.

The course is open to Newhouse students only.


PHI 297.M001/WGS 297 - Philosophy of Feminism

Instructor:  Nathaniel Sharadin

TTh  2:00 - 3:20

This course will address a range of philosophical issues under the broad topic of

feminism . In the rst part of the course, we'll deal with Ätraditional" issues in

feminist philosophy, including work on oppression, sex, and feminist ethical theory.

In the second part of the course, we'll turn our attention to feminist epistemology,

with a special focus on recent work by Miranda Fricker on the nature of (and

corrective for) what she calls Äepistemic injustice."

PHI 307 - Ancient Philosophy

Instructor:  Christopher Noble

MW  12:45 - 2:05

In this course we will discuss the ideas and arguments of some of the major ancient Greek philosophers. Topics will include the pre-Socratic origins of cosmological speculation, the beginning of philosophical ethics with Socrates, Plato’s moral theory and epistemology, and Aristotle’s ethics, philosophy of nature, and metaphysics. The course will end with a brief survey of philosophical developments in the Hellenistic period. 


PHI 311 - The Rationalists

Instructor:  Kara Richardson

TTH  12:30 - 1:50

This course will introduce students to Rationalist philosophy in Early Modern Europe. Topics will include human nature, knowledge and certainty, freedom, the existence of God, and the social contract. Authors will include Descartes, Elizabeth of Bohemia, Malebranche, Pascal, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz and Émilie Du Châtelet.

Course objectives:

  • Ability to describe the major positions of several Early Modern Rationalists.
  • Ability to describe the development of Early Modern European philosophy.
  • Ability to explain and evaluate philosophical arguments
  • Ability to communicate ideas and arguments in speech and in writing


PHI 317/PSC 373 - Social Contract Tradition

Instructor:  Kenneth Baynes

TTH  11:00 - 12:20

This course will explore the idea of the social contract as a basis for political obligation and political authority as well as various criticisms of that view of the social contract.  Readings will include both classic and contemporary texts, including Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, John Simmons, Carole Pateman, Charles Mills, Jean Hampton, and David Gauthier.  We will also explore the idea of liberal toleration as it has appeared in the social contract tradition since (at least) Locke:  is it a coherent ideal?  Does tolerating something already suggest it is less valuable?  Locke, the great liberal theorist, thought we should not tolerate atheists—and he was uncertain about Catholics!  If Locke was mistaken about this, what are appropriate limits on toleration? 


PHI 319/REL 371/PSC 399 - God in Political Theory

Instructor:  Ahmed Abdel Meguid

TTH  2:00 - 3:20

To what extent has religion or more generally metaphysics and theology affected the political

sphere and the civil order of society? What intermediary domains allow for such influence? Is it ethics and morality, aesthetics or the systems of knowledge (epistemology)? We will address these questions both historically and thematically.

Historically we will start with a brief overview of Greek antiquity looking closely at the relation between metaphysics or theology and politics in the Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics. We will then turn to the theistic appropriation of the classical view of the relation between theology and politics in the medieval period by Muslim and Christian thinkers. In this respect, we will focus on the political thought of two towering figures of medieval Muslim and Christian thought: Abu Nasr al-Farabi (d. 950 C.E.) and St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274 C.E.). Subsequently we will move to early modern philosophy, its critique of the classical and scholastic views and the foundation of its call for secularism, examining Spinoza’s Theological Political Treatise. Following early modern thought, we will explore the development of the conception of the relation between religion and politics in the Enlightenment movement through the work of Immanuel Kant. Turning to the 20th century, we will examine Carl Schmitt’s critique of the modern state in general and how it appropriated the main characteristics medieval European theocracies in particular. Finally, we will investigate contemporary post World-War II critiques of the modern and enlightenment discourse and the re-assessment of the relation between religion and politics in the work of Jürgen Habermas, Agamben & Badiou.

Thematically, we will trace the paradigmatic shifts in the formulation and the responses to key questions at the heart of the problematic relation between religion and politics. Among these questions is that concerning the concepts of power and the access to power and how the relation between religion and politics colored them? To what extent is the call for secularism and the form it assumed in the modern theory of state specific to the Western condition? Further we will examine the problem of normativity in politics and society and the degree to which the presence/absence of religion and religious sentiments play in shaping it. We will also place special emphasis on the effect religion may have on the conception of the relation between the private and the public spheres.

PHI 325 - Existentialism

Instructor:  Gregg Lambert

TTH  2:00 - 3:20

Foregoing it’s 19th Century literary and philosophical predecessors (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Kafka) in this course we will define Existentialism primarily as a response to the early phenomenological writings of Martin Heidegger by post-war French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who, in turn, influenced the “black existentialist” responses by African and Caribbean writers such as Frantz Fanon, George Lamming, Wilson Harris, etc.

In the first half of the semester, we will explore this lineage through a close reading of key texts, from Heidegger’s Being and Time to Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, including From Existence to Existents by Jewish ethical philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. In the second part of the course, we will turn to other figures and genres, such as Albert Camus’ novella, the Fall, Feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir and Algerian writer, activist, and psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon. 

PHI 378 - Minds and Machines

Instructor:  Joseph Hedger

TTH  12:30 - 1:50

This course will examine philosophical issues in the foundations of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science. We will read primary sources, mostly by philosophers in the Analytic tradition, but also some philosophical writings by scientists and mathematicians who played key roles in creating the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

Some questions and themes we will explore include the following: What does it mean to think? Can animals think? Can machines think? What is the best way to model human thinking in a computer program? Can thinking be a process of symbol manipulation? Do our minds extend beyond our brains and into our iPhones? Is the human mind a general all-purpose mechanism, or a modular hodge-podge of specialized mechanisms slapped together through the process of natural selection? Can a machine be conscious? Is consciousness necessary for human-like intelligence? If a robot or other machine (e.g. computer-controlled car or weapon) does something immoral, who is responsible? If you downloaded your mind into a robot, would it still be you? What will happen to human beings once AI becomes “super intelligent”? The Turing Test; connectionism; Artificial Life and robotics; “Folk Psychology” and mental causation; Artificial intelligence and ethics; The Singularity; and the Extended Mind thesis. We may also incorporate current events where relevant.


PHI 379/PSC 379/JSP 379 - American Slavery and the Holocaust

Instructor:  Laurence Thomas

TTH  3:30 - 4:50

The class begins with a discussion of both Douglass’s essay and Wiesel’s essay. Douglass is a well-known survivor of American Slavery. And by contrast, Wiesel is a well-known survivor of the Holocaust. 

We then move to the issue of jealousy. 

Along the way, we ask the following question: 

To what extent does the biological make-up of human beings constitute an excusing condition. Is the (biological) propensity of human beings to want to fit-in an excusing condition? This is the question that makes the work of the renown sociobiologist Robert Trivers so very, very relevant. This question is central to obtaining an understanding of how so many people could do what we take to be an obvious wrong that should have been recognized as such. 

We then move to the question the very character of human nature. 

The course concludes with a deep and searching discussion of forgiveness.

PHI 387 - Epistemology

Instructor:  André Gallois

TTH  11:00 - 12:20

We will be examining issues about knowledge and justified belief. In the case of knowledge we will be asking the following questions. What is it to know something? What kinds of knowledge are there? How much, if any, do we have of each kind? We will also be asking the corresponding questions about justified belief. What is it? What kinds are there? How much do we have belonging to each kind? In attempting to answer these questions we will discuss some celebrated arguments for skepticism about knowledge and justified belief. Specifically we will be looking at skepticism about the external world, other minds, the future and the past. Other topics we will investigate include testimony, whether we can have knowledge, which is independent of experience, perception, introspection and naturalized epistemology.


PHI 393 - Contemporary Ethics

Instructor:  Hille Paakkunainen

MW  2:15 - 3:35

This course will familiarize students with the scope and methodology of contemporary moral philosophy, as well as with some central open questions in the field. Such questions include: What makes actions right or wrong? Are there really moral properties such as rightness or wrongness, and if so, what is their fundamental nature? Under what conditions are agents morally responsible for their actions? We deepen our grasp of basic ethical concepts and theories by thinking about specific contemporary moral issues, such as the ethics of terrorism and torture, of free speech and hate speech, of disability and radical human enhancement, and our obligations to future generations. Course content will be drawn predominantly from the philosophical works of recent decades, providing students with a survey of the current state of the discipline.

Course goals:

Our goals throughout are to (a) gain some appreciation of the rich variety of topics discussed in contemporary ethics, (b) gain a firm understanding of core ethical concepts and distinctions, (c) develop skills in active, critical reading of texts in contemporary moral philosophy, and (d) gain a facility for independently grappling with ethical issues in an articulate and informed manner, both orally and in writing.


PHI 394 - Environmental Ethics

Instructor:  Lorenza D'Angelo

MW  3:45 - 5:05

"The primary goal of this course is to help students develop a good understanding of some core problems in contemporary philosophical ethics through an engagement with environmental issues. These are among the most theoretically challenging and yet practically urgent moral problems of our time. In the first half of the semester, we will examine major views about welfare and explore their application to non-human animals. In the second half of the semester, we will deal with issues of welfare distribution; in particular, we will focus on the special challenges that global climate change and population growth pose for international and intergenerational justice."


PHI 396/BIO 396/REL 359 - Stem Cells and Society

Instructor:  Paakkunainen/Erdman

MWF  10:35 - 11:30

Description: This is a 3-credit course that will meet three times a week for lectures and discussion. Each class session may include a combination of lecture segments, group and individual work, and discussions with the entire class, with some sessions dedicated more to lecture, others for discussion. The course covers some of the central scientific, ethical, religious, and social issues surrounding the research and use of stem cell technologies, including discussion of the media coverage surrounding stem cell science. 

The course is team-taught by Instructors with expertise in the relevant science, ethical, religious, and media issues. Students will gain requisite knowledge of these topics as well as acquiring skills for identifying and critically addressing the complex issues raised by stem cell research and uses.

Learning Objectives:  Upon completing this course students will:

  1. Be able to describe the biology of stem cells, their sources and actual and potential uses
  2. Be able to discuss related ethical, social and religious issues associated with stem cells and their uses.
  3. Have gained facility with analyzing and criticizing arguments, including key concepts in debates about stem cell uses.
  4. Have gained facility in reading and interpreting the primary scientific literature.
  5. Have gained a critical perspective on media coverage of stem cell technologies

PHI 400 - Selected Topics: Philosophy and Psychiatry

Instructor:  Kim Frost

MW  2:15 - 3:35

In this class we will examine how philosophy of mind, philosophy science, and ethics apply to a host of complex, interrelated questions about psychiatry. Questions we shall address include: what is the nature of mental health, and mental illness? Is mental illness a biological, biochemical, or social kind (or some mix of these)? What roles do values play in the definition and classification of kinds of mental illness? In what sense is the patient’s point of view important for the definition, nature, and treatment of mental illness? In what sense (if any) is psychiatry a field of scientific research? In what sense (if any) is psychiatry a form of social control? What do various psychiatric treatment and research programs assume about the nature of the mind? Are the assumptions clearly correct? How do categories like mental health and mental illness relate to categories like autonomy and (moral; legal) responsibility? (How do we answer complex, interrelated questions like these?)

PHI 401 - Seminar for Philosophy Majors

Instructor:  Samuel Gorovitz

TTH  2:00 - 3:20

We will focus on the craft of writing clear, well-argued papers and of making lucid and engaging oral presentations.  We will discuss a few topics in bioethics, but the main focus will be on topics selected by each student through a process of proposal drafting and negotiation.  Students will do independent research on their approved topics, making preliminary reports on their work in progress and ultimately producing a term paper on the topic and making a final presentation as if at an APA or other professional meeting.