Department of Philosophy

  • Chair

    Gideon Rosen

  • Departmental Representative

    John P. Burgess

    Desmond Hogan (Acting, Fall 2018)

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    Hendrik Lorenz

  • Professor

    John P. Burgess

    Adam Newman Elga

    Daniel Garber

    Hans Halvorson

    Elizabeth Harman, also University Center for Human Values

    Mark Johnston

    Thomas P. Kelly

    Sarah-Jane Leslie

    Hendrik Lorenz

    Benjamin C. A. Morison

    Alexander Nehamas, also Comparative Literature

    Gideon A. Rosen

    Michael A. Smith

  • Associate Professor

    Desmond Hogan

    Boris C. Kment

    Sarah McGrath

  • Assistant Professor

    Johann D. Frick, also University Center for Human Values

    Grace E. Helton

    Harvey Lederman

  • Lecturer

    Victoria McGeer

  • Visiting Professor

    Susan J. Brison

    Andre Laks

    Sara Magrin, also Council of the Humanities 

  • Visiting Assistant Professor

    Una Stojnic

  • Visiting Associate Professor

    Ralph M. Bader

  • Associated Faculty

    Charles R. Beitz, Politics

    Andrew Chignell, Religion, University Center for Human Values

    Robert P. George, Politics

    Jonathan Gold, Religion

    Sanjeev R. Kulkarni, Electrical Engineering

    Melissa S. Lane, Politics

    Tania Lombrozo, Psychology

    Alan W. Patten, Politics

    Philip N. Pettit, Politics, University Center for Human Values

    Peter Singer, University Center for Human Values

Information and Departmental Plan of Study


Any course in the philosophy department may serve as prerequisite for concentration. A student who has not satisfied this prerequisite and who, at the end of sophomore year, desires to enter the department must apply to the departmental representative.

Early Concentration

Early concentration is open to spring semester sophomores who have completed the prerequisite for entering the department by the end of the fall semester of sophomore year, and allows the student to make an early start on independent work. This option is especially useful for students planning to study abroad junior year.

General Requirements

Distribution Requirement. Six of the eight courses must be so distributed that there are two in each of three of the four areas into which philosophy courses are divided; there is no such restriction on the remaining two of the eight. The four distribution areas are as follows:

1. Metaphysics: 203, 218, 237, 311, 313, 315, 317, 318, 337, 338

2. Ethics and philosophy of value: 202, 306, 307, 309, 319, 320, 325, 326, 335, 360, 380, 384, 385, 390, 391, 419

3. Logic and philosophy of science: 201, 204, 312, 314, 321, 322, 323, 327, 340, 490

4. History of philosophy: 200, 205, 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 306, 332, 333, 335, 338

Interdisciplinary Options

Political Philosophy. Senior concentrators doing their theses in political philosophy have the option of substituting for the usual distribution requirement (two courses in each of three areas plus two unrestricted courses) the following: two courses from among those listed under the Department of Politics as courses in political theory; two philosophy courses in the ethics and philosophy of value area; two philosophy courses in one other philosophy distribution area; and two philosophy courses unrestricted as to distribution area.

Philosophy of Science. Senior concentrators doing their theses in philosophy of science have the option of substituting for the usual distribution requirements (two courses in each of three areas plus two unrestricted courses) the following: two upper-division (300 level or higher) courses in one relevant science (such as mathematics, computer science, physics, biology, psychology, economics); two philosophy courses in the logic and philosophy of science area; two philosophy courses in one other philosophy distribution area; and two philosophy courses unrestricted as to distribution area.

Philosophy and Linguistics. Philosophy concentrators participating in the certificate program in linguistics may follow the philosophy of science option just described, taking linguistics as their science. All courses listed under the Program in Linguistics as core, other, or related courses may be considered courses in the science of linguistics for this purpose.

Independent Work

Junior Year. During fall semester of the junior year, independent work normally involves participation in a seminar of up to five students under the supervision of an instructor from the faculty of the department. The seminar provides a transition from course work to fully independent work. A junior seminar meets weekly for an hour or biweekly for two hours to discuss readings selected by the instructor, and each student writes a final paper, normally of at least 5,000 words, on a topic in the area defined by those readings, usually chosen by the student from a list provided by the instructor. (The student's grade for fall semester independent work will be based mainly on this paper, but it is usually based partly on shorter papers and/or oral presentations in the seminar earlier in the term.) During spring semester of the junior year, independent work consists of writing a junior paper -- an essay on a philosophical topic, normally of at least 5,000 words--under the supervision of an individual faculty adviser (different from the student's fall seminar instructor).

Senior Year. Senior year independent work consists of the following: writing the senior thesis, an essay or group of related essays on a topic or group of related topics in philosophy, normally of at least 10,000 words (and normally of at most 15,000 words); and preparation for the departmental examination (see below). The thesis is read, the examination is conducted, and both are graded by a committee of two members of the faculty, one primarily for advising the thesis, the other for coordinating the examination. A short thesis proposal is due just before fall recess and an interim thesis draft, normally of at least 5,000 words (not necessarily in final form), is due just after winter recess.

Senior Departmental Examination

The senior departmental examination is a 90-minute oral examination on the general area of philosophy to which the thesis topic belongs. The final syllabus of readings for the departmental examination (agreed upon between the student and his or her examination coordinator and thesis adviser) is due by the last week of classes.

Study Abroad

Each year some junior philosophy concentrators spend one or both semesters on foreign study, usually in Britain. The department has generally been flexible in allowing, within the limits of University regulations, departmental credit for work done abroad. If the student is planning to be away for only one semester and has a choice, the department recommends choosing spring so as not to miss the fall junior seminars here.

Preparation for Graduate Study

Students contemplating going on to graduate study in philosophy are strongly advised to do more than the minimum required of all majors: to take more than just eight philosophy courses; to do some work in all four areas of philosophy and not just three; to include in their work in the philosophy of value area some in core ethics (at least one of 202, 307, 319, 335) and in their work in the philosophy of science area some in core logic (at least one of 201, 312, 323, 340); and to include in their work in the history area some on ancient philosophy (at least one of 205, 300, 301, 335) and some on modern philosophy (at least one of 200, 302-306, 332, 333, 338). Also it is advisable to study at least to the level of the University language requirement one of the following: ancient Greek, Latin, French, or German.

Courses numbered below 300 have no prerequisite and are open to underclass students. Most courses numbered 300 and above are intended for students who have already had some philosophy; others should consult the instructor before enrolling. With some exceptions, 200-level courses are given every year. Other courses are scheduled on the principle that a student majoring in the department for a two-year period will be able to work out a well-balanced program and satisfy the department's distribution requirements with significant freedom of choice.


PHI 200 Philosophy and the Modern Mind Not offered this year EC An introduction to modern philosophy, from the Renaissance to the present, with careful study of works by Descartes, Hume, Kant, and others. Emphasis is placed upon the complex relations of philosophy to the development of modern science, the social and political history of the West, and man's continuing attempt to achieve a satisfactory worldview. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Garber
PHI 201 Introductory Logic Spring EC A study of reasoning and its role in science and everyday life, with special attention to the development of a system of symbolic logic, to probabilistic reasoning, and to problems in decision theory. Two lectures, one preceptorial. H. Halvorson
PHI 202 Introduction to Moral Philosophy (also
CHV 202
) Fall EM
An introductory survey of ethical thought, covering such topics as the demands that morality makes, the justification of these demands, and our reasons for obeying them. Readings from both the historical and contemporary philosophical literature. Two lectures, one preceptorial. S. McGrath
PHI 203 Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology Spring EC An introduction to some of the central questions of pure philosophy through their treatment by traditional and contemporary writers: questions concerning mind and matter; causation and free will; space and time; meaning, truth, and reality; knowledge, perception, belief, and thought. Two lectures, one preceptorial. G. Rosen
PHI 204 Introduction to the Philosophy of Science Not offered this year EC An inquiry into the form and function of concepts, laws, and theories, and into the character of explanation and prediction, in the natural and the social sciences; and an examination of some philosophical problems concerning scientific method and scientific knowledge. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff
PHI 205 Introduction to Ancient Philosophy (also
CLA 205
HLS 208
) Fall EC
Designed to introduce the student to the Greek contribution to the philosophical and scientific ideas of the Western world through study of works of Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Lucretius in English translation. Topics in moral and political philosophy, as well as epistemology and metaphysics, will be included. Attention will be focused on the quality of the arguments presented by the philosophers. Two lectures, one preceptorial. H. Lorenz
PHI 218 Learning Theory and Epistemology (also
ELE 218
EGR 218
) Not offered this year EC
An accessible introduction for all students to recent results by logicians, computer scientists, psychologists, engineers, and statisticians concerning the nature and limits of learning. Topics include truth and underdetermination, induction, computability, language learning, pattern recognition, neural networks, and the role of simplicity in theory choice. Two lectures, one preceptorial. G. Harman, S. Kulkarni
PHI 237 The Psychology and Philosophy of Rationality (See PSY 237)
PHI 300 Plato and His Predecessors (also
HLS 300
) Fall EC
Readings in translation from pre-Socratic philosophers and from Plato's dialogues, to provide a broad history of Greek philosophy through Plato. Topics covered will include: Socrates's method of dialectic, his conceptions of moral virtue and human knowledge; Plato's theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and moral and political philosophy. Two lectures, one preceptorial. A. Laks
PHI 301 Aristotle and His Successors (also
HLS 302
CLA 303
) Not offered this year EC
Aristotle's most important contributions in the areas of logic, scientific method, philosophy of nature, metaphysics, psychology, ethics, and politics. Several of his major works will be read in translation. Aristotle's successors in the Greco-Roman period will be studied briefly. Two lectures, one preceptorial. B. Morison
PHI 302 British Empiricism Fall EC A critical study of the metaphysical and epistemological doctrines of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Hogan
PHI 303 Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz (also
ECS 306
) Not offered this year EC
Readings in continental philosophy of the early modern period, with intensive study of the works of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. Topics to be specially considered include: knowledge, understanding, and sense-perception; existence and necessity; the nature of the self and its relation to the physical world. Two 90-minute classes. D. Garber
PHI 304 Topics in Kant's Philosophy Not offered this year EC Analysis of the Critique of Pure Reason, with some attention to other aspects of Kant's philosophy, such as his views on ethics, aesthetics, and teleological judgment. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Hogan
PHI 306 Nietzsche (also
COM 393
) Not offered this year EM
An examination of various issues raised in, and by, Nietzsche's writings. Apart from discussing views like the eternal recurrence, the overman, and the will to power, this course considers Nietzsche's ambiguous relationship with philosophy, the literary status of his work, and his influence on contemporary thought. Prerequisite: one philosophy course or equivalent preparation in the history of modern thought or literature. Two lectures, one preceptorial. A. Nehamas
PHI 307 Systematic Ethics (also
CHV 311
) Not offered this year EM
A study of important ethical theories with special reference to the problem of the objectivity of morality and to the relation between moral reasoning and reasoning about other subjects. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff
PHI 309 Political Philosophy (also
CHV 309
HUM 309
) Not offered this year EM
A systematic study of problems and concepts connected with political institutions: sovereignty, law, liberty, and political obligation. Topics may include representation, citizenship, power and authority, revolution, civil disobedience, totalitarianism, and legal and political rights. Two lectures, one preceptorial. J. Frick
PHI 311 Personal Identity Not offered this year EC This course will focus on the conditions for personal identity over time, with implications for the beginning and end of life. Students will investigate what it is rational to care about in survival or continued existence, and whether that should change if it is discovered either that there is no human soul, or there is no self or subject behind our various conscious acts. M. Johnston
PHI 312 Intermediate Logic Not offered this year EC A development of logic from the mathematical viewpoint, including propositional and predicate calculus, consequence and deduction, truth and satisfaction, the Gödel completeness theorem, the Löwenheim-Skolem theorem, and applications to Boolean algebra, axiomatic theories, and the theory of models as time permits. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisite: 201 or instructor's permission. H. Halvorson
PHI 313 Theory of Knowledge Not offered this year EC A critical study of important concepts and problems involved in the characterization, analysis, and appraisal of certain types of human knowledge. Such topics as sense perception, knowledge and belief, necessity, memory, and truth will be treated. Writings of contemporary analytic philosophers will be read and discussed. Two lectures, one preceptorial. A. Elga
PHI 314 Philosophy of Mathematics Not offered this year EC A study of the nature of mathematics based on a logical and philosophical examination of its fundamental concepts and methods. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Some previous work in mathematics or logic at the college level is highly desirable, but no one particular branch of mathematics is presupposed in the course. J. Burgess
PHI 315 Philosophy of Mind (also
CHV 315
CGS 315
) Fall EC
Investigation of some of the following (or similar) topics: the mind-body problem, personal identity, the unity of consciousness, the unconscious, the problem of other minds, action, intention, and the will. Readings primarily from recent sources. Two lectures, one preceptorial. P. Pettit
PHI 317 Philosophy of Language Not offered this year EC An examination of the nature of language through the study of such topics as truth, reference, meaning, linguistic structure, how language differs from other symbol systems, relations between thought and language and language and the world, the use of language, and the relevance of theories concerning these to selected philosophical issues. Two 90-minute classes. D. Fara
PHI 318 Metaphysics Fall EC An intensive treatment of some of the central problems of metaphysics, such as substance, universals, space and time, causality, and freedom of the will. Two lectures, one preceptorial. B. Kment
PHI 319 Normative Ethics (also
CHV 319
) Not offered this year EM
A detailed examination of different theories concerning how we should live our lives. Special emphasis will be placed on the conflict between consequentialist theories (for example, utilitarianism) and nonconsequentialist theories (for example, common sense morality). Two lectures, one preceptorial. J. Frick
PHI 320 Philosophy and Literature Not offered this year LA A critical study of works of literature in conjunction with philosophical essays, concentrating on two or three philosophical themes, such as the will, self-identity, self-deception, freedom, and time. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff
PHI 321 Philosophy of Science Not offered this year EC An intensive examination of selected problems in the methodological and philosophical foundations of the sciences. Topics covered may include scientific explanation, the role of theories in science, and probability and induction. Two 90-minute classes. S. Dasgupta
PHI 322 Philosophy of the Cognitive Sciences (also
CGS 322
) Not offered this year EC
An examination of philosophical problems arising out of the scientific study of cognition. Possible topics include methodological issues in the cognitive sciences; the nature of theories of reasoning, perception, memory, and language; and the philosophical implications of such theories. Two lectures, one preceptorial. S. Leslie
PHI 323 Advanced Logic (also
MAT 306
) Not offered this year QR
This course deals with topics chosen from recursion theory, proof theory, and model theory. In recent years the course has most often given an introduction to recursion theory with applications to formal systems. Two 90-minute classes. Prerequisite: 312 or instructor's permission. J. Burgess
PHI 325 Philosophy of Religion Not offered this year EM Critical discussion of religious and antireligious interpretations of experience and the world, the grounds and nature of religious beliefs, and of a variety of theistic and atheistic arguments. Readings from contemporary analytical philosophy of religion, and from historical sources in the Western tradition. Two 90-minute seminars. D. Hogan
PHI 326 Philosophy of Art (also
HUM 326
COM 363
) Not offered this year LA
An examination of concepts involved in the interpretation and evaluation of works of art. Emphasis will be placed on sensuous quality, structure, and expression as aesthetic categories. Illustrative material from music, painting, and literature. Two lectures, one preceptorial. A. Nehamas
PHI 327 Philosophy of Physics Not offered this year EC A discussion of philosophical problems raised by modern physics. Topics will be chosen from the philosophy of relativity theory or more often, quantum mechanics. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Hogan, H. Halvorson
PHI 332 Early Modern Philosophy Not offered this year EC Detailed study of important concerns shared by some modern pre-Kantian philosophers of different schools. Topics may include identity and distinctness, the theory of ideas, substance, the mind/body problem, time, and causation. Philosophers may include Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Hume, or others. One three-hour seminar. D. Garber, D. Hogan
PHI 333 Recent Continental Philosophy Not offered this year EC Analysis of some representative 20th-century works drawn from the French and German traditions. The specific content of the course will vary from year to year, but in each case there will be some attempt to contrast differing philosophical approaches. Figures to be treated might include Sartre, Gadamer, Habermas, and Foucault. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff
PHI 335 Greek Ethical Theory (also
CHV 335
HLS 338
) Not offered this year EM
The development of moral philosophy in Greece. Intensive study of the moral theories of such philosophers as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, the early Stoics, and Sextus Empiricus. Two 90-minute lecture-discussion classes. H. Lorenz
PHI 337 Relativism Not offered this year EM An exploration of various kinds of relativism: cultural, conceptual, epistemic, and moral, considering what structure if any different relativisms have in common, and whether relativism in any of the domains mentioned is plausible. One three-hour seminar G. Harman
PHI 338 Philosophical Analysis from 1900 to 1950 Fall EC An introduction to classics of philosophical analysis from the first half of the 20th century. Topics include early paradigms of Moore and Russell, logical atomism in Russell and early Wittgenstein, and logical positivism. Changes are traced both in metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical views and in analysis as a philosophical method. Two lectures, one preceptorial. T. Kelly
PHI 340 Philosophical Logic Not offered this year EC An introduction to modal and many-valued logics, with emphasis on philosophical motivation through a study of applications and paradoxes. Prerequisite: 201 or instructor's permission. Two 90-minute classes. J. Burgess
PHI 360 Democratic Theory (See POL 306)
PHI 380 Explaining Values (also
CHV 380
) Fall EM
The course will consider what types of explanations are possible of ordinary moral views. Students will look at philosophical, scientific, and historical explanations and consider how plausible they are, what sort of evidence might be relevant to them, and what their normative implications might be. Two lectures, one preceptorial. V. McGeer
PHI 383 Freedom and Responsibility Fall EM An introduction to the free will problem and its implications for ethics and the law. G. Rosen
PHI 384 Philosophy of Law Not offered this year EM Conceptual and moral problems in the foundations of law. Topics may include: morality and criminal justice; the justification of punishment; moral and economic problems in private law (torts and contracts); fundamental rights and constitutional interpretation. Two lectures, one preceptorial. G. Rosen
PHI 385 Practical Ethics (See CHV 310)