- General overview courses
If you aren’t sure what you might be interested in, it’s a good idea to take a general overview of philosophy and philosophical reasoning. These courses will give you an idea of the broad scope of philosophical problems and topics.
Philosophy has questions, debates, and topics for any area of interest, so if you want to develop your critical thinking skills while getting an idea of all the discipline has to offer, consider taking one of the overview courses below.
PHIL-P 106 Introduction to Philosophy
Perennial problems of philosophy, including problems in ethics, in epistemology and metaphysics (knowledge, reality, and meaning), and in the philosophy of religion. P 100 is taught in a variety of ways depending on the preferences of the instructor, who may emphasize the history of ideas or topical and current debates in philosophy. Check the individual course description before enrolling to ensure that you are taking a version of the course that aligns with your interests.
PHIL-P 135 Introduction to Existentialism
Philosophical themes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century existentialism. Topics may include free choice and human responsibility, the nature of values, the influence of phenomenology on existentialism, and existentialism as illustrated in literature. Readings from some or all of Buber, Camus, Heidegger, Husserl, Jaspers, Kierkegaard, Marcel, Nietzsche, Beauvoir, and Sartre. No prior knowledge of philosophy is presupposed.
PHIL-P 200 Problems of Philosophy
Important problems at the center of rational reflection upon human experience, including issues in ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, metaphysics (reality), epistemology (knowledge and meaning), and/or the history of philosophical thought. Emphasis upon interpretation, critical analysis, and evaluation of philosophical texts from contemporary and/or historical perspectives. Topics can vary, so be sure to look at the individual course description before enrolling.
- Value theory courses
If you are interested in ethics (questions about how we should act, what is good, what duties we have to others, and how we should live), consider taking a course in value theory as your introduction to philosophy. Value theory courses also serve as a great introduction to philosophy for students who are considering careers where ethics is of great importance, such as medicine, business, law, environmental and public policy, and journalism.
PHIL-P 141 Introduction to Ethics
Philosophers’ answers to ethical problems (e.g., the nature of good and evil, the relation of duty to self-interest, the objectivity of moral judgments), and the applications of ethical theory to contemporary problems. P 140 is taught in a variety of ways, focusing on different special topics depending on the preferences of the instructor. Be sure to check the individual course descriptions before enrolling to ensure you are taking a version of the course aligned with your particular interests in value theory.
PHIL-P 240 Business and Morality-Ethics in Context
Fundamental issues of moral philosophy in a business context. Application of moral theory to issues such as ethics of investment, moral assessment of corporations, and duties of vocation.
PHIL-P 242 Applied Ethics
Application of moral theory to a variety of personal, social, and political contexts, such as world hunger, nuclear weapons, social justice, life-and-death decisions, and problems in medical ethics.
- Critical thinking courses
While all Philosophy courses emphasize both critical thinking skills and philosophical content, if you want to develop your argumentative and analytical reasoning skills, considering taking a critical thinking course as your introduction to philosophy. If you have not previously been exposed to critical thinking, the best course to begin with is PHIL-P 105.
PHIL-P 105 Critical Thinking
We spend a good part of our waking hours thinking and/or critiquing the thoughts and beliefs of ourselves and others. This course is designed to help you develop a toolbox of techniques and skill that will help you become a skilled evaluator and creator of arguments.
PHIL-P 150 Elementary Logic
Logic is the study of good reasoning. This elementary logic course covers basic notions of the theory of reasoning, methods for evaluating inferences, and techniques for symbolizing English sentences and arguments in ways that reveal their logical structure. This course will be helpful to students interested in any field – such as law, medicine, or computing – that requires the careful analysis of arguments and reasoning. (Not a prerequisite for PHIL-P 250: Symbolic Logic. Not open to students who have taken or are enrolled in PHIL-P 250.)
PHIL-P 250 Symbolic Logic
A good argument should lead us from true premises to true conclusions. But how can we tell when the truth of an argument’s premises guarantees the truth of its conclusion? The aim of this course is to enhance your inferential abilities by developing sensitivity to the logical structure of ordinary language sentences, translating them into formal languages, evaluating arguments rigorously as valid or invalid, and developing facility with formal proofs. These activities will be applied to two symbolic languages of logic: Propositional Calculus and Quantified Predicate Logic.
This course has no prerequisites. It covers roughly twice the material covered in P150. It is appropriate for students in the sciences, computer science, premed, math, prelaw, and business who want to improve their logical skills, and students interested in fundamental issues in linguistics, computing, and cognitive science. It is required for the philosophy major. Gen Ed Natural & Mathematical Sciences, COLL (CASE) Natural & Mathematical Sciences Breadth of Inquiry.
- Specialized introductory courses
A few introductory courses are specific in content, so if you are already interested in gender studies, the environment and sustainability, political science or public policy, consider one of the introductory courses that align specifically with these areas of study. These courses are open to all students. You are welcome to enroll in these courses even if you are not pursuing academic careers in any of these disciplines. Take them if you are interested in the topics discussed and are curious to learn what philosophy has to offer in these intellectual areas.
PHIL-P 103 Gender, Sexuality and Race
New issues and emphases in philosophy arising out of a focus on gender, sexuality, and race.
PHIL-P 107 Philosophy and the Environment
Fundamental problems of environmental philosophy. Questions to be discussed may include: What is “natural”? What obligations do human beings have regarding non-human animals, endangered species, and the natural environment? How might these obligations be grounded? How might competing environmental interests be balanced, especially when they conflict with human economic interest? Readings and discussions focus mainly on contemporary sources.
PHIL-P 145 Liberty and Justice: A Philosophical Introduction
Fundamental problems of social and political philosophy: the nature of the state, political obligation, freedom and liberty, equality, justice, rights, social change, revolution and community. Readings from classical and contemporary sources.