Department of Philosophy


PHIL 301 - Ancient Philosophy 

Instructor:  James Wood  




In this course we will look primarily at the foundations of philosophy in ancient Greece, moving from the greatest Presocratic thinkers, Heraclitus and Parmenides, to the thought of Plato and Aristotle. In between, we will compare the origins of philosophy in ancient China in the thought of Confucius and Laozi. Although the course is historical in form, it is thoroughly philosophical in content. That means questions of historical development will be subordinated to certain core philosophical questions: What is the nature of being and the cosmos?  What is the nature of human beings and human society?  What is the good and the good life?  What is happiness, and how can human beings achieve it?  The ancients engaged in continuous dialogue about these and other questions, and it will be our task to enter into that conversation and consider its relevance for our own lives and society. 


PHIL 329: Bioethics 

Instructor: Robert Hurd 




 These past two years of pandemic have been some of the most active times for bioethicians around the world. The course draws from the authorities in philosophical and theological ethics over the centuries (including current writers) to address several “hot topics,” such as the concept of moral status and preborn life in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion, the Covid-19 pandemic, justice in health care, climate change, artificial intelligence in health care, LGBT+ issues, etc.


PHIL 337-Responses to Liberalism 

Instructor: Alexis Dianda  




This course engages the question, Does liberalism provide the best model for political life? Throughout this course we will look at criticisms of and alternatives to liberalism offered by Marxism, anarchism, progressivism, fascism, communism, and others. Taking seriously such alternatives to liberalism, we will gain insight into the range of political organizations that are conceivable as well as the desirability, achievability, and promise of these alternatives. We will focus on thinkers such as Emma Goldman, Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, Giovanni Gentile, Carl Schmidt, V.I. Lenin.  


PHIL 339: Revolution & Its Aftermath 

Instructor: Steve Frankel  




 This course explores the theoretical articulation and response to the American and French Revolutions, paying attention to how modern political thought emerges as a dialogue about the meaning of these revolutions. 


PHIL 340: Metaphysics 

Instructor: Richard Polt 





Metaphysics asks fundamental questions about being: What is the difference between what is and what is not? Why is there something rather than nothing? Is there a highest being? How do we understand what it means to be?  We’ll begin with two great early Greek thinkers, Heraclitus and Parmenides. We will then study key sections of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, which profoundly influenced the Western understanding of being until Descartes. We will consider Leibniz’s attempt to adapt some of Aristotle’s ideas to the context of early modern philosophy. Then we will close with Martin Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics, a lecture course from 1935 that aims to revive the question of being and challenge traditional conceptions.  As we discuss some very abstract and challenging texts, we will discover that reflecting on being can be exciting, and that it may also have some surprising implications for our own lives. 


PHIL 346:  

Instructor: Aaron Szymkowiak   




 This course will explore the work of 18th-century Scottish thinkers (Hume, Kames, Smith, Millar, and Ferguson), focusing especially on their varying conceptions of social life, civil society, and "progress." Are human social bonds fundamentally economic or biological? Does human development have a discernible path? We will focus here on the concept of "natural history" and whether it is properly applicable to human beings. Are ethnic or racial bonds fundamental, or merely incidental? Do gender relations parallel economic ones? Is civic virtue sustainable or doomed to decay? The Scottish enlightenment has radically varied and historically influential answers to these questions.