The truth-seeking nature of philosophy itself places the work of this discipline at the heart of our mission – Catholic, Norbertine and liberal arts. 

Philosophy Course Offerings

PHIL 105 Critical Thinking
See infrequently offered courses.

PHIL 120 Philosophy of Human Nature – GS 2
A study of various theories of human nature and their presuppositions and implications. Students will read primary texts with the goals of understanding the theories and learning how to philosophize. Typical questions discussed are: Do we have a soul?; Are we free?; Why be moral?; What is a happy life?; What roles do reason, intuition and sensation play in discovering truth?; Is there a purpose to life? Fall and spring semesters.

PHIL 207 / CLAS 207 Greek Philosophy
A study of the ancient Greek thinkers who initiated Western philosophy. The course begins with the pre-Socratic philosophers and then focuses on Plato and Aristotle. Fall semester.

PHIL 209 / CLAS 209 Hellenistic Philosophy
The course introduces students to the three major schools of Hellenistic philosophy that dominated Greek thought after Aristotle (Skepticism, Stoicism and Epicureanism) and their respective attempts to refine or reject the classical conception of the good life. Students explore principally the ethical implications of the Hellenistic movements, though certain issues in metaphysics and epistemology are covered as well. January term.

PHIL 210 Logic
A study of the principles of correct reasoning. The course covers informal fallacies and the fundamentals of symbolic logic, including quantification theory. Spring semester.

PHIL 213 Medieval Philosophy
A study of the philosophers of the medieval period (approximately 350 C.E. to 1350), with emphasis on Augustine, Anselm and Thomas Aquinas. Themes covered include the relation of faith and reason, existence of God, the problem of evil, the nature of the soul, and ethics. Fall semester.

PHIL 220 The Soul
A study of theories of what the soul is and how it is related to the body. The course will begin with modern challenges to the existence of the soul and then examine the views of philosophers Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and Rene Descartes, of psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and of the Eastern traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Fall semester, alternate years.

PHIL 235 Skepticism, Knowledge and Faith
A historical survey of texts by prominent authors in the Western tradition concerning the nature, conditions and types of human knowledge. Topics may include arguments for the existence of God; foundations of empirical science, psychological belief states as distinct from religious faith; skepticism in both epistemic and religious contexts; and the nature of reason and rational inquiry. Representative authors are Plato, Sextus Empiricus, Augustine, Luther, Erasmus, Hume and Bernard Williams. Spring semester, alternate years.

PHIL 245 Business Ethics
Formerly PHIL 320. A study of the ethical issues that confront contemporary businesses. The course will begin by introducing the major positions in Western ethical theory and by considering the moral status and the purpose of corporations. Through the use of case studies, the course will go on to explore a number of particular issues which may include (but are not limited to) whistle-blowing, surveillance/screening of employees, preferential hiring, the ethics of advertising, ethical accounting practices, globalization, outsourcing, sweatshop labor, and environmental pollution and resource depletion. Fall semester, alternate years.

PHIL 250 / RELS 255 Philosophy of Religion
A study providing a rational assessment of religious beliefs and concepts and of arguments used in their support. The course considers contemporary challenges to the belief in God and the responses to these challenges. Spring semester, alternate years.

PHIL 300 Modern Philosophy
A study of the major movements and figures in European philosophy from the 16th to the 19th century. The focus of the course is the rise of skepticism in relation to developments in science and religion, the study of the nature of the mind, and the knowing process and claims about the nature and existence the self, of the external world and God. A number of thinkers and philosophers will be surveyed with principal emphasis on Descartes, Locke, Hume and Kant. Prerequisite: PHIL 207 or PHIL 210 or PHIL 213. Spring semester.

PHIL 302 Consciousness
A study of various theories about the nature and significance of the phenomenon of consciousness. Special attention will be given to the apparent “gap” between the brain activity of a conscious state and the experience that accompanies such a state. Authors studied will include Rene Descartes, William James, David Armstrong, Thomas Nagel, Jerry Fodor, Daniel Dennett, Antonio Damasio and David Chalmers. The course will include an exploration of Hindu and Jungian notions of consciousness. Fall semester, alternate years.

PHIL 305 / AMER 305 American Philosophy – GS 10
A study of the major movements and figures in American philosophy and intellectual history. The course will examine the diverse philosophical themes in the American tradition, including idealism, 18th century political theory, transcendentalism and pragmatism. Figures studied include Edwards, Adams, Jefferson, Emerson, Thoreau, James and Dewey. Fall semester, alternate years.

PHIL 310 Existentialism – GS 10
A study of the development of European existentialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. The focus of the course is the meaning of human life, the nature of human values, and the role of commitment and choice in human belief and judgment. Figures studied include Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre and Camus. Spring semester, alternate years.

PHIL 314 / CLAS 314 / POLI 314 Classical and Medieval Political Thought
An examination of the political theories of major ancient and medieval thinkers, with primary emphasis on the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas. Students will investigate issues such as the origin, nature and purpose of political societies, the types of political constitutions, the concepts of rulership and authority, the meaning of citizenship, and the relation of the individual to society. Fall semester, alternate years.

PHIL 315 Ethics – GS 10
A study of four major ethical theories in Western philosophy and of their application to several contemporary ethical issues. The theories are those of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill. Issues examined may include, but are not limited to, euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment, free speech, just war, treatment of animals and the environment. At least once every year.

PHIL 316 / POLI 316 Modern Political Thought
An examination of the political theories of major thinkers of the modern period (16th to 19th centuries), with primary emphasis given to the writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel and Marx. Students will investigate such issues as the origin and purpose of political societies, the nature of political power and the concepts of social contract, authority and sovereignty, law, liberty, and revolution. Fall semester, alternate years.

PHIL 317 Medical Ethics
A study of ethical issues associated with the practice of medicine. The course will begin with an overview of major positions in ethical theory and of fundamental concepts and principles in medical ethics. These will then be used to address particular moral issues that arise within the healthcare field. Issues may include, but are not limited to, the relation between healthcare providers and patients, truth-telling, informed consent, conflicting obligations, advance directives, withholding and withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment, suicide, euthanasia, human reproduction, research ethics, and social justice and healthcare policy. Catholic teachings on some of these issues may also be considered. Fall semester, alternate years.

PHIL 325 / PEAC 325 Ethics: International Issues
See infrequently offered courses.

PHIL 330 The European Enlightenment – GS 10 and GS 12
An overview of the history of ideas in the Western tradition, covering the period from 1688 to 1789, principally in France and Britain, with consideration given to the influence of the Enlightenment on the American founding. The central theme of the course is the emergence and rapid development of natural science, its growing influence on all departments of human knowledge and its confrontation with the religious traditions of the time. Representative writers include Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Helvetius, Mandeville and Adam Smith. Fall semester.

PHIL 334 / CLAS 334 Tragedy and Philosophy – GS 10
A study of tragedy as a dramatic and literary form and the different Western philosophical theories of tragedy inspired by that art form. One half of the course will concentrate on Greek tragedy (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides) and its commentators, both ancient (Plato and Aristotle) and modern. The second half will examine both Renaissance and modern examples of the tragic tradition with contemporary philosophical readings on the significance of that tradition. Spring semester, alternate years.

PHIL 336 / MUSI 336 Philosophy of Music – GS 10 and GS 12
The course will introduce students to fundamental problems and puzzles in the philosophy of music as well as engage students in musical experiences that provoke philosophical questions. Students will be exposed to music that challenges the presuppositions inherent in conventional American cultural expectations and the Western approach to musical experience more broadly. It will start by exploring the genesis of these questions in ancient Greek philosophy and culture and trace them through their reemergence in the Enlightenment, modern and postmodern eras.

PHIL 339 Philosophical Conceptions of Well-Being – GS 10
An examination of classical and contemporary theories of well-being. This course will begin by considering classical eudaimonist conceptions of well-being which will then be contrasted with a range of contemporary accounts; we will consider whether well-being requires the realization of certain goods in a person’s life or whether it is a subjective state of mind. Literature from the field of positive psychology and literature on vocation may also be considered. Historical figures studied may include Epicurus, Seneca, Aristotle, Aquinas, Mill and Nietzsche.

PHIL 342 / RELS 342 Asian Philosophy and Religion
A study of the major philosophical and religious traditions of South and East Asia. The course emphasizes the Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist traditions. The ethical, metaphysical and epistemological aspects of each major tradition are covered. Alternate years.

PHIL 365 Twentieth-Century Philosophy
A survey of the main philosophical movements of the twentieth century. The course will focus on such traditions as logical positivism, pragmatism and phenomenology and will examine the impact of new scientific theories (for example, quantum physics and evolutionary biology) on philosophy. Figures studied may include Wittgenstein, Ayer, Quine, Rorty, Heidegger, Popper and Kuhn. Prerequisites: PHIL 210 and PHIL 300. Spring semester, alternate years.

PHIL 370 The Analytic Tradition
A historical survey of the main developments and leading figures in the Anglo-American analytic tradition. The primary focus is on the application of new methods of logic and linguistic analysis to the perennial problems of metaphysics and epistemology. Figures studied include Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Ayer, Carnap, Ryle, Quine and Kripke. Prerequisites: PHIL 210 and PHIL 300. Spring semester, alternate years.

PHIL 389 Special Topics
A study of a single philosophical topic of special interest to students. When the course is offered, the topic will be listed in the timetable of courses.

PHIL 490 Independent Study
A course allowing staff and students to explore together philosophical topics of special interest. Prerequisite: Instructor’s consent and approval by associate dean of arts and humanities.