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
This course is designed to help students develop and sharpen valuable cognitive and analytical skills. Critical thinking involves evaluating and analytical skills. The course focuses on developing habits of reasonableness and objectivity, identifying fallacies, writing argumentatively, and analyzing inductive and deductive arguments. These skills will be applied to real-life cases in such fields as business, law, politics and ethics.

PHIL 120 Philosophy of Human Nature – GS2 C-PF
This course provides a thematic and historical introduction to basic philosophical issues regarding human nature utilizing primary texts from established figures in the philosophical tradition. Topics include the moral dimension of human experience, the fundamental nature of the world, the nature of truth and knowledge, and justice. Readings include dialogues of Plato, authors from at least three of the four philosophical epochs (ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary), and at least one author from the Christian philosophical tradition. Emphasis will be placed on methods of logical inquiry including Socratic dialectic, deductive and inductive inference, and other forms of philosophical discourse with the goal of developing the student’s skills in written and oral communication.

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.

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. Spring 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.

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 is not limited to) whistleblowing, 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 – C-WT
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 265 / RELS 265 Asian Philosophy and Religion – C-BB
Formerly PHIL 342 / RELS 342. A study of the major philosophical and religious traditions of South and East Asia. The course emphasizes the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The ethical, metaphysical, and epistemological aspects of each major tradition are covered. Spring semester.

PHIL 275 Bioethics
Formerly PHIL 317. A study of ethical issues associated with health and medicine. The course will begin with an overview of major positions in ethical theory and of fundamental concepts and principles in medical ethics. Issues may include, but are not limited to, the relation between health care providers and patients, human reproduction, conflicting definitions of mental illness, the use of biotechnology for human enhancement, balancing individual liberty with public health, withholding and withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment, research ethics, and social justice and health policy. Catholic teachings on some of these issues will be considered.

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 of the self, of the external world and of 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. Fall semester.

PHIL 305 / AMER 305 American Philosophy – GS10 C-WT
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 Existentialist Thought – GS10 C-WT
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 and the nature of human values. It involves a study of existentialist conceptions of the human person and, in particular, views of human freedom and creativity, the role of the irrational in human life, the role of commitment and choice in human belief, judgment, action, and the relation of the essence and existence of the person. Principle figures studied are Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre and Camus.

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 – GS10
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 330 The European Enlightenment – GS10 / GS12 C-WT
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 – GS10 C-EI
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 – GS10 / GS12 C-EI
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 post-modern eras.

PHIL 365 Twentieth-Century Philosophy
A survey of the main philosophical movements of the 20th century, the course will cover leading figures in pragmatism, phenomenology, analytic philosophy and the Continental tradition. Representative authors may include: James, Dewey, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Quine, Heidegger, Rorty and Foucault. Prerequisite: PHIL 210 or PHIL 300. Spring semester, alternate years.

PHIL 370 The Analytic Tradition
An 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. Prerequisite: PHIL 210 or 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 the associate dean of arts and humanities.