Course Offerings

Winter 2021

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Introduction to Theories of Knowledge and Reality

PHIL 105 - Kang, Li

An introduction to philosophy, covering the following puzzles and questions: Do we really know anything? What is time like? Is time travel possible? What are selves? Does God exist? Do we have free will? Students see how these big questions are pursued in both Western and Eastern traditions and how they impact everyday life. The main goal of this course is to develop rigorous and disciplined methods of thinking and writing. Emphasis is especially placed on developing the abilities to extract, present, explain, and evaluate positions and arguments.

Modern European Philosophy: Descartes to Hume

PHIL 120 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

An examination of some of the metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion of the European Enlightenment, including views of the rationalists Rene Descartes, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz; and the empiricists Catharine Cockburn, John Locke, and David Hume. Topics include skepticism about the external world, mind-body dualism, the existence and nature of God, theories of substance, personal identity, and causation.

Ethics and the Environment

PHIL 150 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

This course is a philosophical exploration of one's responsibilities to the natural world. It has three main objectives: first, to provide an understanding of different dominant ethical theories and their application to animals, plants, and ecosystems; second, to provide an understanding of major environmental issues in current political debates, such as climate change, species preservation, and sustainable development; and third, to facilitate the development of a student's own ethic towards the environment.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - McGonigal, Andrew J.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Buddhist Philosophy

PHIL 223 - Kang, Li

An introduction to Buddhist philosophy. We focus on the philosophical articulation and defense of Buddhism, and reflect on issues in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics. We cover the development of major schools in both Indian and Chinese Buddhism, including Abhidharma, Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Tiantai, Huayan, and Chan/Zen. We see how different traditions can be mutually informing. We also discuss the relevance of Buddhist philosophy to Western philosophy as well as empirical research.

Social Inequality and Fair Opportunity

PHIL 242 - Bell, Melina C.

An exploration of the different range of opportunities available to various social groups, including racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and the poor. Topics include how to define fair equality of opportunity; the social mechanisms that play a role in expanding and limiting opportunity; legal and group-initiated strategies aimed at effecting fair equality of opportunity and the theoretical foundations of these strategies; as well as an analysis of the concepts of equality, merit and citizenship, and their value to individuals and society.

Feminist Social and Political Philosophy

PHIL 244 - Bell, Melina C.

This course critically examines the gender norms that pervade our identities, govern our everyday behavior, and organize our social life. Questions addressed may include: What is gender? In what ways does it affect the quality of women's and men's lives? Is gender difference natural? Is it valuable? Can it contribute to, or interfere with, human flourishing? Can a gendered society be just? What can any of us do to promote good relations among women and men?

Epistemology: Knowledge and Doubt

PHIL 278 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

An examination of the basic problems in epistemology with an emphasis on contemporary discussions. Topics include skepticism, knowledge, justification (foundationalism, coherentism, reliabilism), relativism, and rationality.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 296A - Weissman, Jeremy L.

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2021, PHIL 296A-01: Seminar: Ethics of International Relations (3). As we enter an increasingly globalized society, few things have characterized modern political conflicts more than the proper role of the individual nation upon the world stage. We attempt to decipher just what that role ought to be. Some of the ethical questions we consider include: When can we justly go to war? When is a humanitarian or environmental intervention warranted? What are our duties to less-industrialized nations in the name of global economic justice? What are our duties towards immigrants? (HU) Weissman.

Medical Ethics

PHIL 346 - Taylor, Erin P.

An examination of the issues arising out of the human impact of modern biomedical research and practice. Specific issues are selected from among the following: abortion, contraception, death and dying, experimentation/research, genetics, in vitro fertilization, intellectual and developmental disabilities, public health/community medicine, science/technology, transplantation and patients' rights.

Legal Ethics

PHIL 348 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

An examination of the issues associated with lawyers' roles in society and their impact upon and obligations to the client, the court, and the legal profession. The course also addresses questions of the role and function of law and the adversary system.

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

Honors Thesis. Students must petition the department via the listed instructor. While awaiting a decision, the student must ensure a full credit load not including PHIL 493. The department honors program is outlined at https://www.wlu.edu/philosophy-department/about-the-department/about-the-major-and-the-minor/honors-program .

Fall 2020

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy

PHIL 104 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

The course provides a broad historical survey of moral and political philosophy. Students read selections from the work of a number of great women and men from the ancient to the contemporary period, dealing with questions of ethics and moral and political philosophy. We consider how philosophy can be way of life and how we can pursue wisdom through careful argumentation and analysis of the foundations of our beliefs about the world, morality, human nature, good and evil, government and society, justice, and equality.

Introduction to Theories of Knowledge and Reality

PHIL 105 - Kang, Li

An introduction to philosophy, covering the following puzzles and questions: Do we really know anything? What is time like? Is time travel possible? What are selves? Does God exist? Do we have free will? Students see how these big questions are pursued in both Western and Eastern traditions and how they impact everyday life. The main goal of this course is to develop rigorous and disciplined methods of thinking and writing. Emphasis is especially placed on developing the abilities to extract, present, explain, and evaluate positions and arguments.

Ancient Greek Philosophy

PHIL 110 - McGonigal, Andrew J.

An examination of the metaphysics of the pre-Socratic philosophers, especially the Milesians, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, and the Atomists, and the ethics and political philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Topics include the origin and nature of the kosmos , the nature and existence of the god(s), the trial and execution of Socrates, theories of virtue, the nature of knowledge and truth, justice and the ideal state, the nature of eudaimonia (happiness, flourishing), and the possibility of akrasia (weakness of the will).

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - Gregory, Paul A.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Introduction to Logic

PHIL 170 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

The study of argumentation and modern formal logic. This course explores the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning. Students learn to symbolize and evaluate natural language arguments. Topics covered include sentential and quantificational logic.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 196A - Weissman, Jeremy L.

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2020, PHIL 196A-01: First Year Seminar: Ethics of International Relations (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. As we enter an increasingly globalized society, few things have characterized modern political conflicts more than the proper role of the individual nation upon the world stage. We attempt to decipher just what that role ought to be. Some of the ethical questions we consider include: When can we justly go to war? When is a humanitarian or environmental intervention warranted? What are our duties to less-industrialized nations in the name of global economic justice? What are our duties towards immigrants? (HU) Weissman .

Heidegger and Being in the World

PHIL 218 - Kosky, Jeffrey L.

An exploration of the work of Martin Heidegger and the development of its themes in select philosophers, literary artists, and/or film makers. A close reading of the magisterial account of being in the world in Being and Time is followed by careful study of representative essays from his later work. After our reading of Heidegger, we consider the literary, cinematic, and/or philosophical work of major 20th- and 21st-century figures who let us reflect on the possibilities and/or problems that his account of being in the world poses for ethical, religious, and existential concern. Special attention this year is paid to the films of Terrence Malick.

American Pragmatism

PHIL 234 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

A survey of historical and contemporary American pragmatist philosophers, who believe that truth is linked to concrete consequences, meaning is a social phenomenon, and the line between philosophy and politics is permeable.

Intermediate Logic

PHIL 270 - Gregory, Paul A.

An examination of alternative formal logics and issues in the philosophy of logic. Topics include formal ways of modeling possibility, actuality, and necessity; obligation and permissibility; pastness, presentness, and futurity; and others. They also include informal considerations of topics like conditionals, counterfactuals, intuitionism, and others.

Metaphysics: Existence and Reality

PHIL 274 - Kang, Li

Metaphysics concerns the most general questions about existence and reality. Discussions include spacetime, material objects, persons, abstract objects, and fictional objects. The course covers the general debate between realism and idealism, and also examines how metaphysics is developed in different traditions, especially contemporary analytic philosophy and Buddhist philosophy.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 296A - Dudley, William C. (Will)

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2020, PHIL 296A-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Virtue, Ethics, and Liberal Arts Education (3). The mission of Washington and Lee is to provide a liberal arts education that helps students develop their capacities to think freely, critically, and humanely and to act with honor, integrity, and civility. These capacities are known as virtues, positive traits of intellect and character that are believed to be conducive to living well. Virtue ethics is one of the oldest and most important approaches to moral theory. Plato famously asked whether virtue can be taught. Aristotle's Ethics attempts to answer Plato by giving an account of how the traits that are necessary to human flourishing can be acquired. Students read classic and contemporary texts in virtue ethics, with the aim of evaluating W&L's mission and the university's efforts to fulfill it. What does it mean to think freely, critically, and humanely? What are the distinguishing characteristics of honor, integrity, and civility? Are these traits beneficial in every circumstance? Are there other virtues that the university should strive to cultivate in its students? How effectively do the culture, curriculum, and extra-curricular programs at W&L teach the virtues to which our mission commits us? Students are encouraged to reflect upon their own educational goals, choices, and experiences in light of the philosophical works that they read. (HU) Dudley.

 

Seminar in Metaphysics and Epistemology

PHIL 297A - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2020, PHIL 297A-01: Seminar in Metaphysics and Epistemology: The Evolution of Morality (3). An exploration of the natural history of human morality. Questions addressed include: What is the biological basis of morality? Is morality unique to humans? What features of the life history of early humans led to the emergence of moral behavior? How was the nature of morality shaped by that life history? What were the relative contributions of natural and cultural selection in the emergence of morality? What implications does an understanding of morality as an evolved biological phenomenon have for the objectivity of moral judgment? (HU) Cooper.

 

Metaethics

PHIL 342 - Smith, Angela M. (Angie)

This course focuses on contemporary issues in metaethics. For example, we address questions such as the following: Do moral judgments express truths that are independent of our feelings and conventions? Are "goodness" and "wrongness" real properties of things, or do we simply use these terms to express our subjective preferences toward states of affairs? Can we reason about morality? Do moral considerations provide practical reasons for all rational agents, or does the normative force of these considerations depend upon an agent's subjective desires? We also consider some meta-theoretical questions about the aims, methods, and authority of moral theory.

Seminar in Environmental Ethics

PHIL 365 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

This course examines selected topics in environmental ethics. Topics may vary from year to year, and include the proper meanings and goals of environmentalism; the goals and methods of conservation biology; major environmental issues in current political debates; and balancing the ethical concerns of environmental justice and our responsibilities to future generations. This course may be taken only one for degree credit.

Fall 2020, PHIL 365-01: Seminar in Environmental Ethics: Exploration of Fundamental Values (3).  We tend to justify our environmental decisions in terms of a narrow set of fundamental values. These values include humanistic values such as sustainability, environmental justice and economic growth and more ecologically oriented values such as biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, and ecological integrity. Unfortunately, these values are often understood at a very superficial level that undermines the justifications that appeal to them. Our ability to navigate the necessary trade-offs among these values is also impaired. This course addresses these issues by pursuing a deeper understanding of these fundamental values. (HU)

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Bell, Melina C. / Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

Honors Thesis. Students must petition the department via the listed instructor. While awaiting a decision, the student must ensure a full credit load not including PHIL 493. The department honors program is outlined at https://www.wlu.edu/philosophy-department/about-the-department/about-the-major-and-the-minor/honors-program .

Spring 2020

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Medicine, Research, and Poverty

PHIL 247 - Taylor, Erin P.

This seminar introduces students to central ethical issues in the provision of medical care and the conduct of medical research in the context of poverty. Specific topics include medical research on prisoners and the indigent; ancillary care obligations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs); meeting the standard of care in LMICs; access to essential medicines; allocation of scarce medical resources; and compensated donation for organs or tissues.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 296 - Weissman, Jeremy L.

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Spring 2020, PHIL 296-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Ethics and Emerging Technologies (3). By some accounts, technology is the defining aspect of modern society that shapes how we experience the world. At the same time, technology is accelerating at a pace that challenges our ability to take stock of the ethical issues at hand. In this seminar, we take a critical look at a number of cutting-edge technologies that are still largely on the horizon and attempt to decipher the ethical issues they present and how such problems might be mitigated. Some emerging technologies we critically analyze include artificial intelligence, human enhancement, virtual reality, surveillance technologies, synthetic biology, self-driving cars, and killer robots. (HU) Weissman.