Course Offerings

Spring 2022

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 296A - Zapata, Fernando R.

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

Spring 2022, PHIL 296A-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Authority (3).  In this seminar, we will analyze issues surrounding the justification of political authority in modern and contemporary political philosophy. When is a political authority or the state morally legitimate? When is the state morally justified in coercing members of society subject to its authority to do what they otherwise might not want to do, from paying taxes to registering for potential military conscription? The state might have authority if people consent to its government or because it provides benefits (i.e., the benefits following from the rule of law and maintenance of public order and security). If the state or a political authority is legitimate, and has the moral right to rule, people might have duties to obey the rules and laws it issues. However, there might be cases where the state has de facto  authority, in that it has the power to enforce its laws or rules, but is illegitimate, and so people have no moral duty to obey it.  (HU) Zapata.?

Seminar in Metaphysics and Epistemology

PHIL 297A - Quinonez, Omar

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

Spring 2022, PHIL 297A-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Decadence and Decay (3).  This seminar looks closely at what decadence and decay mean for culture, political life, and nature. From the Latin word "decadentia," meaning to fall out of rhythm or beat, decadence is closely related to decay or "decidere," which has to do with downturns and slips. Why does decadence evoke scorn and but also temptation? How do we cope with decay all around us? We will study sources from philosophy, cultural thought, and the arts to piece together what it means to say that a culture has slipped into decadence, that some pleasures are dangerously decadent to enjoy, or that organic matter decays. We will pay close attention to the connections of living in times of natural degradation, economic and cultural stagnation, and government paralysis. In order to have a more immersive experience during our Spring term, we will work on engaging projects with the W&L Museums and the Office of Sustainability as well as welcome fascinating guest speakers from the Art and Art History Department. We will devote at least one week to each of the following themes: 1) cultural decadence; 2) art and decadence; 3) political decadence; 4) decadence in nature. I hope that by the end of the term we will all have a good sense of the extent to which our lives are grappled by such fascinating phenomena and the practices we should foster in response. (HU) Quinonez.?

Winter 2022

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.

Ancient Greek Philosophy

PHIL 110 - Taylor, Erin P.

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).

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.

Classical Chinese Philosophy

PHIL 130 - Kang, Li

An introduction to philosophy via classical Chinese philosophy. We cover major schools in classical Chinese philosophy, including Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism. Many ideas of these schools have significantly shaped cultural practice in East Asia. We focus on the philosophical articulation and defense of these schools, and we reflect on issues in cosmology, epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. We also discuss the relevance of classical Chinese philosophy to Western philosophy as well as empirical research. No background is presupposed.

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 - 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.

Philosophy of Sex

PHIL 246 - Bell, Melina C.

This course explores questions related to contemporary conceptions of sexuality and its proper role in our lives. Questions addressed include: What is the purpose of sex? Are sexual practices subject to normative evaluation on grounds of morality, aesthetics, and/or capacity to promote a flourishing human life? We consider the relation between sex and both intimacy and pleasure, viewed from the perspective of heterosexual women and men, and gay men and lesbians. What are our sexual practices and attitudes toward sex? What should they be like?

Poverty, Oppression, and Privilege

PHIL 249 - Pickett, Howard Y.

This seminar asks one overarching question: Are the increasingly common - and contested - concepts of "oppression" and "privilege" useful in poverty studies and in the pursuit of justice? Along the way, we consider the following more specific questions: Is poverty a form of oppression? Is systemic disadvantage always oppressive or is it sometimes justifiable? What is the relationship between privilege and moral responsibility? Is privilege blameworthy? Do the privileged have distinct responsibilities to advocate for the just treatment of the disadvantaged? For that matter, do the oppressed have their own distinct responsibilities or would such a burden be an additional form of oppression? Is advocating for the disadvantaged privileged and (sometimes) oppressive? If so, is failing to advocate even worse? Who is responsible for the pursuit of justice and what, if anything, should be done?

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.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 296A - Quinonez, Omar

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

Winter 2022, PHIL 296A-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Daily Ethics of Social Trust (3). This seminar looks at the effects of our daily behavior on social trust. What makes someone trustworthy in the eyes of others? How do political leaders and institutions build trust? By what mechanisms do we lose trust in our friends, communities, and values? We will consider social trust in relation to some of today's most pressing ethical, existential, and political issues. These include the role of reputation and social recognition, the social dynamics of belief in science and experts, the moral demands of hospitality, and the ways in which unfair economic practices and discrimination impair social trust. I hope that by the end of the term we will all have a better understanding of how our modern daily lives are capable of upsetting trust in our fellow citizens, institutions and values, and the global community at large. (HU) Quinonez.

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.

Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 375 - Gregory, Paul A.

A consideration and assessment of dualism and materialism and of various theories of the relation between the mental and the physical, such as the identity theory, functionalism, and supervenience.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 396A - Zapata, Fernando R.

An intensive and critical study of selected issues or major figures in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2022, PHIL 396A-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Moral Progress (3). In this seminar, we will analyze the concept of moral progress. The abolition of chattel slavery, the establishment of LGBTQIA+ rights in many societies, and the rise of a global human rights culture are considered examples of moral progress. Moral progress can generally be understood as any morally desirable change, ranging from changes in the beliefs and conduct of individuals, to changes in social and cultural institutions and practices. We will consider the appropriate scope for claims of moral progress (i.e., should statements about moral progress apply to all persons and societies in the world, or to a particular person or institution in a given society, at a point in history?), different types of moral progress (i.e., should moral progress be conceived as gains in human welfare, or the exercise and evolution of moral capacities, such as the capacity to follow moral rules?), the criteria for moral progress (i.e., what makes a change morally better or worse, and should moral progress be measured, for example, in changes that extend equal moral consideration to more and more persons, groups, and entities?), and whether moral progress can be explained by the gradual acceptance of moral facts and truths (i.e., moral realism) or the success of historically evolving ideas at resolving social problems (i.e., pragmatic naturalism).  (HU) Zapata.

Directed Individual Study

PHIL 403 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Gregory, Paul A.

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 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 Moral and Political Philosophy

PHIL 104 - Taylor, Erin P.

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.

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.

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 196A - Zapata, Fernando R.

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

Fall 2021, PHIL 196A-01: First-Year Seminar: Free Markets, Private Property, and Economic Justice (3). Prerequisite: First-year class standing only.  We will consider philosophical questions surrounding the value of free markets and the justification of private property rights, along with other economic rights and liberties, in the history of liberal thought. Liberal political philosophy takes liberty to have fundamental importance as a political value, and some individual liberties as basic to live as free persons (for example, liberty of conscience and freedom to choose one's occupation). However, liberal thinkers disagree on whether economic liberties, such as extensive rights of private ownership of land and scarce resources, and laissez-faire freedom of contract, are basic or secondary. Liberal philosophers, such as Locke, Smith, and Mill, have competing views on the nature and scope of economic rights and liberties, and the government's role in regulating markets, on this basis. As private property rights within a system of free markets lead to situations of gross material inequality and poverty, we will think about how these institutions can conflict with claims of social or economic justice. (HU) Zapata.

 

Religion and Existentialism

PHIL 214 - Kosky, Jeffrey L.

A consideration of the accounts of human existence (faith and doubt; death and being-in-the-world; anxiety, boredom, and hope; sin and evil; etc.) elaborated by philosophers, theologians, and literary figures in the 19th and 20th centuries. The central figures considered are Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Attention is paid to their significance for future philosophers, theologians, artists, and literary figures, and consideration may also be paid to forerunners in earlier centuries.

Philosophy of Law

PHIL 252 - Bell, Melina C.

An examination of topics in the philosophy of law, such as the concepts of a law and of a legal system; Natural Law theory; legal positivist and legal realist theories of law; the nature of the relationship between law, morality, and religion; civil disobedience; rights in the U.S. Constitution; freedom of speech and pornography; abortion and the right to privacy; punishment and the death penalty; and different forms of legal liability. Readings include United States Supreme Court opinions.

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.

Philosophy of Biology

PHIL 282 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

An examination of philosophical issues raised by biology, with an emphasis on current evolutionary theory. Topics include the structure of the theory of evolution by natural selection, an examination of the concepts of fitness and adaptation, the role of teleological explanation in biology, reductionism, the nature of biological species, individuality, levels of selection, and sociobiology.

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 2021, PHIL 296A-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Philosophy of Education (3). Students compete ferociously for the opportunity to pay large sums of money for the privilege of attending Washington and Lee University. The value of the educational experience they receive is usually taken to be self-evident. Less obvious, however, is the nature of education itself. What is education? Which purposes can and should it serve? Which curricular and extra-curricular programs best accomplish those purposes? These questions about the nature of education are essential to philosophy, and also to the history and future of W&L. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle philosophers have sought to determine the educational practices most conducive to human wisdom and flourishing. American liberal arts colleges offer a distinctive form of educational experience, and thus a distinctive response to this philosophical challenge. Students will read and discuss classic texts in the philosophy of education in close conjunction with materials concerning the emergence and present practices of liberal arts colleges in America. Special attention will be paid to W&L, and students will be encouraged to reflect upon their own educational goals and choices in light of the philosophical works that they read. (HU) Dudley.
 

Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 296B - Quinonez, Omar

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

Fall 2021, PHIL 296B-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Daily Ethics of Social Trust (3). This seminar looks at the effects of our daily behavior on social trust. What makes someone trustworthy in the eyes of others? How do political leaders and institutions build trust? By what mechanisms do we lose trust in our friends, communities, and values? We will consider social trust in relation to some of today's most pressing ethical, existential, and political issues. These include the role of reputation and social recognition, the social dynamics of belief in science and experts, the moral demands of hospitality, and the ways in which unfair economic practices and discrimination impair social trust. I hope that by the end of the term we will all have a better understanding of how our modern daily lives are capable of upsetting trust in our fellow citizens, institutions and values, and the global community at large. (HU) Quinonez.

Kant

PHIL 310 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

A close reading of the Critique of Pure Reason , Kant's most important work in metaphysics and epistemology and one of the most influential philosophical works ever written.

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 2021, PHIL 365-01: Seminar in Environmental Ethics: Values: Environmental Ethics and Agriculture (3). Following a critical assessment of the dominant agricultural paradigm - industrial agriculture - we explore more ecologically informed alternatives such as regenerative agriculture and conservation agriculture. The course places special emphasis on climate change, examining issues such as the role of animals in agriculture and the potential for agricultural practices to sequester carbon in the soil. (HU) Cooper.

Philosophy of Language

PHIL 372 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

A survey of central topics in the field, including some or all of the following: reference, meaning, truth, analyticity, speech acts, pragmatics, verificationism, indeterminacy, innateness, metaphor, and development of language in the species and in the individual.

Directed Individual Study

PHIL 403 - Cooper, Gregory J. (Greg)

May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Senior Thesis

PHIL 473 - Goldberg, Nathaniel J.

Senior thesis.

Honors Thesis

PHIL 493 - Gregory, Paul A.

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 .