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Students may complete a major or minor in philosophy.


Cheryl Chen, Assistant Professor
Robert J. Dostal, Professor
Christine M. Koggel, Associate Professor, Chair and Major Adviser (on leave semester II)
Michael Krausz, Professor
George E. Weaver Jr., Professor

The Department of Philosophy introduces students to some of the most compelling answers to questions of human existence and knowledge. It also grooms students for a variety of fields that require analysis, conceptual precision, argumentative skill and clarity of thought and expression. These include administration, the arts, business, computer science, health professions, law and social services. The major in philosophy also prepares students for graduate-level study leading to careers in teaching and research in the discipline.

The curriculum focuses on three major areas: the systematic areas of philosophy, such as logic, theory of knowledge, metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics; the history of philosophy through the study of key philosophers and philosophical periods; and the philosophical explication of methods in such domains as art, history, religion and science.

The department is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium comprising 13 member institutions in the Delaware Valley. It sponsors conferences on various topics in philosophy and an annual undergraduate student philosophy conference.

Major Requirements

Students majoring in philosophy must take a minimum of 10 semester courses and attend the monthly noncredit departmental colloquia. The following five courses are required for the major: the two-semester Historical Introduction (Philosophy 101 and 201); Ethics (221); Theory of Knowledge (211), Metaphysics (212) or Logic (103); and Senior Conference (399). At least three other courses at the 300 level are required. Majors must take one historical course that concentrates on the work of a single philosopher or a period in philosophy.

Philosophy majors are encouraged to supplement their philosophical interests by taking advantage of courses offered in related areas, such as anthropology, history, history of art, languages, literature, mathematics, political science, psychology and sociology.


Honors will be awarded by the department based on the senior thesis and other work completed in the department. The Milton C. Nahm Prize in Philosophy is a cash award presented to the graduating senior major whose senior thesis the department judges to be of outstanding caliber. This prize need not be granted every year.

Minor Requirements

Students may minor in philosophy by taking six courses in the discipline at any level. They must also attend the monthly noncredit departmental colloquia.


Students may take advantage of cross-registration arrangements with Haverford College, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania. Courses at these institutions may satisfy Bryn Mawr requirements, but students should check with the chair of the department to make sure specific courses meet requirements.


No introductory-level course carries a prerequisite. However, most courses at both the intermediate and advanced levels carry prerequisites. Unless stated otherwise in the course description, any introductory course satisfies the prerequisite for an intermediate-level course, and any intermediate course satisfies the prerequisite for an advanced-level course.

PHIL B101 A Historical Introduction to Philosophy: Ancient Philosophy

What is the fundamental nature of the world? Can we have knowledge about the world and ourselves, and if so, how? What is the good life? In this course, we explore answers to these sorts of metaphysical, epistemological and ethical questions by examining the works of the Presocratics and of the two central Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. (Chen, Dostal, Division III)

PHIL B103 Introduction to Logic

Training in reading and writing proof discourses (i.e., those segments of writing or speech that express deductive reasoning) to gain insight into the nature of logic, the relationship between logic and linguistics, and the place of logic in theory of knowledge. (Weaver)

PHIL B201 A Historical Introduction to Philosophy: Modern Philosophy

The development of philosophic thought from Descartes to Nietzsche. (Chen, Dostal, Division III)

PHIL B202 Culture and Interpretation

A study of methodological and philosophical issues associated with interpreting alternative cultures, including whether ethnocentrism is inevitable, whether alternative cultures are found or imputed, whether interpretation is invariably circular or relativistic, and what counts as a good reason for one cultural interpretation over another. (Krausz, Division III; cross-listed as COML B202)

PHIL B203 Formal Semantics

A study of the adequacy of first-order logic as a component of a theory of linguistic analysis. Grammatical, semantic and proof theoretic inadequacies of first-order logics are examined and various ways of enriching these logics to provide more adequate theories are developed, with special attention to various types of linguistic presuppositions, analyticity, selection restrictions, the question-answer relation, ambiguity and paraphrase. Prerequisite: Philosophy 103. (Weaver, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B204 Readings in German Intellectual History

(Seyhan, Division III; cross-listed as GERM B212)

PHIL B205 Philosophy and Medicine

This course explores several of the philosophical issues raised by the enterprise of medical science. These issues cross a wide range of philosophical subfields, including the philosophy of science, epistemology, metaphysics and ethics. Topics to be covered include: the nature of health, disease and illness, the epistemology of medical diagnosis, and the relationship between medical science and healthcare ethics. (staff, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B209 Introduction to Literary Analysis: Philosophical Approaches to Criticism

(Seyhan, Division III; cross-listed as COML B209 and GERM B209) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B211 Theory of Knowledge: Relativism and Realism

What sorts of things are there and what constraints are there in knowing them? Have we access to things as such or are they inevitably filtered through some conceptual scheme? This course will examine the debate between relativism and absolutism in relation to the debate between realism and antirealism. The course will seek to instill philosophical skills in the critical evaluation of pertinent theories. Readings will include works of Karl Popper, Nelson Goodman, Hilary Putnam, Israel Scheffler, Chhanda Gupta and others. (Krausz, Division III)

PHIL B212 Metaphysics

An examination of the issues that arise when we try to discern the fundamental nature of the world. What does it mean to say that something is real, objective, mind-independent or true? How do we go about deciding whether the world includes values, God, mind, numbers? Is there a reason to regard science's description of the world as depicting the world as it really is? (Chen, Division III)

PHIL B213 Introduction to Mathematical Logic

Equational logics and the equational theories of algebra are used as an introduction to mathematical logic. While the basics of the grammar and deductive systems of these logics are covered, the primary focus is their semantics or model theory. Particular attention is given to those ideas and results that anticipate developments in classical first-order model theory. Prerequisites: Philosophy 103 and Mathematics 231. (Weaver, Division II; cross-listed as GNST B213)

PHIL B221 Ethics

How should we live our lives and interact with others? This course explores answers to this question in the context of the global community in which we now live. It introduces students to ethics by way of an examination of moral theories (such as theories of justice and human rights, utilitarianism, Kant's categorical imperative, relativism and care ethics) and of practical issues (such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography and censorship, animal rights and the environment, and equity). (Koggel, Division III)

PHIL B222 Aesthetics: The Nature and Experience of Art

What sorts of things are works of art, music and literature? Can criticism in the arts be objective? Do such works answer to more than one admissible interpretation? If so, what is to prevent one from sliding into an interpretive anarchism? What is the role of a creator's intentions in fixing upon admissible interpretations? What is the nature of aesthetic experience? Readings will be drawn from contemporary sources from the analytic and continental traditions. (Krausz, Division III; cross-listed as COML B222)

PHIL B226 Introduction to Confucianism

(Kim, Division III; cross-listed as EAST B226 and POLS B226) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B228 Political Philosophy

(Ancient and Early Modern) (Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B228)

PHIL B229 Concepts of the Self

In this course, we will discuss several related philosophical questions about the nature of the self, introspection, self-knowledge and personal identity. What kind of thing is the self? Is the self identical with your body or something distinct from it? What is introspection? What are you conscious of when you are self-conscious? How does knowledge of your own thoughts, sensations and desires differ from other kinds of knowledge? What kinds of changes can you undergo and still remain the same person you were before? We will address these issues by reading work from both historical and contemporary sources. (Chen, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B230 Discrete Mathematics

An introduction to discrete mathematics with strong applications to computer science. Topics include set theory, functions and relations, propositional logic, proof techniques, recursion, counting techniques, difference equations, graphs and trees. (Weaver, Division II or Quantitative Skills; cross-listed as CMSC B231 and MATH B231)

PHIL B231 Political Philosophy (Modern)

(staff, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B231)

PHIL B236 Plato: Early and Middle Dialogues

Plato is sometimes accused of being out of touch with the real world, of radically changing his mind in his later years, of keeping his "secret" philosophy hidden, and even of writing not philosophy so much as dramatic fiction. Carefully reading representative later and earlier work, we will try to see how far such claims might or might not be justified. (Dostal, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B238 Science, Technology and the Good Life

This course considers questions concerning what is science, what is technology and what is their relationship to each other and to the domains of ethics and politics. We will consider how modern science defined itself in its opposition to Aristotelian science. We will examine the Cartesian and Baconian scientific models and the self-understanding of these models with regard to ethics and politics. Developments in the philosophy of science will be considered, e.g., positivism, phenomenology, feminism, sociology of science. Biotechnology and information technology illustrate fundamental questions. The "science wars" of the 1990s provide debates concerning science, technology and the good life. (Dostal, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B238)

PHIL B246 Philosophical Skepticism

This course will examine philosophical arguments that purport to show that we cannot know the things we take ourselves to know. We will focus on the problem of induction, external world skepticism, the problem of other minds and self-knowledge. (Chen, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B252 Feminist Theory: Gender and the Global Division of Labor

An examination of feminist critiques of traditional philosophical conceptions of morality, politics, the self, reason and objectivity. Contributions to issues of concern for feminists, such as the nature of equality, justice and oppression, are studied. The course considers the evolution of feminist theory concepts and hones in on the feminist interrogation of globalization. (Barker, Division III)

PHIL B300 Nietzsche, Kant, Plato: Modes of Practical Philosophy

(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B300)

PHIL B303 Advanced Mathematical Logic

This course develops various advanced topics in the branch of mathematical logic called model theory. Topics include homogeneous models, universal models, saturated and special models, back-and-forth constructions, ultraproducts, the compactness and Lowenheim-Skolem theorems, submodel complete theories, model complete theories, and omega-categorical theories. Prerequisite: Philosophy 213 or Haverford Mathematics 237. (Weaver, Division II; cross-listed as GNST B303)

PHIL B310 Philosophy of Science

An examination of positivistic science and its critics. Topics include the possibility and nature of scientific progress from relativistic perspectives. (Krausz, Grobstein, Division III)

PHIL B314 Existentialism

The course examines the philosophical roots and development of existentialism through selected readings (including novels and plays where relevant) in the works of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Camus, Marcel and Jaspers. The focus will be on the main features of the existentialist outlook, including treatments of freedom and choice, the person, subjectivity and intersubjectivity, being, time and authenticity. (staff, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B318 Philosophy of Language

Mathematically precise results in linguistics, computer science and logic presuppose the theory of strings. This theory has two formulations: (1) the theory of string systems; and (2) the theory of generalized arithmetics. These formulations are equivalent and within the theory of string systems three different models for linguistic description are developed: algebraic, automata theoretic and formal grammar. As an example we take distributional structure and define regular sets. We then show that these regular sets are the class of languages generated by left linear grammars and that this class is those languages accepted by finite state automata. Prerequisite: Philosophy 103. (Weaver, Division III)

PHIL B319 Philosophy of Mind

Contemporary philosophy of mind is a subfield of metaphysics that attempts to explain how the existence of mental properties and events (such as pain and belief) can be consistent with the modern scientific view that everything that exists is physical. The course will explore major theories about mental properties, including functionalism, epi-phenomenalism, supervenience and eliminative materialism. We will discuss the debate over whether the mind is more like a traditional computer or a connectionist "neural net." We will examine theories of mental content - how mental states come to be about one thing rather than something else. (Chen, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B321 Greek Political Philosophy

(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B320) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B323 Culture and Interpretation

This course will pursue such questions as the following. For all objects of interpretation, must there be a single right interpretation? If not, what is to prevent one from sliding into an interpretive anarchism? Does interpretation affect the nature or the number of an object of interpretation? Does the singularity or multiplicity of interpretations mandate either realism or constructivism or any other ontology? Discussions will be based on contemporary readings. (Krausz, Division III; cross-listed as COML B323) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B325 Philosophy of Music: The Nature and Experience of Classical Music

This course will consider philosophical issues pertaining to the ontology of works of music, meaning and understanding of music, emotions and expressiveness of music, music and intentionality, scores in relation to performances, the idea of rightness of interpretation, music and morality, and music in relation to other arts and practices. Examples of works will be provided in class. Prerequisite: a 200-level philosophy course or a course in music, music theory or criticism, or permission of instructor. (Krausz, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B326 Relativism: Cognitive and Moral

Cognitive relativists believe that truth is relative to particular cultures or conceptual schemes. In an analogous way, moral relativists believe that moral rightness is relative to particular cultures or conceptual schemes. Relativistic theories of truth and morality are widely embraced in the current intellectual climate, and they are as perplexing as they are provocative. This course will examine varieties of relativism and their absolutistic counterparts. Readings will be drawn from contemporary sources. (Krausz, Division III)

PHIL B327 Political Philosophy in the 20th Century

(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B327)

PHIL B329 Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein is notable for developing two philosophical systems. In the first, he attempted to show there is a single common structure underlying all language, thought and being, and that the job of philosophy was to make it clear. In the second, he denied the idea of such a structure was even coherent, and claimed that the job of philosophy was to free philosophers from bewitchments due to misunderstandings of ordinary concepts in language. The course begins by examining the first system in the Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus and turns to his rejection of his earlier ideas in Philosophical Investigations and in On Certainty. (Koggel, Division III; cross-listed as GERM B329)

PHIL B330 Kant

The significance of Kant's transcendental philosophy for thought in the 19th and 20th centuries cannot be overstated. His work is profoundly important for both the analytical and the so-called "continental" schools of thought. This course will provide a close study of Kant's breakthrough work: The Critique of Pure Reason. We will read and discuss the text with reference to its historical context (Descartes, Locke, Hume, Leibniz, etc.) and with respect to its impact on developments in epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion as well as developments in German Idealism and 20th century phenomenology (Husserl and Heidegger). (Dostal, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B336 Plato: Later Dialogues

An examination of several so-called "late" dialogues, primarily Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman and Philebus. Special attention is given to the literary character of the dialogues, with thematic focus on dialectic and dialogic inquiry, Aristotelian modes of explanation and the Platonic images of the philosopher and the political leader. Fundamental ontological, epistemological and political questions are considered in these dialogues. (Dostal, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B336)

PHIL B338 Phenomenology: Husserl and Heidegger

This upper-level seminar will consider the two main proponents of phenomenology - a movement in philosophy in the 20th century that attempted to restart philosophy in a radical way. Its concerns are philosophically comprehensive: ontology, epistemology, philosophy of science, ethics and so on. Phenomenology provides the important background for other later developments in 20th-century philosophy and beyond: existentialism, deconstruction, post-modernism. This seminar will focus primarily on Edmund Husserl's Crisis of the European Sciences and Martin Heidegger's Being and Time. Other writings to be considered include some of Heidegger's later work and Merleau-Ponty's preface to his Phenomenology of Perception. (Dostal, Division III)

PHIL B344 Development Ethics

This course explores the questions and moral issues raised by development in the context of globalization. Questions to be considered include: In what direction and by what means should a society develop? What are the obligations, if any, of rich countries to poor countries? What role, if any, should rich countries, international institutions and nongovernmental organizations have in the development or self-development of poor countries? To what extent, if any, do moral relativism, national sovereignty and universalism pose a challenge to cross-cultural ethical inquiry about theories of human flourishing, human rights and justice? (Koggel, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B344) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B347 Philosophy of Perception

A discussion of several issues in the philosophy of perception. What exactly do we perceive? What is the role of concepts in our experience? What is the relation between perceptual experience and empirical judgment? Does our capacity to think depend on our ability to perceive? (Chen, Division III)

PHIL B352 Feminism and Philosophy: Transnationalism

An investigation of the lessons feminism and philosophy offer one another. The course examines feminist critiques of traditional philosophical conceptions of morality, the self, reason and objectivity; and it studies philosophical contributions to issues of concern for feminists, such as the nature of equality, justice and oppression. (Koggel, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B352) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B355 Descartes

This advanced seminar examines the major works of the 17th-century philosopher René Descartes. Through his Meditations, with responses and replies, Principles of Philosophy, Discourse on Method and other works, we will gain an appreciation of Descartes' philosophical sophistication and the richness of his positions. Emphasis will be placed on the context of Descartes' work in the history of philosophy. (Chen, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B359 Sacrifice, Identity and Law

(Elkins, Division III; cross-listed as COML B359 and POLS B359) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B361 Interpretation Theory: Gadamer

This upper-level seminar focuses on a major work of contempoary philosophy, Hans-Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method, which provides a comprehensive theory of interpretation. Gadamer argues that all experience and understanding is interpretive. The seminar will consider both the background for and the reception of this work through selections from, among others, Aristotle, Derrida, Dilthey, Habermas, Heidegger, Kant, Plato, and Strauss. (Dostal, Division III) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B364 Irony and Inquiry: Plato and Nietzsche

(Elkins, Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as COML B364 and POLS B364) Not offered in 2005-06

PHIL B367 Hegel's Philosophy of Right

Hegel's Philosophy of Right, his major work of legal and political philosophy, is an account of the ethical basis of the state and of the relationship of politics, law and morality. In this course, we will engage in a close reading of the full text of the Philosophy of Right and consider several supplementary texts, including Marx's Critique of the Philosophy of Right. (Elkins, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B367)

PHIL B372 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence

(Kumar, Division II and Quantitative Skills; cross-listed as CMSC B372) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B376 Citizenship and Migration

(Barker; cross-listed as POLS B376)

PHIL B380 Persons, Morality and Modernity

(Elkins, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B380) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B384 Islamic Political Thought

(Harrold, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B384) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B390 The American Regime: Philosophical Foundations of American Politics

(staff, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B390) Not offered in 2005-06.

PHIL B399 Senior Conference

Senior majors are required to write an undergraduate thesis on an approved topic. The senior conference is the course in which research and writing are directed. Seniors will meet collectively and individually with the supervising instructor. (Chen)

PHIL B403 Supervised Work

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