Students may complete a major or minor in Philosophy.
Robert J. Dostal, Professor and Acting Chair
Christine M. Koggel, Professor (on leave semesters I and II)
Michael Krausz, Professor
Bharath Vallabha, Assistant Professor
Morgan Wallhagen, Lecturer
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.
Students majoring in philosophy must take a minimum of 11 semester courses and attend the monthly noncredit departmental colloquia. The following five courses are required for the major: the two-semester Historical Introduction (PHIL 101 and 201); Ethics (PHIL 221); Theory of Knowledge (PHIL 211), Metaphysics (PHIL 212), or Logic (PHIL 103); and Senior Conference (PHIL 398 and PHIL 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.
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.
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 pre-Socratics and of the two central Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. (Dostal, Vallabha, Division III)
Contemporary formulations of certain philosophical problems are examined, such as the nature of knowledge; persons; freedom and determinism; the grounds of rationality; cognitive and moral relativism; and creativity in both science and art. (Krausz, Division III) Not offered in 2008-09.
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. (staff) Not offered in 2008-09.
The development of philosophic thought from Descartes to Nietzsche. (Vallabha, Wallhagen, Division III)
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) Not offered in 2008-09.
(Seyhan, Division III; cross-listed as GERM B212) Not offered in 2008-09.
(Seyhan, Division III; cross-listed as COML B209 and GERM B209)
This course will be an introduction to the theory of knowledge, or epistemology. We will examine in detail arguments about two central concerns of epistemologists in the 20th century: skepticism about our knowledge of objects in the external world and epistemological naturalism. (Krausz, Vallabha, Division III) Not offered in 2008-09.
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? (Wallhagen, Division III)
An introduction to ethics by way of an examination of moral theories and a discussion of important ancient, modern, and contemporary texts which established these theories: virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, emotivism, care ethics. This course considers questions concerning freedom, responsibility, and obligation. What is the relation of ethics to religion? How should we think about ethics in a global context? Is ethics independent of culture? A variety of practical questions will be considered. (Dostal, Koggel, Division III)
Prerequisite: One introductory course in philosophy. Here are some questions we will discuss in this course: What sort of thing is a work of art? Can criticism in the arts be objective? Do such cultural entities answer to more than one admissible interpretation? What is the role of a creator’s intentions in fixing upon admissible interpretations? What is the nature of aesthetic experience? What is creativity in the arts? Readings will be drawn from contemporary sources from the analytic and continental traditions, including John Dewey, Art as Experience, and works in Gary Iseminger, ed., Intention and Interpretation. (Krausz, Division III; cross-listed as COML B222)
(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B228 and PHIL B228)
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. (Wallhagen, Division III)
(Hughes, Division II and Quantitative Skills; cross-listed as CMSC B231 and MATH B231)
(staff, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B231)
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) Not offered in 2008-09.
Surveys 20th-century continental philosophy: phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, Marxism and the Frankfurt school, structuralism, and post-structuralism and deconstruction. Themes include meaning and truth, the basis for ethics and politics, embodiment, language, the “other,” and feminism. Philosophers discussed include Derrida, Foucault, Gadamer, Habermas, Heidegger, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre. Prerequisites: PHIL B101 or PHIL B201. (Dostal, Division III)
Cognitive science is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of human cognition. It goes from the abstract study of concepts of cognition at one end to well-defined empirical research into language and cognition and the specifics of cognitive modeling on computers at the other. Philosophy, linguistics, psychology, computer science, and neuroscience are the major contributors to cognitive science. (Vallabha, Division III) Not offered in 2008-09.
(Elkins; cross-listed as POLS B245) Not offered in 2008-09.
An examination of feminist critiques of traditional philosophical conceptions of morality, the self, reason, and objectivity; philosophical contributions to issues of concern for feminists, such as the nature of equality, justice, and oppression, are studied. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy or permission of instructor. (Koggel, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B253) Not offered in 2008-09.
(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B300)
An examination of positivistic science and its critics. Topics include the possibility and nature of scientific progress from relativistic perspectives. (Krausz, Grobstein, Division III; cross-listed as BIOL B310) Not offered in 2008-09.
The course examines the philosophical roots and development of existentialism through selected readings (including novels and plays where relevant) in the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger, Jaspers, Kierkegaard, Marcel, Nietzsche, and Sartre. 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 2008-09.
This course will address the following questions: What are the criteria of creativity? Is explaining creativity possible? Should we understand creativity in terms of persons, processes or products? What is the relation between creativity and skill? What is genius? What is creative imagination? Is there a difference between creativity in the arts and creativity in the sciences? What is the relation between the context of discovery and the context of justification? What is the relation between tradition and creativity? Is there a significant relationship between creativity and self-transformation? This course follows upon PHIL 222 Aesthetics, but does not presuppose it. (Krausz, Division III) Not offered in 2008-09.
In this course we will examine core philosophical questions about the nature of language and meaning. What are meanings, and how can linguistic entities (such as words and sentences) “have” them? How do words refer? How can they refer to non-existent entities (Santa Claus, Gandalf)? What is the relation of language to thought? We shall also consider the (supposed) importance of the analysis of language to philosophy (and the so-called “Linguistic Turn” in philosophy). We shall address these questions primarily through a study of the writings of the early analytic philosophers, especially Frege, Russell, and the early Wittgenstein. (staff, Division III) Not offered in 2008-09.
What is the mind and how is it the related to the body? Considers the main contemporary answers to this question: dualism, functionalism, and embodied cognition. Evaluates by exploring the mental states: consciousness, emotions, and thought. Considers whether objective description of consciousness is possible; whether consciousness is related to action; how emotions are related to reason and culture; and whether thinking requires engaging the environment and other people. Tries to balance philosophical and scientific approaches to the mind. Prerequisite: At least one course in philosophy or consent of the instructor. (Vallabha, Division III)
(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B320)
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)
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 2008-09.
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)
(Salkever, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B327) Not offered in 2008-09.
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) Not offered in 2008-09.
Prerequisite: PHIL 201 or the equivalent. 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 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. (Dostal, Division III)
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) Not offered in 2008-09.
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) Not offered in 2008-09.
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 2008-09.
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? (Vallabha, Division III) Not offered in 2008-09.
(staff, Division I or III; cross-listed as SOCL B349) Not offered in 2008-09.
(Salkever, Elkins, Division III; cross-listed as COML B364 and POLS B364) Not offered in 2008-09.
(Elkins, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B367) Not offered in 2008-09.
(staff, Division III; cross-listed as POLS B368) Not offered in 2008-09.
(Elkins, Division I or III; cross-listed as POLS B371) Not offered in 2008-09.
(Kumar, Division II and Quantitative Skills; cross-listed as CMSC B372) Not offered in 2008-09.
Senior majors are required to write an undergraduate thesis on an approved topic. The senior seminar is a two-semester course in which research and writing are directed. Seniors will meet collectively and individually with the supervising instructor. (Dostal, Koggel, Krausz, Vallabha, Division III)
(Dostal, Koggel, Krausz, Vallabha, Division III)