Courses

100. Introduction to Philosophy.

A non-historical survey that approaches the field through consideration of such perennial problems as ultimate reality, free will, knowledge, morality, political obligation and the existence of God. This course is open to students without previous work in philosophy.

103. Philosophy East and West: An Introduction.

A thematic introduction to philosophy, taking a comparative approach, looking at philosophy not only of the Western tradition, but also of the Eastern tradition. Themes include the idea of a “good life,” ethics and the self. Through close reading of primary texts, we critically explore both the commonalities and differences across the traditions. Students learn how to analyze difficult philosophical texts and arguments critically, develop writing skills and ask and answer questions in a philosophical manner. Also offered through Asian Studies and Global Studies.

120. Introduction to Peace Studies.

The purpose of Peace Studies is to explore the potential for nonviolent methods of building social, political, and economic justice. This course intentionally searches for alternative ways of understanding conflict. We will ask questions such as: Can we define “peace” in more positive terms than the unrealistic “absence of conflict”? Can conflict be positive or even transformative? Are “peacemakers” different from the rest of us? Can we all learn to live harmoniously with others who are very different from us? What are ways to cultivate the inner peace that gives people the strength and insight to deal with conflict creatively and positively? Also offered as Peace Studies 100.

201. Ancient Philosophy. 

A historical study of Western philosophy from its beginnings in ancient Greece through the end of the classical period, with primary emphasis on Plato and Aristotle. Representative original works are read dealing with such problems as reality, the self, knowledge, and value. Prerequisite: Philosophy 100 or 103, or permission of instructor. Also offered through European Studies.

202. Reasoning. 

An introduction to argument and logic. Attention is given to both deductive and inductive logic and to methods of determining the reliability of arguments of both types. Additional topics may include scientific thinking, informal evaluation of arguments and composition of arguments.

203. Ethical Theory. 

An introduction to ethical theory, drawing on texts from the Greeks to the present. What is the nature of moral obligation? What character traits are human virtues and vices? How do we discern goodness and evil? How do we justify ethical judgments of any kind? This is an appropriate selection for students with some previous experience in philosophy and provides an important background for further study in philosophy or other disciplines. Prerequisite: Philosophy 100 or 103, or permission of instructor. Also offered through Global Studies.

206. Introduction to Political Theory. 

A study of the answers that philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche have given to the question, “How should political life be organized?” This question leads us to consider the related problems of justice, power, equality, freedom and human nature. The course includes discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of liberal democracy. Also offered as Government 206 and through European Studies.

208. Modern Philosophy. 

An introduction to the philosophical thinking of representative modern European philosophers in the rationalist, empiricist, and critical traditions. Primary emphasis is on Descartes, Hume, and Kant. The course explores both the systematic thinking of the philosophers on central topics concerning theories of knowledge and of reality, and the historical development of the different viewpoints on these topics. Prerequisite: Philosophy 100 or 103, or permission of instructor. Also offered through European Studies.

223. Asian Philosophy. 

An introduction to some of the major thinkers and themes of the philosophies of India, China and Japan. The major themes — self and ethics — require us to think in a different framework from that of the Western tradition: for instance, whereas the East emphasizes the ethical, the West stresses the logical and epistemological; whereas the West seeks out a methodology, the East inquires after a path. Students are encouraged to think in these non-Western frameworks; however, we also make reference to ideas and themes in Western philosophy to aid understanding of the traditions. Also offered through Asian Studies.

232. Africana Philosophy. 

This course engages two interrelated bodies of philosophic literature—African philosophy and African-American philosophy—in order to consider whether the two should comprise an inclusive category of African diaspora thought (or Africana philosophy). We read African thinkers on the question “What is African philosophy?” and several philosophers of the African diaspora, and end with a section devoted specifically to epistemological and moral questions related to race. This course satisfies the diversity distribution requirement. Also offered through African Studies and African-American Studies.

290. Gender and Feminist Theory. 

This course examines theoretical explanations of gender, gender difference and gender inequality in society. The course includes introductions to some of the questions that shape contemporary feminist theory, feminist writings in multiple disciplines and feminist movements inside and outside the academy. The course focuses on how an awareness of intersections of race, class, sexuality, gender and ethnicity is vital for disciplinary and interdisciplinary study in feminist theory. Theoretical works are drawn from the humanities, arts and literature and the social sciences. Prerequisite: Gender Studies 103. Also offered as Gender and Sexuality Studies 290.

301. Philosophy of Science. 

Why does science produce such reliable knowledge? Is there really a “scientific method”? Does science get at truth, or is scientific knowledge socially constructed? In addition to these questions, we consider whether science advances according to a steady and rational process, or whether it advances according to radical “scientific revolutions.” We also try to identify what (if anything) distinguishes scientific knowledge from other kinds of knowledge. To conclude the course, we reflect on whether scientific knowledge is comprehensive enough to constitute a complete worldview. Prerequisite: Philosophy 100, 103 or 202, or permission of the instructor. Also offered through European Studies.

302. Symbolic Logic. 

A study of elementary symbolic logic. Topics include sentential and predicate logic. Prerequisite: Philosophy 202 or permission of instructor.

310. Philosophy of the Environment. 

Our current environmental problems are due primarily to the total volume of human consumption. This course focuses on the problem of high consumption in developed countries and possible solutions for it. Is this high consumption necessary for our happiness, or could we be just as happy while doing less damage to the natural world? If we could, as many environmentalists argue, why do so few of us live as though we truly believe that? Is it possible to consume less, either as individuals or as a society? What kinds of changes are feasible in society to reduce our damage to the natural world? The course offers a theory of happiness intended to make it possible to answer these questions. Prerequisite: Philosophy 100 or 103, or Environmental Studies 101, or permission of the instructor. Also offered as Environmental Studies 310 and Outdoor Studies 310.

317. Mathematical Logic. 

An introduction to modern mathematical logic, including the most important results in the subject. Topics include propositional and predicate logic; models, formal deductions and the Gödel Completeness Theorem; applications to algebra, analysis and number theory; decidability and the Gödel Incompleteness Theorem. Treatment of the subject matter is rigorous, but historical and philosophical aspects are discussed. Prerequisite: Mathematics 280. Also offered as Computer Science 317 and Mathematics 317.

327. Existential Philosophy. 

Freedom, responsibility, the nature of being, the individual, community and communication are all themes of existential philosophy. Taking a comparative approach, students investigate existential philosophy as it appears in the Western tradition with, for example, Heidegger and Sartre, and also examine Asian philosophical approaches to existential questions. What are the different ways of approaching basic questions about human existence? Are these basic questions the same across traditions? Students are encouraged to explore critically both the commonalities and differences across traditions to begin to develop their own views of what it means to be human. Prerequisite: Philosophy 201, 203, or 208, or permission of the instructor. Also offered through European Studies and Global Studies.

331. Free Will, Responsibility and the Person.

In most cases we believe that a person is responsible for an action only if he or she acted “of his or her own free will.” But what do
we mean by free will? If all of our choices are caused by previous events, would that imply that no one has free will, or show that no one is ever really responsible? What picture or concept of a person is implied by the answers to these questions? Prerequisite: Philosophy 100 or 103 or 202, or permission of the instructor.

333. Ethics of Global Citizenship. 

This research seminar is designed to address, from a philosophical perspective, some of the difficult ethical questions arising from the global organization of the world. Readings include classical, non-western and alternative theories of justice and peace. The course interrogates the discourses surrounding patriotism and cosmopolitanism, peace and violence, terrorism and war, justice and retribution, and the debates surrounding relativism versus universalism, especially with regard to the claims for human rights. Students undertake research projects dealing with the ways these issues are being negotiated in countries where they studied abroad, and develop ethical positions on their own responsibilities toward global citizenship. Also offered as Global Studies 333.

334. Feminist Philosophy. 

An introduction to some of the questions that shape feminist philosophy today. What connections are there between feminist philosophy and feminist writing in other disciplines and feminist movements inside and outside the academy? Does feminist philosophy transform traditional philosophical discourse and the academy? The course focuses on how an awareness of intersections of race, class, sexuality, gender and ethnicity is vital for disciplinary and interdisciplinary study in feminist philosophy. Also offered as Gender Studies 334. 

347A. Human Flourishing in Contemporary Society: The Pursuit of Happiness (SPRING 2013)

This course will examine the idea of what flourishing as a human being entails through a variety of philosophical traditions, investigating the question “What does it take for human beings to flourish in contemporary society?”  Ranging from Aristotle, through the Modern, to Existentialism, Feminist Philosophy as well as Asian philosophical perspectives, the course will also investigate what some of the  necessary preconditions for flourishing might be, through such themes as, gender, self, community and sustainability. Four students (determined by grades and an application essay) will have an opportunity to participate in a .5 credit travel component attached to the course, where we will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark after exams, as Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world.

Students must have at least one 200 level philosophy course to enroll in 347A.

350. Philosophy of Mind

We may spend most of our time at St. Lawrence, but we spend all of our time in our minds. We know what it is to feel happy or blue, to feel pleasure and pain, to see vivid colors. But what is consciousness? How does it relate to our minds? To our brains? Could a computer think and feel like we do? Could my phone be part of my mind? In this course, we examine the rich philosophical questions that arise when thinking about who we are, and how our minds work.  Drawing on work in philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, this class attempts to get clear on what it means to have a mind, and what that means for who we are.

357. Postcolonial Literature and Theory. 

This course introduces a distinct way of organizing literary study, substituting for the study of national traditions the notion of postcoloniality as a global condition affecting not only literature but also categories we use to think about human experience: relations between colonizers and colonized and between culture and power; identity, authenticity and hybridity; roots, motherland, mother tongue; nationality. Readings include contemporary literature produced in the Indian subcontinent, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Africa, Canada and the Caribbean, as well as important theoretical texts about postcoloniality. Also offered as English 357 and Global Studies 357.

367. Feminist Postcolonial Theory. 

Postcolonial theory addresses issues of identity, culture, literature and history arising from the social context of colonization, resistance to colonization, liberation from colonization and the formation of new nations. It crosses the boundaries of the social sciences and humanities in its approach to theory and analysis of the discourses used to constitute colonial and postcolonial subjects. We begin with some classic texts of postcolonial theory before moving to a focus on specifically feminist debates and texts within postcolonial studies. Literature and film are used in dialog with theoretical texts to examine questions about gender and women’s issues in various societies. Also offered as English 367, Gender Studies 367 and Global Studies 367.

390. Focus on a Philosopher. 

This course gives students the opportunity to engage in in-depth study of the works and life of a single philosopher. The philosopher chosen will vary depending on faculty and student interest. Study of the philosopher will include close reading of one or more of his or her works, and often also the study of the ideas of other philosophers he or she was responding to, as well as the historical/cultural context in which the philosopher was working. Prerequisite: Phil 201, 203, or 208, or permission of the instructor.

400. SYE Seminar: Metaphilosophy. 

This course provides an opportunity for critical reflection on the nature and value of philosophy itself. What is philosophy? What are the methods of philosophical inquiry? Does philosophy have value in today’s world? We read what other philosophers, past and present, and in both Western and non-Western traditions, have had to say about these questions. Other members of the philosophy department will visit the class to share their own perspectives and methods. Students practice and reflect on a variety of philosophical methodologies and will be encouraged to clarify their own philosophical identities. Prerequisite: Philosophy 201, 203, or 208, or permission of instructor. Must be a senior philosophy major or minor.

402. Philosophy Tutorial. 

Under faculty supervision, the student assists in the teaching of an elementary course in philosophy. Limited to majors.

451. Research. 

Intended for students who have shown aptitude in philosophy and who, in the opinion of the staff, would benefit from faculty-guided research in philosophy. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

468. SYE: Independent Study. 

A one-semester SYE independent study option for students who are unable to complete an SYE in any other way. Students must complete an independent study project worthy of SYE designation under supervision of a faculty member. Prerequisite: permission of department chair.

469. SYE: Independent Study: Metaphilosophy. 

Occasionally a student who wishes to take Metaphilosophy as an SYE is unable to take the seminar version of this course (which is only offered in the spring), either because of graduating at the end of fall semester, or because of scheduling conflicts in the spring with another course required for graduation. In those cases, the student can take the Metaphilosophy course as an Independent Study under supervision of a faculty member. Prerequisite: permission of department chair.

489,490. SYE: Research and Thesis.

Intended for students who are not eligible for honors but wish to fulfill their SYE requirement by completing a philosophy thesis during the senior year. In the fall, the student registers for 489 and conducts research under the supervision of a faculty member. In the spring, the student registers for 490 and develops a philosophical thesis and defends it in a departmental seminar. Students interested in this SYE option must submit a research proposal in the spring of their junior year; these proposals will be considered after honors proposals are evaluated. Limited to majors.

498-499. SYE: Honors Research and Thesis.

Intended for students who are eligible for honors and wish to fulfill their SYE requirement by completing a philosophy thesis during the senior year. In the fall, the student registers for 498 and conducts research under the supervision of a faculty member. In the spring, the student registers for 499 and develops a philosophical thesis and defends it in a departmental seminar. Students interested in this SYE option must submit a research proposal in the spring of their junior year. Limited to majors.