Skip to main content
Indiana University Bloomington

Undergraduate Program

Current Courses

Philosophy Course Descriptions - Spring 2018

P100 Introduction to Philosophy: Appearance & Reality - Adam Leite

This course is an introduction to philosophy, focusing upon questions about the possibility and limits of human knowledge. Can we ever know the true nature of reality? If so, how? What is the relation between how things seem to us and how they really are? The class considers these and related questions by studying the writings of several important thinkers in the European philosophical tradition, including Plato, Descartes, Berkeley, and Kant. We will focus upon identifying, analyzing, and evaluating the reasons these philosophers offer for their views. We will also pay attention to how their views are embedded in historical contexts. We will strive to develop an understanding and appreciation of the nature of philosophical questions and the tools philosophers have used to answer them. You will learn to “think like a philosopher,” identifying and trying to answer philosophical questions yourself through careful rational argumentation. The course is specifically designed to develop students’ abilities to reason carefully, write clearly, work with deeply challenging texts, and think about difficult issues from a variety of viewpoints.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

 P105 Critical Thinking - David McCarty

Logic is the study of persuasive reasoning and the principal goal of our P105 is to offer students a working knowledge of informal logic at the introductory level. This we separate into three component areas: recognition, analysis, and evaluation of reasoning. In the first, we learn to distinguish reasoning from other forms of communication, among them narratives and causal explanations. Next, in analyzing reasoning, we apply such techniques from logic as argument diagrams to understand the structures of reasoning. Finally, we learn to evaluate reasoning and to improve our own reasoning by employing the important notions of validity and fallacy.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

 P105 Critical Thinking - Leah Savion

Why do smart people have weird beliefs, behave irrationally, and fail systematically in their reasoning? To be better equipped to deal with this question we will study some basic rules of correct reasoning in propositional logic and in syllogism, and the classification and the impact of formal and informal pervasive fallacies. Other topics include the roles of cognitive operations and principles in thinking, metacognitive skills: magical beliefs and their sources, and practical applications of deviations from the logical norms of belief formation, inference, and behavior. Textbook: Savion “The Dark Side of Rationality” ClassPak.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

P140 Introduction to Ethics: Moral Theory & Contemporary Issues - Stephanie Leary

In this course, we’ll discuss various theories in moral philosophy regarding what makes actions right or wrong, what makes someone a good person, and what it takes for a person to be morally responsible for a particular action or attitude. In addition, we will evaluate these moral theories, in part, by focusing on how they bear on specific contemporary moral issues such as duties to the poor, duties to animals, abortion, implicit bias, and affirmative action. While our discussion of these topics will be primarily informed by reading philosophical texts, these readings will sometimes be supplemented by podcasts, newspaper articles, or documentaries. This course aims to improve your ability to think carefully and critically about ethical issues that are relevant to your everyday life, and your ability to express your own views in a clear, well-reasoned way in both writing and conversation.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

P150 Elementary Logic - Leah Savion

This elementary logic course is concerned with
                  (i) Basic notions of the theory of reasoning, such as correctness of inference,
deductive and inductive evaluations of arguments, soundness, conditionals, incompatibility, contradiction, and truth-functionality;
                  (ii) Symbolization of English sentences and arguments into logical languages, and methods for discerning correct from incorrect inferences (truth-tables and natural deduction). The primary subject of the course is the formal language of Propositional Calculus and a short introduction of Predicate Logic.
                  Course objectives include installing critical and analytical reasoning, enhancing the abilities to detect logical structures in ordinary language, provide rigorous proofs of validity, and develop the relevant metacognitive skills. 
                  Final grade is determined from weekly quizzes, assignments, two midterms and a final exam.
                  Textbook: Savion: "Brain Power: Symbolic Logic for the Novice" 2015 edition, published by CoursePak.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

P201 Ancient Greek Philosophy - David McCarty

The course is intended to provide a student with a detailed, critical survey of the major figures, doctrines, and arguments characteristic of ancient philosophy in the western tradition. Special emphasis will be placed on the writings of the classical Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, but our study will extend to include the views of some pre-Socratic philosophers and such Roman philosophers as Cicero and Seneca. Grades will be based on class participation plus student performance on quizzes, writing assignments, and examinations. A quiz will be administered during almost every meeting of the course. There will be frequent writing assignments with emphasis on helping students write effective philosophical essays. There will be three sit-down, in-class examinations during the semester, in addition to the final examination. Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of at least three credit hours in a course or courses on philosophy.

P211 Early Modern Philosophy: Descartes through Kant - Kate Abramson

If there’s one phrase that could capture the early modern period in philosophy, it would be: “and then, everything changed.” From conceptions of the mind, to moral and political philosophy, to theories of knowledge-- all that had been taken for granted was called into question. You might have heard of some of the philosophers involved in these debates: e.g. Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume. Others you probably haven’t heard of: e.g. Margaret Cavendish, Elizabeth of Bohemia, Mary Astell, Francis Bacon. Still others you may have heard of, but not realized that they wrote important philosophical works—e.g. Galileo. Equally various were the ways in which these philosophers argued for their views. They wrote brief arguments, systematic Treatises, meditations, utopias, miscellany, and even what may well be the very first work of science fiction. This is a survey class. We will read many philosophers, on many topics, with the goals of understanding not only the details of their arguments, but also the ways in which those arguments changed forever the framework for debates in philosophy.

H233 Friendship, Religion, & Justice - Rega Wood

Why do we need friends? What do we or should we love? What do the gods love? What should we believe about God/s? Why should we live justly? How is human happiness related to virtue? Is there a natural law, a system of justice common to all people and all nations, to which we must conform? If so, can its precepts invalidate human laws? Is an unjust law no law at all? In this course we will look at the answers to these questions proposed by five great figures from the history of philosophy: Plato (Euthyphro, Lysis, Gorgias), Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics), Cicero (On Duties, On the Nature of the Gods), Abelard (Dialogues), and Hume (Dialogues). This course will focus on topics in ethics, natural religion, and the natural law tradition.

 P250  Introduction to Symbolic Logic - Mark Kaplan

“Does this conclusion follow from those premises?”; This seems to be a question that calls upon us to exercise our imaginative powers. To determine the answer, our only option seems to be to try to imagine circumstances under which the premises come out true and the conclusion comes out false: if (and only if) we find no such circumstance imaginable, should we conclude that the answer is “Yes”. It’s not a very reliable option when things get complicated. The central aim of this course is to show that there is a better, and very different, way to go about answering the question. We will see that a significant portion of English discourse exhibits a structure that allows the question “Does this conclusion follow from these premises?” to be decisively answered by a technique which involves nothing more than the manipulation of symbols according to precise rules.
                 GenEd N&M, College N&M Breadth of Inquiry

 P251 Intermediate Symbolic Logic - Joan Weiner

This course delves deeper into the issues broached in p250. We will focus on techniques (both semantic and syntactic) for determining whether or not arguments (both truth-functional and quantificational) are valid. We begin with a tableau system for evaluating truth-functional arguments. We will prove that the system is sound, complete and decidable. We then move to a quantificational language adequate for expressing complex statements involving many-place predicates (e.g., ‘x loves y’, ‘x is between y and z’). We will study symbolization, formal logical theories and model theoretic interpretation for such languages. We next introduce more expressive power into our formal language and formal theories by adding techniques for expressing functions and definite descriptions (e.g., the successor of x, the mother of x), and identity. At each stage we will investigate issues of decidability, soundness and completeness. We will also do a bit of modal logic. Time permitting, we will also spend some time on multi-valued logic and/or set theory. There will be weekly homework assignments, two mid-term examinations and a final examination.
                 GenEd N&M, College N&M Breadth of Inquiry

 P300 Philosophical Methods and Writing - Kirk Ludwig

This course is about how to write good philosophy, and so at the same time about how to do philosophy well. It is a nuts and bolts course in the sense that it aims at developing skills for doing and writing philosophy well, and in particular skills for developing your own ideas and arguments for them, rather than just repeating what others have said or thought. We will do this via a combination of lecture/discussion and tutorial sessions. Students will meet together once a week for a lecture/discussion on a reading assignment, and then in pairs with a tutor. There will be a series of structured writing assignments, focused on a series of essays on personal identity over time, for the first ten weeks of the term. For the last five weeks students work through the stages of writing a term paper with their tutor, on a topic of their choosing. If you are interested in improving your philosophical writing, and if you are willing to work hard, this is the course for you.

Prerequisite:  One course in philosophy.  The course is limited to majors and minors in philosophy.

P300 satisfies the College of Arts and Sciences Intensive Writing requirement.

P320 Philosophy & Language - Joan Weiner

Of all the uses we make of language, perhaps most central is our use of language to describe and communicate facts about the world. It is this feature of language that will provide the focus of most of our work the semester. We will survey the main approaches to the topics of truth, meaning and reference from the literature that has its roots in the work of Frege and Russell. Readings will include work by Frege, Russell, Tarski, Strawson, Kripke, Putnam, Quine, and Davidson. Prerequisites: Although this is not an official prerequisite for the course, the course material will require an understanding of first order quantification theory. Students who have not taken p250 or its equivalent should contact the instructor before enrolling.

Required Text: A.P. Martinich,and David Sosa eds., The Philosophy of Language 6th ed., Oxford University press, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0199795154

Additional required readings will be made available for downloading on Canvas.

Required Text: A.P. Martinich,and David Sosa eds., The Philosophy of Language 6th ed., Oxford University press, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0199795154

Additional required readings will be made available for downloading on Canvas.

P340 Classics in Ethics - Kate Abramson

In this class, we will study some of the major themes and fundamental theoretical commitments in the philosophical ethics of Aristotle, Hume, Kant and Mill. Our study of these disparate works in ethics will be unified by trying to think of how each of these philosophers would complete the sentence “A good person would…” For instance, we might say that a good person would see the world in a particular way, or that she would be motivated by certain considerations and not others, or that she would take some things into account in deciding what to do but not others, or even that she would understand the justification of our moral practices in certain ways. This is an advanced level undergraduate class: prerequisites are two prior classes in philosophy.

 P346 Melancholy Beauty - Rega Wood

Melancholy Beauty introduces art analysis from a philosophical perspective. It reflects on great works of art from the view points of modern art historians Erwin Panofsky (b. 1892), Ernst Gombrich (b. 1909), and Richard Wollheim (b. 1923), and on past philosophers: Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Immanuel Kant. Readings by art experts are complemented by philosophical works that shaped artists' psychological, perceptual, and aesthetic assumptions. We challenge students to analyze different works of art following the models suggested by the most famous art analysts of the twentieth century. We ask, for example, whether when a landscape looks melancholy, we're projecting our own melancholy onto it or responding to an iconographic type defined by our cultural heritage.

P376 Leadership & Philosophy - Sandy Shapshay

In the scholarly literature on effective leadership, a repeatedly stressed theme is that an effective leader holds fast to a certain moral-philosophical principles. In other words, allegiance to a philosophical vision of “the right” and “the good” seems to be an important foundation for successful leadership. This course aims to study the connections between leadership and philosophy, by focusing on 6 diverse, paired, and illuminating case studies of philosophically-informed leadership: President & General, George Washington & Che Guevara, Marxist Latin-American revolutionary; First-wave feminist, women’s suffrage and anti-slavery leader, Susan B. Anthony & Gloria Steinem, second-wave feminist social activist and “media worker”; Non-violent, Indian independence and spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi & Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., U.S. Civil Rights Leader. For each unit, we will read, whenever possible, the writings and speeches of these leaders, screen popular biopics, and study the most up-to- date accounts of the leader’s role in politics and/or social-humanitarian movements. We will focus especially on the philosophical background that informed that leader’s vision of the right and the good, and in some cases, the moral and political-philosophical reflection that was sparked in part by that leader’s work.

 P401 History of Philosophy: Special Topics/Topics in History of Modern Philosophy - Allen Wood

Immanuel Kant saw human reason as inevitably driven to ask questions it is unable to answer. In his attempt to understand this problematic situation, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason remade modern philosophy by drawing the line between what we can and cannot know. Kant’s critique has been the model for a wide variety of philosophical positions that explore the mind’s contribution to knowledge of the world. By ‘critique’, Kant meant the process by which our reason both justifies our limited knowledge against skeptical challenges and exposes the errors of our attempts to extend our knowledge beyond its proper boundaries. It is a critique by pure reason on pure reason: its aim is self-knowledge and the self-assessment of its own powers and limits. Kant’s project both grounds the modern project of empirical natural science and explores those metaphysical questions about the soul, the world and God which the critique shows to be unanswerable by us. This course will look at Kant’s many-sided and ambitious philosophical project.

top