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Indiana University Bloomington

Undergraduate Program

Current Courses

Philosophy Course Descriptions - Spring 2019

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

P100 Introduction to Philosophy - Krasi Filcheva

This course will be a philosophical exploration of three central problems that arise from reflection on the most general features of our nature and our form of life. We take ourselves to be free and morally responsible agents. But there are serious challenges to the attempt to integrate this conception of ourselves into a scientific image of ourselves and the world. Some of these are based on very broad considerations about the nature of physical reality such its deterministic or indeterministic character. Others stem from scientific studies on the neurophysiological basis of conscious choice. We will look at both philosophical and some scientific writings that bear on the problem of free will and responsibility. There are rapid technological advances in the attempt to create artificial minds and even artificially intelligent persons. These efforts often presuppose views about the nature of the mind and its relationship to physical reality. Part of our explorations will center on this problem of how the mind is related to the physical world, e.g. is it a distinct substance or is it fundamentally physical in nature? Finally, we will look into what makes us the persons that we are over time. What does our personal identity consist in? Could we lose most of our memories and still retain our identity? Could we replace our bodies and still retain our identities? Works of popular culture present us with examples in which future technologies allow us to take on a different body and ask us to consider what happens to our identity in those scenarios. Others ask to consider the possibility that our minds are uploaded into virtual environments. Our examination of the various philosophical perspectives on these problems will allow us to determine how plausible these scenarios are and what kinds of substantive assumptions about who we are and what kinds of beings we are they presuppose. Along the way, you will become skilled at evaluating philosophical arguments of some complexity and constructing arguments in support of your own views on a variety of related problems.
                  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

P140 Introduction to Ethics - Jim Hutchinson

This class is centered on three things that are often thought to be among the best things in life: pleasure, love, and truth. We will try to determine whether these things really are as good as they are thought to be, and if so, what makes them so good. We will use what we learn in order to try to answer a broader question: whether life can have "meaning" or not, and if so, what (if anything) the meaning of life has to do with good things like pleasure, love, and truth. Readings will include Nietzsche, Thomas Nagel, Susan Wolf, John Stuart Mill, Walter Pater, Neera Badhwar, Plato, Iris Murdoch, and whoever wrote the Bible.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

P140 Introduction to Ethics - Krasi Filcheva

In this course, we’ll examine a set of ethical questions essential for reflecting on what it means to lead a good life. First, we will address the question of what makes actions right or wrong. In this context, we will study the major ethical theories that provide an answer to this question and consider their application to the problem of the ethical treatment of non-human animals. Next, we will address the question of what makes one’s life overall good. Are there certain things in life that are absolutely good or good to have in life no matter what one’s personal circumstances are? If there are, how can we know what they are? Once we have examined these issues we will discuss the nature of moral wisdom. How is right action and knowledge of the good and valuable manifested in the life of a wise person? What makes some people moral exemplars or moral ideals? Time permitting, we will discuss the problem that evil and suffering pose for ethical thought and meaning in life with a special emphasis on the question of how the recognition of evil ought to shape our ethical orientation to life and our character. Finally, we will conclude with a discussion of how we should strive to make ourselves better persons. Are there right and wrong ways to seek moral improvement? Here, we will examine some arguments in the emerging field of moral neuroenhancement for the rightness and wrongness of using brain manipulation to enhance human empathy and moral capacities. The aim of the course is to develop the skills of critical reflection and evaluation of moral arguments with a view to improving your reasoning about issues especially relevant to the conduct of our life.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

P140 Introduction to Ethic - Sandy Shapshay

“Introduction to Ethics” is a lecture-discussion class that provides an introduction to major ethical theories of the Western tradition such as virtue ethics, Utilitarianism, and Kantian “duty-based” ethics. The special focus of this class will be on utilizing these theories and various ethical principles that have come out of these theories in the domain of biomedicine. Bridging theory and practice, we will study the “Belmont Report,” which was written in 1974 in large part as a response to atrocious human rights violations committed in the name of research during WWII and in the U.S.’s Tuskegee syphilis experiments. We will investigate the ethical framework provided there for research with human subjects, and then we will turn to serious ethical reflection on the patient/medical professional relationship, end-of-life care and death with dignity laws, and contemporary reproductive technologies.
This course has three major aims:
(1) To familiarize you with the major classic and contemporary philosophical theories of ethics which have been foundational for the development of Western civilization.
(2) To challenge you to examine critically your own pre-conceived ideas about what is right and wrong, good and bad.
(3) To develop your critical thinking abilities with respect to arguments about matters of value, and to hone your ability to develop and defend well-reasoned positions on ethical issues both orally and in writing.
(4) To enable students to thoughtfully apply ethical theories and principles in the domain of biomedicine. After taking this class, students should be able better to understand, analyze, and rationally evaluate moral claims and arguments, and construct reasonable moral positions and defend them in writing. Progress on the development of these skills will be assessed through homework assignments, quizzes, a short paper and two exams. The skill-set honed in this class is vital for leading an examined public and private life; it should serve you well, far beyond the walls of this classroom.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

P145 Liberty and Justice - Dan Buckley

This course will be provide the student with an introduction to some of the central questions in political philosophy. We will consider such questions as: What distinguishes a legitimate form of government from an illegitimate form? Why have a government at all? To what extent can a government constrain the freedom its citizens? What would a just society look like? We will consider these questions by examining key texts in the history of political thought. Our authors will include central figures in the Western philosophical tradition such as: Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, and Rawls. Emphasis will be placed on the development of critical thinking as a skill. Possession of this skill involves the ability to analyze and understand dense philosophical argumentation, as well as the ability to articulate and defend one’s own position regarding philosophical questions. Assignments will thus be designed to help the student development and refine these abilities.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

P240 Business & Morality - Levi Tenen

This introductory-level course will examine an array of ethical issues relevant to business. The topics likely to be covered include: deception, conflicts of interest, workplace issues (diversity in the workplace, sexual harassment, free speech, privacy, safety and other labor issues), exploitation (of workers, of patrons), corporate social responsibility (for example concerning the environment), whistleblowing, and ethical issues in personal finance. We will consider questions both abstractly and concretely. For instance, we will ask questions such as: What is it to manipulate people? What differentiates objectionable manipulation from permissible attempts to change people's minds or habits? What sorts of restrictions on advertising are appropriate? When are high-pressure sales tactics beyond the pale? What happens when a company’s fiduciary responsibility conflicts with something else of value? And should investors divest from companies with morally-problematic track records? Lecture/discussion format.

P242 Applied Ethics - Kevin Mills

This course is a philosophical exploration of some of the interesting moral dilemmas that may confront us, either in our own lives, or as major social issues. This class does not presuppose any background in philosophy, and will involve talking about moral dilemmas in a largely non-theoretical way. That said, non-theoretical does not mean unrigorous; we will be reading with great care challenging works by philosophers. Topics to be examined include: pornography; abortion; animals; friendship; forgiveness; access to healthcare. This class aims to help students: (i) develop the skills needed to engage critically with the variety of moral dilemmas that may confront them in their lives; (ii) learn to recognize and have productive discussions in light of reasonable moral disagreement; (iii) develop critical reading and writing skills. Assessments will be based on exams, short writing assignments, and an essay of roughly ~1500 words. Students will be expected to come to class regularly, prepared to discuss the assigned reading, and may be penalized for failing to do so.

P246 Introduction to Philosophy and Art - Sean Murphy

Art is valuable to us. We seek out museums when we visit new cities, or beautifully landscaped parks and gardens, because our experiences of such places and the objects they contain bring us pleasure, enliven our senses, and offer us new kinds of experiences. A major question we ask in the philosophy of art is how our engagements with works of art help facilitate a deeper understanding of ourselves, our societies, and our world in general. Thus we assume that it is possible that through our engagement with works of art we come to know new things about ourselves and our world. But what kind of knowledge is it that we acquire through experiencing works of art? And how is it that these artworks convey this knowledge to us? How do social and cultural factors impact how and what we come to know through art? We will seek out answers to these and related questions in both classical and contemporary philosophical work on art, from the thoughts of Plato and David Hume, up to contemporary reflections on avant-garde and conceptual art.
                  Gen Ed A&H, College A&H Breadth of Inquiry

 P251  Intermediate Symbolic Logic - Jim Hutchinson

This course delves deeper into the issues broached in P250, Introduction to Symbolic Logic. 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. Prerequisite: P250.
                 GenEd N&M, College N&M Breadth of Inquiry

 P300 Philosophical Methods and Writing - Adam Leite

Clear, precise writing goes hand in hand with clear, precise thinking. This course offers philosophy students a chance to develop their skills in philosophical writing and argumentation. It is a "nuts and bolts" course, aimed at (1) developing skills necessary for doing philosophy well and (2) engaging students in philosophical research. We will look carefully at how philosophers go about defending their views, and students will practice incorporating various argumentative strategies into their writing. For the first nine weeks, each student will write a short paper about that week's reading. For the remainder of the semester each student will work intensively with a graduate student tutor and with each other to develop a longer, independent philosophical paper. The course will involve a unique structure combining whole-class sessions and tutorial meetings. Each week the whole class will meet once to discuss a philosophical text. Then, for the second weekly class session, students will meet in pairs with an advanced philosophy graduate student to discuss the writing each student has done for that week. The topic of the course is personal identity. What makes you the same person as the young child you once were? Does sameness of body play a crucial role here? Or do imaginary scenarios of "body-swapping" show that it doesn't? Does continuity of memory or of other psychological traits play a key role? If someone loses his or her memory or undergoes a radical personality change, does this mean that he or she is no longer the same person? The topic of personal identity quickly expands outward from issues in metaphysics to questions in the philosophy of mind and even in ethics. At the same time, it connects with our most fundamental concern about the kind of things that we are (What is it to be a person?) and raises fundamental questions about the role of imagination and "thought experiments" in philosophical methodology. Strongly recommended: At least one prior course in philosophy. The course is designed primarily for majors and minors in philosophy. P300 satisfies the College of Arts and Sciences Intensive Writing requirement.
                 GenEd N&M, College N&M Breadth of Inquiry

 P310 Topics in Metaphysics - Tim O'Connor

One goal of metaphysics is to identify the fundamental constituents of reality, discern what they are like intrinsically, and understand how they 'hang together' in one overarching reality. Pursuing this goal will lead us to investigate some more particular questions:
• Is reality a deep unity, or is it just a collection of a whole lot of things?
• Is mind or matter the most fundamental reality?
•What is space? What is time?
•What is the nature of causation, the 'glue' that binds together events through time?
•Why is the world the way it is, and not some other way? (Why does anything exist at all?)

Metaphysics also zeroes in on organized bits of reality, especially ourselves. It asks:
•What kind of things are we?
•In what sense are we the 'same' person over a lifetime of enormous physical and psychological change?
•What is it to be consciously aware, and how does consciousness relate to brain processes?
•What is free will, and do we have it?

Warning: this course is a mind-bending journey - few return unchanged.

P335 Phenomenology and Existentialism - David McCarty

Here at last, folks, is the course in which you get to take such central philosophical questions as “What is the meaning of life?” and “Why is there something rather than nothing?” head on. In it, we will focus largely on famous existentialist philosophers (and one filmmaker)–Camus, Sartre, Heidegger, and Bergman—who proposed answers to those questions. However, 20th-Century phenomenologists will not be neglected. Specifically, we will be attempting close philosophical analyses of major creations by those thinkers and their allies. A principal goal will be to learn to think and write critically about various existentialist philosophies in their multiple interrelations. Required texts for the course will include Camus’s “The Stranger” and “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Sartre’s “No Exit” and “Existentialism is a Humanism,” Heidegger’s “Philosophy–What is It?” “The Origin of a Work of Art” and “Letter on Humanism.” Bergman’s film’s “Through a Glass Darkly” will also feature prominently. Course grades will be determined on the basis of student performance on two in-class examinations, one final examination, daily reading assignments, and frequent short writing assignments. In-class quizzes may also be administered. Prerequisite: 3 credit hours of Philosophy.

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.

 P371 Philosophy of Religion - Kim Brewer

Does the very existence of the universe, or the fact that it can sustain life, prove that there is a God? Does the pain and suffering of the innocent prove the contrary? In this course, we will examine a range of arguments for and against God’s existence. We will also ask whether theistic belief could be rational even if the evidence does not support God’s existence. Blaise Pascal, for instance, famously held that no argument could settle the question of whether God exists, yet claimed it remains rational to believe (‘to wager’) that God does. Through writing, discussion, and the careful analysis of texts, this course will deepen students’ skills in the practice of philosophical reasoning and argument. Prerequisite: 3 credit hours of Philosophy.

 P401 Kant's Ethics - Allen Wood

A survey of Kant’s ethical theory. Topics: Rational volition. The concept of a categorical imperative. Formulas of the moral law: their derivation and their non-equivalence. Humanity as end in itself. Human dignity. Autonomy and freedom of the will. The realm of ends. The process of enlightenment. The relation of ethics to right (law and politics). Kant’s theory of virtue. The ends of morality. Duties to oneself. Conscience. Duties of love and respect to others. The duties of friendship. Duties regarding non-human animals and the beauty and teleology of nature. Human evil and the struggle against it. The ethical community. The relation of morality to religion. Prerequisite: 6 credit hours of philosophy or consent of instructor. Prerequisite: 6 credit hours of Philosophy or consent of instructor.