Philosophy

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The fundamental educational objective of the philosophy major is to turn students into lovers of wisdom (the original meaning of the Greek term, philosophos). As a field, philosophy is more than 2,500 years old. In the first instance, philosophy is a body of ideas and doctrines that have been articulated by thinkers who have sought to understand the basic features of what is, what could be and what ought to be. Philosophy students need to know these rationally developed positions in order to avoid repeating past errors and to build upon what is best in our philosophical heritage.

Students who complete the philosophy major (a) understand the historical scope of philosophical discourse, especially the main movements of Western thought; (b) gain familiarity with the history and contemporary relevance of select non-Western traditions; (c) demonstrate skills in logical and critical analysis of complex texts and argumentation; and (d) accomplish sustained and systematic investigation of a philosophical subject through the completion of a St. Mary’s Project.

Students who complete the philosophy minor (a) understand the historical scope of philosophical discourse, especially the main movements of Western thought; (b) gain familiarity with the history and contemporary relevance of at least one non-Western tradition; (c) develop skills in critical and evaluative analysis of philosophical texts; and (d) accomplish some advanced work in composition of well-reasoned philosophical argumentation.

Equally important, philosophers attempt to rationally justify their most basic intuitions about the nature of reality. Philosophy is an activity that students engage in by thinking clearly, carefully, and systematically about fundamental problems of existence. This activity is not a replacement of but a complement to scientific investigation. Philosophy is a reflection upon hypotheses that, because of their fundamental and general character, cannot be verified or falsified by the current methods of modern science. For example, philosophers examine the claim that our consciousness is nothing more than a series of neurological events of the brain. They also consider the grounds of political obligation, or whether certain human actions are wrong beyond our happening to think they are, or whether our knowledge can be valid for all time periods and all cultural circumstances. Members of the department deal with fundamental and grave issues facing all of us in the 21st century, including war and peace, global justice, environmental health, and gender equity. Philosophical approaches include Western European traditions, East Asian and South Asian thought, and critical and feminist theories.

Because of the intensive and extensive training in conceptual analysis of fundamental problems, the philosophy major provides an excellent preparation for virtually any professional career. Philosophy prepares us not only to earn a living, but also to address such questions as why we should live, and how we live, our all-too-human lives.

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR

To earn a bachelor of arts degree with a major in philosophy, a student must satisfy the following minimum requirements:

  1. General College Requirements (see “Curriculum” section), including the following requirements to satisfy the major.
  2. At least 44 credit-hours in philosophy, as specified in a., b., c. below. A grade of C- or better must be received in each course of the major and the cumulative grade-point average of courses used to satisfy the major must be at least 2.00. Courses taken for Credit/No credit may not be used to satisfy requirements under point 2.
    1. Required Core Courses: 32 credit-hours
      • PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy
        or
      • PHIL 120: Introduction to Ethics
      • PHIL 215: Critical Thinking and Philosophical Writing
      • PHIL 300: History of Western Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval
      • PHIL 301: History of Western Philosophy: The Modern Period
      • PHIL 380: Philosophical Topics and Thinkers
      • PHIL 430: Ethical Theories
      • PHIL 493: St. Mary’s Project in Philosophy (note: prerequisite for 493 is PHIL 492)
      • PHIL 494: St. Mary’s Project in Philosophy
    2. Upper-division electives: eight credit-hours chosen from any 300- or 400-level philosophy courses listed in the College catalog. A student must take at least one course (four credit-hours) in a non-Western philosophical/religious tradition. Additional courses that satisfy this requirement may be approved by the department faculty. Note: courses used to satisfy requirements in section a. (above) may not be used to satisfy upper-division elective credit. Credits earned from internships, field experiences, and honors or senior projects cannot be used to meet this requirement.
    3. Additional elective courses: four credit-hours chosen from any 300- or 400-level philosophy or religious studies courses listed in the College catalog. Additional courses that satisfy this requirement may be approved by the department faculty. Note: any course not used to satisfy requirements in section a. or b. (above) may be used to satisfy additional elective credit, but course choices are to be selected in consultation with the adviser for the major. Credits earned from internships, field experiences, or senior projects cannot be used to meet this requirement.
    4. Students who complete an interdisciplinary SMP of which only four credit-hours consist of PHIL 493/494 must complete four credit-hours chosen from any 300- or 400-level philosophy courses listed in the College catalog, in addition to the standard courses that satisfy the requirements of the philosophy major. Students who complete an SMP entirely outside of PHIL 493/494 must complete eight additional credit-hours chosen from any 300- or 400-level philosophy courses listed in the College catalog, in addition to the standard courses that satisfy the requirements of the philosophy major. After consultation with the department chair, these requirements may be waived for SMPs with substantial philosophical content.

The following model is suggested as a sequence of study that satisfies the specific requirements for a major in philosophy.

The following model is suggested as a sequence of study that satisfies the specific requirements for a major in philosophy.

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MINOR

  1. General College Requirements (see "Curriculum" section).
  2. At least 20 credit-hours in philosophy as specified under the required and elective courses. A grade of C- or better must be received in each course of the minor and the cumulative grade-point average of courses used to satisfy the minor must be at least 2.00.
    1. Required core courses (eight semester-hours):At least one course from each of the following:
      • Either PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy or PHIL 120: Introduction to Ethics
      • Either PHIL 300: History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, or PHIL 301: History of Modern Philosophy
    2. Elective courses:
      • Students minoring in philosophy must take an additional 12 credit-hours, of which at least eight credit-hours must be upper-level, and of which at least four credit-hours must be non-Western philosophy. With approval from the department chair, other upper-level philosophical courses from outside the philosophy offering can be counted as electives where appropriate.

To earn a minor in philosophy, a student must satisfy the following requirements:

FACULTY

Sybol Cook Anderson, Kathryn J. Norlock, Brad Park, John Schroeder, Michael Taber. Department chair: Björn Krondorfer (RELG)

PHILOSOPHY COURSES (PHIL)

PHIL 101. Introduction to Philosophy (4E)

This course provides students with the opportunity to think critically and systematically about fundamental problems of life and the nature of the universe, with materials drawn from a wide variety of intellectual traditions, ancient and modern, Western and non-Western. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Humanistic Foundations.

PHIL 120. Introduction to Ethics (4E)

A study of basic views on how we ought to live our lives. The following kinds of questions are examined: What is goodness? Can we, and if so how can we, justify our basic ethical principles? Can ethical statements be true (or false), or are they solely a matter of preference? This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Humanistic Foundations.

PHIL 215. Critical Thinking and Philosophical Writing (4E)

Development of philosophical writing and reasoning skills, including knowledge of logical concepts, their relations, and their expression in formal notation and informal argumentation. Systems to be studied include the propositional calculus and natural deduction. The relations of these systems to the syntax and semantics of natural language will be examined, with an emphasis on application of logical reasoning to arguments in philosophical and non-philosophical writing. Students will construct their own logical arguments in a term paper that incorporates library research and demonstrates appropriate use of secondary sources.

PHIL 300. History of Western Philosophy: Ancient & Medieval (4F)

The development of philosophical thought from the pre-Socratics to the Neo-Platonists and religious philosophers of the Middle Ages. Emphasis is placed on selected works of the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle, but critics of the presuppositions of this tradition taken as a whole will be studied as well. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy.

PHIL 301. History of Western Philosophy: The Modern Period (4S)

The main movements of Western thought from the late Renaissance through the mid-19th century. Major ideas in the Rationalist tradition (for example, Descartes, Spinoza, Conway, Leibniz), the Empiricist tradition (Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Wollstonecraft), and Kant and Hegel will be examined. Also, selected critics of the presuppositions of this tradition taken as a whole will be studied. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy.

PHIL 321. Environmental Ethics (4S)

A survey of major approaches to thinking about the ethical issues arising in the relations among humans, other species, and the earth. This will include ecocentric ethics, ecofeminism, animal rights, development ethics, and some examples of a religious approach to environmental ethics. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy or religious studies, or consent of the instructor.

PHIL 325. Feminism and Philosophy (4F)

An introduction to issues in feminist philosophy, including its critique of Western philosophy and its contributions to major areas of philosophy such as ethics, social philosophy, theories of human nature, and theories of knowledge. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 120, or RELG 318, or consent of the instructor.

PHIL 330. Modern Religious Thought (4A)

Introduces students to major 20th-century theological and religious thinkers as they wrestle with some of the following questions: Who or what is God? Why do good people suffer? How do we envision salvation, redemption, liberation? What constitutes a religious community? How should religion, politics, science and nature be interrelated? Cross-listed as RELG 330. Prerequisite: one course in religious studies or philosophy, or consent of the instructor.

PHIL 335. History of Western Philosophy: The Continental Tradition (4A)

A study of the works of 19th- and 20th-century continental thinkers and their impact on contemporary philosophy. Some of the following will be studied: Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Marx, Heidegger, Sartre, Beauvoir, Gadamer, and selected contemporary thinkers. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy.

PHIL 351. East Asian Philosophies and Religions (4S)

A systematic study of the major schools of thought in China and Japan, including Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Shinto, as well as works by contemporary Japanese philosophers. Particular attention will be paid to the historical development of East Asian thought and its contemporary relevance. Cross-listed as RELG 351. Students may receive credit for either course, but not both. Prerequisite: one course in religious studies or philosophy.

PHIL 352. South Asian Philosophies and Religions (4F)

An intensive and extensive study of the history, beliefs, and practices of Hinduism, Indian Buddhism, and Jainism as reflected in their canonical texts, with special reference to the Vedic scriptures, Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita, early Buddhist sutras, and philosophical writings. The interplay between philosophical and theological concerns will be studied, and the contemporary relevance of the tradition will be examined. Cross-listed as RELG 352. Students may receive credit for either course, but not both. Prerequisite: one course in religious studies or philosophy.

PHIL 380. Philosophical Topics and Thinkers (4E)

A systematic analysis of either a specific topic in philosophy or the writings of one philosopher. The topic chosen (for example, universalism and multi-culturalism) or thinker (for example, Plato) will vary from semester to semester. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy.

PHIL 402. Philosophy of Religion (4A)

A descriptive analysis of religious experience past and present, and an assessment of its validity. Topics include the spiritual dimension of humanity (including human/earth relations, human/divine relations), reasons for believing in God, miracles, and the role of religion in different cultures. This course is cross-listed as RELG 402. Students may receive credit for either course but not both. Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy.

PHIL 403. Philosophy of Art and Literature (4A)

The objectives of this course are to better understand the nature of an art work, the degree to which it mirrors reality, how it affects us, how it is to be interpreted, and how it is to be evaluated. Various aesthetic media are considered. Several weeks are devoted to the foundations and specific applications of contemporary literary theory. Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy.

PHIL 410. Social and Political Philosophy (4A)

An analysis of the theories and concepts used to explain and justify social and political thinking and action. Topics include the state, society, the common good, justice, global justice, rights and responsibilities, punishment, as well as the psychological and ethical bases of social and political obligation. Cross-listed as POSC 469. Students may receive credit for either course, but not both. May be repeated for credit with permission of the instructor. Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy.

PHIL 430. Ethical Theories (4S)

A systematic investigation of theories of the grounds for moral obligation, with special reference to virtue ethics as well as deontological, consequentialist, and feminist positions. Special emphasis is given to Aristotle and Kant and their contemporary defenders and critics. Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy.

PHIL 492. SMP Proseminar (1S)

Meeting approximately five times during the semester preceding the initiation of the St. Mary’s Project (SMP), the SMP Proseminar is designed to aid the student in producing an informed proposal for an SMP that meets the requirements of the College and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. The SMP proposals are then circulated to the faculty in the department for the purpose of assigning students to mentors to begin the SMPs. Successful completion of the proseminar is measured by the student developing a SMP proposal acceptable to the departmental faculty. This is a one-credit prerequisite for registering for PHIL 493. (Note: Students who expect to be away from the College during the spring of their junior year have two options: either (a) complete the work for the SMP Proseminar in the fall prior to departure; or (b) be in regular contact during the spring with the faculty of the department, in order to complete and submit an acceptable SMP proposal by the same due date governing those on campus.) Credit/No Credit grading.

PHIL 493/494. St. Mary’s Project in Philosophy (1-8E)

The student-initiated project will draw on and develop the understanding, analytic skills, and creativity of the student’s previous academic work. The project may assume many forms, including cooperative efforts. The student will identify an area to be explored and articulate a method of inquiry or style of presentation appropriate to the subject matter. The project will also exhibit a student’s reflection on the social context, body of pertinent literature, or the conceptual framework to which it is a contribution. It will be presented to the College community in a form agreed upon by both the student and his or her mentor. The subject of the project may be within philosophy or involve philosophy in cross-disciplinary study areas. The work is to be supervised by a faculty mentor. Prerequisite: Completion of PHIL 492; approval of the faculty mentor and the department chair.

PHIL 199, 299, 399, 499. Independent Study (1-4E)

This course consists of an independent creative or research project designed by the student and supervised by a philosophy faculty member. The nature of the project, the schedule for accomplishment, and the means of evaluation must be formalized in a learning contract prior to registration. (See “Independent Study” under “Academic Policies” section.)

PHIL 385 Classroom Assistantship in Philosophy (1-4E)

Supervised experience in the understanding and explanation of philosophical concepts and reasoning. Meeting regularly with the instructor, classroom assistants help an instructor in duties that may include convening meetings with students outside of regular class time, reading drafts of students’ papers, correcting (but not grading) short homework assignments and drafting examination questions. This course will follow the general college guidelines. Students eligible for classroom assistantships must have a minimum GPA of 2.5, be of junior or senior standing or must have completed 2 courses of 200-level or above work in Philosophy. May be repeated for a total of 8 credits.