Department of Philosophy

Last updated: October 22, 2014 at 4:06 p.m.

Objectives

Undergraduate Major
The primary concern of philosophy is to explore ideas that are central to the ways we live and that we commonly use without much reflection, ideas such as truth and justice, the notion of consciousness, and good and evil. In the course of our daily lives, we take the ideas of time, language, knowledge, and our own identity for granted. Philosophy seeks to push our understanding of these ideas deeper. It is the systematic study of ideas fundamental to all the other disciplines taught at the university—the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts.

The skills philosophy helps to develop—critical thinking, sound reasoning, enlightened use of one's imagination, and the capacity to analyze complex issues—are invaluable in the study of any subject or the pursuit of any vocation. Philosophy is unavoidable: every thoughtful individual is gripped by philosophical questions and is guided by assumptions that the study of philosophy brings explicitly to light and puts into larger perspective.

Graduate Program in Philosophy
The graduate program in philosophy leading to the MA degree seeks to provide its students the grounding in the discipline necessary to prepare them to apply to top-ranked PhD programs in philosophy or to obtain a degree in philosophy and advance their chosen careers. Although the program does not offer separate tracks, students are able to draw on the special strengths of the department in metaphysics and epistemology, ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy of language, logic, philosophy of mind and cognitive science, early modern philosophy, aesthetics, and the philosophy of law.

Learning Goals

The primary concern of philosophy is to explore ideas that are central to the ways we live and that we commonly use without much reflection, ideas such as truth and justice, the notion of consciousness, and good and evil. In the course of our daily lives, we take the ideas of time, language, knowledge, and our own identity for granted. Philosophy seeks to push our understanding of these ideas deeper. It is the systematic study of ideas fundamental to all the other disciplines taught at the university—the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts.

The skills philosophy helps to develop—critical thinking, sound reasoning, enlightened use of one’s imagination, and the capacity to analyze complex issues—are invaluable in the study of any subject or the pursuit of any vocation. Philosophy is unavoidable: every thoughtful individual is gripped by philosophical questions and is guided by assumptions that the study of philosophy brings explicitly to light and puts into larger perspective.

I. Core Skills
Philosophy majors learn to…
1. Develop, defend, and criticize philosophical arguments and theories.
2. Utilize fundamental logical concepts and argumentative tools to analyze arguments.
For example:

  • Decide whether an argument is valid or sound;
  • Identify the logical structure of an argument;
  • Draw distinctions and give counterexamples.
3. Interpret historical and contemporary philosophical texts.
4. Develop philosophical creativity, including:
  • Extend theories beyond their original scope;
  • Apply ideas to specific problems;
  • Develop insightful examples, illustrations and thought experiments.

II. Knowledge
Philosophy majors can expect to…
1. Gain detailed understanding of at least two central topics in the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, philosophy mind, and the philosophy of language.
2. Gain detailed understanding of a central topic in moral and political philosophy.
3. Gain significant understanding of at least one major movement or figure in the history of philosophy.
4. Investigate philosophy’s connections with, and application to, some other field of study, such as the natural and social sciences, women’s studies, linguistics, cognitive science, law, art, mathematics, and history.

III. Social Justice
The philosophy major contributes to the University’s goal of learning in the service of justice:
1. By enabling students to reflect on the nature and requirements of justice.
2. By enabling students to recognize and appreciate a variety of theories about how to be just.
3. By fostering the capacity to critically examine ethical problems and conflicts.

Upon Graduating:
Our majors have pursued careers in medicine, law, computer science, business management, public relations, sales and many other arenas. Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have published stories about how employers in a variety of fields are looking for candidates who can solve problems, think and write clearly, organize ideas, question assumptions, sort through a mass of information and identify what’s essential, as well as find—in the midst of heated debate—some common ground. These are all talents that the study of philosophy cultivates and develops.

How to Become a Major

To become a major in philosophy, students must complete a total of nine required courses and satisfy the distribution requirement (see below) in metaphysics and epistemology; moral, social, and political philosophy; the history of philosophy, and logic. At least four must be upper-level courses. To be a candidate for honors, seniors must complete an honors thesis. For further information, contact the undergraduate advising head.

How to Be Admitted to the Graduate Program in Philosophy

Applications should include the standard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences form (www.brandeis.edu/gsas/), GRE scores, a brief personal statement, a writing sample, and three letters of recommendation. The deadline for applications is February 15th.

Although the program is designed to be completed in one or two years of full-time study, students may choose to attend the MA program on a part-time basis.

Scholarship assistance is available for a limited number of exceptional candidates.  The department also offers opportunities for master's candidates to earn a stipend as teaching assistants.

Faculty

Jerry Samet, Chair
Philosophy of mind. Philosophy of psychology and cognitive science. History of philosophy.

Alan Berger, Minors Advisor
Logic. Philosophy of language. Metaphysics. Philosophy of science. Philosophical logic.

Jeremy Fantl, Visiting Professor
Epistemology. Ethics. Metaphysics. Philosophy of mind.

Robert Greenberg
Metaphysics. History of philosophy. Kant.

Eli Hirsch, Undergraduate Advising Head
Metaphysics. Epistemology. Medical ethics.

Berislav Marusic (on leave academic year 2014-2015)
Existentialism. Theory of knowledge. Philosophy of mind and language. Philosophy of perception.

Jennifer S. Marusic (on leave academic year 2014-2015)
History of modern philosophy. History and philosophy of science. Logic.

Kate Moran, Director of Graduate Studies
Kantian ethics. Practical reason. Moral psychology.

Marion Smiley, Honors Advisor
Moral, social, and political philosophy. Philosophy of gender.

Andreas Teuber
Political philosophy. Moral philosophy. Aesthetics. Modern social theory. History of political thought.

Palle Yourgrau
Philosophy of language. Philosophy of mathematics. Philosophy of time. Greek philosophy.

Affiliated Faculty (contributing to the curriculum, advising and administration of the department or program)
Richard Gaskins (American Studies)
Jon Levisohn (Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)
Eugene Sheppard (Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Requirements for the Minor

A. All philosophy minors must complete satisfactorily at least five semester courses from among philosophy and cross-listed courses.

B. At least three semester courses counted toward the minor must be taught by faculty of the philosophy department.

C. At least one course must be upper-level (100 and above).

D. A maximum of one semester of PHIL 98a and b can be counted toward the minor; PEER 94a does not count.

E. No course with a grade below a C will count toward meeting the requirement of five courses for the minor; students may petition the department for waiver of this requirement for a maximum of one course.

F. No course taken pass/fail may count toward requirements for the minor.

G. With the approval of the department minors adviser, transfer students and those taking a year's study abroad may apply up to two semester courses taught elsewhere toward fulfilling the requirements for the minor. The three-course requirement of B, above, remains in effect. Unless special approval is given by the minors adviser, transfer and cross-listed courses will count as lower-level electives.

Requirements for the Major

A. All philosophy majors must satisfactorily complete at least nine semester courses from among philosophy and cross-listed courses. The philosophy department approves cross-listed courses for philosophy credit on a semester-by-semester basis based on the course content and instructor. Students should check the current Schedule of Classes or contact the philosophy undergraduate advising head to make sure that any course under consideration for philosophy credit is cross-listed in the semester in which the student plans to take it.

B. At least five semester courses counted toward the major must be taught by faculty of the philosophy department.

C. At least four courses must be upper-level (99 and above), distributed as follows:

1. At least one must be among the following core upper-level courses in moral, social, and political philosophy: PHIL 102a, 107b-112a, 114b, 119a-122a*, 152a.

2. At least two must be among the following upper-level courses in metaphysics and epistemology: PHIL 129a-146a and 150b, 151a, 152a, 180b and 182a. PHIL 99 counts as an upper-level elective, but does not satisfy this distribution requirement.

3. At least one course must be in the history of philosophy: PHIL 107b, 122a*, 149a, 161a, 162b, 166a, 167a, 168a, 180b. 

Note: Courses that are listed under more than one category can meet one of the other but not both.

D. At least one course must be in logic (PHIL 6a,106b).

E. A maximum of one semester of 98a and b or 99a and b can be counted toward the major. (PEER 94A does not count.)

F. No course with a grade below a C will count toward meeting the requirement of nine courses for the major; students may petition the department for waiver of this rule for a maximum of one course.

G. No course taken pass/fail may count toward requirements for the major.

H. With the approval of the department undergraduate advising head, transfer students and those taking a year's study abroad may apply up to four semester courses taught elsewhere toward fulfilling the requirements for the major. The five-course requirement of B-, above, remains in effect. Unless special approval is given by the undergraduate advising head, transfer and cross-listed courses will count as lower-level electives.

I. Senior Honors Options
There are two ways that students can graduate with Honors in Philosophy.

Track 1 includes Senior Research I and II (PHIL 99a, 99b) and writing of an extended multi-chapter thesis on a philosophical topic under the supervision of a member of the faculty.

Track 2 includes the Senior Essay (PHIL 97a) and one additional elective approved by the department.

This department participates in the European Cultural Studies major.

Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

Program of Study
Candidates for the master of arts degree in philosophy must fulfill the following requirements:

Coursework
Complete a program consisting of nine courses selected with the approval of a faculty advisor to be assigned to each student upon matriculation. Please note that Independent Studies do not count toward the required nine courses. Unless special approval is granted, at least seven of the nine courses must be Brandeis Department of Philosophy offerings. All M.A. students must take PHIL 200a and PHIL 299a (see below), which both count towards the nine courses required. Students must receive a grade of B+ or higher or the equivalent for each course they wish to count towards the nine required courses.

Proseminar Requirement
Complete PHIL 200a (Graduate Proseminar). The mode of instruction of the Proseminar emphasizes discussion rather than lecture. The topics are determined by the instructor but ordinarily include central texts and wide range of content areas.

Master’s Paper Requirement
Enroll in PHIL 299a (Master's Project) and successfully complete a master's paper of professional quality and length. The paper will be evaluated by two faculty members.

Symbolic Logic Requirement
Demonstrate competence in symbolic logic, specifically facility in translations between English and propositional and predicate logic and proof technique (e.g. natural deduction or truth trees). The Director of Graduate Studies will assess the student's background and determine if the requirement has been satisfied or if an appropriate logic course at Brandeis needs to be taken.

Residence Requirement
Students may enroll on a full or part-time basis. There is a one-year minimum residence requirement for full-time students. For full-time MA students the program may be completed in one year of intensive study; however, the department encourages full-time students to take greater advantage of the department's resources and to spend one-and-a-half to two years to complete the program. Students who wish to complete the program on a part-time basis are strongly encouraged to complete all the requirements within four years.

Note: There is no foreign language requirement for the master of arts degree in philosophy.

Courses of Instruction

(1-99) Primarily for Undergraduate Students

PHIL 1a Introduction to Philosophy
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Enrollment varies according to instructor. Refer to the Schedule of Classes each semester for information regarding applicability to the writing-intensive requirement.
A general course presenting the problems of philosophy, especially in the areas of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and social and political philosophy. Texts include works of selected philosophers of various historical periods from antiquity to the present. Usually offered every semester.
Staff

PHIL 6a Introduction to Symbolic Logic
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Symbolic logic provides concepts and formal techniques that elucidate deductive reasoning. Topics include truth functions and quantifiers, validity, and formal systems. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Samet or Ms. Marusic

PHIL 7a Science, Evolution, and Design
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This seminar considers several versions of the argument from design for the existence of God, culminating in a critical examination of the contemporary debate over intelligent design theory and the claim that it is a genuine science. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Marusic

PHIL 17a Introduction to Ethics
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Explores the basic concepts and theories of ethical philosophy. What makes a life good? What are our moral obligations to other people? Applications of ethical philosophy to various concrete questions will be considered. Usually offered every semester.
Ms. Smiley or Ms. Moran

PHIL 18b Introduction to the History of Philosophy
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Introduces central philosophical questions, issues and methods through close study of key works in the history of philosophy, from the ancient period through the early 20th century. Philosophers studied may include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant and Wittgenstein. Usually offered every second semester.
Ms. Marusic

PHIL 20a Social and Political Philosophy: Democracy and Civil Resistance
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Focuses on the relation of the individual to the state and, in particular, on the theory and practice of nonviolent resistance, its aims, methods, achievements, and legitimacy. Examines the nature of obligation and the role of civil disobedience in a democratic society. Explores the conflict between authority and autonomy and the grounds for giving one's allegiance to any state at all. Examples include opposition to the nuclear arms race, and disobedience in China and Northern Ireland and at abortion clinics. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Teuber

PHIL 21a Environmental Ethics
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Explores the ethical dimensions of human relationships to the natural world. Looks at environmental ethical theories such as deep ecology and eco-feminism and discusses the ethics of specific environmental issues such as wilderness preservation and climate change. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Moran

PHIL 22b Philosophy of Law
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Examines the nature of criminal responsibility, causation in the law, negligence and liability, omission and the duty to rescue, and the nature and limits of law. Also, is the law more or less like chess or poker, cooking recipes, or the Ten Commandments? Usually offered every year.
Mr. Teuber and Staff

PHIL 23b Biomedical Ethics
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An examination of ethical issues that arise in a biomedical context, such as the issues of abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, lying to patients, and the right to health care. The relevance of ethical theory to such issues will be considered. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Hirsch

PHIL 24a Philosophy of Religion
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An introduction to the major philosophical problems of religion. Discusses traditional arguments for and against the existence of God, the nature of faith and mystical experiences, the relation of religion to morality, and puzzles about the concept of God. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Hirsch

PHIL 25a Business Ethics
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Offers an introduction to ethical theory and ethical reasoning, as they relate to business issues in particular, especially questions about what ethical constraints (if any) should limit a company's pursuit of profit. Special one-time offering, spring 2014.
Mr. Sherman

PHIL 35a Philosophy of Science
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Philosophers in the twentieth century have often taken scientific activity to be the ideal source of our knowledge about the world. Discusses the problems involved in the analysis of the principles and methods of scientific activity, with an eye to assessing this claim. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Berger, Mr. Hirsch, or Ms. Marusic

PHIL 37a Philosophy of Language
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Theories of meaning, reference, and methodological issues in account of language and translation. Readings from contemporary sources. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Berger or Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 66b Contemporary Analytic Philosophy
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Covers major figures and schools of philosophy in the twentieth century. A basic historical treatment of this period, stressing its continuity with the modern period. Emphasis on the role of logic and language in solving philosophical problems, such as the possibility of doing metaphysics, and whether there are a priori, necessary, or analytic truths. Provides both an excellent introduction to the philosophy curriculum, as well as important grounding for graduate work in philosophy. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Berger, Mr. Greenberg, or Mr. Hirsch

PHIL 74b Foundations of American Pragmatism
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Introduction to American instrumentalism as a philosophical movement and cultural force. Special attention to pragmatic imprints on law and science across the twentieth century. Recurring critical debates over ethical relativism, religious skepticism, legal activism, and the cult of scientific and professional expertise. Usually offered every fourth year.
Mr. Gaskins

PHIL 78a Existentialism
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A study of French existentialist philosophy and its reception, with special attention to the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Marusic

PHIL 97a Senior Essay
Staff

PHIL 98a Readings in Philosophy
A maximum of one semester of PHIL 98a,b or PHIL 99a,b can be counted toward the major.
Readings, reports, and discussions on assigned topics. Usually offered every semester.
Staff

PHIL 98b Readings in Philosophy
A maximum of one semester of PHIL 98a,b or PHIL 99a,b can be counted toward the major.
Readings, reports, and discussions on assigned topics. Usually offered every semester.
Staff

PHIL 99a Senior Research I
A maximum of one semester of PHIL 98a,b or PHIL 99a,b can be counted toward the major.
A senior whose GPA in philosophy courses is 3.50 or above may petition to be admitted to the senior honors program and enroll in this course. The course involves the preparation and beginning of a thesis, under the direction of a member of the faculty, that could serve, in the judgment of the faculty member, as progress toward the completion of a senior honors thesis. Usually offered every year.
Staff

PHIL 99b Senior Research II
Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of PHIL 99a. A maximum of one semester of PHIL 98a,b or PHIL 99a,b can be counted toward the major.
Seniors who are candidates for degrees with honors in philosophy must register for this course and complete a senior honors thesis, under the direction of a member of the faculty. Usually offered every year.
Staff

(100-199) For Both Undergraduate and Graduate Students

PHIL 102a Self-Love and What to Do with It: A Philosophical Analysis
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Despite the quixoticism of moralists who wish to expunge self-love from human nature, a more practical treatment would deal with it in a more rational manner. This course is a philosophical investigation of the possibility of an answer to that question. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Greenberg

PHIL 106b Mathematical Logic
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Covers in detail several of the following proofs: the Gödel Incompleteness Results, Tarski's Undefinability of Truth Theorem, Church's Theorem on the Undecidability of Predicate Logic, and Elementary Recursive Function Theory. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Berger

PHIL 107b Kant's Moral Theory
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An examination of the main philosophical issues addressed in Kant's Critique of Practical Reason from the perspective of their relation to works specifically belonging to his ethical theory: the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and the Metaphysics of Morals. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Moran

PHIL 108a Philosophy and Gender
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 17a.
Explores the place of gender in the works of particular Western philosophers (e.g., Kant, Hume, and Rousseau) and uses the tools of contemporary analytic philosophy to address questions about gender equality, sexual objectification, and the nature of masculinity. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Smiley

PHIL 109b Ethics and Emotions
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Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.
An examination of the historical and contemporary theories concerning the role that emotions and feeling ought to have in moral judgment and decision-making. Explores contemporary philosophical theories about the relationship between emotion and judgment. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Moran

PHIL 110a The Meaning of Life or "How Should One Live?"
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Much recent philosophy in the English-speaking world has focused on the nature of things and our knowledge and reasoning about such things. But most human mental activity is not theoretical, but practical; less concerned with how the world is than with what is to be done. In the earliest moments of Western philosophy, Socrates distinguished himself by asking, "How should one live?" Increasingly, however, that question and its variants have taken a back seat in philosophy, abandoned to the best-seller lists and to publications produced by recent graduates of assertiveness training workshops. We reclaim these questions and take them up again from within the discipline of philosophy itself. Questions asked include: "How should I live?" "What are the good things in life?" "Does life have meaning?" Readings include Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, Murdoch, Dennett, Dawkins, Hacking, Nozick, and Nagel. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Teuber

PHIL 111a What Is Justice?
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Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or political theory or permission of the instructor.
What is justice and what does justice require? The course examines theories of justice, both classical and contemporary. Topics include liberty and equality, "who gets what and how much," welfare- and resource-based principles of justice, justice as a virtue, liberalism, multiculturalism, and globalization. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Smiley

PHIL 112a Social Contract Theory and its Critics
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Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or POL 10a strongly recommended.
Explores a variety of normative arguments for and against the legitimacy of the state that have been put forward by key figures in the history of western political philosophy; e.g. Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, Hume, and Dewey. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Smiley

PHIL 113b Aesthetics: Painting, Photography, and Film
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Explores representation in painting, photography, and film by studying painters Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Vermeer, as well as later works by Manet, Degas, Cézanne, and Picasso; photographers Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, and Diane Arbus; and filmmakers Renoir and Hitchcock. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Teuber

PHIL 114b Topics in Ethical Theory
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a, or PHIL 17a, or PHIL 23b. May be repeated for credit.
Is morality something we have reasons to obey regardless of our interests and desires, or do the reasons grow out of our interests and desires? Is the moral life always a personally satisfying life? Is morality a social invention or is it more deeply rooted in the nature of things? This course will address such questions. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Moran or Ms. Smiley

PHIL 119a Human Rights
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May not be taken for credit by students who took PHIL 19a in prior years.
Examines international human rights policies and the moral and political issues to which they give rise. Includes civilians' wartime rights, the role of human rights in foreign policy, and the responsibility of individuals and states to alleviate world hunger and famine. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Teuber

PHIL 120a Utilitarianism
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Explores historical and contemporary versions of utilitarianism. Examines arguments for and against them, as well as looking at the implications of utilitarianism for our own lives. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Hewitt

PHIL 121a Normative Questions of the Welfare State
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Sets out to develop a normative framework for arguing about the value of particular aspects of the welfare state broadly understood. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Smiley

PHIL 122a History of Ethics
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Explores several major ethical traditions in the history of modern philosophy/ Examines the natural law theories of Hobbes and Grotius; moral sense theory; Kantianism; utilitarianism; and Nietzsche's response to these traditional moral theories. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Moran

PHIL 129a Philosophical Problems
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Open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students.
For students already introduced to philosophy who are interested in examining an array of fundamental philosophical problems in the three main areas of philosophy--epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics and politics--at a more advanced level. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Greenberg

PHIL 130a Causation and Explanation
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PHIL 6A is recommended but not required.
Examines in-depth two topics central to the philosophy of science; the nature of causation and the nature and aim of scientific explanation. Is explaining something a matter of identifying its cause? If not, what is an explanation? Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Marusic

PHIL 131a Philosophy of Mind
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May not be repeated for credit by students who took PHIL 39b in previous years.
Covers the central issue in the philosophy of mind: the mind-body problem. This is the ongoing attempt to understand the relation between our minds -- our thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and so on -- and our bodies. Is the mind just a complex configuration of (neural) matter, or is there something about it that's irreducibly different from every physical thing? Topics include intentionality, consciousness, functionalism, reductionism, and the philosophical implications of recent work in neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Samet

PHIL 131b The Metaphysics of Death
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Explores the most salient fact of our existence that it ends; we die. We confront, thus, the problem of nonexistence, and also time, since death is our future, not our past. Those conundrums are the focus of this class. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 132a Infinity
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One course in logic is recommended.
Is infinity real? Exactly how big is it? these questions have puzzled thinkers from Zeno (with his famous paradoxes), to Aristotle, Galileo, Cantor, and Wittgenstein. Students will examine the mystery of infinity from all sides, philosophical, mathematically, psychological, and theological. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 133a Consciousness, Brain, and Self
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Prerequisite: One course in philosophy, psychology, or neuroscience, or permission of the instructor.
Consciousness--sensing, feeling, thinking--is our life. But it's hard to understand how mere "meat puppets" like us could be conscious. Are scientists closing in on a solution? And if they are, what does that say about who we are and how we ought to live? Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Samet

PHIL 134b Philosophy of Perception
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b or one course numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 38b.
What do we perceive? Do we perceive objects in the world or do we infer on the basis of sensory data that there are such objects? And how do our answers to these questions depend on or shape our metaphysics? Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Samet

PHIL 135a Theory of Knowledge
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b or one course numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 38b.
An investigation into the nature, sources, and extent of human knowledge, with emphasis on the problem of justifying our beliefs about the existence and character of the external world. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Hirsch, or Mr. Marusic

PHIL 136a Personal Identity
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b or one course numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 38b.
An examination of some major issues involved in the question of personal identity. What am I? What are the conditions of self-identity? How does the identity of the self relate to the identity of a physical object? Is identity an illusion? Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Hirsch or Mr. Greenberg

PHIL 137a Nature or Nurture? The Innateness Controversy
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Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of the instructor.
The question: How much of what we are--what we believe and know, what we think and feel, and how we act--is due to our environment and training and how much is a function of our inherent nature? This interdisciplinary course covers: the main answers in the history of philosophy (from Plato through Logical Positivism); the contemporary philosophical debate on this question; and current scientific research in linguistics, psychology, ethology, artificial intelligence, and evolutionary biology. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Samet

PHIL 138b Philosophy of Mathematics
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Prerequisite: A course in logic or permission of the instructor. May not be repeated for credit by students who have taken PHIL 38b in previous years.
Basic issues in the foundations of mathematics will be explored through close study of selections from Frege, Russell, Carnap, and others, as well as from contemporary philosophers. Questions addressed include: What are the natural numbers? Do they exist in the same sense as tables and chairs? How can "finite beings" grasp infinity? What is the relationship between arithmetic and geometry? The classic foundational "programs," logicism, formalism, and intuitionism, are explored. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Berger or Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 140a Logic and Language
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a, PHIL 6a, or PHIL 106b, or permission of the instructor.
Covers basic problems and puzzles regarding reference and identity-topics that dominate issues in philosophy of language today. Topics include puzzles about belief, necessity, substitutivity of identity statements, and formal semantics for parts of language that includes modal and intensional notions. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Berger or Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 142a The Philosophy of Saul Kripke
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Prerequisites: 1 lower level and 1 upper level course in analytic philosophy of one of the subjects listed in the syllabus.
Examines Kripke's philosophical views, mostly from his classic essay Naming and Necessity, and the advanced anthology, Kripke, in which major philosophers write about many of his published and unpublished philosophical thoughts. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Berger

PHIL 143a Social Policy and Rationality, Decision and Game Theory in Economics
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Economics and moral philosophy are interdependent. We will see how an understanding of moral philosophy contributes to economic theory and how the analytic tool of economics contribute to moral philosophy, and how both are required to form public policy. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Berger

PHIL 144a Philosophical Problems of Space and Time
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b or one course numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 38b.
An examination of philosophical problems concerning the concepts of space and time as these arise in contemporary physics, modern logic and metaphysics, as well as in everyday life. Specific topics usually include philosophical aspects of Einstein's theory of relativity, the possibility of "time travel," the distinction between space and time, and McTaggart's famous distinction between the "A-series" and the "B-series" of time. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Berger, Mr. Hirsch, or Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 145b Topics in the Philosophy of Language
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b or one course numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 38b.
Topics may vary from year to year and course may be repeated for credit. Topics include the relationship between the language we speak and our view of reality, reference, the sense in which language may structure reality, and formal semantics. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Berger, Mr. Hirsch, or Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 146a Idea of God
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b or one course numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 38b.
Engages in a philosophical investigation, not of religion as an institution but of the very idea of God. Studies the distinction between human being and divine being and addresses the issue of the relation of God's essence to his existence. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 149a Leibniz, Hume, and Kant on Necessity
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or a course in the history of modern philosophy or analytic philosophy.
An investigation into the views of three historical philosophers -- Leibniz, Hume, and Kant -- on the concept of necessity, with limited reference to contemporary treatment of the concept by W. V. Quine and early David Kaplan. Related concept of a priori and analyticity are also discussed. Usually offered every fourth year.
Mr. Greenberg

PHIL 150b Topics in Epistemology and Metaphysics
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b, or one courses numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 38b.
Topics vary each year; course may be repeated for credit. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Berger, Mr. Hirsch, or Mr. Marusic

PHIL 151a Philosophy of Action
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b or one course numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 39b.
What distinguishes doing something--performing an action--from something's merely happening? What is the connection between actions and our reasons for action? How are we to explain irrational actions? And in virtue of what are we responsible for our actions? Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Marusic

PHIL 152a Doing Right and Thinking Right: Normativity in Ethics and Epistemology
[ hum ]
Investigates normativity in epistemology and ethics. Subjects discussed include moral vs. epistemic relativism, whether we have control over our beliefs, the possibility of practical reasons for believing, potential ethical constraints on belief, and what intellectual rationality amounts to. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Fantl

PHIL 161a Plato
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or permission of the instructor.
An introduction to Plato's thought through an intensive reading of several major dialogues. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 162b Aristotle
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or permission of the instructor.
An introduction to Aristotle's philosophy through an intensive reading of selected texts. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 166a David Hume
[ hum ]
An in-depth examination on the philosophical ideas of the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher David Hume, covering his views in metaphysics and epistemology, his philosophy of mind, his moral and political philosophy, and his philosophy of religion. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Marusic

PHIL 167a Hegel: Self-Consciousness and Freedom in the Phenomenology of Spirit
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or equivalent.
Offers a close reading of Hegal and pays special attention to his analyses of the changing patterns of understand and self-understanding and the way in which he opens up these transformations for the reader to experience. In his modern paradigm, the Subject and the Object of thought necessarily affect one another's potential, essence, and fate. And through a rational comprehension of role of Spirit (Geist) in thought and the world, we can see how they become inextricably bound together. Indeed, for Hegel, the dialectic between subject and object provides the very ground for the self-aware and free subject to participate in modern life. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Sheppard

PHIL 168a Kant
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or permission of the instructor.
An attempt to understand and evaluate the main ideas of the Critique of Pure Reason, the subjectivity of space and time, the nature of consciousness, and the objectivity of the concepts of substance and causality. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Greenberg

PHIL 177b Simone Weil
[ hum ]
Studies the French philosopher Simone Weil, revolutionary and mystic. Is divine perfection reconcilable with human suffering? Weil shook the foundations of Christianity and Judaism attempting to answer this question and this course will rejoin her quest. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Yourgrau

PHIL 180b From Sensation to Understanding: Locke, Berkeley, and Hume
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.
The subject of this course is Empiricism, the (mainly) British philosophical movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that develops and defends the view that our understanding of ourselves and the world is wholly based on our experience. Empiricism is one of the two great competing traditions characterizing what has come to be known as the Modern period in philosophy. Analyzes key writings of the three most influential empiricist thinkers of this period, and attempts to elucidate several themes which get to the heart of their empiricism, and which continue to exert a powerful influence on contemporary philosophical thought. Students will read substantial portions of historically significant original works, dissect and criticize them, consider some of the respected secondary literature, and also consider their relevance to contemporary philosophy. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Samet

PHIL 182a Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations
[ hum ]
An intensive study of Ludwig Wittgenstein's seminal work, Philosophical Investigations. This course should be of interest to philosophy and literature students who want to learn about this great philosopher's influential views on the nature of language and interpretation. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Flesch and Mr. Hirsch

(200 and above) Primarily for Graduate Students

PHIL 200a Graduate Proseminar
Open only to MA philosophy students.
This seminar provides graduate students in philosophy with the background to understand debates in a sub-field of philosophy and help students engage conceptually and critically with philosophical problems. Instructors, topics, and subfields will vary from year to year. Usually offered every year.
Staff

PHIL 214a Topics in Normative Philosophy
Open only to graduate students.
Focuses on topics in normative philosophy. Possible topics include normative ethics, metaethics, political philosophy, and the history of normative philosophy. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Moran or Ms. Smiley

PHIL 220a Game Theory, Decision Theory, Probability and Rationality Applied to Social Policy
Discusses and evaluates various economic and mathematical assumptions implicit in forming social policy. Examples are notions of rationality, Pareto Optimality, game theory, decision theory, and different notions of probability and statistics applied to social decisions, policies and theory. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Berger

PHIL 231a Graduate Seminar in the Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science
Covers central topics in the philosophy of mind and the bearing of research in the cognitive sciences on those issues. Topics vary from year to year. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Samet

PHIL 235a Graduate Seminar in Epistemology
Prerequisite: Graduate student or permission of the instructor.
Graduate seminar that covers the most important recent work in epistemology. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Marusic

PHIL 239a Topics in Metaphysics
Topics will include the haecceity / anti-haecceity controversy, temporal, eternal, presentist, actualist, logical and metaphysical notions of possibility. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Berger

PHIL 297a Teaching Practicum
May be repeated once for credit. Does not count towards required nine courses for the MA degree.
Offers professional supervision and peer advising to MA students who teach philosophy at schools and programs in the Boston area during their residency in the MA program. Usually offered every semester.
Staff

PHIL 298a Independent Study
May be repeated once for credit.
Normally available for a student who wishes to pursue advanced reading on research in a subject or field not available in the department's course listings. Usually offered every semester.
Staff

PHIL 299a Master's Project
Students must complete a master's paper under the guidance of a faculty advisor and enroll in this course during their final semester in the master's program. Usually offered every semester.
Staff

Cross-Listed in Philosophy

The department approves cross-listed courses for philosophy credit each semester, based on the course content and instructor. If approved, cross-listed courses (irrespective of the number assigned by the home department) count only as lower-level electives and do not satisfy any of the philosophy department's distribution requirements. Please consult the Schedule of Classes or contact the undergraduate advising head to confirm if a particular class is cross-listed for philosophy credit in a given semester.

ED 159b Philosophy of Education
[ ss ]
Explores several major issues in philosophy of education through close examination and discussion of recent theoretical texts. Issues include the goals of education; the rights of the state to foster civic virtue; multiculturalism; moral education; the problem of indoctrination; education for autonomy, rationality, critical thinking, and open-mindedness. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Levisohn

ENG 61b Philosophical Approaches to Film Theory
[ hum ]
Studies a philosophical approach to film theory, examining both what philosophy has to say about film and what effects the existence and experience of film can have on philosophical thinking about reality, perception, judgement, and other minds. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Flesch

ENG 134b Subjectivity
[ hum ]
Studies how the experience of subjectivity and selfhood is represented in literature and philosophy of the early modern period, primarily in Britain. Authors include Renaissance lyric poets, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Blake, with philosophical texts by Descartes, Pascal, Locke, Hume, and Kant. Usually offered third year.
Ms. Quinney

LING 130a Formal Semantics: Truth, Meaning, and Language
[ hum qr ss ]
Prerequisite: LING 100a or permission of the instructor. LING 120b recommended.
Explores the semantic structure of language in terms of the current linguistic theory of model-theoretic semantics. Topics include the nature of word meanings, categorization, compositionality, and plurals and mass terms. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Malamud

LING 140a Architecture of Conversation: Discourse and Pragmatics
[ oc ss ]
Prerequisite: LING 100a or permission of the instructor.
Assuming a theory of sentence-level linguistic competence, what phenomena are still to be accounted for in the explication of language knowledge? The class explores topics in language use in context, including anaphora, deixis, implicature, speech acts, information packaging, and pragmatics of dialogue. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Malamud

NEJS 156b A Philosophical Introduction to Judaism
[ hum ]
Explores selected topics that are central to Jewish thought and practice. An introduction to Judaism for those without background in Jewish texts and traditions, but also appropriate for those with background. Topics include covenant, ritual, idolatry, interpretation, gender, violence, chosenness. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Levisohn

NEJS 159a Modern Jewish Philosophy
[ hum ]
Surveys the contours of modern Jewish philosophy by engaging some of its most important themes and voices. Competing Jewish inflections of and responses to rationalism, romanticism, idealism, existentialism, and nihilism. This provides the conceptual road signs of the course as we traverse the winding byways of Jewish philosophy from Baruch Spinoza to Emanuel Levinas. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Sheppard

POL 184a Global Justice
[ hum ]
Prerequisites: Two courses in Political Theory & Methods, International Politics or Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy.
Explores the development of the topic of global justice and its contents. Issues to be covered include international distributive justice, duties owed to the global poor, humanitarian intervention, the ethics of climate change, and immigration. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Lenowitz

POL 186b Classical Political Thought
[ hum ss ]
Major ancient political philosophers and the meaning and implications of their work for contemporary political issues. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Yack

POL 189a Marx, Nietzsche, and Twentieth-Century Radicalism
[ ss ]
Comparison of two powerful and influential critiques of modern politics and society. Explanation of Marx's work, both for its own insights and as a model for radical theorists; and of Nietzsche's work as an alternative conception of radical social criticism. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Yack

REL 151a The Buddha: His Life and Teachings
[ hum nw ]
Few human beings have had as much impact on the world as Siddhartha Gotama Shakyamuni, known to us as Buddha. This course explores his life and teachings as reflected in early Buddhist literature and Western scholarship. Usually offered every year.
Staff