Philosophy is a central component of a liberal arts education. It raises fundamental questions about the nature of reality and the place of human beings within it. What is the nature of morality? What is free will and are human beings free? What is the relation between mind and body? What, if anything, can we know about the material world? Does God exist? What makes a state just? What makes for a good life?

In attempting to answer such questions, students of philosophy reflect on their own responses to these questions and the ways in which past thinkers have defended their answers to them. The process of formulating and testing these answers requires education in logical analysis, reasoned argument, and analytic thinking. In acquiring such education within the philosophy curriculum, students develop their ability to solve problems and to think, read, and write critically—skills that are always in high demand. In the past, majors have gone on to very successful careers in law, consulting, finance, and medicine. Many have also embarked on academic careers. 

The department offers a number of courses that serve as gateways to the practice of philosophy for potential majors. These courses are also recommended for majors from other departments who seek an introduction to philosophy. These courses include: PHIL 101, Introduction to Philosophical Problems, PHIL 111, Ethicsand PHIL 225, Logic I, which are offered in Fall 2019 (see below for descriptions). In Spring 2020, the department will again offer PHIL 101PHIL 111, and PHIL 225, but also the introductory PHIL 202, Environmental Ethics and PHIL 226, Philosophy of Religion. Other courses at the 200- and 300-level are either courses in the history of philosophy or courses that focus on problems in specific areas of philosophy. Many of these courses do not have specific prerequisites and are open to all interested students.

Courses

Faculty Profile for Professor Lennertz 

An introduction to philosophy through engagement with some of the field’s most storied and challenging problems. Students begin by becoming familiar with the philosopher’s method of using arguments to establish philosophical conclusions. After that, students investigate five important philosophical problems. First, students inquire into the relationship between our minds and our bodies. Second, students look at a couple of famous arguments concerning belief in God. Students then grapple with the question of what makes an action right or wrong. Next, students ponder whether humans have free will. Finally, students study a pair of problems concerning our understanding of knowledge and justification. Students gain an appreciation for the range of topics and problems that interest philosophers and the novel ways that different philosophers have approached them. While students study a number of famous historical works, the focus is not on cataloguing famous philosophers’ ideas, but on doing philosophy – that is, on engaging with the problems themselves. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for PHIL 101 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement. 

Professor Ben Lennertz’s research focuses on philosophical approaches to uncertainty - what it is and when it is rational. His teaching interests are in epistemology, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, the history of philosophy, and logic.

Faculty Profile for Professor Dudrick 

What is it to be human? How should we live? What is the meaning of life? Students confront these fundamental questions in our investigation of the philosophical movement known as existentialism. Existentialism came of age in 1940s Paris with the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus, but its roots extend at least to Pascal, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard. While they insist on rigor, these authors are no friends of abstraction: for them, philosophy must illuminate our actual, concrete, everyday lives. Their goal is always to challenge readers to confront these questions for themselves, a challenge that we will seek to meet – individually and collectively – in this course. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for PHIL 216 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement. 

David Dudrick is the George Carleton Jr. Professor of Philosophy and co-author of “The Soul of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil” (Cambridge, 2012). He’s interested in the relationship between philosophy and the Christian faith, the viability of naturalism as a world view, and the profound ponderings of Jack Handey.

Acquaints students with the nature of philosophical problems and the means by which one might try to solve them. Readings and discussions are organized around perennial questions regarding the nature of morality and justice, free will, the existence of God, the meaning of life, the nature of knowledge, and the relation between mind and body.

Explores central questions of morality. What makes a good life good? What makes some actions right and others wrong? Are there human rights that everyone has? What are our obligations to others? Are there good answers to these questions, or is it all relative? Among the philosophers explored are Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Bentham, Mill, and various significant contemporary thinkers.

Logic is the science of correct reasoning. It provides rigorous methods for evaluating the validity of arguments. This introductory course covers the basic concepts and techniques of propositional logic and first-order predicate logic with identity, including truth tables, proofs, and elementary model theory.