Good and Evil
PHI 1135 / 4 credits / Alternate years
Readings from important philosophers who have written in the area of ethics, from Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece to Sartre and Rawls in the 20th century. This course also serves as a general introduction to philosophy: What does it mean to live a well-lived human life? What is the basis for ethics? Is it objective or subjective? Why should we obey moral rules?
Religion, Science, and Modernity
PHI 1160 / 4 credits / Spring
Examines the complex and evolving relationship between modern science and religion from the 16th century to the present. Topics include the influence of the Reformation on emerging secular culture; the modern philosophical debate over the existence of God; “disenchantment” as a defining feature of modern experience; and Darwinian evolutionary theory, humanism, and conflicts between secularism and fundamentalism in the 21st century.
History of Philosophy I: Philosophy and the Polis
PHI 1515 / 4 credits / Fall
The emergence of Western philosophy in ancient Greece during the age of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Plato, and Aristotle.
Introduction to Philosophy: Ideas of Good and Evil
PHI 1530 / 4 credits / Every year
A survey of our most important ethical notions and of the philosophers who were most important in shaping them.
Introduction to Philosophy: Ideas of Human Nature
PHI 1540 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An introduction to philosophy through an examination of influential views of what it is to be human. Topics include the relations among people, machines, and animals; the role of culture in shaping people; and the question of whether there is a distinctively human good.
Introduction to Philosophy: Knowledge and Imagination
PHI 1570 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An introduction to philosophy through a set of related problems in metaphysics, the theory of knowledge, and aesthetics. Topics include knowledge, skepticism, romanticism, and the role of imagination in ethical reflection, in art, and in everyday experience.
Tragedy and Philosophy
PHI 1720 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An introduction to Western culture through the study of tragic drama, Plato’s dramatic dialogues, and philosophical reflections on tragedy. The focus is on the possibilities and limitations of human action. Topics include the relations of individual to city, mortal to divine, and male to female; and the roles of knowledge and desire in human conduct. Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Toni Morrison are included.
PHI 2005 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An exploration of Africana philosophy and its intersection with Latino and Afro-Caribbean philosophies. This course proceeds from the premise that philosophy, grounded in specific lived experiences, helps society recognize the significance of cultural pluralism and empirical justice in the building of a world community. On this basis, discussions and assignments explore the possibilities of Africana philosophical theories and praxis in relation to such fundamental themes as justice, equality, freedom, resistance, and self-respect.
PHI 2060 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An examination of major 19th- and 20th-century European philosophical and literary texts by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Fanon. Topics include “the death of God,” alienation, freedom and commitment, ethics and politics when “everything is permitted,” and the interaction of self and other(s) in the definition of individual and social identities.
History of Philosophy II: Descartes to Kant
PHI 2110 / 4 credits / Spring
Close readings of four or five major philosophers from the modern period (e.g., Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, Kant). Issues and supplementary readings may vary each semester.
Methods of Reasoning
PHI 2120 / 4 credits / Every year
Systematic analyses of ordinary arguments, followed by a study of formal languages that are used to represent arguments symbolically.
Classical Buddhist Philosophy
PHI 2430 / 4 credits / Alternate years
Topics include philosophic conceptions of experience, nature, self, and truth in classical Buddhist schools of India, Tibet, China, and Japan.
Gender and Power
PHI 2500 / 4 credits / Every year
What is gender? What is power? What tools do we have for understanding and addressing gender injustice? This course employs philosophical, feminist, and queer theory to address these and related questions.
Formerly also offered as GND 2500.
Media, Memory, and Desire
NME 2550 Refer to New Media Courses (School of Film and Media Studies) for description. Formerly also offered as PHI 2550, with no prerequisite.
Philosophy and the Arts: Modernism and Postmodernism
PHI 2710 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An examination of recent views of the relations among art, philosophy, politics, and cultural history. Questions include: What are the reasons for the contemporary preoccupation with the interrelations between the arts and cultural history as a whole? Can we sustain the view that art history unfolds according to its own laws? Is postmodernism a theory of autonomous development in art and culture?
Philosophy of Art: From Plato to Postmodernism
PHI 2780 / 4 credits / Every year
An introduction to major traditional and contemporary issues in the philosophy of art. Topics include the problem of defining “art”; the nature of representation; the problem of whether taste has an objective basis; and the relation of art to moral, cognitive, and social values.
Philosophy of Law
PHI 2790 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
A study of the role of law in society, focusing on its relationship to community moralities, individual freedom, and political conflict.
Philosophy of Religion
PHI 2800 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An examination of the nature of religious experience. Topics include arguments for the existence of God, faith, and reason; the “problem of evil”; and the relationship between religion and ethics.
Philosophy of the Environment
PHI 2820 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An examination of philosophical ideas that underpin debates about the relationships between humans, their values, and the nonhuman species that comprise the natural environment. Specific inquiries include: What does it mean, metaphysically, to say that humans are “part of nature”? Do humans have duties towards nonhuman species? Do any nonhuman species have rights? When do ecological philosophies become politically controversial? Readings include a variety of contemporary and traditional philosophers.
Formerly also offered as ENV 2820.
Happiness: Philosophy, Film, Literature
PHI 2835 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An interdisciplinary examination of the subject of happiness, using a variety of ancient and modern literary and philosophical works as well as films. Students analyze the texts and films for their specific content but also for a deepened sense of the possible relationships between visual and discursive representations of narratives.
Formerly also offered as CIN 2835 and LIT 2835.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Added Spring 2015 (6/24/14):
Philosophy of Science
PHI 3015 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Philosophical debates about scientific method and the status of scientific findings. Topics include induction, natural vs. social science, realism/antirealism, “normal” science and paradigm shifts, the problem of scientism, and feminist and other critiques of science. Attention may also be paid to one or more specific sciences (e.g., biology, economics, physics, psychology).
Pragmatism and the Quest for Certainty
PHI 3050 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An introduction to leading figures and themes of 20th-century philosophical pragmatism. Topics include pragmatic critiques of traditional (e.g., Cartesian and Kantian) epistemology; the practical sources of philosophy, science, and art; and the requirements of metaphysical naturalism.
Added Spring 2015 (6/24/14):
PHI 3085 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Is there such a thing as objectivity, journalistic or otherwise? How do accounts of reality in the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities differ, and is any account more objective than the others? How do narratives tell the truth, and how do they lie? What might people mean by the term “truth,” anyway? Course readings are interdisciplinary; the course style is philosophical.
Fantasy, Film, and Reality
PHI 3120 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Drawing on philosophy, film theory, and psychoanalysis, this course explores the epistemological, ontological, and ethical issues in mapping the relations of fantasy, film, and reality.
Formerly also offered as CIN 3120.
Added Spring 2014 (9/13/13), discontinued Fall 2014 (7/23/14):
Between Philosophy and Mysticism in Jewish Thought
JST 3130 Refer to Jewish Studies Courses for description. Formerly also offered as PHI 3130.
Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy
PHI 3150 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly, summer, in India)
An examination of the rich philosophies of Tibetan Buddhism, drawing on Nagarjuna and the Indian background, developing the tantric tradition through its philosophic assumptions and arguments.
Action/Reflection in Indo-Tibetan Traditions
PHI 3151 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly, summer, in India)
The relationship between contemplative practices and active ethical engagement in the Vedic tradition and the Buddhist traditions are examined. Contemplation and service are incorporated into the textual studies undertaken in the lectures and discussions.
Formerly also offered as SOC 3151.
The Cinematic Bestiary
CIN 3170 Refer to Cinema Studies Courses (School of Film and Media Studies) for description. Formerly also offered as PHI 3170.
Added Spring 2015 (6/24/14):
Shakespeare and Philosophy
PHI 3205 / 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Explores what the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas might have meant when he wrote that “all of philosophy may be found in the plays of Shakespeare.” The focus is on a close study of selected works, together with commentary by such thinkers as Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, Derrida, Cavell, and Critchley. Plays include Hamlet, Richard II, Coriolanus, As You Like It, Measure for Measure, The Tempest, and King Lear.
Prerequisite: THP 2205 or a philosophy course
Philosophy in the Middle Ages
PHI 3209 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
A study of how thinkers face the difficult task of relating philosophy and religion in the Middle Ages, and a look at the way this period helped to form the modern world. Studies include Augustine, Avicenna, Averroes, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham.
The Construction of Nature
PHI 3210 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An examination of major 17th- and 18th-century texts that explore the project of knowing the world as a mathematical construct. The course addresses the character and limits of human knowledge, the world we seek to know, and ourselves as knowers. The focus is on the crisis in self-understanding provoked by the promise of mathematical physics, the challenge of skepticism, and the elusiveness of “the real.” Readings include Descartes, Newton, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant.
Enlightenment and Revolution
PHI 3211 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
A critical study of the Enlightenment approach to ethics and politics in the natural rights and social contract theories. Topics include tensions between the individual and the state, liberty and equality, and reason and passion in the theory and practice of the great democratic revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries. Readings include Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Burke, and the Federalists.
Frequency revised 3/31/14:
From Hegel to Nietzsche
PHI 3212 / 4 credits / Every year
A study of thinkers who challenged accepted notions of reason and selfhood and, in doing so, helped shape the intellectual life of our present century. Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche are some of the thinkers studied.
Ideas of Modernity
PHI 3225 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Begins by looking at how late medieval notions about relations among God, humans, and world established a space in which modernity could develop. Students then look at Hegel’s reading of history, regarding what characterizes the modern situation as such. This is followed by a study of Heidegger’s critique of modernity and its ways of thinking.
Light and Truth: Film, Photography, and Reality
PHI 3275 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Do photographic images have privileged access to truth? This course explores the complicated relationship between truth and visual (particularly filmic) images. It begins with Plato on the “fakery” that is painting, turns to 17th-century “faithfulness” and “sincerity” in still-life painting and scientific drawing, and looks in depth at 20th-century writings about the nature of photography and realism in representation.
Formerly also offered as ARH 3275 and CIN 3275.
Title and description modified, frequency changed 7/16/13:
Chinese Philosophy: From Confucius through the Neo-Confucian Synthesis of the Song Dynasty
PHI 3290 / 4 credits / Every year
An inquiry into the conceptions of order and power from Confucius to the Song Dynasty (12th century). Balance, hierarchy, relation, social organization, human nature, beauty, value, and truth are considered in Confucius, Mencius, Xun Zi, Lao Zi, Zhuang Zi, Han Fei Zi, Hui Neng, and Zhu Xi.
Modern Jewish Philosophy
JST 3330 Refer to Jewish Studies Courses for description. Formerly also offered as PHI 3330.
Added Spring 2015 (1/10/14), discontinued before running (7/23/14):
Messianism in the Frankfurt School: Adorno and Benjamin
PHI 3340 / 4 credits / Alternate years
The Frankfurt School was pivotal in its creation of “critical theory”—a profound intellectual intervention of the 20th century, primarily led by German Jewish thinkers. By turning inward toward theory and turning outward toward the world, Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin struggled to envision a utopian way of thinking about a society where the messiah had already arrived.
Added Fall 2014 (1/10/14), discontinued before running (7/23/14):
Philosophy, Mysticism, and Medieval Monotheisms
PHI 3345 / 4 credits / Alternate years
Throughout the Middle Ages, the disciplines of philosophy, mysticism, and theology were dynamic and intertwined within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. What then are the philosophical forms of the mystical experience in medieval monotheisms? This course explores mysticism in relation to the broader questions of the relationship of supra-rational mystical experience to the philosophy of religion.
Justice, Power, and Community
PHI 3370 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
A critical examination of contemporary liberal theory in the face of challenges from both left and right, including communitarianism, feminism, and poststructuralism.
Language, Thought, and Reality
PHI 3385 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An investigation of recent philosophers who have made us rethink the relations among mind, language, and the world, and of the nature of selfhood. Philosophers may include Wittgenstein, Quine, Davidson, Heidegger, Rorty, Putnam, and McDowell.
Foucault, Habermas, Derrida
PHI 3470 / 4 credits / Alternate years
A study of three recent thinkers who have had a powerful influence on contemporary intellectual life, and on our assessment of the Enlightenment legacy of the modern world.
Theory and Drama
PHI 3510 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An examination of classical and modern attempts to see and explain what drama is. The course also considers how some dramas can illuminate the nature of theory. Themes include dramatic situations and structures of ethical life; plot vs. character in dramatic action; drama’s narratological closure and the problem of historical reference; and the question, “What is modern drama?” Readings include classical to modern theorists (Aristotle to Szondi) and dramatists (Aeschylus to Brecht).
CIN 3540 Refer to Cinema Studies Courses (School of Film and Media Studies) for description. Formerly also offered as PHI 3540.
From Phenomenology to Deconstruction
PHI 3595 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An exploration of central issues in 20th-century European philosophy. The focus is on the challenges to traditional humanism posed by the successes of modern science and technology; the fragmentation of social and political life; and the decentering of the subject in psychoanalysis, linguistics, and literary modernism. Texts include works by Husserl, Heidegger, Arendt, Levinas, and Derrida.
Philosophy and Literature
PHI 3650 / 4 credits / Alternate years
A study of how philosophical themes have been developed in recent fiction and an examination of the relationship between philosophy and literary criticism.
Philosophy and Film
PHI 3716 / 4 credits / Alternate years
A critical examination of influential attempts to understand the nature of the cinematic medium. Questions raised include: Is film a fine art? Must a movie “represent reality” if it is to succeed as a movie? Are there certain insights into human experience that are better expressed through film than through other media? Readings include Siegfried Kracauer, André Bazin, and Stanley Cavell.
Formerly also offered as CIN 3716.
Theories of Sexuality
PHI 3725 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An investigation of classical, modern, and contemporary theories of desire and sexuality, with an emphasis on the relationship between familial and other social institutions and on the formation of individual identities. Readings include works by Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Freud, Foucault, and contemporary feminist and queer theorists.
Formerly also offered as GND 3725.
Philosophy of Mind
PHI 3730 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An investigation of philosophical accounts of the nature of mind, including issues like: What does it mean to have a mind? How are mind and body related? Could animals or machines have minds? How are accounts of the mind important for our understanding of freedom, immortality, human nature, and religion?
Free Will and Evolved Minds
PHI 3755 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An investigation of what current evolutionary psychology and cognitive science suggest about a philosophical idea that has long been sacred for modern humanistic culture: that human beings can act freely, without constraint by social or biological forces. Are “free will” and “determinism” fundamentally contradictory ideas, or is a compromise position possible? Includes readings from selected philosophers, cognitive psychologists, and others.
Art and Morality
PHI 3785 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
What, if any, moral and political obligations does art have? Should public policy promote some kinds of art and discourage others? This course addresses these and related questions via works from across the arts and philosophical texts.
Formerly also offered as ARH 3786.
Rationality and Relativism
PHI 3830 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An examination of debates among 20th-century philosophers and anthropologists over whether morality, knowledge, or rationality itself are in any sense “relative” to culture, to history, or to both. Both “relativistic” and “anti-relativistic” positions are critically examined, along with their relevance to current interdisciplinary topics like multiculturalism and colonialism.
Junior Seminar in Philosophy
PHI 3899 / 4 credits / Spring
A forum for second-semester juniors with two distinct aims: (1) to facilitate the formulation of (a) a senior thesis prospectus, (b) an outline, (c) a bibliography, and (d) a schedule for the composition, during the senior year, of a satisfying 40-page senior thesis; and (2) to introduce the mainstreams of contemporary thought and interpretation in philosophy. Senior thesis topics need not deal with the topic of the junior seminar.
PHI 4100 / 4 credits / Alternate years
An intensive study of the major texts, emphasizing their role in defining the work of Western philosophy, with special attention to the interaction of drama with argumentation in the dialogue form.
Prerequisite: PHI 1515 or permission of instructor
PHI 4120 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
This seminar stages an encounter between the two thinkers: Martin Heidegger, one of the most powerful and controversial philosophers of the 20th century, and Hannah Arendt, arguably its greatest political thinker. Among the central questions studied: individual authenticity vs. being in the world with others; resoluteness and political death vs. the promise of birth; and the relation between philosophic reflection and political action.
James and Dewey Seminar
PHI 4130 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An intensive study of the main ideas and texts of William James and John Dewey, two seminal figures of American pragmatist philosophy. Readings and discussions focus on such topics as the centrality of the idea of experience to philosophical analysis; the relations between thought and action; the epistemological status of metaphysical and religious belief; and the reconstructive role of intelligence in art, science, and social life.
Prerequisite: At least one course in philosophy
PHI 4150 / 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Writing in the latter half of the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche has exercised extraordinary influence on subsequent philosophy. He is a powerful thinker and an intriguing writer. This seminar involves an intensive examination of the full range of his work.
PHI 4200 / 4 credits / Alternate years
Kant is the thinker who has, more than any other, shaped the discussion of intellectual issues over the past two centuries. The semester is devoted to a close study of Kant’s critical philosophy of scientific knowledge, human morality, and judgment in art and the life sciences.
Prerequisite: PHI 1515 and 2110, or permission of instructor
PHI 4310 / 4 credits / Alternate years
A seminar devoted to close readings from several of Hegel’s texts (e.g., Phenomenology of Spirit, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Science of Logic, Philosophy of History).
Prerequisite: PHI 1515 and 2110, or permission of instructor
Ethics Ancient and Modern
PHI 4325 / 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An examination of the strengths and weaknesses of ancient and modern ethical systems, insofar as they provide a model of living a human life well. Analysis and evaluation of arguments are emphasized.
Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of instructor
Corequisite modified Fall 2014 (3/20/14):
Senior Colloquium in Philosophy
PHI 4860 / 1 credit / Spring
Continues the writing workshop format of PHI 4890 (required in the fall semester), and focuses on the development of oral presentation skills. Students present aspects of their ongoing work to each other, culminating in a public presentation to philosophy majors and faculty at the annual Assessment Day in the late spring. Required of philosophy majors in the second semester of their senior projects.
Prerequisite: PHI 4890
Corequisite: SPJ 4991
Senior Seminar in Philosophy: Senior Thesis Workshop
PHI 4890 / 2 credits / Fall
For first-semester seniors who are developing their senior theses. Designed to give students the invaluable experience of presenting ongoing work to a critical and supportive public of peers.
Senior projects changed to I and II, 4 credits each, and prefix changed from PHI to SPJ, Fall 2014:
Senior Project I and II
SPJ 4990 and 4991 / 4 credits (per semester) / Every year
The senior project is normally an extended (c. 40-page) essay on a distinctive topic, developed during a student’s junior seminar in consultation with a prospective senior thesis supervisor. Two semesters required (8 credits total).
Updated July 23, 2014
For the current (or upcoming) semester schedule, use the myHeliotrope course search at my.purchase.edu.