Location: Bowdoin / The College Catalogue / Courses / Philosophy / Courses

The College Catalogue

Philosophy – Courses

First-Year Seminars

Topics in first-year seminars change from time to time but are restricted in scope and make no pretense to being an introduction to the whole field of philosophy. They are topics in which contemporary debate is lively and as yet unsettled and to which contributions are often being made by more than one field of learning. For a full description of first-year seminars, see the First-Year Seminar section.

1025 {25} c. On the Power and Limit of Persuasion. Fall 2013. Nathan Rothschild.

[1028 {28} c. A Philosopher’s Dozen.]

[1038 {18} c. Love.]

1040 {14} c. Personal Identity. Fall 2013. Matthew Stuart.

Introductory Courses

Introductory courses are open to all students regardless of year and count toward the major. They do not presuppose any background in philosophy and are good first courses.

1252 {152} c. Death. Fall 2013. Matthew Stuart.

Considers distinctively philosophical questions about death: Do we have immortal souls? Is immortality even desirable? Is death a bad thing? Is suicide morally permissible? Does the inevitability of death rob life of its meaning? Readings from historical and contemporary sources.

1320 {120} c. Moral Problems. Spring 2014. Lawrence H. Simon.

Our society is riven by deep and troubling moral controversies. Examines some of these controversies in the context of current arguments and leading theoretical positions. Possible topics include abortion, physician-assisted suicide, capital punishment, sexuality, the justifiability of terrorism, and the justice of war.

1435 {145} c. Truth and Morality: One, Many, or None? Fall 2013. Scott Sehon.

If we disagree about whether or not the earth is flat, or whether Obama was born in Kenya, it seems that we are disagreeing about something to which there is a single true answer; we can’t all be right. On the other hand, when we contemplate the complexity of cultural diversity and worldviews in different times and places, it might seem implausible that there is a true moral view that applies to everyone at all times. Investigates whether there is moral truth: whether there are objective moral truths that hold for everyone, whether moral truth is somehow relative to particular cultures, or whether there is no such thing as truth or morality. Readings from mostly contemporary sources.

[1442 {142} c. Philosophy of Religion. (Same as Religion 1142 {142}.)]

Intermediate Courses

2100 {200} c. History, Freedom, and Reason. Spring 2015. Lawrence H. Simon.

What are the causes of historical development? Is history progressive? Do freedom and reason manifest themselves in history? A study of the development of political philosophy and philosophy of history in nineteenth-century German philosophy from Kant through Hegel to Marx.

2111 {111} c. Ancient Philosophy. Every fall. Fall 2013. Denis J. Corish.

The sources and prototypes of Western thought. We try to understand and evaluate Greek ideas about value, knowledge, and truth.

2112 {112} c. Modern Philosophy. Every spring. Spring 2014. Matthew Stuart.

A survey of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European philosophy, focusing on discussions of the ultimate nature of reality and our knowledge of it. Topics include the nature of the mind and its relation to the body, the existence of God, and the free will problem. Readings from Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and others.

2223 {223} a - MCSR. Logic. Every fall. Fall 2013. Scott Sehon.

The central problem of logic is to determine which arguments are good and which are bad. To this end, we introduce a symbolic language and rigorous, formal methods for seeing whether one statement logically implies another. We apply these tools to a variety of arguments, philosophical and otherwise, and demonstrate certain theorems about the formal system we construct.

2233 {233} - MCSR. Intermediate Logic. Spring 2014. Scott Sehon.

Investigates several philosophically important results of modern logic, including Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, the Church-Turing Theorem (that there is no decision procedure for quantificational validity), and Tarski’s theorem (the indefinability of truth for formal languages). Also includes an introduction to modal logic, the logic of necessity and possibility.

Prerequisite: Philosophy 2223 {223} or permission of the instructor.

2320 {220} c. Bioethics. Spring 2015. Sarah Conly.

Examines issues central for physicians, biological researchers, and society: cloning, genetic engineering, biological patenting, corporate funding for medical research, use of experimental procedures, and others.

2321 {221} c. History of Ethics. Fall 2014. Lawrence H. Simon.

How should one live? What is the good? What is my duty? What is the proper method for doing ethics? The fundamental questions of ethics are examined in the classic texts of Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill.

2322 {222} c. Political Philosophy. Fall 2013. Lawrence H. Simon.

Examines some of the major issues and concepts in political philosophy, including freedom and coercion, justice, equality, and the nature of liberalism. Readings primarily from contemporary sources.

2341 {241} c. Philosophy of Law. Fall 2014. Sarah Conly.

An introduction to legal theory. Central questions include: What is law? What is the relationship of law to morality? What is the nature of judicial reasoning? Particular legal issues include the nature and status of privacy rights (e.g., contraception, abortion, and the right to die); the legitimacy of restrictions on speech and expression (e.g., pornography, hate speech); the nature of equality rights (e.g., race and gender); and the right to liberty (e.g., homosexuality).

2358 {258} c. Environmental Ethics. Spring 2015. Lawrence H. Simon.

What things in nature have moral standing? What are our obligations to them? How should we resolve conflicts among our obligations? After an introduction to ethical theory, topics include anthropocentrism, the moral status of nonhuman sentient beings and of non-sentient living beings, preservation of endangered species and the wilderness, holism versus individualism, the land ethic, and deep ecology. (Same as Environmental Studies 2448 {258}.)

2410 {210} c. Philosophy of Mind. Spring 2014. Scott Sehon.

We see ourselves as rational agents: we have beliefs, desires, intentions, wishes, hopes, etc. We also have the ability to perform actions, seemingly in light of these beliefs, desires, and intentions. Is our conception of ourselves as rational agents consistent with our scientific conception of human beings as biological organisms? Can there be a science of the mind and, if so, what is its status relative to other sciences? What is the relationship between mind and body? How do our mental states come to be about things in the world? How do we know our own minds, or whether other people even have minds? Readings primarily from contemporary sources.

[2425 {225} c. Philosophy of Science.]

[2427 {227} c. Metaphysics.]

2429 {229} c. Philosophy in the Twentieth Century. Spring 2015. Matthew Stuart.

An examination of some key figures and works in the development of analytic philosophy. Particular attention is given to theory about the nature of physical reality and our perceptual knowledge of it, and to questions about the nature and function of language. Readings from Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, W. V. O. Quine, Gilbert Ryle, and others.

2970–2973 {291–294} c. Intermediate Independent Study in Philosophy. The Department.

2999 {299} c. Intermediate Collaborative Study in Philosophy. The Department.

Advanced Courses

Although courses numbered in the 3000s {300s} are advanced seminars primarily intended for majors in philosophy, adequately prepared students from other fields are also welcome. Besides stated prerequisites, at least one of the courses from the group numbered in the 2000s {200s} will also be found a helpful preparation.

[3137 {337} c. Hume.]

[3346 {346} c. Philosophy of Gender: Sex and Love. (Same as Gay and Lesbian Studies 3346 {346} and Gender and Women’s Studies 3346 {346}.)]

3392 {392} c. Advanced Topics in Environmental Philosophy. Spring 2014. Lawrence H. Simon.

Examines philosophical, moral, political, and policy questions regarding various environmental issues. Possible topics include the ethics of climate change policy, our obligations to future generations, benefit-cost analysis vs. the precautionary principle as a decision-making instrument, and the relationship between justice and sustainability. (Same as Environmental Studies 3992 {392}.)

[3434 {334} c. Free Will.]

4000–4003 {401–404} c. Advanced Independent Study in Philosophy. The Department.

4029 {405} c. Advanced Collaborative Study in Philosophy. The Department.

4050–4051 c. Honors Project in Philosophy. The Department.

Online Catalogue content is current as of August 1, 2013. For most current course information, use the online course finder. Also see Addenda.