Official Yale College program and course information is found in the Yale College Programs of Study.
All courses with the letter “a” following the course number are offered in the fall semester. All courses with the letter “b” following the course number are offered in the spring semester. Click to see a complete key to course listings.
*Philosophy Directed Studies (DS), Introductory Philosophy
David Charles, Michael Della Rocca, Andrew March, Aaron Norby, John Pittard, Zoltan Szabo, and Bruno Whittle
Joshua Billings, Jeffrey Brenzel, Paul Franks, Dan Greco, Paul Grimstad, Aaron Norby, and Cecelia Watson
* PHIL 084b, Philosophy and Psychology of Emotion David Charles
Introduction to the interdisciplinary study of emotions, with a focus on philosophical works from antiquity to the present and on modern psychological and neuroscientific perspectives. The definition of emotions and their relation to reason, experience, and mood. The possibility of a general theory of the emotions. Enrollment limited to freshmen. Preregistration required; see under Freshman Seminar Program. HU
PHIL 112a, Problems of Philosophy Daniel Greco
Exploration of perennial philosophical problems, including differences between knowledge and opinion, the objectivity or nonobjectivity of moral judgment, the nature of consciousness, the existence of God, the nature and possibility of free will, and how people remain the same over time as their bodily and psychological traits change. Readings from both classical and influential contemporary works. HU
PHIL 115a, First-Order Logic Bruno Whittle
An introduction to formal logic. Study of the formal deductive systems and semantics for both propositional and predicate logic. Some discussion of metatheory. QR
History of Philosophy
PHIL 125a / CLCV 125a, Introduction to Ancient Philosophy Verity Harte
This course offers an introduction to the philosophical thought and writings of the Greek and Roman philosophers working in Antiquity. In it, you will discover who was the ‘first Greek philosopher’ and which are the earliest surviving Greek philosophical words. You will find out why, according to Socrates, greed isn’t good. You will learn about how philosophical notions such as the will and skepticism came to be invented. You will read a large part of Plato’s Republic and of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, amongst selections of other works, and you will explore the Platonic, Aristotelian, Epicurean and Stoic visions of the best human life.
The class has no prerequisites and all readings are in translation. It is particularly recommended for Freshmen and Sophomores, but open to all. Intending philosophy majors are advised to take the class as early in their course of study as possible. Intended to be taken in conjunction with PHIL 126. HU
PHIL 126b, Introduction to Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant Keith DeRose
An introduction to major figures in the history of modern philosophy, with critical reading of works by Descartes, Malabranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Intended to be taken in conjunction with PHIL 125, although PHIL 125 is not a prerequisite. HU
PHIL 127a, Faith and Reason Keith DeRose and Julianne Chung
An exploration of topics concerning the relationship between faith and reason, including what it means to take or believe something on faith, the rationality of faith and of belief in some kind of god, the roles that faith and reason play in spiritual practice, and whether religion must necessarily clash with science. Readings from works in both the Eastern and Western traditions. HU
* PHIL 135b / HUMS 415b / RLST 166b, Classical Arabic Philosophy Frank Griffel
Close reading of primary texts from the Arabic philosophical tradition c. 750–1300, with attention to the major arguments and underlying assumptions of each author. The translation movement via al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Ghazali, Maimonides, and others; the philosophical textbooks of Muslim madrasa education. HU
Ethics and Value Theory
PHIL 175a, Introduction to Ethics Shelly Kagan
What makes one act right and another wrong? What am I morally required to do for others? What is the basis of morality? These are some of the questions raised in moral philosophy. Examination of two of the most important answers, the theories of Mill and Kant, with brief consideration of the views of Hume and Hobbes. Discussion of the question: Why be moral? HU
EP&E: Intro Ethics
PHIL 176b, Death Shelly Kagan
There is one thing I can be sure of: I am going to die. But what am I to make of that fact? An examination of a number of issues that arise once we begin to reflect on our mortality. Consideration of the possibility that death may not actually be the end. Are we, in some sense, immortal? Would immortality be desirable? An attempt to get a clearer notion of what it is to die. And, finally, an evaluation of different attitudes to death. Is death an evil? Is suicide morally permissible? Is it rational? In short: how should the knowledge that I am going to die affect the way I live my life? Authors include Fischer, Perry, Plato, and Tolstoy. HU
PHIL 182b / CGSC 282b / PSYC 182b, Perspectives on Human Nature Joshua Knobe
Comparison of philosophical and psychological perspectives on human nature. Nietzsche on morality, paired with contemporary work on the psychology of moral judgment; Marx on religion, paired with systematic research on the science of religious belief; Schopenhauer paired with social psychology on happiness. HU
History of Philosophy
PHIL 204a, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason Paul Franks
* PHIL 206a / RLST 210a, Nietzsche, Religion, and Modernity Nancy Levene
An exploration of Nietzsche’s ideas on religion and history and of his work in a broad historical arc inclusive of the present. Reading of several major works by Nietzsche and of selections from philosophical and theological writings with which he was in dialogue. HU
PHIL 210b, Eastern Philosophy Quang Phu Van
An introduction to Eastern philosophy through the study of philosophical and religious texts. Topics include reality and illusion, knowledge, self, right and wrong, nonattachment, meditation, aesthetics, meaning of life, and death. HU
PHIL 214a, The Philosophies of Hegel and Schelling Paul Franks
The competing versions of absolute idealism developed by Hegel and Schelling in the early 1800s. The relationships between philosophy and a history that culminates in modernity, and between philosophy and religion; the possibility of absolute knowledge and systematicity; the role of kabbalah in philosophy. HU
PHIL 218b / CLCV 220b, Ancient Epistemology Verity Harte
Theories of knowledge of various philosophers and philosophical schools in antiquity, including Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Epicureans, and the Skeptics. Prerequisite: PHIL 125 or DRST 003. HU
PHIL 259a, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and the Future of Philosophy Karsten Harries
Doubts concerning the future of philosophy are part of much recent philosophizing. They have found expression in recurring attempts to move beyond what philosophy has been. Of these Wittgenstein’s and Heidegger’s have been the most significant. Both have provided interpretations of language that call philosophy in the traditional sense into question. In this course I shall examine and criticize certain presuppositions of these interpretations in an attempt to understand better what if any future still remains for philosophy. HU
PHIL 262b, Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Philosophy Karsten Harries
An introduction to the philosophy of the nineteenth century. Readings include works by Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. The nineteenth century is shadowed by the specter of nihilism. Faith in reason helped render the traditional value system questionable. If Hegel still sought to preserve the promise of the Enlightenment, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche had lost faith in both God and reason. Whether we like it or not, we have inherited such insecurity, although we may try to veil it by clinging to inherited values. But instead of simply refusing to call such values into question, we should attempt to make a more positive response. To make such a response we need to understand our spiritual situation: we are the heirs of the nineteenth century. A study of nineteenth century philosophy helps us to a better understanding of that inheritance.
Metaphysics and Epistemology
PHIL 267b, Mathematical Logic Sun-Joo Shin
An introduction to the metatheory of first-order logic, up to and including the completeness theorem for the first-order calculus. Introduction to the basic concepts of set theory. Prerequisite: PHIL 115 or permission of instructor. QR
PHIL 271b / LING 271b, Philosophy of Language Bruno Whittle
An introduction to contemporary philosophy of language, organized around four broad topics: meaning, reference, context, and communication. Introduction to the use of logical notation. HU
* PHIL 272a, Philosophy of Mind Aaron Norby
This course is an introduction to major topics in philosophy of mind. We will read and talk about such topics as where consciousness comes from, how our thoughts come to be about things out in the world, whether the mind is identical to the brain, whether the brain is a computer, whether psychology will one day be part of physics, and more. HU
PHIL 315b, Truth and Relativism Zoltán Szabó
Recent philosophical work on relativism and the relationship between truth and objectivity. The possibility of objective truth; rational disagreement; relativism and moral and scientific truth; bases for taking a stand on objectivity’s limits. HU
Ethics and Value Theory
PHIL 326b / RLST 402b, The Philosophy of Religion John Hare
The relation between religion and ethics, traditional arguments for the existence of God, religious experience, the problem of evil, miracles, immortality, science and religion, and faith and reason. HU
PHIL 334a / PLSC 281a / RLST 273a, Ethical and Social Issues in Bioethics Stephen Latham
A selective survey of issues in biomedical ethics. Comparison of different points of view about biomedical issues, including religious vs. secular and liberal vs. conservative. Special attention to issues in research and at the beginning and end of life. SO
History of Philosophy
* PHIL 400a / CLCV 429a, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI Verity Harte and David Charles
Reading and discussion of the Greek text of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI, in which Aristotle characterizes the intellectual virtues and offers his most complete account of various forms of skill and knowledge. Prerequisites: GREK 131, 141, and PHIL 125 or equivalents, or with permission of the instructors. L5, HU
* PHIL 409b, Aristotle and the Mind/Body Relationship David Charles
Aristotle’s discussion of psychological phenomena such as emotions, desire, perception, and thought. Whether his way of thinking about such phenomena challenges post-Cartesian understandings of the relationship between the human mind and body. HU
* PHIL 411a, Early Modern Philosophy of Language Zoltán Szabó and Kenneth Winkler
Early modern contributions to the philosophy of language. Topics include the nature of signs, ideas as sources of meaning, the formation of propositions, truth, necessary truth, inference, and logical form. Readings from works by Arnauld and Nicole, Locke, Leibniz, and Berkeley; contemporary philosophical reception in the writings of Chomsky, Davidson, and their critics. HU
* PHIL 412a / GMAN 211a / HUMS 311a, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud Rüdiger Campe
The revolutionary ways in which Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud redefined the ends of freedom. Key works of the three authors on agency in politics, economics, epistemology, social life, and sexuality. Agency as individual or collective, as autonomous or heteronomous, and as a case of liberation or subversion. Additional readings from Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Weber. HU
* PHIL 413b, History of Analytic Philosophy Paul Franks
The problems and methods of early analytic philosophers, including Frege, Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein, and the logical positivists. Problems such as realism, a priori propositions and convention, logic and meaning, empirical knowledge, and verification and truth. Methods of analysis that deploy formal notations; studies of ordinary and scientific uses of language. HU
Metaphysics and Epistemology
* PHIL 425a, Topics in Epistemology Daniel Greco
Survey of recent work in epistemology, with an emphasis on connections between formal approaches to epistemology and traditional epistemological questions. Bayesian approaches and their limitations; the relationship of credence to belief and knowledge; higher-order knowledge and probability. Prerequisite: a course in epistemology, or with permission of instructor. HU
* PHIL 426a, The Cognitive Science of Morality Joshua Knobe
Introduction to the emerging field of moral cognition. Focus on questions about the philosophical significance of psychological findings. Topics include the role of emotion in moral judgment; the significance of character traits in virtue ethics and personality psychology; the reliability of intuitions and the psychological processes that underlie them. HU
* PHIL 427b, Computability and Logic Sun-Joo Shin
A technical exposition of Gödel’s first and second incompleteness theorems and of some of their consequences in proof theory and model theory, such as Löb’s theorem, Tarski’s undefinability of truth, provability logic, and nonstandard models of arithmetic. Prerequisite: PHIL 267 or permission of instructor. QR, HU
* PHIL 437b, Philosophy of Mathematics Bruno Whittle
Metaphysical and epistemological issues raised by mathematics. Questions concerning the notion of a set, whether one can quantify absolutely everything, and whether there are really infinite sets of different sizes; the significance of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems; arguments designed to show that certain mathematical terms are referentially indeterminate. HU
PHIL 439a, Foundations of Metaphysics: Definition, Essence, and Ground. George Bealer
Examination of three foundational notions in metaphysics – real definition, essence, and ground. The primary questions explored in the seminar are whether these notions are required for metaphysical explanations, whether these notions are themselves definable or undefinable.
Over the last two decades the traditional notions of real definition, essence, and ground have once again returned to center stage in debates about the nature of metaphysics and the possibility of metaphysical explanations. The purpose of the seminar is to clarify these three foundational notions, to determine their role in metaphysical theorizing, and to determine whether these notions are ultimate primitives or whether they themselves have real definitions.
Readings will be both historical (Aristotle, Locke) and contemporary (Fine, Rosen, Shaffer, Bealer, Wilson, Charles, Code).
The seminar will consist of informal lectures by the instructor, student presentations, and group discussion.
Prerequisite: First-order Logic or Intermediate Logic. Recommended: Philosophy of Language, Metaphysics.
Ethics and Value Theory
* PHIL 450b, The Problem of Evil Keith DeRose and John Pittard
The challenge that evil’s existence in the world poses for belief in a perfectly good and omnipotent God. The main formulations of the problem of evil; proposed ways of solving or mitigating the problem and criticism of those solutions. Skeptical theism, the free-will defense, soul-making theodicies, and doctrines of hell. HU
* PHIL 451a, Beyond the God Hypothesis Gabriel Citron
Many theologians have considered it misguided to understand religious faith as a hypothesis about the existence of a super-empirical entity – we will begin by trying to understand why this is. We will then consider a series of modern Christian and Jewish attempts to re-envisage what faith might be if not a hypothesis, and what God might be if not an entity. Finally, we will ask what religious life looks like given this re-envisaged theism. We will read thinkers such as Friedrich Schleiermacher, Martin Heidegger, Simone Weil, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, among others. HU
* PHIL 455a / EP&E 334a, Normative Ethics Shelly Kagan
A systematic examination of normative ethics, the part of moral philosophy that attempts to articulate and defend the basic principles of morality. The course surveys and explores some of the main normative factors relevant in determining the moral status of a given act or policy (features that help make a given act right or wrong). Brief consideration of some of the main views about the foundations of normative ethics (the ultimate basis or ground for the various moral principles). Prerequisite: a course in moral philosophy. HU
* PHIL 461a / AFAM 269b / EP&E 458b / PLSC 315b, Egalitarianism Christopher Lebron
The concept of equality in normative political theory explored through contemporary philosophical texts. Reasons why oppressed, marginalized, and systematically disadvantaged groups express their claims in terms of equality; racial inequality as a case study. SO
* PHIL 465a / EP&E 480a, Recent Work in Ethical Theory Stephen Darwall
A study of recently published works on ethics and its foundations. Issues include the grounds of normativity and rightness and the role of the virtues. This semester we will read Julia Markovits, Moral Reason, T. M. Scanlon, Being Realistic About Reasons, and R. Jay Wallace, The View From Here: On Affirmation, Attachment, and the Limits of Regret. HU
* PHIL 469a / AFAM 240a / EP&E 435a / PLSC 324a, Luck and Justice Christopher Lebron
The relations among luck, responsibility, and social justice. Questions surrounding kinds of luck, justification, rational agency, and blame. The problem of assigning responsibility for outcomes over which an individual has no direct control. SO
* PHIL 470b / CGSC 403b / HUMS 458b / PSYC 403b, Habits of Mind Paul Bloom and Tamar Gendler
The nature of habits of mind—the instinctive or learned, and often unconscious, processes that underlie human thought and automatic behaviors. How habits are acquired and how they can be reshaped, their relation to deliberate decisions, and their role in domains as diverse as infant development, procrastination, racial stereotyping, and the enjoyment of fiction. Research and theory from fields in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Prerequisites: one course in psychology and one in philosophy, or with permission of instructor.
Tutorial and Senior Essay Courses
* PHIL 480a or b, Tutorial Daniel Greco
A reading course supervised by a member of the department and satisfying the following conditions: (1) the work of the course must not be possible in an already existing course; (2) the course must involve a substantial amount of writing, i.e., a term essay or a series of short essays; (3) the student must meet with the instructor regularly, normally for at least an hour a week; (4) the proposed course of study must be approved by both the director of undergraduate studies and the instructor.
* PHIL 490a and PHIL 491b, The Senior Essay Daniel Greco
The essay, written under the supervision of a member of the department, should be a substantial paper; a suggested length is between 8,000 and 12,000 words for one-term projects, and between 12,500 and 15,000 words for two-term projects. Students completing a one-term project should enroll in either 490 in the fall or 491 in the spring. Students completing a two-term project should enroll in both 490 and 491. The deadline for senior essays completed in the fall is December 5; the deadline for both one- and two-term senior essays completed in the spring is April 20.
Graduate, Divinity, and Law School Courses that Count toward the Major
Some Graduate, Divinity, and Law School courses are open to qualified undergraduates with permission of the instructor and the director of graduate studies or the dean or registrar of the Divinity or the Law School. (See “Courses in the Yale Graduate and Professional Schools” in section K of the Academic Regulations.) With permission of the director of undergraduate studies, relevant Graduate, Divinity, and Law School courses may count toward the major. Course descriptions appear in the Graduate, Divinity, and Law School bulletins.