Undergraduate Courses 2015-2016

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.

Introductory Courses

*DRST 003 Directed Studies: Philosophy (DS)

An examination of major figures in the history of Western philosophy with an aim of discerning characteristic philosophical problems and their interconnections. Emphasis on Plato and Aristotle in the fall term. In the spring term, modern philosophers include Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche.

Andrew March, John Hare, Verity Harte, MM McCabe, Bruno Whittle, Kenneth Winkler

Stephen Darwall, Michael Della Rocca, Elizabeth Miller, Bryan Garsten, Paul North, Terence Renaud

PHIL 114b, Free Will, God, and Evil Keith DeRose

An examination of attempts to reconcile the evils of this world with the existence of a perfectly good God, with special attention to proposed solutions to this problem that appeal to human free will in explaining why God allows evil. Discussions of the relation between such appeals to human freedom and other attempts to solve the problem of evil, the special problem posed by truly horrendous evils, the appeal to human freedom to justify doctrines of hell, and the nature of human freedom.  HU

MW 11:35am-12:25pm

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

TTh 2:30pm-3:20pm

History of Philosophy

PHIL 125a / CLCV 125a, Introduction to Ancient Philosophy Brad Inwood

An introduction to ancient philosophy, beginning with the earliest pre-Socratics, concentrating on Plato and Aristotle, and including a brief foray into Hellenistic philosophy. Intended to be taken in conjunction with PHIL 126.  HU

TTh 11:35am-12:25pm

PHIL 126b, Introduction to Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant Kenneth Winkler

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

WF 10:30am-11:20am

Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 174a, Moral Skepticism Shelly Kagan

The legitimacy of doubts about morality. Can there really be any objective moral facts? Isn’t morality all a matter of personal opinion or subjective preference, or, alternatively, all socially or culturally relative? If there were moral facts, how could one possibly know anything about them? Can one’s moral views be justified at all? What place can morality possibly have in a scientific world view?  WR, HU

TTh 10:30am-11:20am

PHIL 175b, 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

TTh 10:30am-11:20am

PHIL 177b / EP&E 494b, Propaganda, Ideology, and Democracy Jason Stanley

Historical, philosophical, psychological, and linguistic introduction to the issues and challenges that propaganda raises for liberal democracy. How propaganda can work to undermine democracy; ways in which schools and the press are implicated; the use of propaganda by social movements to address democracy’s deficiencies; the legitimacy of propaganda in cases of political crisis.  HU

MW 2:30pm-3:20pm

PHIL 178a, Introduction to Political Philosophy Thomas Pogge

A survey of social and political theory, beginning with Plato and continuing through modern philosophers such as Rawls, Nozick, and Cohen. Emphasis on tracing the development of political ideas; challenges to political theories.  HU

TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

PHIL 180b / PLSC 191b, Ethics and International Affairs Thomas Pogge

Moral reflection taken beyond state boundaries. Traditional questions about state conduct and international relations as well as more recent questions about intergovernmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the design of global institutional arrangements.  HU

TTh 9:00-10:15am

Intermediate Courses

History of Philosophy

PHIL 204a / GMAN 381a, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason Paul Franks

An examination of the metaphysical and epistemological doctrines of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. PHIL 126 or DRST 004HU

WF 9:00-10:15am

* PHIL 217b / EP&E 495b,  Ancient and Modern Accounts of Moral Weakness David Charles and Evan Rodriguez

Critical examination of approaches to understanding moral weakness, the problem of seeing the better but doing the worse, in ancient and contemporary Western philosophy. Analysis of assumptions that make moral weakness appear problematic; attempts to find the most convincing description of the phenomenon itself. Prerequisite: a course in philosophy.  HU

TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

* PHIL 225b / GMAN 357b / LITR 433b, Nietzsche and His Readers Paul North

Reading and discussion of Friedrich Nietzsche’s major texts, as well as critiques and interpretations by some of his most influential twentieth-century readers.  HU

T 3:30pm-5:20pm

Metaphysics and Epistemology

PHIL 267a, 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
Math: Logic/Foundations

MW 11:35am-12:25pm

PHIL 270a, Epistemology Keith DeRose

Introduction to current topics in the theory of knowledge. The analysis of knowledge, justified belief, rationality, certainty, and evidence.  HU

MW 11:35am-12:25pm

PHIL 276a, Metaphysics Elizabeth Miller

Examination of some fundamental aspects of reality. Topics include time, persistence, modality, causation, and existence.  HU

TTh 9am-10:15am

PHIL 279b, Intentionality Zoltán Szabó, Justin D’Ambrosio

The philosophical problem of intentionality. The question of nonexistence, i.e., how thought about the nonexistent is possible. Responses to the problem of nonexistence, each of which becomes a distinctive theory of intentionality. The intentionality of specific types of mental states, such as perception, belief, and desire. Whether the contents of mental states depend only on the internal features of the thinker, or also on the thinker’s environment.  HU

TTh 11:35am-12:25pm

PHIL 281b, Infinity Bruno Whittle

The idea of infinity. Traditional and contemporary versions of the paradoxes of space, time, and motion, as well as the paradoxes of classes, chances, and truth. Some elementary arithmetic, geometry, probability theory, and set theory.  QR, HU

TTh 1pm-2:15pm

* PHIL 305b / CGSC 313b / PSYC 313b, Philosophy for Psychologists Joshua Knobe

Introduction to frameworks developed within philosophy that have applications in psychological research. Principal topics include the self, causation, free will, and morality. Recommended preparation: a course in philosophy or psychology.  HU, SO

TTh 1pm-2:15pm

PHIL 311a / RLST 303a, The End of Metaphysics  Nancy Levene

Exploration of the end, or aim, of metaphysics in light of the supposition that it is at an end. Readings from classics and critics in the history of philosophy and religion. WR

W 3:30-5:30

PHIL 312a / PLSC 311a / WGSS 302a, How We Choose, and Choose Well Hélène Landemore

The study of choice approached through a broad and multifaceted lens, borrowing from disciplines and sources as varied as metaphysics, moral philosophy, political theory, literature, and film, as well as psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, and economics.  Recommended preparation: introductory courses in moral philosophy and economics.  SO

MW 2:30pm-3:45pm


History of Philosophy

*PHIL 414b / GMAN 317b / RLST 440b, Martin Heidegger  Noreen Khawaja

A comprehensive introduction to the oeuvre of Martin Heidegger. Key texts from Being and Time to the essay on technology, including the “Rectoral Address” of 1933 and writings on poetry, art, and theology. Consideration of Heidegger’s work in systematic and historical terms. Focus on his attempt to use philosophy to incite an “essential transformation in the history of Western spirit” along with its stakes, limitations, and consequences.

W 3:30-5:20

* PHIL 415b, Hume Kenneth Winkler

A study of Hume’s epistemology and metaphysics and his science of human nature. Topics include our knowledge of space and time; inductive reasoning; the nature and representation of causation; the origin and justification of belief in an external world; personal identity; the normative bearing of naturalized epistemology; the explanation and justification of religious belief; and the attractions and limits of skepticism. Readings in Book I of A Treatise of Human Nature, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, and Dialogues concerning Natural Religion.HU

W 3:30pm-5:30pm

* PHIL 416b, The Philosophy of Spinoza Michael Della Rocca

An in-depth study of Spinoza’s philosophy. Readings from his Ethics, political writings, Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, letters, and other works. Spinoza’s metaphysics and his views on philosophy of mind, teleology, action, and emotion. Some attention to methods for interpreting works in the history of philosophy.  HU

T 3:30pm-5:20pm

* PHIL 417b / EP&E 487b, Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School  Asaf Angermann

Introduction to the thought and writings of the philosophers known as the Frankfurt School, who founded and developed the idea of Critical Theory. The method of Critical Theory as a way of thinking about the complex relations between philosophy and society, culture and politics, and philosophical concepts and social reality. The meaning of concepts such as critique, history, freedom, individuality, emancipation, and aesthetic experience.  HU

T 3:30pm-5:20pm

* PHIL 419a, Descartes Karsten Harries

An examination of Descartes as a founder of the modern world picture. Consideration of all his major works. Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy.  HU

T 1:30pm-3:20pm

* PHIL 422a / CLSS 422a, Plato’s Republic Verity Harte and MM McCabe

Close reading and philosophical analysis of the whole of Plato’s Republic. Readings in translation. Prerequisites: PHIL 125 or DRST 003 or equivalent, and one additional philosophy course.  HU

First class meeting will be on Wednesday September 9th.
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

* PHIL 423b / EP&E 487b,  Aristotle and Virtue Theory David Charles

Aristotle’s discussion of the virtues, and their role in his ethical theory. Comparison of Aristotle’s view with recent attempts to formulate a virtue-based approach to ethics. Prerequisite: a course in ethics or ancient philosophy.

W 3:30pm-5:20pm

Metaphysics and Epistemology

* PHIL 426a / CGSC 426a / PSYC 422a / EP&E 490a, 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

M 1:30pm-3:20pm

* 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
Math: Logic/Foundations

M 1:30pm-3:20pm

* PHIL 428b, Propositions, Truth, and Paradox Bruno Whittle

Semantic paradoxes and the question of how to give adequate accounts of truth and of propositions in light of them. Readings include recent work on languages that contain their own truth predicates and on attempts to give consistent accounts of structured propositions.  HU

T 7pm-8:50pm

* PHIL 440a, Action and Metaphysics Michael Della Rocca

Central themes in the philosophy of action over the past half-century and their connection to important trends in recent metaphysics. Topics include causal vs. non-causal theories of action, the individuation of actions (and of events), reasons for action, deviant causal chains, and the nature of intention. Exploration of a Parmenidean monism of action. The relation between action and ground, between action and relations, and between action and meaning.

T 3:30-5:20

* PHIL 441b, Reductionism Elizabeth Miller

Exploration of reductive approaches in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of science. The question of whether there is a deep sense in which all the complexity of reality reduces to some more limited class of fundamental features. Prerequisite: a Philosophy course numbered above 300, or with permission of instructor.  HU

Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

*PHIL 443a, Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics  Elizabeth Miller

Examination of a wide range of philosophical issues as informed by quantum mechanics. How to understand what the quantum mechanical formalism tells us about the world is still very controversial. We will evaluate different interpretations of quantum mechanics, comparing their views of the world’s ontology. Issues include the measurement problem, superposition, non-locality, the wave function, configuration space, probability, compatibility with relativity.

T 1:30-3:20

*PHIL 444b, Philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars   Jay Garfield

History may well see Wilfrid Sellars as the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century,
but his work is little known outside of the world of professional philosophy. Sellars’s thought is
grounded in a nuanced reading of the history of Western philosophy, with a particular focus on Kant
and his response to problems arising in early modern European philosophy. But Sellars’s principal
contributions are in the philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, epistemology, the philosophy
of language, and metaphysics. His critiques of foundationalism, his formulation of functionalism,
and his investigations of intentionality and the relationship of normativity to naturalism shape
all thinking about these issues in the Western philosophical world today. We read Sellars’s most
important essays and explore the system of philosophical thought they constitute. Pre-requisites:
at least one intermediate-level course in epistemology or the philosophy of mind, and at least one
course in the history of modern European philosophy.

T 1:30-3:20

* PHIL 446b, Philosophy of Language: Situations and Events Zoltán Szabó

Unification of event semantics and situation semantics. Questions about the underlying metaphysics of the resulting theory. Prerequisites: a course in logic and an advanced course in metaphysics or semantics.  HU

W 1:30pm-3:20pm

*PHIL 447b, Recent Work in Buddhist Philosophy  Jay Garfield

The last few decades have seen a gradual rapprochement between Western philosophy and Buddhist
studies, reflecting an increased awareness on each side of the relevance of work on the other. In
this course we read recent books addressing the intersections between Buddhist and Western
philosophy and the contributions each can make to the other. Prerequisite: at least one
intermediate-level course in Western philosophy or in Buddhist studies.

T 9:25-11:15

Ethics and Value Theory

* 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

TH 1:30-3:20

* PHIL 457b / EP&E 235b / PLSC 283b, Recent Work on Justice Thomas Pogge

In-depth study of one contemporary book, author, or debate in political philosophy, political theory, or normative economics. Focus varies from year to year based on student interest and may include a ground-breaking new book, the life’s work of a prominent author, or an important theme in contemporary political thought.  HU

T 1:30pm-3:20pm

* PHIL 463a / EP&E 276a / PLSC 292a, Rethinking Sovereignty, Human Rights, and Globalization Seyla Benhabib

Discussion of the crises of sovereignty and the end of sovereignty. Postnationalist, cosmopolitan, and neoliberal criticisms of sovereignty. Traditional models of sovereignty compared with cosmopolitan alternatives; implications of these models for the definition and enforcement of rights. Readings include works by Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, Austin, Schmitt, Kelsen, Habermas, Waldron, Pogge, Sassen, and Aleinikoff.  SO

T 3:30pm-5:20pm

* PHIL 471a / EP&E 485a,  Moral Emotions Stephen Darwall

The role of emotions and attitudes in the moral life and in moral philosophy. The nature of emotions such as shame, guilt, gratitude, love, and respect; related phenomena such as empathy and sympathy. Emotions’ relations to fundamental moral concepts, as well as their epistemological role and capacity to ground moral judgments and facts.  WR, HU

W 7pm-8:50pm

*PHIL 472a /PLSC309a / GMAN314a Contemporary Critical Theory  Seyla Benhabib

An intensive examination of Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right,” and its subsequent interpretations by Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth. Prerequisite: Directed Studies or two or more advanced courses in modern political philosophy. SO

M 3.30-5.20

* PHIL 473b / EP&E 486b, Theories of the Good Shelly Kagan

What features make one outcome intrinsically better or worse than another from the moral point of view? How are judgments of individual well-being to be combined into an overall assessment of an outcome? Is virtue intrinsically valuable, or only instrumentally so? Does the distribution of well-being matter, and if so, what makes an outcome better or worse with regard to equality? What is the significance of people’s getting the particular level of well-being that they deserve? Prerequisite: a course in philosophy, or with permission of instructor.  HU

M 1:30pm-3:20pm

Tutorial and Senior Essay Courses

* PHIL 480a or b, Tutorial Kenneth Winkler

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 Kenneth Winkler

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.