See Yale Course Search for course locations.
Please note that all courses with the letter “a” are offered in the fall semester and all courses with the letter “b” are offered in the spring semester. A student must obtain the instructor’s permission before taking a course marked by a star. All seminars are starred.
DRST 003/004 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.
Fall: Michael Della Rocca, Anthony Kronman, Francey Russell, Robin Dembroff, Brad Inwood, John Pittard, David Charles
Spring: Ken Winkler, Stephen Darwall, Elizabeth Miller, Francey Russell, Mark Maxwell, Jonathan Fine, Paul Franks
PHIL 088a, Philosophy of the Transformative Experience Laurie Paul
Going to college, fighting in a war, having a baby, being spiritually reborn, betraying your lover, emigrating to a new country—all of these are experiences that can transform you. By transforming you, they change you, and in the process, they can restructure the nature and meaning of your life. Exploring the epistemic structure of transformation can help us to understand the special and distinctive ways that new experiences can form and change us, and how this relates to how we make life choices, both big and small. This course will explore the philosophical concept of transformative experience, focusing on the many ways this concept fits with contemporary philosophical issues in epistemology and metaphysics. We will also explore connections to current research in psychology, cognitive science, and behavioral economics on empathy, morality, choice, and the self, in conjunction with discussions of the way that many real world experiences can be transformative.
Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Seminar Program.
PHIL 091a, Philosophy of Games Mark Maxwell
In this class, we critically discuss a variety of puzzles that arise when thinking about games. Just what are games, anyway? And, how can thinking in terms of games help us understand the world? The notion of ‘game’ is a topic of interest in its own right, but games can also serve as as a model and metaphor for other parts of the world, including life as a whole and the exploration of other philosophical debates. As such, the study of games serves as an entry point to a number of topics of potential interest, rather than just an in-depth study of one topic.
Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Seminar Program.
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 WR
PHIL 115a, First-Order Logic Elizabeth Miller
An introduction to formal logic. Study of the formal deductive systems and semantics for both propositional and predicate logic. Some discussion of metatheory. QR
PHIL 125a / CLCV 125a, Introduction to Ancient Philosophy Verity Harte
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. WR, HU
PHIL 126b, Introduction to Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant Michael Della Rocca
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 130a, Philosophy of Education Jason Stanley
An introduction to the philosophy of education. In this course, we read classical texts about the nature and purpose of education, focusing ultimately on the question of the normative shape and form of education in liberal democracy. What is the difference between education and indoctrination? What is the proper relation, in a liberal democracy, between civic education and vocational education? What shape or form should education take, if it is to achieve its goals? How, for example, is the liberal ideal of equality best realized in the form and structure of an educational system? Authors include Plato, Rousseau, Du Bois, Washington, Stanton, Dewey, Cooper, Woodson, and Freire.
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? HU
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
PHIL 177b / AFAM 198b / CGSC 277b / EDST 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
PHIL 178b, 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
PHIL 182a / CGSC 282a / PSYC 182a, 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
* PHIL 192a / RLST 107a, Metaphysics and Modernity Nancy Levene
This course surveys concepts and controversies in and among select works of philosophy, theology, and literature. The focus is twofold: on reading works in view of their own principles, thus on questions of truth and interpretation, and on histories of the ideas, thus on questions of origin, change, and story. What and when is metaphysics? What and when is modernity? HU
PHIL 204a / GMAN 381a, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason Paul Franks
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
PHIL 270b, Epistemology Keith DeRose
Introduction to current topics in the theory of knowledge. The analysis of knowledge, justified belief, rationality, certainty, and evidence. HU
PHIL 271a / LING 271a, Philosophy of Language Jason Stanley
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 274a / GMAN 254a / JDST 335a / RLST 249a, Jewish Philosophy Paul Franks
Introduction to Jewish philosophy, including classical rationalism of Maimonides, classical kabbalah, and Franz Rosenzweig’s inheritance of both traditions. Critical examination of concepts arising in and from Jewish life and experience, in a way that illuminates universal problems of leading a meaningful human life in a multicultural and increasingly globalized world. No previous knowledge of Judaism is required. WR, HU
*PHIL 288a / PLSC 288a / CLCV 288a Advanced Topics in Ancient Political Thought: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero Daniela Cammack
An opportunity to read, or to re-read, the most significant political statements of three foundational figures in Western political thought, paying attention to both historical context and philosophical argument. Particular focus on the relationships between a) the just (to dikaion) and the advantageous (to sympheron) and b) the honourable (honesta) and the useful (utilis).
Some experience of political theory or intellectual history is expected.
*PHIL 308a, Philosophy of Love Asaf Angermann
This course explores various modes of thinking philosophically about love. It provides an overview of historical and analytic perspectives on the metaphysics, theology, ethics, and politics of love. It examines questions about the nature of love and its meaning in human and social life, focusing on different kinds of love, their multiplicity and diversity. The historical and conceptual survey covers diverse philosophical traditions: from ancient and medieval philosophy to existentialism, analytic philosophy, Jewish philosophy, and black feminist thought. Authors include Plato, St. Augustine, Descartes, Conway, Spinoza, Kierkegaard, Buber, Arendt, de Beauvoir, Murdoch, Levinas, Foucault, Irigaray, Nussbaum, Nozick, Frankfurt, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Sara Ahmed, and James Baldwin.
* PHIL 311b / RLST 303b, The End of Metaphysics Nancy Levene
Exploration 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, HU
PHIL 315a, 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
PHIL 326a / RLST 402a, 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 360b, Emotion and Cognition: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives David Charles, Juan Piñeros Sanchez
How we act and react is often based on emotions such as hope and fear, affection and hate, anger and pride. While we can perhaps imagine some wholly rational beings who do not experience the world in these ways, experiencing emotion seems to be a basic part of the human condition. In some cases, emotions can be disabling as when people suffer from irrational phobias, incapacitating anxiety, or clinical depression. But what are emotions? Can they be modified by reason? How are they connected with experience and action? How are they related to mood? Can there be a general theory of the emotions? Why are they so important for our interactions with other people and situations we encounter in lives? Is there one unified theory of the emotions? These issues have been studied by philosophers from the time of the Greeks but also, more recently by psychologists and neuroscientists.
Prerequisite: One philosophy course or permission of instructor.
PHIL 365a / JDST 221a Critical Humanist and Jewish Philosophies of Technology Nadav Berman Shifman
This course raises questions about new technologies, from a critical humanist perspective. A special emphasis is given to accounts of Jewish thinkers on these topics. We try to comprehend specific new technologies, considering a phenomenology of “that is the humane.”
Some knowledge of Jewish thought and philosophy of ethics is preferable, but not a prerequisite. HU
PHIL 366b / HUMS 276b Concept of Recognition Francey Russell
This course introduces students to canonical figures in the history of philosophy as well as ongoing contemporary philosophical debates. Students analyze the moral, political, and existential significance of recognition. What is the normative difference between cognizing an object and recognizing another subject? What is the ethical and political significance of being recognized as a moral subject by a moral equal? What are the ethical and political risks of this kind of relationship? We study Enlightenment figures Rousseau, Kant, Fichte, and Hegel, before turning to the contemporary reception of this tradition of thought, including critic, to include Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser, and Judith Butler. To conclude, we may explore the idea of “aesthetic recognition:” is the way we relate to works of art anything like the way we relate to persons?
Prerequisite: one philosophy course.
*PHIL 403a / RLST 450a / JDST 219a, Spinoza and the God of the Bible Nancy Levine
This course considers Spinoza’s metaphysics and social and political thought in light of a family of problems named religion: the concept of God, the relations among politics, divine law, and their institutions, the value of Judaism and Christianity, and the interpretation of the Bible. We read from Spinoza’s principal works as well as from the Bible and a few other thinkers, medieval and modern, in conceptual proximity to Spinoza.
* PHIL 404b, The Philosophy of Leibniz Michael Della Rocca
A close examination of Leibniz’s vast, intricate, and still poorly understood philosophical system. Topics include substance, necessity, freedom, psychology, teleology, and the problem of evil. Attention to philosophical and theological antecedents (Spinoza, Descartes, Suarez, Aquinas, Aristotle) and to Leibniz’s relevance to contemporary philosophy. HU
* PHIL 426b / CGSC 426b / EP&E 490b / PSYC 422b, 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 Sun-Joo Shin
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 438a, Philosophy of Logic Sun-Joo Shin
Exploration of valid reasoning, mainly in the context of propositional and predicate logic. Topics include the well-known debate on the justification of modus ponens; Tarski’s analysis of logic consequence; and the relatively recent and provocative claim (made by Etchemendy) that Tarski’s analysis of logical consequence fails in capturing ordinary and intuitive concept of logical consequence. Prerequisite: PHIL 267 or permission of the instructor. HU
* 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 course in philosophy, or with permission of instructor. HU
* PHIL 443a, Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics Elizabeth Miller
Examination of philosophical issues as informed by quantum mechanics and evaluation of why that which quantum mechanical formalism tells us about the world remains controversial. Topics include the measurement problem, superposition, non-locality, the wave function, configuration space, probability, and compatibility with relativity.
* PHIL 450a / EP&E 478a, The Problem of Evil Keith DeRose
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 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 464b / PLSC 291b, Justice, Taxes, and Global Financial Integrity Thomas Pogge
Study of the formulation, interpretation, and enforcement of national and international tax rules from the perspective of national and global economic justice. Previous courses in one or two of the following: law, economics, political science, or political philosophy. HU
* 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. HU
* PHIL 472a / GMAN 314a / PLSC 309a, Contemporary Critical Theory Seyla Benhabib
Frankfurt School and Critical Theory focuses on a number of unresolved questions such as pragmatic Kantianism; modernity and post-colonial theory; the idea of progress in critical theory; and judgment as amoral, political, aesthetic. Readings from: Habermas, McCarthy, Baynes, Honneth, A. Allen, Ferrara, and Zerilli. Prerequisite: Directed Studies or two or more advanced courses in modern political philosophy. SO
PHIL 474a / PLSC 326a, Borders, Culture, and Citizenship Seyla Benhabib
The contemporary refugee crisis in Europe and elsewhere; new patterns of migration; increasing demands for multicultural rights of Muslim minorities in the West; and transnational effects of globalization faced by modern societies. Examination of these issues in a multidisciplinary perspective in light of political theories of citizenship and migration, as well as laws concerning refugees and migrants in Europe and the United States. SO
*PHIL 476b / GMAN 422b Living Form: Organicism in Society and Aesthetics Kirk Wetters
Starting with Kant, the organic is defined as a processual relation of the part and the whole, thereby providing a new model of the individual as a self-contained totality. Students explore the implications of this conception in Goethe’s writings on morphology (The Metamorphosis of Plants, “Orphic Primal Words”), the Romantics’ Atheneum, Hanslick’s On the Beautiful in Music, Oswald Spengler’s cultural morphology, the concept of autopoeisis in Maturana and Varela, Luhmann’s systems theory, and Canguilheim’s critique of the analogy of organic life and society.
* PHIL 479b, Contemporary Deontology Shelly Kagan
Most people are intuitively drawn to deontological moral theories rather than consequentialist ones (roughly, to theories that give priority to moral factors other than simply the potential goodness of results). In this course we read and evaluate three major contemporary works exploring this deontological perspective in a systematic way: Judy Thomson’s The Realm of Rights, Tim Scanlon’s What We Owe to Each Other, and (parts of) Frances Kamm’s Intricate Ethics. Our goal throughout is to investigate the complications involved in moving beyond the initial pull toward deontology to spelling out such a deontological theory in fuller detail (whether at the normative or at the foundational level). Prerequisite: A previous class in philosophy is required. A previous class in moral philosophy is highly recommended. HU
* PHIL 485b, Wittgenstein Kenneth Winkler
Study and discussion of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Philosophical Investigations, and On Certainty, with some attention to their background in writings by Frege, Russell, and Moore. Consideration of Wittgenstein’s influence on more recent philosophers, among them Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe, Saul Kripke, and Cora Diamond. Prerequisite: one prior course in philosophy and permission of the instructor. HU RP
*PHIL 486a, Kant’s Critique of Judgment Thomas Khurana
In-depth study of Kant’s third and final critique, one of the major works of modern philosophy, containing both the foundation of modern aesthetics and a critical reformulation of natural teleology. Discussions address both parts and their enigmatic unity; highlight the relation of nature and freedom, mechanism and teleology, theoretical and practical cognition at the heart of the book; and include post-Kantian thought (German Idealism, 20th century continental philosophy) that only became possible through Kant’s third critique.
Participants should have some familiarity with Kant’s critical project.
*PHIL 488a, Meaning, Paradox, and Methodology Michael Della Rocca
An exploration of the inadequacies of a vast swath of theories of meaning (or content or aboutness) in contemporary and recent philosophy. The initial focus is on the challenges raised by the Kripke-Wittgenstein paradox with regard to meaning. We discuss the metaphysical underpinnings of this paradox as they are to be found in Bradley’s paradox concerning relations, in Parmenides’s arguments for a strict monism, and in Lewis Carroll’s paradox concerning logical inference or modus ponens. We consider responses to Kripke-Wittgenstein, Bradley, Parmenides, and Carroll—all of which fail, of course. Throughout, there is attention to methodological presuppositions in metaphysics that prevent philosophers from appreciating the force of these paradoxes, and we take up the potentially pernicious political implications of these presuppositions.
Prerequisite: two courses in philosophy.
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 21.
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.