Undergraduate Courses 2019-2020

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.

Introductory Courses

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. HU, WR

Fall: David Charles, Brad Inwood, John Hare, Ken Winkler, Adam Eitel, Jonathan Fine

Spring:  Michael Della Rocca, Daniel Greco, Stephen Darwall, Terence Renaud, Jonathan Fine, B. Barasch, A. Werner

* 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.   HU
MW 2:30pm-3:45pm

PHIL 115a, First-Order Logic  Kenneth Winkler

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 9am-10:15am

* 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
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

History of Philosophy

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.  WRHU
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
TTh 9:25am-10:15am

* PHIL 135b / 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
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

Ethics and Value Theory

PHIL 130a / EDST 135a, 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.  HU
MW 9:00-10:15am

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
MW 10:30am-11:20am

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
MW 11:35am-12:25pm

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 9am-10:15am

Intermediate Courses

History of Philosophy

* PHIL 202a / RLST 277a, Existentialism  Noreen Khawaja

Introduction to key problems in European existentialism. Existentialism considered not as a unified movement, but as a tradition of interlocking ideas about human freedom woven through the philosophy, religious thought, art, and political theory of late modern Europe. Readings from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heti, Lukács, Gide, Heidegger, Fanon, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Cesaire.  HU
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

PHIL 203a / EALL 212a, Ancient Chinese Thought  Michael Hunter

An introduction to the foundational works of ancient Chinese thought from the ruling ideologies of the earliest historical dynasties, through the Warring States masters, to the Qin and Han empires. Topics include Confucianism and Daoism, the role of the intellectual in ancient Chinese society, and the nature and performance of wisdom.  HU
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

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. Prerequisite: PHIL 126or DRST 004.  HU
WF 9am-10:15am

     PHIL 205b / EALL 213b / HUMS 292b / RLST 211b, Philosophy, Religion, and Literature in Medieval China     Lucas Bender

Exploration of the rich intellectual landscape of the Chinese middle ages, introducing students to seminal works of Chinese civilization and to the history of their debate and interpretation in the first millennium. No previous knowledge of China is assumed. Instead, the course serves as a focused introduction to Chinese philosophy, religion, and literature. HU
TTH 1pm-2:15pm

     PHIL 224b / CLCV 215b / HUMS 211b Beauty and the Good Life      Jonathan Fine

How does beauty matter to who we aspire to be and how we desire to live together? Beauty has long been thought central to a good life; but beauty can be superficial, damaging, vain. This course explores how ancient philosophers grappled with the challenges of beauty in a good life so that we can reflect on the ethical and political challenges of beauty today. We focus on the central place of beauty in ancient Greek ethics, asking among other questions: What is beauty, and is it good? What does it mean to pursue beauty and how are its pursuits shaped by culture? What is the role of love in a worthwhile life? Is beauty fake or does it show what is real? A dangerous ideal or a guide to happiness? How might appearing beautiful to others affect senses of self or shame and honor? How is beauty tied to norms of gender, class, and race—across different historical contexts? We read several dialogues of Plato—including the Symposium and Phaedrus—with attention to their historical context before examining Aristotle, Stoics, and some modern legacies of and challenges to these ideas in virtue ethics, feminist aesthetics, and critical race theory. Other thinkers include Homer, Sappho, Smith, Shaftesbury, Dubois, de Beauvoir, Murdoch, Williams, and Paul Taylor. Course includes film screening and class trip to Yale Art Gallery.

One course in Philosophy, Classics, or Humanities, or permission of Instructor. HU, WR
W 9:25-11:15am

Metaphysics and Epistemology

     PHIL 226b, Metaphysics: the Paradoxes of Time Travel   LA Paul

This course explores the possibilities and paradoxes of time travel: could we travel back to the past? Could we travel a thousand years into the future? If so, could you go back in time and ensure that you am not born? If this is not possible, what does this tell us about free will? If so, does this mean that, in the present, we can cause things to happen in the past? More generally, what would the logical structure of time have to be in order to make time travel possible? How would we experience time travel? The paradoxes and possibilities of time travel serve as a foil for exploring central questions in metaphysics about the nature of time, the possibility of free will, the direction of causation, and the persistence of persons. HU
TTH 11:35-12:25 HTBA

 

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
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

PHIL 269b, The Philosophy of Science  Mark Maxwell

Central questions about the nature of scientific theory and practice. Factors that make a discipline a science; how and why scientific theories change over time; interpreting probabilistic claims in science; whether simpler theories are more likely to be true; the laws of nature; whether physics has a special status compared to other sciences; the legitimacy of adaptationist thinking in evolutionary biology.  HU
MW 2:30pm-3:45pm

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
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

PHIL 271b / LING 271b, 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
MW 9am-10:15am

PHIL 281a, Infinity  Zoltán Szabó

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.  QRHU
TTh 10:30am-11:20am

* 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.  HUSO
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

Ethics and Value Theory

* PHIL 338b, Happiness and Misery  David Charles

The goal of the course is to investigate and assess the accounts of happiness and misery offered by historical philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, and Mill and by more recent thinkers such as Bernard Williams, Philippa Foot, Christine Korsgaard, and Thomas Nagel. We also consider some recent psychological work on related topics. Enrollment priority is given to junior and seniors.    HU
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

Seminars

* PHIL 493b / ANTH 428b / RLST 428b, Neighbors and Others  Nancy Levene

This course is an interdisciplinary investigation of concepts and stories of family, community, borders, ethics, love, and antagonism. Otherwise put, it concerns the struggles of life with others – the logic, art, ethnography, and psychology of those struggles. The starting point is a complex of ideas at the center of religions, which are given to differentiating “us” from “them” while also identifying values such as the love of the neighbor that are to override all differences. But religion is only one avenue into the motif of the neighbor, a fraught term of both proximity and distance, a contested term and practice trailing in its wake lovers, enemies, kin, gods, and strangers. Who is my neighbor? What is this to ask, and what does the question ask of us? Course material includes philosophy, anthropology, psychology, fiction, poetry, and film.  HU
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

History of Philosophy

* PHIL 402a / GMAN 227a / HUMS 330a / LITR 330a, Heidegger’s Being and Time  Martin Hägglund

Systematic, chapter by chapter study of Heidegger’s Being and Time, arguably the most important work of philosophy in the twentieth-century. All major themes addressed in detail, with particular emphasis on care, time, death, and the meaning of being.  HU
HTBA

PHIL 410b / EALL 308b / HUMS 305b, Sages of the Ancient World  Michael Hunter

Comparative survey of ancient discourses about wisdom from China, India, the Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Topics include teaching, scheming, and dying.  HU
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

* PHIL 413a, 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
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

* PHIL 494a, Topics in Kant  Thomas Pogge

Featuring some of the most important and difficult texts in philosophy, this seminar involves a close reading of Kant’s works from one subset of his philosophy. It also guides students to identify and engage with the most insightful secondary literature and to grapple with Kant’s arguments both orally and in writing. Each instantiation of the seminar selects readings according to student and instructor interests, with a focus for instance on Kant’s epistemology, centering around his Critique of Pure Reason, on his moral philosophy, as developed in his Groundwork and Critique of Practical Reason, or on his political philosophy and teachings about human progress. Students may take this seminar twice in consecutive years, provided a different set of Kant’s works is covered. Prerequisites: Two courses in the history of philosophy, or one such course with the instructor’s permission.  WRHU
T 3:30pm-5:20pm

* PHIL 496b, Plato’s Gorgias  Verity Harte

Plato’s Gorgias contains the most sustained and dramatic encounter between Socratic philosophical conversation and rhetoric. This encounter sets the stage for some of Plato’s richest philosophical reflections on moral psychology and on the philosophy of philosophy. The course focuses on careful reading of the Gorgias with a view to engaging these philosophical topics. All readings are in translation, though a Greek reading group may be added for interested and suitably qualified students. Taught seminar-style, engaged, active student participation is expected. Class discussion typically starts from student questions circulated in advance. Prerequisites: A course in ancient philosophy (such as PHIL 125 or Directed Studies Fall Philosophy) and at least one additional course in Philosophy.  HU
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

* PHIL 498b, Acrasia: Ancient and Modern  David Charles

The goal of this seminar is to investigate the accounts of weakness of the will (in Greek: acrasia, literally lack of control) offered by historical philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine and by more recent thinkers such as Donald Davidson, David Pears, Michael Bratman, and Richard Holton. This discussion raises problems about the nature of  intentional action, the will and rationality. We also consider some recent psychological work on self-control and addiction.    Priority is given to juniors and seniors.   HU
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

Metaphysics and Epistemology

* PHIL 426a / CGSC 426a / EP&E 490a / PSYC 422a, 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.  QRHU
T 3:30pm-5:20pm

* PHIL 442a, Language and Power  Jason Stanley, Jack Balkin

Investigation into the way language shapes our social world, drawing on readings from feminist theory, critical race theory, formal semantics and pragmatics, political psychology, and European history.  Prerequisite: one philosophy course; a basic course in logic would be helpful.  HU
W 1:30-3:20pm

      *PHIL 492b /PSYC 492b, Metaphysics Meets Cognitive Science: Objects, Causation, Time, and Self        LA Paul, Brian Scholl

The premise (and promise) of cognitive science is that we will come to understand ourselves better by integrating the insights and contributions from multiple fields of inquiry.  This interdisciplinary project has been especially vibrant when it has explored the intersection of Philosophy and Psychology (for example when work in ethics integrates empirical work from moral psychology, or when work in the philosophy of mind integrates neuroscientific studies of consciousness).  But cognitive science has interacted far less with the study of metaphysics — the philosophical exploration of topics such as time, causation, and possibility.  This may seem surprising, since there has been a great deal of fascinating empirical research on the mental representations and cognitive processes involved in such topics.  Accordingly, this new seminar will attempt to bridge this gap, exploring potential interactions between these fields.  In particular, we will explore the possibility of a cognitive metaphysics, in which each field is enriched by consideration of the other.  How might metaphysical theories raise questions or identify concepts of interest to working cognitive scientists?  How might empirical studies from cognitive science on the nature of seeing and thinking contribute to the study of metaphysics?  Specific topics will likely include the ways in which we understand the nature (in both the mind and the world) of space, time, objects, events, causality, persistence, and possibility.  (And along the way, we’ll also consider some more particular topics, such as the asymmetry between past and future experience, the apparent backwards causation in the context of Newcomb’s puzzle, and why the present seems special.)

Th 1:30-3:32pm

* PHIL 495a, Philosophy of Mind and Artificial Intelligence  Daniel Greco

In this course, we draw on readings from philosophy, computer science, and some science fiction, to explore foundational issues in the philosophy of mind and artificial intelligence. Topics include the following: Could a suitably programmed computer be intelligent? In particular, is passing the Turing test sufficient to establish that a computer is intelligent? Does it make sense to talk of uploading one’s consciousness to a computer as a method for increasing one’s life span? Can consciousness be explained in physical terms? Prerequisites: Two PHIL courses.   HU
M 9:25am-11:15am

     *PHIL 497a Knowledge and Action      Michael Della Rocca
An examination of central themes in recent philosophy of action with attention to parallels between knowledge and action. Themes include: the metaphysics of action; causal vs. non-causal theories of action; deviant causal chains in philosophy action and deviant justificatory chains in theory of knowledge; the analysis of knowledge; the nature of intention; teleology and action, knowledge-first views and action-first views; regresses and circles in theory of knowledge and philosophy of action. Attention is given to the questions: is the theory of action possible, and is the theory of knowledge possible? HU

T 1:30-3:20pm

Ethics and Value Theory

* PHIL 450b / EP&E 478b, 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
T 3:30pm-5:20pm

* PHIL 452a, History of Early Modern Ethics  Stephen Darwall

An examination of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century ethical philosophy, including Hobbes, Hutcheson, Hume, Butler, Rousseau, Kant, Smith, and Bentham.    HU
T 7pm-8:50pm

* PHIL 455b / EP&E 334b, 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
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

* PHIL 457a / EP&E 235a / PLSC 283a, 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
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

* 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
T 3:30pm-5:20pm

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.
HTBA

* 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.
HTBA