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Willamette University

900 State Street
Salem, Oregon 97301

503-370-6300 voice

Philosophy View this department's website

Courses in the Philosophy Department address such questions as: What is knowledge? Do we have free choice? Is there a God? How are value judgments justified? What is a person?

Requirements for the Philosophy Major (8 Credits)

  • PHIL 230 History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval (1)
  • PHIL 231 History of Philosophy: Modern (1)
  • Five credits in Philosophy (5)*
  • PHIL 492 (W) Philosophy Senior Seminar: Writing Philosophy (1)

* HUM 497 (W) Humanities Senior Seminar [Crosslisted with CLHI 497 (W)] may be used as one of these credits with departmental approval.

With departmental approval, students may satisfy this requirement by taking PHIL 490 Independent Study (1 credit). Students who wish to pursue the option of an independent study in this context should apply to the department and submit a prospectus.

Requirements For The Philosophy Minor (5 Credits)

  • Three credits in Philosophy at the 200 level or above (3)
  • Two additional credits in Philosophy (2)

Faculty

  • Sally Markowitz, Professor of Philosophy, Chair
  • Anthony Coleman, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • Louis F. Goble, Professor of Philosophy
  • Randall Havas, Professor of Philosophy
  • Kenneth Kirby, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • Ivan P. Welty, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Course Listings

PHIL 110 (AR) Philosophical Problems (1)

A general introduction to the problems and methods of philosophy drawing on classic and contemporary texts. Areas covered include metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic and the philosophy of religion. Particular emphasis placed on analyzing, evaluating and constructing arguments.

Mode of Inquiry: Analyzing Arguments, Reasons and Values

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Staff

PHIL 140 (QA) Symbolic Logic (1)

The construction of a formal system including a truth-functional and a predicate calculus. Rigorous reasoning about the properties of such a formal system. A discussion of some of the philosophical problems which arise from a consideration of this system.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Quantitative and Analytical Reasoning

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Goble

PHIL 150 (AR) Reason and Value in Plato’s Republic (1)

In the Republic, Plato defines the life of virtue against a skeptical position that denies any significant connection between morality and happiness. Plato’s defense of the view that the just life is always the happiest (and that injustice always makes one wretched) involves arguments about the nature of the soul, the meaning of happiness, the relation of individual and community, the nature of education, the limits of government and the role of art in a well-lived life. The aim of this course is to examine those arguments critically and, in the process, to deepen our understanding of what is involved in defending moral values on rational grounds.

Mode of Inquiry: Analyzing Arguments, Reasons and Values

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Havas

PHIL 210 Philosophy of Religion (1)

Problems of the philosophy of the Christian religion emphasizing religious language and knowledge claims. Certain basic problems of historical and philosophical interest, such as the grounds for belief in God.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Staff

PHIL 230 History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval (1)

Ancient and medieval philosophy from Thales through St. Thomas. The important ideas of leading philosophers and the movements they influenced. Emphasis is upon metaphysics and the problems of knowledge.

Prerequisite: PHIL 110

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Staff

PHIL 231 History of Philosophy: Modern (1)

Late Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Philosophy through Kant; emphasis upon metaphysics and the problems of knowledge. Major thinkers and influence on schools of thought such as Rationalism and Empiricism stressed. The impact of developments in science is studied, but considerations of ethics and social philosophy are not.

Prerequisite: PHIL 110

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Staff

PHIL 232 History of Philosophy: Contemporary (1)

Post-Kantian and contemporary Western philosophy. Major philosophers and movements of the 20th-century, including American.

Prerequisite: PHIL 110

  • Offering: Alternate years.
  • Instructor: Staff

PHIL 235 (W) Philosophical Ethics (1)

Problems of moral judgment and general value theory. Representative theories of major moral philosophers; emphasis on contemporary ethical theory.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: PHIL 110

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Markowitz

PHIL 238 Existentialism (1)

An introduction to the works of some of the chief figures of 19th- and 20th-century philosophy commonly labeled “existentialism”: Soren Kierkegaard, Fredrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sarte.

Prerequisite: One prior course in Philosophy strongly recommended

  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: Havas

PHIL 242 (AR) What is Art? (1)

What makes something a work of art? Must an artwork be beautiful, or can anything, given the right context, count as a work of art? What does it mean to say that some works of art are better than others? This course will examine such questions and the heated controversies they have provoked among artists, critics, philosophers, anthropologists, historians, and others.

Mode of Inquiry: Analyzing Arguments, Reasons and Values

  • Offering: Alternate springs
  • Instructor: Markowitz

PHIL 243 What is Math? (1)

Survey of philosophical investigations into the nature of mathematics, treating such questions as: What are numbers? Are mathematical truths discovered or invented? If discovered, how do we come to know about them? If invented, does just anything go? Do the various branches of mathematics share a common foundation? What do we mean by "foundation?" Are there limits to mathematics? Is the previous question mathematical? Readings will include selections from historical philosophers as well as contemporary philosophers and mathematicians. No prerequisites, although students might find it useful to have taken PHIL 140, or a course in computer science or mathematics.

  • Offering: Alternate falls
  • Instructor: Welty

PHIL 280 Epistemology (1)

Topics in the theory of knowledge: e.g., knowledge of the external world, skepticism, foundations of knowledge, perception, belief, justification, truth.

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: Goble

PHIL 324 American Pragmatism (1)

Survey of pragmatism from its roots in American transcendentalism to the classical works of Peirce, James, and Dewey. Other thinkers depending on student interest (e.g., G. H. Mead, C. I. Lewis, H. Putnam, R. Rorty, I. Levi, R. Bernstein). Topics to include philosophical psychology, the nature of truth, belief revision, scientific method, social philosophy, the nature of philosophy.

Prerequisite: One previous course in philosophy.

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Welty

PHIL 325 Kierkegaard, Meaning, and the Self (1)

This course will critically examine the notion of the self that underwrites Kierkegaard's conception of the problem of meaning in modern culture. Closed to freshmen.

Prerequisite: One Philosophy course or instructor's permission

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Havas

PHIL 330 (W) Social and Political Philosophy (1)

A comparison of the conceptions of justice proposed by contemporary political philosophers: the liberalism of John Rawls, the libertarianism of Robert Nozick, the communitarianism of Michael Sandel. It will cover feminist and other radical critiques of these views.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: One Philosophy course or instructor's permission

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Markowitz

PHIL 332 Philosophy of Science (1)

Philosophical analysis of concepts of scientific inquiry, such as: the structure of theory, observation, explanation and prediction, natural law, causation, confirmation, the existence of theoretical entities, the truth of scientific theories.

Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy; some science recommended

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Goble

PHIL 333 Metaphysics (1)

A study of some classical metaphysical concepts such as substance, essence, causation, time and freedom of will.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Staff

PHIL 335 History, Sexuality, and Power (1)

An examination of the foundations of Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, and gay and lesbian theory through a close reading of selected texts of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, and Michel Foucault. Special emphasis on the claim that we systematically and inevitably mispreceive various aspects of our psychic and social reality; on the way such misperceptions reflect and contribute to various aspects of social inequality; and on the tensions and complementarities between the discourses named above.

Prerequisite: One Philosophy course or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Alternate Springs
  • Instructor: Markowitz

PHIL 336 Philosophy and Feminism (1)

[Crosslisted with WGS 336]

Do traditional philosophical theories promote ways of thinking that perpetuate gender inequality? We will evaluate feminist criticisms of epistemology, ethics, social theory and aesthetics. We will also examine feminist alternatives to traditional philosophical perspectives.

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: Markowitz

PHIL 341 Heidegger's Being and Time (1)

A close and careful reading of Martin Heidegger’s seminal work, Being and Time, with special attention paid to Heidegger’s critique of traditional philosophy as well as to the conception of human beings he offers in its place. Closed to freshmen.

Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Havas

PHIL 343 Philosophy and the Arts (1)

An examination and evaluation of various theories about the nature of art and the aesthetic point of view. We will explore such issues as the possibility of defining art, the determination of the meaning and value of particular works of art, the relationship between our conception of art and the culture in which we live. We will also focus on the way art has developed in this century.

Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Markowitz

PHIL 350 The Self in Question (1)

An examination of the notion of the self from three different points of view. Is the self an object of some sort? If not, in what does self-knowledge consist? Is the self an activity? If so, are there better and worse ways of engaging in that activity? Is the self an illusion? If so, what accounts for the persistence of our sense of self? How might that illusion be seen for what it is? Readings from traditional and contemporary sources in Eastern and Western philosophy.

Prerequisite: PHIL 110 or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: Havas

PHIL 354 (4th Sem Lang Req) Nietzsche and Philosophy (1)

An introduction to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Special attention to his attack on morality, his relationship to traditional philosophy, his conception of history and his understanding of the body and culture.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Fourth Semester Language Requirement

Prerequisite: Philosophical Problems or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: Havas

PHIL 360 (W) Philosophy of Mind (1)

Analysis of various concepts concerning consciousness and the mind. We will investigate such questions as: the mind-body problem; the problem of other minds; the privacy of experience; personal identity; and the relation between thought and language.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: PHIL 110

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor:  Goble

PHIL 361 Later Wittgenstein (1)

A sustained engagement with Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, touching on themes in the philosophy of language and logic, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophical psychology. Although a sequel to "Contemporary Philosophy: Frege, Russell, [Earlier] Wittgenstein" all essential background will be supplied. Students who take both will have a comprehensive view of one of the central movements of 20th century philosophy.

Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy. Closed to first-year students.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Welty

PHIL 370 (W) Philosophy of Language (1)

Critical examination of some of the concepts central to understanding what language is and the way language works. We will study various philosophical theories of language such as meaning, reference, naming, truth, necessity and analyticity and also look at how the analysis of language applies to other philosophical problems.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: PHIL 110

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor:  Goble

PHIL 388 Special Topics (1)

Content varies with semester. The course may study a particular philosopher or approach to philosophy, or it may examine a particular philosophical problem in depth; it may be historical or it may have a contemporary perspective.

Prerequisite: PHIL 110 or consent of instructor

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

PHIL 390 Independent Study (.5 - 1)

Intensive study of a selected area.

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

490 Independent Study (.5 - 1)

Intensive study of a selected area.

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

PHIL 492 (W) Philosophy Senior Seminar: Writing Philosophy (1)

Focus on the craft of philosophical writing as well as on a particular philosophical topic. In addition to analyzing the structure of exemplary works of philosophy, students will criticize each other's work and revise their own short papers. Each student will then write and defend a major paper on some aspect of the topic of the seminar. Most philosophy majors will complete their Senior Year Experience through this course. The seminar is open to other qualified students with the instructor's consent.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Staff