Philosophy

Women's College and College of Adult Undergraduate Studies

Overview
Major
Minor
Four-Year plan
Course Descriptions

Maeve O'Donovan, Ph.D., Chair
Desirée Melton, Ph.D.

Nancy Tarr-Hart, Visiting Professor

The philosophy department of the School of Arts and Sciences offers a major and minor in philosophy to students in the Women's College, and a minor to students in the College of Adult Undergraduate Studies. Philosophy courses are also offered in the university’s graduate programs. Philosophy, the oldest of the liberal arts, rests on Socrates' views that "all philosophy begins in wonder" and "the unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates promoted the practical uses of philosophy in everyday life and encouraged dialogue and vigorous debate as the most effective ways of discerning truth. In this Socratic spirit, the philosophy department seeks to assist the student in acquiring a fundamental and realistic understanding of herself and her world, to acquaint the student with the thinking of philosophers whose ideas have most influenced the development of our culture, and to engender in the student those habits of critical and systematic thinking that are necessary for a coherent view of the world. The philosophy department curriculum pays special attention to issues of social justice and diversity, providing courses in critical race theory, feminist philosophy, Islamic philosophy, and philosophy of disability.

Students with strong backgrounds in philosophy have chosen to attend graduate schools, including the Yale School of Divinity, American University, University of Chicago, University of Maryland School of Law, University of Maryland School of Dentistry, State University of New York at Binghamton, and University of Oklahoma. Others have accepted positions in the fields of education, business, law, politics and medicine.

Notre Dame's general education requirements include two courses in philosophy, one at the introductory 200-level and one at the 300-or 400-level.

To fulfill the general education requirement in values, a student may take PHL-322, 330, 334, 336, 339 or 471. PHL-323 fulfills the general education requirement in gender studies.

Students must earn of minimum cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 in all courses taken to complete the requirements of the philosophy major.

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Program of Study

Required Courses for the Major in Philosophy (Credits)

The major consists of a total of 33 credits to include:

One introductory course (3)
IDS-172 Honors: The Axial Age: Philosophy of East and West
PHL-201 Introduction to Philosophy

One course in religion and human nature (3)
PHL-302 Philosophy of Human Nature
PHL-305 Philosophy of Religion
PHL-306 Problem of Evil
IDS-479 Honors: Philosophy through Literature

One course in metaphysics and epistemology (3)
PHL-321 Epistemology
PHL-374 Metaphysics
PHL-310 Logic
PHL-301 Honors: The Mind-Body Problem

One course in ethics (3)
PHL-330 Ethics
PHL-334 Business Ethics
PHL-336 Environmental Ethics
PHL-339 Medical Ethics
PHL-471 Honors: Morals and Mortality: Ethics of Exiting

One course in value theory (3)
PHL-322 Social & Political Philosophy
PHL-324 Critical Theories of Race
PHL-323 Feminist Philosophy
PHL-320 Aesthetics

One course from the historical sequence (3)

PHL 312 History of Western Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

PHL 313 History of Western Modern and Contemporary Philosophy

PHL 376H: Honors: Human Flourishinh: Ancient Perspectives, Contemporary Interpretations

One seminar (3)
PHL-422 Major Themes in Philosophy
PHL-424 Major Figures in Philosophy

Three electives at the 300- or 400-level (3)
PHL-411 Senior Thesis (3)

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Minor in Philosophy

The philosophy department also offers a minor in philosophy that consists of 18 credit hours of course work in philosophy. Courses for the minor are chosen by the student and should be selected in consultation with a faculty member in the philosophy department.

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Philosophy Four-Year Plan

Sample program of study for the philosophy major. Students should select courses with the assistance of a faculty advisor.

Fall Spring 
First year      
ENG-101 College Writing 3 Foreign Language 3
IDS-100 Perspectives in Education 3 History 3
COM-101  4 Mathematics 3
PHL-201 Introduction to Philosophy 3 Social Science 3
Physical Educa PHL-201 Introduction to Philosophy 3
 [15 credits]   [15 credits]  
Second year      
PHL Historical sequence course 3 PHL Ethics course 3
Fine Arts 3 PHL 300/400-level elective 3
RST-201 Introduction to Biblical Studies 3 Religious Studies (300/400 level) 3
COM-106 Fundamentals of Oral Communication 3 English Literature 3
General Education/Electives 3 General Education/Electives 3
Physical Education 1 [15 credits]  
[16 credits]      
Third year      
PHL Religion and Human nature course 3 PHL Metaphysics and Epistemology course 3
PHL Historical sequence course 3 PHL Seminar course 3
General Education/Electives 9 General Education/Electives 9
[15 credits]   [15 credits]  
Fourth year      
PHL Value theory course 3 PHL 300/400 level elective 3
PHL 411 Senior Thesis 3 General Education/Electives 12
General Education/Electives 9 [15 credits]  
[15 credits]      

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Courses

PHL-101 Fundamentals of Logic

Introduction to the science of correct thinking. Fundamentals of traditional and symbolic logic. Applications of problems to contemporary life. 3 credits.

PHL-102 Intro to Philosophy II

PHL-172 Honors: Axial Age Philos

PHL-201 Introduction to Philosophy

Studies some of the major issues that have intrigued reflective people from time immemorial: How do we know? What is human nature? Is there life after death? Where did the universe originate? We will evaluate replies suggested from the time of Plato to the 20th century. Fulfills general education requirement for 200-level course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-202 Six Great Ideas

PHL-203 Philosophical Paths to Present

The nature and scope of philosophical thinking as seen through an historical study of the thoughts of great philosophers from ancient to contemporary periods. Fulfills General Education requirement for 200 level course. 3 credits. Not open to students who have had IDS 172 or another 200-level Philosophy course.

PHL-204 Search for Meaning Life

PHL-271 Honors: Human Nature and Knowlege

Examines critically sensitive and rational life, primarily through a comparison of animal behavior and human existence. Investigates the extent and value of various forms of human knowledge. Prerequisites: 200-level philosophy course, Morrissy scholar or permission. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-299 DA Philosophy- Lower Level

Degree Audit

PHL-301 Honors: The Mind-Body Problem

Introduces students to the problematic nature of the statement "our minds control our bodies." Identifies the philosophical and psychological assumptions underlying this statement. Examines the contradictions and unrecognized implications of these assumptions. Explores alternative accounts of what is known, in philosophy and psychology, as mind-body interaction, including accounts that deny the existence of mind, and/or provides alternative models. Prerequisites: IDS-172 or PHL-201 and PSY-101. Fulfills general education requirement in philosophy. [3 credits]

PHL-302 Philosophy of Human Nature

Explores the meaning and nature of human existence. Investigates both classic and contemporary answers to the following questions: Is the person a body or a mind? Are we free or determined? What grounds do we have for belief in God? On what principles do we judge things right or wrong? Why should citizens obey the law? What things do we call art? When can I say "I know"? What is the meaning of life? Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-305 Philosophy of Religion

Investigates major thinkers and issues in the history of philosophy of religion, including: the attributes and existence of God, the problem of evil, the nature of miracles, survival after death, and other issues. Prerequisites: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-306 The Problem of Evil

Analyzes the Judeo-Christian tradition's responses to the problem of evil: If God is all good, all knowing and all powerful, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-310 Logic

This course will address topics in both informal and formal logic, with an emphasis on formal logic. Topics covered will include argument identification and structure, the translation of English statements into propositional form, the use of truth tables, and natural deduction in propositional logic. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level philosophy. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-311 Disability and Moral Personhood

Examines philosophical conceptions of moral personhood in a global contect, concentrating on the role that abilities and disabilities play in determining who is considered a qualified, morally autonomous agent. Many lifelong and acquired disabilities are known to interfere with persons' reasoning and communicating abilities. Most ethical theories require that persons be both fully rational and able to communicate in order to garner respect as moral decision makers. Consequently, many persons labelled disabled are denied moral autonomy/the right to self-determination. Globally there is not consensus as to who or what counts as disabled; a cross-cultural perspective is therefore necessary in examining how disability and ability factor in conceptions of moral personhood in ethical theorizing. Prerequisite: 200-level Philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirements in 300/400 level PHL, cross-cultural studies, [ 3 credits ]

PHL-312 History of Ancient and Medieval Western Philosophy

Explores the major philosophical thinkers and movements in Western philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the works of Socrates. Plato and Aristotle as well as the major philosophical thinkers and movements in Western pnhilosophy from St. Augustine in the fifth century to responses to Thomas Aquinas in the 14th and 15th centuries. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/500 level course. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-313 History of Modern and Contemporary Western Philosophy

Explores Western philosophic thought from the 17th and 19th centuries through the works of select Continental Retionalists and British Empiricists with a special emphasis on metaphysical and eopistemological views. Considers questions (and answers) that dominate 19th and 20th century Western philosophy. Investigates the origins and themes of American pragmatism, Anglo-American philosophy of language, existential-phenomenology, critical theory and postmodernism. Offers an opportunity to make sense of emerging issues and debates in 21st century philosophy. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level philosophy course. Prerequites: 200-level philosophy course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-314 Morals and Mortality: Philosophies of Suicide

Explores the place of suicide in the study of philosophy. Voluntary death poses major challenges to philosophy, both the challenge to make sense of what is quite likely the most perplexing of human possibilities, as well as a stark challenge to the validity of the philosophical enterprise in general. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a wide variety of perspectives on suicide by exploring both first-person accounts provided by the suicidal, as well as some of the most famous contemporary philosophical discussions of suicide. The class will question both the "what" and the "who" of voluntary death, as well as if the discipline of philosophy has claim to a unique relationship to this phenomenon. We will also explore the "application" of these philosophical insights on suicide by acquainting outselves with the major movements in the contemporary debate in ethics surrounding suicide. Prerequisite: PHL-201. Fulfills general education requirements for 300/400-level course in philosophy and values. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-315 Philosophy of Sexuality

Employs a philosophical approach in the study of human sexuality. Specific topics include questions related to secual orientation, lus, casual sex, adultery, love, sexual preferences, relationships, and the intersectionality of sexual identity with other identities such as race and gender. As we consider these questions, we will challenge assumptions regarding human sexuality, consider the importance of sexuality to a good life, and discuss the appropriate role of the state in human secual behavior. Prerequisite: PHL-201. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level philosophy course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-320 Aesthetics

Explores the philosophy of beauty. What is the nature, function and value of a work of art? What is the relationship between art and reality? What is the relationship between the artist and the audience? Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-321 Epistemology: Knowledge & Ignorance

Analyzes the nature and scope of human knowledge. Focuses on the ways in which knowing, believing and having an opinion differ, and investigates the limitations of reason and the boundaries of human understanding. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-322 Social and Political Philosophy

Examines the origins and justifications of various social and political systems from ancient through contemporary times. Topics addressed may include: The moral justification of particular forms of government, the definition of community and the relationship of the individual to the community, and the importance of race and gender in society. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirements for 300/400-level course and values. [3 credits]

PHL-323 Feminist Philosophy

Investigates the meaning and significance of lived, bodily experience in the formation of human consciousness. Evaluates the history of Western Philosophy from the perspective of those who were once seen as marginal to it, and in doing so elucidates the many debates within Feminist Philosophy about the nature and limits of the philosophical enterprise. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirements for 300/400-level course and gender. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-324 Critical Philosophy of Race

Examines the concept of race and the phenomenon of racism. Differentiates between individual racism and institutional racism, with a strong focus on the latter. Topics addressed may include: The concept of race as both constructed and real, the politics of racialized identity, epistemologies of ignorance, the persistence of racial inequality, reparations, and the intersection of race with gender, class and sexuality. The corseis heavily interdisciplinary, drawing from history, sociology, gender studies, comparative literature, African-American studies, and Hispanic/Latino studies. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirements for 300/400-level course. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-327 Pholosophy of Mind: Robots, Disabilities and Mental Life

Examines historical and contemporary conceptions of the mind and mental functions. Investigates the ways in which cognitive disabilities, technological advancements, and recent philosophical research are challenging traditional conceptions of mind and mental functioning. Topics to be addressed include: autism and the problem of other minds; artificial intelligence and the limitations of functionalism; epiphenomenalism and the phenomenal mind; modularity of mind and the limits of evolutionary psychology. By studying what a mind is, who and what kinds of things have minds, how minds work and how minds often fail to work, as well as whehter it is minds that exist or merely mental conent and activity, students develop a deep understanding of the ways science, technology and philosophy are challenging traditional beliefs about human beings. Prerequisites: PHL-172 or PHL-201. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-330 Ethics

Introduces contemporary moral issues in light of systems suggested by major thinkers such as Aristotle, J. S. Mill and Kant. Includes considerations of topics such as abortion, euthanasia, cloning and capital punishment. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirements for 300/400-level and values. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-331 Ethics-Founding Fathers

An analysis of the structure and foundations of morality with special emphasis on the ethical thought of the framers of the United States Constitution.

PHL-334 Business Ethics

Discusses ethics as a dimension of social responsibility, the role of corporate culture in business, and emerging issues in business ethics, such as the ways in which differences will affect ethical decision making. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirements for 300/400-level course and values. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-335 Professional Ethics

PHL-336 Environmental Ethics

Addresses a variety of challenging issues in environmental ethics. Topics considered may include, among others: the status of non-human animals, farming and the environment, global climate change, inter-generational justice, issues of land use, the preservation of forests and wilderness, and the use and development of energy resources. Through an examination of some of these issues, the course also introduces students to a variety of moral theories, from both philosophical and religious perspectives. The social, gender, and environmental justice implications of ecological issues are a major concern of the course. Fulfills general education requirements for 300/400-level PHL and values. Crosslisted with ENV 336. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-337 Cyber Ethics

PHL-338 Legal Ethics

Analysis of the structure and foundations of morality with special emphasis on ethical problems related to the legal profession.

PHL-339 Medical Ethics

Evaluates the traditional foundations of moral theory in the West, with special emphasis on issues in medical ethics. Prerequisites: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirements for 300/400-level course and values. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-375 Hrs: Being and God

Study of the properties and first principles of being, investigation of the supreme classes of being, and study of the basic notions of causality with special consideration of the ultimate efficient and final cause of reality; critical examination of contemporary evaluations of arguments for God's existence.

PHL-376 Hrs: Human Flourishing: Ancient Perspectives, Contemporary Interpretation

Requires students to examine, in a seminar format, the representations of human flourishing presented in Ancient philosophy and literature. Ancient texts, such as Homer;s Odyssey, Plato's dialogues, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, and Greek tragedies present myriad understandings of the relationship between moral goodness, luck, and human flourishing. These topics will be studied with a focus on primary texts, hand in hand with contemporary philosophical writings on relevant themes. Prerequisite: Morrissy Scholar or permission and 200-level PHL course. Fulfills general education requirement in upper-level philosophy. [3 credits]

PHL-399 DA Philosophy - Upper Level

Degree Audit

PHL-402 Philosophical Figures

An intensive study of the works of a major philosopher.(May be taken more than once on different philosophers.)

PHL-404 Top: Non-Western Philos

A critical and historical examination of a concept, thinker or school of thought in a nonwestern tradition. (May be taken more than once on different topics.)

PHL-411 Philosophy Senior Thesis

Student designs a research project culminating in a thesis on a philosophical issue. At the end of the semester, the student will give an oral presentation of her thesis to department faculty and students. Prerequisite: philosophy major with senior status, or philosophy major with junior status and at least seven philosophy courses completed, or permission. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-422 Major Themes in Philosophy

Provides an in-depth exploration of a major theme, concept, framework, or idea central to the discipline of philosophy. May be taken twice on different themes. Past themes include: Philosophy of Mind & Disability, Virtue Theory & Anti-Theory. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. Fulfills general education requirement for cross-cultural studies ONLY WHEN THEME IS Islamic philosophy. [3 credits]

PHL-424 Major Figures in Philosophy

Provides an in-depth exploration of a major figure or group of figures, either historical or contemporary, central to the discipline of philosophy. Past themes include: Islamic Philosophy, Immanuel Kant, Simone de Beauvoir. May be taken twice on different figures. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course. [3 credits]

PHL-427 Study Tour

A short-term, retreat style learning opportunity that takes place at Kylemore Abbey, the oldest of Irish Benedictine abbeys. Lectures on Ireland's history and geography, its poets and artists, are supplemented by readings in contemporary philosophy and Yoga contemplative practice. Participants will have daily opportunities to gather and reflect on the connections between philosophy, spirituality, and poetry, and are encouraged to bring supplies for expressing their thoughts more creatively (in drawings, paintings, and poetry). Fulfills general education requirement for 300/400-level course. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course or permission of instructor. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-451 Philosphy of Art

PHL-463 Independent Study

Provides an opportunity for independent work on an approved topic in philosophy. Prerequisite: 200-level philosophy course; one 300-level course; and permission of instructor. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-465 Directed Readings in Philosophy

Provides an opportunity to explore an area of the student's particular interest under the guidance of a member of the department to permit intensive examination of the area of special interest. Prerequisite: one 200-level philosophy course; one 300-level philosophy course; permission of the instructor. [ 3 credits ]

PHL-471 Honors: Morals and Mortality: Ethics of Exiting

Considers the structure and foundations of morality with special emphasis on ethical problems related to death and dying. Prerequisite: PHL-201, Morrissy scholar or permission. Fulfills general education requirement in philosophy and values. [3 credits]