Philosophy is about as broad a subject as one can find in a university curriculum. It addresses a wide array of questions, some quite familiar (Does God exist? Why be moral? What is art?), others less so (What is a thing? Is space a substance?). Philosophy includes the examination of its own methods, and its own history.
It also falls within philosophy to examine the methods and practices of virtually all academic disciplines. Because of this breadth, a person can study philosophy in ways involving the styles and techniques of thought of most other fields of inquiry. For example, the work of a philosopher concentrating in logic is much like that of the student of mathematics. A philosopher primarily interested in the philosophy of religion will often be doing much the same things as a theologian or a student of the history of religion. Political philosophy is regarded by some as including political activity itself. Many other such examples exist. In addition, Philosophy examines the practices of other activities, such as the fine arts, that are sometimes thought of as different from typical academic disciplines. However, for the most part the activities characteristic of philosophy are peculiar to the discipline. The only way to know what it's really like is to give it a try.
The Department offers a number of courses that do not carry prerequisites: (A) general introductions designed to acquaint students with a representative sample of philosophical problems (157, 181, 202, 232, and 297); (B) introductions that focus on a particular branch of philosophy or area of human concern - e.g., science, moral problems – designed for students who, having no previous background in philosophy, want to study these areas in a philosophical way (155 and 355, as well as 196); and (C) introductions to logic and reasoning (201, 203, 296, and 414).
(A) The general introductions deal, for example, with questions concerning the nature of reality, knowledge, the self and the mind, freedom, morality, society, and religion, but they differ in their instructional format and staffing. Philosophy 202 is taught by advanced graduate students in independent sections of approximately 25 students. Philosophy 157 and 181 are taught by faculty, in a combination lecture/discussion format, limited to 50 students. In Philosophy 232, a faculty member delivers a lecture two hours per week, and students divide into groups of approximately 25 for discussion sections led by graduate students. Finally, Philosophy 297, "Honors Introduction," is taught by a faculty member to a group of 25 students.
(B) Winter courses not carrying prerequisites that focus on a specific area of human concern or philosophical thought include "The Nature of Science" (155) and "Contemporary Moral Problems" (355), as well as a First-year Seminar (196). These courses do not require previous work in philosophy. Philosophy 155 is taught by a member of the faculty, in a combination lecture/discussion format, limited to 50 students. In Philosophy 355, a faculty member delivers a lecture two hours per week, and students divide into groups of approximately 25 for discussion sections led by graduate students. Philosophy 355 is approved as a Race or Ethnicity course.
(C) Among the introductions to logic, Philosophy 201, is designed to improve critical reasoning skills, through an introduction to informal logic; 203 is an introduction to formal or symbolic logic. Both 201 and 203 are taught by advanced graduate student teaching assistants in independent sections of approximately 25 students. Philosophy 296, "Honors Introduction to Logic," is taught by a faculty member to a group of 25 students. Philosophy 414, "Mathematical Logic," is an advanced introduction to formal logic. Both 296 and 414 are designated QR/1; they satisfy the LS&A Quantitative Reasoning Requirement in full.
A number of Winter 300-level courses require only a single philosophy introduction as a prerequisite: Political Philosophy (366), Philosophy of Law (369), Existentialism (371), Knowledge and Reality (383), Continental Philosophy (385), and History of Philosophy: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century (389).
There is additional information about the Department's curriculum in "The Undergraduate Program in Philosophy." This brochure contains information intended for students interested in taking philosophy courses, whether or not they are considering a Philosophy concentration. To request a copy, call 764-6285. Students considering a concentration in Philosophy are encouraged to make an appointment with a Philosophy concentration advisor.
155. The Nature of Science. Students are strongly advised not to take more than two Philosophy Introductions. (3). (HU). (BS).
This course serves as an introduction to the history and philosophy of natural science. During the first half we examine some great milestones in the history of science: the Copernican Revolution in astronomy, Newton's codification of mechanics, the discovery and clarification of the energy concept, and the formulation and acceptance of the atomic hypothesis. We use this history as a stepping stone toward a broad-based "philosophical" understanding of the scientific enterprise as a whole. Among the philosophical topics we will discuss are: (1) the nature of the "scientific method"; (2) the process whereby hypotheses are confirmed by empirical evidence; (3) the nature of scientific laws and their role in explanation; (4) the procedures by which new concepts are introduced into scientific theories; and (5) the reduction of one scientific theory to another. During the last half of the class we examine evolutionary biology and its implications for the creationist/evolutionist debate about the teaching of evolution in our public schools. Our aim will be to decide what makes some body of discourse a "science," and to see whether the evolution or creationism (or both, or neither) fit the bill. Students will read about forty pages of material per week, write two 8-10 page papers, and take a midterm and final exam. The course will contain about 50 students and will be taught in lecture format. Cost:2 WL:1 (Joyce)
157/Great Books 157. Great Books in Philosophy. Students are strongly advised not to take more than two Philosophy Introductions. (3). (HU).
This course is an introduction to philosophy through analysis and discussion of some of the great works in the western philosophical tradition. Students will learn important approaches to central philosophical questions through reading influential works which continue to inform and shape philosophy today. In addition to the analysis of texts, the identification and understanding of philosophical questions, and the evaluation of proposed answers, the course will emphasize development of student skills, particularly skills of argumentation, and of student understanding of the nature of intellectual inquiry. Readings will be selections from texts by Plato, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Dewey. Several papers will be required, and there will be either weekly quizzes or a final examination. (Meiland)
181. Philosophical Issues: An Introduction. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in 182, 202, 231, 232, 234, or 297. (3). (HU).
This course examines some of the main problems of philosophy, such as: How do we know that anything exists, other than ourselves? Are minds immaterial spirits, or are minds brains and hence nothing but complex physical objects? If human actions are causally determined by heredity and environment, is there any free will or moral responsibility? Is abortion, or euthanasia, or suicide, morally permissible? Is the nature and extent of our moral obligations determined by our feelings, self-interest, social convention, Divine commands, or something else? What are the different kinds of social, political, and economic organization, and what reasons are there for preferring one to another? How should one live one's life? What is the meaning of life, and what does this question mean? Are there good reasons for believing that God exists? Students will write papers discussing these topics. Cost:2 WL:4 (MacPherson)
196. First Year Seminar. First year students; second year students
with permission of instructor. (3). (HU).
Section 001 – Topics in the Philosophy of Biology and the Philosophy of Psychology. We will begin with Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, which is a very readable but controversial presentation of evolutionary theory as it bears, especially on behavior. Next is Ernst Mayr, One Long Argument, about the Darwinian revolution and about some contemporary controversies concerning evolution, and we will read some relevant journal articles. Then into some contemporary debates on the evolution and nature of mind, along with a bit of on the history of this subject. (Millikan)
201. Introduction to Logic. Credit is granted for only one of Phil. 180 or 201. (3). (N.Excl). (BS).
This course aims to give students a thorough understanding of the fundamental forms of reasoning and rational argument, and to improve critical reasoning skills that could be of use in a wide range of disciplines and careers. The course examines some of the problems and fallacies which arise in informal reasoning and logical concepts used in the analysis and criticism of arguments. Some elements of formal (symbolic) logic might be introduced. Though students will be expected to master some technical detail, the course emphasizes informal logical techniques applicable to problem solving and argument in any area of inquiry. Both deductive and inductive patterns of argument will be examined. The small section's size (usually about 25 students) is conducive to informality and considerable student participation. There will also be lectures, demonstrations of problem-solving techniques, and a variety of exercises. Normally, there are weekly assignments, and short, periodic quizzes. WL:4
202. Introduction to Philosophy. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in 181, 182, 231, 232, 234, or 297. (3). (HU).
This course introduces students to philosophy through an examination of some central philosophical problems. Topics might include: Are minds immaterial spirits, or are minds brains and hence nothing but complex physical objects? If human actions are causally determined by heredity and environment, is there any moral responsibility? Is abortion, oreuthanasia, or suicide, morally permissible? Is the nature and extent of our moral obligations determined by our feelings, self-interest, social convention, Divine commands, or something else? What are the reasons for preferring one kind of social, political, and economic organization to another? Are there good reasons for believing that God exists? How do we know that anything exists, other than ourselves? In addressing these questions, some sections focus on major historical figures, e.g., Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Kant; others focus on writings of twentieth century philosophers. Requirements usually include a number of short, critical papers. WL:4
203. Introduction to Symbolic Logic. Credit is granted for only one of Phil. 203 or 296. (3). (N.Excl). (BS).
Common sense classifies arguments as good or bad according to a variety of formal and informal criteria. Roughly speaking, we count an argument good if it makes plausible assumptions which exhibit its conclusion as likely to be true. Though the common sense classification is familiar and useful, sometimes we want something more precise and more amenable to systematic investigation. Thus we idealize from the intuitive notion of a "good" argument and call an argument valid if it is impossible for its assumptions to be true without its conclusion being true as well. Logic can now be defined as the study of validity. As it turns out, this study is best pursued by constructing artificial languages designed to replicate in purer form the logically relevant features of natural languages like English. Symbolic logic, the subject of this course, is the study of validity by reference to these formal languages. Students meet in sections of about 25 students each. Each section meets three hours per week and has a lecture/discussion format, with considerable student participation. Course requirements and grading vary from instructor to instructor, but normally there are weekly homework assignments and periodic quizzes. WL:4
232. Problems of Philosophy. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in 181, 182, 202, 231, 234, or 297. (4). (HU).
This course is open to students from all schools and all years. First-year undergraduates are welcome. No prior acquaintance with philosophy is assumed. The course will introduce students to philosophy through issues that we face in making life-decisions. What would make a good life for me? Is it always a bad thing to die? Am I free to direct the course of my life, or is its course predetermined? Could my life have begun before I was born? Might it continue after my body dies? Students will be helped to develop skills in critical thinking and argumentation. Graded work will include a final exam and two or three short papers. WL:2 (Velleman)
296. Honors Introduction to Logic. Honors students or permission of instructor. Credit is granted for only one of Phil. 203 or 296. (3). (N.Excl). (BS). (QR/1).
This is a course in modern symbolic logic. The guiding idea is to use a symbolic language to examine such logical properties and relations as valid inference, consistency and inconsistency, and logical truth. We will study ways of reasoning about reasoning. There will be two in-class exams and a final exam. Homework will be assigned weekly, and satisfactory completion of the homework is a requirement of the course. Many good Honors students will find this course challenging, and working with course material should help students to develop skills in understanding concepts and methods of argumentation that are initially difficult. (Gibbard)
297. Honors Introduction to Philosophy. Honors students or permission of instructor. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in 181, 182, 202, 231, 232, or 234. (3). (HU).
This course will offer an introduction to issues and methods of philosophy. We will focus on some central philosophical questions which will include the following: Do we have free will? Are we morally responsible for what we do? Does God exist? Is it reasonable to believe in the existence of God? Does morality depend on religion? Is morality "objective" or "relative"? What is it for an action to be right or wrong? Readings for the course will include works by both historical and contemporary figures. Class meetings will be a mix of lecture and discussion. Emphasis will be placed on the development of strong writing and analytical skills. Several papers and a final essay exam. (Rosati)
355. Contemporary Moral Problems. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in 455. (4). (HU).
This course will explore competing theories of justice, the moral dimensions of the problems of racism and sexism, contrasting explanations of racial and gender inequality, the state enforcement of morality, and the moral status of animals and the environment. Rival conceptions of freedom, equality, and justice will be assessed through an examination of such issues as affirmative action, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, censorship of pornography, abortion, and animal rights. Several weeks will be devoted to a critical study of racism as a moral issue and as a social phenomenon. Emphasis will be placed on the relations between moral and political theories and social analysis. There will be three papers and a final examination. Cost:3 WL:4 (Darwall)
366. Introduction to Political Philosophy. One Philosophy Introduction. (4). (HU).
Traditionally, political philosophers have concerned themselves with certain questions about political authority: Should there be government? What sort of government? What are the limits of governmental authority? Yet they have also offered detailed visions of what society and social relations call and should be like. In this course, we will explore some of the central issues of political philosophy through a study of both major figures in the history of political philosophy (such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau) and contemporary political philosophers (such as Rawls and Nozick). Our focus will be on the three dominant political philosophies: social contract theory, utilitarianism, and socialism. We will examine critically how each philosophy conceives of human nature, human society, value, freedom, political obligation, and political legitimacy. Lecture and discussion sections. Course requirements will include a final essay exam, papers, and possibly a midterm. (Rosati)
369. Philosophy of Law. One philosophy introduction. (3). (Excl).
Law is both an important institution of modern life, shaping how we plan and act, and also a focus of intense and vigorous philosophical debate. The philosophy of law lies at the intersection of moral, political, and social philosophy. It is the effort to apply philosophical methods and insights to some of the issues that are raised by the importance of law and legal systems. This course will examine questions about the nature and value of law. What, if anything, distinguishes law from the orders of a gangster? What is the connection between law, properly so called, and morality? Is there an obligation to obey the law? We will also examine questions raised by the processes of modern legal systems. What is the proper role of the judiciary, and how can judges justify their decisions? What distinguishes common law from statutory and constitutional law? In the process of investigating these questions, we will need to explore certain basic features of our own legal system, but I do not assume that students have any special familiarity with law or legal concepts. Cost:2 WL:4 (Wellman)
371. Existentialism. One Philosophy Introduction. (3). (HU).
Although you very probably have read one or the other of the texts for this course (surely, at least, The Stranger), no previous acquaintance with any will be strictly speaking presupposed. Among the authors on which we will focus are Dostoevsky (The Notes from Underground and chapters from The Brothers Karamazov), Nietzsche (Zarathustra and On the Genealogy of Morals), Sartre (Nausea and Being and Nothingness ) and Camus' most famous works. Writers like Heidegger, Kafka, Rilke and Hesse will also be discussed, but more briefly, and we will beyond this look for the expression of Existentialist themes and ideas in contemporary literature, as well as in film and more generally in art. Several short exercises leading up to one longer paper and the usual examinations. (Bergmann)
383. Knowledge and Reality. One course in philosophy. (3). (HU).
This course will provide students with a broad overview of modern epistemology and metaphysics. Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowledge and justified belief. We will be concerned with two main epistemological issues: (1) Is all knowledge based on a foundation of "basic" self-evident beliefs that themselves require no justification? (2) To what extent must a believer have access to the facts that justify her beliefs? Metaphysics is the study of very general concepts and properties that apply to all objects. We will consider the concepts of identity, paying special attention to identity over time, and the modal notions of possibility and necessity, with special emphasis on the evaluation of "contrary-to-fact" conditionals. Students will be asked to read about 50 pages of material per week, to write two 10-12 page papers, and to take a midterm and a final exam. (Joyce)
385. Continental Philosophy Since 1900. One course in philosophy. (3). (HU).
This course is a survey of 20th century French and German Philosophy. We will analyze and interpret some of the major texts and schools of thought which have developed since 1900, and we will critically evaluate and discuss the significance of the views of these philosophers. We will begin with the development of phenomenology (Edmund Husserl, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty). Sartre's existentialism will be briefly discussed. Then we will consider Structuralism (Claude Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan), Critical Theory or "the Frankfurt School" (Max Horkheimer, Jurgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse), the thought of Michel Foucault (as represented by his The Order of Things), and Hermeneutics (Hans-Georg Gadamer). We will be concerned with the implications of the views of these thinkers for the critique of objective (and scientific) thought, for the investigations of subjectivity, for work in the social sciences, and the methods and goals of intellectual activity. Students will be required to write several papers. WL:1 (Meiland)
389. History of Philosophy: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. One Philosophy Introduction. (4). (HU).
This course examines the development of modern philosophy in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Considerable attention is devoted to each of Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. The primary emphasis is placed upon philosophical rather than historical or interpretative issues. These philosophical issues are drawn from epistemology and metaphysics, to the exclusion of ethics and political philosophy. The following topics are discussed: skepticism about the existence of the material world, theories of perception and of the nature of material objects, the problem of induction, the nature and limits of a priori knowledge, innate knowledge, empiricist theories of meaning, analytic and synthetic truth, necessary and contingent truth, God, substance, causation, the self, the relationship between mind and body, and personal identity. Students are evaluated on the basis of three papers and a final examination. There are three hours of lecture and one hour of discussion per week. WL:1 (Loeb)
402. Undergraduate Seminar in Philosophy. Open to junior and senior concentrators and to others by permission of concentration advisor. (3). (Excl).
In this seminar students can harness an interest in Ayn Rand's novels or argumentative works (i.e., "Objectivism") for a ride into the wilderness of contemporary analytic philosophy (or, vice versa). Rand seeks to support an impressively wide-ranging set of philosophical conclusions, and to apply them systematically to many issues of practical importance. She argues, for instance, that all human knowledge rests on a few basic certainties ("foundationalism"), that the external world and even moral facts exist independently of any views about them ("realism"), that self interest is the proper fundamental standard of moral value ("egoism"), and that private property and free enterprise form the best social system ("capitalism"). While her arguments for these conclusions are interesting and may seem initially attractive, they have many serious shortcomings. We will examine them, and consider alternative arguments (sometimes supplementary, sometimes opposed) from philosophers such as Quine, Searle, Nozick, Kripke, Fodor, Dennett, and Boyd. Cost:2 (Lormand)
406. Aristotle. One Philosophy Introduction. (3). (Excl).
The course will aim to provide a thorough grounding in the basic issues of Aristotelian metaphysics, science of nature, psychology, ethics and political philosophy. The texts on which it will concentrate will be the Metaphysics, Physics, De Anima Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, but others will be canvassed as well, particularly the Posterior Analytics, the Parva Naturalia and the biological works. The hope will be to reveal the semantic nature of Aristotle's thought whilst paying careful attention to the details of the text under scrutiny. (Everson)
414. Mathematical Logic. (3). (Excl). (BS). (QR/1).
A mathematical study of formal languages, with an eye to their philosophical relevance. We will study artificial "languages" whose logical features are rigorously defined, and which are intended to distill logical characteristics of natural languages like English. These will include propositional, predicate, and modal logics. We will explore proof algorithms and models-theoretic semantics for these languages, and prove various adequacy results about the proof algorithms, including soundness and completeness theorems. This course provides useful background for advanced study in linguistics and in nearly all fields of analytic philosophy, including especially philosophy of language and metaphysics. Written work will consist of extensive problem sets and midterm and final exams, and will require detailed mathematical proofs. (Crimmins)
420. Philosophy of Science. A course in logic or permission of instructor. (3). (Excl). (BS).
Philosophy of science is concerned with such questions as: (1) In what sense, or in what ways, are scientific theories tested or confirmed? (2) Do these methods of testing or confirming confer upon scientific theories a special claim to be believed or to be objective? (3) How are we to interpret certain central notions in science: explanation, law, probability, cause, observation, and so on? (4) Does the history or sociology of science raise questions about the credibility of scientific theories? We will discuss these questions, and others, surveying the development of philosophy of science from logical positivism to the present. Among the figures we will read are a number of the most influential 20th century philosophers, including: Popper, Hempel, Kuhn, Putnam, Carnap, Ayer, Quine, Lakatos, and Van Fraassen. Midterm and final examination. Term paper. WL:1 (Railton)
433. History of Ethics. Phil. 361 or permission of instructor. (3). (Excl).
The modern period in moral philosophy began with Thomas Hobbes, whose Leviathan (1651) shook the traditional foundations of ethics and forced those who would defend ethics against (what they saw to be) Hobbes' nihilism to do so in a broadly naturalistic framework that took serious account of recent advances in science. Thus began a period of exciting and fruitful moral philosophy that stretched through the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth. Indeed, even debates now current in moral philosophy almost always can be traced back to origins in this period. This course will be a study of several of the central writers and texts of this "enlightenment" period. In addition to Hobbes, we shall read Hutcheson, Butler, Hume, Kant, Bentham and Rousseau. We shall end with a radical critic of this broad tradition: Nietzsche. Course requirements: short paper, long paper, final exam. Cost:2 WL:1 (Darwall)
437/MHM 437. Philosophy of Music. An introductory course in philosophy; or previous course work in music; or permission of the instructor. (3). (Excl).
A philosophical investigation of the nature and significance of music. What kind(s) of value does music have, and how is it important? Does its value lie merely in its structure, in the notes themselves? Does music have "meanings" of some sort? What is it for music to be expressive? What kinds of feelings or emotions does music evoke in listeners? Does it portray or represent feelings? Is music ever a source of knowledge or understanding or insight? Can it have (good or bad) moral effects on people? What are musical performances, and how do good performances differ from merely "correct" ones? What sorts of entities are musical works, and how are they related to performances and to musical scores? What is the role of music in song, opera, theater, film, dance? What functions does it serve in religious or cultural or social or political contexts? WL:4 (Walton)
455. Contemporary Moral Problems. Not open to graduate students in philosophy. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in Phil. 355. (4). (Excl).
Intended primarily for graduate students outside the philosophy department. Course content is the same as in Philosophy 355. Philosophy 455 requires longer and more substantial papers than those expected in Philosophy 355. Does not meet the Philosophy Department's 400-level course requirement for philosophy concentrators. Cost:3 WL:4 (Darwall)
458. Philosophy of Kant. Phil. 389, 461, or 462, or permission of instructor, or concentration advisor. (3). (Excl).
A detailed introduction to Kant's mature philosophical system. We'll look at Kant's effort to work out the scope and limits of possible human knowledge, his effort to sum up morality in a single categorical imperative, and his effort to give a purely moral basis and significance to religious faith. But the bulk of our time will be devoted to the account of human experience and human factual knowledge in the Critique of Pure Reason. There Kant argues that the world of our experience must possess certain very general features by tracing those features to a source in us. And he argues that behind the familiar world of our experience is a second, more fundamental world about which we can know next to nothing. Most of the required reading is from Kant's own major works. Written work is three short papers. Class participation will be strongly encouraged. Cost:2 WL:1 (Hills)
465. Contemporary Continental Philosophy. Phil. 412 and two other courses in philosophy; or graduate standing. (3). (Excl).
The central topic of this course will be Postmodernism. We will be examining it as a cultural phenomenon (e.g., in architecture and literature, but in of course very much else) but also as a philosophical position (as among others in Lyotard, Derrida and possibly Rorty). The scrutiny and critique of it as a philosophical position will be to us most important. We will have a closer look at its often alleged roots in Nietzsche, as well as its much discussed relationship to the collapse of Socialism, but we will pay more extensive and detailed attention to the guises in which it appears and the effects it has on literary criticism and most particularly on the Social Sciences. One longer paper as well as the usual examinations. (Bergmann)
475/Chinese 475/Hist. of Art 487/RC Hums. 475/Asian Studies 475. The Arts and Letters of China. May not be included in a concentration plan in philosophy. (4). (HU).
See Chinese 475.
481. Metaphysics. One Philosophy Introduction. (3). (Excl).
Classical and contemporary readings on such topics as the identity of persons, properties, objects through time, the nature of time itself, causation, mind, and human freedom and action. There will be two examinations and a series of one to three page papers on assigned topics or, with consent of the instructor, a somewhat longer paper may be substituted for some of the shorter papers. Graduate students will write a somewhat longer paper on a subject of their own choosing as well as the shorter assigned-topic papers. A balance of student reports, lecture, and discussion. Texts are: Ronald C. Hoy and L. Nathan Oaklander, Metaphysics, Classic and Contemporary Readings, Wadsworth Publishing; and Andrew B. Schoedinger, Introduction to Metaphysics, Prometheus. Cost:2 (Millikan)
University of Michigan | College of LS&A | Student Academic Affairs | LS&A Bulletin Index
This page maintained by LS&A Academic Information and Publications, 1228 Angell Hall
The Regents of the University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 USA +1 734 764-1817
Trademarks of the University of Michigan may not be electronically or otherwise altered or separated from this document or used for any non-University purpose.