The Philosophy major prepares students to reflect critically and creatively on questions concerning the nature of things, the scope and limits of human understanding, and the principles of value and right action. The aim of the major is to address these questions wherever they arise, whether in the philosophical tradition, in other disciplines and practices, or in everyday life. Our courses are designed to encourage depth in thinking, rigor in argument, clarity in writing and speaking, and the widest possible view of whatever subject matter we take up.
Courses for Nonmajors and Majors
Introductory philosophy courses, numbered 100 through 199, are open to all students and have no prerequisites.
Courses numbered 100 through 199 are introductory and have no prerequisites. Courses numbered 200 through 399 are intermediate. Some have prerequisites; others do not, and may be taken as a student's first course in philosophy, though such a student should consult the instructor first. In general, it is a good idea to take a broadly based course in any area of philosophy before taking a specialized course. Courses numbered 400 through 499 are seminars. These advanced courses are intended primarily for juniors and seniors, though other students may be admitted with the instructor's permission. Undergraduates should be sure they have enough background to take such a course, including previous work in the same area of philosophy. Students with questions should consult the instructor.
Standard major Prerequisite to the standard major are two introductory or intermediate philosophy courses.
Psychology track Prerequisite to the major in the psychology track are two courses in philosophy or psychology.
Requirements of the Major
The standard major The major requires twelve courses (including the prerequisites and the senior requirement) that collectively expose students to a wide range of philosophy and philosophers. The Philosophy curriculum is divided into three broad groups: history of philosophy; metaphysics and epistemology; and ethics and value theory. In history of philosophy, majors are required to take (a) either PHIL 125 and 126 or both terms of Directed Studies (DRST 003, 004), and (b) an additional, third course in history of philosophy. Majors are encouraged to take PHIL 125 and 126 as early as possible; these courses may be taken in either order. Majors must complete two courses in metaphysics and epistemology, two courses in ethics and value theory, and a course in logic (such as PHIL 115), the last preferably by the fall of their junior year. Majors must also take two seminars (either or both of which can be counted toward one of the group requirements) and satisfy the senior requirement as described below.
All courses in Philosophy count toward the twelve-course requirement. With approval from the director of undergraduate studies, courses offered by other departments may be counted toward the major requirements, though no more than two such courses will normally be allowed.
Specific regulations for the group requirements are as follows:
- Some introductory courses do not count toward any group requirement. Other courses count toward a group requirement unless they are otherwise designated.
- Courses automatically count toward the group under which they are listed in this bulletin. In rare cases, a course will be designated as counting toward a second group, although no single course can be counted by the same student toward two group requirements. In addition, students may petition to have a course count toward a group other than the one under which it is listed in this bulletin, though the presumption will be against such petitions.
- Courses taken in other departments and applied to the major will not normally count toward a group requirement. Students may petition for credit toward a group requirement, though the presumption will be against such petitions.
The Psychology track The psychology track is designed for students interested in both philosophy and psychology. Majors in the track must take seven courses in philosophy and five in psychology, for a total of twelve, including the prerequisites and senior requirement. The seven philosophy courses must include (a) two courses in the history of philosophy, usually PHIL 125 and 126 or DRST 003 and 004, (b) a course in logic, such as PHIL 115, preferably by the fall of the junior year, (c) two seminars, one of which may be in the Psychology department, with the approval of the DUS, and (d) at least two courses at the intermediate or advanced level that bear on the intersection of philosophy and psychology, at least one of which must be a philosophy seminar. Courses satisfying (d) must be approved by the DUS. The five psychology courses must include PSYC 110 or its equivalent. Each major must also satisfy the senior requirement as described below.
Credit/D/Fail No more than one course taken Credit/D/Fail may be counted toward the major, with the permission of the DUS. This applies to both the standard and the psychology tracks.
The senior requirement is normally satisfied by completing a third philosophy seminar. Students taking a seminar to satisfy the senior requirement are expected to produce work superior in argument and articulation to that of a standard seminar paper. To this end, students taking a seminar for the senior requirement must satisfy additional requirements, which may include (a) additional readings, (b) submission of a complete draft of the final paper by the eighth week of the term that will then be significantly revised, and (c) one-on-one or small-group meetings with the instructor to discuss class material, the additional readings, and drafts in preparation. The specific nature of these additional requirements will vary from seminar to seminar, so students planning to satisfy the requirement with a third seminar should express that intention to the instructor at the beginning of the term, so the instructor can explain the work that will be required.
In special cases, students may meet the senior requirement through either a one-term or a two-term independent project supervised by an instructor (PHIL 490, 491). Students must petition to fulfill the senior requirement through an independent project, and approval is not guaranteed. Applicants must submit a proposal to the DUS, in consultation with an appropriate supervisor, by the end of the term prior to beginning the independent study.
Each major should, by October 1 of the junior year, secure the agreement of a member of the Philosophy department to serve as adviser for the year. The adviser aids the student in choosing courses and in planning for the senior year. All senior majors must have their schedules signed by the DUS.
Other majors involving philosophy Majors in Mathematics and Philosophy and in Physics and Philosophy are also available. Students interested in philosophy and psychology should also consider the major in Cognitive Science.
REQUIREMENTS OF THE MAJOR
Prerequisites Standard track—any 2 intro or intermediate phil courses; Psychology track—any 2 courses in phil or psych
Number of courses Both tracks—12 term courses, incl prereqs and senior req
Distribution of courses Standard track—3 courses in hist of phil (incl PHIL 125 and 126, or DRST 003 and 004), 2 in metaphysics and epistemology, 2 in ethics and value theory, and 1 in logic; 2 phil sems; Psychology track—7 courses in phil, as specified; 5 courses in psych
Philosophy attempts to find highly disciplined, rational ways of dealing with some of the deepest and most difficult issues in human thought and practice—for example, the nature of mind, the possibility or impossibility of knowledge, and fundamental principles of right and wrong. Philosophy thrives on disagreement; even within the Western tradition, no single approach is universally accepted.
Introductory philosophy courses, which are numbered from 100 to 199, are open to all students without prerequisites. Intermediate courses are numbered from 200 to 399; some have prerequisites, while others do not. Students should consult the instructor before taking an intermediate course as their first venture into philosophy. It is a good idea to take a general course in an area of philosophy before taking a specialized one.
One requirement for the major in Philosophy is a two-term introductory sequence in the history of philosophy. Either DRST 003 and DRST 004 (see Directed Studies) or PHIL 125 and PHIL 126 satisfies the requirement. The PHIL 125, PHIL 126 sequence need not be taken in first year, though it is strongly recommended that the requirement be completed before the end of sophomore year.
The Department of Philosophy offers a wide range of introductory courses. Expected offerings for 2018-2019 include:
- PHIL 115, First-Order Logic
- PHIL 125, Introduction to Ancient Philosophy
- PHIL 126, Introduction to Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant
- PHIL 175, Introduction to Ethics
- PHIL 177, Propaganda, Ideology, and Democracy
- PHIL 178, Introduction to Political Philosophy
- PHIL 180, Ethics and International Affairs
FACULTY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
Professors Seyla Benhabib, David Charles, Stephen Darwall, Michael Della Rocca, Keith DeRose, Paul Franks, Tamar Gendler, John Hare, Verity Harte, Brad Inwood, Shelly Kagan, Joshua Knobe, Thomas Pogge, Scott Shapiro, Sun-Joo Shin, Steven Smith, Jason Stanley, Zoltán Szabó, Kenneth Winkler, Gideon Yaffe
Assistant Professors Robin Dembroff, Daniel Greco, Elizabeth Miller, John Pittard
* PHIL 088a, The Philosophy of Transformative Experience Laurie Paul
Going to college, fighting in a war, having a baby, being spiritually reborn, betraying your lover, emigrating to a new country—all of these are experiences that can transform you. By transforming you, they change you, and in the process, they can restructure the nature and meaning of your life. Exploring the epistemic structure of transformation can help us to understand the special and distinctive ways that new experiences can form and change us, and how this relates to how we make life choices, both big and small. This course explores the philosophical concept of transformative experience, focusing on the many ways this concept fits with contemporary philosophical issues in epistemology and metaphysics. We also explore connections to current research in psychology, cognitive science, and behavioral economics on empathy, morality, choice, and the self, in conjunction with discussions of the way that many real world experiences can be transformative. Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Seminar Program. HU
* 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
PHIL 112a, Problems of Philosophy Daniel Greco
Exploration of perennial philosophical problems, including differences between knowledge and opinion, theories of truth, the nature of consciousness, the existence of God, the nature and possibility of free will, and how people remain the same over time as their bodily and psychological traits change. Readings from both classical and influential contemporary works. WR, HU
PHIL 115a, First-Order Logic Elizabeth Miller
An introduction to formal logic. Study of the formal deductive systems and semantics for both propositional and predicate logic. Some discussion of metatheory. QR
* PHIL 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
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. WR, HU
PHIL 126b, Introduction to Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant Michael Della Rocca
An introduction to major figures in the history of modern philosophy, with critical reading of works by Descartes, Malabranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Intended to be taken in conjunction with PHIL 125, although PHIL 125 is not a prerequisite. HU
Ethics and Value Theory
PHIL 174a, Moral Skepticism Shelly Kagan
The legitimacy of doubts about morality. Can there really be any objective moral facts? Isn't morality all a matter of personal opinion or subjective preference, or, alternatively, all socially or culturally relative? If there were moral facts, how could one possibly know anything about them? Can one's moral views be justified at all? What place can morality possibly have in a scientific world view? HU
PHIL 175b, Introduction to Ethics Shelly Kagan
What makes one act right and another wrong? What am I morally required to do for others? What is the basis of morality? These are some of the questions raised in moral philosophy. Examination of two of the most important answers, the theories of Mill and Kant, with brief consideration of the views of Hume and Hobbes. Discussion of the question: Why be moral? HU
PHIL 177b / AFAM 198b / CGSC 277b / EDST 177b / EP&E 494b, Propaganda, Ideology, and Democracy Jason Stanley
Historical, philosophical, psychological, and linguistic introduction to the issues and challenges that propaganda raises for liberal democracy. How propaganda can work to undermine democracy; ways in which schools and the press are implicated; the use of propaganda by social movements to address democracy's deficiencies; the legitimacy of propaganda in cases of political crisis. HU
PHIL 178b, Introduction to Political Philosophy Thomas Pogge
A survey of social and political theory, beginning with Plato and continuing through modern philosophers such as Rawls, Nozick, and Cohen. Emphasis on tracing the development of political ideas; challenges to political theories. HU
PHIL 182a / CGSC 282a / PSYC 182a, Perspectives on Human Nature Joshua Knobe
Comparison of philosophical and psychological perspectives on human nature. Nietzsche on morality, paired with contemporary work on the psychology of moral judgment; Marx on religion, paired with systematic research on the science of religious belief; Schopenhauer paired with social psychology on happiness. HU
History of Philosophy
Metaphysics and Epistemology
PHIL 267a, Mathematical Logic Sun-Joo Shin
An introduction to the metatheory of first-order logic, up to and including the completeness theorem for the first-order calculus. Introduction to the basic concepts of set theory. Prerequisite: PHIL 115 or permission of instructor. QR
PHIL 270b, Epistemology Keith DeRose
Introduction to current topics in the theory of knowledge. The analysis of knowledge, justified belief, rationality, certainty, and evidence. HU
PHIL 271a / LING 271a, Philosophy of Language Jason Stanley
An introduction to contemporary philosophy of language, organized around four broad topics: meaning, reference, context, and communication. Introduction to the use of logical notation. HU
* PHIL 274a / GMAN 254a / JDST 335a / RLST 249a, Jewish Philosophy Paul Franks
Introduction to Jewish philosophy, including classical rationalism of Maimonides, classical kabbalah, and Franz Rosenzweig's inheritance of both traditions. Critical examination of concepts arising in and from Jewish life and experience, in a way that illuminates universal problems of leading a meaningful human life in a multicultural and increasingly globalized world. No previous knowledge of Judaism is required. WR, HU
* PHIL 311b / RLST 303b, The End of Metaphysics Nancy Levene
Exploration of metaphysics in light of the supposition that it is at an end. Readings from classics and critics in the history of philosophy and religion. WR, HU
PHIL 315a, Truth and Relativism Zoltán Szabó
Recent philosophical work on relativism and the relationship between truth and objectivity. The possibility of objective truth; rational disagreement; relativism and moral and scientific truth; bases for taking a stand on objectivity's limits. HU
Ethics and Value Theory
PHIL 326a / RLST 402a, The Philosophy of Religion John Hare
The relation between religion and ethics, traditional arguments for the existence of God, religious experience, the problem of evil, miracles, immortality, science and religion, and faith and reason. HU
History of Philosophy
* PHIL 402a / GMAN 227a / HUMS 445a / LITR 330a or b, 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
* PHIL 404b, The Philosophy of Leibniz Michael Della Rocca
A close examination of Leibniz's vast, intricate, and still poorly understood philosophical system. Topics include substance, necessity, freedom, psychology, teleology, and the problem of evil. Attention to philosophical and theological antecedents (Spinoza, Descartes, Suarez, Aquinas, Aristotle) and to Leibniz's relevance to contemporary philosophy. HU
Metaphysics and Epistemology
* PHIL 426b / CGSC 426b / EP&E 490b / PSYC 422b, The Cognitive Science of Morality Joshua Knobe
Introduction to the emerging field of moral cognition. Focus on questions about the philosophical significance of psychological findings. Topics include the role of emotion in moral judgment; the significance of character traits in virtue ethics and personality psychology; the reliability of intuitions and the psychological processes that underlie them. HU
* PHIL 427b, Computability and Logic Sun-Joo Shin
A technical exposition of Gödel's first and second incompleteness theorems and of some of their consequences in proof theory and model theory, such as Löb's theorem, Tarski's undefinability of truth, provability logic, and nonstandard models of arithmetic. Prerequisite: PHIL 267 or permission of instructor. QR, HU
* PHIL 437b, Philosophy of Mathematics Sun-Joo Shin
We take up a time-honored debate between Platonism and anti-Platonism, along with different views of mathematical truth, that is, logicism, formalism, and intuitionism. Students read classical papers on the subject. Why do we need the philosophy of mathematics? This question could be answered toward the end of the semester, hopefully.
* PHIL 438a, Philosophy of Logic Sun-Joo Shin
Exploration of valid reasoning, mainly in the context of propositional and predicate logic. Topics include the well-known debate on the justification of modus ponens; Tarski's analysis of logic consequence; and the relatively recent and provocative claim (made by Etchemendy) that Tarski's analysis of logical consequence fails in capturing ordinary and intuitive concept of logical consequence. Prerequisite: PHIL 267 or permission of the instructor. HU
* PHIL 441b, Reductionism Elizabeth Miller
Exploration of reductive approaches in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of science. The question of whether there is a deep sense in which all the complexity of reality reduces to some more limited class of fundamental features. Prerequisite: a course in philosophy, or with permission of instructor. HU
* PHIL 443a, Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics Elizabeth Miller
Examination of philosophical issues as informed by quantum mechanics and evaluation of why that which quantum mechanical formalism tells us about the world remains controversial. Topics include the measurement problem, superposition, non-locality, the wave function, configuration space, probability, and compatibility with relativity.
Ethics and Value Theory
* PHIL 450a / EP&E 478a, The Problem of Evil Keith DeRose
The challenge that evil's existence in the world poses for belief in a perfectly good and omnipotent God. The main formulations of the problem of evil; proposed ways of solving or mitigating the problem and criticism of those solutions. Skeptical theism, the free-will defense, soul-making theodicies, and doctrines of hell. HU
* PHIL 455a / EP&E 334a, Normative Ethics Shelly Kagan
A systematic examination of normative ethics, the part of moral philosophy that attempts to articulate and defend the basic principles of morality. The course surveys and explores some of the main normative factors relevant in determining the moral status of a given act or policy (features that help make a given act right or wrong). Brief consideration of some of the main views about the foundations of normative ethics (the ultimate basis or ground for the various moral principles). Prerequisite: a course in moral philosophy. HU
* PHIL 464b / PLSC 291b, Justice, Taxes, and Global Financial Integrity Thomas Pogge
Study of the formulation, interpretation, and enforcement of national and international tax rules from the perspective of national and global economic justice. Previous courses in one or two of the following: law, economics, political science, or political philosophy. HU
* PHIL 465a / EP&E 480a, Recent Work in Ethical Theory Stephen Darwall
A study of recently published works on ethics and its foundations. Issues include the grounds of normativity and rightness and the role of the virtues. HU
* PHIL 472a / GMAN 314a / PLSC 309a, Contemporary Critical Theory Seyla Benhabib
Frankfurt School and Critical Theory focuses on a number of unresolved questions such as pragmatic Kantianism; modernity and post-colonial theory; the idea of progress in critical theory; and judgment as amoral, political, aesthetic. Readings from: Habermas, McCarthy, Baynes, Honneth, A. Allen, Ferrara, and Zerilli. Prerequisite: Directed Studies or two or more advanced courses in modern political philosophy. SO
PHIL 474a / PLSC 326a, Borders, Culture, and Citizenship Seyla Benhabib
The contemporary refugee crisis in Europe and elsewhere; new patterns of migration; increasing demands for multicultural rights of Muslim minorities in the West; and transnational effects of globalization faced by modern societies. Examination of these issues in a multidisciplinary perspective in light of political theories of citizenship and migration, as well as laws concerning refugees and migrants in Europe and the United States. SO
* PHIL 479b, Contemporary Deontology Shelly Kagan
Most people are intuitively drawn to deontological moral theories rather than consequentialist ones (roughly, to theories that give priority to moral factors other than simply the potential goodness of results). In this course we read and evaluate three major contemporary works exploring this deontological perspective in a systematic way: Judy Thomson's The Realm of Rights, Tim Scanlon's What We Owe to Each Other, and (parts of) Frances Kamm's Intricate Ethics. Our goal throughout is to investigate the complications involved in moving beyond the initial pull toward deontology to spelling out such a deontological theory in fuller detail (whether at the normative or at the foundational level). Prerequisite: A previous class in philosophy is required. A previous class in moral philosophy is highly recommended. HU
* PHIL 485b, Wittgenstein Kenneth Winkler
Study and discussion of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Philosophical Investigations, and On Certainty, with some attention to their background in writings by Frege, Russell, and Moore. Consideration of Wittgenstein's influence on more recent philosophers, among them Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe, Saul Kripke, and Cora Diamond. Prerequisite: one prior course in philosophy and permission of the instructor. HU RP
Tutorial and Senior Essay Courses
* PHIL 480a or b, Tutorial Daniel Greco
A reading course supervised by a member of the department and satisfying the following conditions: (1) the work of the course must not be possible in an already existing course; (2) the course must involve a substantial amount of writing, i.e., a term essay or a series of short essays; (3) the student must meet with the instructor regularly, normally for at least an hour a week; (4) the proposed course of study must be approved by both the director of undergraduate studies and the instructor.
* PHIL 490a and PHIL 491b, The Senior Essay Daniel Greco
The essay, written under the supervision of a member of the department, should be a substantial paper; a suggested length is between 8,000 and 12,000 words for one-term projects, and between 12,500 and 15,000 words for two-term projects. Students completing a one-term project should enroll in either 490 in the fall or 491 in the spring. Students completing a two-term project should enroll in both 490 and 491. The deadline for senior essays completed in the fall is December 5; the deadline for both one- and two-term senior essays completed in the spring is April 21.
Graduate, Divinity, and Law School Courses that Count toward the Major
Some Graduate, Divinity, and Law School courses are open to qualified undergraduates with permission of the instructor and the director of graduate studies or the dean or registrar of the Divinity or the Law School. (See "Courses in the Yale Graduate and Professional Schools" in section K of the Academic Regulations.) With permission of the director of undergraduate studies, relevant Graduate, Divinity, and Law School courses may count toward the major. Course descriptions appear in the Graduate, Divinity, and Law School bulletins.