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Haverford College

Course Catalog

Philosophy: 2009-2010

DescriptionFacultyMajor RequirementsMinor RequirementsRequirements for HonorsCoursesDepartment Homepage


The philosophy curriculum has three major aims. First, it helps students develop thoughtful attitudes toward life and the world through encounters with the thought of great philosophers. Students are encouraged to reflect critically on such problems as the nature of our individual and social lives, the nature of the world in which we live, and the nature of our consciousness of and response to that world. Second, the philosophy curriculum is designed to help students acquire philosophical materials and skills that supplement and integrate their other studies in the liberal arts and sciences. Finally, the philosophy curriculum offers interested students a foundation in knowledge and skills that will prepare them for graduate study in philosophy or in related fields. Unless otherwise indicated, one philosophy course at the 100 level is a prerequisite for all other courses in philosophy. Courses at the 300 level require, in addition, a 200-level course plus junior standing, or consent of the instructor. Some advanced philosophy courses may require a reading knowledge of a foreign language as a prerequisite for admission.

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Professor Ashok Gangadean, and Director of the Margaret Gest Center
T. Wistar Brown Professor Danielle Macbeth, Chair
Professor Kathleen Wright
Assistant Professor Jerry Miller
Assistant Professor Jill Stauffer, and Director of the Peace, Justice and Human Rights Concentration
Assistant Professor Joel Yurdin

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Major Requirements

(1) One philosophy course at the 100 level, or Bryn Mawr Philosophy 101, 102, or 201, or the equivalent elsewhere.

(2) Five philosophy courses at the 200 level, at least four of which must be completed by the end of the junior year, and three philosophy courses at the 300 level. These eight courses at the 200 and 300 level must exhibit breadth and coherence in the following ways, to be elaborated by the majors and their advisors and approved by the department:
(i) Historical and Cultural Breadth: (a) One course must be from among those that deal with the history of European philosophy prior to Kant; (b) One course must be from among those that deal with the traditions of Asian or African philosophy.
(ii) Topical Breadth: (a) One course must be from among those dealing with value theory, including aesthetics, social and political philosophy, ethics, and legal philosophy; (b) One course must be from among those dealing with metaphysics and epistemology, including ontology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of action; (c) One course must be from among those dealing with logic or the philosophy of language.

(iii) Systematic Coherence: Four of these courses, two at the 200 level and two at the 300 level, must exhibit some systematic coherence in theme or subject satisfactory to the major advisor and the department.

(3) The Senior Seminar (399c). Students electing a major in philosophy but unable to comply with normal requirements because of special circumstances should consult the chairperson regarding waivers or substitutions.

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Minor Requirements

(1) One philosophy course at the 100 level, or Bryn Mawr Philosophy 101, 102, or 201, or the equivalent elsewhere.

(2) Three philosophy courses at the 200 level.

(3) Two philosophy courses at the 300 level.

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Requirements for Honors

The award of Honors in philosophy will be based upon distinguished work in philosophy courses, active and constructive participation in the senior seminar, and the writing and presentation of the Senior essay. High Honors requires in addition exceptional and original work in the Senior essay.

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    A maximum of two introductory level courses may be taken for credit, one even-numbered course and one odd-numbered course.

    103 Global Ethics HU
    An exploration of selected texts on ethics in a global context. This course seeks to develop a global perspective on human values through a critical exploration of vital texts on ethics across diverse philosophical traditions. A central focus is on the challenge of articulating global ethics and global values across cultures, worldviews, and traditions. Readings include Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, Bhagavad-Gita, the Analects of Confucius, and Kant's Fundamental Principles.

    104 Global Wisdom HU
    A critical exploration of classic texts from diverse philosophical traditions in a global context. This course seeks to cultivate a global perspective in philosophy and brings classical texts from diverse philosophical worlds into global dialogue. One aim is to help students to appreciate global patterns in rationality across traditions and to gain a critical understanding of common ground and significant differences in diverse wisdom traditions. Readings include Bhagavad-Gita, Dhamapada, Plato's Phaedo, and Descartes's Meditations.

    105 Love, Friendship, and the Ethical Life HU (Cross-listed in Gender and Sexuality Studies)
    Different conceptions of the role of love and friendship in ethical life. Readings include ancient Greek philosophy (Plato's Symposium, and Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics), modern European philosophy (Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, and Mill's On the Subjection of Women), and contemporary postmodern and feminist philosophy (Derrida's The Politics of Friendship, and Irigaray's The Ethics of Sexual Difference).

    106 The Philosophy of Consciousness and the Problem of Embodiment HU (Cross-listed in Gender and Sexuality Studies)
    This course examines different conceptions of and solutions to the mind-body problem. Readings include ancient Greek Philosophy (Plato’s Phaedrus, Phaedi, and Republic and Aristotle's On the Soul,) modern European philosophy (Descartes' Meditations and Mediations and Spinoza's Ethics), and contemporary postmodern and feminist philosophy (Foucault's The History of Sexuality and Irigaray's Speculum of the Other Women).

    107 Happiness, Virtue, and the Good Life HU
    Happiness is something that we all want, but what exactly is it? Perhaps happiness is or involves leading a flourishing life. What, then, is a flourishing life? Does such a life involve the possession and exercise of certain states of character? Which ones? This course will consider these and related issues, including the virtues and their interrelations, the nature and identity of persons, and the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life. Readings from classic and contemporary sources, including Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Nagel, and Wolf.

    109 Philosophy and the Good Life HU
    An exploration of the question of the nature of a good human life. Readings include selections from Confucius's Analects, Plato's Euthyphro, Apology, and selections from Republic, selected books of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, and Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality. (Satisfies the first year writing requirement.)

    110 Mind and World HU
    An introduction to the history of our conception of ourselves as rational beings in the world through a close reading of central texts in the European tradition that address both the sorts of beings we are and the nature of the world as it is the object of our natural scientific knowledge.

    111 The Wicked and the Worthy HU
    The possibility of “doing good” in the world presumes that one can distinguish between good and bad actions, people, and consequences. But on what basis are we to make such distinctions? What grounds, if anything, our definitions of good and bad? How can we be certain that our actions, and thus our own selves, are not evil? This course examines such concerns through a survey of the history of ethical philosophy. In digging up the “root of all good,” we will consider as well questions of self-interest, justice, freedom, and duty. Readings include selections from Plato’s Republic, Mill’s Utilitarianism, Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.

    112 Mind, Myth, and Memory HU
    Theories of the relationship between the self and knowledge. Of particular importance will be the roles played by myth, dreams, and memory in that relationship. Readings include works by Plato, Descartes, Kant, and Freud.

    113 The Good and the Good Life HU
    When we think about leading the "good life," what do we think of? Does leading the "good life" imply being a good person? How do we understand "good" in each of these senses? Through a close reading of several key texts in the history of Western philosophy, we will examine philosophical conceptions of the good and explore their relevance for the possibility of achieving the good life.


    Intermediate Level Philosophy Courses

    These courses require one course at the 100 level or its equivalent, or consent of the instructor.

    210 Plato HU
    A close reading of Plato's Meno, Phaedo, Republic, Symposium, and Theaetetus, with a focus on issues in philosophical psychology, metaphysics, and the theory of knowledge. Emphasis is on a philosophical understanding of the views and arguments suggested by the texts, and special attention is paid to the roles of literary aspects of the texts in the presentation of philosophical content. Prerequisite: One 100 level course or its equivalent, or consent.

    212 Aristotle HU
    An analytic study of the main works of Aristotle. Particular attention is paid to the theory of being and substance developed in Aristotle's Metaphysics, to the theory of animal life developed in his treatise On the Soul, and to the understanding of good human action and choice developed in the Nichomachean Ethics. Primary emphasis is on the interpretation and understanding of the philosophical arguments that are elaborated in these works.

    221 Early Modern Continental Philosophy HU
    A close analytical reading of selected texts from 17th-century European philosophy. Particular attention is given to Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy and to Spinoza's Ethics. Emphasis is upon an interpretive understanding of the theories of these texts concerning human consciousness and cognition, as well as of their more general theories concerning the nature of human beings in the world.

    223 Kant HU
    This course will be devoted to a close reading and study of Kant s Critique of Pure Reason. We will focus on two questions: {1}What is revolutionary about the Critique of Pure Reason's Copernican revolution, and (2) what is the significance of the Critique of Pure Reason within Kant's systematic philosophy.

    225 The Concept of Freedom and the Dialectic of Master and Slave HU
    How are we to think about freedom in light of Hegel's positive evaluation of the slave's experience of freedom in his Phenomenology of Spirit (paragraphs 178-196) and Nietzsche's negative assessment of the mentality and moral psychology of the slave in On the Genealogy of Morality? Additional readings include the section on Spirit from Hegel's Phenomenology, Marx's Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, and Kant's Grounding of a Metaphysics of Morals. Prerequisite: One 100 level course or its equivalent, or consent.

    226 Nietzsche HU
    What, after Nietzsche, is truth? A close reading of Nietzsche's "On Truth and Lies in an Extramoral Sense," The Gay Science (2nd edition; 1887), and Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

    227 The Linguistic Turn in Modern European Philosophy HU
    A close study of how the linguistic turn in modern European philosophy is enacted and reflected upon in Husserl's On the Origin of Geometry and Cartesian Meditations, Heidegger's Being and Time and On the Way to Language, Gadamer's Truth and Method, and Derrida's Speech and Phenomena and Of Grammatology.

    228 The Logos and the Tao HU (Cross-listed in Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies)
    This course challenges the postmodern construction of "China" as the (feminine) poetic "Other" to the (masculine) metaphysical "West" by analyzing postmodern concepts of word, image, and writing in relation to Chinese poetry, painting, and calligraphy. Prerequisite: One 100 level course or its equivalent, or consent.

    229 Nineteenth Century Philosophy HU
    This course will examine the concepts of spontaneity, freedom, and normativity in the works of three past-Kantians: Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.

    230 Beauty, Rhetoric, Aesthetics, Philosophy HU (Cross-listed in Comparative Literature and Independent College Programs)

    232 African-American Philosophy HU (Cross-listed in African and Africana Studies)
    This course introduces students to popular strands of African American philosophical, theological, and political thought from the 19th century to the present. Emphasis will be placed on themes of liberation, racial ontology, justice, and subjectivity. Also of concern will be how these thinkers challenge and/or reaffirm modernist philosophical approaches to knowledge, truth, and good. Prerequisite: One 100 level course or its equivalent, or consent.

    233 Philosophy and Race HU (Cross-listed in African and Africana Studies)
    This course meditates on the curious relation of race to modern Western intellectual thought. Although typically considered of secondary philosophical importance, references to race appear regularly in works by canonical philosophers. This suggests, in contrast, that race has played a not-insignificant role in reflections on consciousness, identity, and value. In addition to examining Kant’s anthropological writings and Hegel’s discussion of Africa in the Philosophy of History, we will discuss readings by Sartre, Fanon, Foucault, Alain Locke, and Nietzsche.

    241 Hindu Philosophy HU
    A critical exploration of classical Hindu thought (Vedanta) in a global and comparative context. Special focus on selected Principal Upanishads, a close meditative reading of the Bhagavad Gita and an in depth exploration of Shankara's Brahmasutra Commentary.

    242 Buddhist Philosophy HU (Cross-listed in East Asian Studies)
    An introduction to classical Indian Buddhist thought in a global and comparative context. The course begins with a meditative reading of the classical text-The Dhamapada-and proceeds to an in depth critical exploration of the teachings of Nagarjuna, the great dialectician who founded the Madhyamika School.

    243 Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy HU
    This course will focus on the topic of language and its subject in phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty), exostentailism (Heidegger and Sartre), structuralism (Saussure), post-structuralism (Derrida and Foucault), and French Feminism (Irigaray, Kristeva, and Cixous). Prerequisite: Phil 101 or consent of the instructor.

    251 Philosophy of Mind HU
    The focus of this course is the question of the place of mind in nature, in the world. What sort of thing is a mind? What is it to be conscious? Can there be freedom of the will in a physical world? Could a computer ever be correctly described as thinking? Do animals have minds? Our aim is to clarify what we are asking when we ask such questions, and to begin at least to formulate answers.

    252 Philosophy of Logic and Language HU
    A comparative exploration of alternative paradigms of logic, language and meaning from a logical and philosophical point of view. Special attention is given to the classical Aristotelian grammar of thought and the modern grammars developed by Frege, Wittgenstein, Quine, Heidegger, Sommers, Derrida and others. Focus is on the quest for the fundamental logic of natural language.

    253 Analytic Philosophy of Language HU
    A close study of seminal essays by Frege, Russell, Kripke, Quine, Davidson, and others focusing on questions of meaning, reference, and truth. An overarching aim of the course is to understand how one can approach fundamental issues in philosophy through a critical reflection on how language works. Prerequisite: One 100 level course or equiv or consent.

    254 Metaphysics: Global Ontology HU
    A critical examination of philosophical accounts of reality and being. Special attention is given to how world views are formed and transformed: an ontological exploration of diverse alternative categorical frameworks for experience. Metaphysical narratives of diverse thinkers in the evolution of the European tradition are explored in global context. Prerequisite: One 100 level course or its equivalent, or consent.

    255 Truth and Knowledge HU
    A study of recent work on the issue of the relationship between truth and knowledge, both arguments aiming to show that truth has nothing to do with knowledge, and arguments aiming to show that knowledge is incoherent without truth. The possibility of steering a middle path between these views will also be explored. Prerequisite: One 100 level course or its equivalent, or consent.

    257 Critical Approaches in Ethical Theory HU
    Following Hegel's critique of Kantian morality, some theorists have abandoned the search for the holy grail of ethics - a transcendental and universal formula for determining good and evil. Instead they have attempted to revalue the nature of value. This course examines these pragmatist, psychoanalytic, and poststructuralist efforts to redefine ethics as irreducibly inflected through history, subjectivity, and language. In tracing the conditions for and limitations of ethics, we shall think deeply about concepts such as community, agency, and responsibility. Authors include, Rorty, Freud, Derrida, Lyotard, and Irigaray.

    259 Structuralism and Post-Structuralism HU

    260 Historical Introduction to Logic HU
    Our aim is two-fold: first, to understand - in the sense of having a working knowledge of - both traditional Aristotelean and modern quantificational logic (translating sentences into logical notation, assessing the validity of arguments, constructing proofs, and so on); and second, to understand logic, why it matters, what it can teach us (both as philosophers and as thinkers more generally), and how it "works" in the broadest sense.

    281 Modern Jewish Thought [C] HU (Cross-listed in Religion)

    295 Interpretation and the Other: Meaning, Understanding and Alterity HU (Cross-listed in Comparative Literature and English and Religion)
    D.Dawson, S.Finley
    Offered occasionally.

  • Advanced Philosophy Courses

    These courses require one 200-level course plus junior standing, or consent of the instructor. Topics courses consider different specific issues in different years, and may be taught by members of the staff other than those listed.

    301 Topics in Philosophy of Literature HU

    310 Topics in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy HU

    311 Topics in Greek Philosophy HU

    321 Topics in Early Modern Philosophy HU

    323 Topics in Nineteenth Century Philosophy HU

    332 Topics in Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy: Levinas HU
    Prerequisite: One 200-level Phil course & Junior standing.

    335 Topics in Modern European Philosophy HU

    336 Topics in Post-Kantian Philosophy: Hegel and the Problem of Modernity HU
    Prerequisite: One 200 level course plus junior standing, or consent.

    342 Topics in Asian Philosophy: Japanese Zen in Global Context HU (Cross-listed in East Asian Studies)
    Prerequisite: One 200 level course plus junior standing, or consent.

    351 Topics in the Philosophy of The Mind HU

    352 Topics in the Philosophy of Language: Metaphor, Meaning and the Dialogical Mind HU
    This course explores the nature of language with special attention to the origin of meaning and metaphor in the dialogical mind. Topics include: primary meaning: literal, symbolic, metaphoric; truth and reality; analogy and imagination; hermeneutics of communication and translatability; meditative meaning and the limits of language; indeterminacy and ambiguity across diverse language-worlds; voice and speech as determinants of meaning and the dynamics of dialogue between worlds. A unifying theme focuses on releasing the power of meaning in the transformation from egocentric patterns of thought to the dialogical awakening of mind. Readings include selections from such diverse thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Sommers, Derrida and Nagarjuna and others.

    354 Topics in Metaphysics HU

    355 Topics in Epistemology HU

    357 Topics in Aesthetics HU

    399 Senior Seminar HU
    This one-semester credit course, spread over the whole of senior year, has several components: (a) Participation in the Altherr Symposium, including four meetings devoted to preparation for the symposium, (b) Participation in the Distinguished Visitors series, (c) The writing of a senior essay, and (d) Presentation of one s work for critical discussion with others in the seminar, as well as a final formal presentation. Open to senior majors only. Prerequisite: Open to senior majors only.

    403 Discussion Leaders HU
    For this and subsequent Discussion Leader courses, qualified major or non-major seniors receive one-half credit for supervised leading of discussion groups and assisting of students in the various 100 level introductory philosophy courses. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor of the relevant introductory course is required.

    404 Discussion Leaders HU

    405 Discussion Leaders HU

    406 Discussion Leaders HU

    407 Discussion Leaders HU

    409 Discussion Leaders HU

    410 Discussion Leaders HU

    411 Discussion Leaders HU

    412 Discussion Leaders HU


    Philosophy Courses at Bryn Mawr College

    101 Historical Introduction to Philosophy: Greek Philosophy HU
    102 Introduction to Problems in Philosophy HU
    103 Introduction to Logic HU
    201 Historical Introduction to Philosophy: Modern HU
    210 Philosophy of Social Science SO
    211 Theory of Knowledge HU
    212 Metaphysics HU
    213 Introduction to Mathematical Logic HU
    221 Ethics HU
    222 Aesthetics HU
    228 Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ancient and Early Modern HU
    229 Concepts of the Self HU
    230 Discrete Mathematics
    231 Introduction to Political Philosophy: Modern HU
    243 20th Century Continental Philosophy HU
    301 Hume HU
    316 History and Philosophy of Mathematics
    318 Philosophy of Language
    319 Philosophy of Mind HU
    321 Greek Political Philosophy HU
    325 Philosophy of Classical Music HU
    330 Kant HU
    344 Developmental Ethics HU
    364 Political Philosophy: Irony and Commitment
    368 Enlightenment and its Critics HU
    371 Topics in Legal and Political Philosophy HU


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