Humanities: Philosophy, 2011-2012
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.
T. Wistar Brown Professor Danielle Macbeth, Chair
Emily Judson and John Marshall Gest Professor of Global Philosophy Ashok Gangadean
Professor Kathleen Wright
Associate Professor Jerry Miller
Assistant Professor Joel Yurdin
Assistant Professor Jill Stauffer, Director of the Peace, Justice and Human Rights Concentration
Visiting Assistant Professor Benjamin Allen
Visiting Assistant Professor (part-time) Paul Franco
- One philosophy course at the 100 level, or Bryn Mawr Philosophy 101, 102, or 104, or the equivalent elsewhere.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- One philosophy course at the 100 level, or Bryn Mawr Philosophy 101, 102, or 104, or the equivalent elsewhere.
- Three philosophy courses at the 200 level and two philosophy courses at the 300 level. Among the 200 and 300 level courses, one must be in value theory (broadly conceived to include ethics, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and legal philosophy); one must be in metaphysics and epistemology (including ontology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of action); and one must be concerned with philosophical texts written before the twentieth century. This third requirement can be satisfied concurrently with either of the other two (e.g., by taking a course in ancient Greek ethics or in Descartes' metaphysics), or can be satisfied separately from the other two.
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 Thesis. High Honors requires in addition exceptional and original work in the Senior Thesis.
Introductory Level Philosophy Courses
A maximum of two introductory level courses may be taken for credit, one even-numbered course and one odd-numbered course.
102 Rational Animals HU
An examination of philosophical conceptions of reason and reason's relations with other psychological capacities. In what sense are human beings rational? And what difference does rationality make to human life? Readings from classic sources, including Plato, Aristotle, Hume and Kant. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Does not count toward the major. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Does not count toward the major. Typically offered in alternate years.
105 Love, Friendship, and the Ethical Life HU (Cross-listed in Gender and Sexuality Studies)
This course examines the role given to love and friendship within an ethical life according to four dominant Western theories: virtue ethics, deontological ethics, utilitarian ethics and the ethics of care. We will also look at the role played by love and friendship in Confucian ethics, an ethics that has affinities with virtue ethics and the ethics of care. Typically offered in alternate years.
106 The Philosophy of Consciousness and the Problem of Embodiment HU (Cross-listed in Gender and Sexuality Studies)
"The human body is the best picture of the soul" (Wittgenstein). This course provides an introduction to six Western conceptions of the body, of the soul/mind and of the relation between the body and the soul/mind. Readings: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Nietzsche, Arendt and de Beauvoir. Typically offered in alternate years.
107 Happiness, Virtue, and the Good Life HU
Happiness is something that we all want, but what exactly is it? This course considers the nature of the virtues and their roles in a happy life, the relations between happiness and morality, and the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life. Readings from classic and contemporary sources, including Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Nagel and Wolf. Typically offered in alternate years.
109 Philosophy and the Good Life HU
An exploration of the question of the nature of a good human life. Readings include Plato's Euthyphro, Apology and selections from Republic, selected books of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals and Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Typically offered in alternate years.
Intermediate Level Philosophy Courses
202 Forgiveness, Mourning, and Mercy in Law and Politics HU (Cross-listed in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights)
Examines the possibilities and limits of forgiveness, apology, mourning and mercy in human relationships, political and personal, to subject our ideas and presuppositions about what justice and forgiveness are, and what they can and cannot do, to a critical reappraisal. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or PEAC 101 or PEAC 201, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
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 philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
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 Nicomachean Ethics. Primary emphasis is on the interpretation and understanding of the philosophical arguments that are elaborated in these works. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
222 Early Modern British Philosophy HU
How can we think all that we actually do think? What is mind-independent reality like? This course examines these and related questions in the philosophical writings of Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Reid. Emphasis is on a philosophical understanding of the theories of cognition and reality developed in these texts. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
225 The Concept of Freedom and the Dialectic of Master and Slave HU
This course analyzes and evaluates opposing concepts of human freedom. Readings include: Isaiah Berlin's "Two Concepts of Liberty," Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (selections), Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality, 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 philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
226 Nietzsche HU
This course contrasts Nietzsche, the "Nay-sayer" (On the Genealogy of Morality), with Nietzsche, the "Yea-sayer" (Beyond Good and Evil and The Gay Science), by focusing on Nietzsche's "practice of truthfulness," and on his "theory" of "genuine honesty" and "intellectual courage." Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
228 The Logos and the Tao HU (Cross-listed in Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies)
This course examines (a) the claims made by Foucault and Derrida that tao is and remains "the other" of what in the West is called logos and (b) Heidegger's claim to bridge the difference between logos and tao by questioning what the West has called thinking or logos. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
235 Early Chinese Philosophy HU (Cross-listed in East Asian Studies)
An introduction to the lively and sharp disputes between competing schools of philosophy in ancient Chinese philosophy, that is, philosophy in the pre-Han period prior to the syncretism that marks Confucianism, neo-Confucianism and, most recently, New Confucianism. Prerequisite: One 100-level course in philosophy or EAST 131 Chinese Civilization or by permission of the instructor. Typically offered in alternate years.
241 Hindu Philosophy in a Global Context HU
A critical exploration of classical Hindu thought (Vedanta) in a global and comparative context. Special focus on selected Principal Upanisads, a close meditative reading of the Bhagavad Gita and an in depth exploration of Shankara's Brahmasutra Commentary. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Does not count toward the major. Typically offered in alternate years.
242 Buddhist Philosophy in a Global Context 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. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Does not count toward the major. Typically offered in alternate years.
243 Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy HU
Privileging the historical, social and situated quality of being, 20th century continental philosophy stresses dynamics of language, embodiment and labor. Readings draw from areas such as phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, feminism, structuralism and post-structuralism. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Prerequisite: One Phil course at the 100 level or consent. Does not count toward the major. Typically offered in alternate years.
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 philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
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 philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Does not count toward the major. Typically offered in alternate years.
255 Virtue Epistemology HU
An introduction to various issues in the theory of knowledge through a critical examination of recent work aiming to understand what it is good to believe by appeal to the virtues of an intellectually good person. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
257 Critical Approaches to Ethical Theory HU
Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
259 Structuralism and Post-Structuralism HU
An introduction to key readings in 20th century continental philosophy in the areas of semiotics, critical theory and deconstruction. Of primary importance will be issues of mimesis and alterity, authority and value. Readings include Barthes, Althusser, Foucault, Derrida, Kristeva and Jameson. Prerequisite: One 100-level philosophy course or its equivalent, or consent. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. No prerequisites. Typically offered in alternate years.
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. Topic for 2011/12: Jacques Derrida HU (Cross-listed in Comparative Literature)
Prerequisite: One 200-level philosophy course and Junior standing, or consent.
302 Topics in Philosophy of Law HU (Cross-listed in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights)
310 Topics in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy. Topic for 2011/12: Plato's Republic HU
Prerequisite: One Philosophy course at the 200 level and Junior standing, or consent.
311 Topics in Greek Philosophy HU
321 Topics in Early Modern Philosophy HU
323 Topics in 19th Century Philosophy HU
331 Topics in Recent Anglo-American Philosophy HU
332 Topics in 20th Century Continental Philosophy HU (Cross-listed in Comparative Literature)
335 Topics in Modern European Philosophy HU
336 Topics in Post-Kantian Philosophy: Hegel and the Problem of Modernity HU
342 Zen Thought in a Global Context HU (Cross-listed in East Asian Studies)
Does not count toward the major.
351 Topics in the Philosophy of Mind HU
352 Topics in the Philosophy of Language. Topic for 2011/12: Metaphor, Meaning and the Dialogical Mind HU
Prerequisite: One Philosophy course at the 200 level and Junior standing, or consent. Does not count toward the major.
354 Topics in Metaphysics HU
355 Topics in Epistemology HU
357 Topics in Aesthetics. Topic for 2011/12: The Apolline and the Dionysiac Creative Drives HU (Cross-listed in Comparative Literature)
“We need art—for life.” (Nietzsche) This course challenges us to think more deeply about the nature of and the difference between the two creative drives that we have come to call, after Nietzsche, the Apolline and the Dionysiac, as well as about the possibility of their unification. Prerequisite: One 200-level philosophy course and Junior standing, or consent.
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 three to four meetings devoted to preparation for the symposium, (b) participation in the Distinguished Visitors series, (c) the writing of a senior thesis and (d) presentation of one's work for critical discussion with others in the seminar, as well as a final formal presentation. Prerequisite: Open to senior majors only.
4xx Discussion Leaders HU
Associated with each 100 level course is a correspondingly numbered 400 level course (e.g., corresponding to 102 is 402), which is open to qualified major and non-major seniors. Students receive one-half credit for supervised leadership of weekly discussion groups with students in the introductory courses. A student must have consent of the instructor of the relevant introductory course to enroll as a discussion leader for that course.
Philosophy Courses at Bryn Mawr College
101 Happiness and Reality in Ancient Thought HU
102 Science and Morality in Modernity HU
103 Introduction to Logic HU
104 Introduction to Problems in Philosophy HU
202 Culture and Interpretation HU
204 Readings in German Intellectual History HU
209 Introduction to Literary Analysis: Philosophical Approaches to Criticism HU
211 Theory of Knowledge HU
212 Metaphysics HU
221 Ethics HU
222 Aesthetics Nature and Experience of Art HU
225 Global Ethical Issues HU
228 Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ancient and Early Modern HU
229 Concepts of the Self HU
231 Introduction to Political Philosophy: Modern HU
238 Science, Technology, and the Good Life HU
240 Environmental Ethics HU
243 Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy HU
244 Philosophy and Cognitive Science HU
245 Philosophy of Law HU
252 Feminist Theory HU
253 Theory in Practice: Humanities HU
254 Philosophy of Religion HU
257 Philosophy of Action HU
259 Philosophy, Modern Physics, and Ideals of Interpretation HU
263 Theory and Global Politics HU
293 The Play of Interpretation HU
300 Nietzsche, Kant, Plato: Modes of Practical Philosophy HU
310 Philosophy of Science HU
314 Existentialism HU
317 Philosophy of Creativity HU
318 Philosophy of Language: Early Analytic HU
319 Topics in Mind HU
321 Greek Political Philosophy Aristotle: Ethics and Politics HU
323 Culture and Interpretation HU
326 Relativism: Cognitive and Moral HU
327 Political Philosophy in the Twentieth Century HU
330 Kant HU
338 Phenomenology: Heidegger and Husserl HU
344 Developmental Ethics HU
347 Philosophy of Perception HU
349 Social and Political Theory HU
352 Feminism and Philosophy HU
364 Political Philosophy: Irony and Commitment HU
371 Topics in Legal and Political Philosophy HU
372 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence HU
373 Spinoza HU
380 Persons, Morality, and Modernity HU