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Course Descriptions for Fall 2023

UK Department of Philosophy


PHI 100 001-007, 009-015   Introduction to Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality

An introduction to philosophical studies with emphasis on issues of knowing, reality and meaning related to human existence. This course fulfills the UK Core Requirement: Intellectual Inquiry in the Humanities.


PHI 100-08 Know Thyself: An Introduction to Philosophy Through the Self (Honors) – Batty TR  9:30-10:45AM

The Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates famously said that “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”. Throughout the history of philosophy, the concept of the self has occupied a central place in philosophical inquiry.  This course is an introduction to philosophy that centers on questions of the nature of the self and its place in the world.  In it, we will consider traditional philosophical questions about the self, but will situate these within the broader contexts of personal narrative and memoir.  We will also consider how scientific research in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive neuroscience connects to, and informs, answers to these important philosophical questions.


PHI 120 001-005, 007-009, 201, 202 Introduction to Logic

A course which treats argumentation, syllogistic and sentential logic.  The focus will be on the use of formal methods in the construction and criticism of actual arguments, the aim being to inculcate standards of good reasoning, e.g. clarity, consistency, and validity.  Credit is not given to students who already have credit for PHI 320.This class satisfies the UK Core: Quantitative Foundations requirement. This class satisfies the Logic requirement for philosophy minors.


PHI 130 002-004, 008-010, 201  Introduction to Philosophy: Morality and Society   

An introduction to philosophical studies with emphasis on a critical study of principles of moral action and social and political values.

This course is an introduction to some of the central issues in moral philosophy. We will begin by asking the question: how does one live a good life? We will then turn to the two dominant moral frameworks in contemporary moral philosophy: consequentialism and deontology. We will look at the articulations of these frameworks in the works of John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant, and we will explore how they are employed in arguments about the obligations we have to the global poor, the duty not to lie, and the limits of just warfare. We will end by asking whether we are morally permitted to punish people for acting wrongly, and if so, whether any plausible theories of punishment justify mass incarceration in the US.


PHI 205 001-003 Food Ethics

An examination of philosophical issues about food, including whether taste is subjective or objective, why different foods are acceptable to eat in some cultures but not in others, the moral permissibility of eating animals and animal by-products, and the impact of food production on the environment.

You are what you eat, or so the saying goes. Implicitly, then, food consumption and food habits express values. This course aims to give students an understanding of the ethics of our acts of eating as well as an understanding of the nature and structure of the food systems which condition these actions. Most significantly, we seek in this class to understand how our individual food choices define us as responsible members of local communities existing in broader national and global contexts. By the end of the semester, students will be able to explain how to evaluate ethically individual food choices and actions and analyze moral, social, and, even, political concerns which govern our food practices.  Food ethics, thus, lays a foundation for effective and responsible participation in a diverse society by preparing students to make informed choices in the complex or unpredictable cultural contexts that can arise in U.S. communities.This course fulfills the UK General Education Requirement:  Community, Culture and Citizenship in the USA.


PHI 260-001 History of Philosophy I:  From Greek Beginnings to the Middle AgesSanday TR 9:30-10:45AM

In this class, we will focus on the question of how best to live one’s life by asking in particular about the nature of justice and pleasure, what they mean for our own sense of self and for our interpersonal lives. The ancient Greek and Roman view was that these questions in particular are vital to who we are, so that if we want to deepen our appreciation of meaning and value in life, we could not find anything more worth doing than talking about these topics. These ancient philosophers also wanted to understand the world in its political and natural aspects. Of the many aspects of what it means to have a world, the way in which we organize ourselves in political relations with others, and the way we orient and relate ourselves to the natural world coursing through us, is a core element of our creative potential. Focal texts include Plato's Apology and Republic, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Lucretius's On the Nature of Things, and Aurelius's Meditations.This course fulfills the UK Core Requirement: Intellectual Inquiry in the Humanities.


PHI 270-001   History of Philosophy II: Renaissance to the Present –  Farr TR 2:00-3:15PM

This course is an introduction to modern philosophy (i.e. the philosophy of the 16th to the 18th Centuries) and will feature the usual suspects: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz on the rationalist side and Locke and Hume on the empiricist side. However, we will also take the time to diversify the traditional lineup of figures by adding some more through class discussion and joint research. We will end by reading a substantial portion of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. The emphasis of this course will be on understanding the peculiar nature of the idea that our relation to the world is primarily one of (theoretical) knowledge rather than that of having to act in the world, i.e. that knowledge somehow precedes action rather than knowledge is subordinated to what needs to be done. Accordingly, we will spend quite a bit of time discussing the implications of the philosophies we are considering on the notion of freedom. What would it mean to claim that knowledge of how the world is can make us free, for instance; or what does it mean to claim, as Hume does, that reason is the slave of the passions?This course fulfills the UK Core Requirement: Intellectual Inquiry in the Humanities.


PHI 305-001-004, 201  Health Care Ethics

A consideration of the ethical issues and difficult choices generated or made acute by advances in biology, technology, and medicine. Typical issues include: informed consent, healer-patient relationships, truth telling, confidentiality, problem of birth defects, abortion, placebos and health, allocation of scarce medical resources, genetic research and experimentation, cost containment in health care, accountability of health care professionals, care of the dying, and death.


PHI 310-001-002 Philosophy of Human Nature

A course introducing philosophy at the upper division level which studies various issues involved in analyzing what it means to be human, in the interest of developing a coherent conception of man.  Answers will be sought to questions like these: Is there a human nature?  What would differentiate the properly human from the nonhuman?  What kind of relations tie a human being to environment, society, and history? This course fulfills the UK Core Requirement: Intellectual Inquiry in the Humanities.


PHI 315-001, 201 Philosophy and Science Fiction

An examination of fundamental questions in metaphysics and epistemology through a comparison of works of philosophy and science fiction. Questions will be discussed such as: Can there be time travel? Can computers think? Can there be non-human persons, and if so how would we identify them? Can there be ways of knowing that are radically different from our own, and what might they be like? How much can a person change while remaining the same person. This course fulfills the UK Core Requirement: Intellectual Inquiry in Arts and Creativity.


PHI 330-001- Ethics- Superson TR 12:30-1:45PM,  002-  Superson TR 2:00-3:15PM

This course is on theoretical, not applied (e.g., medical, business, professional), ethics. It deals with some of the main issues in both normative ethics (ethical theory) and metaethics (abstract issues about ethics). It is designed to give the student the requisite background for advanced study in ethics (i.e., PHI 530). For this purpose, it is aimed at philosophy majors, though students who want to learn more about theoretical ethics may also be interested. We will examine some of the following topics: moral and cultural relativism, subjectivism, the connection between morality and religion, ethical egoism, social contract theory, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, the ethic of care, virtue ethics, moral nihilism, moral skepticism, moral objectivity, and why be moral.

TEXTS: The Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels/Seventh Edition by Stuart Rachels (McGraw Hill, 2012)


PHI 334-001, 004, 201 Business Ethics -

An introduction to moral problems that arise in contemporary business practice and the ethical frameworks proposed to resolve them.  Topics will include areas such as truth-telling and integrity; social responsibility; property rights and their limitations; and justice in personnel and labor practices.


PHI 335-001-002 The Individual and Society - Farr  TR 9:30-10:45AM

This course is an intermediate introduction to topics in political philosophy. We will examine the claims that individuals can make on one another in society. We will begin by asking what the foundational values of a well-ordered society are. We will then ask how we should balance conflicts between these values. How, for example, should we adjudicate conflicts between freedom and equality? We will then look at some of the obstacles to justice involving work, the family, and racial oppression. To address these questions, we will examine both historical and contemporary accounts of justice.


PHI 336-001 Environmental Ethics- Sandmeyer MWF 1:00-1:50PM, 002 -Sandmeyer MWF 2:00-2:50PM

In Environmental Ethics, we study the theory of our ethical relation to the nonhuman world, the social and political contexts in which these ethical theories function, and the idea of sustainability.  Some basic questions we ask include the following: How does an environmental ethic differ from traditional ethical theories? Do nonhuman animals or ecosystems have moral worth, and if so, how can competing moral claims between distinct moral entities be adjudicated? What is the human place in nature? How ought we to conserve the natural world? What is sustainability, and in what sense is this an ethical theory?

Student Learning Outcomes: At the conclusion of class, students will be able to

  • demonstrate skills necessary to read complex and dense texts comprehendingly
  • explain and defend one's own ethical standpoint according to basic theories & concepts
  • summarize and critique ethical positions from the perspective of traditionally underrepresented groups
  • describe the system of public lands protection in the United States and analyze the philosophical ideas underlying the main public lands management agencies in the Federal Government
  • identify and assess one's own concrete interaction to their surrounding world, especially in reference to the concept of sustainability


PHI 337-001 Introduction to Legal Philosophy

This course introduces students to the task of thinking philosophically about the law. This refers primarily to considering how law’s interaction with life places an ongoing responsibility on legal theorists to rethink legal concepts and laws to make them more accountable to people’s actual lives and thus to be more truly universal. The first part of the course focuses on traditional philosophical treatments of law: natural law theory and its considerations of law as an instrument of the common good; and law in Enlightenment thought, especially social contract theory, which stipulates law’s role in securing freedom and equality versus the legalization of gross inequalities such as slavery and slave-like oppression. We also read Enlightenment women’s critiques of the legalization of women’s second-class status and of their political disenfranchisement. Next, we turn to the rise of modern jurisprudence, which focuses on mapping the “mechanics” of positive law. Finally, we consider concrete contemporary areas of law. Here, we cover civil rights and racial injustice. A major area of our focus will be gender-based discrimination, including LGTBQ discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse and violence against women. We may also consider these topics and legal questions as they relate to Covid-19.


PHI 340-001 Introduction to Feminisim and Philosophy–  Nenadic TR 2:00-3:15PM

This course introduces students to treating feminist topics in a philosophical way. This means examining how experiences, which mainly (though not only) affect women and girls, have compelled us to rethink our understanding of matters such as human nature, freedom, awareness of oppression, and notions of victims and survivors. In doing so, we examine how those experiences have pushed us to come up with new concepts to help us identify and make discrimination, abuses, and inequalities that have long been covered up newly visible. We also explore how these new concepts have spurred changes in law and in society. 

To this end, some topics that we may cover include social and political inequalities, sexual harassment, different forms of sexual abuse, pornography, and the #MeToo Movement. This course is interdisciplinary. It combines relevant insights from major works in the history and canon of philosophy and thought, especially social and political philosophy and philosophy of technology, with contemporary writings and real-world platforms and media that have been on the cutting edge of bringing harms to light and, so, are foundational to philosophy’s work of questioning and reconceptualizing such experiences. We may also include illuminating frameworks from other disciplines such as psychology and its concepts of narcissistic personality and sociopathy, which aid us in this philosophical end. 


PHI 343-001 Asian Philosophy Leaman TR 11:00-12:15

In this seminar course, we will dig into questions of identity and selfhood. By reading major texts from the Hindu tradition, Buddhism (Pali texts), Confucianism, Daoism, and Zen Buddhism, we will sort out what is demanded of us at the level of personal identity, interpersonal experience and obligation, family, politics, all the way out to the ultimate nature of reality. In the process of asking and answering these questions, we will be guided by two ideas. First, we will pay special attention to the principle of “letting be” (wu-wei, lit. “in the absence of/without doing or exertion”) as it crops up with different inflections in these historical contexts. Second, we will be on the lookout for the ways in which the assumptions of various Asian texts challenge Western assumptions, exploring the unfamiliar ideas we encounter both on their own terms and in light of our own experience. There will be weekly writing exercises and intensive in-class discussion, placing students in the spotlight as leaders driving class discussion.


PHI 350-001 Metaphysics and Epistemology - Sundell TR 11:00-12:15PM

This is an upper-level undergraduate course in contemporary metaphysics and epistemology.

Metaphysics is the area of philosophy that deals with the question: what is there and what is it like?  Our focus will be on the topics of personhood, agency, and the nature of virtual worlds.  The questions we will be looking at include:

If everything in the world is determined by previous events, can we say that we ever act freely?  If we can’t, should this worry us?

  • What is required for the survival of a thing over time?  What kinds of things make you the person you are today—i.e., what kind of characteristics constitute your identity at any given time?
  • What is the status of virtual selves and other objects in virtual reality?  Are they real or are they somehow fictions?  And what does it even mean to say that they are unreal?

Epistemology is the area of philosophy that deals with the question: what is the nature of knowledge and reasonable belief?  We will concentrate on the topics of skepticism, the nature of knowledge and justification, as well as on normative questions regarding our obligations to others, and ourselves, as knowers.  In answering the latter, we will focus on how technology (e.g., virtual reality) aids, or impairs, the satisfaction of those obligations.  The questions we will be looking at include:

  •  Do we know anything about the external world?  How possible is it that we are really living in a simulation?
  • What is knowledge?  What responsibilities do we have to others, in addition to ourselves, as knowers?  In what ways can technology (such as virtual reality) extend, or hinder, our knowledge and understanding of others?
  • Are there rules about how we ought to come to believe things?  If so, what are they?  What makes it the case that we are justified in having certain beliefs?

This course is a Graduation Composition and Communication Requirement (GCCR) course in certain programs, and hence is not likely to be eligible for automatic transfer credit to UK.


PHI 380-001-002 Death, Dying and Quality of Life  - 

A philosophical and interdisciplinary investigation of a cluster of prominent issues about the meaning of life and death, caring for dying persons, and the quality of life of the terminally ill.  Among topics included are: death definitions and criteria; allowing to die vs. killing; euthanasia and suicide; life prolongation, ethics of care of the terminally ill; and rights of the dying.


PHI 503-001 Topics in Ancient PhilosophySanday TR 11:00-12:15PM

The radical and experimental movement known as democracy that exploded onto the scene in early 5th Century BCE Athens was explicitly a turn against the standard practice of one-man rule (tyranny) and the pervasive influence of powerful families. When tragedy and Socratic philosophy arose in the context of Athenian democracy, they arose as part of the process of thinking through the tensions of this profound transformation. In this class, we take a look at the radical potential of that revolution and the various forms of counter-revolution that moderated and in some cases subverted the radical potential implicit in the "rule of the people", including discourses excluding women and outsiders and assigning to them a permanently subordinate standing. We will trace the notion of the "tyrant" from the simple, non-pejorative, and unchallenged wisdom of "one man rule" through its complete inversion in democracy. We will ask what kinds of violence are necessary for establishing democratic political space and the rule of law, and we will study some of the characteristic ways devised for legitimating, mitigating, or repeating the violence of the past in the new context. We will consider Plato's seemingly radical suggestions regarding the equality of male and female natures, and we will look at tragedy's reflection on the complex way in which gender norms are actually lived out. Of particular interest as we think about the radical promise of democracy is the continuing force of myth, which is deepened but also questioned. Proposed focal texts include Sophocles' "Oedipus Tyrannus" and "Antigone" as well as Plato's Apology and Statesman. Methods in this class will include both analysis of philosophical argument and study of the text as philosophical literature, with a relatively smaller proportion of study of the historical context.


PHI 516 Phenomenological DirectionsSandmeyer MWF 11:00-11:50PM

This class is an introduction into phenomenology for advanced students of philosophy. Our focus will revolve around the work of three philosophers central to the founding of the phenomenological movement: (i) Edmund Husserl, (ii) Max Scheler, and (iii) (the earlier "phenomenological")  Martin Heidegger. We will start the semester by examining the expression of a proto-phenomenology aka descriptive psychology in the works of Wilhelm Dilthey and Franz Brentano. We'll then turn to study Husserl, Scheler, and Heidegger. Our reading of this figures will allow us to understand the basic ideas motivating the phenomenological movement. After study of these core figures, we will - time permitting - follow the phenomenological movement as it expanded from Germany into France, Eastern Europe, Spain, and the United States.  Our aim will be to understand ideas central to the founding of phenomenology, the context of their development, and the trajectory of the phenomenological movement both thematically and geographically as it blossomed from roots established in southern Germany. The course will give students the background necessary to appreciate and/or vitally develop phenomenological work today. Entry into this course implies background knowledge of the history of philosophy.


PHI 520-001 Symbolic Logic IISundell TR 2:00-3:15PM

An intermediate course in symbolic logic which reviews sentential logic, develops further the logic of quantification, and introduces metalogical issues such as the construction, consistency, and completeness of deductive systems.


PHI 530-001 Ethical Theory– Superson TR 9:30-10:45AM

This course is on some of the major ethical theories, including that of Hobbes, Bentham, Mill, Kant, and Hume. We will read portions of works from these historical figures, in addition to contemporary journal articles on some main issues raised in the historical works. For each theory, we will aim to answer the following questions: Where does morality come from? What is morality? What is the ideal moral person like? Why should we be moral?

Course Assignments: Grades will be based on papers and participation. Format TBA


PHI 650-001 Seminar in Metaphysics & Epistemology: (Un)Natural Kinds and Classification - Bursten  M 4:00-6:30

Kinds and categories play essential roles in our reasoning and figure into philosophical dialectics across metaphysics, philosophy of language, logic, and philosophy of science. In this seminar, we examine kinds, categories, and classification from the lens of contemporary philosophy of science, focusing on the many roles of kinds and classification in scientific reasoning. The course will begin with a historical introduction to the problem of scientific classification in 21st century philosophy of science as it has evolved from the problem of natural and unnatural kinds in 20th century analytic philosophy. After that, seminar participants will contribute to the selection of contemporary topics across select areas of scientific interest. Particular attention will be given to the relationship between scientific classification and scientific modeling practices. This seminar satisfies the requirement in contemporary metaphysics and epistemology for Philosophy Ph.D. students. Advanced undergraduates may contact Dr. Bursten to inquire about auditing or participating.


PHI 680-001 Special Topics in Philosophy: What is Philosophy?Nenadic R 4:30-7:00PM

The insights and conceptual breakthroughs of major figures in the history of philosophy -- across traditions (e.g., Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy) and including figures in an ever evolving and diverse canon -- enact philosophy that variously reflects on human existence and navigates a meaningful life. Such philosophical reflection is inevitably spurred by worldly and life concerns. To an unprecedented extent, in the late 19th and 20th centuries, Western philosophy began moving away from life concerns. That turn culminated in a path aimed at reducing philosophy to logic, in a development that has since governed much academic philosophy. This turn precipitated a response by canonical thinkers and others that existentially questioned what we even understand philosophy to be, with the aim of consciously re-grounding it in life. More recently, this response has challenged philosophy’s marginalization from addressing major contemporary problems in profound and relevant ways.

In this seminar, we will attain a “bigger picture” historical understanding of this development. This perspective will help us grapple with pressing questions today about the nature and task of philosophy, which remain shaped and constrained by this development, as we reflect on how we might philosophically address current crises in original and relevant ways. Such crises include, for instance: artificial intelligence (AI), social media technology, and freedom; authoritarianism and threats to democracy; racial injustice; widespread sexual objectification and violence against women and girls, pornography, and #MeToo; and war and genocide. 

Some key topics that we will treat are: philosophy’s relation to and distinction from science; epistemology and ontology; philosophy’s source in contemporary life concerns, its inextricable relation with other disciplines, and the generative nature of philosophy’s relation with its living past; differences between “applying” past concepts to contemporary problems, which covers up those problems in the name of addressing them, and coming up with the original ideas and concepts that these crises demand; and some distinctions and tensions that have existed across history between philosophy understood as delivering new frameworks or paradigms and some of the activities of academic philosophy. Subjects that we may cover include Daoist philosophy, Dilthey, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Charles Taylor, and Richard Rorty. Some readings that we may cover include selections from Robert C. Scharff’s How History Matters to Philosophy: Reconsidering Philosophy’s Past After Positivism, Nietzsche’s On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life, and excerpts from Heidegger’s The Phenomenology of Religious Life and from his other early writings. 


PHI 715-001 Seminar in Recent Philosophy: Kant's Ethical Theory – Bird-Pollan T 4:00-6:30

Kant’s practical philosophy has often been criticized as static or formal. This is due, in part, to an insufficient appreciation of the dynamic nature of his transcendental idealism. In order to counter these sorts of criticism we will examine Kant’s work from the perspective of reason as it is discussed in the first Critique where Kant defines reason as the general synthetic capacity of mind. With this perspective in view, we will read the second Critique, parts of the Groundwork and third Critique in order to get a sense of both the preconditions and ultimate goal of Kant’s practical philosophy more generally. Of central importance will be the relation between speculative and practical reason. Further, we will be examining not only the moral law, but also the importance of the postulates, the primacy of the practical and the important idea of the highest good as the unification of nature and reason.


PHI 740-001 Proseminar in Teaching MethodsWallace F 2:00-2:50

An introduction to teaching methods for graduate students.


PHI 741-001 Proseminar in Metaphysics & EpistemologyBradshaw/Bird-Pollan/Wallace W 4:30-7:00

First-year graduate course in Metaphysics and Epistemology in the ancient, modern, and contemporary periods.