George Mason University 1997-98 Catalog Catalog Index
Course Descriptions

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Philosophy Courses (PHIL)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

100 Introduction to Philosophy (3:3:0). Introduction to the nature of philosophical reasoning and to some of the main problems of philosophy.

105 Critical Reasoning (3:3:0). An informal, systematic study of rational argumentation, focusing on written arguments. Students explore competing philosophical methods for understanding, evaluating, and constructing arguments.

111 Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy (3:3:0). Examination of philosophical foundations of some of the major concepts and institutions in social and political thought.

151 Introduction to Ethics (3:3:0). Consideration of some of the perennial issues in ethical theory.

155 Issues in Environmental Ethics (3:3:0). A philosophical examination of a variety of issues in environmental ethics, such as the moral status of animals, the moral significance of nature, our duties to protect wilderness areas, the moral status of economic reasoning, and morally acceptable population policies.

173 Introduction to Logic (3:3:0). Basic concepts and techniques of deduction, emphasizing the modern treatment of such topics as quantification and rules of inference, with study of the classical treatment. Basic principles of induction, informal fallacies, and uses of logic in everyday life.

253 Philosophy and Literature (3:3:0). This course can count for literature credit as well as philosophy credit. The philosophic significance of psychiatry, existentialism, and Marxism and their expression in twentieth-century literature in the stories of Mann, Kafka, Hesse, Camus, Sartre, Koestler, Bellow, and Pynchon. Themes include paradox, alienation, absurdism, narcissism, totalitarianism versus democracy, art and neurosis, sexuality, symbolism, freedom, and authenticity.

254 Contemporary Ethical Problems (3:3:0). Topics include homosexuality, abortion, drugs, civil disobedience, capital punishment, and the rights of the individual versus the rights of society.

300/EUST 300 Foundations of European Civilization (3:3:0). Up to three credits in seminars listed under EUST 300 may be credited toward the philosophy major.

301 History of Western Philosophy: Ancient (3:3:0). Classical Greek philosophy, including Pre-Socrates, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

302 History of Western Philosophy: Medieval (3:3:0). Figures and problems of medieval philosophy: in-depth study of leading thinkers from the 5th to the 15th centuries.

303 History of Western Philosophy: Modern (3:3:0). Figures and problems of modern philosophy: in-depth study of philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Hegel.

305 Business Ethics (3:3:0). An examination of some of the moral problems that arise with regard to the responsibilities of various segments of the business community¬employers, management, stockholders¬to one another, to the consumer, and to society at large.

306 Criminal Justice Ethics (3:3:0). Prerequisite: 60 hours or permission of instructor. In-depth analysis of the ethical principles relevant for those working in criminal justice.

309 Medicine and Human Values (3:3:0). Examination of some of the major moral issues involved in the practice of medicine and arising from research in the life sciences. Topics include medical experimentation, eugenics, definition of death, euthanasia, abortion, distribution of scarce resources, transplants, organ donation, and psychiatric medicine. May not be taken by students who have previously taken PHIL 310.

311 Philosophy of Law (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Investigation of theories of natural law, legal positivism, and legal realism as they pertain to some of the central philosophical questions about law: What is the nature of law? What is a legal system? What is a valid law? What is a good reason for a judicial decision?

312 Philosophy of Technology (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. A philosophical examination of modern technology in its broadest human context. Several alternative philosophies of technology are considered. This course examines the relationships between technology and religion, economics, and politics. Ethical issues raised by the use of technology are also examined. Typically the course will focus on the ethical issues raised by the use of one kind of technology.

313 Philosophy of Religion (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Study of classical appeals to philosophy in support of belief in God's existence (Philo, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes); the fideism of Hume and the metaphysical agnosticism of Kant; the concept of religious experience in the philosophies of Hegel, Schleiermacher, and Kierkegaard; the problem of religious language in contemporary empirical philosophy.

315 Philosophy of History (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Investigation of development of historical consciousness of humanity. Intended to distinguish the historical from the unhistorical attitudes of human consciousness and to investigate the various forms of historical consciousness by studying different interpretations of history.

325 Karl Marx's Social and Political Thought (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Study and evaluation of Marx's social and political ideas based on writings selected from several phases of his career. Examination of relation of Marx's thought to post-Marxian socialist theory and practice.

326 Contemporary Theories of Justice (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Examination of alternative theories of justice, focusing on recent work by a major libertarian philosopher and recent work by a major egalitarian philosopher. The central questions of the course are: What constitutes a just distribution of property? How is the right to individual freedom to be weighed against the right to receive basic human necessities?

332 Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy (3:3:0). Prerequisites: Three hours of logic and PHIL 303 or permission of instructor. Examination of the attempts of 20th-century philosophers to solve philosophical problems by an analysis of language. Figures and movements covered include Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein, logical positivism, and ordinary language philosophy.

333 Feminism and Philosophy: Issues (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy. Examination of philosophical issues raised by the women's movement. Among the topics included are abortion, pornography, affirmative action, comparable worth, women's moral development, and women's spirituality.

335 Nineteenth-Century Philosophy (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Development of German Romanticism and Idealism during a brilliant period in the history of the West rivaled only by ancient Greece. Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche mount a revolt against the rationalism and scientism of the modern world. They open up a new philosophic horizon with the concept of the creative powers of the self, the intertwining of self and society, the subordination of truth to the will of the artist or the group, and madness as the terror of modernity.

336 Contemporary Continental Thought: Existentialism (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Examination of existential philosophy from its 19th-century origins to its 20th-century expressions. Philosophers studied include Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, De Beauvoir, and Buber.

337 Twentieth-Century Continental Thought: Phenomenology (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Examination of the phenomenological way of doing philosophy, its findings in regard to the "life-world," questions of "first philosophy," and the subject matter of the social sciences, as well as critical difficulties in its development. Texts by Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Schutz, and Derrida.

338 Woman: The Philosophical Questions (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. An exploration of the meaning and politics of the question of women that puts the idea of woman into question. Recognizing the historical context of this issue, the ways in which the structures of patriarchy situate woman as the other and determine the meanings of sexuality, subjectivity, the body, and language are examined. One overriding theme of this course is the relationship between the "woman" question and other central issues of contemporary philosophy.

340 Hermeneutic Philosophy (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Study of the development of hermeneutic philosophy in works by Heidegger, Gademer, and Ricoeur, as an effort toward coming to terms with the historicity of human experience. Implications for interpretive understanding of artworks, institutions, events, texts, and the human condition.

350/EUST 350 Classicism and Romanticism (3:3:0). Up to three credits of listed European Studies seminars may be credited toward the major. Examination of Classicism and Romanticism through literary and other cultural forms of expression in 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century Europe.

355 Contemporary Ethical Theory (3:3:0). Prerequisite: PHIL 151 or permission of instructor. Major trends and issues in recent moral philosophy.

356 Philosophy of Art (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Basic problems that arise from an inquiry into the meaning and value of art and our response to art.

357 (SOCI 599) Philosophy of the Social Sciences (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Philosophical issues relating to competing methodologies for the social sciences. Analysis and critique of mainstream positivism and behaviorism; paradigm theory and scientific revolutions; interpretive understanding and hermeneutical science; phenomenology and the social construction of reality; ethnomethodology and situational meaning; analytic philosophy and action theory; the "idea" of a social science; sociology of knowledge and theory of ideology; and Western Marxism and critical theory.

371 Philosophy of Natural Sciences (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. One semester of logic recommended. Study of aims and methodology of science. Among the questions of concern are: What constitutes a good scientific explanation? What grounds are used for comparing rival theories? Is there a special method of scientific discovery?

372 Philosophical Methods (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Study of the relationship between a philosopher's method, doctrine, and concept of truth. Philosophers studied vary, but include representatives from among the empirical, analytical, phenomenological, hermeneutical, and structuralist movements.

373 Theory of Knowledge (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Discussion of basic problems concerning the nature of knowledge, with study of the relation of knowledge to perception, belief, and language.

374 Philosophy of Mind (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Investigation of such theories as dualism, behaviorism, and materialism as they pertain to some of the central philosophical questions about mind: What is mind? What is the relation of mind to body? What is the justification of our belief in minds other than our own?

375 Metaphysics (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of philosophy or permission of instructor. Study of basic problems concerning being in general and foundations of individual being; traditional treatments of such problems and criticism of the possibility of such knowledge. Selected readings from figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Bradley, Heidegger, and others.

376 Symbolic Logic (3:3:0). Prerequisite: PHIL 173 or MATH 110 or permission of instructor. Study of predicate calculi by means of a step-by-step construction of artificial languages. Topics include procedures for constructing a calculus, proof techniques, significant properties of predicate calculi, and procedures for recognizing phrases.

377 Metaphysical Foundations of Science (3:3:0). Prerequisite: 60 hours or permission of instructor. Exploration of metaphysical questions concerning the nature of physical reality, as presented within major scientific theories. What is the essential character of physical matter? Is matter fundamentally atomistic or anti-atomistic? How does matter relate to space and time? Are the scientific conceptions of matter necessarily determined by the a priori judgements of the mind? The questions will be explored within the scientific/metaphysical principles of Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Newton, Kant, Faraday, Einstein, and Bohr.

391, 392 Special Topics in Philosophy (3:3:0), (3:3:0). Examination of topics of current interest, such as death and dying, the rights of children, or philosophical controversies in modern physics.

421, 422, 423, 424 Seminar (3:3:0) for each. Limited to philosophy majors with nine hours of philosophy, but others may be admitted if the topic is sufficiently close to their fields of study. Topics vary.

425, 426 Independent Study (3:0:0), (3:0:0). Prerequisites: Philosophy majors with 60 hours and 15 hours of philosophy and permission of department.

450/EUST 450 The 20th Century in Europe (3:3:0). Up to three credits of seminars listed under EUST 450 may be credited toward the major. Examination of the main currents of European life and thought in the 20th century. Study of the principal influences and events of the period, culminating in an assessment of contemporary European problems and values.

505 Professional Ethics (3:3:0). Advanced study of ethical theory as it applies to moral problems that arise in business and professional contexts.

510 Seminar in Ethics of Health Care (3:3:0). Prerequisite: 90 hours, graduate standing, or permission of instructor. An examination of moral dilemmas within the health care profession on ethical theories and principles. Special emphasis on patients' rights, social justice of health care, and evolving health care technologies.

512 Issues in Philosophy and Literature (3:3:0). Prerequisite: 90 hours, 6 hours of 300-level English and 6 hours of 300-level philosophy, or permission of instructor. Topics vary; possible topics include structuralism, technology, form and matter, conceptions of the future. The course is cross-listed and team taught.

520 Current Issues in Philosophy of Science (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Graduate standing or permission of instructor. Advanced exploration of the current issues addressing the structure of scientific knowledge. The fundamental question is, "What are the rational standards for acquiring knowledge of the physical world?" This question is explored from rival philosophical perspectives: the logical-empiricist perspective of the Received View, represented by R. Carnap and C. Hempel; the problem-solving perspective of the historicists T. Kuhn and L. Laudan; the rationalism of W. Newton-Smith; and the antirealism of V. van Fraassen.

531 Freud and Philosophy (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Six hours of philosophy, a course in personality theory, or permission of instructor. Exploration of philosophical aspects of Freud's thought, focusing on Freud's philosophy of human nature and culture and its influence on contemporary thought.

555 Environmental Ethics (3:3:0). Prerequisites: 90 hours or graduate standing, and three credits in philosophy plus a combined total of nine additional credits in philosophy and sciences, or permission of instructor. An examination of ethical principles affecting environmental issues with special emphaiss on the problems encountered by environmental biologists.

560 Philosophical Foundations of Science (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Graduate standing or permission of instructor. This course focuses on metaphysical questions concerning the nature of physical reality, as presented within major scientific theories of the modern era. What is the essential character of physical matter? Is matter fundamentally atomistic or anti-atomistic? How does matter relate to space and time? Is matter metaphysically inseparable from the basic forces of nature? These questions are explored within the scientific/metaphysical principles of Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Newton, Kant, Faraday, Einstein, and Bohr.

573 Current Issues in Theory of Knowledge (3:3:0). Prerequisite: 90 hours or graduate standing and minimum of three credits in philosophy or permission of instructor. An advanced exploration of conditions and limits of knowledge, from the perspective of contemporary philosophy. Is there any infallible, or fallible but at least reasonable, foundation for achieving an understanding of the world and of our minds? This question is examined from the perspective of sense datum theory, coherentism, and various naturalized epistemologies. The nature of a priori knowledge (e.g., from mathematics and logic) will also be examined.

574 Current Issues in Philosophy of Psychology (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Combined total of at least 12 credits in philosophy or psychology, at least 3 of which must be in philosophy at the 300 level or above, or permission of instructor. A careful examination of some issue or issues of current interest to both philosophers and psychologists. Typical issues examined include the mind-body problem, philosophical and psychological implications of work in artificial intelligence, and philosophical issues in psycholinguistics.

591 Special Topics in Philosophy (3:3:0). An examination of specific topics in philosophy that are both of central interest in that field and of interdisciplinary interest. Topics are selected with special reference to the areas of technology, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, and ethics and social and political philosophy.

615 Postmodernist Thought (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Graduate standing or permission of instructor. In recent decades, the term "postmodern," which was first used by art critics in the late 19th century, has been taken up by prominent contributors to the arts, social thinkers, and philosophers, to describe developments in their fields, as well as to describe the current period. This course examines three thematic concerns found in work that is identified with postmodern issues: what modernity defines itself in contrast to or against, the status of "Man," and the status of "subjectivity."

658 Feminist Theory (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Graduate standing or permission of instructor. An in-depth analysis of the critique of patriarchy offered by contemporary continental feminist philosophers. This course provides an examination of contemporary moral, political and epistemological issues in feminist theory.

800 Studies for the Doctor of Philosophy in Education (variable credit). Prerequisite: Admission to the Ph.D. in Education program to study in philosophy. Program of studies designed by student's discipline director and approved by student's doctoral committee that brings the student to participate in the current research of the discipline and results in a paper reporting the original contributions of the student. Enrollment may be repeated.


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