Courses

Courses by semester

Courses for Fall 2022

Complete Cornell University course descriptions are in the Courses of Study .

Course ID Title Offered
PHIL1100 Introduction to Philosophy A general introduction to some of the main topics, texts, and methods of philosophy. Topics may include the existence of God, the nature of mind and its relation to the body, causation, free will, knowledge and skepticism, and justice and moral obligation. Readings may be drawn from the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophical literature.

Full details for PHIL 1100 - Introduction to Philosophy

Fall, Spring, Summer.
PHIL1110 FWS: Philosophy in Practice This First-Year Writing Seminar is about using philosophy and everyday life and provides the opportunity to write extensively about these issues.  Topics vary by section.

Full details for PHIL 1110 - FWS: Philosophy in Practice

Fall, Spring.
PHIL1111 FWS: Philosophical Problems This First-Year Writing Seminar discusses problems in philosophy and gives the opportunity to write about them.  Topics vary by section.

Full details for PHIL 1111 - FWS: Philosophical Problems

Fall, Spring.
PHIL1112 FWS: Philosophical Conversations This First-Year Writing Seminar offers the opportunity to discuss and write about philosophy.  Topics vary by section.

Full details for PHIL 1112 - FWS: Philosophical Conversations

Fall, Spring.
PHIL1440 Ethics of Eating We all face difficult moral decisions on occasion. This course introduces students to the idea that we face such a decision several times a day in deciding what to eat. How should facts about animal life and death inform this decision? Is the suffering involved in meat, egg, and dairy production really bad enough to make the practices immoral? How do our dietary choices affect local and non-local economies, the environment, and other people generally? Finally, given the deep connections between eating practices and various ethnic, religious and class identities, how can we implement a reasonable food policy for an expanding world population while also respecting these important differences? The goal of this course is not to teach some preferred set of answers to these questions. The goal is rather to give participants the basic tools required to reflect clearly and effectively on the questions themselves. These tools include a working knowledge of the major moral theories developed by philosophers, and an understanding of basic empirical issues related to food production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. In addition to readings, lectures, and required sections, the course will involve trips to some local food-production facilities, as well as supplemental lectures by experts from Cornell, Ithaca, and beyond.

Full details for PHIL 1440 - Ethics of Eating

Fall.
PHIL1950 Controversies About Inequality In recent years, poverty and inequality have become increasingly common topics of public debate, as academics, journalists, and politicians attempt to come to terms with growing income inequality, with the increasing visibility of inter-country differences in wealth and income, and with the persistence of racial, ethnic, and gender stratification. This course introduces students to ongoing social scientific debates about the sources and consequences of inequality, as well as the types of public policy that might appropriately be pursued to reduce (or increase) inequality. These topics will be addressed in related units, some of which include guest lectures by faculty from other universities (funded by the Center for the Study of Inequality). Each unit culminates with a highly spirited class discussion and debate.

Full details for PHIL 1950 - Controversies About Inequality

Fall.
PHIL1960 Law, Society, and Morality An introduction to leading topics in legal theory and political philosophy such as: what the laws should be, how they shape and are shaped by society, how they are and should be interpreted, the proper role of ethical and religious outlooks in lawmaking, the obligation to obey the law, and the relationship between private life and public legislation.

Full details for PHIL 1960 - Law, Society, and Morality

Fall.
PHIL2200 Greek and Roman Philosophy An introductory survey of ancient Greek philosophy from the so-called Presocratics (6th century BCE) through the Hellenistic period (1st century BCE) with special emphasis on the thought of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Full details for PHIL 2200 - Greek and Roman Philosophy

Fall.
PHIL2300 Puzzles and Paradoxes This course will survey a number of famous paradoxes about the nature of time, identity, logic, science, belief, decision, and value. Some of these paradoxes have widely accepted answers, but many do not. Paradoxes include (but are not limited to) Zeno's paradoxes, the sorites paradox, the liar paradox, paradoxes of probability, the doomsday and simulation arguments, Newcomb's puzzle, and the trolley problem. These paradoxes will be used as a stepping stone to deeper philosophical questions. Some of the questions we'll tackle include: Is time real? What is a person? Is infinity coherent? How is science possible? What is knowledge? What is it to be rational? What should we do? Does God exist? And finally, why is death bad?

Full details for PHIL 2300 - Puzzles and Paradoxes

Fall, Summer.
PHIL2310 Introduction to Deductive Logic Covers sentential languages, the truth-functional connectives, and their logic; first-order languages, the quantifiers "every" and "some," and their logic.

Full details for PHIL 2310 - Introduction to Deductive Logic

Fall, spring.
PHIL2415 Introduction to Moral Psychology This course is an introduction to the moral mind from philosophical and psychological perspectives. Many traditional philosophical problems about morality are being illuminated by current work in cognitive science. In this course, we will look at several of these problems. In each case, we will begin with a presentation of the philosophical problems, and we will proceed to examine recent empirical work on the topic. A wide range of topics will be covered, including moral judgment, agency, the self, and punishment.

Full details for PHIL 2415 - Introduction to Moral Psychology

Fall.
PHIL2455 Introduction to Bioethics Bioethics is the study of ethical questions raised by advances in the medical field.  Questions we'll discuss will include:  Is it morally permissible to advance a patient's death, at his or her request, to reduce suffering?  Is there a moral difference between killing someone and letting someone die?  What ethical issues are raised by advance care planning?  What is it to die?  What forms of cognitive decline or physical change could you survive (and still be you)?  On the flip side, were you ever a fetus?  How should the rights of pregnant women be balanced against those of the fetus?  Should parents be given control over the genetic make-up of their children?  Are some forms of human enhancement morally troubling?  Should we aim to be better than well?  What is it to be disabled?  How should scarce health care resources or costly therapies be allocated to those in need?  Should organ sales be permitted?  Should medical treatment (or health insurance!) ever be compulsory, or is mandating treatment unacceptably paternalistic?  Should doctors or hospitals be permitted to refuse to provide certain medical services that violate their consciences?

Full details for PHIL 2455 - Introduction to Bioethics

Fall.
PHIL2525 Introduction to African Philosophy The central questions of philosophy are perennial and universal, but the answers that are given to them are always historical and idiomatic.  This course will introduce its enrollees to how these questions have been answered in the global African world; how they have thought about and sought to make sense of or solve some of the same philosophical problems that have remained at the core of the "Western" tradition. The readings are chosen from a global African perspective. This does not mean that we will not read any of the 'traditional' texts, but will be yielding the pride of place to much maligned and characteristically absent from the "mainstream" philosophical traditions and the ideas of people that are not normally considered worthy of study in the American academy. We wish to broaden our repertoire so that our knowledge will reflect the comparative perspectives that studying different traditions can offer while at the same time giving us access to the wisdom of peoples other than our own.

Full details for PHIL 2525 - Introduction to African Philosophy

Fall.
PHIL2530 Religion and Reason What must (or could) God be like, and what reasons do we have for thinking that a being of that sort actually exists? What difference would (or could) the existence of God make to our lives? Religion & Reason examines the idea, shared by several major world religions, that God must be an absolutely perfect being. What attributes must a perfect being have: must it have a mind, be a person, care for human beings? Is the concept of a perfect being coherent? Is the existence of a perfect being compatible with the presence of evil in the world, the existence of human freedom, the nature of the world as modern science understands it? Does what is morally right and wrong depend in any important way on the nature or will of a perfect being? Is a perfect being among the things that actually inhabit our universe? The course approaches these questions with the tools and methods of philosophical reason and through readings drawn from both classic texts and contemporary philosophical discussion.

Full details for PHIL 2530 - Religion and Reason

Fall.
PHIL2640 Introduction to Metaphysics This course is an introduction to some of the central questions in metaphysics--the study of what there is and how it works. Possible topics include persistence through change, freedom of the will, the nature of time (and the possibility of time travel), causation, properties, and necessity.

Full details for PHIL 2640 - Introduction to Metaphysics

Fall.
PHIL2830 Introduction to Decision Theory This course is an introduction to decision theory. Decision theory aims to answer a fundamental normative question: what ought one to do, given what one believes and values. Modern decision theory is a work in progress, with many outstanding issues, so our focus will be on what are sometimes called the philosophical 'foundations' of decision theory. Our discussion will be driven by some concrete problems (Newcomb, Death in Damascus, Sleeping Beauty), and by some general questions (what does practical irrationality consist in? how can one argue in favor of one decision theory or another?).

Full details for PHIL 2830 - Introduction to Decision Theory

Fall.
PHIL2990 Foundations of Law and Society This course explores the meaning of Law and Society, which is an interdisciplinary study of the interactive nature of legal and social forces. A law and society perspective places law in its historical, social, and cultural context, studying the dynamic way in which law shapes social norms, policy, and institutions, and conversely, the way that social forces shape the law. This Foundations of Law and Society course is structured as a series of four modules, each taught by a faculty member from a different discipline. The modules will introduce students to a range of disciplinary methods and content related to the study of the interaction of law with social, political, and economic institutions and relationships.

Full details for PHIL 2990 - Foundations of Law and Society

Fall, Spring.
PHIL3180 Origins of 20th Century Philosophy Philosophical writings from the late 19th century to early 20th century, by William James, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, among others. Topics: metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind and language, and perhaps some value theory. Attention will be paid to relations between this literature and more recent work.

Full details for PHIL 3180 - Origins of 20th Century Philosophy

Fall.
PHIL3204 Hellenistic Philosophy An examination of the doctrines of the Greek philosophers working in the three centuries after the death of Aristotle. Emphasis on Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Skepticism.

Full details for PHIL 3204 - Hellenistic Philosophy

Fall.
PHIL3231 Kant's Ethics This course introduces students to Kant's moral philosophy, focusing on his normative ethics. We will pay special attention to how Kant's emphasis on virtue in his later ethical writings enables a response to many of the historical and contemporary criticisms leveled against him. We will also discuss some remaining worries about his theory; for example, those stemming from his rigorism or his views on race and gender.

Full details for PHIL 3231 - Kant's Ethics

Fall.
PHIL3250 Nineteenth Century Philosophy Survey of nineteenth century philosophy.

Full details for PHIL 3250 - Nineteenth Century Philosophy

Fall.
PHIL3610 Epistemology This course will be an advanced introduction to some contemporary debates in epistemology.  We will start by considering skeptical arguments that we cannot really know whether the world is the way it appears to us.  We will look at different strategies to respond to such skeptical arguments, in particular contextualism, and explore questions concerning the nature of knowledge and the relation between knowledge and other epistemologically significant concepts, such as certainty, justification, and evidence. We will also look at Bayesian epistemology and its theoretical underpinnings, at knowledge-first approaches to epistemology, at the relation between knowledge and action, and at the compatibility of traditional epistemology with formal epistemology.  Also will explore the notion of common knowledge, and issues in social epistemology.

Full details for PHIL 3610 - Epistemology

Fall.
PHIL3710 Philosophy of Language An introduction to some of the main issues in the philosophy of language. Topics may include names, definite descriptions, belief ascriptions, truth-conditional theories of meaning, pragmatics, and metaphor. Both historical and contemporary readings are considered.

Full details for PHIL 3710 - Philosophy of Language

Fall.
PHIL3900 Independent Study To be taken only in exceptional circumstances. Must be arranged by the student with his or her advisor and the faculty member who has agreed to direct the study.

Full details for PHIL 3900 - Independent Study

Fall or Spring.
PHIL4003 German Philosophical Texts Reading, translation, and English-language discussion of important texts in the German philosophical tradition. Readings for a given term are chosen in consultation with students.

Full details for PHIL 4003 - German Philosophical Texts

Fall, Spring.
PHIL4110 Greek Philosophical Texts Reading and translation of Greek philosophical texts.

Full details for PHIL 4110 - Greek Philosophical Texts

Fall, Spring.
PHIL4310 Mathematical Logic First course in mathematical logic providing precise definitions of the language of mathematics and the notion of proof (propositional and predicate logic). The completeness theorem says that we have all the rules of proof we could ever have. The Gödel incompleteness theorem says that they are not enough to decide all statements even about arithmetic. The compactness theorem exploits the finiteness of proofs to show that theories have unintended (nonstandard) models. Possible additional topics: the mathematical definition of an algorithm and the existence of noncomputable functions; the basics of set theory to cardinality and the uncountability of the real numbers.

Full details for PHIL 4310 - Mathematical Logic

Fall.
PHIL4311 Topics in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics Advanced discussion of a topic in logic or foundational mathematics.

Full details for PHIL 4311 - Topics in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics

Fall.
PHIL4410 Topics in Ethics and Value Theory Advanced seminar covering a topic in ethics and value theory.

Full details for PHIL 4410 - Topics in Ethics and Value Theory

Fall.
PHIL4611 Topics in Action Theory Advanced discussion of a topic in philosophical action theory.

Full details for PHIL 4611 - Topics in Action Theory

Fall.
PHIL4730 Semantics I Introduces methods for theorizing about meaning within generative grammar. These techniques allow the creation of grammars that pair syntactic structures with meanings. Students look at several empirical areas in detail, among them complementation (combining heads with their arguments), modification, conjunction, definite descriptions, relative clauses, traces, bound pronouns, and quantification. An introduction to logical and mathematical concepts used in linguistic semantics (e.g., set theory, functions and their types, and the lambda notation for naming linguistic meanings) is included in the course.

Full details for PHIL 4730 - Semantics I

Fall.
PHIL4900 Informal Study for Honors I Majors in philosophy may choose to pursue honors in their senior year. Students undertake research leading to the writing of an honors essay by the end of the final semester. Prospective candidates should apply at the Department of Philosophy office, 218 Goldwin Smith Hall.

Full details for PHIL 4900 - Informal Study for Honors I

Multi-semester course: (Fall, Spring).
PHIL4901 Informal Study for Honors II Majors in philosophy may choose to pursue honors in their senior year. Students undertake research leading to the writing of an honors essay by the end of the final semester. Prospective candidates should apply at the Department of Philosophy office, 218 Goldwin Smith Hall.

Full details for PHIL 4901 - Informal Study for Honors II

Spring.
PHIL4941 Locke and the Philosophies of Dispossession: Indigenous America's Interruptions and Resistances This course looks at the philosopher John Locke as a philosopher of dispossession. There is a uniquely Lockean mode of missionization, conception of mind and re-formulations of the 'soul' applied to dispossess Indigenous peoples of the social institutions, intellectual traditions and the material bases and practices which sustain(ed) them. While colonization is typically used as a kind of shorthand for this process, we will be attempting to stay focused on the specific dimensions of Lockean dispossession and its mutually informing relationship with English colonialism.

Full details for PHIL 4941 - Locke and the Philosophies of Dispossession: Indigenous America's Interruptions and Resistances

Fall.
PHIL6010 Greek Philosophical Texts Reading and translation of Greek Philosophical texts.

Full details for PHIL 6010 - Greek Philosophical Texts

Fall, Spring.
PHIL6030 German Philosophical Texts Reading, translation, and English-language discussion of important texts in the German philosophical tradition. Readings for a given term are chosen in consultation with students.

Full details for PHIL 6030 - German Philosophical Texts

Fall, Spring.
PHIL6100 Pro Seminar in Philosophy Seminar for first year Philosophy graduate students.

Full details for PHIL 6100 - Pro Seminar in Philosophy

Fall.
PHIL6204 Hellenistic Philosophy For description, see CLASS 3661.

Full details for PHIL 6204 - Hellenistic Philosophy

Fall.
PHIL6220 Topics in Modern Philosophy Advanced discussion of topics or authors in "modern" Western philosophy (circa the 17th and 18th centuries).

Full details for PHIL 6220 - Topics in Modern Philosophy

Fall, Spring.
PHIL6311 Topics in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics Advanced discussion of a topic in logic or foundational mathematics.

Full details for PHIL 6311 - Topics in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics

Fall.
PHIL6410 Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory Graduate seminar covering a topic in ethics and value theory.

Full details for PHIL 6410 - Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

Fall, Spring.
PHIL6610 Topics in Epistemology An intensive seminar on a special topic in epistemology to be determined by the instructor. Potential topics include: What are the limits of knowledge? What is the extent and nature of our knowledge of our own minds? How do we gain knowledge through particular sources such as perception, testimony, memory, or reasoning? Readings may be drawn from historical or contemporary sources.

Full details for PHIL 6610 - Topics in Epistemology

Fall.
PHIL6611 Topics in Action Theory Advanced discussion of a topic in philosophical action theory.

Full details for PHIL 6611 - Topics in Action Theory

Fall.
PHIL6713 Philosophy of Language An introduction to some of the main issues in the philosophy of language. Topics may include names, definite descriptions, belief ascriptions, truth-conditional theories of meaning, pragmatics, and metaphor. Both historical and contemporary readings are considered.

Full details for PHIL 6713 - Philosophy of Language

Fall.
PHIL6730 Semantics I Introduces methods for theorizing about meaning within generative grammar. These techniques allow the creation of grammars that pair syntactic structures with meanings. Students look at several empirical areas in detail, among them complementation (combining heads with their arguments), modification, conjunction, definite descriptions, relative clauses, traces, bound pronouns, and quantification. An introduction to logical and mathematical concepts used in linguistic semantics (e.g., set theory, functions and their types, and the lambda notation for naming linguistic meanings) is included in the course.

Full details for PHIL 6730 - Semantics I

Fall.
PHIL6740 Semantics Seminar Addresses current theoretical and empirical issues in semantics.

Full details for PHIL 6740 - Semantics Seminar

Fall.
PHIL6922 Foundations of the Social Sciences Social science research almost always combines empirical observation (data), the construction of concepts (language), and the logical analysis of the relations between observations and concepts (statistics).  This course examines the relations between these three dimensions as the analyst moves from one to the other both as practice and in the crafting of a formal summary of findings and argument. We will be particularly interested in the foundational assumptions that underpin the connections between empirical reality, language, and statistical analysis. While these foundational assumptions are often taken for granted by social scientists, they vary dramatically between social science disciplines.  The implicit contradiction between that variance and their doxic acceptance within disciplines will be a primary focus of the course.

Full details for PHIL 6922 - Foundations of the Social Sciences

Fall.
PHIL6941 Locke and the Philosophies of Dispossession: Indigenous America's Interruptions and Resistances This course looks at the philosopher John Locke as a philosopher of dispossession. There is a uniquely Lockean mode of missionization, conception of mind and re-formulations of the 'soul' applied to dispossess Indigenous peoples of the social institutions, intellectual traditions and the material bases and practices which sustain(ed) them. While colonization is typically used as a kind of shorthand for this process, we will be attempting to stay focused on the specific dimensions of Lockean dispossession and its mutually informing relationship with English colonialism.

Full details for PHIL 6941 - Locke and the Philosophies of Dispossession: Indigenous America's Interruptions and Resistances

Fall.
PHIL7000 Informal Study Independent study for graduate students only.

Full details for PHIL 7000 - Informal Study

Fall or Spring.
PHIL7900 Placement Seminar This course is designed to help prepare Philosophy graduate students for the academic job market. Though students will study sample materials from successful job applicants, much of the seminar will function as a workshop, providing them with in-depth feedback on multiple drafts of their job materials. Interview skills will be practiced in every seminar meeting. The seminar meetings will be supplemented with individual conferences with the placement mentor, and students should also share copies of their job materials with their dissertation committees.

Full details for PHIL 7900 - Placement Seminar

Fall.
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