Anthony Ellis
Professor and chair

philosophy.vcu.edu

Philosophy aims at a deeper understanding of matters that should most concern the human race. Philosophical questions crop up in science, religion, art, morality, politics, medicine and in everyday life. Students enrolled in philosophy are encouraged to think seriously about fundamental issues in all these domains and to formulate coherent and well-grounded points of view. Because of its extensive use of critical and analytical reasoning, philosophy equips students for careers in medicine, law, business and other fields that require careful thought and the clear expression of ideas.

The Department of Philosophy offers a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. The department offers courses for students in other programs, as well as for those majoring in philosophy or religious studies.

 

PHIL   101. Introduction to Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An introduction to some of the main branches of philosophy. Some of the issues that might be addressed are: What is knowledge? Is reason or experience the basis for all knowledge? Can we have knowledge of the past or of the future? What is truth? Does God exist? Is there a mental realm separate from the material realm? Are the laws of nature deterministic? Do we have free will? What makes an action morally permissible? What is the proper role of the state in regulating our lives? This course is directed primarily at first- and second-year students.

PHIL   103. Ancient Greek and Medieval Western Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A survey of Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks (e.g., Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) through the medieval period (e.g., Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas).

PHIL   104. Modern Western Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A survey of Western philosophy from the Renaissance to the 19th century ( e.g., Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel and Marx).

PHIL   201. Critical Thinking About Moral Problems. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   112 or both ENGL   295 and HONR   200. Focuses on the development of sound critical-thinking skills and their application to a range of topics in moral philosophy, including questions about the nature of morality and whether we have reason to be moral, and also to various topics in applied ethics such as the morality of abortion, animal rights, world hunger, pornography, capital punishment, sexual behavior, environmental ethics and reverse discrimination. Credit toward graduation may be received for only one of PHIL   201, 212, 213 or 214.

PHIL   211. History of Ethics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   112 or both ENGL   295 and HONR   200. A philosophical investigation of the main concepts and theories of ethics and their application to fundamental moral questions, as illustrated by the ethical systems of such historically important Western philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hume, Mill and Kant.

PHIL   212. Ethics and Applications. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   112 or both ENGL   295 and HONR   200. A philosophical investigation of the main concepts and theories of ethics, with applications to fundamental moral questions as they arise in different areas. Such problems as abortion, the welfare of animals, world hunger, pornography, capital punishment, nuclear defense, sexual behavior, environmental ethics and reverse discrimination may be used as illustrations. Credit toward graduation may be received for only one of PHIL   201, 212, 213 or 214.

PHIL   213. Ethics and Health Care. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   112 or both ENGL   295 and HONR   200. A philosophical investigation of the main concepts and theories of ethics, with applications to fundamental moral questions as they arise in health care. The following issues may be used as illustrations: abortion, euthanasia and the right to die, human experimentation, treating mental illness, genetic technologies, the concepts of health and disease, and the funding of health care. Credit toward graduation may be received for only one of PHIL   201, 212, 213 or 214.

PHIL   214. Ethics and Business. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   112 or both ENGL   295 and HONR   200. A philosophical investigation of the main concepts and theories of ethics, with applications to fundamental moral questions as they arise in business. The following issues may be used as illustration: affirmative action, investment in unethical companies or countries, product safety, whistle blowing and advertising. Credit toward graduation may be received for only one of PHIL   201, 212, 213 or 214.

PHIL   221. Critical Thinking. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An introduction to inductive and deductive reasoning, with emphasis on common errors and fallacies.

PHIL   222. Logic. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An evaluation of deductive arguments utilizing the methods of symbolic logic.

PHIL   230. Reason, Science and the Self. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Open to Honors College students only. The reasonableness of a belief often depends on the arguments that support it. One primary goal of this course is to sharpen the abilities to identify, analyze and assess arguments. Another primary goal is to show how to apply critical reasoning skills to philosophical explorations of the nature of science, knowledge and personal identity.

PHIL   250. Thinking About Thinking. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   112 or both ENGL   295 and HONR   200. An interdisciplinary course about thinking. Covers the development of the principles of reasoning, such questions as how thinking relates to behavior and brain activity and how to think about specific areas of our lives, such as science, morality, religion, the arts and the law.

PHIL   291. Topics in Philosophy. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-4 credits. Prerequisite: as specified in the Schedule of Classes or written permission of instructor. An introductory study of an individual philosopher, a particular philosophical problem or a narrowly defined period or school. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics to be offered each semester.

PHIL   301. Mind and Reality. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy including PHIL   221 or PHIL   222, and one of PHIL   101, PHIL   103 or PHIL   104, or permission of instructor. An examination of central metaphysical issues, for example, the mind-body problem, free will, causality, action, realism and the problems of universals.

PHIL   302. Reason and Knowledge. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy including PHIL   221 or PHIL   222, and one of PHIL   101, PHIL   103 or PHIL   104, or permission of instructor. An examination of central epistemological issues, for example, the problem of justification, empirical knowledge, perception, rationality and truth.

PHIL   303. Philosophy of Language. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy including PHIL   222 and 6 additional credits, at least 3 of which must be from PHIL   101, PHIL   103 or PHIL   104, or permission of the instructor. An examination of central issues in the philosophy of language; for example, the nature of meaning and reference, reductionism, properties of languages and the character of artificial symbols systems.

PHIL   320. Philosophy of Law. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy, which must include PHIL   221 or PHIL   222, and one of PHIL   201, PHIL   211, PHIL   212, PHIL   213, or PHIL   214, or permission of instructor. A critical examination of the nature of law and criminal justice in the light of important human values. The following topics will be considered: the nature of law and legal reasoning, the legal enforcement of morality, and such controversies as punishment versus rehabilitation and the right to due process versus the need for public safety.

PHIL   322. Tibetan Buddhism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A basic introduction to the history, development and mythology of the Buddhism of Tibet focusing on the Indian heritage and shared basis of all Buddhist practices, a clear identification of the three vehicles found in Buddhism, and a careful consideration of the path of the Bodhisattva, the hero of Great Vehicle Buddhism. Crosslisted as: RELS   322.

PHIL   326. Existentialism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 3 credits in philosophy (exclusive of PHIL   221 and PHIL   222) or permission of instructor. An examination of the nature of truth, freedom, responsibility, individuality and interpersonal relations as found in some principal writings of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Sartre, Heidegger, Camus, Buber and Marcel. Crosslisted as: RELS   326.

PHIL   327. Ethical Theory. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy, which must include PHIL   221 or PHIL   222, and one of PHIL   201, PHIL   211, PHIL   212, PHIL   213, or PHIL   214, or permission of instructor. A study of the problems of philosophical ethics, including relativism, egoism, utilitarianism, intrinsic value and the meaning and justification of ethical principles. Both historical and contemporary thinkers will be considered.

PHIL   331. Philosophy of Science. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 3 credits of philosophy and 6 credits of natural sciences courses. An examination of the bases of scientific inquiry in both the natural and social sciences; including a study of such topics as hypothesis formation and testing, and the nature of scientific laws, theories and explanations.

PHIL   335. Social and Political Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy, which must include PHIL   221 or PHIL   222, and one of PHIL   201, PHIL   211, PHIL   212, PHIL   213, or PHIL   214, or permission of instructor. A critical examination of political power and of the relationship between the individual and society. Possible topics include: anarchism and the justification of having a state at all; political views about what sort of state is justified (e.g., conservatism, liberalism, communitarianism, feminism, Marxism); private vs. collective property; market vs. planned economies; democracy vs. totalitarianism; and civil disobedience and revolution.

PHIL   340. Philosophy for Children. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: two philosophy courses, which must include at least one of PHIL   101, 103 or 104. A service-learning course requiring at least 15 hours of service in which students will be required to lead philosophical discussions with primary/secondary schoolchildren. An analysis of perennial philosophical questions and problems with the aim of introducing them to children. Some of the questions that might be addressed include: What is happiness? What is justice? What is a mind? Can a mind exist apart from a body? Can machines think? What is time? What is knowledge? What are the limits of human knowledge?.

PHIL   342. Buddhist Reasoning and Debate. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 4 lecture hours. 4 credits. Prerequisite: RELS/INTL   311. A basic introduction to perception, logic and epistemology in Buddhist thought. The course is designed to convey basic reasoning skills including formation of arguments, checking arguments for validity, and developing techniques and strategies for rational discourse. Crosslisted as: RELS 342.

PHIL   391. Topics in Philosophy. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-4 credits. Prerequisite: as specified in the Schedule of Classes or permission of instructor. A study of an individual philosopher, a particular philosophical problem or a narrowly defined period or school. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics to be offered each semester.

PHIL   408. Indian Tradition. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: At least six credits in philosophy or religious studies courses. A systematic analysis of the major theories of Indian religious and philosophical thought: Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, Charvaka, Jainism, Buddhism, the six systems of Hinduism and contemporary development. Crosslisted as: RELS   408.

PHIL   410. The Chinese Tradition in Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A study of the development of Confucianism, of alternative ways of thought prior to the fall of the Han Dynasty and of neo-Confucianism. The systems of thought are examined in the light of their social, political and religious impact on China, Korea and Japan. Crosslisted as: RELS   410/INTL   410.

PHIL   412. Zen Buddhism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   200 or HONR   200. A study of Zen Buddhism, including backgrounds in Indian philosophy and practice, development in China and Korea, and present-day Zen theory and practice in Japan and in Western countries. Crosslisted as: RELS   412/INTL   412.

PHIL   421. Aesthetics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 3 credits in philosophy (exclusive of PHIL   221 and PHIL   222) or permission of instructor. A critical survey of philosophies of art from antiquity to the 20th century. Topics include: the nature of art, creativity, aesthetic experience and aesthetic judgments.

PHIL   430. Philosophy of Religion. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 3 credits in philosophy (exclusive of PHIL   221 and PHIL   222) or permission of instructor. A critical analysis of such topics as the concept of God, arguments for the existence of God, the problem of evil, the concept of faith, religious language and the conceptual problems posed by the plurality of religions. Crosslisted as: RELS   430.

PHIL   440. Mysticism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   200 or HONR   200. A critical analysis of the varieties of mysticism in world religions. Arguments for and against mysticism will be emphasized. Mysticism will be related to art, psychology, science, philosophy, theology and magic. Crosslisted as: RELS   440.

PHIL   490. Seminar in Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. May be repeated with different topics for maximum of 6 credits. Prerequisite: one of PHIL   301, 302, 303, 320, 327, 335 or permission of instructor in exceptional cases. Research and analysis of selected philosophical topic in a seminar setting. Must be taken at least once as a senior (i.e., after the completion of at least 85 credit hours toward the degree) to satisfy the capstone requirement.

PHIL   492. Independent Study. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. Variable credit. Maximum of 6 credits per semester; maximum total of 12 credits for all independent study courses. Open generally to students of only junior or senior standing who have acquired at least 12 credits in the departmental discipline. Determination of the amount of credit and permission of instructor and department chair must be procured prior to registration of the course. An independent study course to allow interested majors in philosophy to do research, under the direction of a professor qualified in that field, in an area of major interest.

PHIL   496. Senior Research Project. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; 1-4 credits. Prerequisites: Senior status; two courses from PHIL   301, 302, 303, 320, 327, 335, 391; and written approval by faculty supervisor. An individual research project to develop a polished journal-length research paper. This course is intended primarily for students who wish to develop a dossier paper for submission to a philosophy graduate program.