Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Course Descriptions

You are here:
Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

001: The Big Problems
Central philosophical questions, including those about truth and reality, knowledge and belief, value and meaning, mind and body, God and soul.

002: Individual and Society
Core questions and contemporary issues concerning human life in social and political contexts, including power, justice, government, violence, community, and identity.

003: The Ethical Life
Core questions and contemporary issues concerning ethical conduct, human values, character, wellbeing, freedom, responsibility, and reasoning about moral problems.

005: Philosophy and Film

Starting with the HBO series Chernobyl, we will study collective responsibility and the themes of reparations, colonialism, and climate justice.

007: Asian Philosophy
Philosophical, moral, and aesthetic teachings of Asian traditions such as Hinduism (Bhagavad Gita), Buddhism, Daoism (Daodejing), and Confucianism (Analects).

008: Gender Matters

Questions about gender and power in diverse philosophical texts and feminist art and film.

009: Race, Racism, and Diversity

Questions of race in canonical philosophical texts, historical documents, and narrative essays; with attention to critical thinking skills.

010: Critical Thinking

Identifying irrationality and bias, exercising critical capacities in speech and writing, and studying limits of analytic reasoning.

012: Symbolic Logic

The elements of logical reasoning: informal tests for “good” arguments, mechanical tests for validity, systems of proof, the logical analysis of language.

014: Love and Sex
Western philosophical and theological theories of love and sexuality, with contemporary multimedia, to examine the cultural construction of relevant myths, taboos, and attitudes.

015H: How to Live

Reflections on ways of life, from diverse philosophical perspectives, with weekly practical components.

103(w) Ethics

Historical and contemporary ethical theories, including conceptions of virtue, duty, autonomy, right action and the good life, the foundations of ethical norms, and their validity.

105: Philosophy of Law
Reflection on the nature of law, punishment, the Constitution, property, justice, legislation, adjudication, and responsibility.

107: Philosophy of Technology
Considers what technology is, how it transforms the world and human values, and the ways in which humans drive and are driven by the invention of technology.

109: Aesthetics

This course analyzes the meaning and value of art, beauty, and aesthetic experience in light of various artistic media, especially photography.

110: Philosophy of Science

Examines science’s assumptions about explanation, knowledge, and reality; progress in science; the relation between the branches of science; and the relation between science and culture.

114: Feminist Philosophy

Examines feminist philosophy and the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, class, and other dimensions of identity in relation to structures of power.

118: Environmental Ethics

The ethical value of nature and non-human species, the relation between economic and ethical evaluations, problems of resource distribution and environmental justice, food production, climate change.

119: Ethical Leadership
Studies moral questions concerning leadership and the development of admirable and effective leadership qualities.

120N: Knowing Right from Wrong
The nature of moral ideas, beliefs, and behaviors in contemporary contexts.

126: Metaphysics
The nature of being and reality, identity, causality, and time.

133N: Ethics of Climate Change

The science, policy, and ethics of climate change, one of the great moral problems of our time.

136N: Art/Philosophy in Ancient Greece

Reading Plato and the 5th-century tragedians, we attend the “ancient quarrel” between philosophy and poetry: which better transmits ethical and social ideals?

197: American Psycho [De Warren]

Reflection on the social forces of consumerism, media, and capitalism as contributing to a distinctly American cultural psychosis. We will study philosophy from Simmel, Debord, Baudrillard; read American Psycho, Blood Meridian, White Noise, Butcher’s Crossing, The Crying of Lot 49; and watch Dr. Strangelove, Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now, Ravenous.

200: Ancient Philosophy

Studies the origins of Western philosophy, specifically Ancient Greek inquiries into desire and thought, knowledge and being, truth and action, nature and the good.

201: Medieval Philosophy:

Key medieval philosophers, such as Aquinas, Avicenna, Al-Ghazali, Augustine, Averroes, Abelard and Duns Scotus, focusing on ethical issues.

202: Modern Philosophy: 1600–1800
A survey of metaphysics and epistemology in 17th and 18th centuries, with a focus on the takes on figures such Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke and Hume on issues concerning the mind/body distinction, the nature and source of knowledge, the existence and the role of God in a mechanistic universe.

203: 19th Century Philosophy
European philosophy from Kant to Nietzsche, highlighting the period’s critical and revolutionary character.

204: 20th Century Philosophy
Examines major movements, potentially including phenomenology, positivism and analytical philosophy, existentialism, pragmatism, critical theory, and feminism.

205: American Philosophy: 1840–present

How US philosophers, including Peirce, James, and Royce, developed a distinctive philosophy: fallibilism, anti-Cartesianism, anti-evidentialism, fideism, the will-to-believe, pragmatism, truth, reality, skepticism, loyalty ethics.

408w: Seminar in Social and Political Philosophy: Race [Lim]

What, exactly, is race? What consequences might racial identity and positionality have for our lived experiences? How ought we understand the phenomena of racism and discrimination, as they persist today? How should societies respond to ongoing legacies of racial oppression? Could we be required to support the use of affirmative action, recognize the right to reparations for past injustice, or even dismantle the prison system? Using the tools of contemporary analytic philosophy and the perspectives of other disciplines (e.g. law, economics, and postcolonial thought), students will engage in rigorous analysis of these puzzles.

409: Seminar in Aesthetics: Schiller [D. Aggleton]

The poet, playwright, and philosopher Friedrich Schiller insisted that humanity will miss its destiny unless, through an aesthetic education, it calls forth its suppressed ability to play. Schiller’s contention is ambitious: only through aesthetic play can we awaken our true potential to engage in moral imagination, reform political structures, interpret historical developments, and plumb our psychological depths. In fact, Schiller’s ambitious reflections prefigured essential developments in aesthetic, hermeneutic, dialectical, and phenomenological thinking for the next two centuries.

439: Asian Philosophies and Issues: Buddhism [Augustin]

A focus on Buddhist philosophy, starting with the early teachings of the Buddha and his immediate disciples, in their soteriological context: the Four Noble Truths, the Eight-Fold Path, the Twelve-Linked Chain of Dependent Origination, and the Doctrine of No-Self. Then we study the Abhidharma and the Mahayana movements’ attempts to provide the metaphysical and epistemological foundations that yield a consistent interpretation of these early teachings, as well as their response to criticisms from orthodox Indian philosophy. Topics include ontology and mereology; logic and inference; causality; the nature of personal identity; the mechanics of perception and cognition; memory and unification; ethics and moral psychology; and karma and rebirth.

453: Seminar in Ancient Philosophy: Perception and World [Sentesy]

We examine how concepts of perception are intertwined with concepts of reality or world in ancient Greek philosophy. Key early Greek views include Xenophanes’ rigorously perspectival concept of knowledge, Heraclitus’ dynamic systems-based critique of the senses, and Protagoras’ objective relativism. We will read the critique of these positions in Plato’s Theaetetus, and Aristotle’s kinetic account of perception in On the Soul and On the Senses.

455: Seminar in Modern Philosophy: Spinoza’s Ethic [Bowman]

Baruch de Spinoza’s monism, naturalism, denial of freewill, and his systematic theory of the emotions, together with his critique of religious orthodoxy and his recommendation of the democratic form of government make him the most radical philosopher of the modern period. This course is devoted to a reading of Spinoza’s main work of systematic philosophy, the Ethics, Demonstrated in Geometric Order (1677), after reviewing Descartes’s basic ideas and Spinoza’s critical re-working of them in his Principles of Cartesian Philosophy (1663). We will also consult relevant passages from Spinoza’s other works and his reception.

478: Ethics after the Holocaust [De Warren]

The aim of this course is to explore various ways in which philosophers have responded to Auschwitz (a signifier, or name, which is in turn not without controversy and complexity). Course readings address the relation between testimony and trauma, rethinking evil and gratuitous suffering in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the reaffirmation of Judaism as a living philosophical and religious worldview, narrativity and historical forgetting, aesthetic representation and the unspeakable, and the question of God. Readings include Primo Levi, Giorgi Agamben, George Didi-Huberman, TW Adorno, Hans Jonas, Emmanuel Levinas, and Hannah Arendt.