Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Course Descriptions

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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.

004: The Human Condition
Explores the significance and meaning of human life, selfhood, authenticity, and mortality.

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Questions of race in canonical philosophical texts, historical documents, and narrative essays; with attention to critical thinking skills.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

013: Nature and Environment

We read Aristotle, Dante, Newton, Goethe, Mary Shelley, Val Plumwood, and Frans de Waal (et al) to examine how the world around us can be something at once natural and wild.

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.

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.

106: Business Ethics
Studies philosophical issues in business practices such as advertising and market development, trade and competition, labor rules and relations, and environmental and social costs.

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.

108(w): Social/Political Philosophy
Introduction to political authority, community, inequality, power, pluralism, rights, justice, and other contemporary social and political issues.

109: Aesthetics

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

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.

115: Philosophy of Education
Critically examines the nature, methods, and goals of education, the philosophical foundations of educational theories, and their economic, political, and cultural implications.

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.

125: Epistemology
Knowing something adds to my social importance, my authority and influence over others; when I am entitled to claim that I know something, when do I have the right to be sure, and to what extent am I obliged to respond to those who doubt that I do?

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

132: Bioethics

A range of ethical theories applicable to bioethical concerns (e.g., human and animal experimentation, euthanasia, abortion, genetic enhancement) and case studies where ethics intersects with medicine, science, law, and politics.

135: Jewish Ethics

Examination of Jewish ethical thought from biblical foundations to the modern period, with attention to contemporary issues in moral philosophy.

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?

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.

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.

407: Technology and Human Values [Sentesy]
How much control do we actually have over technology, and how much does it control us? What are the effects of our constant interaction with technology? How does it alter our scientific interpretation of the physical world? How does technology change what we think we are? What is the future of humanity: a living planet or a spaceship?

408: Seminar in Social and Political Philosophy [Lim]

The concept of justice and its role in various puzzles, especially the obligations on states to act justly in light of inequality and disadvantage. We also study reparation, discrimination, global distributive justice, and immigration.

432: Medical and Health Care Ethics [Mekel]

The ethical, social, and legal issues inherent in health care and medicine. Special attention will be given to emerging technologies and the issues they are likely to raise. Readings may include popular health care narratives and speculative fiction.

457: Seminar in Twentieth Century Philosophy [Lawlor]

20th century answers to the question of what is philosophy, drawing answers from Bergson (1903); Heidegger (1929 and 1956); Merleau-Ponty (1951); Lyotard (1964); Deleuze (and Guattari) (1991); and Agamben (2016). Creativity within language or of language will be the most general definition of philosophy we shall see in this course.

460: African American Philosophy [Marriott]

Beginning with the question of race and ontology, the course will go on to consider questions of sovereignty and domination, freedom and liberation, identity and difference, and concluding with a study of race and the posthuman. We pay special attention to the themes of violence and determination, structure and genealogy, and history and repetition.

461: Plato [Moore]

Plato’s dialogues may constitute the earliest instances of “political philosophy” in Western philosophy. We will focus on issues of utopia, democracy, virtue, leadership, law, the individual and communal good life, and the power and weaknesses of discussion to make progress on these issues. We will read the Apology, Protagoras, CharmidesRepublicTimaeusCritias, and chapters from Laws.

485: Heidegger [D. Aggleton]

Fundamental ideas in Heidegger’s work, including authenticity, resoluteness, truth, and finitude, following them to their nexis in his understanding of ethics. Reading Jean-Luc Nancy will help to consolidate Heidegger’s ethics and extend that work in new directions.