Professors: Richard Fleming, Gary Steiner
Associate Professors: Peter S. Groff (Chair), Sheila Lintott, Matthew Slater, Jeffrey S. Turner
Assistant Professors: Maria Balcells (visiting), Jason Leddington
Philosophy examines questions pertaining to the nature of language, truth, knowledge, reality, beauty and ethical commitment — questions that are so fundamental to human existence that they are neither easily answered nor easily ignored. The study of philosophy develops skills in interpreting texts, thoughtfully responding to other viewpoints, constructing and evaluating argumentation, and the disciplined imagining of novel possibilities for human knowing, valuing, and living. In addition to its intrinsic interest and value, it also provides excellent training for graduate, medical, law or business school and prepares students for a variety of potential careers, from the corporate world to nonprofit work to creative, educational, or entrepreneurial pathways.
Bucknell's philosophy curriculum offers courses in a wide variety of subjects, figures, historical periods, traditions, movements and methodological perspectives. Some courses focus on general fields such as ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, epistemology and logic. Others raise philosophical questions about topics such as mind, language, art, music, science, religion, politics, gender and law. Historically oriented courses range from the earliest Greek philosophers up through revolutionary 20th century thinkers such as Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Still others span whole philosophical traditions (Chinese, Indian, Islamic, Jewish) or survey specific movements (existentialism, phenomenology, analytic philosophy, feminist philosophy).
The philosophy major consists of a minimum of nine courses drawn from different areas,
- Introduction to Philosophy requirement: any section of PHIL 100. (This course is a prerequisite for most 200- and 300-level PHIL courses.)
- Logic requirement: PHIL 103 or PHIL 201.
- Two Core Historical Period requirements: PHIL 205 and PHIL 207.
- Axiology (Value Theory) requirement: PHIL 212, 213, 214, 215, 218, 228, 246, 265 or 271.
- Metaphysics and Epistemology requirement: PHIL 204, 220, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 268 or 272.
- Movements and Traditions requirement: PHIL 206, 219, 222, 230, 233, 256, 258, 260, 262, 266, 267, 269 or 270.
- Senior seminars/Culminating Experience: Two 300-level seminars or one 300-level seminar plus PHIL 321, or PHIL 322, or PHIL 323.
This curriculum aims at providing students with a balance of breadth and depth in the field, while allowing them a large degree of flexibility in choosing the specific courses that best fit their particular interests.
The learning goals of the philosophy major include (1) a general comprehension of several major periods and authors in the history of Western philosophy, (2) skill in constructing and evaluating argumentation, (3) skill in developing and evaluating interpretations of philosophical texts and (4) an appreciation of the fundamental ambiguities and complexities involved in the human attempt to answer questions about knowing, valuing and living.
In addition to these discipline-specific goals, the philosophy major is designed to cultivate a number of more general skills and competencies, in accordance with the "Disciplinary Depth" component of the College Core Curriculum. They are:
- Skills in writing. Students majoring in philosophy will gain significant experience in the written analysis and evaluation of texts and arguments. Almost every course offered by the philosophy department includes both an intensive and an extensive focus on writing skills.
- Skills in formal presentation. Regardless of one's eventual choice of profession, one must develop skills in oral argumentation, articulate discussion, and persuasion. Many of the courses offered by the philosophy department include work that will enhance students' oral presentation skills, including individual and/or group presentations, oral summaries and other presentations of assigned work, and formal classroom debates. All students in PHIL 207 will develop skills in preparing, revising, and delivering oral presentations of various kinds, including individual presentations, group presentations, and/or formal in-class debates. In addition, in many of the 300-level seminars offered by the philosophy department, students will further develop their formal presentation skills.
- Information literacy. Students majoring in philosophy will gain facility in the use of both primary and secondary sources; learn how to locate, access, and retrieve both primary and secondary materials; learn to evaluate these materials critically through in-class discussion and their written work; become familiar with the legal and ethical standards of information access and use; and learn to use various technological resources in support of their academic work. All students in PHIL 205 will devote special attention to the development of information literacy.
- Culminating Experience (CE). Students majoring in philosophy will complete a two-part Culminating Experience, usually during the senior year. The Culminating Experience is designed to distill and synthesize students' previous studies in philosophy, enriching and cementing the knowledge and skills mentioned above. Students engaged in the Culminating Experience will typically have completed most if not all of the other major requirements. In order to fulfill the Culminating Experience in philosophy, students will either take two 300-level seminars in philosophy or take one 300-level seminar in philosophy and write a senior or honors thesis. At least one of these seminars (or the student's thesis, if the student elects to write one) must be taken during the student's senior year, with the exception that second-semester juniors may complete this Culminating Experience in the major with permission of the adviser and the department chair.
Philosophy majors interested in study abroad are encouraged by the department to do so, and may work with faculty in the department to find a program of study suitable to their interests. Qualified students are also encouraged to pursue honors study in philosophy; they should consult with their department advisers or with the chair of the department in advance about this option. Students will be expected to submit a substantial honors thesis, the equivalent of two semesters of work in their senior year. Credit may be taken either in one semester of the senior year or two. Students pursuing this course of study are exempt from one of the two required CE-related senior seminars. Students wishing to do graduate work in philosophy may want to supplement their philosophical studies with language courses, for example in ancient Greek, Latin, French, German, Chinese or Arabic.
The minor in philosophy consists of four courses, two of which must be 200 level or above. No particular combination of courses is required and students may wish to design a minor with their particular interests and aims in mind.
Philosophy courses (listed by area requirement).
Introduction to Philosophy (I or II; R; 3, 0)
Multiple sections of this course are offered every semester, under a variety of specific titles: e.g., "Law, Morality and Society" (ethics, socio-political philosophy and philosophy of law), "Consciousness" (philosophy of mind), "Philosophy of Laughter" (the ethics, aesthetics, and socio-political implications of comedy), "World Philosophy" (a comparative examination of Greek, Indian and Chinese philosophical traditions), "Gods, Humans and Animals" (philosophical anthropology and the ethical status of animals), and "Philosophy and Film" (fundamental philosophical questions regarding the nature of reality, freedom, knowledge, art and value explored through film).
A study of the principles of reasoning.
Logic (I or II; 3, 0)
An introduction to informal and formal ways of reasoning. The structures and general forms of argument as well as the standards and criteria needed to evaluate arguments, and the historical development of logical reasoning, will be studied.
Symbolic Logic (I or II; 3, 0)
This course will introduce the basic concepts and philosophical problems that arise in a study of 20th and 21st century symbolic logic. Careful work on the concepts and problems of modern logic will direct the course, with a concentration on the basic changes introduced to the discipline by the logical work of Frege and Russell. The course will investigate topics in propositional and quantificational logic and general logical theory (completeness, consistency, independence, rigor). It will conclude with a study of the system of Wittgenstein's Tractatus. Prerequisite: PHIL 103 or permission of the instructor.
Core Historical Periods
Studies of the two essential periods in the history of Western philosophy: Ancient Greek (5th-4th c. BC) and modern European (17th-18th c.).
Greek Philosophy (I; 3, 0)
Studies of the ancient Greek notions of the kosmos or universe, society, and the soul, through readings of the Presocratics, Socrates and Plato, and Aristotle. Some attention will also be paid to the mythic/poetic background from which philosophy arises for the ancient Greeks. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or PHIL 103 or PHIL 201 or permission of the instructor.
History of Modern Philosophy (II; 3, 0)
Philosophical thought in the classical modern age, including Continental Rationalism, British Empiricism, and Kant. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
One of the major branches of philosophy, Axiology concerns itself with the nature of value (axios), e.g., the good in ethics, justice in social and political philosophy, the right in law, and the beautiful, the sublime, and the ugly in aesthetics.
Philosophy of Art (I or II; 3, 0)
Analysis of the creative process, the work of art, natural beauty, aesthetic experience, and principles of criticism. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as ARTH 222.
Ethics (II; 3, 0)
An attempt to formulate adequate criteria for the basic moral conceptions of good and bad, right and wrong, and duty, by a study of leading ethical view points from Plato to the present. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or PHIL 103 or PHIL 201 or permission of the instructor.
Social and Political Philosophy (II; 3, 0)
Problems such as individual and state, freedom and organization, power and rectitude, philosophy of law, equity and differences, the sociomoral basis of rights. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Philosophy of Music (I or II; 3, 0)
An exploration of the concepts and problems involved in a philosophical (self-reflective) investigation of music. Using two 20th-century musicians (Bernstein and Cage) as a guide, questions about the being and characteristics of music will be pursued. Learning to talk and ask questions clearly about the nature of sound and silence is a goal of the course. (Philosophers such as Rousseau, Schopenhauer, Thoreau, Camus, and Wittgenstein will provide direction for class discussion and lectures.) Crosslisted as MUSC 215.
Ecology, Nature, and the Future (I or II; 3, 0)
An examination of the biological and philosophical underpinnings of ecology and environmental science. The course will consider such questions as: What is life? How are organisms and the environment connected? Is nature "in balance"? What is our relation to the natural world? Does nature have instrinsic value? How do our present actions and activities affect nature's future?
Contemporary Ethical Theory (I or II; 3, 0)
Contemporary approaches to the problems of ethics: universality, moral vs. non-moral judgements, facts and values, etc. Readings in such thinkers as Hare, Rawls, Gilligan, Williams, MacIntyre, Nussbaum, and Rorty. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or PHIL 103 or PHIL 201 or permission of the instructor.
Philosophy of Law (I or II; 3, 0)
Examination of some central philosophical issues relating to law, including law's relation to economics, literature, democracy, rules, integrity, and interpretation. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or PHIL 103 or PHIL 201 or permission of the instructor.
Controversies in Art (AI or AII; 3, 0)
An investigation of philosophical issues related to various controversies in the art world and in aesthetics more generally. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as ARTH 265 and WMST 265.
Western Perspectives on Animals (I or II; 3, 0)
Examines the conceptual and moral status of animals in our culture, as expressed in philosophy, religion, ethology (animal behavior), the law, and social policy. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Metaphysics and Epistemology
Two major branches of philosophy, which are closely intertwined. Metaphysics concerns itself with the most general of all topics: being or existence itself. What does it mean to be? What are the ultimate constituents of reality? It encompasses numerous sub-topics such as the nature of universals, mind, personal identity, freedom, time and God. Epistemology constitutes a systematic investigation into the nature, sources and limitations of knowledge.
Scientific and Everyday Reasoning (I or II; 3, 0)
An investigation of inductive and ordinary language forms of reasoning. The basic concepts and problems in inductive reasoning will be studied, and attention given to how our ordinary language influences traditional logical principles and criteria. A careful examination of fallacies and mistakes in reasoning will introduce the more formal aspects of the course. Prerequisite: PHIL 103 or permission of the instructor.
Philosophy of Science (I or II; 3, 0)
An introduction to foundational metaphysical, epistemological, methodological, and ethical questions concerning science and scientific practice. Particular attention will be paid to theory confirmation, observation and experiment, explanation, scientific progress and revolution. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Philosophy of Religion (I or II; 3, 0)
Problems for rational inquiry arising from the claims and practices of religious faith; the nature of religious experience and language, arguments for God's existence, evil. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as RELI 216.
Theory of Knowledge (I or II; 3, 0)
Addresses topics related to the nature and acquisition of knowledge, such as belief, justification, evidence, perception, testimony, and skepticism. Readings may include both classic and contemporary authors, such as Plato, Descartes, Russell, Austin, Davidson, Goldman, McDowell, and Sosa. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Metaphysics (I or II; 3, 0)
An inquiry into the nature of being/reality. Topics may include the ontological status of universals, mind, personal identity, freedom, time and God. Readings in such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Ockham, Descartes, Leibniz, Berkeley, Kant, Bergson and Heidegger. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Philosophy of Mind (I or II; 3, 0)
A study of topics in the philosophy of the mind, such as the mind-body problem, thought, consciousness, perceptual experience, and artificial intelligence. Readings may include both classic and contemporary authors, such as Descartes, Hume, Ryle, Davidson, Fodor, Dennett, and Chalmers. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Philosophy of Language (I or II; 3, 0)
An examination of philosophical problems concerning the nature of language, meaning, and communication. Readings may include both classic and contemporary authors, such as Locke, Mill, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Austin, Quine, Davidson, Dummett, Kripke, and Kaplan. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Topics in Metaphysics (I and II; 3, 0)
Focused study of a specific topic in metaphysics, such as space and/or time, substance, possible worlds, the mind-body problem, truth, and abstract objects (propositions, universals, values, numbers, etc.). Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Philosophy of Biology (I or II; 3, 0)
We will survey the central epistemological and metaphysical problems addressed in the 20th-century philosophy of biology. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Movements and Traditions
Many important philosophical figures, problems and positions are deeply rooted in particular movements and traditions. These can represent radically different philosophical perspectives, concerns or ways of thinking.
Medieval Philosophy (I or II; 3, 0)
A comparative examination of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions in medieval philosophy. Questions will focus on the existence and nature of God, the structure of reality, free will, the problem of evil, the possibility and scope of human knowledge, the meaning of history, the fate of the soul, and the highest good for human beings. Readings in Augustine, Avicenna, Maimonides, Aquinas and others. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
The Problem of False Consciousness (I or II; 3, 0)
Examination of leading theories of individual and mass deception, as well as theories of self-deception, as these theories bear on the task of informed decision making. Philosophers to be studied may include: Freud, Marx, Sartre, Jung, Foucault, Lukacs, Habermas. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Analytic Philosophy (I or II; 3, 0)
An introduction to the analytic style of philosophy by way of selected topics illustrating its subject matter, methods, and historical development. Readings may include Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Moore, Austin, Carnap, Quine, and others. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Feminist Philosophy (I; 3, 0)
An examination of feminist philosophy primarily as it occurs in the U.S. from the late 18th century to the present. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or WMST 140 or WMST 150 or permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as WMST 230.
The Philosophy of Peace and Nonviolence (I or II; 3, 0)
A course in peace studies that will investigate the arguments and spirit of Pacifism and nonviolent philosophies. Crosslisted as UNIV 233.
From Hegel to Nietzsche (AI or AII; 3, 0)
The rise, fall, and reaction to German Idealism in 19th-century continental thought. Philosophers to be studied may include: Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Existentialism (I or II; 3, 0)
Analysis of selected texts of Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Camus, or Sartre. Special attention given to the relation of existentialism to problems of post-Cartesian thought. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or PHIL 103 or PHIL 201 or permission or the instructor.
Phenomenology (I or II; 3, 0)
Analysis of selected texts of Husserl, Heidegger, or Merleau-Ponty. Some consideration of the interpretation of the history of philosophy offered by phenomenology. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Contemporary Continental Philosophy (I or II; 3, 0)
A survey of some major currents and figures in twentieth-century philosophy. Philosophers to be studied may include: Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Benjamin, Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Levinas. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Chinese Philosophy (AI or AII; 3, 0)
Major philosophical schools of the classical age, Buddhist philosophy, Neo-Confucianism. Crosslisted as EAST 266 and HUMN 266. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Islamic Philosophy (I or II; 3, 0)
A survey of major historical figures and movements in the Islamic philosophical tradition. Topics discussed include the good life for human beings, the question of death and the afterlife, the nature and existence of God, the function and value of organized religion, and the relation between reason, revelation and mystical knowledge. Philosophers to be studied include: al-Farabi, al-Razi, Avicenna, al-Ghazali, Ibn Tufayl, and Averroës, among others. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Indian Philosophy (I or II; 3, 0)
A survey of the Indian philosophical tradition, from its beginnings in the Vedas and Upanishads through the development of the major philosophical schools. Multiple perspectives on topics such as the nature of reality, knowledge and freedom will be examined. Readings in the systems of Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Buddhism, Jainism, and Carvaka. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Jewish Philosophy (AI; 3, 0)
This course focuses on key philosophers within the Judaic tradition who played a pivotal role in the development of Western philosophy overall. Figures studied include Philo of Alexandria, Maimonides, Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas. Topics considered include the existence, nature and knowability of God, human freedom, the Holocaust and the problem of evil, the ultimate basis of morality and the nature of our ethical obligations to one another, and potential conflicts between Jewish particularism and philosophical universalism. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor.
Senior Seminar/Culminating Experience Courses
A different senior seminar is offered every semester. These are advanced courses, primarily intended for majors, which focus in depth on a particular philosophical figure, historical period, topic, problem or movement. Individual studies and Senior or Honors theses must be specially arranged with the professor who will be supervising it.
Seminar in Historical Studies: Individual Philosophers (I or II; R; 3, 0)
Intensive study of the works of a single philosopher chosen from the ancient, medieval, modern, or contemporary period of the history of philosophy. In recent years: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein. Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy and permission of the instructor.
Seminar in Historical Studies: Historical Periods (I or II; R; 3, 0)
Study of a selected period in the history of ancient, medieval, modern, or contemporary philosophy. In recent years "Philosophy of Ordinary Language," "Habermas and (Post) Modernity," "Plato, Aristotle, Sophists." Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy and permission of the instructor.
Seminar in Philosophical Problems (I or II; R; 3, 0)
A selected problem of philosophy as this occurs historically in the ancient, medieval, or modern periods, or in contemporary thought. In recent years: "Philosophy of Mind," "Environmental Aesthetics," "Perception," "Philosophical Heretics," "Friendship," "Doubt, Disagreement and Dogmatism." Prerequisites: two courses in philosophy and permission of the instructor.
320. Individual Studies in Philosophy (I and II; R)
Open to advanced students who wish to pursue individual programs of study under the supervision of a professor, or of a committee of professors if the subject falls within two or more departments. May be conducted as a seminar for three or more students pursuing similar programs. Subjects may be chosen from any field of philosophy in consultation with the members of the department of philosophy.
322. Honors Thesis (I and II)
Substantial independent work on some problem or topic approved by the department of philosophy as honors work.
Senior Thesis (I or II)
Independent research on a philosophical issue, in consultation with staff members. The thesis should show integrative and creative abilities. Prerequisite: major in philosophy.