Complete list of courses taught by the Philosophy Department. (Please note that not every course is offered each year. Visit our "Upcoming Courses" page to learn about current semester course offerings).

Lower-Division Courses:

  • PHIL 100.  Introduction to Philosophy (3) Provides an introduction to philosophy and an opportunity for students to dive into the deepest questions of life. What is the purpose of life? Can two people disagree and both be correct? Is beauty only in the eye of the beholder? What is science, anyway? Are people obligated to obey the law? What makes someone the same person over time? Students explore a variety of philosophical questions to develop their communication and argumentation skills through discussion, analytic reading, academic writing and other assignments.

  • PHIL 105 Critical Reasoning (3) General education humanities course. Helps students become better at reasoning. Focuses on different patterns of reasoning common in college-level studies and in everyday life. Some patterns are treated in concrete and content-specific ways, and others are treated in highly abstract ways. Students also learn to be critical by different kinds of standards. For example, students learn about how much precision to demand when reasoning about different kinds of topics, and how to evaluate considerations in terms of relevance. Ultimately, students learn how to strengthen their own capacities for reasoning and how to recognize and correct errors in their own thinking and in other people’s reasoning.

  • PHIL 125 Introductory Logic (3) Introduces students to the use of formal logic as a tool for understanding and evaluating patterns of reasoning. Focuses on deductive validity, logical equivalence and proving soundness. The formal systems introduced in this course are topic-neutral—i.e., they apply to patterns of reasoning on any topic. These formal systems are particularly useful for future studies in areas such as computer science, law, engineering and philosophy.

  • PHIL 175/H Introduction to Ethics (3) Introduction to normative ethical theories, including consequentialism, deontology, virtue ethics and care ethics, as well as the values and principles central to these evaluative frameworks. In guided discussion and argument, students apply these to a range of personal and contemporary problems such as the ethics of interpersonal relationships, epistemic and doxastic responsibility, environmental ethics, and cyberethics. This course is intended to empower students to advocate effectively.
  • PHIL 215 Introduction to Ethics of Big Data and AI (3) Examines ethical issues that have arisen or that may be expected to arise in the development and use of big data, data analytics, apps, automated personal assistants and smart technology. Topics may include privacy and transparency, pitfalls of personalized automation in medicine, alternatives to contracts of adhesion, identification and prediction in law enforcement and security, smartening agriculture, hardening social media against disinformation, and algorithmic oppression. Focus is on prevention and problem-solving for future professionals and anyone interested in data science, analytics, algorithm development and smart technology. The course may be tailored to address current events and student interest.
  • PHIL 228 Introduction to Japanese Philosophy (3) A survey of Japanese philosophy that selects topics and relevant figures from the ancient period (roughly the late sixth century CE) to the present day. Examines the emergence of Japanese philosophical contributions from philosophical movements like Buddhism (especially Zen and Pure Land Buddhism), Confucianism, and Shintoism prior to the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and the appropriation and critique of Western philosophy in the post-Meiji era. Topics may include the nature of reality, aesthetics, the “bodymind,” ethics, impermanence and the significance of death, the insubstantial self, questions about meaning, environmental philosophy, and philosophy of technology.

Lifelong Learning Courses for Seniors 65+

  • PHIL 150AI Ethics of Big Data and AI (0.5) In this era of ChatGPT, Alexa and algorithmically controlled social media, how can people develop informed opinions and make responsible decisions? This course presents a framework for ethical evaluation and explores its implication for current and emerging technologies that use big datasets to train machine learning and deep learning algorithms for predictive and generative AI.
  • PHIL 150B Women & Computers: Two Historical Episodes (0.5). Recent historical studies reveal that, in the earliest days of the computer industry, there were women at the helm of the new electronic computing equipment. Eventually, as computer jobs become professionalized, the picture changes to one in which it is mostly men who are working with computers. In this course we will look at two historical studies in the history of computing that illustrate this: the birth and decline of the computing industry in Britain during and after WWII, and the use of computing machinery in the birth of space exploration in the United States (some of which was depicted in the film "Hidden Figures.") 
  • PHIL 150C Philosophy of Humor (0.5) This is a LifeLong Learning course on humor in which we will take a broad interdisciplinary approach to humor.  Along the way we’ll philosophize all the funny out of humor, muck into the politics of the absurd, and get down to some funny business. Is humor quintessentially human?  Is your bank balance a joke? Does laughing at fart jokes demonstrate poor character? We’ll ask all these questions and more, but answer none!  This course contains diversity content. Warning: Your professor is not funny.  Side effects are typically mild to moderate.
  • PHIL 150D Science for Dummies: 2000 Years of Science with No Math (0.5) Presents the history of science as a series of connected and improving explanations. Students look at the questions and answers with a nontechnical view point, from the first naturalistic explanations, to questions about the nature of light and the origins of the universe and everything.
  • PHIL 150E What is Light? Science, Art, and Life (0.5) This course looks at how various disciplines (physics, biology, art, philosophy) answer the question: what is light? The idea of light is central to human culture, as a metaphor, a physical thing or even as a god. The concept of light plays a foundational role from the invention of fire, to Genesis, the Enlightenment, quantum mechanics and the light of reason. Students examine some of those concepts, while also thinking about how the "right" answer to a question depends so much on the context in which it's being asked.
  • PHIL 150F How to Know You Know (0.5) This course looks at various strategies and principles for distinguishing knowledge from mere beliefs. This is a more popular and shorter version of an epistemology course. Participants talk about evidence, inference to the best explanation, the problem of induction, statistics, and truth.

First Year Seminars

First-Year Seminars do not meet a divisional requirement in the pre-Fall 2024 WSU General Education program, and can only be used in Bucket 7 for General Education starting Fall 2024.

  • FYPL 102A First-Year Seminar: Law (3). This course is a first-year seminar on law in which students take a broad interdisciplinary approach to U.S. law. Domains of law such as constitutional law, tort law and criminal law are introduced. Covers legal procedures, argumentation and reasoning. Cases and current events are used to illustrate basic concepts and raise philosophical issues. International law and comparison with other legal systems may be used to provide context and perspective. 
  • FYPL 102B Critical Reasoning About Weird Things (3) A first year seminar on critical reasoning, in which students focus on learning and practicing the tools required to understand and critically evaluate weird and extraordinary claims. Students work on understanding how arguments work, how to reconstruct them, and how to critically reason about both everyday arguments and arguments about unusual or extraordinary topics, such as pseudoscientific claims about the paranormal, miracle drugs and conspiracy theories. 
  • FYPL 102S First-Year Seminar: On Humor (3). Seminar on humor which takes a broad interdisciplinary approach to humor. Along the way, participants philosophize all the funny out of humor, muck into the politics of the absurd and get down to some funny business. Is humor quintessentially human? Is someone's bank balance a joke? Does laughing at fart jokes demonstrate poor character? The course asks all these questions and more, but answers none! Warning: the professor is not funny. Side effects are typically mild to moderate. Course includes diversity content. 

Upper-Division Courses:

  • PHIL 300 Science and the Modern World (3). General education humanities course. Develops an understanding of the methods and accomplishments of science and how they have affected the way people understand themselves, society and the universe. The approach is both historical, with respect to the re-creation of the prescientific world view and the developments of science, and analytical with respect to understanding the goals, methods and limits of contemporary science. No prerequisite, but prior completion of general education requirements in science is desirable. Course includes diversity content.

  • PHIL 302 Values and the Modern World (3). General education humanities course. Examines the philosophical pressures on values wrought by rapid modern cultural and technological change. Explores the relations between social values and social institutions, provides a framework for critically and objectively thinking about moral values, and considers various standards proposed for resolving moral dilemmas. Course includes diversity content.

  • PHIL 304 Latin American and LatinX Thought (3). General education humanities course. Examines the origins of Latin America, how social-political forces have shaped Latin American identity, and the borders that separate Anglo America and Latin America. Engages historically influential Latin American philosophers as well as contemporary Latinx philosophers.
  • PHIL 305 Analytic Philosophy (3). General education humanities course. Studies the rise of analytic philosophy in the 20th century, emphasizing the themes unifying philosophers who originated modern philosophical analysis. Includes the nature of analysis and the relationship between analysis and classical philosophical problems, such as the nature of reality, the nature of knowledge, the nature of language, the nature of morality.

  • PHIL 306 Business Ethics (3). General education humanities course. A critical examination of representative moral issues that arise in the context of business. Focuses on topics such as the nature of professionalism, the social responsibility of business, regulation, employee rights and obligations, sexual harassment, economic justice, environmental impact, the limits of property rights, and conflicting international mores and practices. Course includes diversity content.

  • PHIL 310 Classical Philosophy of Law (3). General education humanities course. What is law? Is it a system of commands, rules or norms? How are these different? Need law be a system at all? Can it be law if it doesn’t meet a minimum standard of ethical decency? Is law autonomous, or is it reducible to something else? In this course, students study the progression of philosophical arguments and issues concerning the nature, objectivity, normativity, authority, function and implementation of law through classical texts by founders of the discipline like Austin, Hart, Fuller, Finnis, Kelsen and Raz. Course includes diversity content.

  • PHIL 312 Contemporary Philosophy of Law (3). General education humanities course. When should the Supreme Court decline to hear a publicly significant case? On what grounds could a judge decide a case isn’t clearly covered by any extant law, or is covered by too many conflicting laws? What do people mean when they say our laws are systemically racist? Through the course, engage in argument and analysis of endemic and emerging questions like these in jurisprudence and specific domains of law, with some guidance from current events. Course includes diversity content.
  • PHIL 313 Political Philosophy (3). General education humanities course. An examination of various philosophical issues concerning political systems. Discusses issues such as the nature of political authority, the rights of individuals, constitutionalism and civil disobedience. Course includes diversity content.

  • PHIL 315 Late Modern Philosophy (3). General education humanities course. A study of philosophical thought in the 18th century with selections from philosophers such as Berkeley, Hume, Reid, Adam Smith, Butler, Hutcheson, Wolff and Kant, and movements such as empiricism, rationalism, the Scottish common sense school and idealism.

  • PHIL 320 Philosophy of Science (3). General education humanities course. A study of the methods, goals, and world views of the sciences with attention to such topics as the structure and evaluation of scientific theories, the nature of explanation, the dynamics of scientific revolutions and the impact of science on human society and values.

  • PHIL 321 The History and Philosophy of the Physical Sciences in the 20th Century (3). The 20th century saw radical changes in our theories about the nature of the physical world. This course uses a brief initial survey of the so-called "classical" physics of the late 19th century as a springboard for exploring the rise and development of our current views about space, time, matter, energy, gravitation, cosmology and more. The emphasis is not on mastery of technical details but rather on understanding important results in the physical sciences from a humanistic perspective, including their cultural, philosophical and technological implications.

  • PHIL 322 Early Modern Philosophy (3). General education humanities course. A study of philosophical thought in the period from the Renaissance through the 17th century with selections from philosophers such as Pico, Vico, Galileo, Cusanus, Telesio, Erasmus, More, Hobbes, Bacon, Machiavelli, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Malebranche, and Locke.

  • PHIL 325 Formal Logic (3). Studies systems of formal logic including sentential and predicate logic. Emphasizes the uses of these systems in the analysis of arguments. Prerequisite(s): PHIL 125.

  • PHIL 327 Bioethics (3). General education humanities course. Examines ethical issues related to health care such as truth-telling to patients, confidentiality, euthanasia, abortion, prenatal obligations and distribution of health care. Course includes diversity content.

  • PHIL 331 Ancient Greek Philosophy (3). General education humanities course. Examines the development of Greek philosophy in its major phases, including an exploration of the Milesian and Eleatic traditions, Pythagoras, the Atomists, the Pluralists, the Sophists, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

  • PHIL 335 Theory of Knowledge (3). A critical examination of the nature of knowledge, the scope of our ways and means of knowing, and rationality of belief. Topics may include: the concept of knowledge, a priori and empirical knowledge, self-knowledge and knowledge of other minds, skepticism, the values of knowledge, disagreement, testimony, and lies. Includes selections from both historical and recent writings.
  • PHIL 336 Metaphysics (3). An exploration of some basic topics in the theory of reality. Includes such notions as space, time, substance, causality, particulars, universals, appearance, essence, being, persons and free will.
  • PHIL 338 Philosophy of Feminism (3). General education humanities course. Cross-listed as WOMS 338. Explores philosophical issues raised by the feminist movement emphasizing conceptual and ethical questions. Course includes diversity content.

  • PHIL 341 Contemporary Ethics (3). General education humanities course. A study of contemporary developments in ethics. Highlights landmark works from the 20th century to the present. May explore contemporary approaches to an important ethical issue or investigate recent defenses of such ethical theories as Kantian deontology, consequentialism, virtue ethics, contractualism, care ethics and feminist ethics. Prerequisite(s): PHIL 100125, or 144.

  • PHIL 342 History of Ethics (3). General education humanities course. Examines the development of ethics from its ancient Greek origins to the present, or focuses on the ethics of an important historical period such as the modern period. Highlights the substantive and methodological shifts, as well as the historical, social and philosophical pressures that make such shifts explicable. Engages such historically influential philosophers as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Hume, Kant, Mill and Nietzsche. Prerequisite(s): PHIL 100125, or 144.

  • PHIL 345 Philosophy of Sex and Love (3). Examines the ethical, metaphysical, and conceptual dimensions of sex and love. Includes the nature of sex, sexual perversion, homosexuality, pornography, sadomasochism, the nature and varieties of love, the features of love, and the relationship between love and sex. Uses selections from writings of both historical and recent authors.

  • PHIL 346 Philosophy of Religion (3). General education humanities course. Examines some basic religious problems such as the nature and grounds of religious belief, religious language, the existence and nature of God, human immortality, and the problem of evil.

  • PHIL 350 Ancient Chinese Philosophy (3). A survey of Chinese philosophy during the pre-Han period, roughly 500-200 B.C.E. Includes major figures Confucius, Mencius, Mo-Tzu, Hsun-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, Lao-Tzu and Han-Fei-Tzu. Includes the major positions of Confucianism, Mohism, Legalism, Taoism and Dialecticalism.

  • PHIL 352 Contemporary Chinese Philosophy (3). General education humanities course. Surveys Chinese philosophy from the late 19th century to the present day. Covers major figures such as Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Also covers major schools of thought such as the New Culture Movement, Nationalism, Communism, Socialism, Maoism and the post-Mao Economic Reform Movement. Prerequisite(s): PHIL 100 or 144.
  • PHIL 352 Philosophy of Espionage and Secret Intelligence (3). Considers the philosophical aspects of espionage and secret intelligence; the nature of information gathered through spycraft; the status of agents and organizations involved; how to interpret and evaluate information which cannot be taken at face value or is designed to deceive; the objectivity/relevance trade-off inherent in the roles and relationships between intelligence analysts and policymakers; and the recruitment and training of intelligence officers. Also considers the ethics of various intelligence activities, such as covert action, eavesdropping and the inducement of treason. The course is co-taught by experts in the fields of intelligence gathering, critical reasoning and applied ethics, with applications and real-world scenarios and examples. (not currently offered)
  • PHIL 354 Ethics and Computers (3). General education humanities course. Ethics with application to the ethical issues which may arise from the use of computers, including the moral responsibility of computer professionals for the effect their work has on persons and society; the moral obligations of a computer professional to clients, employer and society; the conceptual and ethical issues surrounding the control and ownership of software; and the justifiability of regulation of the design, use and marketing of computer technology. Course includes diversity content. Prerequisite(s): junior standing or departmental consent.

  • PHIL 355 Minds and Machines (3). General education humanities course.People have constructed machines designed to imitate living creatures in some way long before there were electronic computers. When is a machine’s behavior appropriately called "intelligent?" Must it be capable of using a language? Must a machine be capable of learning in order to be regarded as intelligent? Must it be able to communicate with humans? What criteria are appropriate for judging that an animal's behavior is intelligent; should the same criteria be used for machine intelligence? What lessons about machine intelligence should be taken from debates over recent studies of intelligence in animals with nervous systems very different from humans (e.g., corvids, cephalopods)? Students consider these and other, related questions. Course takes a historical and interdisciplinary approach, drawing on works in philosophy, literature, science and history of science. Course includes diversity content.
  • PHIL 360 Ethical Theory. (3). General education humanities course. Studies selected topics in ethics. Investigates issues such as the meaning and justification of moral judgments, the nature of morality, the relations between normative categories and the concept of justice, and the problem of revolution in moral schemes. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy.

  • PHIL 361 Metaethics. (3). General education humanities course. Studies selected topics in metaethics. Investigates, for example, ethical realism, moral relativism, expressivism, moral knowledge, moral motivation and moral value. Readings may include work from figures such as G.E. Moore, A.J. Ayer, R.M. Hare, J.L. Mackie, Gilbert Harman, Philippa Foot, Bernard Williams and Christine Korsgaard. Prerequisite(s): PHIL 100125, or 144.

  • PHIL 365 Survey of Asian Philosophy. (3). General education humanities course. Surveys philosophical systems of Asia, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Key points of similarity and contrast among these systems and between these systems and those dominant in Western societies, regarding the nature of the self and reality, and the sources of moral, political and social value are considered.

  • PHIL 385 Engineering Ethics. (3). General education humanities course. Examines representative ethical issues that arise in engineering. Topics include: professional responsibility and integrity, whistle-blowing, conflict of interest, ethical issues in engineering consulting and research, engineering and environmental issues, and engineering in a global context. Course includes diversity content. Counts towards requried ethics course for engineering majors. Prerequisite(s): junior or senior standing

  • PHIL 386 Biomedical Engineering Ethics (3). General education humanities course. Biomedical engineering is changing extremely rapidly, with the incorporation of new technologies from material science, computer software, nano engineering and robotics, among others. Each of these emerging areas presents new questions in ethics, raising new questions concerning human subjects protections, autonomy, acceptable risks and more. The regulatory framework for evaluation and approval of these technologies is largely grounded in our current understanding of these ethical issues, thus it too is evolving. This course examines these areas and the questions they pose, and develops an ethical framework for evaluation of these issues. Cases illustrating the ethical issues are integrated into the course material. Course includes diversity content. Counts towards requried ethics course for biomedical engineering majors.
  • PHIL 398 Philosophy at Work (3). Applied learning course. Students reflect on how the skills they've gained through their philosophy major can be applied in their current prospective workplaces, service learning activities, student governance and other applied learning opportunities. The course examines common business practices and techniques and critiques their philosophical underpinnings. Practices examined are topical and current; speakers are invited from business (recruiters, hiring managers, business leaders) to talk about needs, success and the value in philosophy proficiencies. Students apply philosophical reflection, rigor and examination to hiring and work-related activities, such as resume writing, online profiles, interviewing, presentation and communication, and collaboration. Course includes diversity content. 
  • PHIL 421 Philosophy of Mind. (3). Critically examines recent developments in the philosophy of mind. Possible topics include the nature of consciousness, mental representation, the mind-body problem, mental causation, psychological explanation, and the computational theory of mind.

  • PHIL 450 Truth and Reality. (3). A survey of philosophical theories of truth, including the correspondence, pragmatic, and deflationary theories. Topics to be covered include skepticism, realism and anti-realism, and social constructionism. Readings may include from figures such as James, Peirce, Dewey, Wittgenstein, Russell, Tarski, Quine, Davidson, Austin, Strawson, Field, Hacking, and Horwich.

Courses For Graduate/Undergraduate Credit:

  • PHIL 501 Philosophy of Language (3). Examines the relationships between philosophy and language. Focuses on questions such as: What is the relation between language and thought? Language and the world? What can the study of language contribute to the resolution of philosophical problems? Prerequisite: one 300-level or higher course in philosophy.

  • PHIL 525 Evidential Reasoning (3). Explores philosophical issues related to reasoning about evidence. Topics may include: induction, confirmation, falsification, the under-determination of theories by evidence, theories of probability, and scientific method. Examines some case studies of reasoning about evidence in, for example, poker, medicine, risk analysis, forensic sciences and the law.
  • PHIL 530 Ethics of Space Exploration (3). General education humanities course. Surveys various philosophical and ethical questions raised by the exploration of the space environment and in space policy discussions. Topics may include rationales for space exploration, space resource exploitation, and space settlement; planetary protection and preservation of the space environment; duties to extraterrestrial microbial life; and regulation and policy for space exploration. Prerequisite(s): at least one course in philosophy.
  • PHIL 535 Data Ethics for Professionals (3). Introduces students to the dimensions of ethical analysis that are necessary for responsible, professional practice of data science and analytics, from inception through the life cycle of their work products. Students analyze real and hypothetical cases and practice strategically advocating for changes, both to particular product specs and to broader corporate policy and professional practice. Course includes diversity content. 
  • PHIL 549 Topics in Ancient Philosophy. (3). Explores one decisive issue in philosophy from the time of Thales through the Stoics. The examination of an issue may confine itself to one period within the total span of ancient philosophy or it may trace the issue throughout the span, indicating its contemporary treatment. Some of the issues treated are: the nature of what is, the concept of the sacred, the meaning of truth, the relation of invariance and process, the existence of universal standards of thought and conduct, the problem of knowledge, skepticism, the nature of language and the character of philosophical inquiry.

  • PHIL 555 Philosophy of the Social Sciences. (3). Studies such topics as the relations of social science with natural science and philosophy, methodological problems peculiar to social science, the nature of sound explanation concepts and constructs and the roles of mathematics and formal theories in social science.
  • PHIL 585 Studies in a Major Philosopher (3). A concentrated study of the thought of one major philosopher announced by the instructor when the course is scheduled. Repeatable for credit. Prerequisite: instructor's consent.
  • PHIL 590 Special Studies (3). Topic for study announced by instructor. Repeatable for credit. Prerequisite: instructor's consent.
  • PHIL 590AD Environmental Ethics. (3). A course surveying various philosophical and ethical questions raised by human interaction with, and impact on, the natural environment. Will focus on historical and contemporary, theoretical and applied, issues in environmental ethics. Topics will include: anthropocentrism versus non-anthropocentrism; environmental justice and rights; progress and innovation versus stewardship and restoration; the science of climate change.
  • PHIL 590K Philosophy of Medicine. (3). Covers topics related to the metaphysics and epistemology of medicine, not excluding their human impact. Topics of philosophical investigation may include for example concepts of disease and disability, evidence based medicine, medical models and mechanisms, reductionism, constructivism, expert consensus, clinical judgment, categorization and classification, epidemiology, and outcome measurement. May include historical and multicultural approaches to health and medicine. 
  • PHIL 590O Models and Analogies (3). In this small seminar-style course, students look at the history and philosophy of the use of models and analogies in various sciences, up to and including the present day. Includes mathematical models as well as physical models, and includes not only physics, chemistry and biology, but social sciences, such as political science, economics and psychology. In the first part of the course, students read and discuss philosophical works about how models and analogies are involved in science, sometimes implicitly, and consider how it is that they can often extend knowledge and understanding, yet also how they can sometimes mislead. In the second part of the course, students take an in-depth look at examples of the use of models in various fields; the choice of topics are based on student interest.
  • PHIL 699 Directed Reading. (2-3). For the student interested in doing independent study and research in a special area of interest. Repeatable for credit. Prerequisite: departmental consent.

Courses For Graduate Students Only:

  • 850 Directed Reading. (3). For the graduate student desiring independent study and research in an area of special interest. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: departmental consent.

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