At Gettysburg College, we see philosophy as a part of the well-lived life and as a bridge to all intellectual pursuits. Philosophy is not about memorizing the views of past thinkers, but about confronting the challenges and opportunities of the real world in ways that lead to insight, wisdom, and engagement. Philosophy points to the world, looking at issues that confront our planet and seeking understanding from a wide variety of perspectives and approaches.
Our classes include Philosophy and Food, Gender and Identity, Technology and Contemporary Life, Philosophy of Place, and Ethics and Economic Life. We see philosophy as part of every endeavor, teaching interdisciplinary courses with members of many other departments and examining issues at the foundations of a wide range of intellectual and creative activities. Philosophy of Music, Reading Darwin, Einstein and the Big Questions, and Deliberative Democracy are but a few of our offerings that connect philosophy with physics, art, mathematics, law, film, psychology, literature, chemistry, economics, and many other pursuits.
Philosophy 101, 103, 105, 107, 108, 109, and 211 have no prerequisites. Any l00-level course is prerequisite for a 200- or 300-level course, though the instructor may grant permission to enroll on an individual basis to equivalently prepared students.
A philosophy major consists of nine courses in philosophy. No more than two 100-level courses may be counted toward the major. Students must take at least two courses chosen from Philosophy 205, 206, 207, and 208; Philosophy 211; one or more advanced 300-level courses; and Philosophy 400 Senior Seminar. Senior thesis is recommended for all majors and is taken as an individualized study in either the fall or spring term. Students work closely with faculty on a subject of their choice.
A philosophy minor consists of six philosophy courses in the department, no more than two of which may be 100-level courses.
Course ListingCourse level:
100 | 200 | 300 | 400
PHIL-101 Introduction to Philosophy
Study of selected philosophical texts, which deal with such themes as knowledge, happiness, justice, death, and the nature of reality. Goal is to develop an ability to read about, reflect on, and comment on philosophical issues.
PHIL-103 Critical Thinking
Informal logic course designed to help students reflect on and enhance their ability to think analytically and creatively. Discussions and exercises focus on techniques characteristic of informal logic (classification of arguments, analysis and evaluation of arguments, identifying informal fallacies, etc.), as well as strategies for intuitive and creative thinking.
PHIL-105 Contemporary Moral Issues
Study of moral problems and larger philosophical questions they raise about such issues as the defensible use of violence, limits of freedom, extent of our obligations to others and to nature, rightful state authority, and the nature of duties and obligations. Selected readings focus on moral disputes as they arise in law and medicine, in international affairs, and in private moral reflection. Particular attention is given to ethical theories and to worldviews that shape positions on moral issues and guide moral decision-making.
PHIL-107 Environmental Ethics
Exploration of ethical issues that arise regarding what responsibilities human beings have to the natural world. Specific issues such as population, land use, wilderness preservation, biodiversity, and our treatment of animals are examined in light of larger philosophical questions regarding nature and human purpose, obligations to future generations, the aesthetic and religious value of nature, and the possibility of an environmental ethic.
PHIL-108 Philosophy and Food
Study of texts focusing on philosophical issues involving the production, distribution, and personal use of food. Specific topics examined include public policy and food production/distribution; diet as ethical choice; poverty and hunger; the existential/metaphysical status of breaking bread; food and consumerism; the aesthetics of diet; and the religious/cultural significance of eating with another.
PHIL-109 Wrong Science, Bad Science, Pseudoscience
Examination of three related issues: (1) the definition of science, what criteria distinguish real science from pseudoscience?, (2) the qualities of good science, what are the properties that make one theory or one research program better than another?, and (3) the relation between scientific research and the broader culture within which it is placed, what special moral responsibilities do scientists take on?
PHIL-110 Einstein and the Big Questions
Revolutionary thinkers give us new ways to view old problems. So it is with Albert Einstein who wrote not only on science, but on philosophy, politics, economics, and religion. This course looks at some of the classic problems in various parts of philosophy through traditional texts and then sees how Einstein challenged the standard positions.
PHIL-205 Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy
Study of philosophers and philosophies of ancient Greece and Rome. Emphasis is on the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Stoicism, and Skepticism.
PHIL-206 Medieval & Renaissance European Philosophy
Study of leading thinkers in the western philosophical tradition, from the fifth to the fifteenth century. Special emphasis is on such figures as Augustine, Bonaventure, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and Pico della Mirandola.
PHIL-207 Early Modern European Philosophy
Study of such major figures as Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume in seventeenth- and eighteenth- century European philosophy.
PHIL-208 Kant & 19th Century European Philosophy
Study of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and selected nineteenth-century European philosophers such as Hegel and Nietzsche.
Introduction to formal logic and a study of the formal uses of language, with particular reference to the nature of inference from premises to conclusion; rules for deductive inference; construction of formal proofs in sentential and predicate logic; and the nature of language.
PHIL-214 Choice, Chance, Luck, and Fate
An examination of a central issue of metaphysics: free will and the factors that may constrain or deny it. The affirmation that human beings may choose their actions, which provides the basis for moral responsibility, is set against the deterministic view that all changes in behavior, all “choices” are caused. The course considers various theories—libertarianism, compatibilisim, and “hard” and “soft” determinism; in addition, attention is given to interpretations of chance, randomness, luck, and fate as affecting human possibilities.
PHIL-216 Philosophy & Human Nature
Study of different theories of human nature and the self, both historically and cross-culturally and in light of contemporary research in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, psychology, and gender and cultural studies.
PHIL-218 Gender and Identity
An examination of the question of whether or not gender is an essential and defining feature of personal identity, largely socially constructed, or perhaps a more fluid and dynamic interplay between nature and culture. Readings will explore biological accounts of sexual identity, the distinction between sex and gender, the significance of gender in the history of philosophy, the influence of race and class on gender, and the contemporary theory of gender as performance.
PHIL-219 Phil of Peace and Nonviolence
Study of philosophical arguments about pacifism and nonviolence. Readings and films will explore the concepts and issues involved in considering peace as the absence of war between nations, peace as a social and economic goal, peace as an ethical principle, and peace as a personal ideal. Particular attention will be paid to an analysis of different ways to conceptualize peace; as eradication of conflict, dialectical tension between diverse perspectives, or harmony and consensus.
PHIL-221 Philosophy of Mind
An exploration of the nature of mind and leading theories of the relationship between mind and brain such as dualism, behaviorism, and mind/brain identity. In light of contemporary developments in neuroscience and cognitive science, topics include consciousness and subjectivity, the language of thought and other accounts of mental content, the problem of other minds, physical versus psychological accounts of personal identity, and ethical issues in contemporary neuroscience.
PHIL-222 Philosophical Perspectives on Justice
Study of the meanings and significance of justice for individuals and societies. Course examines principles and questions regarding distributive and retributive justice raised in central texts of the western philosophical tradition and uses them to analyze students' own views and engage contemporary challenges for individual, local, and global justice.
PHIL-223 Gandhi and Philosophy
An exploration of the philosophical, religious and strategic aspects of Gandhi's theory of non-violence and its relevance to international politics and personal life. The course will examine Gandhi's philosophy of conflict as well as his moral and political thought. Emphasis will be given to philosophical issues raised by his theory of non-violence.
PHIL-224 Philosophy and Human Rights
Study of practical and theoretical issues of human rights and the philosophical questions they raise. Are human rights applicable to all cultures? Are women's rights human rights? Can economic rights override political rights? Are some rights more important than others? How should we understand charges of cultural relativism against the universal applicability of human rights? The course will explore methods of terror such as killing, torture, disappearance, sexual assault and forceful recruitment by oppressive governments and war zone combatants.
PHIL-225 Existential Philosophies
Inquiry into what it means, in the view of existentialist philosophers, to "step forth" in the journey of becoming a self, a journey involving freedom, anxiety, despair, risk, choice and the possibility of inauthenticity. The writings of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky are examined as the inspiration for twentieth-century existentialism (Sartre, de Beauvoir, Beckett) as well as the phenomenological and postmodern responses to existentialism.
PHIL-226 Philosophy of Resistance
Study of the philosophy of social and political resistance as it arises from social unrest and the experience of structural violence. Emphasis is placed on the relationship between injustice and social resistance, and on systems of structural violence such as slavery, caste systems and dictatorships. Selected readings explore such issues as the nature of political and social resistance, the social conditions underlying resistance, the relationship between resistance and social change, and the paradox of violent resistance against injustice.
PHIL-227 Beyond Terrorism
A study to provide a sound knowledge of the issues of terrorism and counter terrorism, and its impact on civil society. By encouraging debate on practical and theoretical aspects of terrorism and counter terrorism, the course challenges students to develop a deeper understanding of many faces and consequences of terrorism. Students look at successful negotiations; ceasefire and peace settlements in ending terrorism. Overall this course addresses the question of how to preserve the values of civil society in the face of terrorism and counter terrorism.
PHIL-228 Imprisonment, Identity and Liberation
Philosophical examination of imprisonment and liberation of body and mind. The course explores the concept of imprisonment from Plato to the present; the philosophical and political reasons for the present criminal justice system; alternate modes of punishment; addiction and its effects on the self; and models of liberation. The class brings together students and work-release prisoners in the study of these topics and takes place at the site of a nearby community organization.
PHIL-229 Philosophy of Yoga
Yoga places the body and self within the same continuum and aims to tame and discipline the body, so that it can be a vehicle for the healthy development of the mind, intellect and ultimately the self. This course investigates the nature of and relationship between the body, mind and self in Indian thought. The course aims to investigate these questions by reading various philosophical works of Yoga.
Study of major figures and schools in the Western ethical tradition. Attention is paid to selections from representative philosophers, from Plato through Rawls. Specific issues examined include the nature of rights and responsibilities, virtue, and moral obligation.
PHIL-233 Philosophy of Science
Examination of the foundations of scientific reasoning. Science draws conclusions about the working of the universe from observational evidence, but what kinds of arguments do they use to arrive at their results? Applying the theoretical views of philosophers of science to case studies in the history of science, this course examines what is meant by "the scientific method." Prerequisite: one course in philosophy or one course in any social or natural science.
PHIL-235 Philosophical Ideas in Lit
A study of the relationship of philosophy to literature and the philosophical questions which arise from reflection on selected literary and philosophical works. Readings explore themes of narrative masquerade, human identity, and the search for meaning, and debate questions of textual interpretation and the reader-text relationship.
PHIL-237 Philosophy of Religion
Study of philosophical efforts to understand and justify religious beliefs. Course examines writings of philosophers who have answered such questions as: What is Religion? What is the importance or significance of specifically religious experiences? What account can we give of the meaning of religious claims? How can we mediate between apparently conflicting religious beliefs?
PHIL-240 World Philosophy
Study of selected writings from the world's philosophical traditions. Such themes as self and world, knowledge and its limits, the meaning and purpose of life, the nature of reality and ideals of moral perfection are explored in diverse philosophical traditions.
PHIL-243 American Philosophy
Study of selected topics in colonial, early republic, nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. philosophy. Topics include deism, transcendentalism, pragmatism and historicism. Important secondary movements such as puritanism and evolutionism may also be considered.
PHIL-246 Philosophy of Theravada Buddhism
An exploration of the Buddhist philosophical explanation of living, suffering (dukka) and the overcoming of suffering. Though illness, aging and death can cause severe suffering, the Buddha claims that the suffering caused by wrong desires has long lasting karmic consequences. By examining the Buddha’s claim, this course explores his philosophical arguments and practical methods of confronting suffering and achieving liberation. By a systematic examination of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths this course explores the Buddhist conception of the meaning of life.
PHIL-314 From Zero to Infinity: Philosophical Revolutions in Mathematics
Study of the philosophical foundations of mathematics starting with the concept of number and culminating the Godel's groundbreaking incompleteness result. Specific topics include the historical developments and mathematical and philosophical ramifications of zero, rational, irrational, imaginary, and transfinite numbers as well as an examination of the completeness of arithmetic.
PHIL-315 The Nature of Space: Philosophical Revolutions in Physics
Study of the notion of space as it has developed from Aristotle to Einstein. Particular focus will be given to relations between scientific accounts of the structure of space and the larger philosophical context in which they arose. Course cross-listed as Philosophy 315. Course does not count toward the physics major.
PHIL-316 Philosophical Revolutions in Geometry
Study of the philosophical foundations and ramifications of the historical development of geometry. Euclid's axiomatic system was held up by philosophers for centuries as the template for all thought. But the development of non-Euclidean geometry gave rise to crucial questions about the foundations of mathematics and about the nature of knowledge more broadly. Is geometry, or mathematics more broadly, a science? Why are its results exact where other sciences are not? If it is not a science, why is it indispensable for science?
PHIL-318 Ethics and Economic Life
A seminar on issues at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, and economics: the explanation and evaluation of human actions and choices. Are we-as many thinkers have claimed-rational, self-interested, autonomous decision-makers? How do such factors as altruism, risk and uncertainty, discounting the future, fairness, luck, and loyalties affect our choices? How do pleasure, happiness, and well-being, and life itself serve as economic and ethical values? How can we be both moral agents and consumers, making rational, ethical choices in an uncertain world?
PHIL-328 Deliberative Democracy
Study of different conceptions of democracy and what procedures insure fair and inclusive deliberation. Students consider what constitutes the best form of government and whose vision should prevail? Emphasis is placed on the debate between liberalism and communitarianism, the role of religion in democracies, the limits of free speech, the role of dissent, the basis of human rights, and the risks entailed in open spaces. Particular focus is given to transitional and emerging democracies across the globe.
PHIL-329 Shapes of Evil
Examination of the construction of notions of evil. Using classical and contemporary texts from Western philosophy, religious thought, and literature, the course thematically engages five shapes of evil: 1) Evil and the Tragic (guilt and innocence in Greek thought); 2) Evil as Sin (the wicked will and God's role vis-a-vis evil); 3) Evil and Power; 4) The Mystique of Evil (the attraction of evil as embodied in the demonic "hero"); 5) Genocide and the Rhetoric of Evil.
PHIL-330 Language, Truth & Reality
Study of some major contemporary efforts related to traditional metaphysical issues. Topics include: Can philosophy tell us anything about the nature of our world? If so, how and what? To what extent is reality mind dependent? What is the relationship between language and reality?
A philosophical exploration of the nature and role of emotion in human life. Course examines emotionality as a human capacity, emotional response as an experience, and specific emotion types, such as anger or fear. Topics include the traditional opposition between reason and passion, between the cognitive and the emotive; the relation of emotion to morality; the possibility of "educating the emotions"; and philosophical issues related to particular emotions such as envy, jealousy, and embarrassment.
PHIL-332 Philosophy and Mysticism
Philosophical examination of mystical texts in the western tradition. In readings drawn from Jewish Christian, and Muslim traditions, students will explore the mystical understanding of God and human nature, the nature of love, the relationship between morality and mysticism, and the truth status of mystical experiences.
PHIL-334 Philosophy of Art
Survey of important problems and issues in the history of philosophical aesthetics, including the nature and function of art, the social role of art, and the relationship of aesthetics to other branches of philosophy.
PHIL-335 Philosophy of Film
The study of film as an artifact that both illuminates philosophical problems and poses new questions for philosophers about the nature of the self and community. The course will examine how humans experience time and organize events and information through viewing film as a model of consciousness. Students will also study film to identify how culture shapes both our identity and our perception of the "Other".
PHIL-338 Philosophy of Law
Study of enduring themes of legal philosophy, such as the nature of law, law and morality, liberty, responsibility, and justice, as well as such specific issues as civil disobedience, freedom of expression, privacy, compensation, and punishment. Emphasis is placed on differing philosophical perspectives that underlie disagreements about the law and on ethical questions that arise from the practice of law.
PHIL-339 Philosophy of Music
A course that addresses philosophical questions about music, such as: What is music? What is a (particular) musical composition? How is music related to our cognitions and emotions? What is the tie between music and mathematics? What is the relation of music to moral character? Exploring such concepts as musical understanding, representation, expression, performance, and profundity, the course draws upon readings and music that span the centuries and the globe, and research from a range of disciplines.
PHIL-341 Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Study of contemporary European and European-influenced philosophy. Course readings may include works by Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, the French Nietzscheans (Bataille, Blanchot, Klossowski, Haar, Deleuze), French feminists (Kristeva, Irigaray, Cixous), and critical theorists (Adorno, Horkheimer). Course explores the interrelations between philosophy and disciplines- such as literature, psychoanalysis, political theory, and cultural criticism-and the ways in which contemporary continental philosophers both take up and alter the historical traditions of philosophy.
PHIL-342 Philosophy of Chemistry
Examination of philosophical issues underlying chemistry. Does all of chemistry reduce to physics or are there purely chemical laws of nature? Does the use of models in chemistry mean that chemical explanations are true or merely useful heuristics? Is there a single method underlying chemistry from physical to organic or is it a historical accident that these fields are grouped together?
PHIL-343 From Babylonia to the Big Bang: The History and Philosophy of Cosmology
Examination of the development of views about the origin and evolution of the universe. From ancient times, humans have tried to answer the biggest of the big questions: where did it all come from? This course traces the course of the answers given from ancient mythology through contemporary models of contemporary Big Bang cosmology, focusing the interaction between advances in physical science and their philosophical ramifications.
PHIL-344 Philosophy of Place
An exploration of the concept of place (versus space) and how place matters in our lives. The course examines the meaning of particular places-home, gardens, cemeteries, battlefields (and athletic fields), prisons, sacred places, etc.-in the context of philosophical theories of place (historical and contemporary), moral geography, the representation of place, and the philosophy of architecture. These issues are studied in dialogue with the contrasting claim that the human good is independent of place.
PHIL-345 Philosophy & Christianity
Exploration of the relationship between philosophy and Christian belief. Course examines the extent to which a "Christian philosophy" is possible; epistemic, metaphysical, and normative analyses of selected Christian doctrines; and critical examination of Christian and non-Christian perspectives on whether philosophy and faith are compatible. Readings are drawn primarily from contemporary analytic and continental traditions.
PHIL-346 The Philosophy of Color
A philosophical exploration of the phenomenon of color. Our experience of color - an important aspect of our experience of the world - poses puzzling problems of metaphysics, epistemology, and aesthetics. To address these and related philosophical issues, this course draws upon multidisciplinary sources, examining: the science, natural history, and aesthetics of color; the symbolism of colors and color patterns in culture and in literature; the relation of color and emotion; and the claim of Western “chromophobia.”
PHIL-350 Reading Darwin
Examining the words and arguments that first proposed the contemporary view of speciation and how they are situated in cultural, historical, and scientific context. Darwin’s theory of evolution was controversial from the start meaning that the scientist left behind a legacy of argumentative writings. This course focuses on closely examining Darwin’s own arguments in order to situate them amongst his influences and the scientific and cultural debates of his age.
PHIL-353 Technology and Contemporary Life
Exploration of the social and cultural impact of technology and the philosophical questions that technology raises. Readings will explore issues related to the autonomy of technology, virtual worlds, technology, power and knowledge, the globalization of technology, the social technologies and emergent lifeworlds, and ethics and technology. Discussion will also focus on the social construction of facts and artifacts and the technological mediation of the relationship of self to world.
PHIL-363 Philosophy of Psychiatry
Study of the philosophical and normative assumptions underlying psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. In particular, this course considers how to define mental disorder, how to draw the line between normalcy and abnormalcy, what cultural and gender assumptions permeate psychiatry, and the insights to be gained from studying cross-cultural to mental illness. A special emphasis is given to the debate over whether we should prescribe psychiatric medications for enhancement purposes.
PHIL-366 Great Philosophers
An immersion in the life and works of a single major philosopher. The course offers a three-dimensional perspective on the writings, biography, social context, and intellectual development of a significant philosopher, including interests that cut across disciplines. It also incorporates the best of contemporary scholarship on the subject’s thought and its continuing relevance. The figure chosen will vary, but exemplars are: Plato, Rousseau, Tagore, Nietzsche, Mill, Heidegger, de Beauvoir, or James.
An immersion in the life and works of an important thinker who, though not normally identified as a philosopher, produced a body of work with philosophical significance. The course offers a close reading of major works, in the context of biography, social milieu, and intellectual developments. The philosophical impact and continuing importance of the selected thinker will be examined also through contemporary scholarship. Exemplars include: Wollstonecraft, Darwin, Freud, Gandhi, or Einstein.
PHIL-400 Senior Seminar
Discussion of important texts by twentieth-century philosophers who represent major movements in analytic and continental philosophy. Recent seminars have focused on Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Foucault, and Rorty as well as themes such as violence and its alternatives, philosophical theories of emotion, the role of philosophy in the postmodern era, and work and personal identity.
PHIL-450 Individualized Study-Tutorial
Individualized tutorial counting toward the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded A-F
PHIL-451 Individualized Study-Tutorial
Individualized tutorial counting toward the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded S/U.
PHIL-452 Individualized Study-Tutorial
Individualized tutorial not counting in the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded A-F.
PHIL-453 Individualized Study-Tutorial
Individualized tutorial not counting in the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded S/U.
PHIL-460 Individualized Study-Research
PHIL-461 Individualized Study-Research
Individualized research counting toward the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded S/U.
PHIL-462 Individualized Study-Research
Individualized research not counting in the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded A-F.
PHIL-463 Individualized Study-Research
Individualized research not counting in the minimum requirements in a major or minor graded S/U.
PHIL-464 Senior Thesis
PHIL-466 Senior Thesis
Individualized study project involving the research of a topic and preparation of a major paper. Normally done during fall or spring semester of the senior year. Prerequisite: major or minor in philosophy.
PHIL-470 Individualized Study-Internship
Internship counting toward the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded A-F.
PHIL-471 Individualized Study-Internship
Internship counting toward the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded S/U.
PHIL-472 Individualized Study-Internship
Internship not counting in the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded A-F.
PHIL-473 Individualized Study-Internship
Internship not counting in the minimum requirements in a major or minor, graded S/U.
PHIL-474 Summer Internship
Summer Internship graded A-F, counting in the minimum requirements for a major or minor only with written permission filed in the Registrar's Office.
PHIL-475 Summer Internship
Summer Internship graded S/U, counting in the minimum requirements for a major or minor only with written permission filed in the Registrar's Office.