The Catholic University of America

Course Descriptions

Philosophy (PHIL) Undergraduate Courses

To view the complete schedule of courses for
each semester, go to Cardinal Station.

PHIL 201: The Classical Mind: The Origin and Growth of Western Philosophy

3.00 Credits

An introduction to philosophy, using the original writings of several philosophers from the ancient and medieval periods, with a more general consideration of the history of philosophy. Offered both semesters.

PHIL 202: The Modern Mind: Philosophy from Descartes to the Present

3.00 Credits

An introduction to modern philosophy focusing on texts from selected modern and recent thinkers; traces the development of Western philosophical thought from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The intent of this course and its prerequisite is to utilize history and the texts of great philosophers to establish the structure and methodology of philosophical thinking. Offered both semesters. Prerequisite: 201, 211 or equivalent.

PHIL 211: The Classical Mind (Honors)

3.00 Credits

An introduction to philosophy, using the original writings of several philosophers from the ancient and medieval periods, with a more general consideration of the history of philosophy. Offered for Honors program students only. Offered both semesters.

PHIL 212: The Modern Mind (UH)

3.00 Credits

An introduction to modern philosophy focusing upon texts from selected modern and recent thinkers, traces the development of Western philosophical thought from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The intent of the course and its prerequisite is to utilize history and the texts of great philosophers to establish the structure and methodology of philosophical thinking. Offered in the spring semester for Honors program students only. Prerequisite: 211 or equivalent.

PHIL 301: Reasoning and Argumentation

3.00 Credits

An introduction to deductive logic. Topics include rhetoric, dialectic, types of definition, informal fallacies, deductive validity, syllogistic logic, and legal reasoning. Simple inductive procedures also considered. Area I. Offered both semesters. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 303: Biomedical Ethics

3.00 Credits

An introduction to bioethics which examines human nature, moral action, and moral reasoning within the context of medicine and health care. Topics investigated may include reproductive technologies, abortion, experimentation on human subjects, genetic therapy, euthanasia, brain death, doctor-patient relationships, and the just allocation of health care. Area I. Offered both semesters. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 305: Metaphysics

3.00 Credits

An introduction to the philosophy of being for non-majors. Typical topics include the following: the nature of metaphysical inquiry; the basic categories of being; properties common to all beings; the analogy of being; the problem of universals; substance, accident, essence, and existence; God. Area II. Offered both semesters. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 308: Philosophy of God

3.00 Credits

A critical examination of the traditional arguments for the existence of God and of their scientific, epistemological, and logical requirements; a discussion of the philosophy of God as conceived by the principal representatives of modern philosophy. Area II. Offered both semesters. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 309: Theories of Ethics

3.00 Credits

A study of classical and contemporary theories of moral conduct. Special emphasis on problems of moral judgment, justification, and ideas. Area I. Offered both semesters. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 310: Philosophy of Art

3.00 Credits

Philosophical treatment of a range of art forms that focuses on the nature of creativity, beauty, and representation. Major arts compared and contrasted. Area I. Offered both semesters. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 311: Contemporary Moral Issues

3.00 Credits

A study of ethical principles and their application to selected moral issues from various fields of contemporary human action. Area I. Offered both semesters. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 313: Philosophy of Human Nature

3.00 Credits

Comparison and contrast of texts from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Nietzsche and others on such themes as: nature and convention, freedom, solitude, and community. Offered both semesters. Area II. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 315: Philosophy of Language

3.00 Credits

A philosophical inquiry into the nature and function of language. Studies classical, medieval, and modern philosophers; discusses topics such as meaning, reference, and truth. Area II. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 317: Philosophy of Religion

3.00 Credits

An examination of philosophical questions that have arisen in the Western tradition regarding such fundamental issues as the relationship between faith and reason; the nature of religious language; rational arguments for and against the existence of God; the problem of evil; the nature and attributes of God; the relationships between God and human freedom, and between morality and religion; the problem of miracles; and the prospect of life after death. Area II. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 328: Philosophy of the Social Sciences

3.00 Credits

Philosophical issues arising in the theory and practices of the social sciences. Special emphasis on the epistemic status of theoretical laws in the social sciences and the role and function of models. Area II. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 329: Philosophy of Science

3.00 Credits

Logic of inquiry in the sciences (primarily natural); explanation, prediction, causality, scientific law, induction, and other concepts involved in understanding the scientific enterprise. Offered both semesters. Area II. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent. .

PHIL 331: Philosophy of Knowledge

3.00 Credits

A study of knowledge in the context of belief, ignorance, and error, with attention to truth and falsity, justification, explanation, desirability of knowledge, the distinction between useful and liberal knowledge, and relativism. Area II. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 332: Political Philosophy

3.00 Credits

A philosophical examination of action and political life; work, labor, and technology; friendship; privacy and publicness; justice and other virtues; cities, states, and nations; nature and convention; the moral and the legal. Area I. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 333: Philosophy of Natural Right and Natural Law

3.00 Credits

The discovery of natural right as the origin of political philosophy. Topics include classic natural right in its Socratic-Platonic, Aristotelian, and Thomistic forms,as well as natural right and natural law. Machiavelli and modern natural law and right in Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, the attack on natural right in the name of 'history.' Area I. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 334: Philosophy in the Islamic World

3.00 Credits

On the one hand, under the Abbasids (8th-10th centuries) many Greek philosophical texts, and in particular those of Aristotle, were translated from Greek into Arabic. On the other hand, as soon as Muslims felt the need to defend their faith, they elaborated philosophical concepts, as we can observe in Kalâm or theology. As Aristotelian concepts and Kalâm concepts did not always share the same presuppositions tensions arose between some philosophers who closely followed Aristotle and some theologians who found some of Aristotle's views incompatible with Islam. Some thinkers tried to integrate the two approaches. Philosophers in the Islamic world were from various ethnic backgrounds - few were Arab - and from various religious persuasion - not only Muslims but also Christians and Jews - but they all interacted and often used Arabic as their linguistic mode of communication. They developed interesting and sophisticated new positions and kept a philosophical tradition alive long after the Middle Ages. Some of their texts were translated into Latin in the XIIth Century and much influenced the Latin West, through people such as Roger Bacon, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus. Area II. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 351: Introduction to Symbolic Logic

3.00 Credits

Treatment of the general nature of deductive argument, language, and logic; syllogistic (Aristotelian) logic; propositional and predicate logic (first-order). Major emphasis on modern symbolic techniques. Offered both semesters. Area I. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or 211 and 212, or equivalent.

PHIL 353: History of Ancient Philosophy

3.00 Credits

The beginning of philosophy from the pre-Socratics to Plotinus. Emphasis is placed on nature and language as the origin of philosophical problems in Heraclitus, Parmenides and Plato. Key elements of Aristotle's philosophy are presented with an emphasis on categories and the background for metaphysics. Skepticism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism are explored in relation to materialism, fate, and natural law. Concentrators only.

PHIL 354: History of Medieval Philosophy

3.00 Credits

The history of philosophy from the Fathers of the Church until the end of Scholasticism. Emphasis is placed upon texts by Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham. Topics covered include the nature of being, the existence and attributes of God, the human person, and the problem of faith and reason. The course builds upon the study of ancient philosophy and provides essential background for the study of early modern philosophy. Concentrators only.

PHIL 355: Metaphysics I

3.00 Credits

Historical and theoretical analysis of the nature of metaphysical thinking; being; essence-existence; matter-form; substance-accident; person and supposit; efficient and final causality, transcendentals and the problem of evil. Concentrators only.

PHIL 356: Metaphysics II

3.00 Credits

Historical and theoretical analysis of the nature of metaphysical thinking; being; essence-existence; matter-form; substance-accident; person and supposit; efficient and final causality, transcendentals and the problem of evil. Concentrators only. Prerequisite: 355.

PHIL 362: Professional Ethics in Engineering

3.00 Credits

An examination of professional activity as essentially related to human fulfillment, both personal and social. Also treats, using case studies, standards for good judgment in matters specific to engineering, including risk assessment, whistleblowing, and environmental protection. Offered only for juniors and seniors in the School of Engineering.

PHIL 374: Ritual Language and Action

3.00 Credits

A survey of basic speech techniques and drama skills applied to the language and action of the liturgy. Students learn through lecture, classroom discussion, and ongoing development of skills and group critique. Leading prayer in the seminary community also serves as a practicum. For seminarians only.

PHIL 375: Liturgical Readings

3.00 Credits

Through classroom discussion and ongoing practicum, students learn the foundations for and the skills of proclaiming the Word of God in the liturgical setting. Theological and practical skills learned in this course in the seminary community and as readers at The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. For seminarians only.

PHIL 403: Morality and Law

3.00 Credits

A study of the relation between law and morality and its consequences for the resolution of human conflict. Emphasis on the issues between natural law/right theory and its diverse critics. Topical problems deal with the legal enforcement of morals, punishment, discrimination. Area I. Prerequisites: 201 and 202, or equivalent.

PHIL 453: History of Modern Philosophy

3.00 Credits

A treatment of the main philosophers of the rationalist, empiricist, and Kantian traditions, from Descartes through the nineteenth century. Concentrators only. Junior standing required.

PHIL 454: Contemporary Philosophy

3.00 Credits

Beginning with the nineteenth century, a treatment of the roots of contemporary philosophical movements such as analytic philosophy, on the one hand, and phenomenology and existentialism, on the other. Explores the implications of these movements in twentieth century philosophy. Authors treated may include Frege, Husserl, Nietzsche, Peirce, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Quine.. Concentrators only. Junior standing required.