Academic Course Catalogs

Drop Shadow


Michelle Gilmore Grier, PhD, CHAIR
H.E. Baber, PhD
Brian Clack, PhD
Jack S. Crumley II, PhD
John Donnelly, PhD
Lawrence M. Hinman, PhD
Gary E. Jones, PhD, JD, MPH
Rodney G. Peffer, PhD
Linda Peterson, PhD
Ann L. Pirrucello, PhD
Dennis A. Rohatyn, PhD
Michael F. Wagner, PhD
Lori Watson, PhD
Mark Woods, PhD
Matt Zwolinski, PhD

The Philosophy Major

The question, “What is Philosophy?” is itself a central inquiry in the study of philosophy. Some view philosophy as an analytical study of concepts, others view it more etymologically as a search for wisdom, and others view it as speculation upon the principles governing human nature and destiny. Philosophy thus includes the study of logical thinking, the practice of rational investigation and understanding, the utilization of holistic imagination, and the application of practical wisdom. In short, philosophy is essentially a rational, synoptic, and practical discipline.

The philosophy department at USD is pluralistic, covering all significant historical periods and most major philosophical methods. The USD philosophy department has a deep and special concern for the study of ethics, values, and the moral life. Additionally, philosophy students at USD can expect to be exposed to perennial epistemological, metaphysical, and theological issues and theories in philosophy — both as these are discussed in the classical texts of great philosophers and also in their contemporary treatment.
Career Opportunities and Advising

The intellectual enthusiasm that philosophy inspires in its students makes graduate work in philosophy, perhaps followed by teaching, a natural aspiration for many philosophy majors. Accordingly, providing a solid preparation for graduate-level work in philosophy, or in another humanities or related discipline, is one goal of the philosophy department. At the same time, most of the skills which philosophy teaches are highly transferable to work or study in other fields. The study of philosophy stresses skills in critical reasoning, including the ability to extract arguments from difficult material, to analyze a position from multiple points of view, and to exercise creativity and sound judgment in problem solving. Philosophy majors are trained to be excellent communicators, and to be able to express themselves in a clear, compelling way, both in speech and in writing. Philosophers are trained to research problems thoroughly — to learn how to ask the right questions and to develop standards to answer them. These are basic skills, which will serve you well in any endeavor you choose to pursue. It is not surprising, then, that philosophy majors have gone on to successful careers in business, medicine, government, computers, and the arts. Furthermore, philosophy majors consistently score among the very highest levels on such standardized tests as the GRE, the GMAT, and the LSAT. Perhaps most important, though, is the personal satisfaction students find that study of philosophy can lend to their life. In this respect, it is well to recall the Socratic adage, which inspires all of philosophy, that the unexamined life is not worth living. Students considering a major or minor in philosophy may discuss their program and interests with any member of the philosophy department, or contact the department office for the designated philosophy advisor(s).
Note: majors are encouraged to complete their lower-division history of philosophy requirements as soon as possible after declaring their major.

Major Requirements

The student must satisfy the core curriculum requirements as set forth in this course catalog and complete the following courses:

Lower Division

12 units, including a logic course (PHIL 101, 102, or 400) and three of the following five courses: PHIL 270, 271, 272, 273, or 274.

Upper Division

24 units, including PHIL 360 and either 321 or 462; three of the following four courses: PHIL 410, 411, 412, 413; and nine upper division Philosophy units, at least six of which are not to be taken from the Philosophy 300 (ethics) series.

Note: At least 18 of these 24 Upper-Division Units must be taken at USD.
Note: 100- and 200-numbered courses are equally lower-division, and 300- and 400-numbered courses are equally upper division. Accordingly, students intent on majoring or minoring in philosophy may take 200-numbered courses during their first year; adequately prepared students may begin taking 400-numbered courses during their junior year.

The Philosophy Minor

Minor Requirements

18 units in Philosophy, at least nine of which must be upper division.
Note: At least nine of these 18 units must be taken at USD.

A Special Note for Students Interested in Law

Students considering a career in law should give extra consideration to philosophy as a possible field of study. Legal studies is a fundamental, perennial area of inquiry and study in philosophy; and several members of the USD philosophy department — some of whom hold joint degrees in philosophy (PhD) and law (JD) — include aspects of legal studies among their areas of expertise. Moreover, philosophy majors’ scores on the LSAT are consistently among the highest of any of the most popular pre-law majors. Philosophy faculty regularly offer courses in political philosophy, philosophy of law, legal reasoning, legal ethics, and other courses bearing upon socio-political and legal theory and practices. These courses, when taken together with the major’s particular requirements in logic and other areas of philosophy, provide a rigorous program of legal studies in philosophy for our students. No particular courses are designated as requirements for a minor in philosophy (see minor requirements). However, philosophy minors interested in legal studies, whether in its own right or in connection with a pre-law aspiration, might consider PHIL 333, 460, and either 461 or 462 when completing the 9 Upper-Division Units required for the minor. Majors or minors interested in legal studies offerings in philosophy are encouraged to contact members of the faculty for additional advising. Most students will satisfy the philosophy (not logic or ethics) requirement by taking a 100-level course (excluding PHIL 101 and 102), but some will satisfy it by taking a 400-level course.

Philosophy Courses (PHIL)

101 Introduction to Logic (3)
The study of arguments, including basic principles of traditional logic together with an introduction to modern sentential logic. Topics include recognizing arguments, premises, conclusions, induction and deduction, fallacies, categorical syllogisms, and sentential inference forms. Every semester.

PHIL 102 Basic Symbolic Logic (3)
An in-depth study of Sentential Logic. Topics include symbolization, syntax, truth tables, truth trees, and two systems of natural deduction.

PHIL 110 Introduction to Philosophy (3)
A basic orientation course treating the principal problems of philosophy, such as knowledge, human nature, values, nature, God, etc. A historical approach may also be used as a means of further clarification of the topics being discussed. Every semester.

PHIL 111 Philosophy of Human Nature (3)
This introductory course surveys various approaches to human nature. The course may include such topics as the relation of mind and body, the nature of consciousness, life after death and the existence of the soul, the possibility of artificial intelligence, race and gender issues, the relation between the individual and society, and non-Western views of human nature.

PHIL 112 Philosophy and Literature (3)
An examination of the philosophical implications and themes contained in various works and genres of fiction. Questions such as free-will/determinism, love, justice, death and the meaning of life, the best (or worst) of all possible worlds, the religious dimension of life, and the role of the writer or intellectual in society will be discussed.

PHIL 114 Philosophy and Technology (3)
Technology is the art of rational problem solving. Philosophy is the art of asking questions. The questions we shall raise include: What is science? When are scientific claims true? Is science relevant to art, religion, or everyday experience? Can we trust applied science (technology) to make life easier or less dangerous? In a nuclear era, is technology itself the problem? Is “alternative technology” an alternative? Does our survival depend on technology or its absence? Readings from classical and contemporary sources.

PHIL 175 Asian Philosophy (3)
An examination of the major traditions, systems, and schools in India, China, and Japan. Readings from classical and modern texts. Cultural sources of philosophic beliefs. Comparisons between Eastern and Western thought.

PHIL 270 History of Ancient Philosophy (3)
Greek philosophy from the pre-Socratics through Plato, Aristotle, and later Hellenistic thought, culminating in Plotinus. Fall semester. Prerequisite: Philosophy major or minor, or sophomore standing.
PHIL 271 History of Medieval Philosophy (3)
Origins of the medieval period; St. Augustine, St. Anslem, Abelard, scholasticism in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and the end of the medieval era as represented by Occam and the growth of nominalism. Spring semester. Prerequisite: Philosophy major or minor, or sophomore standing.

PHIL 272 History of Classical Modern Philosophy (3)
An introduction to the development of European philosophy from the 16th to the 19th century, with an emphasis on Continental Rationalism, British Empiricism, and German Idealism. Spring semester. Prerequisite: Philosophy major or minor, or sophomore standing.

An introduction to the main currents of late 19th- and 20th-century Anglo-American philosophy, including such movements as logical positivism and linguistic analysis, and recent issues such as the analytic-synthetic distinction, ontological relativity, and theories of meaning. Prerequisite: Philosophy major or minor, or sophomore standing.

PHIL 274 Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy (3)
An introduction to the main currents of late 19th- and 20th-century continental thought, including Marxism, phenomenology, existentialism, critical theory, structuralism, and recent developments such as poststructuralism, semiotics, and deconstructionism. Fall semester. Prerequisite: Philosophy major or minor, or sophomore standing.

PHIL 276 American Philosophy (3)
A survey extending from the Colonial Period through the end of World War II. Emphasis on such topics as the Puritan controversy over predestination, the impact of Darwin, the advent of pragmatism, and the ending of the Golden Age. Authors to be studied include Edwards, Emerson, Wright, Peirce, James, Royce, Dewey, and Santayana.

PHIL 321 Social Ethics (3)*
A study of the applications of ethical concepts and principles to different areas of human social conduct. Typical issues considered include abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, assisted reproductive technologies, racism, sexism, poverty and welfare, animal rights, environmental ethics, and world hunger.

PHIL 330 Ethics (3)*
A general study of principles or standards for judging individual and social conduct, focusing on major thinkers and philosophical issues in normative ethics, and the application of moral judgment to social or problem areas in human conduct.

PHIL 331 Biomedical Ethics (3)*
A systematic examination of ethical principles as they apply to issues in medicine and scientific research, that is: mercy killing; abortion; experimentation on human subjects; allocation of scarce medical resources; organ transplants; and behavior modification. Moral obligations connected with the roles of nurse, doctor, etc., will receive special attention.

PHIL 332 Business Ethics (3)*
A systematic application of various ethical theories to issues arising from the practice of modern business. Topics may include theories of economic justice, corporate social responsibility, employee rights, advertising and information disclosure, environmental responsibility, preferential hiring and reverse discrimination, self-regulation, and government regulation.

PHIL 333 Legal Ethics (3)*
An examination in the light of traditional and recent moral theory of the ethical issues faced by the practicing lawyer: the values presupposed by the adversarial system; the moral responsibilities of lawyers within corporations and government; the conflict between personal ethics and obligations to clientele; and whether legal education involves a social conditioning process with its own implicit value system.

PHIL 334 Studies in Ethics (3)*
Exploration of selected issues in moral philosophy, often of an interdisciplinary nature, on such themes as: death and dying; environmental ethics; business ethics; morality and science fiction; morality and teaching; etc. Depending on the subject, the course may be repeated for credit.

PHIL 335 Death and Dying (3)*
The analysis of various ethical, epistemological, and metaphysical problems relating to death and dying. Topics may include: near-death experiences; immortality and resurrection models of eschatology; the evil of death; and value issues raised by the definitions of death, suicide, euthanasia, infanticide, and the killing of non-human animals.

PHIL 336 Virtues and Vices (3)*
An investigation of the morality of character that considers the question, “What kind of person ought I be?” This approach to morality is contrasted with standard Kantian and utilitarian positions. Specific virtues and vices typically considered include love, friendship, hate, jealousy, compassion, deceit, self-deception, anger resentment, and forgiveness.

PHIL 337 Mass Media Ethics (3)*
What is the responsibility of citizens, consumers, corporations, advertisers, artists and performers, and federal or local government toward mass media? Do mass media influence human contact for better or worse? Does regulation of, for example, pornography or propaganda conflict with First Amendment rights? Are news and commercial media politically biased? Do educational media enhance or undermine traditional teaching methods? Lecture, discussion, group activities, and analysis of media presentations.

PHIL 338 Environmental Ethics (3)*
An exploration of ethical issues pertinent to the environment, for example: obligations to future generations; the question of animal rights; endangered species; pesticides and pollution; energy technologies; depletion of resources; and global justice and ocean resources. Consideration of the pertinent obligations of individuals, businesses, and government.

PHIL 340 Ethics of War and Peace (3)*
Normative ethics applied to moral questions of war and peace, such as: Can war ever be justified? If so, what are the moral constraints upon the conduct of war? How can peace be attained? What do pacifists and others offer as non-violent alternatives to armed conflict? Other topics might include terrorism, humanitarian interventions, nuclear warfare and deterrence, and war crimes.

PHIL 341 Ethics and Education (3)*
This course provides an introduction to such topics in moral theory as ethical relativism, deontological and consequentialist approaches to morality, and ethical egoism. Among the specific moral issues in education usually considered are preferential admissions policies, student-teacher confidentiality, the morality of grading, honesty and deception in educational contexts, and the allocation of scarce educational resources.

PHIL 342 Engineering Ethics (3)*
Examines the rights, responsibilities, and social role of the professional engineer. Topics may include conflicts of interest, the moral status of organizational loyalty, public safety and risk assessment, reproductive engineering and human dignity, preventing environmental destruction, “whistle-blowing,” defective product liability, engineers and corporate power, engineers and government, and codes of conduct and standards of professional competence. Case studies may include military and commercial airplanes, automobiles, public buildings, nuclear plants, weapons research, computers and confidentiality, and the use and abuse of new technologies.

PHIL 343 Gender and Economic Justice (3)*
Discrimination in employment, the persistence of sex segregation in the labor force, the feminization of poverty, and the implementation of policies designed to minimize gender-based career and economic differences, and to improve the economic status of women — such as affirmative action — raise a number of ethical as well as economic questions. This course surveys ethical theory and considers the application of ethical principles to issues concerning the economic status of women and related gender-based issues, including the position of women in business and the professions.

PHIL 344 Environmental Justice (3)*
An exploration of social justice in an environmental context, including considerations of distributive, participatory, and procedural justice. Topics may include civil rights and the environmental justice movement, rights of indigenous peoples, environmentalism, economic and development conflicts between the global north and south, toxic and hazardous waste and pollution, worker safety, environmental racism, environmental classism, sustainability, and the protection of nature. Consideration of the pertinent obligations of individuals, social groups, businesses, and governments.

PHIL 345 Computer Ethics (3)*
An exploration of ethical issues pertinent to computing and information technology, including: free speech and content control of the Web; intellectual property rights; privacy; accountability and responsibility; security and cyberspace; the impact of computing/IT on society.

PHIL 360 Ethical Theory (3)*
A study of the major theories of ethics and selected moral concepts. Topics to be examined will include: the nature and grounds of morality; ethical relativism; egoism and altruism; utilitarianism; Kant’s deontological ethics; Aristotle and virtue ethics, rights, and justice. In addition, we may consider issues of the role of gender and race in ethical theory. Fall semester.

PHIL 400 Intermediate Symbolic Logic (3)
This course will focus on symbolization, syntax, semantics, and derivations for predicate logic. It will include some metatheory such as soundness and completeness proofs.

PHIL 410 Metaphysics (3)
An investigation of the ultimate philosophical commitments about reality. Representative figures in the history of philosophy may be considered and analyzed. Topics selected may include the basic components of reality, their relation to space, time, matter, causality, freedom, determinism, the self, and God. Fall semester.

PHIL 411 Philosophy of Knowledge (3)
An examination of the nature and scope of knowledge and justification, including consideration of such topics as skepticism, analyses of knowledge, foundationalism and coherentism, a priori knowledge, and others. Attention is also given to the nature of the epistemological enterprise, e.g. internalism and externalism, and naturalized epistemology. Spring semester.

PHIL 412 Philosophy of God (3)
A study of the existence and nature of God. Discussion of the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments; topics may include atheistic challenges concerning divine benevolence, omnipotence, omniscience, and creation exnihilo; logical positivism and religious meaning; miracles; the person and immortality; and religion and morality. Spring semester.

PHIL 413 Philosophy of Mind (3)
The mind-body problem and the examination of mental state concepts. Topics may include the nature of mind, including dualist and contemporary materialist theories, representation, mental causation, consciousness, psychological explanation, and artificial intelligence; other topics such as personal identity or agency may be included. Fall semester.

PHIL 414 Philosophy of Language (3)
Language is a fundamental medium by which we interact with others and the world. How words come to have the meanings that they do, refer to objects, express truths, and affect the meanings of other words and truth values are perennial questions in philosophy. These issues have become even more pronounced in 20th-century philosophy. Specific topics may include: language and reality; language and psychology; referential theories of meaning; ideal languages; meaning as use; private languages; truth-conditional theories of meaning; descriptive and causal theories of reference and of linguistic competence and performance; verificationism; and/or an introduction to modal semantics.

PHIL 415 Philosophy of Natural Science (3)
The study of the language and activity of the scientific community. Topics include scientific explanation, prediction, laws, theories, models, paradigms, observations, experiment, scientific method, and the question of reductionism in science.

PHIL 460 Legal Reasoning (3)
This course introduces students to the concepts and forms of argument they will encounter in the first year of law school. It will examine the reasoning involved in the concepts of legal precedent, proximate cause, and burden of proof, and it will also investigate the legal reasoning in certain landmark cases from torts, contracts, property, constitutional law, and criminal law. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or consent of instructor.

PHIL 461 Philosophy of Law (3)
What is law? How is it different from morality? Do we have an obligation to obey the law, and, if so, how strong is that obligation? This course is an exploration of philosophical issues arising from the interpretation and application of the law. The course examines classic answers to the above questions. The focus of the course may be either historical (e.g. Plato, Hobbes, or Hegel) or more contemporary (e.g. H.L.A. Hart and Ronald Dworkin), paying special attention to constitutional law.

PHIL 462 Political Philosophy (3)
The nature and end of the state; relation of the individual’s rights and duties to those of the state, and vice versa, and the relation between states, the kinds of states, their institution, preservation, and destruction.

PHIL 467 Studies in Renaissance Philosophy (3)
This course studies main figures in Renaissance thought — Petrarch, Pico, Vives, Bacon, et al. It addresses such topics as: the revival of Greek and Roman culture; the Florentine academy; tensions between humanism and theology; the Copernican revolution in science; and the legacies of Bruno, Leonardo, More, Machiavelli, and Montaigne.

PHIL 470 Studies in Ancient Philosophy (3)
An in-depth study of selected ancient philosophers, that is, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, or topics such as the nature of good, knowledge and skepticism, the problem of Being, and change.

PHIL 471 Studies in Medieval Philosophy (3)
An in-depth study of selected medieval philosophers, that is, St. Augustine, St. Anselm, Abelard, St. Thomas, Duns Scotus, and William of Occam, or topics such as the problem of universals, the existence of God, the soul and immortality, and the problem of evil.

PHIL 472 Studies in Modern European Philosophy (3)
An intensive examination of one or more major figures in 17th- to 19th-century European thought, for example, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Rousseau, and Marx; or, alternately, a discussion of one or more central problems in this era, such as the relation between science and religion, the justification of causal inference, the respective roles of reason and experience in obtaining reliable knowledge of the world, the concept of selfhood, etc.

An intensive examination of either major figures (such as Chisholm, Kripke, Quine), movements (logical positivism, ordinary language analysis, logical analysis), or selected problems (epistemic foundationalism, modality and essentialism, identity and individuation) in contemporary analytic philosophy.

PHIL 474 Studies in Contemporary Continental Philosophy (3)
An intensive examination of major formative or current figures (such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Habermas, Foucault, Derrida), movements (phenomenology, existentialism, critical theory, deconstructionism), or problems (the nature of representation, the relation of emotion and thought, the problem of technology) in contemporary continental philosophy.

PHIL 475 Studies in Process Philosophy (3)
Process Philosophy is a generic term designating the group of philosophers who view reality as a changing and developing process. Included in this group are Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Henri Bergson, and Alfred North Whitehead. The course will focus, in successive years, on one of these thinkers.

PHIL 476 Studies in Asian Philosophy (3)
A detailed examination of one or more classic works from the Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist traditions, such as the Bhagavad-Gita or the Analects; pitfalls of interpretation; relations between text and ure. Parallels and contrasts with Western thought and institutions. May be repeated for credit with different course content.

PHIL 480 Philosophy of Art (3)
An examination of some major theories of art and beauty, with special attention to such issues as: the definition of beauty, the criteria for excellence in artistic productions, the differences between art and science, and the relation between art and culture. Readings may include Artistotle’s Poetics, Kant’s Critique of Judgement, Dewey’s Art as Experience, or more recent philosophers, that is, Beardsley, Dickie, Goodman, Weitz, etc.

PHIL 481 Philosophy of Education (3)
An examination of some major theories of the meaning and function of education and of its role in reshaping society. Readings may include Plato’s Meno and Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, Rousseau’s Emile, Dewey’s The School and Society and The Child and the Curriculum, and various works by Piaget.

PHIL 483 Philosophy of Social Sciences (3)
A study of the fundamental concepts, methods, and goals of the social sciences, including a consideration of such topics as: the nature of the human action, the possibility of a science of human nature, the relationship between the natural and social sciences, explanation and understanding, laws and theories, objectivity and value judgments, and freedom and determinism.

PHIL 485 Philosophy of History (3)
What is history? Why do human beings record their history? Is history moving toward a goal? Is history a science or an art? Are historical events objective occurrences? Can we verify casual claims about unrepeatable episodes? Is the historian entitled (or obliged) to make value-judgments? How should we rank the contributions of individual historians? Readings include philosophers and historians, classical and contemporary sources.

PHIL 490 Philosophy of Love (3)
What is love? Does it even exist, or is it a myth? Is it attainable, or an impossible ideal? Is it rooted in the divine; in the human, or even in the biologic or animal? Is it an emotion, a form of relationship, or even a cosmic principle? Can it be equal and shared, or must it be hierarchic and coercive? This course considers a variety of philosophical perspectives on questions such as these. Readings typically include such classic and contemporary thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Kierkegaard, Freud, Sartre, DeBeauvoir, and Tillich.

PHIL 494 Contemporary Philosophical Problems (3)
An intensive examjination of one or more contemporary philosophical problems such as: the is-ought debate, the mind-body problems, relativism and the possibility of objective knowledge, etc. Topic may vary. The course may be repeated for credit, provided the content of the course has changed.