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Academics: Courses

Philosphy Course Descriptions

Below you can find descriptions of the department's 34 semester-long courses. Many of these courses also meet Core requirements—get a complete listing here.

More detailed descriptions of course offerings for Spring 2015 are available here.

Current Interim courses descriptions are available from the Registrar.

Elementary Courses

153: Fundamental Questions in Philosophy (Spring and Fall) An introduction to fundamental questions about God, the world, and human life and how we know about them. These questions are addressed through the study of historically significant texts, primarily from the Western philosophical tradition. An emphasis is placed on philosophical reflection and discussion, constructing and evaluating arguments, reading and interpreting philosophical texts, writing clear expository prose, and engaging in faith-oriented and faith based inquiry. The course aims to help students use philosophy to respond to central issues in human life and in contemporary society.

171: Introduction to Logic (Fall and Spring) A course in elementary deductive and inductive logic with emphasis upon the use of logic in evaluating arguments. Suitable for first- year students, not recommended for students aiming toward graduate study of philosophy.

273: Introduction to Symbolic Logic (Spring) A course in elementary symbolic logic, including some modal logic. This course is recommended especially for those intending to study philosophy on the graduate level. Open to qualified first-year students

Intermediate Systematic Courses

All intermediate courses presuppose completion of Philosophy 153.

Students may take Philosophy 201-205, 207, 208, 215, 225 or 226 for core credit in integrative studies.

Students may take philosophy 225 or 226 for core credit in cross cultural engagement.

201: Philosophy of Social Science (Spring) A study of the philosophical questions raised by methods, assumptions, and results of the human sciences, such as cultural relativism, social determinism, scientific objectivity, and religious neutrality. Attention will also be given the relationship between theology, philosophy, and social science. Students taking this course to fulfill the integrative studies requirement of the core must have the following prerequisites in addition to Philosophy 153: Two courses in the Social Sciences.

202: Law, Politics, and Legal Practice An investigation of such topics as the nature and types of law, sources of law, the bases of a legal system, the nature of legal and political authority, and the status of civil and human rights. Some consideration will also be given to the complex role lawyers and judges play in our society and to some of the ethical issues they may face as a result of this complexity, as well as to the ways in which a Christian perspective might affect the decisions a lawyer, judge, or citizen makes about the law and legal practice. Students taking this course to fulfill the integrative studies requirement of the core must have the following prerequisites in addition to Philosophy 153: two courses in the social sciences.

203: Understanding Natural Science: Its Nature, Status, and Limits (Fall) An investigation of the nature of science (its structure, methods, and status), and its place in human life, by looking at the historical development of science, including its interactions with other human activities, especially religion. The course will encourage students to develop their own views on major issues regarding the nature of science and its appropriate relations to worldviews and faith. It will use history of science both to place these issues in context and to test rival pictures of what science is, how it works, and how is has been — and should be —related to Christian faith. Special emphasis will be given to the diverse ways these issues have been approached within the reformed tradition. Students taking this course to fulfill the integrative studies requirement of the core must have the following prerequisites in addition to Philosophy 153: two courses in the natural sciences.

204: God and Philosophy (Fall) A sustained philosophical reflection on the nature and existence of God, addressing such questions as the rationality of belief in God, the role of evidence in religious belief, the problem of evil, the suffering of God, the point of prayer, the use of gendered language about God, the fate of sincere believers in non-Christian religions, and the existence of hell. Students taking this course to fulfill the integrative studies requirement of the core must have the following prerequisites in addition to Philosophy 153: two courses in religion.

205: Ethics (Fall and Spring) This course reflects on the moral dimension of life as a whole, in its relation to what we believe, what we do, and what sorts of people we want to be. It studies basic ethical questions such as the objectivity of right and wrong, what justice is, how we ought to live, why we should try to be morally good. It considers these questions both theoretically and practically (by applying them to issues in contemporary social life, such as capital punishment or abortion). It also uses both historical sources (such as Aristotle and Kant) and contemporary sources . Finally, it considers what difference Christian faith makes to the theory and the practice of morality. There may be a service-learning component in the course, depending on the instructor. Students taking this course to fulfill the integrative studies requirement of the core must have the following prerequisites in addition to Philosophy 153: two courses in philosophy and/or religion.

207: Justice and the Common Good: Studies in Political Philosophy (Fall) A study of the historical sources and philosophical dimensions of the major debates in contemporary political thought, including an analysis of the basic terms of current political discourse — such as freedom, justice, rights, and equality — and an assessment of their role in the debates over such issues as racism, gender relations, multiculturalism, and religion in the public square. The course also explores traditions of Christian reflection on the purpose of the state, the limits of legislation, the nature of community, the requirements of justice, and the calling of the Christian citizen. Students taking this course to fulfill the integrative studies requirement of the core must have thefollowing prerequisites in addition to Philosophy 153: two courses in social sciences.

208: Philosophy of the Arts and Culture (Fall) A study of the nature of the arts and their role in human cultures. The course discusses the history of philosophical reflections on these topics as well as some recent theories and debates. It aims to develop a mature understanding of issues and challenges facing participants in contemporary arts and culture. Students taking this course to fulfill the integrative studies requirement of the core must have the following prerequisites in addition to Philosophy 153: two courses in the arts or two courses in literature.

211: Philosophy of Gender (Fall and Spring) In this course students are offered the opportunity to gain a historically-grounded philosophical understanding of the concept of gender, to understand the ways in which gender concepts are formed by and, in their turn, form contemporary cultural beliefs and practices, and to consider how these issues intersect with a reformed understanding of human life.

212: Ethical Dimensions of Health Care A study of ethical issues that arise in the context of contemporary health care and related practices. Ethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, informed consent, and health care allocation will be examined from a perspective afforded by current philosophical debates in ethical theory.

215: Business Ethics (Spring) A systematic examination of ethical concepts as they relate to business conduct, designed to be of interest to all students who are concerned about justice and fairness in the marketplace. Issues such as discrimination and affirmative action, the ethics of advertising, protection of the environment, responsibilities of employees to the firm and of the firm to employees, and the rights of other stakeholder groups will be examined in the light of current debates in ethical theory. Students taking this course to fulfill the integrative studies requirement of the core must have the following prerequisites in addition to Philosophy 153: two courses in business/economics.

225: Chinese Thought and Culture (Fall) A study of the relationships among Chinese philosophy, art, social life, and society, examining the expressions of Chinese thought in the writings of Confucius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Mencius. The course also correlates Chinese thought with other aspects of Chinese culture, such as tai chi, religious practice, cuisine, calligraphy, poetry, film, painting, and family organization. This course fulfills the global and historical and the CCE requirements of the core .

226: African Thought and Culture Philosophies and worldviews of Africa, including traditional cosmologies and moral systems, philosophical responses to the legacy of transatlantic slavery, and political ideologies of the era of African independence . The role of Christianity in African thought, and the issue of race and African identity are also examined. Sources include selected writings of philosophers and other scholars; literature, art and music; and collaborative activities with Africans residing in West Michigan. This course fulfills the global and historical requirement of the core.

283: Metaphysics (Spring) A study of selected topics of metaphysics.

Intermediate Historical Courses

All intermediate courses presuppose completion of Philosophy 153.

251: History of Western Philosophy I (Fall and Spring) A survey of the major Western philosophers and philosophical movements of the ancient and medieval periods.

252: History of Western Philosophy II (Fall and Spring) A survey of some of the major Western philosophers and philosophical movements from the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. A continuation of Philosophy 251, which is a recommended preparation.

Advanced Historical Courses

All advanced courses presuppose two or more philosophy courses, or one philosophy course plus junior or senior standing.

312: Plato and Aristotle Advanced study of Plato and Aristotle.

322: Aquinas (Spring) An intensive study of selected texts of Thomas Aquinas .

331: Kant A study of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

333: Kierkegaard (Fall) A study of selected philosophical works of Kierkegaard, focusing primarily on his philosophy of religion.

334: Marx and Marxism A critical study of the thought of Karl Marx and his most important interpreters.

335: Nineteenth Century Philosophy (Spring) A study of some major figures in nineteenth century philosophy.

336: Studies in Modern Philosophy A study of major european thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

340: Contemporary Continental Philosophy (Fall) An in-depth study of major European figures in postmodern thought such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Levinas, and Derrida. Prerequisite: Philosophy 252.

341: Contemporary Anglo-American Philosophy (Spring) An in-depth study of some of the major figures and schools of twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy, beginning with the birth of analytic philosophy in the works of Bertrand Russell, G.E . Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Prerequisite: Philosophy 252.

Advanced Systematic Courses

All advanced courses presuppose two or more philosophy courses, or one philosophy course plus junior or senior standing.

318: Minds, Brains, and Persons (Fall) An introduction to contemporary analytic philosophy of mind. Central issues in the philosophy of mind include such topics as the relation between mental states and the brain, the nature of consciousness, questions related to the kind of thing human persons are, including careful consideration of contemporary defenses of dualism and problems related to personal identity.

365: Ethical Theory An examination of the concepts central to moral theory, such as objectivity, moral obligation and moral responsibility, with emphasis on addressing moral skepticism.

371: Epistemology (Fall) A study of problems in theory of knowledge, with special attention to how recent controversies about evidence and knowledge shed light on perplexities about the status of faith, religious belief, and knowledge of God.

375: Philosophical Anthropology (Spring) A critical examination of major philosophical discussion of the nature of human existence, with special attention to selected topics such as gender, culture, society, mind, and body .

378: Philosophy of Language and Interpretation (Fall) A study of the nature and sources of language, and of the most prominent theories and methods of interpretation. Special attention will be given to 20th-century figures in analytic philosophy, hermeneutics, and literary theory.

381 Advanced Logic Topics include the formalization of propositional and quantificational logic, alethic modal logic including semantic interpretations, various other modalities, alternative logics, and other formalisms of philosophical importance.

390: Readings and Research (Fall, Interim, and Spring) Prerequisite: permission of chair.

395: Philosophy Topics: Problems in Systematic Philosophy (Fall) An advanced seminar on selected problems in systematic philosophy, involving seminar presentations and the preparation of a major research paper. Prerequisite: Three upper level courses in philosophy and senior standing or permission of the chair.

396 Philosophy Topics: Figures and Themes in the History of Philosophy (Spring) An advanced seminar on selected figures or themes in the history of philosophy, involving seminar presentations and the preparation of a major research paper. Prerequisite: Three upper level courses in philosophy and senior standing or permission of the chair.