Department Chair

  • Jennifer McErlean
    Professor of Philosophy
    Siena Hall 414
    (518) 783-4129
    mcerlean@siena.edu



Philosophy Course Catalog

PHIL 101: Philosophy and the Human Being (3 credits)

An introduction to philosophy focusing on various themes pertaining to human existence. The subjects treated include knowledge, community, beauty, love, freedom, and justice. Also examined are questions concerning the body and soul, the meaning of life and death, and the individual’s relation to God. The figure of Socrates is prominent, but philosophers from a variety of historical periods and traditions are also studied. (ATTR: ARTS, CDP)

PHIL 103:Reason and Argument (3 credits)

What makes one argument acceptable and another unacceptable? What makes one inference reasonable and another unreasonable? Philosophers employ a variety of methods for studying argument and inference, and this course will introduce students to some of these methods. Students should come away from this course with a better understanding of the nature of argumentation and our capacity for reason, along with strong skills in critical thinking that can be applied to personal, intellectual, and academic pursuits. (ATTR: ARTS, CDP)

PHIL 155: Symbolic Logic (3 credits)

Introduces the techniques and results of modern formal logic. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of arguments in propositional and quantificational logic. Philosophical issues discussed may include: logical consequence; theories of conditionals; logic and ontology; logical and langauge; logic, reasoning, and belief. (ATTR: ARTS, PLG)

PHIL 202: Philosophy and Reality  (3 credits)

The most comprehensive and fundamental questions about reality are pursued in this course. Examples are the origin and make up of the cosmos, the reality of apparently non-physical "things" such as minds, God, numbers, freedom, evil, space and time. The course explores concepts that philosophers, scientists, and theologians rely on to express their respective accounts of such enduring questions. These topics are pursued through both historical and contemporary readings. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, CAP)

PHIL 210: Ethics (3 credits)

A philosophical study of ethical questions such as: How are we to live? What kind of people should we become? Typically examines virtue ethics, Kantianism, natural law theory, justice and rights theories, and utilitarianism. Applies theories to contemporary moral and political concerns. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103.  (ATTR: ARTS, CAP, CFJ, HSMR, ISP)

PHIL 215: Philosophical Perspectives on Diversity (3 credits)

The course examines the role that human differences such as race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation, and class have in the philosophical conception of the human being from ancient to modern times. Among the themes that may be studied are master and slave, human and inhuman, being and non-being, the visible and the invisible, whiteness and darkness, male and female, the normal and the perverse. The course also wrestles with contemporary criticisms of binary thinking that divides the human family into an "us" and an "other". Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103 (ATTR: ARTS, CFD) 

PHIL 220: Philosophies of Love (3 credits)

This course examines an idea that has fascinated philosophers for all time. The subject of love will be studied historically, with readings from ancient, modern, and contemporary sources. Literature and films may be used along with philosophical texts. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, CAP)

PHIL 225: Social and Political Philosophy (3 credits)

This course introduces students to the various formulations that social and political philosophies have taken as humans attempted to shape their cultural lives in terms of some idea of the good. Since "justice" is often the formulation for the highest social/political good, the course will emphasize this concern. Major philosophers from various times and cultures will be studied. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, CFJ)

PHIL 240: Philosophy of Art (3 credits)

This course concerns the nature of art and its relationship to society and truth. Questions to be explored include: the meaning of art, what art tells us about human existence, its role in education, the relation between art and beauty, and whether art can be immoral. Examples will be drawn form a variety of artistic media, including painting, sculpture, dance, film, photography, music, literature, drama, architecture, and conceptual art. Thinkers typically considered are Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Nietzsche, Dewey, Benjamin, Danto, and Cavell. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103.  (ATTR: ARTS, CAP)

PHIL 260: Philosophy of Religion (3 credits)

An examination of fundamental questions about the nature and significance of religion. Central issues to be studied are: religion as a reasonable form of life, religious skepticism, pluralism in religion, arguments for the existence of God, the impact of science on religious belief, the place of ritual and symbolism in human life, and religious language. Traditional and contemporary texts will be read. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, CAP)

PHIL 270: Philosophy of Law (3 credits)

This course provides a general introduction to philosophical questions concerning law. Among these questions are: Why does law exist? Can laws be broken morally? Why should anyone obey laws? What kinds of laws are there and how do they differ from rules and regulations? What makes punishing criminals right? These issues will be examined through a variety of writings from great historical figures like Plato, Aquinas, Locke, and Mill, and contemporaries like Hart and Dworkin. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, CAP, JMN)

PHIL 285: Philosophy and Gender (3 credits)

This course examines the relationship between, and the making of, sex and gender. It tackles the question of how we are and become sexual beings, and critically explores the oftentimes fluid boundary between the biological and the social. Are there essential differences between women and men; ones that we should embrace rather than reject? If gender is made, can it be unmade? Are there two or multiple genders? Is our gender located in the body or is it psychological? Major historical figures, as well as those from contemporary feminist philosophy, will be studied; and texts will include film and media as well as writings to stimulate discussion. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, WSTU)

PHIL 290: Greek and Roman Philosophy (3 credits)

Explores the origin and sequence of ancient philosophy from the Greek Pre-Socratics through Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and briefly to their Hellenistic and Roman successors. Emphasis on careful study of fragments from Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles and Democritus, and several Platonic dialogues. Excerpts may also include major works by Aristotle, and from Epicurean and Stoic writers. Questions elucidate the discovery of nature, being, becoming, and areas of human knowledge and ethics. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, CFH, PHY)

PHIL 294: Early Modern Philosophy (3 credits)

European philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries. Main figures include Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant. Typical questions pertain to the method proper to philosophy; the origins, nature, and limits of human knowledge; modern subjectivity and selfhood; and the nature of moral thinking and acting. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, PHY)

PHIL 300: Philosophy and Knowledge (3 credits)

Epistemology is the study of knowledge, justification, and rational belief. Topics may include: skepticism; theories of knowledge and justification; the structure of knowledge and justification; sources of epistemic normativity; the value of knowledge; rationality and epistemic responsibility; testimony, memory, and perception; and, rationalism, empiricism, and pragmatism. Prerequisites: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS)

PHIL 320: Philosophy of Nature (3 credits)

Examination of the idea of nature in historical and contemporary perspective, including theories of humanity’s place in and transformation of the natural world. Some points of emphasis are the legacy of ancient cosmology, the development of the scientific view of nature, modern technology, and current ecological theory. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (Same as ENVA 320.) (ATTR: ARTS, CAP, CFN)

PHIL 330: Philosophy of Science (3 credits)

This course examines various aspects of science from a philosophical perspective. Topics may include: scientific explanation; causation; induction, confirmation, and underdetermination; realism and the nature of theories; scientific change and rationality; and, science, culture, and society. Thinkers to be considered may include Hempel, Popper, and Kuhn. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, CAP)

PHIL 333: Special Topics in Philosophy (3 credits)

An opportunity to explore areas and topics not covered in the regular philosophy offerings depending on student and faculty interest. Examples include 'Philosophy and Psychology' and 'The Morality of War and Killing.' This course may be taken more than once with different content. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS)

PHIL 342: Medieval Philosophy (3 credits)

Medieval philosophy is the study of foundational ideas discussed by thinkers such as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas and Bonaventure. Also included are a look at Islamic and Jewish philosophers who took the ideas of Aristotle and used them to understand God, humans, and the world. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 and PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, PHY, CFH)

PHIL 346: Late Modern Philosophy (3 credits)

European philosophy of the 19th century. Main figures are Hegel, Marx, Mill, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. Typical questions pertain to the role of history in shaping our self-understanding in science, religion, and politics, and the emergence of radical critiques of modern culture. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, PHY)

PHIL 348: Existentialism (3 credits)

The philosophy of 20th century Existentialism and its 19th century origins. Main figures are Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Marcel, Camus, Sartre, and de Beauvoir. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103.  (ATTR: ARTS, CAP, PHY, CFH)

PHIL 350: Philosophical Influences on Theology (3 credits)

A survey of selected philosophers and philosophical schools of thought and their influence on Christian Theology, Christian beliefs, and Christian practices. Selection will generally follow a time period, e.g. Ancient, Modern, Contemporary. This course may be repeated for credit when the selected material differs. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, PHY)

PHIL 400: Philosophy of Language & Mind (3 credits)

This course covers two areas central to the development of analytic philosophy in the 20th century: the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. Topics in the philosophy of language may include: truth and meaning; speech acts; reference and descriptions; names and demonstratives; propositional attitudes; metaphor; and interpretation. Topics in the philosophy of mind may include: the mind-body problem; mental causation; mental content; innateness and modularity; and, associationism and connectionism. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, PHY)

PHIL 420: Classic American Philosophy (3 credits)

"Classical American Philosophy" identifies a movement in which Americans declared their independence from European philosophies. The most famous school from this period is Pragmatism, but there were other developments as well. This course surveys the main philosophers who made a contribution to a uniquely American voice in philosophy. Typical of the figures studied will be the following: Charles S. Pierce, William James, John Dewey, Jane Addams, George Santayana, Josiah Royce, Alfred N. Whitehead, Susanne Langer and Richard Rorty. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: AMSC, ARTS, PHY)

PHIL 440: Contemporary European Philosophy (3 credits)

The major movements of 20th century European thought such as phenomenology, hermeneutics, structuralism, deconstruction, feminism and psychoanalysis. Major figures include Freud, Husserl, Heidegger, Arendt, Saussure, Levinas, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Irigaray, and Kristeva. Typical questions pertain to problems of consciousness, language, embodiment, power, and otherness. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS, PHY)

PHIL 450: Great Figures in Philosophy (3 credits)

This course is devoted to the study of individual thinkers whose work has contributed to shape the Eastern and Western philosophical traditions.  Based on primary texts, its goal is to reconstruct the genesis of key ideas, the lines of continuity and rupture in the corpus of a single author, and the impact those have had on other thinkers. Samples of possible figures include Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Arendt, Beauvoir, and others. Students may take this course for credit more than once if the content differs. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS)

PHIL 490: Seminar (3 credits)

This course may feature a special philosophical problem, a philosophical tradition, or the work of an individual philosopher, with special emphasis on primary sources. Students in this course will be responsible for presenting material to the class and for producing a substantial research paper evidencing philosophical methodology and knowledge gained from courses throughout the discipline. Prerequisite: PHIL 101 or PHIL 103. (ATTR: ARTS)

PHIL 491: Symposium on Living Philosophers (3 credits)

This two-semester seminar focuses on the work of a major contemporary philosopher. The course is taught by two Siena faculty members, and includes the regular participation of an external scholar, a public lecture series, and visitations by the featured philosopher that culminate in a public panel discussion during the spring semester. Students are expected to produce a substantive research paper, give oral presentations, and belong to a community of research with faculty. The course entails 6 credits (3 credits repeatable one time for full credit), and can be counted as the seminar requirement towards majoring in philosophy. Permission of the program directors is required to participate. The Symposium can be taken for credit more than once. (ATTR: ARTS)

PHIL 495: Directed Research (1 - 3 credits)

A qualified student, with the approval of a faculty mentor and the department, may work under close supervision to join a research project conducted by a faculty member. Participation in research will include activities such as the following: conducting extensive library research, providing annotated summaries, attending local colloquia, and reviewing manuscripts. Students will be required to keep a log of their activities and to prepare a narrative report upon completion of the semester. This course can be taken only on a pass/fail basis. (ATTR: ARTS)

PHIL 499: Independent Study (1 - 3 credits)

Open to juniors and seniors who wish to work independently on a topic of special interest with the approval of an instructor and the department. The topic will be pursued through private discussion, independent reading, an extensive written report, and an oral examination by two members of the department. (ATTR: ARTS)