Iowa State University

Iowa State University

2009-2011 Courses and Programs

Iowa State University Catalog

Search for classes offered this term

Catalog Index

A| B| C | D| E| F| G| H| I | J| K| L| M| N| O| P| Q| R| S| T| U| V| W| X| Y| Z

Philosophy and Religious Studies

200 |300 |400 |Graduate Courses |500 |

Tony Smith, Chair of Department
University Professor: Kupfer
Professors: Avalos, Hollinger, Kirschenmann, Robinson, Sawyer, Smith, Wilson
Professors (Emeritus): Hollenbach, Vaniten
Associate Professors: Bado-Fralick, T. Butler, Clifford, De Laplante, Fehr, Geirsson, Holmgren, Wolf
Assistant Professors: Alexander, A. Butler, Kelley, Padgett-Walsh, Qu
Senior Lecturer: Northway
Lecturer: Bevin, Wirth

Philosophy Undergraduate Study

Philosophy tries to make sense of human experience and reality through critical reflection and argument. The questions it treats engage and provoke all of us, and they occupy an important place in our intellectual tradition: Are there objective standards for deciding what is right and wrong, or is morality merely a subjective matter? Is capitalism morally acceptable? Do I have a will, and is it free? How do my words and thoughts come to be about the world? Does God exist? Can machines think? How are mind and body related? Students in philosophy classes will be exposed to arguments on both sides of such questions, and they will be encouraged to develop and rationally defend their own positions.

Philosophy is not an isolated discipline. It enjoys mutually beneficial exchanges with many fields of study within the humanities and sciences. Philosophers develop tools that allow them to examine critically the assumptions and implications of the social and natural sciences, religion, and law.

The study of philosophy provides several benefits. It emphasizes rigourous understanding of problems, together with careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the available solutions. It encourages clarity in the presentation of one's own ideas, as well as sensitivity in the consideration of the ideas of others. The study of philosophy therefore encourages one to develop skills and habits that are useful not only in philosophy, but in other areas as well. Philosophy students historically do well, for example, in law and medical schools.

However, one should not think that philosophy is only valuable in academic settings. Philosophical questions arise in many areas of family, business, and civic life. Philosophers strive to face these questions with the kind of intellectual honesty that leads to respect for the views of others, and continual reassessment of their own. In this way, the study of philosophy fosters values and attitudes that are helpful for responding to a lifetime of intellectual challenges.

The degree program in philosophy requires a minimum of 33 credits, plus the zero credit 492 course. The following courses compose the core program of the major from which 15 credits shall be chosen. Additionally, two courses at the 400 level or above (other than 490 and 492) are required.

a. Ethical theory: One course required. Choose from 330 (Ethical Theory), 335 (Social and Political Philosophy), 535 (Contemporary Political Philosophy).

b. History: Two courses required, namely, 310 (Ancient Philosophy) and either 314 (17th Century Philosophy) or 315 (18th Century Philosophy).

c. Metaphysics and Epistemology: One course required. Choose from 364 (Metaphysics: God, Minds, and Matter), 366 (Truth, Belief, and Reason), 380 (Philosophy of Science).

d. Logic: 207 (Introduction to Symbolic Logic) is required.

The department offers a minor in philosophy which may be earned by completing a total of 15 credits in philosophy. At least 9 credits must be in courses numbered 300 or above. Students may want to emphasize specific areas by taking 15 hours of courses chosen from the following:

Philosophy of Science: 201, 206 or 207, 314, 315, 380, 381, 480, 483, 485

History of Philosophy: 201, 310, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 460

Law, Social Values and Policy: 230, 235, 331, 332, 333, 335, 336, 338, 343, 430, 535

Communication Proficiency requirement: The department requires a grade of C+ or better in each of Engl 150 and 250 (or 250H), and approval of writing by instructor of any philosophy course 300 level or above, to be designated by the student.

Graduate Study

The department offers work for a graduate minor in philosophy. For those taking the M.A. or M.S., the minor requirement is two courses above 300 (but not 490) each taken in conjunction with 590. For those taking the Ph.D., the requirement is four courses above 300, at least one of which is above 400 (but not 490) each taken in conjunction with 590. Interested students should ask the chair to assign a minor adviser.

The department participates in the interdepartmental program in general graduate studies. (See Index.)

Courses primarily for undergraduate students

Phil 201. Introduction to Philosophy. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.S.SS.It has been rumored that the unexamined life is not worth living. Philosophy is an attempt to begin examining life by considering such questions as: What makes us human? What is the world ultimately like? How should we relate to other people? Is there a god? How can we know anything about these questions? Understanding questions of this kind and proposed answers to them is what this course is all about.

Phil 206. Introduction to Logic and Scientific Reasoning. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.S.SS.Basic principles of critical reasoning and argument evaluation. A consideration of basic forms of argumentation in science and everyday life. Application to contemporary issues and controversies.

Phil 207. Introduction to Symbolic Logic. (Cross-listed with Ling). (3-0) Cr. 3. S.Introduction to fundamental logical concepts and logical symbolism. Development of natural deduction through first order predicate logic with identity. Applications to arguments in ordinary English and to philosophical issues. Majors should take Phil 207 as early as possible.

Phil 230. Moral Theory and Practice. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.S.SS.Investigation of moral issues in the context of major ethical theories of value and obligation; e.g., punishment, abortion, economic justice, job discrimination, world hunger, and sexual morality. Emphasis on critical reasoning and argument analysis.

Phil 235. Ethical Issues in A Diverse Society. (3-0) Cr. 3. S.This course will examine a range of arguments on diversity issues. Topics will include: the social status of women, the moral status of sexuality and homosexuality, the nature and role of racism in contemporary society, the relationship between biology, gender roles and social status, and various proposals for change from a variety of political perspectives.

Phil 310. Ancient Philosophy. (Cross-listed with Cl St). (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 201. Survey of ancient Greek philosophy, focusing on the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle. Questions concerning being, knowledge, language, and the good life are treated in depth. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 314. 17th Century Philosophy. (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. S., offered 2010.Prereq: 201. Readings from philosophers such as Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Locke. Changing conceptions of knowledge, self, and deities in response to Galileo's new science and post-reformation challenge to ecclesiastical authority. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 315. 18th Century Philosophy. (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. S., offered 2011.Prereq: 201. Readings from philosophers such as Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Development of Enlightenment thought. Issues include idealism, causation, freedom, and knowledge regarding science, ethics, and deities. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 316. 19th Century Continental Philosophy. (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. F., offered 2009.Prereq: 201. The thought of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and their contemporaries. Various perspectives on the philosophy of history, the nature of reason and subjectivity, the contrast between dialectical and nondialectical philosophy, and the relationship between philosophy and society. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 317. 20th and 21st Century Continental Philosophy. (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. F., offered 2010.Prereq: 201. Major movements of 20th and 21st century thought, such as Phenomenology, Critical Theory, Post-structuralism, Postmodernism, and Feminism. Issues include the assumptions and limits of Western metaphysics, the nature of reason, the relationship between language and power. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 318. 20th and 21st Century Anglo-American Philosophy. (3-0) Cr. 3. S.Prereq: 201. Major movements in recent and contemporary philosophy such as realism, logical positivism, ordinary language philosophy, and naturalism. Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine and other leading figures. Topics include knowledge of the material world, mind, language, values, and philosophical method. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 320. Existentialism and Its Critics. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 201. An investigation of Existentialism and its critics in historical and cultural context. Emphasis on existential phenomenology and French existentialism, and on criticisms. Existential Marxism and Heidegger's later philosophy. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 330. Ethical Theory. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 201 or 230. Major theories in normative ethics and metaethics. Includes such views as relativism, emotivism, and absolutism. Comparison of ethics with science and how moral judgments are justified. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 331. Moral Problems in Medicine. (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. S., offered 2011.Prereq: 230 or junior classification. In-depth study of some of the central moral problems arising in medicine, e.g., abortion, euthanasia, patients' rights, health care professionals' duties and responsibilities, allocation of medical resources. Major moral theories will be examined and applied. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 332. Philosophy of Law. (Cross-listed with CJ St). (3-0) Cr. 3. F.S.Prereq: 201 or 230. Extent of our obligation to obey the law; what constitutes just punishment; how much of the immoral should be made illegal? Relation of these questions to major theories of law and the state. Discussion of such concepts as coercion, equality, and responsibility. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 333. Family Ethics. (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. S., offered 2011.Prereq: 3 credits in philosophy. Moral dimensions of marriage and love, parent-child relations, domestic work, and moral education. Can parents and children be friends? What do children "owe" their parents? Is there a feminist mode of moral thinking? Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 334. Environmental Ethics. (Cross-listed with Env S). (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 3 credits in philosophy or junior classification. Thorough study of some of the central moral issues arising in connection with human impact on the environment, e.g., human overpopulation, species extinction, forest and wilderness management, pollution. Several world views of the proper relationship between human beings and nature will be explored. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 335. Social and Political Philosophy. (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. S., offered 2010.Prereq: 201 or 230. Foundations of social and political life. The basis of political organization, the nature of social and political institutions, rights and authority, justice. Original texts. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 336. Bioethics and Biotechnology. (3-0) Cr. 3.Prereq: Phil 201 or 230 or 235. In-depth study of some central moral issues in the life sciences, e.g., genetic screening and testing, genetically engineered plants and animals, risk analysis, biotechnology patents, research ethics, biodiversity, the impact of biotechnology on society and the environment. Major moral theories will be discussed and applied. (Phil 336 contains almost no similarities to Phil 331.) Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 338. Feminist Philosophy. (Cross-listed with W S). (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 3 credits in philosophy or women's studies recommended. A critical, theoretical examination of the oppression of women, especially as it relates to issues of race, class, and sexual orientation. How concepts such as sex and gender, self and other, nature and nurture, complicate our understanding of what it means to be a woman. Historical and contemporary feminist philosophers addressing topics such as violence, sexuality, pornography, political power, family structure and women's paid and unpaid labor. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 340. Aesthetics. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 201 or 230. Is liking all there is to appreciating works of art or natural beauty? We will examine our appreciative experiences, talk about such experiences (e.g., art criticism), and what makes them valuable. Do the different arts have common values? How are their differences important? Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 343. Philosophy of Technology. (Cross-listed with T SC). (3-0) Cr. 3. F.S.Prereq: 6 credits of social science or T SC 341 and 3 credits of social science. Moral and other philosophical problems related to developments in technology. Topics may include conditions under which technological innovations contribute to human emancipation, relationship of technology and democracy, utility and limits of technical rationality, and problems of ensuring that benefits of technological advance are communally shared. Topics discussed with reference to such issues as contemporary developments in microelectronics, technology transfer to the Third World, etc. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 350. Philosophy of Religion. (Cross-listed with Relig). (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 201. The value and truth of religious life and belief. Mystical experience; religious faith and language; arguments for God's existence; the problem of evil; miracles; and religion and morality. Historical and contemporary readings. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 364. Metaphysics: God, Minds, and Matter. (3-0) Cr. 3. S.Prereq: 3 credits in philosophy. A survey of classical and contemporary views on some basic metaphysical issues. Issues discussed include: Does God exist? Do you have a mind and, if so, how does it relate to your body? What is the nature of cause and effect? Do objects have any essential properties? How can we account for properties objects have in common? Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 366. Truth, Belief and Reason. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 201 or permission of instructor. This course focuses on significant topics in theory of knowledge, including the value of true beliefs, the role of sense experience in supporting our theoretical views, and the place of reason in human nature. Historical and contemporary views will be considered.

Phil 380. Philosophy of Science. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 201 or 6 credits in a science. Introduction to the philosophy of science. A variety of basic problems common to the natural and social sciences: the nature of explanation, the structure of theories, the unity of science, and the distinction between science and nonscience. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 381. Philosophy of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. (3-0) Cr. 3. S.Prereq: 201 or 6 credits in the social sciences. Methodological, ideological, and doctrinal issues about the social and behavioral sciences against the background of influence of the natural sciences. Focus is on the historical and cultural background of 19th and 20th century western thought. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 398. Cooperative Education. Cr. R. F.S.SS.Prereq: Permission of the department cooperative education coordinator; junior classification. Required of all cooperative education students. Students must register for this course prior to commencing each work period. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 430. Value Theory. (3-0) Cr. 3. Repeatable. S.Prereq: 230. Theoretical and normative issues in ethics, aesthetics, religious thought, or political philosophy. Topics vary each time offered. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 450. Persons and Causes. (3-0) Cr. 3. Repeatable. F.Prereq: 3 credits in philosophy; 207 strongly encouraged. Personal identity, agency, free will, moral responsibility, causation, future contingents, and time will be discussed. What makes a person the same person over time? Do humans have free will? Are we not morally responsible if our actions are inevitable consequences of the past and the laws of nature? What distinguishes causes from non-causes? Are there facts about the future? Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 460. Epistemology and Metaphysics. (3-0) Cr. 3. Repeatable. S.Prereq: 6 credits in philosophy. Issues in epistemology and metaphysics. Topics vary each time offered. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 465. Brains, Minds, and Computers. (3-0) Cr. 3. F.Prereq: 201. Examination of concepts such as computability, intelligence, programming, and free will; and of arguments about whether any human capacity is forever beyond realization in a machine. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 480. Controversies in Science. (3-0) Cr. 3. Repeatable. S.Prereq: 3 credits in philosophy or 6 credits in a natural or social science. Philosophical treatment of a branch of science that has (or has had) significant social, political, religious and/or moral implications. Possible topics include: the IQ debate, implications of Darwinism, the Galileo affair, the role of values in science, critical analysis of current science policy (e.g., the Human Genome Project). Topics will be arranged to meet the needs of interested students. Often team taught by a philosopher and a scientist from the relevant discipline. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 483. Philosophy of Biology. (3-0) Cr. 3. S.Prereq: 3 credits in philosophy or 3 credits in biology. Biology is powerful, both as a science and in its effects on our culture. Philosophy of biology evaluates this power. Possible topics include: What makes sciences such as evolutionary theory, ecology or molecular biology so good at explaining things? What is life? Can evolution account for design? What role does chance play in evolution? Has there been progress in the evolution of life on earth? What can sociobiology tell us about human nature, behavior and culture? Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 485. Philosophy of Physics. (3-0) Cr. 3.Prereq: 3 credits in Philosophy or 3 credits in Physics. S. Conceptual and philosophical issues relating to the interpretation of theories in classical and modern physics. May include one or more of the following topics: the relationship between mathematics and the physical world; Newtonian physics (determinism and predictability); thermodynamics and statistical physics (the nature of probability; entropy and the direction of time); relativistic physics (indeterminism; realism and nonlocality; consciousness and the role of the observer). Nonmajor graduate credit.

Phil 490. Independent Study. Cr. 1-4. Repeatable.Prereq: 6 credits in philosophy; permission of instructor, approval of chairman. Guided reading and research on special topics selected to meet needs of advanced students. No more than 9 credits of Phil 490 may be counted toward graduation.
H. Honors

Phil 492. Graduating Senior Survey. Cr. R. F.S.Prereq: Graduating senior. Final presentation for graduation and the future. Outcomes assessment activities. Satisfactory-fail only.

Phil 496. Ecology and Society. (Dual-listed with 596). (3-0) Cr. 3.Prereq: Graduate classification in biological or environmental sciences/studies with at least one course in ecology. Analysis of conceptual and methodological debates in ecology. Historical development of competing research traditions and philosophies. Topics include i) methodological issues in ecological science, ii) conceptual issues in theoretical ecology, iii) conceptual issues in applied ecology, iv) relation of ecology to environmental and social issues. Nonmajor graduate credit.

Courses primarily for graduate students, open to qualified undergraduate students

Phil 535. Contemporary Political Philosophy. (Cross-listed with Pol S). (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. S., offered 2011.Prereq: 6 credits of philosophy or political science. Examination of theories of justice proposed by contemporary political philosophers. Analysis of the philosophical foundations of perspectives such as liberalism, libertarianism, communitarianism, socialism, feminism. Normative assessments of socio-political institutions.

Phil 590. Special Topics in Philosophy. Cr. 2-4. Repeatable.Prereq: Permission of instructor, 9 credits in philosophy.
A. History of Philosophy
B. Epistemology and Metaphysics
C. Value Theory
D. Logic and Philosophy of Science

Phil 596. Ecology and Society. (Dual-listed with 496). (Cross-listed with EEOB). (3-0) Cr. 3.Prereq: Graduate classification in biological or environmental sciences/studies with at least one course in ecology. Analysis of conceptual and methodological debates in ecology. Historical development of competing research traditions and philosophies. Topics include i) methodological issues in ecological science, ii) conceptual issues in theoretical ecology, iii) conceptual issues in applied ecology, iv) relation of ecology to environmental and social issues.