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Philosophy Undergraduate Courses

PH101 Problems of Philosophy

This course seeks to help the student think rationally and critically about basic questions concerning the meaning of human life and our place in society and the universe, and to recognize the bearing of these questions on contemporary social issues. This course exposes students to both classical and contemporary philosophical problems. Among problems for possible discussion are the existence of God, freedom and responsibility, human nature and happiness, appearance and reality, ethics and the environment, abortion and individual rights, affirmative action and equality, love and sex, and law and authority.

PH130 Business Ethics: Corporate Social Responsibility

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course examines the various meanings of corporate social responsibility by looking at the nature of the corporation and the character structure of its managers, both historically and in the present. After investigating several philosophical theories concerning the ideal use of power, the emphasis is on the application of principled moral thinking concerning corporate responsibility to such topics as employees, consumers, local communities, government, environmental issues, advertising, payoffs and bribes, the role and structure of corporate whistleblowing, privacy rights, poverty and equal rights, and other ethical issues that relate to corporate technology and the individual. Some attention is given to the moral evaluation of entire economic systems.

PH131 Business Ethics: Philosophy of Work

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

What should work look like in the 21st century? This course explores personal work values and a wide range of moral questions about contemporary work. It includes topics such as: globalization, technological change, wages and working conditions, work-life balance, discrimination and diversity, and workplace democracy. Texts include cases, academic articles, documentary films, literature, journalism, and discussions of public and institutional policies. The course draws on moral theories and students’ overall academic expertise to identify problems and defend solutions.

PH133 Business Ethics: International Business Ethics

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

The course explores ethical issues confronted by corporations operating in the global marketplace, where laws, moral standards and cultural customs can vary widely from country to country. Possible issues to be discussed: bribery, environmental and safety standards, fair wages, sales and marketing, business-government relations, and the role of multinational corporations in developing nations. To assess the morals of multinational corporations, a number of cases will be analyzed from the perspective of a variety of ethical frameworks.

PH134 Healthcare Ethics

Prerequisite(s): PH 101

This course examines ethical issues that arise in healthcare. Possible topics include the ethics of medical procedures such as abortion and euthanasia; the rights and duties of patients and healthcare professionals; the ethics of reproductive technologies; the management of medical information; justice in the distribution of healthcare resources; and the role of health in the good life.

PH135 Special Problems in Business and Professional Ethics

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course presents an opportunity for students to examine in depth special issues and problems of business and professional ethics. Possible topics include accounting ethics, computer ethics, ethics and business-government relations, legal ethics, medical ethics, ethics and the problem of distributive justice, and private property.

PH140 Disability, Values & Society

Prerequisite(s): PH 101

Disability is – and always has been – a universal aspect of human experience. Every year, millions of people live with some form of physical or cognitive disability, and all of us have the potential to become disabled at any time. But what is disability exactly? Is it simply a medical problem? Or do disabilities arise from a mismatch between a person's body and her social environment? Is having a disability necessarily bad for you? What value does disability contribute to society? Drawing upon philosophy, memoirs, film, and other sources, this course will explore these and related questions with a particular focus on disability in the United States. Potential topics include different models of disability, the disability rights movement in the U.S., the ethics of causing and preventing disability, feminist perspectives on disability, disability in popular culture, and the relationship between disability and technology.

PH142 Sports, Games & Values

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission.

Sports and games are a central part of the human experience, and raise deep and complex philosophical questions. This course will examine a selection of these questions, such as: What is the connection between a game and its rules? Is foul simulation (diving or flopping) a form of cheating? What is the purpose of segregating competitors by gender in sports, and how should gender be determined? Should violent sports like boxing and football be abolished? Are college athletes, especially those from minority groups, exploited? Are sports and games worthwhile pursuits or a waste of time? In exploring these and related questions, this course prepares students to be more reflective players and consumers of sports and games.

PH216 Modern Philosophy: Knowledge and Values

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course examines the work of important philosophers from the 16th to 19th centuries. It includes topics such as foundations for knowledge of the physical world, the nature of mind and matter, freedom and determinism, moral values, liberty, the existence of God and the authority of religion, and human liberation. Philosophers to be studied are chosen from Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Mill and Marx.

PH217 Contemporary Philosophy: Change and Meaning

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course examines the enduring questions concerning the nature of the good life as they arise with a new urgency in our world of rapid change and technology. Topics include technological control and human freedom; meaninglessness and alienation; reality, language and ethics; and the question of the diverse views of the purpose of philosophy. Some representative schools of philosophy are process philosophy, pragmatism, dialectical materialism, analytical philosophy and existentialism.

PH251 Ethics

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course surveys important traditional and contemporary ethical positions, with emphasis on relating reflective morality to life in the world today. It includes an investigation of absolutism versus relativism, egoism versus altruism, utilitarianism, denotology, the nature of good, and the justification of ethical theories.

PH252 Theories of Knowledge

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course examines the most important questions that we can ask about our beliefs: When should we take something that we believe to be knowledge and not mere belief? What sort of evidence, reasons or assurances must we have for some belief we hold in order to be justified in holding it? How should we respond to those skeptics who deny that we have knowledge about this for that area of human concern (for example, of ultimate reality, of ethics or of God)? And how should we respond to the radical skeptic who denies that we have any knowledge at all? The course will gain focus on these and similar questions in order to help the student gain a deeper understanding of the nature and limits of human knowledge.

PH253 Theories of Reality

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course is concerned with questions having to do with the nature of existence or reality. Concerning the nature of existence or reality, some have held that everything that exists ultimately reduces to material things or processes – "Atoms dancing in the void" – as the ancient materialist, Democritus, put it. Others (Bishop Berkeley, for example) have denied the reality of the physical world entirely, asserting that everything that exists is ultimately reducible to spiritual or mind-like things. On the other hand, many in the Western world have embraced some form of metaphysical dualism, which affirms the reality of both the spiritual and the material world; still others (for example, certain Hindus) have denied all such categories, affirming that everything, except for the indivisible, indescribable One, is an illusion. Finally, certain pragmatists and postmodernists claim that we should completely abandon the entire construct.

PH254 Special Topics in Philosophy

Prerequisite(s): PH 101

This course examines selected issues in philosophy. Possible topics include consciousness and cognition, language and meaning, knowledge and justification, free will, the existence of God, and the problem of evil.

PH270 Consciousness and Experience

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or Instructor Permission

Consciousness is utterly familiar to each of us and yet has proved elusive to any systematic study. We all seem to know intuitively what it is, but it turns out to be very hard to spell out or explain that knowledge. This course will address some key questions about the nature of consciousness by drawing on philosophical and psychological sources. These questions include: How can we explain the relationship between brain events and conscious experience? Is a naturalistic explanation of consciousness in principle available? Can we make sense of phenomena such as lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences? How should we think of the place of consciousness in the universe?

PH271 Other Minds

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or Instructor Permission.

When you see another person, you think of that person as having a mind. What, though, entitles you to hold that belief? After all, you could have encountered a zombie, or you could be the only mind in the universe and everything you experience is just a matter of your imagination. This problem has a long-standing history in philosophy. It is called the ‘Problem of Other Minds’. In recent years, it has seen renewed interest, partly because of psychological and neurophysiological work that sheds new empirical light on how we come to understand others as minded creatures, and their movements as actions, on the basis of perceptual experience.

PH272 Perception and Perspectives

Prerequisite(s): PH 101

This course examines the nature of perception from a philosophical and psychological lens. It inquires into the connection between perception and perspectives. All perception is from some perspective, but we see whole things, not the surfaces from which we have perceptual information. One question we will be considering is how this is possible. Another, closely related question is how perspectives inform our thinking about the objects of perception. How can we know that we are perceiving, and communicating about, the same objects if our perspectives on them are distinct? And how can we come to terms with differences in our value judgements about perceived objects (or events or actions) if perspectives are value-laden? Thinking about perception turns out to be vital for making sense of a world in which our perspectives on public events are starkly distinct.

PH301 Environmental Ethics

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course investigates the complex dimensions of the ethical relationship between humanity and the natural environment. Iiscusses a variety of theories and proposals concerning the nature of that relationship, including both anthropocentric and nonanthropocentric viewpoints. The course relates these ideas to the present environmental crisis, and to the duties and responsibilities that businesses have to protect and preserve the environment.

PH305 Mathematical Logic

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission and completion of any freshman mathematics sequence

Note: This course is also listed as MA 305; it can be used as either a Philosophy or Mathematical Sciences elective, depending on which designator the student chooses at registration.

Mathematics analyzes the world in a precise, quantitative way. Mathematical logic applies that same precise analysis to mathematics itself. Analysis of mathematical formulas, how they are constructed and how they relate, lead to the two most famous formal reasoning systems, classical propositional logic and classical predicate logic. Arguments constructed through formal reasoning in these systems are compared with informal reasoning. Examples of logic in algebra and the foundations of calculus lead to consideration of historically important questions such as, "Do we know that the generally accepted rules for reasoning are correct, or reliable?" This leads to the study of historical roots of non-classical logics and their relationship to computer science.

PH311 Social Philosophy

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

Examines selected topics in traditional and contemporary theories of society such as utopia, ideology, social class, racism, economic determinism, freedom, and the "post-industrial" age. Explores the topics both historically and systematically, focusing on contemporary discussions in the philosophy of the social sciences. Draws on the writings of social theorists such as Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Hegel, Marx, Mills, Freud, Weber, Keynes, Mao Zedong, Marcuse and Habermas.

PH312 Liberty, Morality and Law

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or Instructor Permission

It’s a free country, or so they say. But the state places many constraints on our behavior. Which of these are justified, and which are not? Should you be able to say hateful things? Drive without wearing a seatbelt? Sell your organs? In general, what moral principles should guide rule-makers as they devise rules for a just society? Potential topics of discussion include the nature and value of human freedom, the significance of morality, justice, economic choice, freedom of thought and expression, paternalism and punishment.

PH315 East Asian Philosophy

Prerequisite(s): PH 101

The three countries of East Asia – China, Japan and Korea – have become major economic powerhouses in the contemporary world. Many experts have attributed their economic success to their traditional worldviews, specifically Confucianism. Whether this assessment is correct, it is of utmost importance that students, who desire to attain a global perspective, understand the philosophical perspectives of East Asia. This course provides an opportunity for students to learn about the philosophical and cultural traditions of East Asia in a systematic and comprehensive fashion. It explores three major philosophical perspectives of East Asia – Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism – by following their histories and evolution in East Asia over two millennia.

PH316 Feminist Theory

Prerequisite(s): PH 101

What is the nature of sex-based oppression, and how can we successfully recognize and resist it? This course aims to introduce students to feminist theoretical approaches to the above and related questions. Through readings of contemporary feminist philosophical texts, we will explore the social-structural source of sexist oppression, as well as the impact of such oppression on the self, knowledge, and values.

PH320 Human Rights and Global Governance

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or Instructor Approval

The aim of the course is to introduce Bentley students to several key philosophical debates regarding human rights and global governance. In this era of globalization, some understanding of current issues relating to human rights and global governance is a necessary requirement for global citizens, especially for those who aspire to be business leaders of the 21st century. The course also aims to help Bentley students develop stronger critical thinking skills. Philosophy articles and chapters chosen as class materials follow the philosophical method, which is the method of critical thinking. Understanding the philosophical method is therefore a prerequisite for understanding, analyzing, and engaging with the class materials. Hence, some portion of the course is devoted to explicating various elements of the philosophical method or critical thinking.

PH351 Perspectives on Poverty

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

What are the moral obligations of government, other institutions and individuals in dealing with poverty? Should just societies satisfy the basic needs of all their members? How should we deal with conflicting claims about justice, rights, needs, freedom and equality? Are current U.S., state and local policies dealing with poor people morally justified? What alternative policies might be better? This course explores answers to these questions through the study of different philosophical theories and through investigation of one or two current problem areas as cases. Investigation will include substantial service-learning experiences in inner-city schools or other institutions that serve poor people.

PH401 Directed Study in Philosophy

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

This course presents as opportunity for superior students to engage in specialized study. Allows repetition for credit.

PH402 Seminar in Philosophy

Prerequisite(s): PH 101 or instructor's permission

Note: Not offered regularly. Check with department chair for availability.

This course provides opportunity for students in small groups to study selected topics. Allows repetition for credit.

PH421 Internship in Philosophy

Prerequisite(s): Junior-level standing, 3.0 cumulative average, and permission of liberal arts internship coordinator

An internship provides studentsn with an opportunity to gain on-the-job experience and apply principles and issues raised in the academic discipline to a work environment. Students are required to attend pre-internship workshops sponsored by the Center for Career Services, meet regularly with a faculty advisor, and develop a final paper or special project.