Undergraduate Courses in Philosophy

Any prerequisites listed are applicable only to students majoring in Philosophy.


PHIL1002 Introduction to Ethics and Applied Ethics: This course consists of two parts. The first part introduces students to the domain of ethics as the study of theories about how we ought to live, and what is of value or concern in life. The second part takes a more pragmatic approach and attempts to deal with practical applications such as concern for the environment and animals, or issues such as abortion and euthanasia.

PHIL1003 Introduction to Philosophy: The course aims to introduce students to the methods and materials of philosophy through the exploration of certain fundamental philosophical concerns and problems like the nature of mind and personal identity, free will and determinism, and the existence of God. It will involve presentation of a range of philosophical issues and arguments both as they occur in the writings of philosophers of the past and those of the modern and contemporary eras. Essentially the course is an exercise in getting students acquainted with philosophizing as a distinctive mode of thinking.

PHIL1300 Critical Thinking and Informal Logic: Critical thinking is a process that emphasizes a rational basis for thought, in particular beliefs, and provides a set of standards and procedures for analyzing, testing, and evaluating them. In this spirit the course examines the basic nature of reasoning and focuses on fallacies which obstruct good reasoning. Emphasis will be upon understanding the logical structure of argument and on recognizing the influence of emotional and rhetorical persuasion in media presentations, political discussions, advertisements, general academic writings, and one’s own arguments.

PHIL1903 Greek Philosophy: This course is intended to initiate students into the historical origins of some major philosophical issues in ancient Greek Philosophy. The major emphasis will be on Plato and Aristotle. The focus will be mainly on metaphysical and epistemological aspects of their work, but some attention will be paid to their ethical and political concerns.


PHIL2003 Philosophy of Mind: The question ‘What is it to have a mind?’ forms the focal point in philosophy of mind, and the course examines various attempts at answering this question. Among the issues requiring discussion are the relation between mind and brain, the nature of consciousness, and the question whether mental phenomena have causal powers or are merely by-products of brain activity. Questions related to free will and persons and personal identity will also be examined.

PHIL2004 Philosophy of Science: Philosophical investigation into the assumptions, claims, concepts, and methods of science raises questions of both theoretical and practical significance. This course aims to study the philosophical underpinning of scientific activity and to scrutinize such issues as the old and new riddles of induction, the nature of natural laws, the relation between theory and observation, the function and nature of theoretical terms, the concept of confirmation and its paradoxical implications, underdetermination of theory by data, theoretical reduction, realism versus anti-realism in science, and explanation and peculiarities of teleological explanation.

PHIL2100 Symbolic Logic: This course covers the basics of "symbolic" logic, that is, formal logic in which special symbols are used to represent certain logical relationships. The use of such symbols enables one to study the form of good deductive arguments independently from their content. The focus of the course is not on the symbols, but on a rigorous study of the properties of good deductive arguments. During the course students will learn to use formal languages for propositional and quantificational logic to represent the logical structure of arguments expressed in English. They will also learn techniques for assessing the validity of arguments formulated in those formal languages. (This course assumes some knowledge of Logic hence non-philosophy majors may find it more challenging).

PHIL2200 Crime and Punishment - Issues in Legal Justice: This course explores the twinned themes of crime and punishment. Questions to be addressed include: What is crime? What are the causes of crime? What motivates an individual to commit a crime? Who is responsible for criminal activity? Why is a criminal confession so important? What is punishment? What are the rationales for punishment? What is justice? How does punishment measure against the need for human dignity? What roles do culture, class, and gender play in crime and punishment? What biases does one have about these questions, and how does one present his or her views?

PHIL2210 Human Nature and the Good Life in Society: This course attempts to chart the development of ideas of human nature and the social and political forms appropriate to its flourishing from Plato up to modern times. The course will survey thinkers in roughly chronological order but will place their arguments in the context of current philosophical debate. The course will deal with historically significant writers such as: Plato; Aristotle; Augustine; Aquinas; Hobbes; Locke; Hume; Rousseau; Kant; Mill; and Marx, and will place them in relation to the resurgence of the theory of justice associated with the work of John Rawls and others.

PHIL2605 African Philosophy: This course examines the debate surrounding the history, definition and nature of African Philosophy. It identifies and attempts to answer central questions that most concern contemporary African philosophers. These are questions such as: What is African Philosophy? Is ethnophilosophy really philosophy? Are the contents and methods of African philosophy unique? Can African philosophy and ideas be properly expressed in non-African languages? Students are encouraged to investigate philosophical issues that have African Diaspora ramifications, with a view to understand how life experiences, expectations and orientations influence philosophical ideas.

PHIL2650 Asian Philosophy: This course will examine the major philosophies and philosophers that have been influential in shaping the minds of Asia. Special attention will be given to Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Zen-Buddhism. Focus will be on such issues as humanity, justice, self, happiness, authenticity, freedom, harmony, and enlightenment.

PHIL2701 Philosophy in Literature: Works of literature are sometimes representations of philosophical problems as lived experiences and as such provide opportunities for the discussion of philosophy and life. This course seeks to carry out an examination of a number of central philosophical issues as they are reflected in literary works. Among the issues to be examined are the following: the question of God and the problem of evil; fatalism and moral responsibility; the obligation to obey the law; the meaning of life; and the human’s search for identity.

PHIL2801 Aesthetics: Philosophers have considered questions raised by the nature of beauty, of art, and critical appreciation since ancient times, and the discipline of aesthetics has a long tradition that stretches from Plato to the present. Aesthetics has also been the subject of a number of theoretical challenges that investigate the conceptual frameworks customarily assumed by theories of art. This course is designed not only to introduce students to the study of the nature of beauty which intersects with topics in metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language, but also the theory of taste and criticism in the creative and performing arts.

PHIL2901 Problems of Knowledge: This course concentrates on the nature of knowledge, its sources and justification. It is divided into two parts. Part 1 focuses on general epistemological issues such as scepticism, possible analyses of knowledge, and views of its overall structure. Part 2 deals with questions that arise more particularly in relation to scientific knowledge: the problem of induction, the notion of evidence or corroboration and the paradox of confirmation, and some views of the nature of scientific knowledge.

PHIL2902 Early Modern Philosophy – Rationalism: Contemporary philosophy is very much indebted to what are referred to as the moderns, namely, several 17th and 18th century philosophers. Although the moderns were not isolated thinkers and their works were everywhere influenced by the thoughts of their predecessors and contemporaries, it is not extravagant to credit them with initiating modern philosophy. This course is aimed to study what has become known as the school of rationalism in which three philosophers stand out: namely, Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz. The course covers a selection of subjects from their works with an emphasis on their metaphysical and epistemological aspects.

PHIL2903 Early Modern Philosophy - Empiricism: This course is a sequel to the first course on Modern Philosophy and is designed to study the school of empiricism. Among the empiricists, the works of three figures loom large: Locke, Berkeley and Hume. Again, the course is concerned mainly with epistemological and metaphysical aspects of empiricist philosophy.

PHIL2904 Philosophical Logic: This course is not so much about formal logic but about a series of connected and highly important concepts like reference, truth, existence, identity, necessity, and quantification. These are notions that not only have applications to the foundations of logic, but are also fundamental to thought in general. They relate to the analysis of reasoning, functioning and structure of natural language and categories of existence. Philosophical logic is in many respects the workshop of philosophy, and the course aims to introduce students to its methods and materials and also to its implications for other areas in philosophy.


PHIL3099 Research in Philosophy - Interrogating Perennial Issues and Great Thinkers in Philosophy (6 Credits): This course is designed to introduce final year students to research in Philosophy. Through detailed reading of classical and non-classical works in Philosophy, students will develop an understanding of the background to the works of each major author, and be able to identify issues in Philosophy and/or themes in the works of a major philosophical figure. As a culmination of the work in the research course, students will be required to prepare a research paper under supervision of the lecturer for the course, which critically analyze the issues and/or theme of interest to them.

PHIL3100 Philosophy of Law: This course provides a systematic consideration of the fundamental issues in the conception and practice of law; origins of law, commands and orders; sovereignty and subject; legitimacy and autonomy; laws, ethics and justice; democracy and the law; gender and the law; discrimination and reverse discrimination; war and laws; sanctity of life and law – suicide, capital punishment, cloning, organ transplantation, etc.; and conscience and the law. It provides a forum for the discussion of such perennial themes in legal theory as the nature and function of law, the relation of law to morality, the function of rules in legal reasoning, and the connection between law and social policy. We look at philosophical issues in crime, civil rights, punishment, and the legislation of morality. International laws – perspectives and problems.

PHIL3110 Environmental Ethics: A critical examination of various moral problems raised when considering environmental issues. Questions regarding the moral status of animals, future generations, and the environment as a whole are explored. Also taken up are the moral aspects of famine relief, population control, and resource use. These and other issues generate challenging and fundamental questions of moral philosophy: What is the basis of obligation? Do animals have rights? What does it mean to say something is intrinsically valuable?

PHIL3120 Biomedical Ethics: Bioethics is the critical study of ethical problems arising from medicine, healthcare and the biological sciences. The course will discuss some ethical questions concerning such issues as: abortion, euthanasia, health resource allocation, organ donation, experimentation on humans and animals, medical paternalism, genetically modified food, genetic modification of animals, human cloning, eugenics and designer babies, genetics, refusal of medical treatment.

PHIL3130 Business Ethics: The course analyses moral questions and problems that arise in contemporary business practice. These are problems such as: What place do ethics have in business? What responsibilities, if any, do managers and professionals have to society? Are corporations moral agents with moral responsibilities distinct from the responsibilities their managers may have as individuals? What rights should workers have to health and safety in the workplace? What rights to equality and non-discrimination do applicants, workers and managers have? How should any existing inequalities be addressed? How loyal should workers and managers have to be? Is there anything fundamentally wrong with using deception and dishonesty in order to further important ends? What place do ethics have in advertising and in international business interactions?

PHIL3500 Philosophy and Gender: "Gender" as practice, performance and representation has differed for women and men according to race, class and other divisions throughout time. This course examines key issues related to the critical study of gender or the cultural invention and representation of masculinity and femininity. The course will also examine competing feminist theories; for example, liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, radical feminism, socialist feminism and others.

PHIL3510 Philosophy of Sex and Love: This course investigates philosophical approaches to love, friendship, marriage, and eroticism in both classical and contemporary philosophy. It involves an investigation of the nature of sex and the nature of love and of the conceptual relationship between sexuality and love. Explored also are the concepts of gender and gender roles, and gender equality. Included is an investigation of social, ethical and legal controversies regarding sexual behaviour, marriage, and privacy. Metaphysical (eg. what is sex?), epistemological (can a member of one sex really know what it is for someone of the opposite sex to experience sexual intercourse?) and ethical queries (is pre-marital sex moral or immoral?) are tackled in this course.

PHIL3520 Kant and the post-Kantians: This course starts from the attempt by Kant to synthesize elements of rationalism and empiricism in his ‘critical’ philosophy. It considers reactions to Kant’s views by such writers as Hegel and Schopenhauer and concludes with Nietzsche’s rejection of the Kantian project.

PHIL3610 Frege, Husserl and their Progeny: Taking up Kantian themes in the work of Frege, this course examines the shared concerns of Frege and Husserl, and the subsequent division of their interests between ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ thinkers. In the former group the works of Russell, Wittgenstein and Carnap, in particular, will be discussed, while Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty’s debt to Husserl will be the focus of the other part of the course.

PHIL3801 African Diaspora Philosophy: This course is intended to give an insight into the philosophical heritage of African Diaspora thought and new work in the discipline. Given that African Diaspora Philosophy is still a relatively new discipline and a definite consensus has yet to emerge with regard to its content and contours, the question of identity, and the nature, problems, and methods of African Diaspora Philosophy will also arise. These issues will be examined primarily by delving into the original writings of the most prominent thinkers in the field.

PHIL3804 Philosophy of Language: The question of what it is to be meaningful is the central concern of Philosophy of Language and this course aims to canvass attempts at delineating the meaning or meanings of meaning. Language is Janus faced, facing outward to the external world and inward towards speakers' words. Yet, how does language relate to the mind on the one hand and reality on the other? In considering different aspects of meaning, attention will be paid to concepts like proper names, metaphorical meaning, egocentric expressions, and ‘performative’ uses of language and other issues.

PHIL3805 Philosophy of Psychology: Psychology attempts to explain such phenomena as perception, cognition, emotion and language learning. The goal of this course is to find out how such tasks are accomplished by psychology, with an emphasis on its theoretical tenets and methodology. The objective is to enable students to sort out the various ways in which philosophical assumptions appear in, affect, and illuminate psychology, and conversely how psychological insights impress on philosophical problems and positions.

PHIL3806 Cognitive Science Philosophy: Philosophy of cognitive science comes under the umbrella of philosophy of psychology. However, due to the rapid expansion of the field, it is gradually becoming an autonomous area of study in its own right. Basically, cognitive science is predicated on the idea that the mind, or at least some important mental phenomena, can be understood in computational terms. Currently there are two allegedly rival computational models of mind: namely, classical computationalism and connectionism. This course is designed to look at the fundamental conception of computationalism and its various ramifications for topics such as folk psychology, the language of thought, modularity of the mind, linguistics, vision, and the notion of content in causal and explanatory contexts.

PHIL3807 Philosophy of Mathematics: This course enquires into the concepts of and justification for the principles used in mathematics. Two central problems in the field concern what, if anything, mathematical statements are about, and how it is that we come to have knowledge of such statements. In more details, the prime question in philosophy of mathematics concerns the status of the subject which can be split into four sub-questions: (1) How do we know that our mathematical theories are true? (2) What is mathematics about? In other words, if a mathematical statement is true, what makes it true? (3) Are mathematical truths true by necessity, and, if so, what is the source of this necessity? (4) How is it possible to apply mathematical truths to external reality, and in what does this application consist? The objective is to initiate students into thinking about these questions in a systematic and consistent way.

PHIL3901 Meta-ethics: This course is a sequel to Introduction to Ethics and Applied Ethics (PHIL1002), in which attention is focused on issues of normative nature or first-order: that is, questions about how we ought to live, and what is of value or concern in life. Meta-ethics, however, is a reflective examination of first-order ethical decision and judgements, and it is, therefore, also referred to as second-order ethics. It looks at issues like the nature of moral judgements and enquires whether they express genuine beliefs, and whether they can be objectively true. Cognitivism and non-cognitivism, realism and relativism, and other moral theoretical frameworks will be among the topics discussed.

PHIL3903 Metaphysics: All sub-disciplines of philosophy share certain problems about what ultimately exists in the universe. Consideration of such issues constitutes the province of metaphysics. This course aims to provide students with an understanding and means of tackling questions about what there is in reality and how the world works. The following topics are among the issues discussed in the course: appearance and reality, substance and identity, causation and laws, universals and particulars, space and time.

Faculty of Humanities and Education
Telephone: (246) 417-4385/87 Fax: (246) 424-0634 E-mail: humanities@cavehill.uwi.edu