Corcoran Department of Philosophy
512 Cabell Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400780
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4780
(434) 924-7701 Fax: (434) 924-6927
Overview The main areas of study in philosophy are metaphysics,
epistemology, ethics, logic, and the history of philosophy. In addition to these
areas of study, the department also offers courses in aesthetics, philosophy
of science, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, philosophy of mathematics,
philosophy of language, biomedical ethics, and philosophy of law.
Some courses in these areas aim to acquaint the students with
the most important intellectual traditions of our civilization, while others
emphasize the characteristically philosophical activity of exposing and analyzing
the arguments for and against the positions under discussion. Quite often, these
two approaches are combined in the presentation of the material. Students of
philosophy should have the desire to investigate some of the most fundamental
and perplexing problems in the history of thought. The abilities and skills
inculcated by a philosophical education are of lasting intellectual and personal
value, for the ability to form ones own views in a reasoned and rigorous
manner forms the foundation of our democratic society, and the critical and
analytical skills fostered by philosophy are valuable across a wide variety
of other subjects. As part of a complete education, every student should take
at least one philosophy course.
Faculty The interests of the faculty members cover all
the principal areas of philosophy noted above. The department has a long tradition
of commitment to undergraduate teaching, and a number of the faculty have achieved
national and international prominence in their fields. All faculty in the department,
including its most senior members, regularly teach undergraduate courses and
seminars, including the large introductory lecture courses.
Students Approximately one hundred students are currently
pursuing a major in philosophy. Students can choose from over forty courses
in the field. Introductory lecture courses are usually designed as broad surveys
of intellectual thought; these survey courses usually have enrollments of between
fifty and two hundred students. Introductory seminar courses, on the other hand,
are limited to between fifteen and twenty students and focus on much more specific
topics. Upper-level courses typically enroll thirty to forty students. Majors
seminars and honors seminars are also offered; enrollment in these courses is
limited to twenty. Some advanced students may prefer to pursue independent study
with a faculty member. Because philosophy is not usually taught in high schools,
students would do well to begin with a 100-level or 200-level course before
trying a 300-level or higher course.
Students who graduate with a philosophy major do so with the
knowledge that they are well prepared for graduate work (more than 50 percent
go on to graduate work) or the job market. Many attend law school. According
to a recent study by the Universitys Office of Career Planning and Placement,
the average LSAT score for a philosophy major was significantly higher than
the average score for any other major. It is also worth noting that, according
to a study recently completed by the American Medical Association, philosophy
majors have the third highest acceptance rate into American medical schools.
Those who do not attend graduate school often go into corporate work, with investment
banking being the most popular career choice. Students who have studied philosophy
are characterized by an independence and rigor of thought which serves them
well in a wide variety of careers.
Requirements for Major The major in philosophy is designed
to sharpen the students analytical and creative skills, and to enhance
clarity of exposition. It also acquaints the student with some of the most important
themes in the history of Western thought. In order to fulfill the requirements
for a major in philosophy, a student must complete at least three credits of
course work in each of the three areas of metaphysics and epistemology, logic,
and ethics, and at least six credits of course work in the history of philosophy,
with the courses to be selected from among those listed below.
- Metaphysics and Epistemology PHIL 331 (Metaphysics), PHIL 334 (Philosophy
of Mind), PHIL 332 (Epistemology)
- Logic PHIL 242 (Symbolic Logic), PHIL 542 (Symbolic Logic),
PHIL 141 (Forms of Reasoning)
- Ethics PHIL 351 (Ethics), PHIL 352 (Contemporary Ethics), PHIL
356 (Classics in Political Philosophy), PHIL 257 (Political Philosophy).
- History All majors must take either PHIL 211 (History of Philosophy:
Ancient and Medieval) or PHIL 212 (History of Philosophy: Modern). Those
who take PHIL 211 must also take at least one of the following: PHIL 315
(Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz), PHIL 316 (Locke, Berkeley, Hume), or PHIL
317 (Kant). Those who take PHIL 212 must also take at least one of the following:
PHIL 311 (Plato), PHIL 312 (Aristotle), PHIL 314 (History of Medieval Philosophy),
PHIL 513 (Topics in Medieval Philosophy).
A philosophy major requires a total of 30 credits of courses
numbered 200 or higher. Students who double-major may, in consultation with
their major advisor or the director of undergraduate studies, count up to six
credits from their second major towards their philosophy major. If a student
elects to satisfy the logic requirement by taking PHIL 141, those credits do
not count towards the 30 credit requirement.
Distinguished Majors Program in Philosophy The Distinguished
Majors Program (DMP) is designed for students who wish to pursue their studies
in philosophy beyond the requirements of the regular major. It requires both
the study of a broad range of philosophical areas and a more concentrated examination
of a single topic in the form of a senior thesis.
Students may apply to the DMP as early as the fifth semester
before graduation and as late as the third semester before graduation. They
must have completed at least two philosophy courses, and they must have and
maintain a GPA of at least 3.400 in all philosophy courses taken. (In addition,
they should have an overall GPA close enough to 3.400 to make it likely that
they will be able to satisfy the College requirement of a final cumulative GPA
of 3.400 for graduation with distinction.)
DMP students must complete 36 credits of course work in philosophy,
no more than 15 of which are at the 200-level. Courses at the 100-level cannot
be counted towards DMP requirements. The 36 credits must include at least 3
credits each of:
- logic, chosen from PHIL 242, 542 or 543;
- ethics or social philosophy, chosen from PHIL 351, 352, 356 or 257;
- metaphysics or epistemology, chosen from PHIL 331, 332 or 334.
- seminars for majors (PHIL 401, 402 or other designated courses).
DMP students must also take six courses in the history of philosophy,
in accordance with the requirements laid out above for ordinary majors. In addition,
six of the required 36 credits must be used for the thesis and allocated as
follows: PHIL 493 (Directed Readings) to be used as a pre-thesis research course
(the student must submit a thesis proposal to the undergraduate committee upon
completion of this course); and PHIL 498 (Senior Thesis). The seminar for majors
and PHIL 493 will satisfy the general DMP requirement for 6 credits of advanced
Academic Standards Majors must maintain an average GPA
of at least 2.000 in all their philosophy courses. Failure to do so will result
in the students being placed on probation for the following semester. At the
end of a probationary semester, if the students average is still below
2.000, the student may be asked to declare a different major. Majors are expected
to obtain grades of C- or better on all their philosophy courses. More specifically,
if majors receive a grade below C- in two philosophy courses, they are place
on probation. If students on probation receive a grade under C- in a third course,
they may be asked to declare a different major.
Philosophy Honors Program In addition to the major programs
listed above, the department offers a program of two years of tutorial study
leading to the B.A. degree with honors in philosophy. Candidates are required
to pass an examination in logic by the end of their first year in the program.
At the end of their final year, candidates are required to take written examinations
in epistemology, metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, and ethics. In addition,
a candidate must either submit a thesis upon a topic of his or her choice, or
take a written examination in one of the following: political philosophy, formal
logic, philosophy of science, aesthetics, the writings of a major philosopher.
An oral examination is held following the written examinations. Students interested
in the honors program should approach the departments administrative staff
about application procedures. Those accepted into the program should register
for PHIL 490: Honors (15).
Requirements for Minor The minor in philosophy consists
of 15 credits of which no more than three credits may be below the 200 level.
The program of study should be developed in consultation with a departmental
Additional Information For more information, contact
Talbot Brewer, Undergraduate Advisor, 508 Cabell Hall, P.O. Box 400780, Charlottesville,
VA 22904-4780; (434) 924-7701; www.virginia.edu/philosophy.
Requirements for a Minor in Bioethics 21 credits including
one course at the introductory level-either RELG 265 (Theology, Ethics, Medicine)
or PHIL 252 (Bioethics: A Philosophical Perspective); BIOL 121 (Human Biology)
or BIOL 201-202; 6 credits at the 300-level or higher in ethical and/or political
theory, 3 credits of which must be in ethics; and 9 credits at the 300-level
or higher in bioethics electives or closely related courses, 6 of which must
be in regular bioethics courses.
In order to fulfill the bioethics electives requirement of
9 credits, students may opt to take one course that, while not specifically
focused on bioethics, still relates in a substantial way to the issues or methods
of bioethicse.g., BIOL 425 (Human Genetics), PLAP 471 (Values, Resources,
and Public Policy), ANTH 329 (Marriage, Mortality, and Fertility), SOC 426 (Health
Care Systems). Students may not take all the electives from the same department.
A list of electives is maintained by Professor John Arras, the program director.
While most such electives should be at the 300-level or higher,
some exceptions are approved (e.g., ANTH 234, Race, Gender, and Medical Science)
at the discretion of the program director.
Students may take up to 3 credits for an appropriately structured
internship in partial fulfillment of the bioethics electives requirement.
No more than 12 credits may be counted toward both the students
major and this minor. The type and number of courses that are eligible for double
counting is handled on an individual basis by the program director in collaboration
with the student and her or his academic advisor. The director of the bioethics
minor works with closely related departments (e.g., philosophy and religious
studies) to ensure that appropriate limits are set on the number of bioethics
electives that may count toward the respective majors.
Additional Information For more information contact
John Arras, Program Director, 524 Cabell Hall, P.O. Box 400780, Charlottesville,
VA 22904-4780; (434) 924-7868; www.virginia.edu/bioethics.
PHIL 100 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Philosophy
Introduces a broad spectrum of philosophical problems and approaches.
Topics include basic questions concerning morality, skepticism and the foundations
of knowledge, the mind and its relation to the body, and the existence of God.
Readings are drawn from classics in the history of philosophy and/or contemporary
PHIL 132 - (3) (IR)
Minds and Bodies
Do we really know what we think we know about our world and
the other people in it? Discounting familiar sources of error, which we can
obviate, the epistemological skeptic argues that there are other sources of
error that may well infect our beliefs however careful we may be. Can he be
answered? This aside, if we know anything at all, we would seem to know ourselves;
are we essentially physical, or could we exist independently of physical bodies?
Through reflecting on these and related questions, the course constitutes an
introduction to basic problems in the theory of knowledge and in metaphysics.
PHIL 141 - (3) (S)
Forms of Reasoning
Analyzes the structure of informal arguments and fallacies
that are commonly committed in everyday reasoning. The course will not cover
symbolic logic in any detail.
PHIL 151 - (3) (Y)
Examines a wide variety of theories of human nature, with the
aim of understanding how we can fulfill our nature and thereby live good, satisfying
and meaningful lives. Focuses on the questions of whether it is in our nature
to be rational, moral and/or social beings. Readings are taken from contemporary
and historical sources.
PHIL 153 - (3) (IR)
Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy
Examines some of the central problems of moral philosophy and
their sources in human life and thought.
PHIL 154 - (3) (Y)
Issues of Life and Death
Studies the fundamental principles underlying contemporary
and historical discussions of such issues as abortion, euthanasia, suicide,
pacifism, and political terror. Examines Utilitarian and anti-Utilitarian modes
of thought about human life and the significance of death.
PHIL 161, 169 - (3) (S)
Introductory Philosophy Seminars
Discussion groups devoted to some philosophical writing or
topic. Information on the specific topic can be obtained from the philosophy
department at course enrollment time.
PHIL 201, 205 - (3) (S)
Seminar in Philosophy
Seminars aimed at showing how philosophical problems arise
in connection with subjects of general interest.
PHIL 206 - (3) (Y)
Philosophical Problems in Law
Examines and evaluates some basic practices
and principles of Anglo-American law. Discusses the justification of punishment,
penalty, legal responsibility, strict liability, "Good Samaritan laws," reverse
discrimination, and plea bargaining.
PHIL 211 - (3) (Y)
History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval
Survey of the history of philosophy from the Pre-Socratic period
through the Middle Ages.
PHIL 212 - (3) (Y)
History of Philosophy: Modern
Surveys the history of modern philosophy, beginning with Descartes
and extending up to the nineteenth century.
PHIL 233 - (3) (E)
Computers, Minds and Brains
Do computers think? Can a persuasive case be made for the claim
that the human mind is essentially a sophisticated computing device? These and
related questions will be examined through readings in computer science, the
philosophy of mind, logic, and linguistics.
PHIL 242 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Symbolic Logic
Introduces the concepts and techniques of modern formal logic,
including both sentential and quantifier logic, as well as proof, interpretation,
translation, and validity.
PHIL 245 - (3) (E)
Introduces the philosophy of science. Topics include experiment,
casual inference, models, scientific explanation, theory structure, hypothesis
testing, realism and anti-realism, the relations between science and technology,
science versus non-science, and the philosophical assumptions of various sciences.
Illustrations are drawn from the natural, biological, and social sciences, but
no background in any particular science is presupposed.
PHIL 252 - (3) (Y)
Bioethics: A Philosophical Perspective
Surveys biomedical ethics, emphasizing philosophical issues
and methods. Includes moral foundations of the physician/patient relation, defining
death, forgoing life-sustaining treatments, euthanasia, abortion, prenatal diagnosis,
new reproductive technologies, human genetics, human experimentation, and the
allocation and rationing of health care resources. Reflects on the various ethical
theories and methods of reasoning that might be brought to bear on practical
moral problems. Not open to those who have taken RELG 265.
PHIL 255 - (3) (IR)
Examines competing conceptions of the democratic ideal, both in the work of
historic figures such as Locke, Rousseau, Madison and Mill, and in the work
of a variety of contemporary political philosophers. Focuses in particular
on the relation to the democratic ideal of majoritarian voting, civic association,
public deliberation and basic liberal rights.
PHIL 256 - (3) (IR)
Classical Political Philosophy
Considers some of the perennial questions in political philosophy through
an examination of classical works in the field, including some or all of the
following: Aristotles Politics, Hobbess Leviathan, Lockes Second
Treatise of Government, and Rousseaus On the Social Contract.
PHIL 257 - (3) (Y)
Studies problems involved in understanding the relation between public
power and private right.
PHIL 265 - (3) (Y)
Free Will and Responsibility
Examines whether our actions and choices are free and whether
or to what extent we can be held responsible for them. Includes the threat to
freedom posed by the possibility of scientific explanations of our behavior
and by psychoanalysis, the concept of compulsion, moral and legal responsibility,
and the nature of human action.
PHIL 266 - (3) (Y)
Philosophy of ReligionConsiders the problems raised by arguments for
and against the existence of God; discussion of such related topics as evil,
miracles, and the relation between philosophy and theology.
PHIL 269 - (3) (IR)
Justice, Law, and Morality
Prerequisite: One PHIL course or instructor permission.
Examines contemporary liberal theories of justice and of communitarian, Marxist,
libertarian, utilitarian, and feminist criticisms of these theories. Uses landmark
Supreme Court decisions to illuminate central theoretical disputes.
PHIL 311 - (3) (E)
Introduces the philosophy of Plato, beginning with several
pre-Socratic philosophers. Focuses on carefully examining selected Platonic
PHIL 312 - (3) (O)
Aristotle and Hellenistic Philosophy
Introduces the philosophy of Aristotle and the major Hellenistic
schools (the Stoics, Epicureans and Skeptics). Emphasizes philosophy rather
than history, with readings mainly in the fields of metaphysics, philosophy
of nature, philosophy of knowledge, and ethics.
PHIL 314 - (3) (IR)
History of Medieval Philosophy
Examines the continued development of philosophy from after
Aristotle to the end of the Middle Ages.
PHIL 315 - (3) (O)
Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz
Studies the central philosophers in the rationalist tradition.
PHIL 316 - (3) (O)
Locke, Berkeley and Hume
Studies the central philosophers in the empiricist tradition.
PHIL 317 - (3) (E)
Kant and Nineteenth-Century German Philosophy
Primarily a study of
Kants metaphysics and epistemology,
followed by a brief look at the views of some of Idealist successors.
PHIL 318 - (3) (IR)
Prerequisite: instructor permission (previous course
in philosophy preferred)
A comprehensive study of the philosophy of Nietzsche,
with an examination of his views on life, truth, philosophy, art, morality, nihilism,
values and their creation, will to power, eternal recurrence, and more.
PHIL 329 - (3) (E)
Studies some recent contemporary philosophical movement, writing,
PHIL 331 - (3) (Y)
Examines central metaphysical issues such as time, the existence
of God, causality and determinism, universals, possibility and necessity, identity,
and the nature of metaphysics.
PHIL 332 - (3) (Y)
Studies problems concerned with the foundations of knowledge,
perception, and rational belief.
PHIL 334 - (3) (E)
Philosophy of Mind
Prerequisite: PHIL 132 recommended.
Studies some basic problems of
PHIL 350 - (3) (Y)
Philosophy of Language
Prerequisite: At least on course in philosophy at the
100 level or above, or instructor permission.
Examines central conceptual problems
raised by linguistic activity. Among topics considered are the relation between
thought and language; the possibility
of an essentially private discursive realm; the view that ones linguistic
framework somehow "structures" reality; and the method of solving
or dissolving philosophical problems by scrutiny of the language in which they
PHIL 351 - (3) (Y)
History of modern ethical theory (Hobbes to Mill) with especial
emphasis on the texts of Hume (Treatise, Book III) and Kant, (Grundlegung),
which will be studied carefully and critically. Among the topics to be considered:
Is morality based on reason? Is it necessarily irrational not to act morally?
Are moral standards objective? Are they conventional? Is it a matter of luck
whether we are morally virtuous? Is the morally responsible will a free will?
Are all reasons for acting dependent on desires?
PHIL 352 - (3) (Y)
Studies Anglo-American ethics since 1900. While there are selected
readings from G. E. Moore, W. D. Ross, A. J. Ayer, C. L. Stevenson and R. M.
Hare, emphasis is on more recent work. Among the topics to be considered: Are
there moral facts? Are moral values relative? Are moral judgments universalizable?
Are they prescriptive? Are they cognitive? What is to be said for utilitarianism
as a moral theory? What against it? And what are the alternatives?
PHIL 359 - (3) (IR)
Prerequisite: One course in ethics or bioethics, or
instructor permission.Canvasses the history of research scandals (e.g., Nuremberg,
Tuskegee) resulting in federal regulation of human subjects research. Critically
assesses the randomized clinical trial (including informed consent, risk/benefit
ratio, randomization, placebos). Examines the ethics of research with special
populations, such as the cognitively impaired, prisoners, children, embryos
and fetuses, and animals.
PHIL 361 - (3) (Y)
Critically investigates central philosophical issues raised
by artistic activity: To count as an artwork must a thing have a modicum of
aesthetic value, or is it enough that it be deemed art by the community? Is
aesthetic value entirely in the eye of the beholder or is there such a thing
as being wrong in ones judgment concerning an artwork?
PHIL 365 - (3) (Y)
Justice and Health Care
Prerequisite: course in ethics of political philosophy
from any department, such as RELG 265, PHIL 154, PLPT 301, etc.
account of health care practices and institutions viewed against the backdrop
of leading theories of justice (e.g., utilitarianism,
Rawlsian contractarianism, communitarianism, libertarianism). Topics include
the nature, justifications, and limits of a right to health care; the value
conflicts posed by cost containment, implicit and explicit rationing, and reform
of the health care system; the physician-patient relationship in an era of managed
care; and the procurement and allocation of scarce life-saving resources, such
as expensive drugs and transplantable organs.
PHIL 367 - (3) (IR)
Law and Society
Examines competing theories of law; the role of law in society;
the legitimacy of restrictions on individual liberties; legal rights and conflicts
of rights; and the relationships between law and such social values as freedom,
equality, and justice.
PHIL 368 - (3) (IR)
Crime and Punishment
Critically examines the social force of legally proscribing
certain conduct, and of convicting and punishing those who engage in it; the
accepted notions of actus reus and mens rea, of action, intention,
fault and responsibility; the nature and scope of excusing conditions, such
as ignorance and mental incapacity; and theories of the nature and justification
of criminal punishment.
PHIL 401, 402 - (3) (Y)
Seminar for Majors
Prerequisite: Philosophy majors.
Topic changes from year to year.
PHIL 427 - (3) (IR)
Prerequisite: two PHIL courses or instructor permission;
PHIL 242 recommended.
Study of Wittgensteins major works.
PHIL 490 - (15) (S)
Prerequisite: Enrollment in the departmental honors
PHIL 493, 494 - (1-3) (S)
Directed Reading and Research
Independent study under the direction of a faculty member.
PHIL 498 - (3) (S)
PHIL 504 - (3) (Y)
Prerequisite: Fourth-year bioethics minor or interdisciplinary
The topic varies from year to year. Previous topics include
Methods of Practical Ethics and Reproductive Ethics.
PHIL 505, 506 - (3) (IR)
Seminar on a Philosophical Topic
PHIL 510 - (3) (IR)
The Historiography of Philosophy
Examines the issues arising from the study of the history of
philosophy. Authors include Aristotle, Hegel, Russell, Collingwood, and Rorty.
PHIL 513 - (3) (O)
Topics in Medieval Philosophy
Seminar on St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas,
and Duns Scotus. Topics include the existence of God, accounts of necessity
and possibility, the justification and acquisition of concepts, and the interaction
between Platonism and Aristotelianism in Christian thought.
PHIL 542 - (3) (E)
Prerequisite: PHIL 242 or equivalent.
Examines various results in metalogic,
including completeness, compactness, and undecidability. Effective computability,
theories of truth,
and identity may also be covered.
PHIL 543 - (3) (SI)
Prerequisite: PHIL 542 or instructor permission.
Continues the study
of the metatheory of first order logic, introduced in PHIL 542. Includes the
significance of the Lowenheim-Skolem theorem
and of Godels incompleteness theorems for first order arithmetic; the
limitations of higher order logic; and topics from specialized areas in logic:
set theory, recursion theory, and model theory.
PHIL 546 - (3) (E)
Philosophy of Science
Logical analysis of the structure of theories, probability,
causality, and testing of theories.
PHIL 547 - (3) (IR)
Philosophy of Mathematics
Prerequisite: Some familiarity with quantifier logic
or instructor permission.
Comparison of various schools in the philosophy of
mathematics (including logicism, formalism, and conceptualism) and their answers
questions as "Do numbers exist?" and "How is mathematical knowledge
PHIL 548 - (3) (IR)
Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Prerequisite: Six credits of philosophy or instructor
Problems studied include explanation in the social sciences;
the place of theory; objectivity; the relation between social science and natural
science, philosophy, and literature.