Corcoran Department of Philosophy

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, and philosophy of law.

Some courses in these areas aim to acquaint the student 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 the philosophical training are of lasting intellectual and personal value, for the ability to form one's 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 eleven 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 seventy students are currently pursuing a major in philosophy. Students can choose from over fifty courses. 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 to twenty students and focus on much more specific topics. Upper level courses typically enroll twenty to thirty students. Majors seminars and honors seminars are also offered; enrollment in these courses is limited to fifteen. 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 will be 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 University's Office of Career Planning and Placement, the average LSAT score for a philosophy major was nearly fifteen points 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 that serves them well in a wide variety of careers.

Requirements for Major The major in philosophy is designed to sharpen the student's 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 coursework in each of the four areas of metaphysics and epistemology, logic, ethics, and history of philosophy, with the courses to be selected from amongst those listed below.

  1. Metaphysics and Epistemology PHIL 331 (Metaphysics), PHIL 333 (Materialism and the Mind-Body Problem), PHIL 334 (Philosophy of Mind), PHIL 332 (Epistemology)
  2. Logic PHIL 242 (Symbolic Logic), PHIL 542 (Symbolic Logic), PHIL 141 (Forms of Reasoning), PHIL 142 (Basic Logic)
  3. Ethics PHIL 351 (Ethics), PHIL 352 (Contemporary Ethics), PHIL 356 (Classics in Political Philosophy), PHIL 357 (Political Philosophy)
  4. History PHIL 315 (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz), PHIL 316 (Locke, Berkeley, Hume), PHIL 317 (Kant), PHIL 311 (Plato), PHIL 312 (Artistotle), PHIL 314 (History of Medieval Philosophy), PHIL 513 (Topics in Medieval Philosophy)
A philosophy major requires a total of 24 credits of courses numbered 200 or higher. If a student elects to satisfy the logic requirement by taking PHIL 141 or 142, those credits must be counted in addition to the regular 24 credit minimum.

The Distinguished Majors Program The Distinguished Majors Program in Philosophy is designed for students who wish to pursue their studies in philosophy beyond the requirements of our 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 Distinguished Majors Program 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 have a GPA of at least 3.4 in all philosophy courses taken. (In addition, they should have an overall GPA close enough to 3.4 to make it likely that they will be able to satisfy the College requirement of a final cumulative GPA of 3.4 for graduation with Distinction.)

In order to complete the Distinguished Majors Program a student must complete 30 credits of coursework in philosophy, no more than 12 credits of which are at the 200-level. 100-level courses cannot be counted toward the satisfaction of the Distinguished Majors Program requirements. The 30 credits must include:

  1. At least 3 credits of logic chosen from PHIL 242, PHIL 542, PHIL 543, PHIL 547.
  2. At least 3 credits of history chosen from PHIL 311, PHIL 312, PHIL 315, PHIL 316, PHIL 317.
  3. At least 3 credits of ethics or social philosophy chosen from PHIL 351, PHIL 352, PHIL 356, PHIL 357, PHIL 367, PHIL 368.
  4. At least 3 credits of metaphysics or epistemology chosen from PHIL 230, PHIL 329, PHIL 331, PHIL 332, PHIL 333, PHIL 334, PHIL 546.
  5. At least 3 credits of seminars for majors (PHIL 401, 402).
    (The selections from 4 and 5 can be regarded as satisfying the general Distinguished Majors Program requirement for 6 credits of advanced course work.)
  6. Thesis: Six of the required 30 credits must be allocated as follows: (a) 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 (3 credits), (b) PHIL 498 Senior Thesis (3 credits).
The Philosophy Honors Program In addition to the major and minor 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 (1) epistemology, (2) metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, and (3) ethics. In addition, a candidate must either (a) submit a thesis upon a topic of his or her choice, or (b) 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 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 advisor.

Additional Information For more information, contact:

Jorge Secada
Undergraduate Advisor
507 Cabell Hall
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(804) 924- 7701
Philosophy World Wide Web site
Philosophy faculty


PHIL 100 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Philosophy
This course is designed to introduce students to a broad spectrum of philosophical problems and approaches. All or most of the following topics will be covered: basic questions concerning morality, skepticism and the foundations of knowledge, the mind and its relation to the body, and the existence of God. Readings will be drawn from classics in the history of philosophy and/or contemporary sources.

PHIL 111 - (3) (Y)
History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval
A general survey of the history of philosophy from the Pre-Socratic period through the Middle Ages.

PHIL 112 - (3) (Y)
History of Philosophy: Modern
A general survey of the history of modern philosophy, beginning with Descartes and extending up to the nineteenth century.

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
An analysis of the structure of informal arguments and of fallacies which are commonly committed in everyday reasoning. The course will not cover symbolic logic in any detail.

PHIL 142 - (3) (IR)
Basic Logic
A basic introduction to topics in traditional and symbolic logic, including some or all of the following: the syllogism, Venn diagrams, paradoxes, and propositional logic.

PHIL 151 - (3) (IR)
Human Nature
An examination of major theories of human nature and of the relation between human beings and the natural world. Among the views to be studied will be Plato's, the Christian view, existentialism and Marxism. Recent psychological theories like Freud's and Skinner's will be included, as well as theories drawing from contemporary biology. The question of nature versus nurture in determining human conduct will be examined.

PHIL 153 - (3) (IR)
Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy
An examination of 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
Study of 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 topics to be taken up in each seminar may 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
An examination and evaluation of some basic practices and principles of Anglo-American law. Discussion of such issues as: the justification of punishment, the death penalty, legal responsibility, strict liability, "Good Samaritan laws," reverse discrimination and plea bargaining.

PHIL 230 - (3) (IR)
Minds and Language
A survey and discussion of theories about mind and language in contemporary philosophy.

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
A basic introduction to the concepts and techniques of modern formal logic, including both sentential and quantifier logic. The course will acquaint the student with the concepts of proof, interpretation, translation, and validity.

PHIL 245 - (3) (O)
Philosophy and History of Science
An introduction to the philosophy of science. Historical examples are used to illustrate the changing relationship between science and philosophy and the role that history of science has played in the development of scientific method. Topics covered include scientific explanation, theory structure, revolutions, progress, and scientific methodology. Illustrations are drawn from both natural and social sciences, but no background in any particular science is presupposed.

PHIL 265 - (3) (Y)
Free Will and Responsibility
An examination of whether our actions and choices are free and whether or to what extent we can be held responsible for them. Topics to be discussed include 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 311 - (3) (E)
An introduction to the philosophy of Plato. Beginning with a look at several pre-Socratic philosophers, the course consists mainly of a careful examination of selected Platonic dialogues.

PHIL 312 - (3) (O)
Aristotle and Hellenistic Philosophy
An introduction to the philosophy of Aristotle and of the major Hellenistic schools (the Stoics, Epicureans and Skeptics). The orientation of the course is philosophical rather than historical, and the readings will be mainly in the fields of metaphysics, philosophy of nature, philosophy of knowledge and ethics.

PHIL 314 - (3) (IR)
History of Medieval Philosophy
The continued development of philosophy from after Aristotle to the end of the Middle Ages.

PHIL 315 - (3) (O)
Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz
A study of the central philosophers in the rationalist tradition.

PHIL 316 - (3) (O)
Locke, Berkeley and Hume
A study of the central philosophers in the empiricist tradition.

PHIL 317 - (3) (E)
Kant and Nineteenth Century German Philosophy
Primarily a study of Kant's metaphysics and epistemology, followed by a brief look at the views of some of Idealist successors.

PHIL 318 - (3) (O)
From Nietzsche to Habermas
Prerequisite: A course in the history of modern philosophy or permission of instructor
A survey of the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, and Habermas. An introduction to contemporary French and German philosophical thought. It presupposes some acquaintance with the classics of modern philosophy (Descartes, Hume, Kant, etc.). Cross-listed as ENCR 518.

PHIL 329 - (3) (E)
Contemporary Philosophy
A study of some recent contemporary philosophical movement, writing or topic.

PHIL 331 - (3) (Y)
An examination of 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)
Problems concerned with the foundations of knowledge, perception, and rational belief.

PHIL 333- (3) (IR)
Materialism and the Mind-Body Problem
An investigation of the theory that the mind consists of physical states of the body.

PHIL 334 - (3) (E)
Philosophy of Mind
Recommended preparation: PHIL 132
Some basic problems of philosophical psychology.

PHIL 351 - (3) (Y)
History of modern ethical theory (Hobbes to Mill) with especial emphasis on the texts of Hume, Treatise, Book III, and of Kant, Grundlegung, which will be studied carefully and critically. Among the topics to be considered are: 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)
Contemporary Ethics
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 topics to be considered are: Are there moral facts? Are moral values relative? Are moral judgements 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 356 - (3) (IR)
Classical Political Philosophy
A consideration of some of the perennial questions in political philosophy through an examination of classical works in the field, including some or all of the following: Aristotle's Politics, Hobbes's Leviathan, Locke's Second Treatise of Government, and Rousseau's Social Contract.

PHIL 357 - (3) (Y)
Political Philosophy
Some problems, involved in understanding the relation between public power and private right.

PHIL 361 - (3) (Y)
A critical examination of some central philosophical issues raised by artistic activity. Topics include: 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 one's judgment concerning an artwork?

PHIL 363 - (3) (O)
Freud and Philosophy
Philosophical questions arising from Freud's work. The first part of the course will consist of a study of some of Freud's more general writings, as well as an examination of some case histories; the second will be a critical review of writings about Freud by philosophers, including Wittgenstein, Sartre and Pears.

PHIL 366 - (3) (Y)
Philosophy of Religion
A consideration of the problems raised by arguments for and against the existence of God; discussion of such related topics as evil, evidence for miracles, and the relation between philosophy and theology.

PHIL 367 - (3) (IR)
Law and Society
Examination of competing theories of law; of the role of law in society; of the legitimacy of restrictions on individual liberties; of legal rights and conflicts of rights; and of the relationships between law and such social values as freedom, equality, and justice.

PHIL 368 - (3) (IR)
Crime and Punishment
A philosophical survey of criminal justice, critically examining: (a) the social force of legally proscribing certain conduct, and of convicting and punishing those who engage in it; (b) the accepted notions of actus reus and mens rea, of action, intention, fault and responsibility; (c) the nature and scope of excusing conditions, such as ignorance and mental incapacity. Theories of the nature and justification of criminal punishment.

PHIL 369 - (3) (IR)
Topics in Ethics
Classes will be offered on selected topics in the field of ethics, considered in a broad sense to include moral philosophy, political philosophy, social philosophy, and legal philosophy.

PHIL 401, 402 - (3) (Y)
Seminar for Majors
A seminar whose enrollment is restricted to students majoring in philosophy. The topic changes from year to year.

PHIL 490 - (15) (S)
Honors Program
Enrollment restricted to students in the departmental honors program.

PHIL 493, 494 - (1-3) (S)
Directed Reading and Research
Independent study under the direction of a faculty member.

PHIL 498 - (3) (S)
Senior Thesis

PHIL 505, 506 - (3) (IR)
Seminar on a Philosophical Topic

PHIL 513 - (3) (O)
Topics in Mediaeval Philosophy
A 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)
Symbolic Logic
Prerequisite: PHIL 242 or equivalent
An examination of various results in metalogic, including completeness, compactness, and undecidability. Effective computability, theories of truth, and identity may also be covered.

PHIL 543 - (3) (SI)
Advanced Logic
Prerequisite: PHIL 542 or permission of instructor
A continuation of the study of the metatheory of first order logic, introduced in PHIL 542. The significance of the Lowenheim-Skolem theorem and of Godel's incompleteness theorems for first order arithmetic. The limitations of higher order logic. Topics from specialized areas in logic: set theory, recursion theory, and model theory.

PHIL 546 - (3) (E)
Philosophy of Science
A 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 permission of instructor
A comparison of various schools in the philosophy of mathematics (including logicism, formalism, and conceptualism) and their answers to such questions as "Do numbers exist?" and "How is mathematical knowledge possible?"

PHIL 548 - (3) (IR)
Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Prerequisites: Six credits of philosophy or permission of the instructor
Problems studied will include: explanation in the social sciences; the place of theory; objectivity; the relation between social science and 1) natural science, 2) philosophy, 3) literature.

PHIL 550 - (3) (O)
Philosophy of Language
Examines some major conceptual issues raised by linguistic interaction. Topics include: the distinction between sense and reference; the relation of truth to meaning; indexicality and context-dependence; vagueness, presupposition, and conversational implicature; the nature of acts of speech; metaphor; and the relation between thought and language.

Department of Physics

Overview Physics is concerned with the most basic principles that underlie all phenomena in the universe. Physicists search for the most elementary particles, seek understanding of the behavior of collections of particles ranging from quarks in nuclei and electrons in atoms to stars in galaxies, and strive for insights into the nature of space and time. On a more human scale, physicists explore the behavior of matter and energy including all the devices of modern electronics, complex biological molecules, the atmosphere, and all forms of energy and its uses. The principles of physics are the basis for engineering and technology. Studying physics can prepare students to push back the boundaries of knowledge in this most fundamental of the natural sciences; it can provide invaluable training in the concepts and methods of science for application in many professional areas; it can develop one's capacity for clear analytical thought that is crucial in many fields, or it can simply increase one's knowledge and appreciation of the wonders of the world around us.

The department has research programs in high energy and nuclear physics, atomic and laser physics, condensed matter physics, biophysics, and gravitational physics. It currently receives more than $6 million each year in research grants. The state-funded Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics includes a number of faculty members with research related to the new $600 million electron accelerator (CEBAF) in Newport News, Virginia. This accelerator was originally conceived and successfully proposed by physics department faculty members who are now affiliated with this center.

Faculty The faculty seeks to offer an outstanding undergraduate program, with opportunities for both majors and non-majors, in the context of a vigorous research department. Students have the opportunity to take a wide variety of courses with many different professors.

Among the many awards and honors the faculty has received in recent years are three Outstanding Scientist in Virginia awards, three Sloan Fellowships, and two National Science Foundation Young Investigator Awards. The faculty has also been recognized for its teaching. One professor has received a national award for innovations in continuing education; two others have authored new texts in introductory physics for scientists and engineers; and two professors recently won University outstanding teacher awards.

Students Physics majors make up a small but outstanding, enthusiastic, and diverse group. Approximately twenty students graduate each year with bachelor's degrees in physics. Beginning in the first year, there are special courses for physics majors. All of the courses are taught by faculty members. The third and fourth-year classes are small, and students have much interaction with the faculty. All physics majors participate in independent study projects, working on a tutorial basis with faculty members and often working with a research group. Since the department has extensive research activities, there are many opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research on the frontiers of physics.

The department has programs designed to serve students with a wide variety of objectives. More than half of those graduating with bachelor's degrees in physics go on to graduate school in physics or related subjects at top-ranked universities. Many graduates have taken positions in industry or government immediately after graduating with a bachelor's degree. Each year several go on to professional schools in medicine, education, business, or law. Others graduate with physics as a concentration in a broad liberal arts program without a specific scientific career objective.

Special Resources Summer Research: A Research Experiences for Undergraduates program sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the department's Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics provides lodging and a stipend for fifteen students to work for ten weeks with research groups and attend special lectures and activities related to physics. Work begun under this program is often continued as an independent study project during the academic year.

Requirements for Major The Department of Physics offers both Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. In addition, there is a joint Astronomy/Physics BA described under the Department of Astronomy. Students planning graduate study in physics or physics-related areas should elect the BS or the BA with a Distinguished Major course sequence. The basic BA is designed for students interested in physics and planning to enter other fields including medicine, education, business and law, and for liberal arts students seeking a concentration in physics. Students are urged to contact a physics undergraduate advisor as early as possible to design a program to fit their specific needs.

Prerequisites: There are several course sequences leading to the physics major. For all of them it is highly desirable to complete MATH 131, 132 or equivalent courses in calculus by the end of the first year. However, it is possible to begin calculus in the second year and complete the requirements for the BA.

Sequence 1. Provides the broadest background in introductory physics-First Year: MATH 131, 132; PHYS 151, 152. Second Year: MATH 221, 225; PHYS 251, 252, 221, 222.

Sequence 2. For those desiring to begin physics in the second year-First Year: MATH 131, 132. Second Year: MATH 221, 225; PHYS 231, 232, 231L, 232L. This sequence is particularly appropriate for students completing premedical requirements.

Sequence 3. For those desiring to begin physics in their second semester- First Year: MATH 131, 132; PHYS 142E (Physics for engineers, offered in the spring). Second Year: MATH 221, 225; PHYS 251, 252, 221, 222.

Any of these sequences can be used to enter upper-level physics courses and to complete requirements for either the BA or BS degree. Alternatively, if MATH 131, 132 or equivalent calculus courses are completed during the first year, the four-semester introductory sequence (PHYS 151, 152, 251, 252, 221, 222) can be started in the second year, and requirements for either the BA or BS can be completed in four years. If calculus is not taken during the first year, any of the three sequences listed above can be started in the second year and the requirements for the BA, but not the BS, completed in four years.

Bachelor of Arts in Physics PHYS 221, 222, 321, 331, 342, 355, 393. Those entering the major via PHYS 231, 232, 231L, 232L will replace PHYS 221, 222 with PHYS 315 and one additional 300-level physics course. A year of chemistry (e.g., CHEM 141, 142) may be substituted for the additional 300-level physics course.

Bachelor of Arts with Distinguished Major Course SequenceThe basic BA above plus PHYS 315, either PHYS 317 or 318, PHYS 343 or 531, and PHYS 356 (four additional courses).

Bachelor of Science in Physics The Distinguished Major course sequence plus MATH 521, 522 (or equivalent APMA courses) and one upper-level physics elective. Except for Echols Scholars, the area requirements for the BS are ENWR 101 and second writing requirement, one foreign language through 202-level, six credits of humanities, and six credits of social science, all taken on a graded basis.

Distinguished Major Program Provides recognition of outstanding academic performance in a challenging sequence of physics courses including a written report on an independent study project. Students who complete the Distinguished Majors course sequence or the B.S. course sequence with final grade point averages exceeding 3.4, 3.6, or 3.8, are given departmental recommendation to receive their degrees (BA or BS) with distinction, high distinction or highest distinction, respectively.

Requirements for Minor A minor in physics can be earned through one of the following course sequences: 1. PHYS 151, 152, 251, 252, and either 221 or any 300-level physics course; 2. PHYS 231, 232, 231L, 232L and any two 300- level physics courses.

Additional Information For more information, contact:

Bascom Deaver
Chair of the Undergraduate Program Committee
Department of Physics
Jesse W. Beams Laboratory
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(804) 924-6574
A detailed departmental brochure is available.
Physics World Wide Web site
Phyics faculty


There are several introductory course sequences that cover essentially the same topics but in 2, 3, or 4 semesters fulfilling different student needs. Students may offer for degree credit only one of PHYS 142E, PHYS 151, PHYS 231; only one of PHYS 232, PHYS 241E, PHYS 252; and only one of PHYS 242E, PHYS 252.

PHYS 101N, 102N - (3) (Y)
Concepts of Physics
For non-science majors; physical knowledge is presented as a feature of human intellectual development, covering the fundamental principles, concepts, and procedures of classical and modern physics, with a view to their humanistic, philosophic, historical, and sociological contexts. Premedical and predental students should elect PHYS 201, 202 rather than 101N, 102N. PHYS 101N is prerequisite for 102N. Three lecture hours.

PHYS 105N, 106N - (3) (Y)
How Things Work
For non-science majors: a practical introduction to physics and science in everyday life. These two courses consider objects from our daily environment and focus on their principles of operation, histories, and relationships to one another. PHYS 105N is concerned primarily with mechanical and thermal objects, while PHYS 106N emphasizes objects involving electromagnetism, light, special materials, and nuclear energy. They can be taken in either order.

PHYS 109N - (3) (Y)
Galileo and Einstein
For non-science majors: this course examines how new understanding of the natural world develops, taking two famous scientists as case studies. Galileo was the first to appreciate the importance of experiment, while Einstein was the first to realize time is not absolute and that mass can be converted to energy.

PHYS 112N - (3) (Y)
Reality and Consciousness According to Quantum Theory
For non-science majors: The nature of reality as given by the various interpretations of quantum theory. Our everyday picture of reality must be radically altered when the findings of quantum theory are taken into account. However, even among physicists there is major disagreement about what kind of reality quantum theory actually implies. The quantum wavefunction inseparably connects each part of reality to all parts.

PHYS 151, 152, 251, 252 - (4) (Y)
Introductory Physics I, II, III, IV
Corequisites: MATH 131, 132, or 221, 225, respectively, or equivalent. The courses should be taken in sequence.
This series of courses, intended for prospective physics majors, and other science majors who wish to begin the study of physics in their first semester, prepares students for the physics courses numbered 300 and above. Three lecture hours, one problem hour.

PHYS 177N - (3) (Y)
Science and Technology Issues
Introduction to the scientific basis and prospects of modern technologies at a level suitable for motivated non-science majors. The use of lasers, microwaves, and superconductors in health care and communications are discussed. Environmental and strategic defense problems are debated via case studies by student teams. A high school math background should suffice, in view of the qualitative nature of the analysis in this course.

PHYS 201, 202 - (4) (Y,SS)
Principles of Physics
A terminal course covering the principles of mechanics, heat, electricity and magnetism, optics, atomic, solid state, nuclear, and particle physics. A working knowledge of arithmetic, elementary algebra, and trigonometry is essential. PHYS 201, 202 does not normally serve as prerequisite for the courses numbered 315 and above. Students who plan to take more physics should elect PHYS 151, 152, 251, 252, 221, 222 instead. PHYS 201, 202, in conjunction with the laboratory, PHYS 201L, 202L, satisfies the physics requirement of medical and dental schools. PHYS 201 is prerequisite for 202. Three lecture hours; and two hours of recitation and problem work.

PHYS 201L, 202L - (1-1/2) (Y,SS)
Basic Physics Laboratory
Corequisites: PHYS 101N, 102N or 201, 202. Premedical and predental students should elect this course along with PHYS 201, 202; it is an option for others. PHYS 201L is prerequisite for 202L
Selected experiments in the different branches of physics are carried out and written up by the student. Both experiment and report are completed during the scheduled laboratory period. One three-hour exercise per week.

PHYS 221, 222 - (3) (Y)
Elementary Laboratory
Corequisites: PHYS 251 and PHYS 252 respectively
Selected experiments in mechanics, heat, electricity and magnetism, optics, and modern physics. One lecture hour and four laboratory hours per week.

PHYS 231, 232 - (4) (Y)
Classical and Modern Physics
Prerequisite: MATH 132 or permission of instructor.
A two-semester introduction to classical and modern physics for science majors. A calculus-based treatment of the principles of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, physical optics, elementary quantum theory, atomic and nuclear physics. This sequence can be used by prospective physics majors and by other students planning to take physics courses numbered 300 and higher, however, the four-semester sequence PHYS 151, 152, 251, 252 is recommended. PHYS 231, 232 in conjunction with the laboratory, PHYS 231L, 232L satisfies the requirements for the B.S. in Chemistry, and can be used in place of PHYS 201, 202, 201L, 202L to satisfy the requirements of medical and dental schools. PHYS 231 is prerequisite for 232. Three lecture hours and one problem session per week.

PHYS 231L, 232L - (1-1/2) (Y)
Physics Laboratory
Prerequisite: Intended for science majors who are concurrently enrolled in PHYS 231, 232. Others should elect PHY 201L, 202L or PHYS 221, 222. PHYS 231L is prerequisite for PHYS 232L
Selected experiments from various branches of physics. Includes experiments in electronics and physical principles of a number of analytical instruments. Both experiment and report are completed during the scheduled laboratory period. One three-hour exercise per week.

PHYS 315 - (3) (Y)
Electronics Laboratory
Prerequisite: PHYS 222
Analogue and digital electronics for scientific applications, including use of transistors, FET's, operational amplifiers, TTL, and CMOS integrated circuits. Six laboratory hours.

PHYS 317 - (3) (Y)
Intermediate Laboratory I
Prerequisites: PHYS 222, 315, or permission of instructor
Approximately five experiments drawn from the major fields of physics. Introduction to precision apparatus, experimental techniques, and methods of evaluating experimental results. Outside report preparation is required. Six laboratory hours.

PHYS 318 - (3) (Y)
Intermediate Laboratory II
Prerequisite: PHYS 317 or permission of instructor
Approximately three to five experiments, selected in consultation with the instructor, with emphasis on modern aspects. Outside library research and report preparation are required. Six laboratory hours.

PHYS 319 - (3) (Y)
Advanced Laboratory
Prerequisite: PHYS 318 and permission of instructor
Normally a single, semester-long experiment chosen in consultation with the instructor.

PHYS 321 - (3) (Y)
Classical Mechanics
Prerequisites: PHYS 252 and MATH 225, or permission of instructor
Statics and dynamics of particles and rigid bodies treated with extensive use of vector calculus; the Lagrangian formulation of mechanics.

PHYS 331 - (3) (Y)
Statistical Physics
Prerequisites: PHYS 252 and MATH 225, or permission of instructor
Temperature and the laws of thermodynamics. Introductory treatments of kinetic theory and statistical mechanics; applications of Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein, and Fermi-Dirac distributions.

PHYS 342 - (3) (Y)
Electricity and Magnetism I
Prerequisites: PHYS 321 and MATH 225, or permission of instructor
A systematic treatment of electromagnetic phenomena with extensive use of vector calculus, including Maxwell's equations.

PHYS 343 - (3) (Y)
Electricity and Magnetism II
Prerequisite: PHYS 342
Maxwell's equations; electromagnetic waves and their interaction with matter; interference, diffraction, polarization. Waveguides; antennas; optics.

PHYS 355 - (3) (Y)
Quantum Physics I
Prerequisites: PHYS 321 and MATH 225, or permission of instructor
Quantum phenomena and an introduction to wave mechanics; the hydrogen atom and atomic spectra.

PHYS 356 - (3) (Y)
Quantum Physics II
Prerequisite: PHYS 355
A continuation of PHYS 355. Intermediate quantum mechanics including perturbation theory; application to systems of current interest.

PHYS 381, 382 - (3) (IR)
Topics in Physics-Related Research Areas
PHYS 381 is not prerequisite to PHYS 382
Application of the principles and techniques of physics to related areas of physical or life sciences or technology with emphasis on current research problems.

PHYS 384 - (3) (IR)
Physics of the Human Body
Prerequisites: PHYS 201, MATH 122; Corequisite: PHYS 202 or permission of instructor
Application of basic physical principles to functions of the human body; selected aspects of hearing, vision, cardiovascular system, biomechanics, urinary system, information handling.

PHYS 393 - (3) (S-SS)
Independent Study
For physics majors in their final year of candidacy. A program of independent study carried out under the supervision of a faculty member and culminating in a written report or essay. May be taken more than once.

PHYS 409 - (3) (Y)
Modern Physics
Prerequisite: PHYS 356
Research-related topics in modern physics. Discussion of experimental and theoretical techniques for studying atoms, molecules, and condensed matter; nuclei and elementary particles; lasers and quantum electronics; gravity.

PHYS 519 - (3) (Y)
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Practical electronics for scientists, from resistors to microprocessors.

PHYS 521 - (3) (Y)
Theoretical Mechanics
The statics and dynamics of particles and rigid bodies. Discussion of the methods of generalized coordinates, the Langrangian, Hamilton-Jacobi equations, action-angle variables. Relation to the quantum theory is explored.

PHYS 524 - (3) (SI)
Introduction to the Theory of General Relativity
Prerequisites: Advanced calculus through partial differentiation and multiple integration; vector analysis in three dimensions
Review of special relativity and coordinate transformations. The principle of equivalence; Effects of gravitation on other systems and fields. General tensor analysis in curved spaces and gravitational field equations. Mach's principle. Tests of gravitational theories; Perihelion precession, red shift, bending of light, gyroscopic precession, radar echo delay. Gravitational radiation. Relativistic stellar structure and cosmography. Short survey of cosmological models.

PHYS 531, 532 - (3) (E)
Prerequisites: Knowledge of vector calculus and previous exposure to Maxwell's equations
In a two semester course on classical and nonlinear optics the first semester is devoted to the following topics: reflection and refraction at interfaces, geometrical optics, interference phenomena, diffraction, Gaussian optics, and polarization. In the second semester the topics covered are coherence, optical resonators, sum and difference frequency generation, wave mixing, and modulation techniques.

PHYS 542 - (3) (O)
Introduction to Atomic Physics
Prerequisite: PHYS 356 or permission of instructor
Principles and techniques of atomic physics with application to selected topics, including laser and microwave spectroscopy, photoionization, autoionization, effects of external fields, and collisions.

PHYS 547 - (3) (E)
Introduction to Molecular Biophysics
Prerequisites: PHYS 331 or CHEM 361, PHYS 355 or CHEM 362, MATH 521, or permission of instructor
A quantitative introduction to the physics of molecular structures and processes in living systems. The topics treated include: molecular structure analysis by x-ray (and neutron) diffraction; electronic configuration of atoms, groups and small molecules of critical importance in biology; physical methods of macromolecular structure determination, in solution and in the solid state; thermodynamic and electronic factors underlying group interactions, proton dissociation, and charge distribution in macromolecules; solvent-macromolecule interactions; action spectroscopy; rate processes in series and parallel.

PHYS 551, 552 - (3) (IR)
Special Topics in Classical and Modern Physics
Prerequisites: PHYS 342, or permission of instructor
Lectures on topics of current interest in physics research and pedagogy. May be taken more than once.

PHYS 562 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Solid State Physics
Crystal structures, lattice vibrations and electronic properties of insulators, metals, and semiconductors; superconductivity.

PHYS 572 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics
Subatomic structure. Basic constituents and their mutual interactions.

PHYS 577 - (3) (O)
Introduction to High Energy Physics
Prerequisites: MATH 221 and PHYS 355, or permission of instructor
Experimental basis of high energy principles. Behavior of strong, electromagnetic, and weak forces and their symmetries. Electroweak standard model. Interactions of particles. Present and planned high energy accelerators.

PHYS 593 - (1-3) (S)
Independent Study
A program of independent study carried out under the supervision of a faculty member, culminating in a written report, essay, or examination. May be taken more than once.

Service courses offered by the Department of Physics for the School of Architecture (PHYS 203A) and for the School of Engineering and Applied Science (PHYS 142E, 241E, 242E, 241L, 242L) are open to students in the College of Arts and Sciences. These courses count against the degree credits a student may earn for courses taken outside the College. They are described in the course listings in Chapters 7 and 10 respectively.

Advanced graduate courses in the Department of Physics are described in the catalog of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Program in Political and Social Thought

Overview This well-regarded interdisciplinary program was begun more than two decades ago, with a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, by a group of UVa faculty from several departments. It offers to qualified students the opportunity to pursue the study of society, and the study of "politics" (in both its older and larger, and its newer and smaller, sense) without being limited by the boundaries, or the methodological preoccupations, of the relevant disciplines. Able students can, with faculty advice, fashion a program of study in political and/or social matters that fits their own interests and purposes. Some place the greater emphasis on thought-on significant political/social thinkers (Aristotle, Karl Marx, Max Weber, John Dewey) or concepts (Justice, Property, Human Rights). Others place greater emphasis on concrete studies-in the past (Spanish missionaries in Central America in the fifteenth century; labor unions in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, in the 1930s) or in the present (the continuing impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the condition of women in the Third World). Some students are more theoretically inclined, others more practically inclined. One advantage of the program is that it can be, within limits, custom-tailored to the student's interest. Another is its interdisciplinary character, allowing the student to study politics and society wherever they are best examined for his or her purpose.

Among the departments that have played a considerable role in the program are government and foreign affairs, history, sociology, anthropology, women's studies, religion, philosophy, and more recently, economics; English and foreign language departments may also play a role.

The program is an excellent major for a variety of future activities-in many cases better than a major in a single department. Students graduating from this program have been accepted into top graduate schools, including Harvard Law, Yale Divinity, Stanford Business, and many top graduate programs.

Faculty William Lee Miller, the program's director, is Commonwealth Professor of Political and Social Thought, formerly White Burkett Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions, a writer and scholar with a long list of publications and a varied experience.

William Wilson, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, who teaches and advises students in the program, is a humanistic scholar and teaches with wide-ranging knowledge.

As an interdisciplinary program with high prestige and able students, PST can draw upon the ablest faculty members from all the relevant departments to serve as advisors and lecturers in the seminars. The seminars are small enough to allow real exchange, not only with one's fellow students but with faculty as well.

Students Another advantage to this major is one's fellow students. Each spring twenty students who are preparing to enter their third year are selected for the program from a fairly substantial applicant pool. Students are chosen on the basis of strong grades, a writing sample, a faculty recommendation, and a short essay explaining the student's interest in the field. The program attracts able, creative, and independent students with a strong interest, theoretical and/or practical, in politics and society.

These twenty selected students share a seminar in both the fall and spring semesters of the third year, and a thesis workshop in the fall of the fourth year; all students in the major take these courses, open to them exclusively, so that they develop a strong common bond, with informal and social reinforcement.

Requirements for Major
I. Foundations
Each student must complete at least six credits from these foundational courses, or equivalents approved by the director:
ANTH 225 Nationalism, Racism, Culture
ANTH 327 Political Anthropology
ECON 412 Evolution of Economic Thought (Prerequisite: ECON 201)
GFPT 301 Ancient Political Theory
GFPT 302 Modern Political Theory
GFPT 305 American Political Theory
HIEU 201, 202 Western Civilization
HIEU 378 European Intellectual History
HIEU 380 Origins of Contemporary Thought
PHIL 356 Classics in Political Philosophy
PHIL 357 Political Philosophy
RELC 233 History of Christian Political and Social Thought
SOC 255, 455 Law and Society or
SOC 402 Social Analysis

II. Area Studies Each student is required to concentrate in three different area studies. An area is defined as a particular intellectual theme or subfield of interest to be investigated in the course of one's studies. These areas can be derived from within, between, or outside traditional disciplines and can be large or small. Some examples of area studies might include: ancient political thought-or Socrates and the state; media studies- or violence on television; 18th-19th century intellectual history-or early Marxism; applied ethics; human rights; church and state; feminism; Middle East studies; African-American studies-or black women writers.

For each area, one must complete two relevant courses at or above the 300- level. The total six courses necessary to fulfill the area requirement must be drawn from at least three different disciplines, programs or departments. Hence: three areas; two courses/area; three disciplines.

Taken together, the three areas of study should both (1) be constructed in a coherent fashion and (2) form the general basis of study for the thesis.

III. Seminars and Thesis Research (14 credits) Each PST major must complete the following seminars. They are exclusively for PST majors and a foundation for the program:

Admission into the Political and Social Thought Program We invite interested students now in their fourth semester in the College of Arts and Sciences to apply for admission in this interdisciplinary program. As a distinguished major, the program admits only twenty new students a year. A 3.2 cumulative grade point average is generally required for admission. The program assumes the students will be in Charlottesville their third and fourth years. It is highly desirable (but not mandatory) that students applying for the PST program should have at least one of the courses listed under the Foundations of Political and Social Thought by the end of their second year.

Students interested in become PST majors should submit the following:

  1. A completed PST application form.
  2. A letter of recommendation by a faculty member.
  3. A 300-500 word essay. This essay should address the following two questions: (a) Why are you interested in becoming a PST major? (b) At this (tentative) point, what three area studies would you select in constructing your PST curriculum? Your answer does not obligate you to a particular course of studies if you are accepted into the program.
  4. A sample of writing. You may submit a previously completed term paper or essay (preferably with the instructor's comments on it) or a piece of creative writing.
The above materials should be brought to the office of Mrs. Gloria Gates by March 1. Candidates should hear from the committee by the end of March.

The director of the PST Program holds a meeting for the prospective majors in early February to answer any questions about admission procedures and program requirements. The time and place of the meeting is announced in the student newspapers. Students may also obtain this information by calling Mrs. Gates at 924-8880 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Additional Information For more information, contact:

Undergraduate Advisor
Political and Social Thought Program
B-13 Garret Hall
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(804) 924-8880