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Philosophy

The aim of philosophy is to explore fundamental problems of human existence. Every area of human activity—art, science, religion, politics, law—generates questions and viewpoints that invite philosophical reflection. Socrates went so far as to declare that the unexamined life is not worth living.

Philosophy is a discipline unique in its methods and subject matter. Becoming skilled in its methods will serve invaluable functions in the undergraduate education. At Stern College for Women, the student learns to deal with complex ideas in a careful and clear way; is trained to eschew vague, impressionistic thinking and to think, instead, critically, rigorously and precisely; acquires the capacity to read carefully and reflectively, and to write in an organized, persuasive fashion.

Skills such as these are transferable: they serve the student well in any career.

Philosophy is excellent preparation for any profession that demands the ability to grasp complex ideas, analyze problems from differing vantage points and communicate effectively. Thus, philosophy courses develop skills necessary for the pursuit of law, journalism, medicine, computer science, business and public administration.

Mission Statement

The mission of the philosophy department is to foster students' familiarity with a significant range of philosophical problems, concepts, arguments, and figures, and to prepare students for a variety of careers, ranging from law to teaching to writing to finance to medicine. The department provides this preparation by teaching transferable skills such as analyzing and appraising arguments, constructing original arguments, and writing clearly about complex material. In addition, some courses enable students to understand the relevance of philosophy to social problems, especially issues in ethics and public policy.

Program Student Learning Goals

  1. Students will be able to critically evaluate philosophical arguments and to construct their own.
  2. Students will be able to clearly communicate philosophical ideas, both orally and in writing.
  3. Students will be able to comprehend a wide, diverse range of philosophical texts. 
  4. Students will be able to understand main arguments and figures in the history of philosophy. 
  5. Students will be able to understand alternative ways of viewing subject matters, be they issues in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, or any other subfield of philosophy. 
  6. Students will be able to apply philosophical knowledge and skills to analyze relevant social problems.

For more information, contact Dr. David Shatz at shatz@yu.edu .

Program Information

Please see the Schedule of Classes for the current semester’s offerings.

Philosophy (PHIL)

  • 1100 Logic 3 credits
    Methods and principles used in distinguishing correct from incorrect reasoning; traditional deductive logic and symbolic logic.
  • 1320 Theories of the Mind 3 credits
    Examination of rival conceptions of mind and self, and of differing explanatory models for human behavior. 
  • 1360 Theory of Knowledge 3 credits
    Concepts of sense perception, memory, knowledge, and belief; principle of verifiability and problems of induction.
  • 1425 Philosophy and New Technologies 3 credits
    Philosophical issues—among them, ethics, property rights, and personal identity— raised by biological advances such as cloning, stem cell research, and IVF; digitization of media; and the possibility of uploading memories and extending human capabilities.
  • 1550 Metaphysics 3 credits
    Current metaphysical problems, with topics to be selected from the following: nature of metaphysical reasoning, problems of language and reference, mind-¬body problem, determinism and free will, causality, personal survival, time, and the philosophical concept of God.
  • 1600 Ethics 3 credits
    The problems of relativism and subjectivism; utilitarian versus deontological approaches to moral concepts; contemporary moral dilemmas.
  • 1710 Religion and Philosophy 3 credits
    Examination of differing conceptions of the role of reason in the religious life and of major philosophic arguments that focus on religious beliefs.
  • 2170 Ancient and Medieval Philosophy 3 credits
    From the pre-Socratics to Thomas Aquinas, with emphasis on Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas.
  • 2420 Modern Philosophy 3 credits
    Continental rationalism and British empiricism, from Descartes to Kant.
  • 2532 Philosophy of Art 3 credits
    What is a work of art and what are the criteria for evaluating its goodness? These questions will be answered by reading the works of some classic philosophers, from Plato through Kant to Dewey and Wollheim. We will also read some contemporary philosophers’ discussions of current issues such as the status of fakes, of photographs, and of ugliness and horror, and the relation of art to morality.
  • 2560 Philosophy in the 19th and 20th Centuries 3 credits
    The chief contributions of Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Husserl, Dewey, Russell, and Ayer.
  • 2740 Science and Religion 3 credits
    This course examines: differing models for understanding the relationship between science and religion; the methods of science and the methods of religious thought; options for approaching ostensible conflicts between science and religion; questions about divine activity, miracles, and related topics; the impact of contemporary science on arguments for religious belief.
  • 3200 Classical Political Philosophy 3 credits
    Theories of great political philosophers from Plato to Hegel; analysis of various interpretations of history, the nature of man, justice, liberty, and authority. Not open to students who have taken POLI 2405.
  • 3300 Just and Unjust Wars 3 credits
    Examination of the criteria for justly initiating war and the limits that must be observed during the fighting through a close reading of Grotius, Walzer, and the Geneva Conventions.
  • 3402 Philosophy of Law 3 credits
    The nature and scope of law; arguments for obeying law; civil disobedience; law and morality; constitutional interpretation; and the justification of particular legal practices, such as punishment and paternalism.
  • 3500 Medical Ethics 3 credits
    Discussion of ten of the main issues in the chronological order in which they appeared in the public arena, including experiments on humans by Nazi doctors, allocation of scarce resources in dialysis, paternalism and patient autonomy, brain death, AIDS and the duty to treat, genetic testing, and cloning.
  • 3620 Environmental Ethics 3 credits
    This course analyzes the ethical bases for the preservation and conservation of non-human and even non-living things (like the everglades) – not just for human benefit, but also for their inherent value. We will use these philosophical tools to help make sense of global warming, pollution, animal rights etc.
  • 4925; 4926; 4927; 4928; 4929; 4930 Selected Topics 3 credits
    Special topics, issues, and movements in philosophy.
    Prerequisites: one semester of PHIL and permission of the instructor.
  • 4931, 4932 Seminar 3 credits
    Intensive analysis of a philosopher, a philosophic concept, or a philosophic movement.
    Prerequisites: one semester of PHIL or permission of the instructor.

The following list includes faculty who teach at the Beren (B) and/or Wilf (W) campus.

  • David Johnson
    Associate Professor of Philosophy (W)
    Co-Chair, Department of Philosophy
  • Herbert Leventer
    Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy (B)
  • Daniel Rynhold
    Associate Professor of Jewish Philosophy (W)
  • David Shatz
    Ronald P. Stanton University Professor of Philosophy, Ethics, and Religious Thought (B)
    Co-Chair, Department of Philosophy

Minor

Fifteen credits in PHIL courses, 6 of which may be in JPHI courses (in excess of the Jewish Studies requirement) chosen with the written approval of the Department.

View major/minor fact sheets at the Academic Advisement Center webpage.

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