Course Descriptions





PHIL 3020 – Medieval Philosophy
12:30-1:55 MWF

In this course we will explore some of the major figures from the Middle Ages (4th-14th centuries) tracing their debates through the Latin Christendom and the vast empire of the Islamic Golden Age. Through the works of St. Augustine, al Farabi, Boethius, ibn Sina, ibn Rushd, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Christine de Pizan we will explore questions of human happiness and suffering, governance and societal welfare, love, virtue and subversion, and the structure of the cosmos. Learn how these rich, interwoven, philosophical traditions enhance our understanding of ourselves, our communities, and our world.


PHIL 3170 – Philosophy of Art
10:15-12:20 T, Th
Paul Kidder

This course begins with the question as to the meaning of the term, “art,” but then goes on to examine how philosophical meaning can be explored through art, primarily with the help of 20th-century Continental thinkers.  Throughout history the visual arts have communicated the most profound experiences in human life, and yet to voice these meanings in the verbal medium of philosophy requires complex processes of interpretation. Four themes will organize the class:


  1. The meaning of art, particularly in light of modern and contemporary movements. We will use Arthur Danto’s philosophical reflections on Andy Warhol and other 20th-century figures.
  2. The interpretation of art, using the existential and hermeneutical theories of Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer.
  1. Spirituality in modern painting and sculpture, using Roger Lipsey’s groundbreaking study of artists such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Rothko, and Brancusi.
  2. Art in cultural identity and cultural appropriation. We will consider the role of artforms in defining cultures in the interrelations of cultures. Here we will focus on swing dance in its original forms and its more recent revival, using an academic (but also first hand) study of the phenomenon.


Readings are expected to include:

Arthur Danto, What Art Is, Yale Univ. Press

Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, Harper Perennial

Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays, Cambridge Univ. Press

Roger Lipsey, The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art, Dover Publications

Black Hawk Hancock, American Allegory: Lindy Hop and the Racial Imagination, Univ. of Chicago Press



1. Three short discussion leadership essays;

2. A 10-page term paper;

3. A final exam;

4. Class participation.

PHIL 3620 – Existentialism
10:15-12:20 T, Th

This course explores the basic questions about human existence from the Existentialist tradition. This is a tradition that developed first in the 19th century in the writings of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and then came to full expression in mid-20th century in the writings of Sartre, Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir. For the existentialists, the questions about existence arise from the concrete concerns modern life: the experience of freedom, the experience of alienation in mass society, the quest for the meaning of life from the both a religious and an atheist perspective, and the quest for authenticity in the face of basic experiences such as guilt, death, but even love.  Existentialists writings come not just from philosophy, but also literature, psychology and theology.

PHIL 3910 – Queer Theory
10:55-12:20 MWF

What does queer theory teach us? How does it help us think critically about both our commonly held assumptions and academic theories about gender and sexuality? The goal of this course is to “do theory” rather than to “know” or “master” it, so that we further develop our own practices of critique and reflection about our own lives and communities. We will investigate the historical foundations and contemporary innovations of queer theory in order to explore topics including queer politics and activism; histories of sexuality; forms of oppression including heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia; resistance to oppression; violence against LGBTQ people; diverse experiences of sexuality; and representations in literature, art, and popular media. We will also examine how queer theory intersects with other fields of study including critical race theory, feminism, psychoanalysis, trans studies, and disability studies.


PHIL 4850 – Major Figures: Nussbaum
1:30-3:35 T, Th
Paulette Kidder

 This course examines the work of Martha C. Nussbaum (b. 1947), a contemporary American political philosopher and the co-founder, with Amartya Sen, of the philosophical movement known as Capability Ethics.  Nussbaum’s groundbreaking work on Plato and Aristotle, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (1986/2001), will serve as our introduction to persistent themes in her work, including the tension she finds between the desire for transcendent meaning and the human rootedness in particularity and finitude.    Second, we will turn to her 1999 book, Sex and Social Justice, in which she applies the capabilities approach to social and legal questions involving human sexuality.  We will conclude the course with a reading of Nussbaum’s 2006 Frontiers of Justice, in which Nussbaum extends the capabilities approach to questions of disability, justice across international borders, and our obligations toward nonhuman animals.


Assignments and Grading

Short essay, 1200-1800 words. (20%)

Term paper (2000-2500 words) on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor. (30%)

Take-home final exam (1500 words). (25%)

 Seminar participation. (25%)


Prerequisite: UCOR 2500 or equivalent.