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Kalamazoo College

Choosing Philosophy Courses

Our advice here is meant to give you some idea of why, given your intellectual emphases, certain philosophy courses might be of particular interest to you. Of course, we in the Philosophy Department think that in many cases the philosophy courses relating to specific majors and fields of study are crucial. Philosophy is, basically, the discipline that studies all topics, attempting to answer through reasoning questions that cannot (apparently) be answered empirically. Thus it is relevant to everything - and, we would argue, can enlighten broaden, and enrich one's understanding of nearly everything. (A brief example regarding "artificial intelligence"). At some point in the future, we may have to decide whether an "artificial intelligence" program is conscious and should be treated as a morally important person. This is a question important to sociologists, psychologists, computer programmers, politicians, legal theorists, and others. Yet none of them can answer the question without philosophy. This is because no amount of data about hardware, software, biology, or legal history provides the resources to decide. Practitioners of these other disciplines are enriched and empowered to the extent that they are aware of historical and contemporary philosophical theories of consciousness, ethics, and personhood, and can use philosophical tools to work on the issue. Although of course we welcome your presence in courses not directly related to your major or career, we encourage you to take philosophy courses related to your major field of study. In particular, we encourage students to satisfy the philosophy distributional requirement by taking courses of such relevance, to complete the minor in philosophy, or to consult closely with the department to construct an individually tailored interdisciplinary minor. In any case, our main advice is to take courses that spark your personal interest - the rigor and demands of philosophical inquiry are best engaged when this is the case, and you are likely to get the most out of your studies. In each of the pages linked at left, we provide a list of courses especially relevant to that area of interest, and explain why that is so. We also give you an idea of pertinent skills students in those classes are likely to be exposed to and gain proficiency in. We also list some thought-provoking questions illustrating what might be the particularly philosophical perspective on that topic.

To better understand what a course is about, please read the catalogue and our Extended Course Descriptions: both explain the type of questions, issues, and concerns addressed in a course. Students may review the actual Course Syllabus, which lists required readings, assignments, reading schedule, important themes, and supplementary readings. The bookstore is also a resource for choosing a course of interest: the Table of Contents, Introduction, and Preface of required books will give you a clear idea of important subjects. Many courses have special units of interdisciplinary instruction -- Bridge Readings Courses (BR): -- that allow a student to relate a philosophy course to another discipline. Some philosophy courses invite students to read the original, untranslated texts, a special form of teaching known as Foreign Language Across the Curriculum (FLAC). After reading our recommendations for choosing a course based upon your major and/or personal interests, please feel free to contact Chris Latiolais if you have any questions about the philosophy curriculum.

The department offers various levels of courses. 100-level courses are recommended to first-year students who have never had a philosophy course. For 200-level courses and 300-level courses, it is recommended that students take at least one philosophy course beforehand, unless the 200- or 300-level course is related to their field of study, e.g. Philosophy of Science for science majors, Ancient Philosophy for Classics majors, etc. These middle- and upper-level courses presume some familiarity with philosophical methods and writing, so students are cautioned to consider the extra challenge and workload this may entail. Nevertheless, students who have strong writing abilities, skills in critical analysis, or background in some historical period or area of study may find courses at the 200 level appropriate. We strongly recommend that first-year students not take 300 level courses as their first encounter with philosophy if they have had not first secured the instructor's permission after close consultation.