This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2020-21 VCU Bulletin. This edition includes all programs and courses approved by the publication deadline; however we may receive notification of additional program approvals after the launch. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

The Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with a concentration in philosophy and science is an interdisciplinary curriculum requiring a minimum of 120 credits, with at least 30 of those credits in the major area, at least half of which must be upper-level.

Students with a strong interest in the philosophy of science and the relation between philosophy and science (and those considering graduate work in an area of science) will probably want to choose the philosophy and science concentration.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will:

  1. Demonstrate a good knowledge of and facility with the methods and concepts of modern, analytic philosophy.
  2. Demonstrate a good knowledge of the current state of academic discussion of some of the central philosophical topics.
  3. Demonstrate some knowledge of the history of philosophy, including both major themes and movements and some specific figures and systems.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to think critically and systematically about philosophical problems, both abstract and practical, and to write clearly and cogently about them.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to construct and analyze arguments clearly and cogently, independently of their subject matter.
  6. Demonstrate a good knowledge of philosophical questions about scientific inquiry including by not limited to questions about scientific explanation, the confirmation and disconfirmation of scientific theories, and what distinguishes science from non-science.
  7. Demonstrate a good knowledge of a particular area of science including the research methods of that area of science.

Degree requirements for Philosophy, Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in philosophy and science

General education requirements

CourseTitleHours
University Core Education Curriculum (minimum 21 credits)
UNIV 111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry I [View Image]
Focused Inquiry I3
UNIV 112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry II [View Image]
Focused Inquiry II3
UNIV 200Inquiry and the Craft of Argument3
Approved humanities/fine arts3
Approved natural/physical sciences3-4
Approved quantitative literacy3-4
Approved social/behavioral sciences3-4
Total Hours21-24
CourseTitleHours
Additional College of Humanities and Sciences requirements (11-23 credits)
HUMS 202Choices in a Consumer Society1
Approved H&S diverse and global communities3
Approved H&S human, social and political behavior (fulfills University Core social/behavioral sciences)
Approved H&S literature and civilization (fulfills University Core humanities/fine arts)
Approved H&S science and technology (fulfills University Core natural/physical sciences)
Approved H&S general education electives6-8
Experiential fine arts 11-3
Foreign language through the 102 level (by course or placement)0-8
Total Hours11-23
1

Course offered by the School of the Arts

Major requirements

CourseTitleHours
Select one of the following:3
Introduction to Philosophy
Ancient Greek and Medieval Western Philosophy
Modern Western Philosophy
Select one of the following:3
Introduction to Ethics
History of Ethics
Ethics and Applications
Ethics and Health Care
Ethics and Business
PHIL 222Logic3
Select two of the following:6
Philosophical Concepts
Metaphysics
Epistemology
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Law
Normative Ethics
Metaethics
Social and Political Philosophy
PHIL 331Philosophy of Science3
PHIL 490Seminar in Philosophy (capstone)3
Scientific focus area: Choose one of the scientific focus areas listed below. Each focus area consists of a three-credit course on the research methods of a scientific discipline and six upper-level credits in that discipline.9
Total Hours30

Open electives

CourseTitleHours
Select 44-58 open elective credits44-58

The minimum total of credit hours required for this degree is 120.

Scientific focus areas

Anthropology

CourseTitleHours
Archaeological Theory
Archaeological Methods and Research Design
Select six additional upper-level credits in ANTH courses

Bioinformatics

CourseTitleHours
Integrative Life Sciences Research
Select six upper-level credits in BNFO courses.

Chemistry

CourseTitleHours
Quantitative Analysis
Experiencing Science
Select six additional upper-level credits in CHEM courses

Computer science

CourseTitleHours
Introduction to the Theory of Computation
Select six additional upper-level credits in CMSC courses

Economics

CourseTitleHours
Contemporary Economic Issues
Select six additional upper-level credits in ECON courses

Environmental studies

CourseTitleHours
Integrative Life Sciences Research
Select six additional upper-level credits in ENVS courses

Mathematical sciences

CourseTitleHours
Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning
Select six additional upper-level credits in MATH or STAT or OPER courses

Political science

CourseTitleHours
Research Methods in Political Science
Select six additional upper-level credits in POLI courses

Psychology

CourseTitleHours
Experimental Methods 1
Select six additional upper-level credits in PSYC courses
1

This course is restricted to the majors in the relevant program.

Sociology

CourseTitleHours
Research Methods in Political Science
Select six additional upper-level credits in SOCY courses

Physics

CourseTitleHours
Modern Physics
Experiencing Science
Select six additional upper-level credits in PHYS courses (or other appropriate courses approved by the Department of Philosophy)

What follows is a sample plan that meets the prescribed requirements within a four-year course of study at VCU. Please contact your adviser before beginning course work toward a degree.

Freshman year
Fall semesterHours
UNIV 101Introduction to the University1
UNIV 111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry I [View Image]
Focused Inquiry I3
Approved H&S diverse and global communities course3
Approved quantitative literacy course3-4
Open electives5-6
 Term Hours: 15-17
Spring semester
HUMS 202Choices in a Consumer Society1
UNIV 112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry II [View Image]
Focused Inquiry II3
Approved H&S General Education elective3-4
Approved H&S human, social and political behavior course3-4
Open electives5-6
 Term Hours: 15-18
Sophomore year
Fall semester
PHIL 101
Introduction to Philosophy
or Ancient Greek and Medieval Western Philosophy
or Modern Western Philosophy
3
PHIL 201Introduction to Ethics3
UNIV 200Inquiry and the Craft of Argument3
Experiential fine arts course1-3
Foreign language (101-level)4
 Term Hours: 14-16
Spring semester
PHIL 222Logic3
Approved H&S General Education elective3-4
Approved H&S science and technology3-4
Foreign language (102-level)4
Open elective3
 Term Hours: 16-18
Junior year
Fall semester
PHIL 331Philosophy of Science3
Open electives9
Upper-level course from scientific focus area3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
PHIL 300
Philosophical Concepts
or Metaphysics
or Epistemology
or Philosophy of Language
or Philosophy of Law
or Normative Ethics
or Metaethics
or Social and Political Philosophy
3
Open electives9
Research methods course from scientific focus area3
 Term Hours: 15
Senior year
Fall semester
PHIL 301
Metaphysics
or Philosophical Concepts
or Epistemology
or Philosophy of Language
or Philosophy of Law
or Normative Ethics
or Metaethics
or Social and Political Philosophy
3
Open electives9
Upper-level course from scientific focus area3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
PHIL 490Seminar in Philosophy 13
Open electives12
 Term Hours: 15
 Total Hours: 120-129
1

Capstone course

The minimum total of credit hours required for this degree is 120.

PHIL 101. Introduction to Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An introduction to some of the main branches of philosophy. Some of the issues that might be addressed are: What is knowledge? Is reason or experience the basis for all knowledge? Can we have knowledge of the past or of the future? What is truth? Does God exist? Is there a mental realm separate from the material realm? Are the laws of nature deterministic? Do we have free will? What makes an action morally permissible? What is the proper role of the state in regulating our lives? This course is directed primarily at first- and second-year students.

PHIL 103. Ancient Greek and Medieval Western Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A survey of Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks (e.g., Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) through the medieval period (e.g., Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas).

PHIL 104. Modern Western Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A survey of Western philosophy from the Renaissance to the 19th century ( e.g., Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel and Marx).

PHIL 201. Critical Thinking About Moral Problems. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV 112; or HONR 200 and one of ENGL 295 or HONR 250. Focuses on the development of sound critical-thinking skills and their application to a range of topics in moral philosophy, including questions about the nature of morality and whether we have reason to be moral, and also to various topics in applied ethics such as the morality of abortion, animal rights, world hunger, pornography, capital punishment, sexual behavior, environmental ethics and reverse discrimination. Credit toward graduation may be received for only one of PHIL 201, 212, 213 or 214.

PHIL 211. History of Ethics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV 112 or both ENGL 295 and HONR 200. A philosophical investigation of the main concepts and theories of ethics and their application to fundamental moral questions, as illustrated by the ethical systems of such historically important Western philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hume, Mill and Kant.

PHIL 212. Ethics and Applications. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV 112 or both ENGL 295 and HONR 200. A philosophical investigation of the main concepts and theories of ethics, with applications to fundamental moral questions as they arise in different areas. Such problems as abortion, the welfare of animals, world hunger, pornography, capital punishment, nuclear defense, sexual behavior, environmental ethics and reverse discrimination may be used as illustrations. Credit toward graduation may be received for only one of PHIL 201, 212, 213 or 214.

PHIL 213. Ethics and Health Care. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV 112 or both ENGL 295 and HONR 200. A philosophical investigation of the main concepts and theories of ethics, with applications to fundamental moral questions as they arise in health care. The following issues may be used as illustrations: abortion, euthanasia and the right to die, human experimentation, treating mental illness, genetic technologies, the concepts of health and disease, and the funding of health care. Credit toward graduation may be received for only one of PHIL 201, 212, 213 or 214.

PHIL 214. Ethics and Business. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV 112 or both ENGL 295 and HONR 200. A philosophical investigation of the main concepts and theories of ethics, with applications to fundamental moral questions as they arise in business. The following issues may be used as illustration: affirmative action, investment in unethical companies or countries, product safety, whistle blowing and advertising. Credit toward graduation may be received for only one of PHIL 201, 212, 213 or 214.

PHIL 221. Critical Thinking. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An introduction to inductive and deductive reasoning, with emphasis on common errors and fallacies.

PHIL 222. Logic. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An evaluation of deductive arguments utilizing the methods of symbolic logic.

PHIL 230. Reason, Science and the Self. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Open to Honors College students only. The reasonableness of a belief often depends on the arguments that support it. One primary goal of this course is to sharpen the abilities to identify, analyze and assess arguments. Another primary goal is to show how to apply critical reasoning skills to philosophical explorations of the nature of science, knowledge and personal identity.

PHIL 250. Thinking About Thinking. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV 112 or both ENGL 295 and HONR 200. An interdisciplinary course about thinking. Covers the development of the principles of reasoning, such questions as how thinking relates to behavior and brain activity and how to think about specific areas of our lives, such as science, morality, religion, the arts and the law.

PHIL 291. Topics in Philosophy. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-4 credits. Prerequisite: as specified in the Schedule of Classes or written permission of instructor. An introductory study of an individual philosopher, a particular philosophical problem or a narrowly defined period or school. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics to be offered each semester.

PHIL 300. Philosophical Concepts. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: PHIL 101, PHIL 103 or PHIL 104; and PHIL 221 or PHIL 222; and one more PHIL course; or permission of instructor. An introduction to basic philosophical concepts and distinctions to be used throughout various areas of philosophy. These concepts and distinctions include universals/particulars, realism/anti-realism, intension/extension, modality, possible worlds, analytic/synthetic, a priori/a posteriori, linguistic/mental content and internalism/externalism.

PHIL 301. Metaphysics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: PHIL 101, PHIL 103 or PHIL 104; and PHIL 221 or PHIL 222; and one more PHIL course; or permission of instructor. An examination of central metaphysical issues, for example, the mind-body problem, free will, causality, action, realism and the problems of universals.

PHIL 302. Epistemology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: PHIL 101, PHIL 103 or PHIL 104; and PHIL 221 or PHIL 222; and one more PHIL course; or permission of instructor. An examination of central epistemological issues, for example, the problem of justification, empirical knowledge, perception, rationality and truth.

PHIL 303. Philosophy of Language. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy including PHIL 222 and 6 additional credits, at least 3 of which must be from PHIL 101, PHIL 103 or PHIL 104, or permission of the instructor. An examination of central issues in the philosophy of language; for example, the nature of meaning and reference, reductionism, properties of languages and the character of artificial symbols systems.

PHIL 320. Philosophy of Law. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy, which must include PHIL 221 or PHIL 222, and one of PHIL 201, PHIL 211, PHIL 212, PHIL 213, or PHIL 214, or permission of instructor. A critical examination of the nature of law and criminal justice in the light of important human values. The following topics will be considered: the nature of law and legal reasoning, the legal enforcement of morality, and such controversies as punishment versus rehabilitation and the right to due process versus the need for public safety.

PHIL 322. Tibetan Buddhism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A basic introduction to the history, development and mythology of the Buddhism of Tibet focusing on the Indian heritage and shared basis of all Buddhist practices, a clear identification of the three vehicles found in Buddhism, and a careful consideration of the path of the Bodhisattva, the hero of Great Vehicle Buddhism. Crosslisted as: RELS 322.

PHIL 326. Existentialism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHIL 101, PHIL 103, PHIL 104, PHIL 201, PHIL 211, PHIL 212, PHIL 213, PHIL 214, PHIL 221 or PHIL 222. An examination of the nature of truth, freedom, responsibility, individuality and interpersonal relations as found in some principal writings of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Sartre, Heidegger, Camus, Buber and Marcel. Crosslisted as: RELS 326.

PHIL 327. Normative Ethics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: PHIL 221 or PHIL 222; PHIL 201, PHIL 211, PHIL 212, PHIL 213 or PHIL 214; and 3 additional credits of philosophy; or permission of instructor. A study of issues in systematic normative ethics, including such topics as egoism, consequentialism, utilitarianism, deontology and the theory of the virtues.

PHIL 328. Metaethics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: PHIL 221 or PHIL 222; PHIL 201, PHIL 211, PHIL 212, PHIL 213 or PHIL 214; and 3 additional credits of philosophy; or permission of instructor. A study of issues in the semantics and metaphysics of ethics. Such topics as the following will be discussed: the objectivity of ethical judgements, the semantic value of ethical judgements and the possibility of ethical knowledge.

PHIL 331. Philosophy of Science. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 3 credits of philosophy and 6 credits of natural sciences courses. An examination of the bases of scientific inquiry in both the natural and social sciences; including a study of such topics as hypothesis formation and testing, and the nature of scientific laws, theories and explanations.

PHIL 335. Social and Political Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: 9 credits in philosophy, which must include PHIL 221 or PHIL 222, and one of PHIL 201, PHIL 211, PHIL 212, PHIL 213, or PHIL 214, or permission of instructor. A critical examination of political power and of the relationship between the individual and society. Possible topics include: anarchism and the justification of having a state at all; political views about what sort of state is justified (e.g., conservatism, liberalism, communitarianism, feminism, Marxism); private vs. collective property; market vs. planned economies; democracy vs. totalitarianism; and civil disobedience and revolution.

PHIL 340. Philosophy for Children. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: two philosophy courses, which must include at least one of PHIL 101, 103 or 104. A service-learning course requiring at least 15 hours of service in which students will be required to lead philosophical discussions with primary/secondary schoolchildren. An analysis of perennial philosophical questions and problems with the aim of introducing them to children. Some of the questions that might be addressed include: What is happiness? What is justice? What is a mind? Can a mind exist apart from a body? Can machines think? What is time? What is knowledge? What are the limits of human knowledge?.

PHIL 391. Topics in Philosophy. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-4 credits. Prerequisite: as specified in the Schedule of Classes or permission of instructor. A study of an individual philosopher, a particular philosophical problem or a narrowly defined period or school. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics to be offered each semester.

PHIL 408. Indian Tradition. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: at least six credits from philosophy or religious studies courses. A systematic analysis of the major theories of Indian religious and philosophical thought: Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, Charvaka, Jainism, Buddhism, the six systems of Hinduism and contemporary developments. Crosslisted as: RELS 408.

PHIL 410. The Chinese Tradition in Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A study of the development of Confucianism, of alternative ways of thought prior to the fall of the Han Dynasty and of neo-Confucianism. The systems of thought are examined in the light of their social, political and religious impact on China, Korea and Japan. Crosslisted as: RELS 410/INTL 410.

PHIL 412. Zen Buddhism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV 200 or HONR 200. A study of Zen Buddhism, including backgrounds in Indian philosophy and practice, development in China and Korea, and present-day Zen theory and practice in Japan and in Western countries. Crosslisted as: RELS 412/INTL 412.

PHIL 421. Aesthetics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHIL 101, 103, 104, 201, 211, 212, 213, 214, 221 or 222. A critical survey of philosophies of art from antiquity to the 20th century. Topics include: the nature of art, creativity, aesthetic experience and aesthetic judgments.

PHIL 430. Philosophy of Religion. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHIL 101, PHIL 103, PHIL 104, PHIL 201, PHIL 211, PHIL 212, PHIL 213, PHIL 214, PHIL 221 or PHIL 222. An introduction to the major problems and questions of religion and reason. Special reference will be made to the nature of God, the nature of man, the problem of evil, the source of good, immortality and the basis of authority. Crosslisted as: RELS 430.

PHIL 440. Mysticism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV 200 or HONR 200. A critical analysis of the varieties of mysticism in world religions. Arguments for and against mysticism will be emphasized. Mysticism will be related to art, psychology, science, philosophy, theology and magic. Crosslisted as: RELS 440.

PHIL 490. Seminar in Philosophy. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. May be repeated with different topics for maximum of 6 credits. Prerequisite: one of PHIL 301, 302, 303, 320, 327, 335 or permission of instructor in exceptional cases. Research and analysis of selected philosophical topic in a seminar setting. Must be taken at least once as a senior (i.e., after the completion of at least 85 credit hours toward the degree) to satisfy the capstone requirement.

PHIL 492. Independent Study. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. Variable credit. Maximum of 6 credits per semester; maximum total of 12 credits for all independent study courses. Open generally to students of only junior or senior standing who have acquired at least 12 credits in the departmental discipline. Determination of the amount of credit and permission of instructor and department chair must be procured prior to registration of the course. An independent study course to allow interested majors in philosophy to do research, under the direction of a professor qualified in that field, in an area of major interest.

PHIL 496. Senior Research Project. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; 1-4 credits. Prerequisites: Senior status; two courses from PHIL 301, 302, 303, 320, 327, 335, 391; and written approval by faculty supervisor. An individual research project to develop a polished journal-length research paper. This course is intended primarily for students who wish to develop a dossier paper for submission to a philosophy graduate program.