Philosophy is the rational effort to understand and reflect upon the various aspects of our human endeavors and existence. The study of philosophy is an essential ingredient in a liberal arts education, both in terms of its subject matter and the capacities it develops for thinking critically.
As a central part of a Catholic and Lasallian university, the Philosophy Department seeks to develop aptitudes for reasoned analysis, evaluation, and synthesis, through the disciplined investigation of the chief figures and the areas of systematic inquiry that emerge in the study of the history of philosophy. The careful reading of and reflection on the major texts in philosophy is pursued in both written and spoken forms. The department challenges students to broaden their perspectives by examining their reasoning and value judgments, without losing sight of the university’s Judeo-Christian grounding and vision. Not surprisingly, the full engagement of the questions posed by philosophy is a foundation for life-long learning and growth.
The philosophy curriculum is designed to meet the needs of contemporary young men and women in a Catholic university. The department offers two majors and a minor. However, the overall philosophy curriculum is devised to complement course offerings in the general education content areas, the honors program, and the special program of study of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, in addition to majors in the humanities.
General Department Goals
Upon completion of the major, students are able to:
- Demonstrate knowledge of the major historical movements and figures in philosophy from the Pre-Socratic thinkers through the contemporary period;
- Form and evaluate arguments employing standards of logical validity; and
- Integrate areas of systematic inquiry with broader and perennial philosophical questions and issues.
A background in philosophy is an excellent preparation for a variety of career and vocational pursuits, ranging from teaching/education, theology, law, and different forms of Christian ministry/service, to publishing (writing and editing), healthcare (e.g., medical ethics, planning and development of facilities), and arts management and marketing, among others.
The Philosophy Department also supports and staffs the minor.
Click on courses below for descriptions
This course presents an introduction to contemporary symbolic logic as well as to traditional deductive and inductive logic.
This general education course gives students the opportunity to read a major philosophical work, Plato’s Republic, and to discuss issues raised by the text that relate to our world. Such issues include justice, artistic expression and censorship, ethical conduct, the role of women in society, the best form of government, family, work, freedom, and responsibility. The course is for first and second year students who want a serious introduction to philosophy and enjoy rigorous philosophical conversation.
This course, the first of four sequential courses in the history of philosophy, is a survey of Greek philosophy from its origins in the thought of Presocratic poets and philosophers to its later development in the dialogues of Plato and writings of Aristotle. Through the close reading of primary sources in their historical context and through a wide variety of other exercises, students gain an appreciation for the major texts, themes and problems that have shaped the Western philosophical tradition. Students also begin to develop a facility with the various tools and terms with which philosophers in the Western tradition have worked.
In this course, the second of four history of philosophy courses, students study the development of philosophy in the Middle Ages through its contact with Christianity. The goals of this course are to examine the following themes and philosophical problems: the relation of faith and reason, spirituality and philosophy; human knowledge and human freedom; and philosophy as a principle of integration within Medieval culture.
The field exploration provides the student the opportunity to work closely with a professor in the presentation of a course. The student get experience in basic research and techniques involved in presenting philosophical ideas. The reading and thinking that gradually lead to a basic understanding of the various philosophical positions and to an authentic philosophical insight is one kind of learning experience. An additional learning experience comes about with the responsibility of presenting these ideas to others. The Philosophy Department, in providing this opportunity, recognizes that communication of ideas is an essential part of doing philosophy.
The course begins with a thorough examination of the foundations of natural law ethics and consequentialist ethics. The instructor links those theories of morality with explicit assumptions regarding human nature. Central texts in the course are Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Prima Secundae and John Stewart Mill’s Utilitarianism.
This course provides a survey of some of the specific issues in health care ethics that are faced today by patients, provides, insurance companies and other constituencies in the health care arena. Such issues include: access – how are limited resources to be allocated? Informed consent – what information must patients possess in order to make reasonable and informed decisions about their health care? What compensatory obligations do providers have in the realm of informed consent? Funding – should the quality of health care vary by the means of the payer? Death – what is death? Also, should a patient have the right to choose the time and means of his or her death? Procedures and technologies – are all possible procedures and technical interventions moral defensible?
The course examines critically the foundations of ethical or moral judgments on vital issues such as abortion, birth control, capital punishment, civil disobedience, divorce, drug-use, ecology, euthanasia, homosexuality, marriage, pre-marital sex, suicide, segregation, stealing, truth: acquiring-revealing-concealing, technology, war, and work.
This course critically examines some of the most influential conceptions of the human person (e.g., the Platonic, the Aristotelian-Thomistic, the Judeo-Christian, the Hobbesian and that of other modern thinkers). It considers such fundamental issues as the existence and nature of the human soul; whether human beings are innately good, innately evil, both or neither; in what sense, if any, human beings are rational; and the nature and basis of human freedom.
This course provides non-science as well as science majors the opportunity to examine key issues in the sciences in the light of major ethical theories. Among the issues to be examined are: abuses and uses of nuclear energy, behavior control and psychosurgery, chemical wastes and the environment, computerized files of personal information, computerization and depersonalization, experimentation with human subjects and animals, genetic engineering and screening, reproductive techniques, organ transplants, physician-patient relationships, and euthanasia.
In this course, the third of four history of philosophy courses students study the major philosophical movements of the early modern period beginning with the rise of inductive natural science. Students then examine rationalism, empiricism and conclude with Kant’s critical philosophy. The central epistemological theme of the course reflects the modern conviction that before other sciences may be studied with profit, the possibility and modes of human knowledge must be determined.
Prerequisites: PH253 and PH254.
This course, the fourth of four history of philosophy courses, is an examination of the post-Kantian philosophy focusing on selected major movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, and British analytic and ordinary language philosophy. Readings may include Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, James, Foucault, Wittgenstein, Ryle, and John Paul II, among others.
Epistemology is the study of how it is that humans come to know themselves and the world we inhabit. This course is a survey of theories of knowledge that span the western tradition from the Greeks to the present day. Issues raised include the definitions of certainty and truth, the reliability of sense knowledge, the way in which we know ourselves and others, as well as other related issues raised by our authors.
The course examines critically the major ethical or moral theories that are at the basis of decision-making in the complex area of contemporary behavior we know as "the business world." It is recommended for business majors.
This interdisciplinary course explores the relationship between philosophy of art or aesthetics and developments in art history. The course involves a study of traditional and contemporary theories of art, an examination of selected figures and movements in art history, and an analysis of the vital interrelationship between the two disciplines of philosophy and art.
Also offered as AR370. Offered fall semester.
These courses give non-majors an opportunity to explore philosophical movements, figures, and issues. Specific topics are determined by the department and student interest, and have included American Philosophy, the rise of modern science, 20th century women philosophers, and philosophy of law.
This course examines critically the classic and contemporary concepts of being-in-the-world, its causes, its effects, and its modalities and relations.
This course is taken in the second semester of the Senior year and is an opportunity to work closely with a faculty member in the philosophy department on a written thesis.
Saint Thomas Aquinas is one of the central figures in the history of Western philosophy. This course is designed to provide the student the opportunity to discover, reflect upon and react critically to Aquinas’s life, thought and writings. The themes covered include an investigation of what we can know of God by the use of human reason, the role of human beings and their nature in the order of creation, the manner in which human action, in cooperation with grace, can bring humans to their final end, as well as other issues of metaphysics, psychology and methodology. While this course is designed as an in-depth study of Aquinas, it also serves as a preparation for the future study of Aquinas’s theology; accordingly, there is a decided focus on developing a Thomistic vocabulary.
This course is designed to be taken in the spring semester of the senior year.
These specialized courses, intended primarily for Philosophy majors, include the following seminars: PH450 Plato, PH451 Aristotle, PH452 Augustine, PH455 Kant, and PH456 Kierkegaard.
John D. Poling, Ph.D.
Chair, Philosophy Department
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
700 Terrace Heights #1416
Winona, MN 55987-1399
(800) 635-5987, Ext. 1541