Recent Undergraduate Courses

Daoist and Chan/Zen Philosophy (PHIL 3770)

An examination of the classic Chinese texts of philosophical Daoism (Daodejing and Zhuangzi) and the related schools of Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen Buddhism. The paradoxical language and unusual practices of these traditions are intellectually challenging. But they are said to nourish ways of life many people find attractive, involving flexible responsiveness, spontaneity, compassion and peace based on an understanding of the interdependent and ever-changing nature of all things. We will balance discussion of these traditions in their original Asian context with assessment of their relevance for contemporary issues such as personal well-being and environmental ethics.

Happiness and Well-Being (PHIL 4301)

The course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the nature and value of happiness and well-being from the perspectives of contemporary psychology, Western philosophy and Asian spiritual traditions. Emphasis is placed on what is distinctive about each of these approaches, but efforts are also made to examine fruitful interactions among them in thinking about what it would mean to live a good and fulfilling life. Students are encouraged to reflect on and develop their own personal understanding of this important topic.

Buddhist Moral Thought (PHIL 4425).

The course introduces students to the basic features of Buddhist ethical thought in diverse Buddhist traditions as well as recent interpretations and developments of this thought from the perspective of Western moral philosophy. After briefly surveying the central features of Buddhist ethical outlooks (in both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions), we consider philosophical discussions of these outlooks in terms of basic theoretical topics (such as the nature of normative ethical theories, well-being, moral objectivity, moral psychology and questions about freedom and responsibility) as well as more applied contemporary issues (such as human rights, war and violence, and environmental ethics).

Chinese Philosophy (PHIL 3756).

The course is an introduction to the main traditions of Chinese Philosophy, primarily Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. The first part examines the classical figures in the formative period of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. These include major figures in the Confucian school (Kongzi, Mengzi and Han Feizi) and the Daoist school (Laozi and Zhuangzi) as well as two critics, especially of Confucianism, Mozi and Han Feizi. We then examine three distinctive forms of Buddhism that developed in China during several later Dynasties: the Hua-yan, Tian-Tai and Chan schools. We also discuss the representation of women in these traditions.

Buddhist Philosophy (PHIL 3759).

The course is an introduction to Buddhist thought and practice from a philosophical perspective. By studying primary and secondary sources, students gain an understanding of the central philosophical ideas in Buddhism as they evolved from the teaching of the Buddha in the two main traditions: Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. This includes the Madhyamaka and Yogacara schools and subsequent developments in the Tibetan and Chinese Chan traditions. We also look at a contemporary movement called Socially Engaged Buddhism.

Philosophical Ethics (PHIL 3000)

The course examines some basic issues in ethical or moral philosophy as discussed by three influential philosophers representing three important moral theories in the Western tradition: John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism), Immanuel Kant (Deontology) and Aristotle (Virtue Ethics). We also read a selection of contemporary philosophers who examine these theories and other topics such as moral relativism. In addition, we consider a selection of contemporary moral concerns such as animal rights, environmental ethics, capital punishment, torture and war. This course is the second philosophy course in the Fordham Core Curriculum.

Recent Graduate Seminars

Self-Cultivation Philosophies (PHIL 7310)

Self-cultivation philosophies propound a program of development in which a person is substantially transformed from the ordinary problematic condition of human beings into an ideal state of well being—living an intrinsically valuable life. These philosophies were common in ancient “axial age” traditions in China (e.g., Confucianism and Daoism), India (e.g., Buddhism and Yoga/Samkhya) and Greece (e.g., Epicureanism and Stoicism). The first part of this class will provide an analysis of the nature, kinds and plausibility of self-cultivation philosophies through an examination of the aforementioned ancient self-cultivation philosophies. For the remainder of the class, each student will choose a particular figure who may be interpreted as promoting a self-cultivation philosophy, select appropriate texts for the members of the seminar to read, give a presentation and lead a discussion.

Contemporary Virtue Ethics (PHIL 7671)

The course examines recent work in virtue ethics, both Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian. After a survey of the contemporary development of virtue ethics (beginning with the work of Philippa Foot and G.E.M. Anscombe) , emphasis was placed in the most recent version on Alasdair MacIntyre's Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues, Rosalind Hursthouse's On Virtue Ethics, Michael Slote's Morals from Motives, and Christine Swanton's Virtue Ethics: A Pluralistic View.

Well-Being (PHIL 7469)

The seminar examines contemporary discussions of philosophies of well-being such as mental state theories, desire-satisfaction theories, objective list theories and nature-fulfillment theories. In the most recent version, emphasis was placed on L.W. Sumner's Welfare, Happiness and Ethics, Fred Feldman's Pleasure and the Good Life: Concerning the Nature, Varieties, and Plausibility of Hedonism, Richard Kraut's What is Good and Why: The Ethics of Well-Being, Mark Murphy's Natural Law and Practical Rationality, and Daniel Haybron's The Pursuit of Unhappiness: The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being.

Stoic Ethics Old and New (PHIL 7114)

The course examines the moral philosophy of the Stoics and its roots in Stoic physics and epistemology. The emphasis is on the ancient Athenian and Roman discussions (and recent commentaries by Julia Annas, John Cooper, Pierre Hadot, A.A. Long, Martha Nussbaum, and Gisela Striker among others), but we also consider contemporary assessments of Stoicism such as Lawrence Becker's A New Stoicism and Nancy Sherman's Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy Behind the Military Mind.

Seminar in Philosophical Education (PHIL 8001)

The course is an introduction to teaching philosophy at the college or university level. It is intended primarily for Ph.D. philosophy students at Fordham who will be teaching the core philosophy courses at Fordham College. We discuss course design, syllabus construction, the basic elements of teaching (such as discussions, lectures, writing assignments, exams, evaluation, plagiarism and technology) as well as aspects of teaching specific to teaching philosophy and to teaching at Fordham. Students prepare a syllabus for each of the two core philosophy courses they will teach.