Philosophy Courses

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Core Requirements

In recent years, an ever expanding need for specialized competence in almost every field has encouraged at many colleges and universities the proliferation of narrowly focused and highly technical courses. This trend has seriously weakened the coherence and credibility of traditional liberal education. The result is a fragmentation of intellectual life. Many students and even faculty now find it difficult to communicate with one another across the linguistic and cultural barriers created by their professional specializations. Boston College undergraduate programs, and the Core curriculum in particular, are designed to counter these tendencies.

Philosophy Core courses are designed to introduce students to what the greatest thinkers in our tradition (from Socrates to Aquinas to Nietzsche) have had to say about such issues as our origin and destiny, the foundations of ethical and political life, the relationship between faith and reason. Contemporary criticisms of the various traditions in philosophy are also taken seriously; we take these critiques not as occasions for debunking the past but as opportunities for fresh re-considerations of perennial questions.

Upon completing any course sequence which confers Core credit in Philosophy, students should be able to:

  • Articulate a range of the basic philosophical questions fundamental to human inquiry and the various perspectives from which these questions have been addressed.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the social and political as well as individual dimensions of human nature and human existence.
  • Understand the historical development of the values and principles that guide their lives and reflect critically on these values and principles as they apply to their personal situation.

The Core requirement for all Boston College students includes six credits in philosophy. There are a number of ways in which students can fulfill the requirement. The following is a brief description of philosophy Core courses and of the requirements they fulfill:

  • Philosophy of the Person. This course presents the philosophical tradition not as an object of historical curiosity but as a source of fundamental human questions and of the most thoughtful attempts to answer these questions. We choose authors who deal with questions of existential import our origin and destiny, the foundations of ethical and political life, the relationship between faith and reason. Fulfills the six-credit philosophy Core requirement.
  • Perspectives I: Perspectives on Western Culture. This course focuses on the major philosophical and theological texts of the Western tradition from classical and biblical times to the present. Fulfills the six-credit philosophy Core requirement and the six-credit theology Core requirement.
  • Perspectives II: Modernism and the Arts. This course discusses the philosophical influences on the architecture, literature, music, and visual art of the "Modernist" period. Fulfills the six-credit philosophy requirement and the three-credit literature Core requirement and the three-credit fine arts Core requirement.
  • Perspectives III: Horizons of the Social Sciences. Least traditional and most ground-breaking in its interdisciplinary approach, the third perspectives course reflects on the philosophical underpinnings of the social sciences of economics, law, political science, and sociology. Fulfills the six-credit philosophy requirement and the six-credit social science Core requirement.
  • Perspectives IV: New Scientific Visions. This course examines the cultural and philosophical impact of key scientific discoveries as they are described in the original works of great innovators, such as Euclid, Cardin, Vieta, Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, Darwin, Einstein, Bohr. Intelligent discourse about science presupposes familiarity with the language and methods employed by scientists and mathematicians. Hence, this course gives concrete and detailed attention to mathematical demonstrations and to scientific experiments. Fulfills either (1) the six-credit philosophy Core requirement and the six-credit natural science core requirement, or (2) the three-credit mathematics Core and three-credits of the natural science Core.
  • Person and Social Responsibility (PULSE). This course offers its students the opportunity to integrate supervised social service or social advocacy field work with the study of philosophy and theology. Students read and discuss many of the same texts treated in Perspectives I. Their discussions of these texts are enriched by their encounters and experiences at their field placements. Some 300 students (ten sections) participate in this program each year. Fulfills the six-credit philosophy Core requirement and the six-credit theology Core requirement.

Our department is strongly committed to interdisciplinary programs. Our interdisciplinary Core programs, Perspectives and Pulse, are increasingly cited as models of innovative undergraduate instruction. These programs have been awarded substantial grants from the Bank of Boston, the Dayton Hudson Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.