NYU Philosophy Department
Undergraduate Courses:


Each of the following descriptions was provided by the faculty member teaching the course. Where no description is offered, or for additional information, please consult the NYU Bulletin.



Introductory Courses

Intro to Philosophy A83.0001-001

Monday/Wednesday 8:30am — 9:45am Staff



Ethics and Society A83.0005-001

Tuesday/Thursday 1:20pm — 2:35pm Staff




Intensive Introductory Courses


Central Problems in Philosophy V83.0010-001

Wednesday/Friday 11:55am — 1:10pm Professor Thomas Nagel

*Only CAS Students



Life and Death V83.0017-001

Tuesday/Thursday 9:55am — 11:10am Professor William Ruddick

*Only Sophomores




History of Philosophy


History of Modern Philosophy V83.0021-001

Monday/Wednesday 2:50pm — 4:05pm Professor John Gibbons



Philosophy in THE MIDDLE Ages V83.0025-001

Tuesday/Thursday 9:55am — 11:10am Professor Robert Gurland

*Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy, preferably V83.0020



Existentialism & Phenomenology V83.0036-001

Monday/Wednesday 9:55am — 11:10am Professor John Richardson

*Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy

The course will introduce and examine the views of key authors in these intertwined movements. After a quick look at Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, main attention will be paid to Husserl, Heidegger and Sartre. Readings from these three will be very difficult; students with little philosophical background are cautioned against attempting the course.

Requirements: 2 mid-sized papers, and perhaps a final exam.




Ethics, Value, and Society


Ethics V83.0040-001

Tuesday/Thursday 1:20pm — 2:35pm Staff



The Nature of Values V83.0041-001

Monday/Wednesday 2:50pm — 4:05pm Professor Sigrun Svavarsdottir

*Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy

The course will focus on the nature of moral judgments and of moral facts. We will start by critically examining a strong subjectivist view according to which there are no moral facts and moral judgments are simply expressions of sentiments. We will then critically examine moral relativism and arguments for and against that position. Finally, we will critically examine some recent attempts to defend moral realism and restore objectivity in morals.

There is a prerequisite for this course. It is highly recommended that students have taken at least 1-2 courses at the V-level in philosophy. The course should be of interest both to students interested in ethics/political philosophy and students interested in philosophy of language/mind and metaphysics.




Medical Ethics V83.0050-001

Monday/Wednesday 6:10pm — 7:25pm Professor James Dwyer

Topics in Ethics and Political Philosophy V83.0097-001

Tuesday/Thursday 2:50pm - 4:05pm Professor Peter Unger

*Prerequisite: Two courses in Philosophy, including either V83.0040, V83.0041, or V83.0052

For this course, the topics selected will be in ethics, and they'll fall into two groups. First, we'll explore the relations between our moral reactions to various particular cases and, on the other side, our reactions to various proposed moral principles. Rather often, there'll be conflicts among these responses; then, how might we best respond to the conflicts? In exploring this key methodological matter, we'll discuss various parallel conflicts that may be found in other areas of philosophy, such as metaphysics, semantics, and epistemology, trying to see what may be learned from the parallels. If things go well, this wide-ranging methodological investigation should be the heart of the course.

Second, we'll discuss various proposals and perplexities regarding substantive questions of morals and values, questions that, even before any encounter with philosophy, occur to very many thoughtful people. Here, we'll discuss questions of the goodness of life and badness of death, issues of abortion and euthanasia, and matters of suffering on the part of "sub-human" beings. In these discussions, we'll try to apply what we may have uncovered in our methodological investigation. Most of our class time will be spent in thoughtful discussion in which, eventually, most students should be heavily involved. Readings will be from contemporary, rather than historical, sources, including quite a lot written by the professor himself, but also quite a lot by others. Students will write two or more drafts of a single paper, whose final draft will be the culmination of their work for the course. There'll be no examinations.



Metaphysics, epistemology. mind, language and Logic


Logic V83.0070-001

Monday/Wednesday 11:55am — 1:10pm Staff



Metaphysics V83.0078-001

Tuesday/Thursday 11.55am — 1:10pm Professor Peter Unger

*Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy

When engaged with questions concerning the nature of whatever may be true reality, we are engaged in metaphysical questions. Here are some of the most general questions that we'll be discussing: What is the relationship between a thing, like a round copper coin, and the properties of the thing, like being round, and being copper, and being a coin? Might things have all their properties be relational properties; or, must at least one of a thing's properties be a non-relational feature, perhaps even being a purely qualitative property of the thing? Is there really only one thing, the whole universe throughout its entire existence, or are there many different things; indeed, what's the difference between the first suggestion - just one thing, and the second - many different things.

As well as such terribly general questions, we'll also be engaged in slightly less general questions, a few of which are these: Is all of reality ultimately physical; or are there other realms, such as a purely mental realm, that are just as basic as, or maybe even more basic than, anything that's physical? What is our own true basic nature; are we purely physical beings, quite completely exhausted by what's in the physical realm, or do we transcend - somehow or other - everything that's physical? And, if we don't transcend what's just purely physical, how can any of us be anything but a mere part of a thoroughly physical reality, as with a snail that, though it might suffer some pain, hasn't any real will at all? But, then, what is it for an entity, whether a coin, or a snail, or one of us, to be physical?

In trying to make progress with these questions, we'll experience much uncomfortable confusion, and very little intellectual satisfaction; then, will we be feeling painful indications of how very limited is our human understanding?

At least for the most part, readings will be from twentieth century sources. Students will write two short papers, generally submitting two drafts of each of the papers. There'll be no examinations.



Philosophy of Mind V83.0080-001

Monday/Wednesday 1:20pm — 2:35pm Professor Noa Latham

*Prerequisite: One course in Philosophy

The focus of this course will be an examination of the place of mind in the physical world. Views to be discussed will include substance dualism, behaviorism, functionalism, psychophysical identity and supervenience, and eliminativism. In the course of this we will assess the prospects for laws linking psychology to physics, and examine the extent to which the mind has causal powers. We will discuss the meaning of the terms "physical" and "mental", and such questions as whether we can have knowledge of other people’s mental states, and whether we ever have certain knowledge of our own mental states. Finally we will examine the special problems arising in understanding consciousness and how it fits into the physical world.



Honors Seminar V83.202-001

To Be Arranged Professor Stephen Schiffer

**Requires Departmental Permission


Independent Study V83.0302-001

To Be Arranged Staff


cross-listed courses

Greek Thinkers V83.0122-001

Monday/Wednesday 2:50pm — 4:05pm Professor Vincent Renzi


Renaissance Philosophy V83.0126-001

Tuesday 1:20pm — 4:00pm Professor Bonnie Kent



General Department Information:


The Philosophy Major

The Department is in the process of changing its requirements for the major. Different requirements are applicable, depending on when the student entered NYU.

For students beginning at NYU before September 1998, the following requirements apply:

A major in philosophy requires eight 4-point V-level (or G-level) courses. These must include: (1) Logic V83.0070; (2) History of Ancient Philosophy V83.0020; (3) History of Modern Philosophy V83.0021; (4) either Ethics V83.0040, The Nature of Values V83.0041, or Political Philosophy V83.0045; (5) either Minds and Machines V83.0015, Belief, Truth and Knowledge V83.0076, Metaphysics V83.0078, Philosophy of Mind V83.0080 or Philosophy of Language V83.0085, and (6) either Topics in the History of Philosophy V83.0101, Topics in Ethics and Political Philosophy V83.0102, Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology V83.0103, Topics in Language and Mind V83.0104.

For students beginning at NYU in September 1998 or after, the following new requirements apply:

A major in Philosophy requires nine 4-point V-level or G-level courses in the department. These must include (1) Logic V83.0070; (2) History of Ancient Philosophy V83.0020; or Advanced Greek Philosophy V83.0023, (3) History of Modern Philosophy V83.0021; (4) Ethics V83.0040, Nature of Values V83.0041, or Political Philosophy V83.0045; (5) Belief, Truth and Knowledge V83.0076, or Metaphysics V83.0078; (6) Minds and Machines V83.0015, Philosophy of Mind V83.0080 or Philosophy of Mind V83.0085 and (7) Topics in the History of Philosophy V83.0101, Topics in Ethics and Political Philosophy V83.0102, Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology V83.0103, or Topics in Language and Mind V83.0104.


Prospective majors are also encouraged to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor John Richardson.


The Philosophy Minor

A minor in philosophy requires four courses in the department, either History of Ancient Philosophy V83.0013 or History of Modern Philosophy V83.0014.


Honors Program

For eligible majors in their senior year. Eligibility requires that the student has completed at least 5 courses in philosophy, with an average in those courses of at least a 3.5, and an overall average of at least 3.0.



This is a year-long program intended to provide an intensive and rewarding culmination tot he philosophy major. Honors students attend a small weekly seminar led by a member of the department, involving discussion of a wide range of philosophical topics. In addition, each participant in the program writes a senior thesis, under the individual guidance of a faculty advisor, on a topic of personal interest.

The seminar is taken for 2 credits in each of the student’s last two semesters. Majors interested in taking part in the program are encouraged to consult Professor Richardson.


philosophy department office — main building, room 503 i

The department administrative assistant is Deborah Bula and the department senior Secretary is Christina Johnson. They will be able to answer many of the questions you may have. Professor’s mailboxes are located within the department office. There are three bulletin boards on which departmental information is posted and updated. The philosophy department phone number is: (2121) 998-8320.


Philosophy Faculty

Professor Paul Boghossian


Professor Ned Block

Director of Graduate Studies

Professor John Richardson

Director of Undergraduate Studies


Members of the Philosophy Department, Spring 1999

Ned Block Room 502 — A

Paul Boghossian Room 503 — B

Hartry Field Room 502 — E

Kit Fine Room 502 — B

John Gibbons Room 513 — A

Robert Gurland Room 513 — B

Frances Kamm Room 503 — K (On leave for Spring, 1999)

Thomas Nagel Room 503 — O

John Richardson Room 503 — C

William Ruddick Room 503 — G

Stephen Schiffer Room 502 — C

Roy Sorenson Room 503 — DD

Sigrun Svavarsdottir Room 503 — L

Peter Unger Room 503 — D



Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophy has a reputation for being otherworldly and impractical — some say "philosophy butters no bread", but it doesn’t really deserve this label. The purpose of philosophy is controversial, but at least one thing it involves is the construction and evaluation of arguments. The study of philosophy is a training of expressing thoughts clearly and precisely, in defending one’s ideas and evaluating the positions of others. Quite simply, philosophy gives a training in thinking. And this is a skill valuable in any professional field.

Philosophy has a special affinity with the legal profession is which arguments, and the application of general rules to cases, play central roles. Many law schools recognize this connection, and are especially receptive to philosophy majors. But philosophical skills are valuable elsewhere as well. In business, you must be able to formulate and clarify problems, to analyze potential solutions, and to defend your approach in a clear and rational way. All these abilities are improved by exercising in philosophical argument. And finally, medical schools and professionals place increasing importance on the ability to reflect in the ethical issues that arise in their practice — and these are of course problems treated in moral philosophy.

Some of these practical beliefs seem reflected in the exceptional performance by philosophy majors on graduate admissions exams. They show that philosophy majors scored higher than any other group on the verbal section of the GRE, and much higher than any other humanities majors on the quantitative section. Philosophy majors are second only to math majors on the GMAT, and third only to math and economics majors on the LSAT. Of course, majors training in philosophy may not be wholly responsible for these results — it might also be that brighter students are entering the field to begin with. But in either case, the report suggests you’re not stupid if you join them.

But this still doesn’t touch on what surely remains the most reasons for studying philosophy. College years shouldn’t just be a professional training. They are a best chance to think about basic human questions — about personal and social values, about the nature of reality and yourselves. Studying philosophy can bring into view questions of lifelong relevance and interest. It can acquaint you with the issues in debates that will always recur, and can help you towards argued positions on such issues. In a very rare case, it might even help determine your direction through life.


updated 12/13/98