PHIL450 - Senior Seminar in Philosophy -- Spring 2018

Syllabus – keep handy for reference


Dr. Aeon J. Skoble

341 Tillinghast, x2460

Email:     Web:

Office hours: MTR 11-12, or by appointment



The Bourgeois Virtues, Deirdre N. McCloskey (Univ of Chicago Press, 2006)

Additional readings may be distributed in class or via the course web page.


Overview and objectives:

This senior seminar is meant to be the capstone course of your undergraduate philosophy studies.  The main idea is for you to have an opportunity to synthesize what you have learned over the years in your various courses, attempt to make sense of it, and write a reflective essay which ties it all together.  The seminar is conceived by the department as involving three lenses through which you are to reexamine your work: 1, the history of philosophy; 2, philosophical problems; and 3, application of philosophy to (or interface with) other disciplines.  By focusing on these three perspectives, you will be able to synthesize and reflect on your previous philosophical studies and development.  Subject matter will include both analytic and normative material, and ultimately result in a synoptic reflective essay which enables you to make sense of what you have learned, and communicate this to others.  Besides the instructor, other members of the department will participate on an occasional basis.  The McCloskey book is intended to give us fodder for discussion, and to stimulate further thought on your part about some of the many issues it raises, particularly as they relate to your prior coursework in philosophy.   In another sense, though, the main “texts” for the course are all of your philosophical writings to date.  You should round up all of your previous written work in philosophy, as you’ll be asked to summarize and reflect on it.



The chief tangible product is the reflective capstone essay, which I would expect to be roughly in the 18-22 page ballpark.  You will be asked to write several shorter essays which will end up being parts of the longer final essay.  It’s possible that you will be asked to go back to papers written for previous classes and revise.  (Since each of you has followed a different trajectory to arrive here, your first homework assignment is to compile and submit an annotated bibliography of all your previous philosophy papers so I can see what you have to work with.)

In addition to the writing, regular and actively participatory attendance is a requirement.  This is the senior seminar in your major department, so I will expect you to bring all your enthusiasm about philosophy to class with you each week.  You should have done all assigned readings prior to class, and be ready (indeed eager) to discuss them.  I shouldn’t need to police attendance in this context, but nevertheless excessive absence and lateness will result in grade reductions.  Plagiarism will result in failure of the course and possibly expulsion.

General Outline:

Week of:         Topic, reading assignment for that week; other notes:

Jan 15              Distribution of syllabus; intro to course; review of methodology

Jan 22              discussion of philosophical writing and research, discussion of main areas of philosophy and student bibliographies 

Jan 29              Focus: history of philosophy

Feb 5              (No class 2/8)

Feb 12

Feb 19             Focus: problems in philosophy

Feb 26

Mar 5              Spring Break week    

Mar 12            

Mar 19            Focus: cross-disciplinary interface/applications

Mar 26  

Apr 2              

Apr 9  

Apr 16             Focus: putting it all together

Apr 23




Final reflective essay is due NLT Friday May 4th, 12:00 noon