Course Descriptions

Section 1

This is a list of courses offered in the current and upcoming semester, together with course descriptions specific to the instructors teaching the course.

For a list of course offerings generated by the university registrar, listing rooms, times, CRNs, and generic course descriptions from Course Explorer, click on the appropriate semester in the menu to the left.

For a list of all courses offered by the Philosophy Department, with information about how regularly they are offered, click here .



PHIL 100 - Intro to Philosophy-ACP ~ Korman 

We will examine a variety of philosophical topics including: what a person is, whether we have free will, whether the universe has an intelligent designer, whether the existence of evil is compatible with the existence of God, whether one can truly have knowledge of the external world, whether it is rational to fear death, whether abortion is morally permissible, and whether it is wrong to eat meat.

Consideration of some main problems of philosophy concerning, for example, knowledge, God, mind and body, and human freedom. Course is identical to PHIL 101 except for the additional writing component. Credit is not given for both PHIL 100 and PHIL 101. Prerequisite: Completion of campus Composition I general education requirement.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy ~ Weaver

We will examine a variety of philosophical topics including: what a person is, whether there can be free will, whether the universe has an intelligent designer, whether there can be morality if there is no God, whether the existence of evil is compatible with the existence of God, whether one can truly have knowledge of the external world, whether time travel is possible, whether it is rational to fear death, whether abortion is morally permissible, whether the war on drugs is unjust, and whether it is wrong to eat meat.

PHIL 102 – Logic and Reasoning ~ McCarthy

Philosophy 102 is an introduction to reasoning. While there may be some variations among sections – perhaps a different text, perhaps a different selection of examples – they will all be courses in informal logic, stressing practical problems and methods. The course is intended to help the student learn to follow and analyze other people’s arguments (e.g., in editorials, textbooks, and legal cases). It should also improve the student’s ability to develop, present, and defend his or her own arguments. In the course of the semester, the student will be introduced to some of the basic laws of reasoning, and also to some of the most common fallacies which occur in reasoning. Less emphasis will be placed on the theory of logic, however, than on working through and learning to deal with actual examples involving reasoning.

PHIL 103 – Logic and Reasoning QR II~ Saenz

In this course, we will be concerned with understanding what makes various kinds of argument good or bad, strong or weak. The course will be divided into two parts. The first part will focus on deductive logic and will introduce students to zeroth-order (sentential) logic and first-order (predicate) logic. The second part will focus on inductive logic and will introduce students to probability and statistics.

By the end of the course, students should be able to distinguish valid and invalid arguments, construct truth tables for well-formed formulas in zeroth-order logic, produce simple proofs in a natural deduction framework, apply Bayes’ Theorem to solve simple probability problems, and much more!

PHIL 103 takes a more formal, mathematical approach than does PHIL 102, and so, it satisfies a level-two quantitative reasoning requirement (QRII).

PHIL 104 - Introduction to Ethics ACP* ~ Varden

 It matters how we live our lives, and how we treat other people.  It is important that we treat other people in the right way, and avoid treating other people in the wrong way.  But what is "rightness" and "wrongness" anyway? The course is designed as an introduction to normative ethics. We will spend most of our time discussing three of the major traditions in ethical theory—Consequentialism, Deontology, and Virtue Ethics.  Along the way, we will discuss some “applied” ethical questions concerning the morality of abortion, poverty, pornography, and the treatment of non-human animals.  We will also explore some questions of moral motivation. An effort will be made to read primary (historical) texts, and to criticize the views of some authors in light of the views of others.

*This course satisfies the Advanced Composition General Education Requirement

PHIL 105 – Introduction to Ethics ~ Varden

Some basic questions of ethics, discussed in the light of influential ethical theories and with reference to specific moral problems, such as: what makes an action morally right? are moral standards absolute or relative? what is the relation between personal morality and social morality, and between social morality and law?

PHIL 106 – Ethics and Social Policy ~

Examination of the moral aspects of social problems, and a survey of ethical principles formulated to validate social policy.

PHIL 107 - Introduction to Political Philosophy ~ Savonius-Wroth

Political philosophy invites the student to reflect on what is, and what has been, really going on in our society and civilization beneath the surface of routine politics. It is a field of study flanked by moral philosophy, on the one hand, and by inquiry into human nature, on the other. The key task which distinguishes political philosophy from cognate fields is the appraisal of what is politically possible in any concrete historical setting. What ideals are imaginable and seem viable in a particular context? Is there a practical alternative to our existing civilization? How can we make a case in its favor and a case against it? This course begins with Thomas More's Utopia of 1516, a classic work which has entered our culture so deeply that its title has become an accepted term for dreams of a better future. The course then traces the subsequent historical evolution of central concepts: state and revolution, liberty and right, capitalism and communism, political corruption and virtue. There will be weekly reading assignments in selections from works by major thinkers. The required textbook is David Wootton, ed., Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche (2nd edn, Indianapolis: Hackett, 2008).

PHIL 109 – Religion and Society in West II ~ Rosenstock

Introduction to classic writers and texts in Western religious and social thought from the Enlightenment to the present, with emphasis on their social and historical contexts.

Same as ANTH 109, PHIL 109, and SOC 109.

PHIL 110 – World Religions ~

Survey of the leading living religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; examination of basic texts and of philosophic theological elaborations of each religion.

Same as PHIL 110. This course can be used to fulfill either Western or Nonwestern general education categories, but not both.

PHIL 191 – Freshman Honors Tutorial ~

Study of selected topics on an individually arranged basis. Open only to honors majors or to Cohn Scholars and Associates.

May be repeated one time. Prerequisite: Consent of departmental honors advisor.

PHIL 202 - Symbolic Logic ~ Gilbert    

This course will study the nature of deductive inference through the construction of a formal language in which such inferences may be expressed. The deductive forms we will consider, comprising what is called elementary logic or quantification theory, are versatile enough to encompass much of our reasoning about relations between objects.  Part of the course will consist in applying these formal methods to concrete reasoning situations, and part of it will involve a study of questions about the scope and adequacy of these methods.  The course requirements will include two hourly examinations and several shorter in class tests.  Homework will be assigned on a weekly basis.

PHIL 203 - Ancient Philosophy ~ Sanders

This course is an introduction to philosophy in ancient Greece. The focus will be on three figures in particular: Socrates – don't worry: I'll explain the difference), Plato, and Aristotle. Our primary goal will be to develop a critical understanding of their respective approaches to, and arguments regarding, a variety of philosophical problems.

PHIL 206 - Early Modern Philosophy ~ Ben Moshe

This course provides an introduction to central themes in several major philosophical figures of the 17th and 18th centuries.  We will concentrate on epistemological and metaphysical issues, including the scientific turn to mechanistic explanation of causation, the nature of substance and the mind/body problem, the role of reason and the senses in knowledge, the nature of the self, and the question of freedom.  The overarching theme of this course is an investigation into the limits of human understanding as undertaken in primary texts of Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant.  Course requirements will include four written assignments.

PHIL 214 - Biomedical Ethics ~ Bryan  

In this course, we'll discuss a few of the many pressing moral problems raised by our medical practices: What kinds of moral duties do doctors have to their patients? What kinds of information must patients have in order for their consent to be morally significant? How do we think about treatment at the beginning and end of life, when patients have not yet developed rational capacities or they have deteriorated? What obligations, if any, do we have to fetuses? What about people in persistent vegetative states? What is it morally acceptable for people who do have their rational faculties to do to their own bodies? May they sell body parts (their kidneys, for instance)? May they end their own lives?

PHIL 250 - Conceptions of Human Nature ~ Bryan

In this course, we’ll discuss two key philosophical problems raised by human nature. First, we’ll consider whether there’s any connection between human nature and what makes for a good human life. Do human beings have natural goals or ends that determine what kind of life is best for them? Or are we free to make ourselves what we will? Second, we’ll consider questions about the relationship between human nature and social life. Are human beings naturally selfish or cooperative? Is justice something we’re naturally inclined toward or a standard that we must be forced by our institutions to meet?

PHIL 307 - Elements Semantics & Pragmatics ~ Schreiner

Introduction to the theory of meaning for natural language, including techniques for the description of lexical meaning, compositional determination of phrase and sentence meaning, and pragmatic effects on interpretation in context.

PHIL 316 – Ethics and Engineering ~ Hillmer


“Ethics and Engineering” is a broad-ranging course in moral theory and practice, open to all disciplines and all majors. The principles studied throughout the semester are applicable to all career paths, and all who are interested are welcome to be members of the class. The course will be structured in three interrelated parts — (1) an introduction to the central themes of the course, (2) a focused study of normative ethics, and (3) an exploration of ethical issues in the practice of a profession applied in the context of engineering, including safety and liability, professional responsibility to clients and employers, legal obligations, codes of ethics, and career choice. A primary objective of our journey in this course will be to explore the fundamental structure of human personhood, the grounding of moral action, and the development of moral character as the precondition of integral work in a profession. Case studies will provide an important methodological lens for our discussions together in class.

The course fulfills credit as an upperdivision class in advanced composition, for which the University of Illinois requires twenty to thirty pages of revised writing as a minimum standard. In order to fulfill this requirement, each member of the class will write and revise three response papers — an article analysis (three pages), a case study (three pages), and a paper on normative ethical theories (six pages) — a research paper on a topic of your own choosing (ten pages), and a personal mission statement reflecting on your life work and career path (three pages). All members of the course will also give a ten-minute presentation on their research project in class at the end of the semester. The research paper and class presentation function together as the final examination for the course. We will be using as a textbook the fourth edition of Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases by Harris, Pritchard, and Rabins (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2009), together with an integrated three-volume set of readings in moral theory and applied ethics available through the Illini Union Bookstore.

PHIL 380 - Current Controversies ~ Varden

Topic: Philosophy of Sex, Love, and Gender.

This course focuses on central themes explored in historical and current research on the philosophy of sex, love, and gender. We will look at a set of issues, namely embodiment, gender and sexual identity and orientation, marriage, sexual violence, trade in sexual services, and oppression. Among the philosophers whose works we will engage are Nancy Bauer, Talia Bettcher, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Annie Cahill, Ann Cudd, Penelope Deutscher, Elizabeth Emens, Michel Foucault, Carol Hay, Barbara Herman, Cressida Heyes, Rae Langton, Rachel McKinnon, Martha Nussbaum, Laurie Shrage, Anita Superson, and Shay Welsh.

PHIL 390 - Individual Study ~

Readings in selected philosophical topics. Course may be taken by honors students in partial fulfillment of department honors requirements.

May be repeated to a maximum of 6 hours in separate terms. Prerequisite: Open to juniors and seniors with a grade-point average of 3.0 only by prior arrangement with a member of the faculty and with consent of the department director of undergraduate studies or the chair.

PHIL 412 - Classical Modern Philosophers ~ Weinberg

Topic: Locke and Leibniz

John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding was the most widely read philosophical text in English from the end of the seventeenth century through most of the eighteenth century.  Locke is also known as the first of the great British empiricists following the widespread influence of Cartesian rationalism.  Indeed, G.W. Leibniz, one of the most philosophically rich of the seventeenth century rationalists felt it necessary to rebut Locke paragraph by paragraph in one of his best works entitled New Essays on Human Understanding.  This course focuses on Locke’s empiricist arguments in the Essay against innate ideas, the nature and empirical origins of knowledge, a reply to the Cartesian skeptic, mechanistic explanation, the nature of substance, personal identity, and moral motivation and then considers Leibniz’s rationalist criticisms and responses in light of his own philosophical project as found in the New Essays and other of Leibniz’s work.  Course requirements may include: a series of (2-3) short 1-2 page papers; two 5-7 page papers, and a final 10-12 page paper.

PHIL 414 - Major Recent Philosophers ~ Bojanowski

Topic: John Rawls

This course is devoted to John Rawls’s political philosophy. Together with Plato’sRepublicand Thomas Hobbes’sLeviathan, Rawls’sA Theory of Justiceis the most important contribution to political philosophy. In the past forty years contemporary political philosophy has been, for the most part, a response to Rawls’s theory. In this course we will read his groundbreaking bookA theory of Justiceas well as parts of his later worksPolitical LiberalismandJustice as Fairness. We will focus on Rawls’s theory of distributive justice and we will consider the most important criticisms. In particular, we will assess his methodology (the debate between real politics and ideal theory) and the normative content of his principles of justice (how much (if any) inequality is justified?).

PHIL 419 – Space, Time, and Matter-ACP ~ Ceperley

Philosophical examination of some fundamental concepts and theories of the physical world, such as time, matter, space, and geometry; interpretation of quantum theory.  Identical to PHYS 420 except for the additional writing component including a final term paper.

PHIL 420 – Space, Time, and Matter ~ Ceperley

Philosophical examination of some fundamental concepts and theories of the physical world, such as time, matter, space, and geometry; interpretation of quantum theory.

PHIL 422 – Recent Developments in Ethics ~ Ben Moshe

In this course, we will examine two key questions of meta-ethics and practical reason: 1) What makes normative and moral judgments correct and incorrect? 2) How do normative and moral judgments relate to our actions? We will commence the course witha briefhistorical survey of moral philosophy, while focusing on the change in the debate vis-à-vis the status of moral values from ancient times to the modern era (following the scientific revolution). We will then proceed to discuss the early meta-ethicists of the 20th century. Among other things, we will examine Moore’s "open question" argument, Ayer’s and Stevenson’s emotivism, and Mackie’s error theory.We will then study various contemporaryrealist and anti-realist positions about value, whilepaying special attention tothe role of idealizationin discussions of both normative/moral judgments and practical reasons. We will conclude the course with a detailed examination of Korsgaard's recent Kantianproject of grounding normativity and morality in agency.

PHIL 424 - Philosophy of Religion ~ Weaver

Arguing about gods: This course aims to guide students through a critical evaluation of contemporary arguments for atheism and arguments for both monotheistic and non-monotheistic deities, discussions of the coherence of theism, and various replies to arguments for the existence of deities.

PHIL 436 - Philosophy of Law and of the State ~ Bryan

Examination of issues in the philosophy of law, such as the nature of law, law and morality, justice, liberty and authority, punishment, and legal responsibility.

PHIL 439 - Philosophy of Mathematics ~ McCarthy

We shall discuss some basic issues in the foundations and philosophy of mathematics.  The basic philosophical issues concern the nature of mathematical truth and the possibility and conditions of mathematical knowledge.  Among the questions to be considered are the following: are the theorems of pure mathematics objectively true or false, independently of the mental? If so, what makes them true or false? In particular, are there specifically “mathematical” objects and, if so, how can we know about them? Are there properly basic concepts in mathematics – concepts from which all other mathematical notions can somehow be derived – and, if so, what are they? In particular, does a theory unfolding the concept of a set or class provide   a satisfactory foundation for mathematics? Are there limits to our mathematical knowledge?  Finally, we will join an ongoing discussion sparked by the logician Kurt Gödel, who famously claimed “Either mathematics is too big for the human mind, or the human mind is more than a machine.”

PHIL 453 - Formal Logic and Philosophy ~ Gilbert

This course is intended to provide the logical foundation necessary for understanding, and engaging with, contemporary philosophical writing. Though the approach and content will be quite formal, many of the logical systems to be considered are motivated by philosophical concerns, and these will also be discussed. In addition to standard propositional and first-order logic, we will look at, for example, intuitionistic logics, multi-valued logics, modal logics, and logics for counterfactuals, as well as extensions thereof. Prerequisite: Phil 202 or permission of the instructor.

PHIL 471 - Contemporary Philosophy of Science ~ Livengood

In this course, our focus will be on scientific method. In thinking about scientific method, we will consider three threads that run through the fabric of the philosophy of science. First, we will consider hypothesis formation, meaning, and testability. Second, we will look at induction and probability. Finally, we will look at causation and explanation. Throughout the course, we will be interested in the nature of evidence and in the relationship between evidence and theory choice.

PHIL 492 - Thesis

PHIL 501 - Seminar on History of Philosophy ~ Sussman

This seminar will examine Kant’s ethical theory and the moral psychology that serves as its foundation. Kant holds that morality is distinguished by a special type of motivation that can only be the exercise of “pure” practical reason. We will consider just what such reason is supposed to be, and how it is related to the autonomy and freedom of the will. We will also consider how such moral reason and the special feeling of respect relate to the rest of our emotional economy, with particular attention to Kant’s understanding of self-love, virtue, “rational faith”, and the “radical evil” in human nature.

PHIL 521 - Grounding ~ Saenz

The landscape of ontology is changing. Under the Quinean conception, ontology is primarily concerned with what exists. But many are beginning to think otherwise. The key questions of ontology are not, they say, existence questions (which are often times easily answered) but grounding questions. In this class, we will examine the nature and import of grounding and other related notions (such as fundamentality, ontological dependence, and truthmaking). What is grounding? What are its relata? What principles are true of it (it is irreflexive, asymmetric, and transitive)? How does grounding relate to modality? We will also look at some disputes over what grounds what. In particular, we will look into the dispute over fundamental mereology (are wholes grounded in their parts or is it the other way around). Questions concerning fundamentality will also be investigated. What things are fundamental? Is there a fundamental level or is it instead turtles all the way down?

PHIL 530 – Writing Seminar ~ Korman

The course will serve as a workshop in which advanced graduate students develop, present, and discuss material that will ultimately be included in their dissertations. One central objective of the course is to learn the necessary skills for developing papers and dissertation chapters into articles that are suitable for submission to conference and journals. Class meetings will be structured around conference-style presentations and intensive workshopping of the presented papers.

PHIL        583         Individual Topics

PHIL        590         Directed Research

PHIL        599         Thesis Research