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 ~ Frank (Fall 2018)

This course introduces the student to the discipline of philosophy through many of its most important and fascinating questions.  What is knowledge and what are its limits?  Do humans have free will?  Is the mind immaterial or material?  Could a computer be a thinking thing?  What is it to be a person?  Is it possible for there to be an afterlife? Does God exist, or is the existence of evil incompatible with the existence of God?  What makes an action right or wrong?  Is abortion morally permissible?  Do we have a moral duty to donate to charity or to provide aid to those much worse off than ourselves?  In thinking about these questions, students will improve their abilities to evaluate arguments and construct arguments of their own.

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 ~ Bryan (Fall 2018)

What does it mean to be a human being? Are some ways of living better than others? What can I really know about myself and the world around me? Is there a God? Does my life have any meaning? Most of us will ask philosophical questions like these at some point in our lives. All of us will answer them. (To fail to confront these questions is itself a kind of answer). In this course, we’ll work through these and other questions together as we read classic treatments of them by influential philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, Nietzsche, and Sartre.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy ~ Lee, Seungil (Fall 2018)

This class is an introduction to some of the major problems in philosophy, including: whether we can obtain knowledge about the world, whether the mind and the body could be independent of each other, whether material objects are mere bundles of qualities, whether time really flows, whether God exists, and whether we could make sense of human rights without God. By trying to answer these questions, you will learn how to support your views with rational arguments, which will be incredibly important regardless of the field you choose.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy ~ Bryan (Spring 2019)

What does it mean to be a human being? Are some ways of living better than others? What can I really know about myself and the world around me? Is there a God? Does my life have any meaning? Most of us will ask philosophical questions like these at some point in our lives. All of us will answer them. (To fail to confront these questions is itself a kind of answer). In this course, we’ll work through these and other questions together as we read classic treatments of them by influential philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, Nietzsche, and Sartre.

PHIL 102 – Logic and Reasoning (Online Course) ~ Edwards (Fall 2018)

Practical study of logical reasoning. Involves studying informal fallacies and syllogistic logic and assessing the logical coherence of what we read and write.

PHIL 102 – Logic and Reasoning ~ Frank (Fall 2018)

Much of what we believe is based on argument.  This course teaches the student to better identify arguments and to evaluate them as being good or bad through the study of formal logic, informal reasoning, and fallacies.  Topics to be discussed include deduction and induction, sentential logic, categorical logic, statistical reasoning, reasoning about causes, probability theory, hypothesis testing, and decision theory.  

PHIL 103 – Logic and Reasoning QR II~ Levinstein (Fall 2018)

Logic and Reasoning is an introductory logic course concerned with understanding the goodness (or badness) of various kinds of argument. The course is divided into two units: Basic Logic and Basic Probability Theory. The course takes a more formal, mathematical approach than PHIL 102, so it satisfies a level-two quantitative reasoning requirement (QRII).

PHIL 104 - Introduction to Ethics ACP* ~ Bryan (Fall 2018)

In this course we’ll consider a variety of important questions about how we should live: What would be the best kind of life for me? Is the good life connected to what I feel or want—a life of pleasure or the satisfaction of my desires? Or is it something more objective? And what would be morally right way for me to live? Is morality about maximizing good consequences? Are some things just plain wrong, even if they produce good results? Is morality really all about character? How, if at all, is morality related to God? How should we think about particular moral problems like poverty, abortion, or the moral status of animals?

PHIL 104 - Introduction to Ethics ACP* ~ Sussman

 This course will consider different ways of understanding the distinction between what is morally right and wrong. We will focus on consequentialist theories, that see morality as a matter of improving the world, contractarian views, that see morality in terms of a kind of idealized agreement for human interactions, Kantian theory, which focuses on the idea of respect for rational agents, and virtue theoretical accounts that take ideals of human character and human flourishing as their starting points. These theories will be explored with reference to such contemporary issues as abortion, the treatment of animals, and world poverty.

*This course satisfies the Advanced Composition General Education Requirement

PHIL 105 – Introduction to Ethics ~ Smith (Fall 2018)

This course is an introduction to ethical theory, understood as the philosophical study of morality. We will start by getting a sense of how to do philosophy in general before briefly engaging with some foundational issues in ethical theory. Then, we will move on to discussing three prominent approaches to ethical theory: utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Aristotelian virtue ethics. In addition, at various points in the course we will also consider moral questions having to do with particular issues of contemporary concern, such as famine relief, pornography, and abortion.

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 ~ S-J Savonius-Wroth (Fall 2018)

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 ~ Weaver (Fall 2018)

PHIL 202 Symbolic Logic immerses students in classical propositional logic, and classical first-order logic with relational predicates, identity, and definite descriptions (i.e., one will learn how to use the iota operator).

PHIL 203 - Ancient Philosophy ~ Sanders (Fall 2018)

This course is an introduction to philosophy in ancient Greece. The focus will be on three figures in particular: Socrates (or maybe “Socrates”), 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 ~ Weinberg (Fall 2018)

What is the relation between mind and world? What can we know with certainty and how reliable are our scientific explanations?What is the role of reason and of the senses in the attainment of knowledge?In this course, we will attempt to answer these metaphysical andepistemologicalquestions by focusing on the major philosophical figures of the 17thand 18thcenturies. The overarching theme of the course is an investigation into skepticism and the nature of human understanding as undertaken by the rationalists (Descartes and Leibniz), the empiricists (Locke, Berkeley, and Hume), and Kant.

PHIL 210 - Ethics ~ Ellis (Summer 2018)

Philosophers in the existentialist tradition (e.g., Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger) were concerned with the notion of authenticity and/or its close relatives (e.g., individual freedom and taking responsibility for one’s life and its value). To live an authentic life is, roughly-speaking, to commit wholeheartedly to one’s freely chosen principles. On the face of it, this sounds like the right way to live. But it also seems that there ought to be some strict moral limitations on what principles can be chosen and how wholeheartedly committed to them we are permitted to be. This course will, through classic readings and films, examine the value of authenticity and its potential moral limits. These are just a few of the questions we will ask:

What does it mean to live an authentic life?
Why is authenticity valuable? And is it a moral value?
What is the relationship between authenticity and freedom?
Does living an authentic life require rejecting universal moral principles?
Can morally bad people live authentic lives?

Some of the authors we’ll look at: Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hazel Barnes, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, Charles Taylor

PHIL 210 - Ethics - Violence, Deception, and Oppression ~ Varden (Fall 2018)

There is little disagreement that, in general, we should not kill, lie, or torture. There is much more disagreement and confusion about whether or not there are exceptions to these rules. There is also little disagreement that we should not oppress others. Yet our societies are rife with phenomena such as racism, sexism, and heterosexism, all seemingly exceptions to the general rule not to engage in oppression. Is there a similar disagreement and confusion about whether those exceptions are justified? In this course we will explore a series of contemporary writings on these and closely related topics, such as killing in self-defense, lying, abortion, war and genocide, racist and sexual violence, terrorism, and torture.

PHIL 214 - Biomedical Ethics ~ Bryan (Spring 2019)  

In this course, we'll discuss some 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 ~ Newton (Fall 2018)

This course will examine various theories of human nature, from ancient to modern times. We will begin with Plato and Aristotle, for whom we share with non-rational animals both perception and desire, but differ from them due to our intellect (reason). We will then look at the various ways in which modern thinkers (from Hume and Descartes to Kant) reflect on and revise the traditional definition of man as a‘rational animal’. Finally, we will look at Heidegger’s and Sartre’s radical transformations of the concept of the human.

PHIL 270 - Philosophy of Science ~

PHIL 270 is an introductory level survey course that aims to inform students about the
main philosophical positions, and the main philosophical controversies on various issues
in analytic philosophy of science. The course includes introductory level readings on the
central themes of philosophy of science from leading voices in the discipline. The course
provides an opportunity for students to articulate and defend a thesis related to the topics
addressed in the readings or lectures by way of authoring one argumentative research

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 ~

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 404 - History of Medieval Philosophy ~ Wengert (Fall 2018)

This course is an introduction to the history of philosophy in the middle ages.  We shall cover the period from the end of the Classical period to the fifteenth century.  We shall use Anthony Kenny’s Medieval Philosophy as an over-arching guide to philosophy in the middle ages. We shall read the authors themselves in selections that occur in the other text, Philosophy in the Middle Ages, 3rd edition, edited by Hyman, Walsh and Williams.  Both of these texts are in paper. Kenny’s text is available on Kindle. There will also be a set of outlines and other material available on the Compass web site for the course.

We shall concentrate on philosophical issues, but it will be impossible to separate these completely from religious and theological matters.  We will spend most time on Scholastic figures such as Aquinas, Scotus and Ockham.

Students will be required to write two papers.  The first paper will be short (5 pp), and students will be allowed to rewrite it.  The second paper will be longer (10pp or more) and on a topic of your choice. There will also be a small research assignment.

There will be a take-home final examination, but no midterm.

Texts:  Medieval Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy, Volume 2, by Anthony Kenny, Oxford University Press (Paperback, 2007)

ISBN-13: 978-0198752745

Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditionsby Arthur Hyman, James J. Walsh, and Thomas Williams (Paperback- 2010) Third Edition Hackett Publishing Co.


--Both texts are also available on Kindle.

PHIL 410 - Classical Ancient Philosophers ~

For roughly 2/3 of the semester, we will use ancient accounts of Socrates’ trial to structure our investigation into the historical figure of Socrates and his cultural/philosophical milieu. The last 1/3 of the semester will be largely devoted to a look at some of Plato’s so-called “Socratic” dialogues and key issues in the “philosophy of Socrates” as represented therein. If time permits, we will also look briefly at the reception of Socrates by a selection of later philosophers.

PHIL 412 - Locke and Leibniz ~ Weinberg (Fall 2018)

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; one 5-7 page paper, and a final 10-12 page paper.

PHIL 412 - Classical Modern Philosophers ~ Newton (Fall 2018)

Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment is a remarkable and influential study of two kinds of judgment: judgments about beauty (in nature and in art) and judgments about organisms. In this course we will read and interpret the entire book, with an emphasis on the following topics. First, what sort of judgments are aesthetic judgments (judgments about beauty) and teleological judgments (judgments about organisms)? Second, how do Kant’s discussions of beauty and of organic nature contribute to his overall project in the third Critique of bridging the gap between nature and freedom, or between theoretical and practical employments of reason? Finally, why does the possibility of realizing freedom in nature lead Kant to think of the whole of nature as a system of purposes?

PHIL 414 - Major Recent Philosophers ~

Topic: Hilary Putnam

Hilary Putnam, who died in March, 2016, was one of the most influential and sharply original of recent American philosophers. Putnam’s work transformed the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and metaphysics, and played a central role in logic and the philosophy of science. This course will trace the development of the major themes in Putnam’s philosophy. Central to the discussion will be the intricate links between Putnam’s work and that of his Harvard colleague W.V.O. Quine: much of Putnam’s work can be seen as a reaction, positive or negative, to Quine’s, the early work largely negative and the middle to later work much more positive. Among the works of Putnam we shall consider are a number of articles from Putnam’s Philosophical Papers, volumes I-III, covering the period 1960-82 (Cambridge), Meaning and the Moral Sciences (Routledge, 1978), Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge, 1981), and The Threefold Cord (Columbia, 1999).

Course requirements: two 8-10 page papers and a course presentation.  

PHIL 419 – Space, Time, and Matter-ACP ~ Weaver (Fall 2018)

Space, Time, and Matter is an advanced and intensive history and philosophy of physics course that aims to (a) introduce students to the history of both theoretical and experimental physics (more specifically we will travel from Aristotle’s physics all the way to the development of the standard model of particle physics), (b) briefly introduce students to the basic formulae and accompanying (sometimes competing interpretations) of classical Newtonian mechanics, classical electrodynamics (both 3- vector and relativistic versions), thermodynamics, (classical) Boltzmannian statistical mechanics, special relativity, general relativity, the standard L-CDM cosmological model, and both non-relativistic and relativistic quantum mechanics, (c) introduce students to debates in the foundations of physics, and (d) give special attention to philosophical debates concerning scientific realism and anti-realism, the relationship between the manifest and scientific images, and the nature of space and time.

PHIL 420 – Space, Time, and Matter ~ Weaver (Fall 2018)

Space, Time, and Matter is an advanced and intensive history and philosophy of physics course that aims to (a) introduce students to the history of both theoretical and experimental physics (more specifically we will travel from Aristotle’s physics all the way to the development of the standard model of particle physics), (b) briefly introduce students to the basic formulae and accompanying (sometimes competing interpretations) of classical Newtonian mechanics, classical electrodynamics (both 3- vector and relativistic versions), thermodynamics, (classical) Boltzmannian statistical mechanics, special relativity, general relativity, the standard L-CDM cosmological model, and both non-relativistic and relativistic quantum mechanics, (c) introduce students to debates in the foundations of physics, and (d) give special attention to philosophical debates concerning scientific realism and anti-realism, the relationship between the manifest and scientific images, and the nature of space and time.

PHIL 421 – Ethical Theories ~ Sussman

This course will explore the distinction between justice and virtue in four classical ethical theories. We start with Aristotle’s conception of the distinction in the Nicomachean Ethics as well as in his Politics. We will then turn to modern moral theories. First we will look at Immanuel Kant’s accounts of virtue and of justice in The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals and in The Metaphysics of Morals, and second to John Stuart Mill’s treatment of the issue in On Utilitarianism and On Liberty. We end the course by looking at a more contemporary existentialist view of justice and virtue in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.

PHIL 421 – Ethical Theories ~ Bryan (Spring 2019)

In this course we’ll read three classic texts in ethical theory—Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism. We’ll discuss these classics alongside more recent literature that engages with the theories these classic texts pioneered.

PHIL 422 – Recent Developments in Ethics: New Technologies and Social Change ~ Bryan (Fall 2018)

There are a number of new technologies on the horizon that promise positive social change. Many of them, however, raise difficult moral questions. In this course, we’ll explore some of those questions. Here are just a few: Self-driving cars promise to save lives, but how should we program them to handle situations on where some kind of collision is inevitable, and they have to choose whom to run into? Who should be liable for damages done by self-driving vehicles? If technology makes the skills of large segments of society obsolete, should we provide a universal basic income? How do the rules of the road or of the sky need to change as we introduce self-driving cars or aerial drones?

PHIL 424 - Philosophy of Religion ~

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 425 - Philosophy of Mind ~ Frank (Fall 2018)

What is the mind?  How does it relate to the body and, more generally, to the physical world?  Consider the variety of mental states, events, and processes of which the mind is capable: qualitative experience (such as the taste of a lemon or the smell of a rose); thought, belief, desire, and intention; and awareness of one’s own mental states, to name but a few.  In this course, we will consider three main aspects of the mind-body problem: (i) the nature of the mind and its relation to the physical, (ii) consciousness and its place in nature, and (iii) the representational capacities of the mind.  Are mental states simply brain states?  Are there irreducibly mental substance or properties, or is the mental reducible to the physical?  What is the nature of consciousness?  Is consciousness distinctive to humans, or might animals and certain machines also possess consciousness?  How do minds represent the world?  What is the nature of belief and desire?  How these questions are answered will better enable us to understand how the mind may be studied empirically, if at all, and will help sharpen our understanding of our own minds and their place in nature.

PHIL 426 - Metaphysics ~

Investigation of various metaphysical issues concerning, for example, abstract objects, existence, material objects, modality, personal identity, properties, and time.

PHIL 429 - Value Theory ~

This course will consider what is is for something to be good. Is there anything interesting that all good things have in common, such as a special natural or non-natural property, or is talk of goodness nothing more than an expression of desire, approval, or preference? Must all good be good for somebody or something? Is anything objectively good, or are all goods relative to a person or a community? Must agents see their own ends as good, or is the good something we might coherently reject or rebel against? We will be particularly concerned with the nature of moral goods, and how they might be related to other kinds of goods we recognize. Can all goods be rationally compared, and do pleasure or happiness have a special role in such reflections? How far can we partake in non-moral goods without ourselves being morally good? Can something be truly beautiful or pleasant if it is also wicked?

PHIL 430 - Theory of Knowledge ~ Levinstein (Fall 2018)

This class is an introductory survey of (mostly contemporary) epistemology: the theory of knowledge and rational belief. We’ll discuss a wide range of topics, including: the possibility that we are brains in vats; whether the concept of knowledge can be fully analyzed; what makes a belief rational or justified; the relationship between belief, partial belief, and probability; how rational belief relates to evidence; and whether two fully rational people can ever disagree if they have the same evidence.

PHIL 435 - Social Philosophy ~

What are the characteristics of a genuinely civilized, enlightened society? Can we hope to create it? Do we have good recipes for wholesale social improvement, or would a civilized society be, not a system created by social engineers, but simply an aggregation of civilized individuals? Does our hope for a more enlightened society lie in "progress" and "development", or have we reached the point where "development" has become degeneration? Does enlightenment entail, not a progressive movement in a forward direction, but rather a return to such neglected riches of our intellectual heritage as "liberty, equality, fraternity"? This course is concerned with two strongly contrasting ways of thinking about enlightenment and a genuinely civilized society. The first way has become hegemonic. Current orthodoxy, especially in Anglophone social philosophy, invites us to think of the ideal society and the freedom of its individual citizens in liberal terms inherited from the early-modern works of Thomas Hobbes and Bernard Mandeville. However, we have also inherited a rival republican way of thinking, originally classical Greek and Roman, but developed in the early-modern works of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This course begins with a survey of the classical arguments of Aristotle and Cicero. Then we trace the early-modern evolution of the rival enlightenments of Hobbes and Mandeville, and of Locke and Rousseau. We conclude by assessing the relative merits of thinking about social improvement in these rival ways. Students are expected to obtain hard (paper) copies of the following works, available for purchase in the Illini Union Bookstore: Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge); Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge); Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees and Other Writings, ed. E.J. Hundert (Indianapolis); and Rousseau, The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings, ed. and trans. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge).

PHIL 436 - The Philosophy of Law and the State ~ Varden (Fall 2018)

Virtually every liberal state has some sort of coercive redistribution of resources (welfare) in order to help those in need. In Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick famously argues that we cannot justify any coercive redistribution of resources beyond that required for each person, through employment, to have access to an original fair share of the material resources. Any further redistribution must come through voluntary charity and gifts even if this entails that some do not have their basic needs met. This view has been, and currently is, both fiercely attacked and fiercely defended in contemporary liberal theory and political life. In this course, we will take a fresh look at this discussion. We will begin by exploring the John Locke’s liberal theories of justice as it sets the stage for much of the contemporary discussion. We will pay special attention to why liberal theories—because they are grounded in individual rights and freedom—find it particularly challenging to justify coercive redistribution of material resources in response to need. We will then consider and evaluate the success of four contemporary treatments of the problem found in the liberal theories of Robert Nozick, A. John Simmons, (the later) John Rawls, and the republican Kantian tradition. 

PHIL 439 - Philosophy of Mathematics ~

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 443 - Phenomenology ~

This course is an introduction to the twentieth century movement of European philosophy known as ‘phenomenology’. Phenomenology literally translates as the study (logos) of the way things appear (phenomena), but the phenomenologists tried to distinguish their method of investigating appearances both from empirical psychology and from the transcendental methods of traditional metaphysics. In this course, we will focus on two main themes in the writings of authors from within the phenomenological tradition. In the first half of the course, we will look at phenomenological conceptions of the self and of self-awareness. In the second half, we will study the phenomenology of action and of intention in action.

PHIL 454 - Advanced Symbolic Logic ~

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 ~

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 the History of Philosophy ~

"Nietzsche and Freud on Mind and Morality"

The course will introduce students to central themes in Nietzsche's and Freud's psychology and philosophy. In particular, we will examine these thinkers' accounts of the mind, conscience, and agency, as well as their genealogical method and understanding of society, religion, and morality.

PHIL 511 - Freedom and the Reactive Attitudes ~

In this seminar, we will consider the ethical consequences of determinism. Determinism is the fairly popular view that every state of the universe is determined by the prior state along with the laws of nature. If this were so, would we ever possess sufficient agency to really be blamed (let alone properly punished) for anything we do? We will pay particular attention to P.F. Strawson’s suggestion that responsibility is to be understood in terms of certain interpersonal attitudes, such as resentment, gratitude, love, and forgiveness that make sense independent of any interesting metaphysical assumptions. We will consider what this approach holds for such difficult cases as addiction, psychopathy, agent-regret and “moral luck”. Readings from Frankfurt, Strawson, Wallace, Williams, Kolnai, Darwall, Mason, Nussbaum, Watson, Bennett, Scanlon, and Wolf, et. al.

PHIL 512 - Seminar in Social Philosophy: Theories of Justice ~ Murphy (Fall 2018)

This seminar focuses on justice. We examine historical and contemporary accounts of justice in general, as well as accounts of particular kinds of justice.  The particular kinds of justice upon which we focus are: distributive justice, corrective justice, retributive justice, international justice, and transitional justice.

PHIL 517 - Philosophy [and Metaphysics] of Physical Science ~

Singular deterministic causation, says orthodoxy, is an asymmetric, transitive, irreflexive, two-place relation between events. There is hardly any agreement on anything else in the literature, and there are substantial objections to orthodoxy. There is, of course, more to uncover even after accepting orthodoxy. For example, what is the place of causation in physics and the special sciences? How does causation relate to laws of nature? Is causation universal? Is it well-founded (is there a first-cause)? Does causation reduce to law-governed non-causal physical history, or is it in some sense fundamental? Beginning with substantial discussion of metaphysical methodology (particularly how metaphysics relates to fundamental inquiry in physics), PHIL 517 will explore these and related questions.

PHIL 521 - Composition ~ Saenz (Fall 2018)

Questions about parts and wholes are ubiquitous in metaphysics. Indeed, one of the central metaphysical questions of the past three decades or so is the following: under what conditions do some things compose another? In this class, we will examine the existence, nature, and import of composition. We will, among others, ask and try to answer ‘What is composition?’, ‘Is composition identity?’, ‘Are there any composite entities?’, ‘Is composition fundamental?’, ‘Is composition a natural relation?’, ‘Is composition a dependence relation?’, and ‘How do composition and grounding relate?’. Along the way, we will be forced to examine issues surrounding parthood, identity, plural logic, fundamentality, grounding, and naturalness.

PHIL 530 – Writing Seminar ~

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