Graduate Course Descriptions

Below 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, please visit the Course Explorer.

For a list of all courses offered by the Philosophy Department, with information about how regularly they are offered, please visit the Course Catalog.

For a list of previous seminars offered to our graduate students, please visit Previous Graduate Seminars.

 

FALL SEMESTER 2022

PHIL/PHYS 419/420 - Space, Time, and Matter ~ Weaver 

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 scientific thought before Aristotle 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, early kinetic theory, thermodynamics, (classical) Boltzmannian statistical mechanics, special relativity, general relativity, the standard LAMBDA-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 matter, space, time, and spacetime.

PHIL 430 - Theory of Knowledge ~ Livengood 

Investigation of issues concerning, for example, the nature and possibility of knowledge; its forms and limits; its relation to belief, truth, and justification; and the nature of truth. 3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.

PHIL 433 - Evolutionary Neuroscience ~ Rhodes 

Current methods, tools, and progress in evolutionary biology and quantitative genetics of brain and behavior of vertebrates.  3 undergraduate hours. 4 graduate hours. 

PHIL 435 - Social Philosophy ~ Savonius-Wroth 

One problem is fundamental to social philosophy: the problem of ideal human relations. Yet this single problem raises further puzzles about human identity, the nature of community, and about the limits of our knowledge. What does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to live in a human community? What holds our community together? And can we claim to know what ought to bind us together—and to know how we ought to behave towards one another? This course begins with ancient answers: we read selections from classics by Plato and Aristotle. Then we turn to distinctly modern solutions: we read selections from the chief works by John Locke and Bernard Mandeville. Finally we consider the divide between ancient and modern philosophy—and perhaps allow ourselves to dream of a better society. 

PHIL 471 - Contemporary Philosophy of Science ~ Muntean

We often inquire about the world around us with questions like: “How does X work?” “Why does Y work?” Why not ask then: “How does science work?” This very question and some of its answers stemming from a philosophical perspective constitute the motivation for this course. Why should we seek philosophical answers to questions about science? Isn’t science itself able to address them? The premise of this course is that foundational questions about science have enticing philosophical answers. Philosophy and science are similar in many respects: they aspire to ascertain some ultimate truths about the world, and they both share common ideals: rationality, objectivity, facts, truth, etc., and lastly, answering foundational questions.

Please email Ioan Muntean imuntean@illinois.edu if you have questions.

PHIL 512 - Seminar Social Philosophy ~ Bojanowski

Seminar designed to study special problems in social philosophy. See Schedule for current topics. Approved for letter and S/U grading. May be repeated. Letter grading applies when offered for 4 hours of credit. For Stage 3 Philosophy PhD students this course is approved for S/U grading when offered for 2 hours of credit. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor for non-philosophy graduate students.

PHIL 513  Seminar Philosophy of Logic ~ Kishida

Selected topics in contemporary logical theory. Approved for letter and S/U grading. May be repeated. Letter grading applies when offered for 4 hours of credit. For Stage 3 Philosophy PhD students this course is approved for S/U grading when offered for 2 hours of credit. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor for non-philosophy graduate students.

PHIL 514 – Seminar in Cognitive Science ~ Hummel 

An in-depth, integrative overview of the major themes in the study of Cognitive Science, including cognition as computation, the relation between mind and brain, computability and the role of heuristics in "solving" unsolvable problems, and the logical/mathematical foundations of these themes. Specific topics covered include inverse optics and vision; induction and reasoning; learnability and language; philosophy of minds and brains; evolution; artificial intelligence and computational modeling; information theory; knowledge representation. The emphasis throughout is on the interrelations among these topics as examples of important but fundamentally unsolvable problems.

PHIL 521 - Contemporary Problems ~ Saenz 

Under the Quinean conception, ontology is primarily concerned with what exists. But many now think otherwise. The key questions of ontology are not, they say, existence questions 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 ontological simplicity). What is grounding? What are its relata? What principles are true of it (it is irreflexive, asymmetric, and transitive)? How does grounding relate to other notions (like modality or explanation)? We will also look at some disputes over what grounds what. In particular, we will investigate 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?

 

SPRING SEMESTER 2022

PHIL 414 - Recent Modern Philosophers ~ Weinberg (Spring 2022)

Critical philosophy can be seen as a form of philosophy that undertakes to illuminate the conceptual or structural elements, generally of power, that are often determining for our political, social, economic, and scientific theories yet are not readily evident on the face of them. It is a kind of philosophical critique of theory itself. Mostly, this form of critique has centered on political and social theories. In this course, we will look more broadly to other areas of inquiry. We will begin with what many think is the beginning of critical theory with Marx’s critique of the structures of power inherent in economic, class, and ideological systems. We will then consider the nature of conceptual critique with Michel Foucault’s illumination of the underlying structures of power in social concepts and meanings, which will be followed by Thomas Kuhn’s critique of the development of scientific theories and of the structures underlying the rejection of one theory and the adoption of another. We will also consider a feminist critique focusing on the ontology of gender with works by Catherine MacKinnon, Sally Haslanger, and Rae Langton.  Given enough time, we might also consider a philosophical critique of environmental or ecological theory.

PHIL/PHYS 419/420 - Space, Time, and Matter ~ Weaver (Spring 2022)

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 scientific thought before Aristotle 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, early kinetic theory, 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 matter, space, time, and spacetime.

PHIL 426 - Metaphysics ~ Saenz (Spring 2022)

This class surveys a number of central topics in metaphysics – composition, abstract objects, modality, properties, time, persistence, and being. We will use a textbook that offers a nice introduction to each topic and supplement this with articles that deal with some of the specific issues.

PHIL 435 - Social Philosophy ~ Bojanowski (Spring 2022)

Selected topics from the nature of social organization, nature and convention, utility, justice, equality, liberty, rights, and duties. 3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.

PHIL 443 - Phenomenology ~ Ellis (Spring 2022)

Considered to be one of the most important books in the history of philosophy, and certainly of the 20th century, Heidegger’s Being and Time represents a monumental shift in focus from the question of the connection between human subjectivity and being, which had dominated philosophy for some time, toward the question of the meaning of being itself. To fully grasp and then hopefully answer this question, Heidegger thinks, we cannot simply ask what beings belong to the realm of human knowledge. We must go further and ask how the being of these beings can be so much as intelligible to us. This requires an examination into our human being, or what Heidegger calls Dasein. Through Heidegger’s text, we will examine Dasein with an eye to understanding how its form of being might reveal to us the structure of being more generally. Through this analysis, we will try to understand Heidegger’s views about the nature of philosophical methodology, truth and knowledge, space and time, the relation between death and human finitude, and the way that human beings exist in the world such that they can make sense of these phenomena as well as the possibility of living authentically in the face of them. 

PHIL 454 - Advanced Symbolic Logic ~ Fitts (Spring 2022)

This is an advanced course in symbolic logic.  We will focus on some of the fundamental meta-theorems of first-order logic.  The first half of the course will cover some basic results and techniques from model theory, including the completeness theorem, compactness theorem, and Löwenheim-Skolem theorems.  In the second half of the course, our focus will primarily be on the relationship between computability and logic, covering the theory of recursive functions and the proof of Gödel's incompleteness theorems, among others.

PHIL 477 - Philosophy of Psychology ~ Neufeld (Spring 2022)

This course will explore several foundational questions about the nature of the mind and higher-cognition raised by recent advances in the cognitive sciences. The course will revolve around three main themes: (i) What are the empirical and philosophical advantages and disadvantages of the major ways of modeling the "mind as a computer", i.e., as an information processing system? (ii) Is there a language of thought; i.e., a representational system that enables ‘thinking' and if so, what are its basic architectural properties? Does the language of thought differ across cognitive domains such as linguistic vs spatial cognition? (iii) What can we learn about the computational architecture of the mind, and the properties of the language(s) of thought, from recent debates between Rationalist vs. Empiricist accounts of human learning both in general and across specific domains such as acquisition of natural languages, numerical knowledge, and ‘intuitive' physics?

PHIL 513 - Philosophy of Logic ~The Problem of Induction, Part Two: Progress From 1970 to the Present ~ Livengood (Spring 2022)

In this course, we will look at normative work on the problem of induction from roughly 1970 to the present. The course will have several formal elements, including formal tools and techniques from probability theory, statistics, decision theory, non-monotonic logic, and formal learning theory, but we will also read and discuss informal work that might be thought of as more traditionally "philosophical" in character. Although the course is in some sense a continuation of a previous course that looked at work on induction from 1750 to 1970, this course will be self-contained. No familiarity with the formal tools will be presupposed beyond working knowledge of introductory-level logic and probability theory.

PHIL 521 - Contemporary Problems Seminar: ~ The Human Theory of Reasons ~ Ben-Moshe (Spring 2022)

According to the Humean Theory of Reasons, p is a reason for A to ϕ only if A has a desire that would be furthered by ϕ-ing. This theory is both theoretically simple—as it explains intentional action via an agent’s practical reasons, which are explained via the agent’s psychology—and congruent with our contemporary naturalistic understanding of the world. In the first half of the course, we will discuss Bernard Williams’s Humean theory and some of the criticisms of it, as well as developments of the Humean theory by Michael Smith, Sharon Street, and Mark Schroeder. The problem of the seminar is that, since it rules out reasons that do not further one’s desires, the Humean Theory of Reasons cannot account for the existence of agent-neutral reasons. This worry is especially troubling when trying to account for “moral reasons,” namely, overriding reasons to act on moral demands regardless of one’s desires. In the second half of the course, we will examine whether David Hume’s and Adam Smith’s moral philosophy can aid in solving this problem. We will also examine the relations between reasons and “humanity,” as well as the prospects of a Smithian account of reasons & humanity.