Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Below is a list of courses offered in the 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.

FALL SEMESTER 2022

PHIL 100 - Introduction to Philosophy - ACP ~ Weinberg

In this course we will pose some of the most fundamental questions we can ask about who we are as human beings, what we have reason to believe, how we should act, whether life really has any meaning, and what should we think about race and gender. What I hope to show is that much of what we normally think about these sorts of things takes on a different light when we engage in philosophical reflection. With the help of the readings, discussions, and writing assignments, students will learn how to critically engage with philosophical texts and how to craft and evaluate philosophical arguments addressing these apparently simple, but really very challenging questions.

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.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: (1) Advanced Composition & (2) Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy ~ Saenz, Lee

This course introduces students to the discipline of philosophy through some of philosophy's most important questions: Do we know that there is an external world? Is the mind immaterial or material? Could a computer be a thinking thing? Does God exist? Is the existence of evil compatible with the existence of God? What makes an action right or wrong? Should we be cultural relativists about morality? In thinking about these questions and their potential answers, students will, among other things, improve their ability to evaluate and construct arguments all while learning what it is that philosophers do.

Credit is not given for both PHIL 101 and PHIL 100

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 102 – Logic and Reasoning ~ Muntean 

Introduction to the analysis and evaluation of actual arguments, to the practice of constructing logically sound arguments, and to logic as the theory of argument, with an emphasis on arguments of current or general interest. This course's primary goal is to improve your reasoning. Toward that end, we focus on the primary unit of reasoning, arguments, which we analyze and evaluate, but we also focus on reasoning in other contexts, e.g. explanations, as well as barriers to reasoning well, e.g. bias.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 103 – Logic and Reasoning - QR II ~ Weaver

The first part of the course is an introduction to critical thinking, fallacies in reasoning, inductive inference, and causal inference (Reasoning). Instruction will include a survey of these topics. Classroom time will also be used to help facilitate interactive activities among students to help ensure that students are developing good critical thinking skills. Part two of PHIL 103 is an introduction to classical propositional logic (Logic). During part two students are taught the basics of symbolic logic, they are given the tools to identify deductively valid and invalid arguments. Students are taught how to prove that an argument is valid or invalid using various proof-theoretic methods. They are given the opportunity to apply what they have learned during classroom activities (inter alia).

 Credit is not given for both PHIL 103 and PHIL 102.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities - Hist & Phil, Quantitative Reasoning II

PHIL 105 – Intro to Ethics ~ Smith

This course is an introduction to ethical theory, that is, the philosophical study of morality. We will begin the course by getting a sense of how to do philosophy in general before briefly engaging with some foundational issues in ethical theory. We will then 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.

Credit is not given for both PHIL 105 and either PHIL 104 or PHIL 106.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 107 – Intro to Political Philosophy ~ Vanderbeek

This course is designed as an introduction to political philosophy, and by extension to philosophical thinking more generally.  We will proceed by considering – through critical engagement with philosophical arguments and each other – the following questions: 

(1)    What is human nature, and how does our understanding of it inform the way we justify the state?  To what extent should these justifications draw from the Social Contract Theory tradition?

(2)    How ought we balance institutional power against our concern for liberty?

a.       Which kind of freedom, positive or negative liberty, ought we be concerned with?

b.      How does a basic concern for freedom feature in our justification of the state?

c.       Why, and how much, should we value toleration?

(3)    What ought to be the basic structure of society? 

a.       What is a just state?  

b.      What theoretical framework is necessary to diagnose racial injustice and guide reform?  Is

c.       Is the Capitalist or Socialist ideal more justifiable?

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Social & Beh Sci - Soc Sci

PHIL 202 - Symbolic Logic ~ Muntean

This course is an introduction to formalizing and evaluating (deductive) arguments. The first goal in this class is the class-specific goal of becoming proficient at translating and evaluating deductive arguments in sentential and predicate logic. The second goal is broad. Being able to properly evaluate arguments and understand the logical relations between statements is a skill with wide-ranging applications. Arguments appear in many aspects of our lives---not only in philosophy---and the ability to properly evaluate them is a crucial skill for everyone.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Quantitative Reasoning I

PHIL 203 - Ancient Philosophy ~  Shatalov

An introduction to ancient philosophy, surveying works from the Early Greek or Pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato, and Aristotle, on topics concerning metaphysics, cosmology, theory of knowledge, and explanation.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 210 - Ethics ~  Leland

This is an introductory course in ethics focused on central topics in metaethics and moral psychology.  Topics covered include the following: moral realism and anti-realism; cognitivism and non-cognitivism; moral relativism; moral epistemology; the relation between moral psychology and science; the nature of moral motivation; the roles of desires, reasons, and emotions in moral judgment; the concept of virtue; and the relation between moral responsibility, free will, and determinism, among others. 

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 214H - Biomedical Ethics ~ Livengood

Biomedical Ethics (PHIL 214) teaches students to think critically about ethical problems that arise in the fields of medicine and bio-engineering. These typically include topics such as euthanasia, cosmetic surgery, genetic modification, involuntary psychiatric commitment, informed consent, vaccination and other public health initiatives, organ transplantation, non-human animal research, and state provision of healthcare. This semester, the course will focus on ethical, legal, and policy issues related to abortion.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 222 - Philosophical Foundations of Computer Science ~ Kishida

Introduction to certain ideas and issues at the intersection of computer science and philosophy. Students will focus on foundational questions related to the birth of computer science as a discipline, philosophical issues regarding knowledge and reality that researchers face in the frontiers of contemporary computer science, and current ethical issues related to the uses of machines and computers in society.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 410 - Classical Ancient Philosophers ~ Shatalov

An intensive study on the treatment of virtue and happiness and related ethical concerns as these were treated in Plato’s work, and in Aristotle’s response to Plato.  Reading Plato’s Republic in its entirety and much of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. May be repeated with approval, if topics vary.

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy, preferably PHIL 203.

PHIL 411 - Nineteenth Century Philosophy ~ Varden

Much19th Century philosophy responds to the troubles that were part and parcel of modernity as well as so-called “Western analytic philosophy.” In addition, some of the important philosophical thinkers in this century were either on the fringes of or denied access to the academy in general or philosophy in particular. The focus of this course is on some of the important contributions given to us by these excluded philosophical minds.

3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.

PHIL 412 - Classical Modern Philosophers ~ Biondi

Intensive study of one classical modern philosopher or the intensive study of major philosophical problem through the consideration of a number of classical modern philosophers, e.g., Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Kant, and Hegel. 3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. May be repeated with approval, if topics vary.

Prerequisite: One course in philosophy, preferably PHIL 206.- 

PHIL/PHYS 419/420 - Space, Time, and Matter ~ Weaver (Fall 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 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 421 - Ethical Theories ~ Biondi

Systematic study of selected classics in moral philosophy by such philosophers as Aristotle, Hume, Mill, Kant, and Nietzsche.

3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.

PHIL 425 - Philosophy of Mind ~ Leland

This course is an advanced introduction to central topics in the philosophy of mind.  For historical context, we will first examine influential claims about the mind and mental content advanced in early and late modern European philosophy.  The preponderance of the course will then be devoted to important developments during the 20th and early 21st century.  Topics covered include: the Cartesian view of the mind; the ontology of the mind; mental transparency and unconscious representations; the nature of mental content; the concept of a private language; the relation between thought and language; the interface between philosophy of mind and epistemology; the nature of action; radical interpretation; the subjective character of experience; the language of thought hypothesis; semantic externalism; eliminativism; the intentional stance; the model of the mind as software to the brain; self-knowledge; mental causation; the nature of consciousness; and intentionality.  

3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.

PHIL 430 - Theory of Knowledge ~ Livengood

Theory of knowledge (also called “epistemology”) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the proper analysis of “knowledge,” the nature and structure of justification, problems of skepticism, critical evaluation of the sources of knowledge, questions about the aims of belief and inquiry, the nature of rationality, the ethics of belief, and so on. In this course, we will be developing three related themes: pragmatism, the ethics of belief, and the use of formal, mathematical tools in studying epistemology. We will not have time to cover nearly all of the broad sweep of epistemology.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to describe what is meant by “the ethics of belief” and explain the core debate between Clifford and James, describe some of the main features of pragmatism in epistemology as well as some of its strengths and weaknesses, describe some competing (or potentially competing) models of belief, sketch arguments for and against the claim that the aim of inquiry is the truth, describe the JTB analysis of “knowledge” and Gettier’s challenge to that analysis, and much else.

3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.

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 I you have questions.

PHIL 477 - Philosophy of Psychology ~ Livengood

Philosophy of psychology covers a large range of issues having to do with the study of cognition, mental representation, perception, consciousness, and the methods used to investigate psychological phenomena.

In this course, we will be concerned with several interrelated foundational, conceptual, and methodological issues in psychology, including the goals of psychology, the significance of measurement, nativism and the relative importance of nature and nurture, the status of folk psychology, the relationship between psychology and neuroscience, the nature of (psychological) mechanism, the role of probability in studying human cognition, the replication crisis, severe testing, Bayesianism, causal inference, the contents of mental representations, and the nature of consciousness.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to sketch (at least in rough outline) some important historical developments in psychology and some of the challenges psychology faces, describe the nature-nurture debate and explain its relationship to philosophical debates between empiricists and rationalists, attack or defend the claim that psychology is an autonomous science, describe the replication crisis and critically evaluate some suggestions for resolving it, describe some points of contact between philosophy of psychology and philosophy of mind, and much else.

Same as PSYC 477. 3 undergraduate hours. 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: Two courses in philosophy or two courses in psychology or consent of instructor.

PHIL 499 - Capstone Seminar ~ Shatalov

Capstone course required for all philosophy majors. Students will explore in depth a specific topic either in the history of philosophy or in contemporary practical or theoretical philosophy and will write a substantial original essay appropriate for a senior thesis. Topics will differ by section and semester. 3 undergraduate hours. No graduate credit. Prerequisite: PHIL 202PHIL 203PHIL 206PHIL 222PHIL 223. Restricted to Philosophy and CS + Philosophy majors with Senior Standing. Philosophy majors (and CS + Philosophy majors matriculated before Fall 2020) are required to have PHIL 202 (or equivalent), PHIL 203, and PHIL 206. CS + Philosophy majors (matriculated after Fall 2020) are required to have PHIL 202 (or equivalent), PHIL 222, and PHIL 223.

 

SPRING SEMESTER 2022

PHIL 100 - Introduction to Philosophy - ACP ~ Neufeld (Spring 2022)

This course introduces students to the discipline of philosophy. Students will get an overview of the core questions that have occupied both classic and contemporary philosophers: What does it take to know something as opposed to, say, believe it? What things exist, what things don't? What, if anything, are race and gender? Are you identical to the person you were as a child? Is morality objective? And why should we do what is moral, anyways? Throughout the readings, discussions, and writing assignments, students will learn how to critically engage with philosophical texts and how to craft and evaluate philosophical arguments.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy ~ Shatalov (Spring 2022)

This class will read Plato’s Republic in its entirety.  Republic is a dialogue between Socrates and several of his contemporaries, in which they consider one central question: how ought we to live our lives?  In the course of answering this question, the interlocutors find themselves also needing to consider questions such as what is the best political community? What is knowledge?  How important is it?  What is the best education? What is virtue?  What is happiness? What is pleasure?  We will aim to follow Socrates and his interlocutors through the conversation, to understand the links between these questions, some major issues facing their solution, and the view which Socrates carefully develops by attending to each of these topics.  Along the way, we will discover what can be accomplished through sustained argument and investigation, and reflect on what philosophy is and what is its importance.

PHIL 101 - Introduction to Philosophy ~ Bruckler (Spring 2022)

"Consideration of some main problems of philosophy concerning, for example, knowledge, God, mind and body, and human freedom through the study of diverse philosophical thinkers and methodologies.

Credit is not given for both PHIL 101 and PHIL 100.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities: Hist & Phil.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy ~ Mischler (Spring 2022)

In this course we will engage with several perennial problems of philosophy. A sample of topics include: the nature of knowledge, the nature of God (and whether it is possible to give rational argument for God’s existence), the relation of mind to body, and whether human beings have free will. We will approach these issues by reading a diverse set of thinkers, both historical and contemporary.

Please note that credit is not given for both PHIL 101 and PHIL 100.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for: Humanities: Hist & Phil.  

PHIL 102 – Logic and Reasoning ~ Fitts (Spring 2022)

Practical study of logical reasoning; techniques for analyzing and criticizing arguments, with emphasis on assessing the logical coherence of what we read and write.
This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for:
Humanities - Hist & Phil

PHIL 103 – Logic and Reasoning ~ Weaver (Spring 2022)

The first part of the course is an introduction to critical thinking, fallacies in reasoning, inductive inference, and causal inference (Reasoning). Instruction will include a survey of these topics. Classroom time will also be used to help facilitate interactive activities among students to help ensure that students are developing good critical thinking skills. Part two of PHIL 103 is an introduction to classical propositional logic (Logic). During part two students are taught the basics of symbolic logic, they are given the tools to identify deductively valid and invalid arguments. They are taught how to prove that an argument is valid or invalid using various proof-theoretic methods. They are given the opportunity to apply what they have learned during classroom activities (inter alia).

PHIL 104 – Intro to Ethics-ACP* ~ Bojanowski (Spring 2022)

Consider the following dialogue: Anton: “Murder is wrong because I don’t like it.” Bert: “That’s false, for I like it.” If the disagreement between Anton and Bert brings out what moral disagreement essentially comes down to, murder would be at best like sweet red wine; disliked by most people but liked by others. There would be nothing objectively wrong with murder. In this course we will see why this account of ethical judgments is fundamentally flawed. Moral judgments are very different from culinary judgments of taste. This will become transparent when we look at some of the most controversial contemporary ethical issues: Should we abandon privacy online in light of our national security? Do we have a moral obligation to help the famine stricken in poor countries? Is it wrong to eat meat? What types of contents are we allowed to share on social media? Is abortion morally permissible? Should people receive high rewards for outstanding performances if these performances depend on their natural advantages? Giving an answer to each of these questions is difficult. Yet it would be inappropriate to simply flip a coin. Instead, we need to come up with a justification for our answer. As humans we can give and ask for reasons and make our actions dependent on them. These reasons can track more than simply our individual preferences. But what exactly do moral reasons track? What do we mean when we judge that an action is morally permissible or impermissible? What do we mean when we judge that a person’s character is good or evil? Is there a fundamental principle that underlies all our moral judgments? What does our life look like if it is governed by this fundamental moral principle? Is livening a morally good life compatible with living a happy life? We are going to engage with these questions by reading some of the philosophical classics (Aristotle, Hume and Kant) as well as contemporary readings.  

*This course satisfies the Advanced Composition General Education Requirement*

PHIL 105 – Intro to Ethics ~ Rowe (Spring 2022)

What makes you a student at the University of Illinois is that you occupy a certain role as you participate in a community of human beings who agree to govern themselves according to the rules of the University of Illinois. According to a prominent line of thinking in contemporary philosophy, being a person is to be understood in a similar way: what makes you a person is not that you govern yourself according to the rules of the University of Illinois, but rather, according to the rules of morality. In this course we will attempt to understand this line of thought by focusing on morality, one possible form of ethical life which most human beings happen to share, and what it makes of us. We will begin by reading a compelling understanding of morality offered by Immanuel Kant, as well as objections to morality and gestures towards a post-moral form of ethical life offered by Friedrich Nietzsche. We will then consider various contemporary objections and anxieties with certain understandings of morality, as well as morality itself, in the work of Elizabeth Anscombe and Bernard Williams. Finally, we will read a Kantian defense of morality by Christine Korsgaard, and consider whether her argument actually shows what she hopes it to show.

PHIL 107 – Intro to Political Philosophy ~ Vanderbeek (Spring 2022)

Introduction to core ideas in political and legal philosophy, for example, rights, equality, political obligations, legitimacy of states, nationalism, and oppression.

This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for:
Social & Beh Sci - Soc Sci

PHIL 202 - Symbolic Logic ~ Estrup (Spring 2022)

This course is an introduction to formalizing and evaluating deductive arguments. The primary class-specific goal is for students to become proficient at translating English-language arguments into a formal language in order to evaluate their semantic validity and understand their logical structure. Being able to properly evaluate arguments and understand the logical relations between statements is a skill with wide-ranging applications. Arguments appear in many aspects of our lives—not only in philosophy—and the ability to properly evaluate them is a crucial skill for everyone. In particular, the course will focus on three modules:

            • Introducing sentential logic (SL) semantics, translating English sentences into SL, and testing SL arguments for validity via truth tables.

            • Evaluating and constructing SL arguments using natural deduction.

            • Introducing predicate logic (PL) semantics, translating English sentences into PL, and evaluating and constructing PL arguments using natural deduction.          

The course textbook is free.

PHIL 203 - Ancient Philosophy ~ Shatalov (Spring 2022)

The goal of this course is to introduce students to philosophy in the ancient Greek world.  While this is not the beginning of philosophy tout court, it is the beginning of what has become the Western tradition in philosophy.  What is thought of as the emergence of philosophy in ancient Greece especially involves the development of views about the role of reason in our lives and in the search for truth.  Philosophers drew from these views claims about ethics, metaphysics, politics, and natural philosophy, as well as the development of argument forms and standards for reasoning. We will be following some of these themes especially as they develop in the thought of the Early Greek philosophers, in Plato, and in Aristotle.  The primary goal of the course is to understand the different philosophical views proposed by these thinkers, and to recognize the problems and ideas they were united in investigating.

PHIL 206 - Early Modern Philosophy ~ Weinberg (Spring 2022)

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 having to do with the underlying nature of the natural world and how we know it, including the scientific turn to explanation as mechanistic explanation and relatedly of the nature of causation.  We will also consider the nature of what exists and whether it is material, immaterial, or both, and the problems with each view, with particular emphasis on how to explain the interaction of the mind and the body.  The overarching theme of this course is an investigation into the limits of human understanding in our explanations of the natural world as undertaken in primary texts of Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.  

PHIL 223 - Minds and Machines ~ Del Pinal (Spring 2022)

This course will examine (i) the nature of human minds and brains in light of what we know about machine `minds' and `hardware', and vice versa, and (ii) how the rise of intelligent machines is affecting and reshaping our own society. The course will explore questions like: Could a machine have a mind? What can human minds and brains teach us about how an intelligent machine might work, and vice versa? Can machines learn to master various different domains in ways that simulate and eventually even surpass the astonishing capacity and flexibility of human learning? Could a machine think in the ways humans do? How could we tell?  How do machines and our interactions with them influence, affect and enhance how humans think, learn, and reason?  What are the promises and perils of our increasing dependence on artificial intelligence, big data, and social networks? How should we, as a society, confront situations in which the underlying processes behind machine `decisions' are not transparent to us? When machines are trained on human generated data such as news corpora, what kinds of human-like social biases---including race and gender---might they re-create/incorporate into their `decisions'? Can we reduce the effect of race, gender, and other social biases in machine learning decisions without degrading their overall performance? From a normative perspective, how can traditional philosophical theories of fairness and justice help us think about machine biases, and understand the relevant trade-offs? What is the nature of our personal identity? Is it a serious possibility that human minds can be transferred to mediums other than biological bodies? What might information processing, integration and flexibility have to do with consciousness? How can we tell if machines become conscious? How should machines that exhibit some non-trivial features of human minds be treated? How should machines treat us? 

PHIL 307 - Elements of Semantics & Pragmatics ~ Lasersohn (Spring 2022)

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 402 - Socrates ~ Shatalov (Spring 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 499 -Capstone ~ Wicked Problems ~ Livengood (Spring 2022)

In a landmark 1973 paper on planning and policy science, Rittel and Webber characterized problems as wicked​ when they have no definitive formulation and no clear termination conditions, when solutions come in gradations of better and worse, rather than true and false, when there are no known tests for proposed solutions, when the problem is essentially unique, when the solution space itself is indeterminately large, and when solving the problem requires solving other wicked problems. To make matters worse, wicked problems are often the most urgent problems we face. Climate change, racism, healthcare, homelessness, economic policy, and so on, are practical examples. In this capstone course, we will talk about the nature of wicked problems, and then students will select a wicked problem and attempt to solve it.

PHIL 499 -Capstone ~ Death ~ Sussman (Spring 2022)

This seminar will consider the nature and significance of death for human beings. Just what counts as the end of a person's life? Is death something that we should fear—is it a harm or a loss, or should we conceive of death in some other way? How would human life be different if we were immortal? Does death rob life of any real significance or is it necessary for life to be meaningful?. In addition to the death of individuals, we will contemplate the death of the entire human species. How should the prospect of humanity’s total extinction affect how we approach life now? Would there be anything wrong with us all deciding just not to reproduce anymore? Finally, we will consider our ethical relations to the dead. Can dead people still be harmed or helped? Do we have any moral obligations to the dead (if so, how do these obligations differ from those we have to the living)?  What is the ethical significance of human remains and gravesites? What is wrong, if anything, with cannibalism or necrophilia?