Undergraduate 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.

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?   

 

 

FALL SEMESTER 2021

PHIL 100 - Intro to Philosophy - ACP ~ Weinberg (Fall 2021)

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 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.

This course fulfills the Advanced Composition general education requirement.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy ~ Currie (Fall 2021)

In this class, we will ask some of the most fundamental questions in philosophy. We will cover some of the main areas of philosophical inquiry: ethics (morality), philosophy of mind (how we think), epistemology (theories of knowledge), metaphysics (what exists), existential philosophy (meaning of life), logic and reasoning, and important topics in social philosophy (concerning justice and social norms). Together, through weekly lectures, group discussion, discussion board posts, group activities, short writing assignments, and close readings, we will learn to think philosophically. At the end of this course, we will be able to better understand, evaluate, and formalize arguments. Additionally, and more generally, we will improve our critical thinking and communication skills using the tools of philosophical analysis and argumentation.

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy ~ Li (Fall 2021)

This class will introduce you to a number of important problems in philosophy: What is knowledge? How should we understand the mind? What exists? How shall we live? We will look into these questions by reading relevant articles written by classical and contemporary philosophers, extracting the arguments they make, and discussing them together. This course is meant to help you get a better understanding of philosophy and its methodology, and to strengthen your ability of reasoning and critical thinking.

PHIL 102 – Logic and Reasoning (Online Course) ~ Fitts (Fall 2021)

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.

PHIL 103 – Logic and Reasoning QR II ~ Weaver (Fall 2021)

Practical study of logical reasoning; techniques for analyzing and criticizing arguments, with emphasis on assessing the logical coherence of what we read and write. Course Information: Credit is not given for both PHIL 103 and PHIL 102. Class Schedule Information: Students must register for one discussion and one lecture section.

PHIL 104 - Introduction to Ethics ACP* ~ Bojanowski (Fall 2021)

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 – Introduction to Ethics ~ Vanderbeek (Fall 2021)

This course is designed as an introduction to moral 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. Should we (or can we) think of ethical claims as objective?
  2. What makes something good?  What makes an action right or wrong?  What makes a person good?
  3. How ought we to treat animals?  Do we owe them anything at all?
  4. Can we morally justify criminal punishment?

PHIL 202 - Symbolic Logic ~ Fitts (Fall 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.        

PHIL 203 - Ancient Philosophy ~ Shatalov (Fall 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 ~ Ben Mosche (Fall 2022)

The history of philosophy from Descartes to Kant, concentrating on such topics as metaphysics, ethics, and the theory of knowledge.

PHIL 214 - Biomedical Ethics ~ Livengood (Fall 2021)  

In PHIL 214, we will be exploring the ways that methodological and moral principles interact to inform policy choices related to health and society. We will consider several topics of ethical and public policy concern, such as abortion, experimentation on animals, drug and medical device trials, vaccination, and the provision of healthcare. Throughout the course, we will be developing and critically reflecting on formal and quantitative tools relevant to the topics we consider.

PHIL 222 - Philosophical Foundations of Computer Science ~ Kishida (Fall 2021)  

In its origin, the theory of computing was driven and guided by philosophers' and mathematicians' foundational questions on human thought and mind.  Computer science has now been established as an independent (and huge) discipline, but on its frontiers computer scientists often face the same sort of questions that philosophers have long tackled.  This course introduces students to this exciting junction of computer science and philosophy.

Without assuming any prior knowledge of computer science or philosophy, the course will take students to a journey through conceptual ideas that underlie the intersection of the two disciplines, from the origin of computer science to its current frontiers.  Students will realize how much inspiration computer science actually receives from philosophers' insights on the one hand, and what new insights computer scientists can provide philosophy on the other.

PHIL 230 - Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion ~ Sussman (Fall 2021)  

Faith and Reason:

This course is about the reasonableness of belief (and disbelief) in God. We will begin with the question of just what it would mean for God to exist, and how far the idea of God even makes sense. We will then consider what kind of reasons we have (or need) to accept that there is such a being. Does the existence or order of the universe show that God exists? Is God disproved by all the evil and suffering in the world (or must God exist for there even to be such moral facts in the first place?) Is it reasonable to believe in God just because of the practical benefits of doing so (happiness, solace, hope)?  Finally, we will consider whether belief in God really needs any evidence or justification in the first place. What would be wrong with taking religious experience at face value, just as we do our seemingly unjustifiable beliefs in other minds, the past, or an “external” world? To what extent are atheism and agnosticism in better shape than any other kinds of skepticism? 

PHIL 270 - Philosophy of Science ~ Neufeld (Fall 2021)

Science is our gold standard for gathering knowledge about the empirical world around us. We place tremendous value on findings that result from the ‘scientific method’ and take rationality to demand that our individual and collective beliefs and actions be guided by them. But what actually is science? And what does the scientific method consist in that makes it so special? In this class, we’re going to discuss this and closely related questions. These include: What distinguishes science from non-science or pseudoscience? What’s the special method of science and what, if anything, endows it with special rationality and credibility? What is scientific progress, and how should we incorporate new evidence into our evaluation of scientific theories? What are scientific theories about? Is science purely ‘objective’, and is it problematic if it isn’t? And what is the relationship between scientific investigation, human values, and politics?

PHIL 307 - Elements of Semantics & Pragmatics ~ Del Pinal (Fall 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 411 - Nineteenth Century Philosophy ~ Ben-Moshe (Fall 2021)

Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud:

Paul Ricoeur called the three great thinkers of the late 19th (and early 20th) century—Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud—the “masters of suspicion,” since they taught us to regard with suspicion some of our most fundamental conscious understandings of our psychological makeup and social existence: there are causal forces that lay ‘beneath’ the surface and that explain the conscious phenomena, precisely because they expose the latter’s true meaning. In this course, we will examine this idea by discussing not only this triumvirate’s critique of ideology, morality, and religion, but also historical materialism, the genealogical method, conscience, and the relations between the individual and civilization. Of special interest will be the distinction between history and genealogy and between science and critical theory.

PHIL 412 - Classical Modern Philosophers ~ Ellis (Fall 2021)

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (the First Critique)

One of the defining features of modern philosophy is the attempt to place knowledge (of reality, of ourselves, of God) on a solid foundation, especially in accordance with the onset of modern natural science. In the wake of what Kant saw as the failures of the rationalism of Descartes and Leibniz, and the empiricism of Locke and Hume, he sought to revolutionize philosophy much in the same way that Copernicus revolutionized science—that is, Kant’s is a philosophy through which we become properly re-oriented, placing knowledge of the broader world and (even more importantly) self-knowledge, on “the secure path of a science.” While he believed himself successful in securing such knowledge, he also undertook to explain the boundaries of our knowledge in a way that overcomes problems with both classical rationalism and empiricism. Thus, the Critique is a book exploring both the scope and limits of human knowledge, specifically through an explication of how knowledge is ultimately dependent upon a form of self-knowledge.

We will carefully read through much of Kant’s masterwork, the Critique of Pure Reason, along with several influential essays by leading Kant interpreters. This course aims at illuminating some of Kant’s important ideas about the following issues: what it means to know objective reality, what the role of the mind is in that knowledge, the nature of space and time as subjective limitations and enabling conditions of experience, the ability of science and mathematics to provide us with knowledge of nature, the possibility of freedom of the will, and whether we are rationally justified in believing in God. We will approach these issues mainly through Kant’s theory of self-consciousness, what it enables us to know, and how it enables us to determine the boundaries of human knowledge.

PHIL 414 - Major Recent Philosopher ~ Varden (Fall 2021)

Intensive study of one or two important philosophers of the present century, e.g., Wittgenstein, Dewey, Heidegger, or Quine. Topics vary; see Class Schedule. 3 undergraduate hours. 3 or 4 graduate hours. May be repeated with approval, if topics vary. Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.

PHIL 421 - Ethical Theories ~ Bojanowski (Fall 2021)

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 ~ Neufeld (Fall 2021)

Social stereotypes and bias in minds and machines:

When asked, many people would agree with the claim that sexism or racism is wrong, and would probably explicitly state that they, themselves, are not in any way, say, sexist or racist. However, research suggests that our mental representations of social categories implicitly encode biases and stereotypes which can affect our judgments of and behavior towards others. The goal of this class is to explore the ways in which biases can be encoded in human representations of social categories, and their impact on social judgments and behavior. We will also investigate the ways machines use algorithms that seem to reproduce social biases with important consequences for structural injustices. To this end, we will examine prominent psychological and philosophical models of category representation, relate them to the relevant empirical findings about stereotypes and biases in cognitive science, and discuss their limits for providing us with accurate models of human behavior. We will also explore more recent advances in the study of category representation and examine whether they can provide us with better models for social biases and stereotypes. Against this background, we will then attend to the question of which latent biases are hidden in the data fed to and algorithms generated by machine learners, the ways this can inform our models and intervention techniques for human biases, and the ethical questions this raises for us as a society.

PHIL 429 - Value Theory ~ Sussman (Fall 2021)

This course will consider the nature of goodness, and whether there can be objective facts or real knowledge about what’s valuable or important. Different things (people, lives, actions, movies, doughnuts) can be good in different ways for different reasons (pleasure, beauty, health, morality, etc.). Is there anything interesting that all good things have in common? When we call something good, are we making a judgment about some matter-of-fact, or are we just expressing our approval or satisfaction?  Are things good because we desire them, or do we desire them because we think that they’re good? Would claims about value have to be defensible in anything like the way that scientific judgments are in order to be objectively true? To what extent (and in what sense) do we need values to be objective for our lives to be meaningful or worth living? 

PHIL 430 - Theory of Knowledge ~ Livengood (Fall 2021)

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 (Fall 2021)

Current methods, tools, and progress in evolutionary biology and quantitative genetics of brain and behavior of vertebrates. 3 undergraduate hours. 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: IB 150 or PSYC 210.

PHIL 436 - The Philosophy of Law and the State ~ Ahmed (Fall 2021)

Philosophy of Law and the State” delves into the foundational texts in philosophy of law in order to examine the social and normative worlds that different theories of law promote and work to construct. This course encourages a critical and analytical examination of the essential qualities, features, and aims of law as they have been imagined across the history of Western philosophy, and particularly those which informed the Founding Fathers’ vision of law for the new United States. To varying degrees, the thinkers in our syllabus explore the following questions: what is law, and from where does it come? Why do we need law? What mode of political organization best upholds the tenets of law? How does or should law govern? Who does law govern?

The course is divided into three historical “stages” or “modules,” so to speak: Classical Antiquity, the Enlightenment Age, and Late Modernity. Each module examines the writings of two to three critical thinkers of the era, many of whom were explicitly in dialogue with one another, while others implicitly draw on the innovations of their predecessors. This spirit of collaboration and contestation exemplifies the discipline of philosophy as a fundamentally social and political enterprise, one which is always, in some way or other, responding to or challenging the historical context in which it is embedded. By the end of the course, the hope is that you will view contemporary law and arguments about law as similarly responsive to (or as challenges against) the broader economic, social, political, and cultural forces that shape it and are shaped by it.

PHIL 458 - Advances in Brain & Cognitive Science ~ Hummel (Fall 2021)

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. 3 undergraduate hours. No graduate credit. Prerequisite: One of PSYC 224, PSYC 248, PHIL, 202, PHIL 270, or consent of instructor.