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Winter 2023 Class Schedule


Course Title Instructor Day/Time Discussion Sections
PHIL 109-20 First-year Seminar: Skepticism and Common Sense Sean Ebels Duggan MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm
PHIL 109-21 First-year Seminar: The End of History: Philosophical Perspectives Mark Alznauer TTh 3:30pm-4:50pm
PHIL 109-22 First-year Seminar: God and His Problems Daniel Ferguson TTh 9:30am-10:50am
PHIL 110 Introduction to Philosophy Sanford Goldberg TTh 2:00-3:20pm Required
PHIL 210-1 History of Philosophy: Ancient Daniel Ferguson MWF 10:00am-10:50am Required
PHIL 220 Introduction to Critical Theory Mark Alznauer TTh 2:00pm-3:20pm Required
PHIL 250 Logic II Sean Ebels-Duggan MWF 9:00am-9:50am
PHIL 254 Introduction to Philosophy of Natural Science Axel Mueller MW 9:30am-10:50am Required
PHIL 261 Introduction to Political Philosophy Corey Barnes TTh 9:30am-10:50am Required
PHIL 269 Bioethics Chad Horne TTh 2:00pm-3:20pm Required
PHIL 273-2 Brady Scholars Program: The Moral Life Kyla Ebels-Duggan TTh 2:00pm-3:20pm Required - Thurs 3:30-4:20pm
PHIL 310 Studies in Ancient Philosophy Daniel Ferguson TTh 2:00pm-3:20pm
PHIL 313 Kant's Critique of Pure Reason Axel Mueller MW 3:30pm-4:50pm Required
PHIL 315 Studies in French Philosophy: Reading Foucault: Sex, Prisons, and the Plurality of Power Penelope Deutscher TTh 6:30pm-7:50pm
PHIL 326 Philosophy of Medicine Chad Horne TTh 9:30am-10:50am
PHIL 353 Philosophy of Language Peter van Elswyk TTh 2:00pm-3:20pm
PHIL 361 Topics in Social and Political Philosophy: The Philosophy of Punishment and Incarceration Jennifer Lackey F 10:30am-1:15pm
PHIL 373-2 Brady Scholars Program: The Civically Engaged Life TBD TBD
PHIL 401-1 1st-Year Proseminar Cristina Lafont T 2:00pm-4:50pm
PHIL 467 Seminar in Critical Race Theory Corey Barnes Th 5:00pm-7:50pm
PHIL 468 Seminar in Epistemology Baron Reed M 3:00pm-5:50pm


Winter 2023 Course Descriptions

PHIL 109-20: First-year Seminar: Skepticism and Common Sense

Sometimes it feels right to ask "But how do you know?" and to seek ever more stringent standards for knowledge. Other times it seems right to stick to everyday standards, which--we insist (or hope?)--are good enough. And sometimes we waffle between the two: the more we ask for extraordinary proofs, the more we seem to deal in abstractions. But the more we focus on "common sense", the more we feel the pull of wanting something to underwrite it. This seminar is an introduction to philosophy through an investigation of how these two forces battle, and of how (or if) they make peace.

First-year Seminar: The End of History: Philosophical Perspectives

In this course, we will read four short works on the concept and value of history by several of the most important figures in modern philosophy: Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. These influential works address questions such as: does history give evidence of human progress? How can major historical transformations and revolutions be explained? Is a developed historical sense healthy or dangerous? We will also look at some Twentieth Century responses to these proposals by figures such as Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, and Francis Fukuyama. In class, we will engage in close reading of all texts.

PHIL 109-22: God and His Problems

Does God exist? Supposing that He (or She, or They?) does, what must God be like? Can God be grasped or understood by the human mind? Can anything be truly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent? Can such a God permit the evils we find in our world? Does such a God threaten freedom of the will? What is relationship between God and moral facts? Can personal religious experience serve as evidence for God? In this first-year seminar, we will tackle such questions by discussing classic and contemporary readings on these issues.

PHIL 110: Introduction to Philosophy

In this course we will be exploring several traditional topics within philosophy. These include the problem of free will, ethics and social issues (including issues of race and gender), and existential issues (death and the meaning of life).

PHIL 210-1: History of Philosophy: Ancient

This course will introduce students to some of the most important ancient Greek and Roman texts that lie at the beginning of Western Philosophy. Plato, Aristotle, and later, Hellenistic authors have profound and provocative views about a wide range of fundamental philosophical questions: what there really is, whether knowledge is possible (and, if so, about what), how we should live our life, what the soul is and whether it is immortal, and how society is best arranged. We will study their answers to these questions with both a charitable and critical eye. In doing so, we will also gain facility in trying to come up with our own answers to these questions.

PHIL 220: Introduction to Critical Theory

In this class, we will focus on the foundations of critical theory in the works of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Weber, paying particular attention to the methods they deploy in the treatment of moral and religious phenomena. We will conclude with a section on Charles Mills and contemporary Critical Race Theory. Lectures will primarily involve a close analysis and discussion of the readings.


PHIL 250: Elementary Logic II

This course examines ways to expand and vary the logical systems learned in PHIL 150: second-order logic, 3- and 4-valued logics, supervaluations, modal logics and possible worlds, counterfactuals, and intuitionistic logic. We also look at the philosophical applications to vagueness, paradoxes, scientific laws, various notions of possibility, and the realism/anti-realism debate. Lastly, we ask: what makes a "logic" good?

PHIL 254: Introduction to the Philosophy of Natural Science

The course will introduce students to deep philosophical issues raised by modern natural science of metaphysical and epistemological nature. From a reflection on methodological questions, it will approach the question of realism. We will be guided by nested "what does it take"-questions. For example: What does it take for a system of sentences to count as a good scientific theory? What does it take for a scientific theory to be testable by observational and experimental data (and, by the way: what does it take for certain series of experiences to count as data or observations?)? What does it take for a given theory to be better supported by the available evidence than its competitors? What does it take for a given theory to explain the known phenomena in an area of knowledge? What does it take for an explanatory scientific theory to be credited with reference to underlying structures of reality? We will begin with a brief overview of the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17 th century, and then turn to the treatment of certain problems in the contemporary literature, like the problem of induction, the problem of the underdetermination of theory choice by the available data, the problem of rationality and conceptual change, the problem of realism.

PHIL 261: Introduction to Political Philosophy

Philosopher A. John Simmons tells us that: “What is distinctive about political its prescriptive or evaluative concern with justifications, values, virtues, ideals, rights, obligations—in short, its concern with how political societies should be, how political policies and institutions can be justified, how we and our political officeholders ought to behave in our public lives.” In this course, we will engage these themes by looking specifically at contractarianism. Contractarianism is a political theory that employs the idea of agreement among rational and equal individuals to account for the content and the normative force of the requirements applicable to the rational and equal individuals. We will explore many themes in political philosophy by looking at five philosophers who wrote on contractarianism—namely, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Carole Pateman, and Charles Mills.

PHIL 269: Bioethics

This course is an analysis of ethical and political issues related to health and health care. Topics to be considered include human research, abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, and public health ethics.


PHIL 273-2: The Brady Program: The Moral Life

What does morality require of us? Does acting morally amount to consistently bringing about the best consequences that we can? Or are there other important considerations that we should take into account when thinking about how to act well? When we are trying to figure out how to act, what questions should we be asking ourselves? Drawing on both classic and contemporary readings in philosophy, as well as our own experiences, we will ask what it means to live a moral life in different spheres and situations. Do we have, or can we justify, special obligations to our friends and family? Do our professional and other roles shape what we have reason to do? How do we understand our obligations towards strangers? Is there some unified way to understand the reasons that should guide us in all of these spheres, or do they operate independently?

PHIL 310: Studies in Ancient Philosophy

In this course we will study Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology. Likely topics include Plato’s theory of Forms, collection and division, being and not being, space and time, teleology, causation, Plato’s accounts of knowledge (esp. in the Theaetetus), the proper object(s) of knowledge, whether Platonic epistēmē is knowledge, the value of knowledge, and the Socratic elenchus. Texts to be studied include (parts of) the Euthyphro, Meno, Republic, Theaetetus, Sophist, Timaeus, Phaedo, Parmenides, and Philebus.

PHIL 313: Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

This course provides a thorough reading of the conception of empirical knowledge laid out in the first part of Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" (the Analytic). The seminar will also relate Kant's arguments to issues in more recent philosophical debates. E.g.: Kant qualified his philosophy as "transcendental idealism and empirical realism". According to Kant, it evades the choice between saying that we must have an unconceptualized access to reality in order to have factual knowledge (so that it is hard to say how we as concept-using knowers can know reality at all) on the one hand, and saying that the reality our factual knowledge represents is determined by our concepts (so that it is hard to say in what way reality is a mind-independent constraint on belief). Kant suggests that this is a non-issue if there is only one universal set of concepts constitutive of all (genuinely fact-enabling) human experience. But the course of scientific progress since reveals this as a big (and unfulfilled) IF: in light of the diversity of experience and of the sciences, it is not easy to insist that there is only one set of forms of all possible objects of experience, one set of categories to form judgments, one set of principles to form natural laws. But the impasse confronted in Kant's epistemological analysis persists --for each of the variegated forms. Can Kant's conception of experience and empirical knowledge still help us understand how we can claim to know mind-independent reality? Another example: Much of contemporary philosophy of mind centers on the question of the relation between mind and reality. Kant criticized all such attempts at founding factual knowledge on self-knowledge (which lead into "paralogisms") or knowledge of unconceptualised reality in itself (which lead to "antinomies"). His arguments compel realizing that both (reality as such and a directly present foundational 'inner' self) can't be objects of knowledge at all (=are non-objects). Does this dissolve the problems of mind and reality or rather make them cognitively insolvable?

PHIL 315: Studies in French Philosophy: Reading Foucault: Sex, Prisons, and the Plurality of Power

Participants will acquire a foundational competency in the concepts and central texts of Michel Foucault, the Participants will acquire a foundational competency in the main concepts and texts of Michel Foucault, the most broadly influential late-twentieth-century French philosopher. We will foreground the aspects of Foucault’s approach that have most impacted inquiry and critique in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, giving special attention to the fields of gender and sexualities studies, and Black studies. Thematically, the course will focus on Foucault’s writings on sexuality, madness, health, prisons, delinquency, families, power, biopolitics, surveillance, selfhood and individuality, knowledge, and truth. Conceptually, we’ll debate and apply core Foucauldian concepts such as: archaeology and genealogy; discipline and biopower, the productivity and plurality of power; the social importance of “abnormality;” the conditions under which freedom is also a form of “subjection”; the conditions of social resistance and transformation; the historical a priori; and epistemic rupture. We’ll critically assess the contribution of Foucault’s major works (including History of Madness, Discipline and Punish, The Order of Things, History of Sexuality). In addition to weekly excerpts, students will read their own choice of one of these works as the basis of their final paper. Students should expect to post weekly contributions to class debate. most influential late-twentieth-century French philosopher.

PHIL 326: Philosophy of Medicine

This course is a study of the political philosophy of health and health care. In the first part of the course, we will study prominent accounts of justice in health care. Is there a right to health care, and if so, what does that right encompass? In the second part of the course, we will consider several recent theories of health care rationing. In the third and final part of the course, we turn to the growing field of public health ethics, public health being concerned with the promotion of health at the population level rather than with the provision of personal health care services. We will look at prominent recent accounts of the moral foundations and limits of public health.

PHIL 353: Philosophy of Language

To speak a language is to have the ability to describe. But what is the limit of this ability? A recurring theme in the history of philosophy is that certain topics are beyond language. These topics are said to be ineffable because describing them is somehow beyond our ability. Examples of such topics include God, sensory experience, and nothingness. In this class, we will focus on understanding how a topic could be ineffable. To do so, we will read both historical philosophy from Eastern and Western traditions and contemporary work from both analytic philosophy and linguistics.

PHIL 361: Topics in Social and Political Philosophy: The Philosophy of Punishment and Incarceration

The United States is currently home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its incarcerated population. With more than 2.3 million people under the control of the American criminal legal system, the United States has more total people who are incarcerated than any other country in the world. Moreover, the United States has one of the most punitive approaches to criminal justice, imposing lengthy prison sentences, forcing people who are incarcerated to spend years—sometimes even decades—in solitary confinement, and providing very few educational, vocational, and recreational programs in prisons. Punishment and incarceration also disproportionately impact people of color. Black Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. While Black Americans and Hispanics make up about 32% of the US population, they constitute 56% of the incarcerated population. This course will use a philosophical lens to examine the causes and consequences of this crisis of mass incarceration in the United States, along with possible solutions to it, with a particular emphasis on the theories of punishment grounding our criminal legal system and, thus, our prisons. The course will be small and will have a seminar-style format. Enrollment will include both Northwestern students from the Evanston campus and students in the Northwestern Prison Education Program.

PHIL 373-2: Brady: The Civically Engaged Life

This is the second of a two-quarter sequence for 4th year Brady Scholars.


PHIL 467: Seminar in Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory is a theory that investigates the relationship between race, racism, and power, particularly as it relates to law. It considers many of the themes considered by traditional civil rights discourse. However, Richard Delgado tells us that: “Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.” This graduate seminar will explore the foundations and central tenets of Critical Race Theory, from its origins in Critical Legal Studies, to current applications and debates with particular attention to Critical Race Theory’s intersections with the field of Philosophy. We will apply philosophical lenses to this legal theory’s understanding of itself, law, and our world.

PHIL 468: Seminar in Epistemology

We will examine the epistemic aspects of the emotions. What role do they play in cognition? Is there an epistemic standard they must meet? Special attention will be paid to the emotions that arise when we confront uncertainty: doubt, hope, dread, and the like.

PHIL 401-1: 1st year Proseminar

In this seminar we will examine contemporary conceptions of democracy (pluralist, agonistic, epistocratic, lottocratic, deliberative, etc.) to see how each of them interprets the democratic ideal of self-government and how they propose, in consequence, to organize social and political institutions. We will analyze the distinctive institutional proposals that each of these conceptions offer to help address the many problems that afflict democratic societies. A central question to discuss in the seminar will be the extent to which these proposals could help societies overcome their current democratic deficits or whether they might actually add to the trend of democratic deconsolidation that we are witnessing everywhere and that threatens the future of democracy as we know it.