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Course Descriptions


The department has provided up-to-date course descriptions for students and parents.  The section entitled "Recently Offered" has listings of courses as they have been specifically described by the professors. Also, you will find tabs with more general (official, catalog) course descriptions. ​The course listings for the upcoming Spring 2015 semester are posted! Look up classes to add to your upcoming schedule.

Looking at what has recently been offered gives you a clue as to what may be taught in the course the next time it's offered, but it is important that you check with the professor directly if you wish a greater guarantee. You may obtain a course syllabus from the instructor for a more detailed description of class breadth and material covered.

To see when a course is offered, please check the UCD Access Portal​. Click "Register for Classes," then "Search." Type in "PHIL" for the keyword description.


NOTE: Under the tabs with general course descriptions, you will see labels that say "MINOR REQUIREMENT," "ETHICS MINOR," OR "MAJOR REQUIREMENT."  These labels indicate that a particular course is required for the concentration mentioned. Note that there are additional requirements for each concentration; to know what fulfills those other requirements you will need to meet with a philosophy department advisor.​


  • PHIL 1012 - Introduction to Philosophy: Relationship of the Individual to the World

    An introductory course in philosophy which focuses on some of the central questions of philosophy. For example: theories of reality and the nature of knowledge and its limits. The knowledge of these areas of philosophy is essential to the student for informed participation in the resolution of contemporary problems in today's society.

  • PHIL 1020 - Introduction to Ethics & Society: The Person and the Community

    A study of some of the traditional problems in ethics which tend to be focused on the individual morality within the larger context of social and political philosophy. Some specific contemporary moral problems may be addressed. For example: AIDS, abortion, famine, and individual rights versus the collective rights of society.

  • PHIL 1111 - Freshman Seminar
  • PHIL 2441 - Logic and Language

    An introductory course that considers the significance of logical form and language use in argumentation and persuasion. Topics covered include definition, types of discourse, informal fallacies, traditional syllogisms, rules of logical inference, and problem solving similar to that found on the L.S.A.T.

  • PHIL 2939 - Internship/Cooperative Education

    Experiences involving application of specific, relevant concepts and skills in supervised employment situations. PREREQ: 15 hrs of 2.75 GPA.

  • PHIL 3002 - Ancient Greek Philosophy  

    A history of ancient Greek thought, including traditional myth, pre-Socratic fragments, Plato's dialogues, and Aristotle's systematic philosophy.

  • PHIL 3005 - Roman and Medieval Philosophy

    A survey of philosophy in the Roman era, focusing on the Hellenistic schools (Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Skepticism), Neoplatonic thought, the advent of Christianity and the earliest Christian philosophers.

  • PHIL 3010 - Medieval Philosophy

    History of philosophy from Augustine through Scotus and Ockham, the 5th through the 14th centuries.

  • PHIL 3022 - Modern Philosophy  

    History of philosophy from Descartes through Kant.

  • PHIL 3032 - 20th Century Analytic Philosophy

    A survey of representative philosophers, methods, and problems in the twentieth century analytic tradition.

  • PHIL 3150 - History of Ethics

    This course will survey the ethical thought of major figures in the history of philosophy beginning with Plato and ending with the 19th century. For example: Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill. The course will proceed with class readings of primary philosophical texts.

  • PHIL 3200 - Social & Political Philosophy

    An examination of basic issues in social and political philosophy including justice, freedom, individuality, power, and community.

  • PHIL 3250 - Business Ethics

    Surveys some of the major moral problems which arise in business, such as the nature and scope of the moral responsibilities of corporations, affirmative action, truth in advertising, etc. Begins with a study of moral reasoning, ethical theory, and the challenges of applying ethical theory.

  • PHIL 3280 - War and Morality

    Attempts to identify and analyze some of the major moral issues of war. When is a war just, when is it not? What are morally acceptable rules of engagement? What, if anything, justifies violating them? How does one evaluate terrorism and war against terrorism? What are moral alternatives to the violence of war?

  • PHIL 3300 - Special Topics in Philosophy
  • PHIL 3350 - Metaphysics

    Study of major theories of reality, including such problems as the nature of substance, space and time, and universals and particulars.

  • PHIL 3360 - Epistemology

    Study of major theories of knowledge, including such problems as perception, and the distinction between belief and knowledge.

  • PHIL 3400 - Philosophy of Science

    Examination of some major concepts and problems of scientific thought: explanation, confirmation, causality, measurement, and theory construction.

  • PHIL 3420 - Kosmos: Theories of the Universe

    A course in philosophical cosmology using material from the sciences, history, and philosophy. The goal is to illuminate our present theories concerning the nature of the universe and the place of life within it.

  • PHIL 3440 - Introduction to Symbolic Logic

    Covers truth, functional, and quantificational logic through polyadic first order predicate calculus and theory of identity. Attention is given to such problems in metatheory as proofs of the completeness and consistency of systems of logic.

  • PHIL 3500 - Ideology & Culture: Race & Sex

    Surveys the different ways we look at race and sex or gender. Possible areas of focus include: the concept of ideology, feminist theory, race theory, and the standpoint debate.

  • PHIL 3666 - Asian Philosophies and Religions

    We in the Western World encounter a vastly different world, a radically different "universe of meaning," when we examine the traditions of the East. Even what we tacitly assume to be "real" is claimed by the Hindus and Buddhists of India to be a grand illusion. The world of China is, again, very different from India. An examination of Tibetan and Japanese religious forms will round out our study of Asian thought. Cross-listed with RLST 3400.

  • PHIL 3700 - Aesthetics

    Introduction to major theories of aesthetics and contemporary discussions of problems in aesthetics, that is, the nature of art, the problems of evaluation in art.

  • PHIL 3840 - Independent Study
  • PHIL 3939 - Internship/Cooperative Education

    Designed experiences involving application of specific, relevant concepts and skills in supervised employment situations. PREREQ: Junior standing and 2.75 grade point average.

  • PHIL 3981 - Chinese Philosophy and Culture

    China is a fascinating world with its own characteristic orientation to philosophical questions. Chinese thinkers produced the "Flowering of a Hundred Schools of Thought" in the Axial Age, the same period of time in which philosophy was coming to birth in ancient Greece. The course will cover some of the Chinese schools, including Confucianism, Taoism, Maoism, Legalism, Chinese "logic" and the later schools of Neo-Confucianism, Neo-Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism. Cross-listed with RLST 3660.

  • PHIL 4040/5040 - Skeptic and Believer

    The focus of this course is to examine the source of the tension in the mind of a believer that arises from the confrontation of skeptic and rationalist doctrines. We will examine several works in philosophy and European literature where this tension is best played out: Blaise Pascal's Pensees, F. Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, S. Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, F. Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and A. Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus. We will also review the classical philosophical arguments of skepticism and rationalism (Sextus Empiricus, Descartes, Spinoza, Hume) and see how they made their inroads into the world of the believer.

  • PHIL 4101/5101 - Pragmatism: Classical American Philosophy

    The most significant philosophical tradition born in the United States is pragmatism. In this course we will examine several of the most important classical works of this tradition, as well as the influence of thinkers who have helped to shape pragmatism. We also will be seeking to address the contemporary relevance of this tradition. Figures who may be included in this course: Emerson, Peirce, Royce, James, Dewey, Mead, Rorty. PREREQ: Introductory course in philosophy.

  • PHIL 4150/5150 - 20th Century Ethics

    A survey of representative philosophers, methods, and/or problems in 20th century ethics.

  • PHIL 4200/5200 - Philosophical Problems & Contemporary Culture

    Issues and controversies in contemporary culture, their relation to modern theories of society, and their manifestations in the arts, science and technology, education, religion, and ethics.

  • PHIL 4220/5220 - Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art

    PHIL 4220. Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. Introduction to major theories of aesthetics and contemporary discussions of problems in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, including topics such as: the nature of art, interpretation and evaluation in art. Cross-listed with HUM 5220.

  • PHIL 4230/5230 -Postmodernism and the Social Sciences

    Traces the history of a set of ideas collectively known as postmodern. Disrupting traditional frameworks of knowledge, these concepts have had an enormous impact on the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Course readings expose students to the cross-disciplinary impact of postmodernism on theory, content, and method.

  • PHIL 4242/5242 - Bioethics

    This course examines ethical theory: virtue ethics, consequentialist ethics, deontological ethics, and contemporary ethics as elucidated by historical and modern proponents. As part of this examination we will examine and define the constituents of the morally good life. As moral creatures we must know what living a morally good life means before we attempt to live one. We will also examine the particular moral principles that apply to biomedical endeavors. We will then examine the difficult ethical issues which face biomedical endeavors. These will include, legal and regulatory standards, abortion, provision of health care to marginalized populations, genetics, reproduction, and end of life issues, and research. Toward this end we will build on an understanding of ethical theories and principles to examine the dilemmas with which health care providers, society, and individuals are presented on a daily basis. At the conclusion of this course the student will be familiar with consequentialist, deontological, and virtue ethics. Further, the student will have experienced the rewards and difficulties of applying ethics to the dilemmas which increasingly face health care professionals, society and individuals. Finally, the student will have acquired, 1) tools with which to make ethical decisions, and 2) the ability to critically evaluate the ethical nature of decisions made by society as a whole.

  • PHIL 4250/5250 - Environmental Ethics

    While human industry/technology creates enormous material prosperity, it can result in devastating environmental damage. This course analyzes the moral values, consequences and duties implied in relationships between human beings, animals and ecological systems, while seeking out new and ethical approaches.

  • PHIL 4260/5260 - Philosophy of Law

    Survey of theoretical positions on the nature of law with particular emphasis on American Law.

  • PHIL 4270 - Philosophy of History

    An examination of critical and speculative theories of history, including the problems of methodology, explanation, values, and the relationship between history and social philosophy.

  • PHIL 4300/5300 - Philosophy of Mind

    Consideration of the problems in the philosophy of mind, such as the mind-body problem, the problem of our knowledge of other minds, and the compatibility of free will and determinism, and discussion of such concepts as action, intention, motive, desire, enjoyment, memory, imagination, dreaming, and self-knowledge.

  • PHIL 4460 - Theories of Human Nature

    Consideration of such problems as the changeability and definability of human nature, and the possibility of a science of human nature.

  • PHIL 4470 - Concepts of the Soul

    Asks the questions: What is the nature of the human being?; What is our consciousness?; What makes us "human"?; We will examine the various theories put forward in Hinduism and Buddhism, the Chinese debate on human nature, the soul theories of Plato, Hobbes, Aristotle, Descartes, Rousseau, Freud, and Jung. Cross-listed with RLST 4440/5440.

  • PHIL 4480 - Perspectives on Good and Evil

    We will examine the "problem of evil." As formulated in the philosophical tradition: if the deity is understood as perfect, then why is there evil? How can a perfect entity create imperfection? Why would an absolutely benevolent God cause or allow the innocent to suffer? The course will present the classical formulation of the problem, the traditional solutions offered, and the classical critiques of each answer. We will also look at the perspectives of the various religious orientations, each of which deals with the question of suffering differently. Cross-listed with RLST 4480.

  • PHIL 4510/5510 - Philosophy of Nature

    Critical comparison of different views of nature presupposed in science, art, religion, and environmental policy. Concepts of "natural" are examined in relation to such issues as animal rights, wilderness preservation, synthetic landscape, technology, pollution, and population control.

  • PHIL 4600/5600 - Philosophy of Religion

    Nature of religion and methods of studying it. Cross-listed with HUM 5600, RLST 4060, 5060, SSC 5600.

  • PHIL 4700 - Seminar in a Major Philosopher

    The major philosophical texts of one philosopher will be studied in this course. Philosophers to be studied will be major figures in the history of philosophy such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hume. The course may be taken for credit more than once. PREREQ: PHIL 3002, PHIL 3022.

  • PHIL 4650/5655 - Differing Concepts of God

    God, gods, and goddesses have been imagined in many different modes, forms, aspects, and guises throughout human history. This class will investigate paleolithic models of God, the Great Goddess of the Neolithic era, the gods of mythological traditions, the Biblical God, the abstract God of the philosophers, the God of the pantheists, the deists, and the God of the mystics. Cross-listed with RLST 4400/5400.

  • PHIL 4710 - Western Religious Thought

    Focuses on philosophers and theologians who have contributed to the evolution of the three great religious traditions of the West: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. We will target thinkers from three periods: the ancient or formative era, the medieval era, and the contemporary era. The specific philosophers chosen may vary in different semesters. Cross-listed with RLST 4070.

  • PHIL 4720 - Eastern Religious Thought

    Parallels the course in Western religious thought. The great religious traditions of the East, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, will be examined as they are presented in the writings of key philosophical representatives of each tradition. Cross-listed with RLST 4080.

  • PHIL 4730/5730 - Philosophy & Literature

    Consideration of the philosophical dimensions of literature.

  • PHIL 4735/5735 - Rationalism

    Addresses the fundamental questions of truth and reality through natural reason. Topics vary, and may include: Metaphysics, and the Rise of Modern Science; Women and the Enlightenment; Historical Problems and Linguistic Analysis. PREREQ: 6 hrs. in Western philosophy

  • PHIL 4740/5740 - Empiric​ism

    Consideration of the nature and importance of experience. The course will focus on British Empiricism, but additional themes which vary may include: American Pragmatism, Logical Positivism, Scientific Empiricism, Phenomenology of Experience. PREREQ: 6 hrs. in Western philosophy

  • PHIL 4750/5750 - Introduction to Phenomenology

    An examination of the contribution of phenomenology to selected topics in the theory of meaning, philosophy of mind, ontology, and epistemology, through a study of several philosophies such as Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty.

  • PHIL 4760/5830 - Kant

    A close study of Immanuel Kant's revolutionary thought. This course will focus on Kant's ontology, epistemology, and critical theory, as they are articulated in his Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason.

  • PHIL 4770/5770 - Hegel

    Systematic study of the thought of G.W.F. Hegel through his most important and influential works: The Phenomenology of Spirit, The Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences, The Science of Logic, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, and his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Art, and Religion. The focus of the course will vary.

  • PHIL 4780/5780 - Heidegger

    Studies the thought of Martin Heidegger, one of the most important philosophers of the 20th Century. It will include texts from both Heidegger's early and later periods, and will focus on his analyses of human subjectivity and Being. PREREQ: 6 hrs. in Western philosophy

  • PHIL 4800/5800 - Plato

    A careful study of Plato's writings with an eye to the dialogue form, and discussion of Plato's significance for the history of ethics, political theory, psychology, metaphysics and epistemology.

  • PHIL 4790 - Nietzsche

    A close study of Nietzsche’s philosophical writings, with attention to his significance for philosophy in the 20th century and beyond. Cross-listed with PHIL 5790.

  • PHIL 4810/5810 - Aristotle

    An examination of Aristotle's systematic philosophy and discussion of its contributions to logic, epistemology, physics, psychology, metaphysics, ethics, and political theory.

  • PHIL 4812 - Special Topics in Philosophy. Frequently cross listed with Phil 5812.
  • PHIL 4820/5820 - Hume

    Consideration of the work of eighteenth century philosopher David Hume. Emphasis on unity of Hume's thought.

  • PHIL 4833/5833 - Existentialism

    Key themes of existentialist thought, for example: the meaning and nature of individual existence, being and absurdity, the nature and significance of choice and freedom, and the dynamic interplay between self and other.

  • PHIL 4920/5920 - Philosophy of Media and Technology.

    A philosophical examination of interrelationships between contemporary media, technology and their impacts upon character of contemporary life and values. Topics may include ethics, epistemology, democracy, advertising, media literacy and criticism.

  • PHIL 4840 - Independent Study (Undergraduate)
  • PHIL 4950 - Honors Thesis
  • PHIL 4980 - Special Topics in Philosophy
  • PHIL 4900/5900 -John D​ewey

    John Dewey was one of the most important of the American philosophers and public intellectuals of the twentieth century. Topics may include Dewey's philosophical naturalism, pragmatist epistemology, process metaphysics and philosophies of experience, aesthetics, religion, technology and democracy.

  • PHIL 5013 - Philosophical Problems in the Social Sciences and the Humanities

    This course presents an overview of key theoretical issues currently emerging across academic disciplines. We will examine questions about reality, knowledge, and ethics that affect social research and writing in the humanities. Readings explore how contemporary philosophical and cultural discourses have altered theory and method. Assignments include influential theoretical pieces by key historical and contemporary thinkers, examples of application in social research, and interpretations of thought and affect in cultural contexts. PREREQ​: Graduate status.

  • PHIL 5040 - Skeptic and Believer
    ​The focus of this course is to examine the source of the tension in the mind of a believer that arises from the confrontation of skeptic and rationalist doctrines. We will examine several works in philosophy and European literature where this tension is best played out: Blaise Pascal's Pensees, F. Dostoyevski's The Brothers Karamazov, S. Kirkegaard's Fear and Trembling, F. Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and A. Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus. We will also review the classical philosophical arguments of skepticism and rationalism (Sextus Empiricus, Descartes, Spinoza, Hume) and see how they made their inroads into the world of the believer.​

  • PHIL 5100 - Topics in the History of Philosophy
  • PHIL 5101/4101 - Pragmatism: Classical American Philosophy

    The most significant philosophical tradition born in the United States is pragmatism. In this course we will examine several of the most important classical works of this tradition, as well as the influence of thinkers who have been part of a dialogue that has helped to shape pragmatism. We also will be seeking to address the contemporary relevance of this tradition. Figures who may be included in this course: Emerson, peirce, Royce, James, Dewey, Mead, Rorty. PREREQ: Introductory course in philosophy.

  • PHIL 5150/4150 - 20th Century Ethics

    A survey of representative philosophers, methods, and/or problems in 20th century ethics.

  • PHIL 5200/4200 - Philosophical Problems & Contemporary Culture

    Issues and controversies in contemporary culture, their relation to modern theories of society, and their manifestations in the arts, science and technology, education, religion, and ethics.

  • PHIL 5230/4230 - Postmodernism and the Social Sciences

    Traces the history of a set of ideas collectively known as postmodern. Disrupting traditional frameworks of knowledge, these concepts have had an enormous impact on the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Course readings expose students to the cross-disciplinary impact of postmodernism on theory, content, and method.

  • PHIL 5242/4242 - Bioethics

    Examines some of the major moral issues confronting the nation's health care system. The class will search for solutions to such problems as financing health care for those unable to do so on their own, determining the extent of a patient's right to both refuse and demand certain types of medical treatment, and allocating scarce medical resources such as life-saving vital organs. The springboard for examining these issues will be the doctor/patient relationship framed by the moral principles of respect for persons and beneficence.

  • PHIL 5260/4260 - Philosophy of Law

    Survey of theoretical positions on the nature of law with particular emphasis on American Law.

  • PHIL 5300/4300 - Philosophy of Mind

    Consideration of the problems in the philosophy of mind, including the mind-body problem, the problem of our knowledge of other minds, and the compatibility of free will and determinism, and discussion of such concepts as action, intention, motive, desire, enjoyment, memory, imagination, dreaming, and self-knowledge.

  • PHIL 5510/4510 - Philosophy of Nature

    Critical comparison of different views of nature presupposed in science, art, religion, and environmental policy. Concepts of "natural" are examined in relation to issues of animal rights, wilderness preservation, synthetic landscape, technology, pollution, and population control.

  • PHIL 5600/4600 - Philosophy of Religion

    Nature of religion and methods of studying it. Cross-listed with HUM 5600, RLST 4060, 5060, SSC 5600.

  • PHIL 5720 - Topics in Recent Philosophy
  • PHIL 5730 - Philosophy and Literature

    Consideration of the philosophical dimensions of literature.

  • PHIL 5735/4735 - Rationalism

    Addresses the fundamental questions of truth and reality through natural reason. Topics vary and may include: metaphysics and the rise of modern science; women and the enlightenment; historical problems and linguistic analysis.

  • PHIL 5740/4740 - Empiricism

    Consideration of the nature and importance of experience. The course will focus on British Empiricism, but additional themes which vary may include: American Pragmatism, Logical Positivism, Scientific Empiricism, Phenomenology of Experience.

  • PHIL 5750/4750 - Introduction to Phenomenology

    An examination of the contribution of phenomenology to selected topics in the theory of meaning, philosophy of mind, ontology, and epistemology, through a study of several philosophies such as Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty.

  • PHIL 5770/4770- Hegel

    Systematic study of the thought of G.W.F. Hegel through his most important and influential works: The Phenomenology of Spirit, The Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences, The Science of Logic, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, and his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Art, and Religion. The focus of the course will vary.

  • PHIL 5780/4780 - Heidegger

    Studies the thought of Martin Heidegger, one of the most important philosophers of the 20th Century. It will include texts from both Heidegger's early and later periods, and will focus on his analyses of human subjectivity and Being.

  • PHIL 5790/4790 - Nietzsche

    A close study of Nietzsche’s philosophical writings, with attention to his significance for philosophy in the 20th century and beyond.

  • PHIL 5800/4800 - Plato

    A careful study of Plato's writings with an eye to the dialogue form, and discussion of Plato's significance for the history of ethics, political theory, psychology, metaphysics and epistemology.

  • PHIL 5810/4810 - Aristotle

    An examination of Aristotle's systematic philosophy and discussion of its contributions to logic, epistemology, physics, psychology, metaphysics, ethics, and political theory.

  • PHIL 5820/4820 - Hume

    Consideration of the work of eighteenth century philosopher David Hume. Emphasis on unity of Hume's thought.

  • PHIL 5830/4760 - Kant

    A close study of Immanuel Kant's revolutionary thought. This course will focus on Kant's ontology, epistemology, and critical theory, as they are articulated in his Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason.

  • PHIL 5833/4833 - Existentialism

    Key themes of existentialist thought, for example: the meaning and nature of individual existence, being and absurdity, the nature and significance of choice and freedom, and the dynamic interplay between self and other.

  • PHIL 5840 - Independent Study (Graduate)
  • PHIL 5900 -John Dewey

    John Dewey was one of the most important of the American philosophers and public intellectuals of the twentieth century. Topics may include Dewey's philosophical naturalism, pragmatist epistemology, process metaphysics and philosophies of experience, aesthetics, religion, technology and democracy. Cross-listed with PHIL 4900.

  • PHIL 5920/4920 - Philosophy of Media and Technology

    A philosophical examination of interrelationships between contemporary media, technology and their impacts upon character of contemporary life and values. Topics may include ethics, epistemology, democracy, advertising, media literacy and criticism.

  • PHIL 5939 - Internship/Cooperative Education
  • PHIL 6950 - Master's Thesis