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Because of the accelerating COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing stay-at-home order from the State of Illinois, Knox College has made the decision to teach the entirety of spring term remotely. More Information

"Planathon" for StartUp Term 2017; students meet with faculty, exchange ideas and form teams during the winter, in advance of the course held in the spring.


Department Chair

Brandon E. Polite

Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

PHIL 114 East Asian Philosophy

This course will introduce the three major philosophical systems of East Asian thought: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism through their canonical texts. This historical approach will be supplemented by contemporary readings in each tradition. When taught as a component of the Japan Term, this course will pay special attention to the development of Japanese Buddhism, specifically Pure Land Buddhism (Amida Buddhism), Esoteric Buddhism (Shingon Buddhism) and Zen Buddhism (Soto and Rinzai). Cross Listing: ASIA 114;RELS 114; Normally offered alternate years; W. Young

PHIL 115 Introduction to Philosophy

An exploration of the enduring philosophical questions regarding the nature of reality, the existence of the external world, the extent of human freedom, the existence of God, the definition of the Good and its relevance to the moral life, and the principles of social and political organization. HUM; IC; Staff

PHIL 118 Environmental Ethics

An examination of the contested frameworks that govern our environmental policies. Critical questions are: Is there a land ethic? Do animals have rights? Do we have ethical obligations to natural objects? Special attention is given to the major arguments of libertarian, utilitarian, and liberal-pluralist social philosophies and to the policies and practices of contemporary environmental activists. HUM; Cross Listing: ENVS 118; IC; Staff

PHIL 120 Critical Reasoning

A study of the logical principles in deductive and inductive reasoning with emphasis on the methods of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of arguments. Emphasis is on the identification and classification of fallacies, the formation of scientific hypothesis, the methods of confirmation and falsification, legal reasoning, and problem solving. Examples are taken from the arguments of journalists, lawyers, scientists and philosophers. HUM; Staff

PHIL 125 Philosophy and Fantasy

This course approaches philosophical issues through science fiction. Among the issues discussed are: 1) Is scientific progress human progress? 2) Can machines think? 3) Are thinking machines persons? 4) Can human society be perfected? 5) Does history have an overriding goal for human development? 6) Is human perception relative to human biology? social community? 7) Are social power, scientific practice, exploitation, and the concept of the 'the natural' linked? In other words, is nature a social construct? HUM; IC; B. Polite

PHIL 130 Ethics and Business

In this course we read, write and think about the nature of business and its relation to a good human life. We consider such questions as: Is anybody who provides a good to other people involved in a business? Could a society have businesses if it didn't also have money? In what sense does one have to do what one has contracted to do? Do businesses owe anything to those who create the conditions in which they flourish? Is there anything objectionable about asking as much as the market will bear for some product? HUM; IC; D. Wack

PHIL 142 Philosophy as a Guide to Life

The goal of this course is a little audacious: to help students become wiser and lead a better life. To achieve this goal, we will explore several traditional philosophical approaches to the question: "What is it to lead a good life?" These may include Confucianism, Daoism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Buddhism, among others. Students will "live out" each approach for one or more days, breaking unconscious habits by incorporating philosophical insights into their daily lives and seeing whether they bear any fruit. They will then report back to the class with their observations and experiences. HUM; IC; Normally offered alternate years; B. Polite


This course analyzes social and ethical issues in medicine and medical research. Specifically, we will explore the relationships between patient and caregiver, caregiver and corporation, and corporation and patient. To do so, we will read and analyze arguments from philosophers, caregivers, medical scientists, social scientists, and business professionals. The class will focus on three main topics: bodily autonomy, bodily authority, and medicine as business. Among our main questions will be: What professional and ethical obligations do medical caregivers have to patients? Can and should children consent to plastic surgery? What is the limit of understanding medicine as a profit-driven enterprise? HUM;

PHIL 202 Symbolic Logic

A detailed study of the principles of deductive logic, the course emphasizes the identification of valid and invalid arguments, and the fundamentals of propositional logic and quantification theory. QSR; Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing or permission of the instructor; QL; QR; B. Polite

PHIL 205 Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism

This course is an introduction to Buddhism, with specific emphasis on Japanese Buddhism. To these ends, it will canvass the principal tenets of Buddhism, namely, the four noble truths, the eight-fold path, dependent originations, the no-self, karma, etc., in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. It will then consider the development of Japanese Buddhism from the Asuka (552-645 CE) through the Kamakura Periods (1185-1332 CE) by examining the rise of particular sects within Japanese Buddhism (Nara Schools, Tendai, Shingon, Pure Land, and Zen). Cross Listing: ASIA 205;RELS 205; Normally offered alternate years; W. Young

PHIL 210 Ethics

Lying, murder and cheating at checkers are all species of injustice-what do they all have in common that makes them all injustices? Which is better, being just or appearing just? Must one care about being a just (or a good) person? It is easier to answer these questions than to explain why the right answers are right, although both tasks are challenging. We think about what the right answers are, and why they are right, through careful reading of some of the great moral philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, David Hume and Immanuel Kant. HUM; 8C; D. Wack

PHIL 211 Philosophy of Art

An exploration of the problems found in the analysis and criticism of the visual and performing arts. Topics may include the analysis of an aesthetic experience, the tension between subjective and objective evaluations, the definition of beauty and the problem of the ugly, the problems of creativity and expression, the role of the artist in contemporary society, the ethical issues of censorship, forgery, and artist's rights. Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing or permission of the instructor; IC; D. Wack

PHIL 212 Value and Exchange

How is value created and sustained? What role does exchange play in value's creation? In this course we explore the relation between value and exchange in order to analyze the contemporary, historical, and cross-cultural practices involving debt and money. We will read several theorists, including Georg Simmel, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Marcel Mauss, David Graeber, and Gayle Rubin, on the relation between value and exchange. On this basis, we will then examine the ethical implications of money and debt relations. In so doing, we will analyze and contrast contemporary and market forms of exchange with historical and cross-cultural forms of exchange. Finally, we will develop these theoretical frameworks on value and exchante in order to better understand the most recent global crisis of value and exchange: the financial and market panic of 2008. IC; D. Wack

PHIL 215 Philosophy of Education

A critical examination of some assumptions about education embraced by historical and contemporary philosophers, and the relevance of these assumptions to U.S. schooling. Philosophical questions are considered, such as "What does it mean to teach?" and "What is knowledge?" HUM; Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing or permission of the instructor; Cross Listing: EDUC 203; W;SA; S. DeWitt

PHIL 218 Philosophy of Mind

This course examines the relationship between the mind and the natural world. Some of the topics the course may consider are: What is the relationship between the mind and the body? Given that cognitive processes are rule-bound processes, are these rules learned or innate? Do these rules permit objective knowledge, i.e., knowledge of the world as it is in and of itself? What explains the semantic content of cognitive states? What is consciousness? What is the status of computer intelligence? IC; B. Polite

PHIL 220 Contemporary Moral Theory

Contemporary moral philosophy is largely concerned with providing an objective basis for morals. A central challenge for contemporary moral philosophy is to show that morals are not entirely subjective, not entirely relative to a particular person's desires or beliefs or goals, and not even entirely relative to a particular culture's practices. This course examines the two most prevalent contemporary moral theories: Utilitarianism and Kantianism. We consider central contemporary discussions of subjectivism and relativism regarding morals and then read John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant, as well as several contemporary discussions of their doctrines. Prerequisite(s): one philosophy course or sophomore standing, or permission of the instructor; D. Wack

PHIL 228 Death and Life

In this course, we articulate the concepts of life and death by surveying a variety of ancient and modern philosophical accounts of them in order to see the role such an understanding of these concepts can play in helping us think about our relations to ourselves and to others. In exploring both ancient philosophical practices designed to cultivate ways of thinking about death and more modern attempts to grapple with these two concepts, we investigate the conceptual difficulties and rewards in thinking of death and life. IC; D. Wack

PHIL 230 Political Philosophy

This course is an historical introduction to political philosophy focusing especially on the ideas of liberalism and democracy. Our own form of government is (perhaps only ideally) a realization of both of these values and is an important source of their currency as ideals in much of the contemporary world. But what is liberalism? What is democracy? What forms can liberalism and democracy take? Are some forms preferable to others? What is so valuable about liberalism and democracy anyway? Can both be realized by a state? If there is a conflict, which value should take precedence? Offered alternate years. IC; Normally offered alternate years; D. Wack

PHIL 240 Morality and the Law

The course deals with the general problem of the relations between morality and the law. In what ways has the law been influenced by morals and morals by the law? Should a judge be allowed to use his or her own moral discretion in deciding tough cases? The course also emphasizes problems concerning the legal enforcement of morality. Certain specific problem areas are examined. Staff

PHIL 243 Philosophies of Feminism

This course explores the theoretical frameworks by which feminists explain the exploitation and oppression of women. The aim of this course is to understand how feminists conceive of sexism, how they model a nonsexist society, and the manner in which they believe this society may be established. We proceed historically, beginning with Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of A Woman, ending with contemporary feminist issues. Among the varieties of feminist thought covered are Enlightenment feminism, cultural feminism, Marxist feminism, psychoanalytic feminism, radical feminism and contemporary French feminism. HUM; Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing; Cross Listing: GWST 243; W. Young

PHIL 244 Philosophy of Music

This course considers the nature of music and its significance. Our central question will be: in what ways can music be meaningful? More specific questions may include: What is a musical work? What determines whether performances are authentic or good? Why do we sometimes find music to be not just enjoyable but also intensely moving and even profound? We approach these questions through a careful examination of key texts and arguments in musical aesthetics, and with respect to a variety of musical styles. No special knowledge of philosophy or music is presupposed for students entering the class. HUM; Cross Listing: MUS 244; IC; B. Polite

PHIL 246 Philosophy of Film

Popular movies characteristically depict actions, with a climactic action or event giving significance and structure to the earlier events in the movie. What are the implications of the centrality of action and action representation in movies for our understanding of film and of action? How do movies help us to understand the relation between a world and the actions that are possible in that world? How do the movies allow us to think about actions and the inner lives of the agents who carry them out? How have the kinds of actions shown in popular movies developed and changed? How does the representation of action on film shed light on the nature of time? Cross Listing: FILM 246; D. Wack

PHIL 247 Moral Life in Literature

Literature raises two different types of moral questions: those concerned with the moral parameters guiding the creative process and those dealing with the moral issues raised from within the literary work itself. This course examines both issues. Regarding the former, we ask: Must good literature be moral or can an accomplished work of art be immoral? If there are moral guidelines for the production of literature, what are they? Regarding the latter, we use literature to better understand particular moral issues. What, for example, can literature add to our understanding of friendship, courage, community and the pursuit of individuality? Cross Listing: ENG 247; IC; B. Polite

PHIL 248 Teaching Assistant (1/2 or 1)

Prerequisite(s): Permission of instructor; May be graded S/U at instructor's discretion; Staff

PHIL 270 Greek Philosophy

The development of Greek philosophy from its origins in the pre-Socratic fragments through Sophists to the major systematic works of Plato and Aristotle. Special attention is given to the enduring character of the topics raised in ancient philosophy, possibly including the nature of reality, the definition of the Good, the apprehension of beauty, and the basis for social and political life. HUM; Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing or permission of the instructor; Cross Listing: CLAS 270; IC; B. Polite

PHIL 273 American Philosophy and Postmodernism

A study of the idealist, naturalist, and pragmatist trends in American thought as exemplified in the works of Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey with special emphasis on their relationship to contemporary trends in postmodernism. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy or permission of the instructor; Cross Listing: AMST 273; W; B. Polite

PHIL 276 Existentialism

An exploration of Existentialism through both philosophical and literary texts. Authors may include: Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and de Beauvoir. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy or permission of the instructor; W. Young

PHIL 278 Memory and Perception

How are our capacities for memory and sense perception related? In what ways do they depend on each other? In this course, we examine a number of different philosophical accounts of the relations between memory and perception in order to determine the nature of the interdependence of these capacities. In so doing, we will clarify for ourselves how mind and world are related and see why it is the case that our ability to perceive the world we live in is itself a phenomenon that is conditioned by historical developments. We will read texts by Henri Bergson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Elizabeth Anscombe, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stanley Cavell, and others. We will watch movies by Orson Welles, Chris Marker, Alfred Hitchcock, and others. W; D. Wack

PHIL 283 Philosophy of Religion

An examination of the rational basis of theistic belief including a study of the teleological, cosmological, moral, and ontological arguments for the existence of God. Special attention is given to the problems of religious knowledge, the differences between evidentialists and reliabilists accounts of religious experience, the nature and description of mysticism, religious experience, and religious authority. Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing or permission of the instructor; Cross Listing: RELS 283; B. Polite

PHIL 284 Philosophy, Art, and Religion

This course examines the relationship between art (with a special emphasis on music) and religious belief, practice, and experience. Our central questions are: Can art communicate religious beliefs? What do both believers and non-believers get out of viewing religious art? Does the meaning of religious art change when placed within a secular setting? Can art induce (as well as express) mystical experiences? To address these questions, we will consider the work of a number of philosophers and other scholars. We will also look at art produced within a diverse array of religious traditions from around the world. HUM; Cross Listing: RELS 284; IC; Offered alternate years; B. Polite

PHIL 285 Black Philosophy

An introduction to the Black philosophical tradition from its origins in ancient Egyptian myth and ritual to contemporary African American thinkers. Authors read include, among others, W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, bell hooks, Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis and Cornel West. Alternate years. HUM; Prerequisite(s): one course in Africana Studies or one course in Philosophy; Cross Listing: AFST 285; DV; F. Hord

PHIL 290 Agents, Actions, Ends

This course aims, first, to be an introduction to moral psychology-the area of philosophy that straddles the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of action and the theory of value. Moral psychology asks "In virtue of what is some event an intentional action?" "In virtue of what is something-an animal, a person, an institution-an agent?" "Does aiming at something entail viewing it as something good?" This course aims, second, to equip students with an especially fruitful way to think about various sorts of actions and agents-the approach we study is well-suited to navigating substantive ethical debates, and to appreciating the insights of some strands of post-structuralism, post-colonial theory, and feminism. Offered alternate years. Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing or consent of the instructor; D. Wack

PHIL 295 Special Topics (1/2 or 1)

Courses offered occasionally to students in special areas of Philosophy not covered in the usual curriculum. Staff

PHIL 302 Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant

The development of philosophy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with stress on the growth of rationalist and empiricist trends which culminate in Kant. Philosophers studied include Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, and Hume, as well as Kant. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy or permission of the instructor; W. Young

PHIL 303 Modern Philosophy From Kant to Marx

Concentration on a critical analysis of Kant, Hegel, and Marx. The course emphasizes the complex interrelation between theory and practice. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy or permission of the instructor; W. Young

PHIL 317 Philosophy of Science

This course investigates the nature of scientific reasoning, the defining characteristics of theory, law, experimentation, normal and revolutionary science, the conflict between realist, positivist and instrumentalist views of science, and some of the tensions between science and society. Prerequisite(s): PHIL 202 or equivalent of MATH 151 or above; Staff

PHIL 348 Teaching Assistant (1/2 or 1)

Prerequisite(s): Permission of instructor; May be graded S/U at instructor's discretion; Staff

PHIL 395 Special Topics (1/2 or 1)

Courses offered occasionally to students in special areas of Philosophy not covered in the usual curriculum. Staff

PHIL 399 Senior Seminar in Contemporary Philosophy

The primary aim of Senior Seminar is the reworking of an essay written in a previous Philosophy class. That essay will then be submitted to an undergraduate conference in Philosophy or an undergraduate Philosophy journal. Prerequisite(s): junior standing or permission of the department; May be repeated once for credit; W; O; Staff

PHIL 400 Advanced Studies (1/2 or 1)

See College Honors Program. Staff

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