Modern and Contemporary Philosophy

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PHL 231

       Course Name: Modern and Contemporary Philosophy

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course examines last 350 years of Western philosophy. Topics include works of at least five major philosophers such as Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, James, Sartre, Rawls, Foucault, De Beauvoir, and Habermas. Content includes philosophical ideas about the nature of reality, knowledge, morality, and social justice.

IV.   Learning Objectives

After completing this course, students will be able to do the following:

A.     Analyze and evaluate the core theories and arguments of at least five key philosophers active during the modern and contemporary periods.
B.     Identify basic lines of influence between philosophers from subsequent historical periods.
C.     Analyze and evaluate the manner in which social and political changes in Europe (e.g. the emergence of liberalism, the nation state, the scientific revolution, slavery, scientific racism, and colonialism) influenced the development of key philosophical movements, theories and arguments.
D.     Analyze and evaluate the development of alternative to the traditional understanding of the development of European philosophy (e.g. feminism, post-colonial studies, and critical race theory).
E.     Discuss and evaluate both orally and in writing the answers to the basic philosophical questions asked during this period.
F.     Discuss and evaluate both orally and in writing the implications of these philosophical positions to the enduring ethical questions of human life.
G.     Exhibit values related to teamwork and collaboration, fostered by the pedagogy of shared-inquiry and critical dialogue appropriate to the humanities and philosophy.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

(Below is a sample of possible topic areas for the course. Instructors may take an historical survey approach, a thematic approach, or combine the two in some fashion.)

A.    Philosophy & the Scientific Revolution
B.    Rationalism, Empiricism, and Idealism
C.    Philosophy and Politics: Liberalism and its Discontents
D.    Kierkegaard and Nietzsche’s Challenge to the Claims of Reason
E.    Mill’s New Empiricism and the Development of Modern Philosophy of Science
F.    Race and Philosophy
G.    20th Century Existentialism and the Crisis of Meaning
H.    The Alternative Path of Anglo-American Analytic Philosophy
I.    Simone de Beauvoir and the Development of Feminist Philosophy
J.    Foucault’s Postmodernism and New Directions for Western Philosophy

VII.  Methods of Instruction

A.     Lectures and discussion
B.     Small group work
C.     Films
D.     Student presentations and debates
E.     Guest speakers
F.     Field trips may be required
Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

(Please include information here about all expectations you have for your students regarding behavior, work, etc.  The following are sample topics you may wish to cover.  Please be aware that you must require students in this course to produce at least 15 pages of critical written assignments over the course of the semester.  These may be assigned in a variety of ways including journals, response papers, field trip projects, etc.)
A.     Attendance
B.     Standards for written work
C.     Quizzes/Exams
D.     Participation
E.     Essays
F.     Final Project
G.     Special policies about make-up exams, late papers, or other matters of concern

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Instructors may choose to use several short works in their entirety such as Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Descartes’ Meditations, Hume’s Three Dialogues on Natural Religion, Mill’s On Liberty, Simone de Beavoir’s The Second Sex (selections), Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Kant’s Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics, and West’s Race Matters.

Another possibility is using a fairly comprehensive anthology of primary sources such as Baird and Kaufmann’s Philosophic Classics, Volumes III and IV.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

(In this section, please present the percentages or point breakdown of their final grade.  The writing assignments should count for at least 40% of the final grade.  An example follows.)
A.     Quizzes/Exams……40 points
A.     Essays……40 points
B.     Final project with oral presentation……10 points
C.     Attendance and participation………10 points
D.     Grading scale: 90-100, A…….80-89, B………70-79, C……….60-69……..D

XI.   Other Course Information

Instructor information
•    Office and office hours:
•    Phone:
•    Email and website:

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at