Topics in Philosophy

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PHL 290

       Course Name: Topics in Philosophy

       Credits: 1-4 (1-4 lecture; 0-4 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

May vary by topic

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course explores selected topics in philosophy. Topics included vary, with focus on a single philosopher, group of philosophers, or particular philosophical problem. Course may be repeated up to three times for up to nine credits.

IV.   Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • read and critique major philosophical works;
  • assess the relevance of philosophical works to their own lives and contemporary social problems;
  • demonstrate their understanding through philosophical writing and through class participation;
  • subject their own views and the views of others to rigorous philosophical examination.

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

Examples of possible topics for this course are as follows:

  • 19th Century Challenges to Traditional Moral Theory: An examination of works of John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Soren Kierkegaard. Although the views of these four philosophers are radically different, they all seek to undercut traditional moral theory, and this course will compare, contrast, and evaluate their efforts. This course will especially focus on the question, “Why be moral at all?"
  • The Intersection of Philosophy and Psychology: An examination of what psychologists have said about morality and the development of a sense of morality. This course will particularly focus on the works of Freud, Piaget, and Gilligan.  We will ask whether these psychologists have made philosophical mistakes. We will also ask if philosophers who do not examine the insights of psychology make equally naive mistakes. We will look at large number of philosophers who have responded to Gilligan by developing a philosophically sophisticated version of the ethic of care.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre: A study of Sartre's philosophy through his formal works of philosophy and through his novels and plays. This course will focus on Sartre's claim that human beings are totally free and not determined by biological or social factors. In addition to reading parts of his major work Being and Nothingness. We will also examine novels such as Nausea and plays such as No Exit.
  • Contemporary American Philosophers Look at America: This course will look at contemporary American philosophers particularly those philosophers who offer criticisms of various aspects of our society, ranging from Noam Chomsky on the media to Cornel West on materialism and nihilism. In looking at these philosophers we will debate the relevance of philosophy to contemporary life.
  • Philosophy of Language: An exploration of the claim that the language we speak determines our conceptual framework.

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Methods of instruction may include lecture, class discussion, small group discussion, student presentations, and films.  Field trips may be required.  The specific methods will be noted on the syllabus.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Students must be required to read college level philosophical works and must be required to write at least 15 typed pages of material. This writing may take the form of a long term paper or several shorter critical papers.  Students may be required to defend their views in class discussion and in formal presentations. There may be several in-class essay exams.

IX.   Instructional Materials

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

The instructional materials will vary with the topic. Normally, students will be reading substantial works by major philosophers rather than anthologies or introductory texts. For example, this might be the reading list for the course "19th Century Challenges to Traditional Moral Philosophy" described above.

  • John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism and On Liberty
  • Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
  • Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Genealogy of Morals
  • Soren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Exams, quizzes, papers, journals, oral presentations, group work, and class participation may all be used to evaluate student learning.  (The weight of each assignment or exam in calculating the final grade must be specified in the syllabus.)

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

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.