Graduate courses

Spring 2017 Course Descriptions


Aristotle: De Anima
PHIL 83217 01 (30244)

12:30-3:15 R

The main business of the course will be to work through Aristotle’s De anima, in its entirety. We will also read some mostly recent secondary literature. We will begin w/some readings from Aristotle’s ‘philosophical lexicon’ in Metaphysics Δ, which we will use as a kind of ‘primer.’ 

The Quest for Beauty
PHIL 83227 01 (30245)

11:00-12:15 TR
Crosslisted with PHIL 43131

Aquinas, Anscombe & Geach
PHIL 83260 01 (29750)

11:00-12:15 TR

PHIL 83266 01 (26795)

11:00-12:15 MW
Crosslisted with PHIL 43180

This seminar examines how Hume's epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics made him a game-changer in early modern philosophy and how he still influences ongoing debates today concerning these topics:
    1.  representation and belief
    2.  mental and physical causation
    3.  psychology of action and moral evaluation  

Readings will include his Treatise of Human Nature, his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, as well as articles by recent philosophers like Michael Smith and Simon Blackburn, whose own work engages with Hume's views. 

A special part of the course will focus on Michael Smith's classic study of Hume and the moral problem.  Smith pointed out how this problem is generated by two incompatible claims: (a) Hume is right that a moral agent's motivations are to be explained in terms of her beliefs and desires, which are distinct existences having no necessary connection; yet (b) contra Hume, there nonetheless are necessary connections between our moral beliefs and our desires.  Was Hume's ethical theory really undermined by this problem?  We will consider whether it was, and we will ask to what extent Smith's alternative solution to the moral problem actually works.   

Course requirements:  Two medium-length papers and several short oral reports.

Kant's First Critique
PHIL 83272 01 (30246)

9:30-12:15 R

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a foundationally important thinker within philosophy and beyond, in his own time and continuously up to the present. Deeply interested in scientific, social, and political developments, he powerfully defended the Enlightenment values of reason, science, and freedom. In doing so, he decisively shaped the debates of philosophers, scientists, and political leaders in his own time and since. 
Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787) not only laid the foundation of his own Critical Philosophy, but turned out to be one of the most important works in the history of philosophy. In it, Kant explores the world of human “experience” in a way that integrates numerous philosophical issues from metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science to philosophy of religion and even ethics. He aims to resolve the problems that adhere to Empiricism and Rationalism and thereby shapes his own “transcendental idealism”. Getting a deeper understanding of this text will elucidate both the history of philosophy prior to Kant and the history of philosophy that developed in response to him.
In this course, we will engage with this work by close reading of selected passages and through in-depth discussions of key conceptions and arguments. Students will be encouraged not only to understand Kant’s views, but also to critique them, to develop them further, or to draw yet unexpected implications of them. The course requirements will include careful preparation of the readings, active participation in class, written papers, and oral presentations.

Intermediate Logic
PHIL 83901 01 (29751)

9:30-10:45 MW
Crosslisted with PHIL 43907

Philosophy Pedagogy Workshop
PHIL 85105 01 (20049)


Advanced Topics in Philosophy
PHIL 93101 01 (30509)

3:30-6:15 M

We will begin the term working through an overview of the state of current knowledge and theories about the mental lives of non-human animals. This will involve discussions about the interplay of empirical research on animal minds with various standard issues in philosophy of mind. Our bridge issue will be the topic of the relationship between mental status and moral status. We will then cross over into an examination of recent work on moral issues concerning non-human animals.

Requirements – graduate seminar level preparation and participation; significant term paper; one day of class leadership

Plato's Image of Love & Death
PHIL 93102 01 (30493)

9:30-10-45 MW
Crosslisted with PHIL 43117

PHIL 93335 01 (29752)

5:05-6:20 TR
Cross-listed with PHIL 43224

Philosophy of Religion Workshop
PHIL 93413 01 (25292)

9:25-11:25 F

Consciousness & Intentionality 
PHIL 93537 01 (30247)

12:30-3:15 W

This course examines recent work on consciousness and intentionality. Topics to be discussed include: whether consciousness is a physical/functional phenomenon, whether intentionality can be naturalized, the relationship between consciousness and intentionality, the representational content of perceptual experience, and the epistemic and ethical significance of consciousness.

Intuitions, Reasons, and Values
PHIL 93636 01 (30248)

3:30-6:15 T

This seminar will explore intuitions and intuitionism, reasons for action (both normative reasons and other kinds), and the relation of both sets of elements to obligation and value.  The seminar will begin with studies in the modern history of the topic, but its aim is to frame and assess an ethical theory that is epistemologically intuitionistic, ontologically realistic regarding the normative domain, and pluralistic in both the theory of obligation and the theory of value.  An underlying premise is that in recent years the emphasis on reasons as normatively basic has been insufficiently sensitive to the importance of intrinsic value in ethics and, more generally, in the theory of rationality.  Another underlying premise is that recent work in ethical theory has too rarely been adequately sensitive to action theory and moral phenomenology, e.g. to forms and explanatory roles of intention and to the phenomenology of cognition and inference.  Many points from these areas will likely enter the discussion. Normative questions will also be considered at many points, and a basic knowledge of virtue ethics, utilitarianism, and Kantian ethics will be presupposed; but the main aim is to understand and compare leading ethical positions with a view to helping all participants make advances in ethical theory.

Readings as now foreseen (mid Octobr 2016) will likely include, in the early part of the seminar devoted to the history of the topic, selections from Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics, from Prichard, Moore, and Ross, from Roger Crisp’s The Cosmos of Duty: Henry Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics (2015), Thomas Hurka’s British Ethical Theorists from Sidgwick to Ewing (2014), and perhaps Roderick M. Chisholm’s Brentano on Intrinsic Value. Contemporary readings might include, on intuition (with attention to its role in relation to disagreement and the self-evident), papers by Audi, Bealer, Huemer, Stratton-Lake, and Williamson; on reasons, reasoning, and inference, work by Broome, Korsgaard, Parfit, Railton, Scanlon, Schroeder, and Wedgwood; and, on value and obligation, work by Audi, Butchvarov, Chang, Hurka, and Thomson.

The Metaphysics of Ethics
PHIL 93637 01 (30367)

12:30-3:15 M

Metaphysical concepts and tools such as causation, properties, relations, and possible worlds are at the heart of many ethical problems. Moral culpability depends in part on causation. An agent’s responsibility for an outcome is partially determined by causal facts. The distinction between killing and letting die rests on the distinction between action and omission. The non-identity problem, the problem of moral obligation to non-existent persons, hangs on metaphysical issues about diachronic identity and non-existence. Theories of collective responsibility depend on particular views about composition, constitution, and causation. And the ethics of human persons often depends on particular views of personal identity. This course will explore and address these and similar topics in the metaphysics of ethics, with an eye to using metaphysical tools to sharpen and solve ethical problems. 

This course can count for either the graduate metaphysics requirement or the graduate ethics requirement, depending on the work done in the course.

Forbidden Knowledge
PHIL 93826 01 (29755)

5:05-6:20 MW

Although many speak of ours as a “knowledge society,” ignorance seems to flourish all around us.  Even in the United States, considered one of the most advanced countries of the world, the content of the news varies with the sources consulted, more information is kept secret every year than is revealed, and millions question some of the most established results of science (such as evolution, global warming, and the benefits of childhood immunization) even as they overlook genuine problems (such as conflict of interest) in other results of science.  And the problem, many say, is growing worse.  Still, despite its alarming proportions, all this ignorance is ignored by traditional epistemology and philosophy of science.  As a result, within the last 10 years historians of science such as Robert Proctor, Londa Schiebinger, Peter Galison, and Naomi Oreskes, have been promoting a new area of enquiry—Proctor calls it agnotology, the study of ignorance—which they suggest is of as much relevance to philosophers and scientists and others as it is to historians.  Indeed, the suggestion is that agnotology offers a new approach to the study of knowledge, an approach at least as complex and important as its more established philosophical sisters. 
In this course, after briefly considering the way traditional epistemology and philosophy of science approach knowledge studies, we shall explore agnotology’s approach:  focusing on ignorance construction and avoidance from a point of departure of knowledge rather than knowledge construction from a point of departure of ignorance.  Here we will investigate not only the kinds of issues dealt with by the above historians of science—such as ignorance produced through government secrecy and censorship and the commercial shaping of scientific research—but also issues dealt with by a broad array of scientists, philosophers, journalists, and social critics as well as historians—such as ignorance produced through cognitive bias and cultural prejudice.  We shall then be in a position to assess this new area of agnotology and map out its relationship with epistemology and philosophy of science.
This course will be run as a seminar.  Students will lead class discussions, present the results of individual research projects to the group, and have the opportunity to further develop those projects using feedback from the group.  The aim in all this will be for each student to develop a fully informed and defensible response to the new terrain we shall be exploring.      

Topics: Philosophy of Physics
PHIL 93890 01 (30352)

12:30-3:15 R

This research seminar will survey recent work in the philosophy of physics. Among the topics that we will cover are: the role of convention in describing the geometry of Newtonian spacetime, the description of "observable quantities" in quantum theory, the problem of "theoretical equivalence", the use of generalized probability theory in physics, and some conceptual puzzles in quantum field theory and quantum gravity. The seminar will be driven by participant-led presentations, as well as talks by guest speakers.

Function and Normativity
PHIL 93891 01 (30490) 

8:00-10:45 R

Models and Representation
PHIL 93892 01 (30491)

10:30-12:35 W 

Modal Logic
PHIL 93921 01 (29756)

11:00-12:15 MW
Crosslisted with PHIL 93921

Topics in Philosophy of Logic
PHIL 93925 01 (29757)

12:30-1:45 T

In this seminar we will examine the role of models in contemporary logic. Issues to be discussed include: the history of model theory; the use of models in assessing consistency and consequence; the determinacy of mathematical reference; the significance of such early theorems as completeness and Löwenheim-Skolem; the significance of various kinds of theoretical reduction; the significance of various kinds of categoricity; and more.  Particular choice of topics is potentially sensitive to student interest, so please get in touch ahead of time if there are related topics you’d like to cover.  Work for the course will include a term paper and a few short assignments.


Dissertation Completion
PHIL 98200 01 (25653)


Language Reading Seminar: Philosophical Texts in French
PHIL 98697 01 (30249)



Critical reading and translation from a select philosophical text in French.  This term: Rousseau, Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les hommes.

Graduate Research Seminar
PHIL 98698 01 (23642)

3:30-5:00 W

Research and Dissertation
PHIL 98699 01 (20821)


Non-resident Dissertation Research 
PHIL 98700 01 (20407)