Graduate Courses

Fall 2017 Course Descriptions


Colloquium Seminar
PHIL 83102 01 (10828)

3:00-5:00 F

First-Year Proseminar
PHIL 83104 01 (13699)

3:30-6:15 R

This proseminar will introduce first-year graduate students to a range of important works in the analytic tradition, with the aim of providing a foundation for advanced study in philosophy.

PHIL 83271 01 (20153)

12:30-3:15 T

Deeply interested in the scientific developments of his time, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) powerfully defended the Enlightenment values of reason, science, and freedom, and decisively shaped the debates of philosophers and scientists in his own time and continuously up to the present. Throughout his life, Kant sought to provide a philosophy that is adequate to the sciences of his time – especially to Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics, but also to chemistry, anthropology, history, psychology, and biology. Whilst acknowledging the autonomy and diversity of the distinct scientific disciplines, his conception of science also reveals a deep unity of the sciences by reflecting upon the general cognitive constraints that are placed upon any scientific enquiry. In particular Kant argues that the laws of nature are, in part, the result of our mind “projecting an order onto nature”. In turn, Kant’s efforts to find a metaphysics that could serve as an a priori foundation for the sciences is central to understanding the development of his own philosophical thought – both with respect to theoretical and practical reason – from his pre-critical writings, through the three Critiques, to his last unpublished Opus postumum.
In this course, we will investigate Kant’s accounts of scientific cognition, laws of nature, types of scientific explanation (mechanical and teleological), scientific methods, aims, and guiding principles of systematicity, and finally the architectonic system of the sciences. Our discussions will be based on a close reading of central passages from the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/87) and the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), as well as from selected pre-critical and critical texts, such as the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786), the Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (1798) and diverse Lecture Notes. Throughout the course, we will remain sensitive to the historical context and to the state of the different sciences in the 18th century. Moreover, we will examine the role that Kant’s philosophy of nature plays within his theoretical and moral philosophy, in particular with respect to questions of determinism and freedom. 
Finally, we will look at some Kant-inspired philosophies of science in the 19th and 20th century, which were developed, among others, by Neo-Kantian philosophers and by logical positivists and which aimed to reconcile Kant’s thought with the revolutionary findings of newly emerging research programmes, such as quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity, and experimental psychology. This will help us to assess the extent to which Kant’s views may still be relevant to contemporary debates. 

PHIL 83501 01 (20154)

van Inwagen
3:30-6:15 M

It has now been twenty-seven years since the publication of Material Beings. Perhaps it is time for a retrospective. About half the meetings of the seminar will be devoted to a close reading of the book. The assigned reading for the remaining meetings will comprise works critical of Material Beings and defenses of positions incompatible with those taken in the book. The seminar will concentrate on metaphysical—as opposed to metametaphysical or meta-ontological—questions. (We shall, for example, spend little if any time on the merits and demerits of the idea of “quantifier variance.”) Questions about the appropriate method(s) for metaphysics will, however, be addressed.

Philosophy of Science
PHIL 83801 01 (11636)

12:30-3:15 M
Crosslisted with: HPS 83801-01

A survey of central issues in the philosophy of science, examining the backdrop of natural philosophy, the role of logical empiricism as a founding movement, the historical turn of the 1960s, and various debates spawned by these movements, concerning the semantics of theoretical terms, the possibility of scientific progress, the underdetermination of theory by data, forms of realism and antirealism, and topics such as scientific modeling and representation, laws of nature, the nature of explanation, the possibility of reductionism, and the unity of science. Complementary perspectives will be considered including the sociology of scientific knowledge, feminist critiques, and practice-oriented philosophy.

Intermediate Logic
PHIL 83901 01 (20155)

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

Teaching Methods: TA Practicum
PHIL 85104 01 (10340)


Philosophy Pedagogy Workshop
PHIL 85105 01 (15815)


Placement Practicum
PHIL 85106 01 (12147)


PHIL 93233 01 (20157)

12:30-3:15 R

Philosophy of Religion Workshop
PHIL 93413 01 (15043)

9:25-11:25 F

Contemporary Ethics
PHIL 93602 01 (20159)

11:00-12:15 TR
Crosslisted with: PHIL  43336 01

Forbidden Knowledge
PHIL 93826 01 (20160)

5:05-6:20 MW
Crosslisted with PHIL 43717, HPS 93826, and STV 73717

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.     

Directed Readings
PHIL 96697 01 (10687)


Directed Readings
PHIL 96697 02 (10644)


Directed Readings
PHIL 96697 03 (15155)


Non-resident Special Studies
PHIL 97700 01 (15786)


Dissertation Completion
PHIL 98200 01 (15166)


Dissertation Research Seminar
PHIL 98690 01 (15816)

2:00-3:15 T

Two types of challenges face dissertation writers: intellectual challenges, such as finding a topic, discovering that a topic is too large or too small, dealing with a shifting topic, writing clearly, and engaging current literature; and psychological challenges, such as writer’s block, lack of confidence, non-productive ruts, and perfectionism. This dissertation seminar will address both types of challenges. In addition to dissertation research presentations, we will discuss such issues as finding a topic and narrowing it appropriately, staying consistently productive throughout one’s dissertation career, what to do when one is stuck, how to stay passionate about one’s topic; how to receive feedback and incorporate it into one’s work productively; how to start writing rather than getting bogged down in reading, and how to construct dissertation chapters with an eye to the job market. This course is required for fourth and fifth year graduate students.

Graduate Research Seminar
PHIL 98698 01 (13567)

12:00-1:15 F

Graduate Research Seminar
PHIL 98698 02 (20633)

12:30-3:15 W

Research and Dissertation
PHIL 98699 01 (11260)


Non-resident Dissertation Research 
PHIL 98700 01 (11261)