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.

Kant and the Sciences
PHIL 83279 01 (21092)

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respect to theoretical and practical reason – from his pre-critical writings, through the three Critiques, to his last unpublished Opus postumum.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

James P. Sterba, Ethics (Blackwell, 2009)
Alasdair MacIntrye, Ethics in the Conflict of Modernity (Oxford, 2016)

Reading Assignments:

              1) A. J. Ayer, The Emotive Theory of Ethics
                   Brand Blanshard, The New Subjectivism in Ethics
              2) John R. Searle, How to Derive 'Ought' from 'Is'
                   Antony Flew, On Not Deriving 'Ought' from 'Is'
              3) Alan Gewirth, The Justificatory Argument for Human Rights
                  Christine Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity 
              4) James P. Sterba, Justification of Morality & the Behavior of Women 
                   Alan Gewirth, The Rational Justification of Morality Revisited
                   Philippa Foot, Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives

              5)  Bernard Williams, Against Utilitarianism
                    Kai Nielson, Traditional Morality and Utilitarianism 
              6)  Michael  Stocker, The Schozophenia of Modern Ethical Theories
                    Peter Railton, Alienation, Consequentialism and the Demands of Morality 
              7) Fred Feldman, Kantian Ethics
                   Christine Korsgaard, Kant on Dealing with Evil
              8) John  Rawls, Welfare Liberalism
                   Charles W. Mills, Race and the Social Contract Tradition
              9) Jan Narveson, Liberty and Equality – A Question of Balance? 
                   James P. Sterba, Our Basic Human Right is a Right to Liberty and it leads to Equality
            10) Martha Nussbaum, Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach
                   Alasdair Macintyre, The Nature of Virtues
            11) Rosalind Hursthouse, Normative Virtue Ethics 
                   Robert N. Johnson, Virtue and Right 
            12) Sean Drysdale Walsh, Teleology, Aristotelian Virtue and Right 
                   Julia Annas, Ancient Ethics and Modern Morality

            Feminism: How is Gender Relevant to Morality?
            13) Carol Gilligan, Moral Orientation and Moral Development 
                   Virginia Held, Caring Relations and Principles of Justice 
            14) Claudia Card, Particular Justice and General Care
.                  James P. Sterba, The Masculine Bias in Traditional Ethics and How to Correct it
            Environmentalism: Who is to Count in Morality?
            15) Peter Singer, All Animals are Equal 
                   Paul Taylor, The Ethics of Respect for Nature 
            16) James P. Sterba, Kantians and Utilitarians and the Moral Status of Nonhuman Life 
                   Karen Warren, The Power and Promise of Ecological Feminism
            Multiculturalism:  Morality From Whose Cultural Perspective?
            17) Ayaan Hirsi Ali, A Modern Clash of Cultures 
                   Madeleine Bunting, Can Islam Liberate Women? 

            18) Alasdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity, Chapter 1
            19) Alasdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity, Chapter 2
            20) Alasdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity, Chapter 3
            21) Alasdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity, Chapter 4 to 201 
            22) Alasdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity, Chapter 4 from 202
            23) Alasdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity, Chapter 5

Paper Topics Assigned After Readings 12, 17 and 23

Forbidden Knowledge
PHIL 93826 01 (20160)

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

Science has traditionally been billed as our foremost producer of knowledge.  For more than a decade now, however, science has also been billed as an important producer of ignorance.  Indeed, historian of science Robert Proctor has coined a new term, agnotology, to refer to the study of ignorance, a new area of enquiry, and it turns out that much of the ignorance studied in this new area is produced by science. According to Proctor and other agnotologists, ignorance is far more complex than previously thought.  Ignorance is not just the void that precedes knowledge or the privation that results when attention focuses elsewhere.  It is also—in fact, it is especially--something socially constructed: the confusion produced, for example, when an increasingly politicized and commercialized science blocks access to information or even creates misinformation. 

But ignorance as “active construct” is only one type of ignorance on the research agenda of agnotology.  Proctor has distinguished two other types of ignorance also produced by science:  ignorance as “passive construct,” the kind of ignorance that is the unintended by-product of choices made in the research process; and ignorance as “virtuous”—when “not knowing” is accepted in research as a consequence of adopting certain values.  

In this course we shall explore this new interdisciplinary area of ignorance studies and its relation to the knowledge studies of philosophy—epistemology and philosophy of science.  Accordingly, readings will be drawn from the work of a broad array of scholars—scientists, historians, journalists, and social critics as well as philosophers.  The 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)