A one-hour seminar each semester tied to the talks given in the department's ongoing colloquium series. Required of all first-year graduate students.
Cross-listed with CLGR 40035 & CLGR 60035
This seminar will focus on reading in Greek Plato’s Symposium, one of the gems of world literature. The seminar is appropriate only for students whose Greek skills are already advanced. We will also work through some Greek prose composition to enrich our understanding of Plato’s prose technique. Throughout, our goal will be to understand Plato’s Greek with the accuracy and precision necessary to appreciate his literary accomplishment.
Ancient and Medieval Theories of Self
Reydams-Schils and Stock
Cross-listed with MI 40040 01 and ME 610040 01
Ever since Foucault’s groundbreaking studies on the history of sexuality, and especially the third volume, Care of the Self, the notion of ‘self’ has become ubiquitous—even though the French original was careful not to use the definite article in its title, and thus would better be rendered as ‘the care of self’ (le souci de soi).
In this course we will examine what is considered the core of a human being in ancient Greek, Roman, and Christian traditions. What do we mean when we apply the notion of ‘self’ to these views, and is it adequate? Is there such a thing as ‘the’ self, and how is this notion related to other concepts such as ‘person,’ ‘subject,’ or ‘individual’? What does it mean to be a human being, an embodied being, an ethical being, a responsible agent, an individual, a member of a community or even the cosmos? The course will combine a range of themes that throw light on these issues, such as the models of the soul, the relation between soul and body, the role of striving towards some kind of perfection, or ‘becoming like god,’ and sociability. We will examine these themes with close readings of key texts by ancient (p. ex. Plato, Aristotle, Stoics), late antique (p. ex. Plotinus) and Christian authors (p. ex. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Teresa of Avila).
David Lewis's Letters
The work of David K. Lewis (1941-2001) sets the agenda for many contemporary subfields of philosophy. This seminar will focus on two newly published volumes of David Lewis’s letters, and how they shed light on his metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. Each class will focus on several Lewis letters, paired together with a topically relevant and more well-known published paper by him. We will focus on how Lewis’s letters can shape our understanding of his published work. Expect to have several guest speakers in class who were among Lewis’s correspondents.
Warning: the two volumes of letters are expensive. For class, I will expect you to be in possession of the first of the two volumes, Philosophical Letters of David K. Lewis, Volume 1: Causation, Modality, Ontology (a.k.a. “The Red Book”). I will make available copies of relevant letters from the other volume, Philosophical Letters of David K. Lewis, Volume 2: Mind, Language, and Epistemology (a.k.a. “The Green Book”). You might wish to seek out cheap options for acquiring The Red Book in advance.
Love, Beauty, and Objectification
Cross-listed with PHIL 43319, GSC 53702, and GSC 63702
This class will take an interdisciplinary approach to addressing interconnected issues in feminist philosophy on the topics of love, beauty, and (sexual) objectification. Likely topics include (i) the nature of sexual objectification and its relationship to the phenomenon of dehumanization, (ii) objectifying and non-objectifying modes of “loving” others, with special attention to the role of empathy in this distinction, (iii) the idea that beauty norms function as global ethical ideals, (iv) the idea that norms of feminine bodily comportment are shaped both by the prevalence of sexual objectification and the threat of sexual assault, and (v) some of the consequences of various ways in which these different issues (especially iii and iv) are intertwined.
Foucault and Politics
The first third of the seminar is devoted to gaining the necessary background to discussing Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France of the late-1970s. The principal background text is Discipline and Punish. We then turn to three, consecutive sets of lectures: Society Must Be Defended (1975–6), Security, Territory, Population (1977–8), and The Birth of Biopolitics (1978–9). The works will be read in English translation and discussion is in English. French is always a plus, however.
This course surveys some of the classical results in proof theory such as cut-elimination, inferentialist semantics, and consistency proofs, with a focus on their meaning, the context of their original discovery, and their use in relating classical and non-classical logical systems. It also touches on some more recent connections with algebraic and categorical logic. Participants are expected to participate in presenting material or to solve occasional assigned problems and to write a paper.
Philosophy Pedagogy Workshop
The Notre Dame Philosophy Pedagogy Workshop brings together interested faculty and graduate students to collectively study ways to be more innovative and effective philosophy teachers. All faculty and graduate students in the department are welcome to participate, but aspiring first-time graduate instructors (students in their 3rd year of the graduate program) must register for the workshop.
God, World, and the Soul in Classic Islamic Philosophy
A careful study of some key debates in the classical period of Islamic philosophy, focusing on three of the most central thinkers: Avicenna (Ibn Sina), al-Ghazali, and Averroes (Ibn Rushd). Many of the philosophical positions and texts formed a critical background not only in the later Islamic tradition, but also for other medieval traditions (in Judaism and the Latin Christian West). Discussions include eternity of the world, God's knowledge of particulars, causation, and the afterlife.
Proust and the Philosophers
Cross-listed with PHIL 43210 01
Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche Du Temps Perdue (In Search of Lost Time) has been called the most important novel of the twentieth century. Previous to its final inception, its author was uncertain of the work’s status. “Must I make of it a novel, a philosophical study, am I a novelist?” (Notebook of 1908). Recent research has revealed the extent to which Proust himself was substantially trained in philosophy (for example, the metaphysics of Schopenhauer or the aesthetics of Hegel and Schelling). Perhaps even more significant is the extent of the influence of The Search on philosophers after it. Among others, Proust’s work played an essential role in the arguments of Adorno or Benjamin, Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur, Kristeva and Deleuze, or Nussbaum, Pippin, and Taylor. This seminar will begin by reading extensive parts of this multivolume work in translation and considering the philosophical positions it transforms. We will then examine Proust’s influence in a number of areas of philosophy. This in turn will allow us to confront the relationship between philosophy and literature more particularly.
Requirements: Midterm, Research Paper, Seminar Presentation.
Advanced Topics in Ethics: Moral Rationalism
This seminar will explore moral rationalism in historical perspective, with emphasis on the main theoretical commitments of the authors in question. These are commitments in their epistemology (often centered on some notion of the self-evident), their ontology (generally realist), their value theory (most often highly pluralistic), their conception of intuition (including both its epistemology and its phenomenology), and selected elements in their normative ethics (which should be examined for one or more conceptions of moral reasons for action). Elements in the action theory of some of these authors are also bound to come into the discussion, particularly with the question whether moral rationalism is committed to motivational internalism (the view that at least some degree of motivation to do a deed is internal to a self-addressed judgment that one ought to do it). This view has sometimes been (misleadingly) considered a form of moral rationalism, but it is in any case highly relevant to the theory of moral worth.
Ideally, such an inquiry might begin with Plato and include Aquinas and others who for reasons of space cannot be included, but it will be challenging enough to consider Price, Kant, Sidgwick, Moore, Ross, (possibly) Broad, Ewing, and some contemporaries. Readings will center on these authors, but some collateral reading will be brought to bear, e.g. Thomas Hurka’s British Ethical Theorists from Sidgwick to Ewing (OUP 2014), Roger Crisp’s The Cosmos of Duty: Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics (OUP 2015), and parts of Garrett Cullity’s Concern, Respect, and Cooperation (OUP 2018). Regarding Ross, David Phillips’ Rossian Ethics (OUP 2020) and recent papers by Robert Cowan and Philip Stratton-Lake might bear discussion.
The work of the week of April 11th will be to attend some of the papers on Ross to be given in the ND-ACU International Ethics Conference now scheduled for April 10th through 12th. The first day is devoted to a subconference on Ross, with papers expected from Roger Crisp (Oxford), Garrett Cullity (ANU), Brad Hooker (Reading), Thomas Hurka (Toronto), David Phillips (Houston), Sarah Stroud (UNC), and Philip Stratton-Lake (Reading). It should be possible to get these conference papers for the seminar beforehand, and of course seminar members will be invited to attend the other sessions (some of which may also be on Ross or other topics important for moral rationalism).
The seminar should have interest for people in ethical theory (which has too rarely been sufficiently informed by epistemology); epistemology, particularly the theory of the a priori; and intuitionism in particular and the history of ethics in general. In that historical dimension, neither empiricism nor virtue ethics will be center stage, but nonetheless neither will be ignored, and prospective members of the seminar are encouraged to read at least Hume on reason and passion and Mill on the proof of the principle of utility as indications of historically central empiricist positions in ethics. The first two books of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (among other elements in NE) will be relevant at several points.
Seminar papers might address any of the central authors or main topics and might be connected with dissertations or aimed at self-standing contributions to the journal literature. The plan is for seminar papers to be presented in the seminar (with the benefit of a commentator and pre-circulation of the draft) and, after further revision, made as nearly ready as possible for conference or journal submission.
Graduate students and others who are or will be doing ethics or epistemology are welcome to discuss with the instructor their potential participation—whether for full credit or as auditors. Advanced undergraduate philosophy students are welcome to audit and, given adequate preparation, to register after discussing with the instructor how they might appropriately meet the requirements for undergraduate credit.
Modeling Social Believers
Cross-listed with HPS 93801
Our beliefs are not determined solely by our solitary activities, but are affected by our social situation in various ways. Acknowledging this leads to several questions about how social context affects belief. How do beliefs spread throughout a community? Are certain people better positioned than others to convince the community of their point of view? How can a community of seemingly rational people become polarized? Philosophers are starting to answer these and related questions using mathematical models. This course will focus on agent-based modeling, a methodology in this tradition that seeks to explain the emergence of phenomena in a population (e.g. polarization) with reference to the behavior of individuals within that population (e.g. who they listen to, what they count as good evidence). Though agent-based modeling is used across disciplines to explain a variety of phenomena – e.g. predator-prey interactions, traffic patterns, or wealth distribution – we will focus on modeling social believers to answer questions in social epistemology, philosophy of science, political philosophy, etc.
In addition to reading philosophical work, this course will include weekly instruction on how to program agent-based models using NetLogo. There is no previous programming knowledge assumed; Netlogo is known for being an extremely user-friendly programming language that is not too difficult to learn. Learning to code is not only potentially useful for one’s own research; exposure to actual code is helpful for evaluating work in the area.
History of Philosophy of Science from the Scientific Revolution to 1900
Cross-listed with HPS 93812 02
This course examines the work of key figures from the history of natural philosophy and science. Placing the philosophical work of Leibniz, Newton, Hume, Kant, Alexander Humboldt, Whewell, J. S. Mill, Helmholtz, Ernst Mach, Wilhelm Wundt, William James, Einstein, Henri Poincare, Bergson, and others, within a wider philosophical, historical, and cultural context, we will explore how and why they identified their central problems and the methods they used to approach those. We will focus on understanding how the central problems and theories that these figures worked on, ranging from questions of space, time, motion and substance/matter to theories of human sensibility and perception, to wider epistemological and metaphysical investigations, engaged the scholarly communities surrounding them, and helped them promote broader programmatic goals for reshaping and reforming philosophy/science. As they engaged contemporary philosophers/scientists over fundamental philosophical questions, they pressed new ideals of knowledge and programs to reform natural philosophy and reorganize the broader scholarly community - and society itself (e.g., Kant). We will explore how these natural philosophers framed new epistemologies and simultaneously promoted new ideals of the philosopher, scholar, and/or educated citizen, who would be capable of creating valid knowledge. In sum, we will explore how preeminent natural philosophers, at once, made original contributions to epistemology, understanding of space and time, and metaphysics, as they framed new visions of the knowing subject within a changing society.
Science and Social Values
Cross-listed with PHIL 43704 & HPS 93821
Science and social values? The established wisdom has it that science offers us the truth about the empirical world—what is rather than what ought to be—and that social values have little to do with it. How else explain the fact that science can be used for both good and ill and that science is granted authority by people of widely different ethical and political persuasions? According to this idea, in short, science is, or at least ought to be, “value-free” or “value-neutral.” In this course we shall explore the major strands of this idea, their origins in Western thought, and the hold they still have on us. Our main focus, however, will be on their current tangles with the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and the knotty questions that have developed as a result, questions concerning the prospects of scientific objectivity and the role of science in a democratic society.
This course will be run as a seminar with students sometimes leading class discussions, presenting the results of individual research projects to the group, and further developing those projects using feedback from the group. The aim, of course, will be for students to develop fully informed and defensible responses to the controversial terrain we shall be exploring.
Dissertation Research Seminar
This seminar is for those graduate students actively working on their dissertations. The focus of the seminar is discussion of work in progress by participants.