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.
Aquinas on the Soul
Cross-listed with MI 83346
Metaphysics of Science
Cross-listed with HPS 83503
Philosophy of Science
Cross-listed with PHIL 43901 01
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.
Perception and Consciousness
A seminar on the metaphysics of mind, with a focus on the metaphysics of consciousness and perception. Much of the course will be centered on two problems, the "mind-world problem" (how does the mind connect to the world in perception?) and the "mind-body problem" (how is consciousness related to physical reality?). We'll look at some of the best recent work on these questions and try to understand how the two problems are related. Special attention will be given to apparent tensions between the manifest image (the world as it appears in ordinary experience) and the scientific image (the world as described by science), and whether these tensions support the view that the manifest image is illusory.
Metaphysics and the Mind-Body Problem
What is Matter? The seventeenth century mathematician and philosopher René Descartes had an elegant answer to this question: the essence of matter is extension—extension in length, breadth, and depth. And since Descartes also held that the mind is indivisible while everything extended is divisible, the classic mind-body problem was born: How are we to find a place for the mind in a material world? But the material world has changed fundamentally since the seventeenth century, or at least our conception of it has, and we no longer have an elegant answer to the question, “what is matter?” if we have an answer to it at all. This course grapples with the difficulty of understanding the concept of matter (as well as its close relative, the physical) and explores some implications of “the thinning of matter” for our philosophical theorizing about mind and meaning in a post-physical world.
Moral Psychology/Moral Philosophy
This course will be an advanced introduction to moral psychology, the study of the psychological aspects of moral philosophy. We will look at how recent empirical findings bear on traditional problems in moral philosophy. In particular, we will see to what extent they help us answer the following questions:
1. Can people have genuinely altruistic motives? Or is all motivation self-interested?
2. What is morality about?
3. Is there a necessary connection between reasons and motivation?
4. Is there a necessary connection between moral judgment and motivation?
5. What are moral judgments: beliefs, desires, emotions, or something else?
6. How do people form moral judgments?
7. What should the methodology of moral philosophy be?
8. Do people have stable character traits in the way that virtue ethics presupposes?
9. Is moral responsibility compatible with determinism?
Contemporary Political Philosophy
This course will focus on the work of four really great contemporary political philosophers: John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Susan Okin, and on how their views are related. We will begin with Rawls's A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism. We will then consider Robert Nozick's challenge to Rawls from within the liberal tradition in his State Anarchy and Utopia. Then we will take up Alasdair MacIntyre's critique of the liberal tradition and in particular Rawls's and Nozick's views in After Virtue and the Aristotelian/Thomistic alternative MacIntyre offers in that work and most recently in Ethics in the Conflict of Modernity. Lastly, we will take up Susan Okin's critique of Rawls, Nozick, and MacIntryre from a feminist perspective in Justice, Gender and the Family and Charles Mills critique of those same philosophers from a racial justice perspective. We will also take up some very recent work on David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth and Bjorn Lomborg, False Alarm to better determine how these theories apply in our contemporary world.
The goal of the course is for each student to figure out what they should take away from the clashing political perspectives of these four contemporary political philosophers. To that end, students will write two papers and participate in class discussions. In the first paper (25 pages), each student will assess the conflict between Rawls, Nozick, MacIntryre, Okin, and Mills. In the second paper (15 pages), students will apply their resolution to that conflict to what I would argue is the most important moral problem of our times, and conceivably the most important moral problem in all of human history because failure to resolve it may bring about an end of human history as we know it.
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
John Rawls, Political Liberalism
Robert Nozick, State Anarchy and Utopia (Revised Edition)
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Third Edition)
Alasdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflict of Modernity
Susan Okin, Justice, Gender and the Family
Charles Mills, Black Rights/White Wrongs
David Wallace-Wells The Uninhabitable Earth
Bjorn Lomborg, False Alarm
Metascience, also known as meta-research or the science of science, takes the scientific enterprise as its object of study, often using scientific methods arising from within science itself. Metascientists ask how science functions, how we might measure outputs of science, and how we might aim to make science more effective. But we might then have questions about the research going on in metascience: What are the right (combinations of) tools to answer these questions? In what way might results in metascience be misleading? Are attempts to optimize aspects of scientific research likely to succeed? In this course, we will attempt to answer these “meta” questions about metascience, with a focus on integrating insights from multiple disciplines and toolkits (e.g. philosophy, history, sociology, data science, network theory).
Topics in the Philosophy of Physics
Azhar and Teh
This course will be an introduction to contemporary research in the philosophy of physics. A theme that will form the backdrop for this course is that physics seeks to describe empirically relevant quantities given particular ratios of scales. Against this background, we will explore
(0) Measurement, modeling and idealization
(1) The philosophy of symmetry and spacetime
(2) The philosophy of cosmology
(3) Empirically relevant ways of thinking about probability
The course will include visits from distinguished researchers in these areas.
Logicism and Analytic Philosophy
Logicism is the thesis that mathematics (or some part of it) is reducible to logic (in some sense of ‘reducible’ and some sense of ‘logic’). There has been an interesting and important interplay between the rise and fall (and rise again?) of logicism and the fortunes of various lines of thought in contemporary analytic philosophy. For example, Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, the best-known logicists, also laid the foundations for some of the core contemporary debates about the nature of language, knowledge, and truth. The reductive epistemological projects of some members of the Vienna Circle were importantly influenced by, and arguably in some instances dependent on, the logicist reduction of math to logic. David Hilbert was, for foundational reasons, briefly a logicist. And so on. As a result, both the technical achievements that formed part of the logicist projects, and the various obstacles to logicism – e.g. Russell’s Paradox and Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems – have helped to form, and then have sent some destructive ripples through, associated philosophical positions. The purpose of this seminar is to come to understand what logicism is, and to understand the philosophical significance of the successes and the failures of various logicist projects. The idea is that this will leave us with a better understanding of the history of analytic philosophy, and of the relationship between developments in logic and fundamental issues in the theories of knowledge, of language, of mathematics, and of logic itself.
Core works will be from Dedekind, Frege, Russell, Carnap, Gödel, and Wright. Lots of secondary work about these authors, and about the history of analytic philosophy, will be included too.
Requirements: Some short papers; one long paper; a presentation.