Fall 2020 Courses
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
Examination developments in Aquinas' discussions of the human soul, including the status of the soul as both a bodily form and a particular subsistent, its incorporeality, immateriality, and incorruptibility, whether it is composed of parts, its relationship to its powers, and various questions concerning its identity, and what it can know and what it can suffer or enjoy apart from and following bodily death.
Philosophy of Science
Cross-listed with HPS 83801-02
This course is an introduction to the major historical figures and movements and the major debates in the philosophy of science from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present. We start with the rise of Vienna Circle logical empiricism and post-WWII neo-positivism. The course concludes with a survey such topics as the realism-antirealism debate, confirmation, explanation, laws, theory change, feminist science theory, and science and values Students will be required to do in-class, mid-term and final essay examinations and a minimum fifteen-page term paper.
Cross-listed with PHIL 43907
Teaching Methods: TA Practicum
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.
Nolan and Shields
We will be investigating some of the most general philosophical issues about properties and relations. Almost every discipline makes apparent reference to features or relationships (i.e. properties or relations) of some sort or another, but it has been an enduring philosophical puzzle what to make of this talk. Should we be realists about properties and relations, admitting they are a kind of entity to be discovered in the world, perhaps radically different in nature from entities such as tables or chairs or people? If so, what is a good theory of what they are like and how they connect, e.g. to the entities that have them? The course will primarily be on contemporary theories of properties and relations, though it will also be historically informed, with some attention paid to theories of universals in Plato, Aristotle and Suarez, among others.
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. We will also take up some very recent work on gender relations, Caroline Perez’s Invisible Women, and climate change, David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth 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 (15 pages), each student will assess the conflict between Rawls and Nozick. In the second paper (25 pages), students will integrate the conclusions that they reached in their first papers and their assessments of the further challenges of MacIntyre and Okin with special application to the issues of gender relations and climate change.
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
Caroline Perez, Invisible Women
David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth
Feminist Phil and Phil Gender
Bernstein and Rea
Cross-listed with GSC 60533-01
Recent years have seen a resurgence of philosophical interest in feminist philosophy and the philosophy of gender. This course will examine the latest developments in the area, including philosophical analyses of sexism, misogyny, gender equality, objectification, and intersectionality. There will be a few areas of special focus, including the metaphysics of feminist theory, feminist philosophy of language, and feminist philosophy of religion.
The Science-Gender Connection
Cross-listed with GSC 53515-01, GSC 63515-01, HPS 93838-01, and PHIL 43721-01
Through much of its history, academia has been gendered in a particular way—male dominated, focused on men’s interests, and privileging those interests—and much of it still is. In response, the area of enquiry known as women’s studies or gender studies emerged in the 1970s as part of the feminist movement. In this course we will explore gender, the concept that lies at the heart of this area of enquiry. We will find that this concept is as complex and multi-faceted as the diverse disciplines from which it now draws and as political as its feminist origins suggest. We will also find that it is fraught with controversy. Though the disciplines that contribute to the idea of gender comprise nearly all of academia, we will concentrate on the sciences, from which the concept of gender first emerged. We will start with the gendered origins of the concept—the gender of science—and then proceed to the science that developed as a result—the science of gender; and we will conclude with some questions concerning the connection between the two—the gender of science and the science of gender.
No particular scientific background will be presupposed, and visits from science faculty will be organized to help us understand the terrain we will be covering. The rest of the time 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. Throughout, our aim will be for each student to develop a fully informed and defensible response to the controversial terrain we will be exploring.
Philosophy of Cosmology
Cross-listed with HPS 93894-01, and PHIL 43725-01
We will focus on philosophical and foundational issues as they arise in modern cosmology. There are two themes that will recur through the course: (i) the role played by various “principles” in furthering our understanding of cosmological theories—such as the cosmological principle, the anthropic principle(s), and the principle of indifference; and (ii) the nature of certain outstanding problems with the theory of cosmic inflation. These themes will arise in a broader discussion of issues that will include: laws and explanation in cosmology; probabilistic reasoning in theories of single and multiple universes; and problems in accounting for the very earliest moments, viz. “just after” the putative big-bang singularity.
Pluralism, Modeling, and Ideal
Teh and Brown
Cross-listed with HPS 93895-01
In the last two decades, some of the most heated and interesting debates in the philosophy of science have revolved around the interrelated questions of whether science has a unified or a patchwork structure (the pluralism question), how we should understand the use of models in science, as well as what role different kinds of idealizations play in scientific explanations. It is difficult to speak meaningfully about these themes without engaging deeply with the details of particular theories and their experimental context. This research seminar will explore these themes in the context of (i) space-time theories and (ii) the effective field theory paradigm of physical modeling. It will introduce graduate students to work at the frontiers of each of these topics by prominent researchers in the field, several of whom will be visiting Notre Dame in order to engage with the seminar participants.
Topics in Logic
The unifying thread of this seminar is entailment. We’ll begin with a discussion of the standard (viz., absence-of-counterexample) account of entailment, and we’ll spend the semester playing with different ways of filling out the account, looking, in turn, for any fruitful philosophical applications of our new accounts. The seminar will proceed like a series of workshop sessions: we’ll meet together and play with ideas — improving them, or chucking them out, exploring variations on them, and so on. The aim is to gain confidence and competence in working out different accounts of entailment. The course will be guided more by problem sets than by readings. Problem sets, in turn, will be generated mostly from class discussion. (Example: during class, So-n-so suggests that we tweak standard entailment along such-n-so lines. After exploring So-n-so’s suggestion a bit in class, a clear question remains for a problem set: Does the resulting relation invalidate any classically valid logical forms? Does it invalidate any X-valid forms, where X-valid forms are defined per the X account of entailment? And/or so on.) The aim is to have fun exploring unexplored — or, as the case may be, under-explored or otherwise non-standard — variations on standard accounts of entailment while, in the process, picking up confidence and competence in various logic-related skills on top of philosophically valuable skills in general.
This (workshop-ish) seminar is not chiefly aimed at students working directly in logic; rather, it is geared towards all students of philosophy who are interested in acquiring some basic confidence and competence around the philosophically central idea of entailment.
Background requirement: you must enter the course with a firm commitment to exploring new ideas, working hard on the ideas, and enjoying collaborative research activities.
Dissertation Research Seminar (online via Zoom)
98690 01 (13859)
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.