Graduate Courses

Spring 2023 Courses



Colloquium Seminar
83103 (20123)
3:00-5:00 F

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.

Aristotle's Ethics
83204 01 (32359)
12:30-3:15 W

In this course we will read Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics along with a selection of secondary literature, notably Ethics with Aristotle by Sarah Broadie and a number of papers by Gavin Lawrence. 

Albert the Great: Medieval Reading Seminar
83239  01 (32541)
T. Cory
12:30-3:15 M
Cross-listed with MI

Abstract:In this course, we will do an in-depth reading of selected writings of the important 13th century, philosopher and theologian, Albert the Great. We will especially focus on metaphysical and anthropological questions, with additional topics to be determined by student interests.  Good reading knowledge of Latin is a requirement for this course, as few English translations of the works of Albert exist.

83268 01 (32356)

12:30-3:15 R

This seminar will explore the philosophical contributions of Leibniz, one of the most important philosophical figures of the early modern period. In addition to exploring his views and their relation to nearby historical figures, special attention will also be paid to the ongoing relevance of his views for discussions in contemporary metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion. 


93326 01 (32090)
3:30-6:15 R
Cross-listed with HPS 93326 and PHIL 43202

This seminar will survey contemporary work in phenomenology. The first third of the semester will be devoted to an examination of Edmund Husserl’s classical account. The second part will briefly examine challenges and internal developments to this account, for example, by Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Finally, depending on areas of students’ interest, we will examine the contemporary status and applications of phenomenology,for example, in ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, or cognitive science.

Undergraduates. Midterm, Final Paper.
Graduates: Seminar Presentation, Final Paper.

Free Will
93517 01 (32497)
3:30-6:15 M

This graduate seminar will explore some of the recent literature on free action and associated topics.
One part of the seminar will work through recent debate books (Kane/Sartorio and Dennett/Caruso most likely).

We might also look at some recent attempts at advanced and foundational overviews of central issues (from, perhaps, Mele, Pereboom, van Inwagen) and some isolated “cutting edge” essays and literature threads.

No previous work on free action is presupposed though a willingness to do some background reading is a plus.
I am very open and pluralistic about topics and methodology for final term paper projects. Ask me about this if it’s an issue for you.

Graduate students only.

Advanced Topics in Metaphysics
93526 01 (32496)

The Metaphysics of You and I  

These are the questions that we will wrestle with in this class.  What kinds of things are we? Are we fundamentally persons or animals? Or are we fundamentally nothing at all? Does it matter if we aren’t even real things?  Is there a respect in which we are less good if we are less real? Are we selves? Does each of us have a self? What kind of thing is a self? Is each of us a self-standing being or do we metaphysically depend on others not only for our existence but in our essence as well? What is it to be me rather than you? Does being me consist simply in having a certain array of qualities or is there more to being me than that?  

Action Theory
93528 01 (32495)
3:30-6:15 T

This seminar will explore agency. The central dimensions of the topic include action and intention;practical reasoning and its relation to theoretical reasoning; weakness of will and its bearing on self-knowledge; and the scope of responsibility, in the wide sense encompassing accountability and moral responsibility (in both the negative case of blameworthiness and the positive case of praiseworthiness).Among the issues to be addressed are these: What is action as distinct from mere bodily or mental movement? Is intention essential to action? Is agency just a capacity for action, or does it imply some degree of agential rationality? Is there such a thing as “epistemic agency” and, if so, what does it indicate about the scope of “the wilI” and about how to understand intellectual responsibility? Is practical reasoning an inferential process, is its conclusion an action, and does it underlie all intentional action, or at least all deliberate action? What distinguishes weakness of will from weakness in the will?Must weak-willed (“akratic”) action be irrational, and what does a good answer show regarding what is required for rational action? How is free action to be understood? Is it compatible with determinism? Is it a necessary condition for responsible action? Is the notion of free action “naturalistic”? And, related to that question, are there gradations of freedom or responsibility, and is determining them possible apart from normative appraisal?These topics have a central place in ethical theory, particularly in relation to rational action and moral responsibility; but they also call for explorations of 1) intentionality as a concern in the philosophy of mind, 2) the ontology of action as a concern in metaphysics, 3) the scope of self-knowledge and intellectual responsibility as concerns in epistemology, and 4) the analogy between intention and belief as a concern in the general theory of rationality for actions and persons. Seminar papers might focus on any of these issues. They 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.Readings will (likely) come initially from Aristotle (Nicomachaen Ethics) and from Elizabeth
Anscombe’s Intention. From there, papers and book selections will be drawn from such contemporary authors as Michael Bratman, Sarah Buss, Jonathan Dancy, John Fischer, Harry Frankfurt, Gilbert
Harman, Carolina Sartorio, Ernest Sosa, Raimo Tuomela, Kadri Vihvelin, and Susan Wolf. GarrettCullity plans a visit in early April and will present a paper relevant to the seminar. (The instructor may also present a draft.)Graduate students, especially if they are or will be doing ethics,philosophy of mind or action, or epistemology are welcome to discuss with the instructor the range of papers they might contribute to the seminar or how they might participate as auditors. (Depending on space, auditing may also be possible for advanced undergraduates in philosophy.) A rough syllabus may be available by early January fort hose interested.

Forbidden Knowledge
93826 01 (32081)
2:00-3:15 TR
Cross-listed with PHIL 43717 and HPS 93826

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 source of ignorance.Indeed, Stanford 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, 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. This construction might be “active”: the confusion produced, for example, when an increasingly politicized and commercialized science blocks access to information or even creates misinformation. Or this construction might be “passive,”the unintended by-product of methodological or conceptual or other kinds of choices made in there search process. In either case, the ignorance so produced can be exceedingly harmful to both science and society. But the construction might also be “virtuous”: when, for example, “not knowing” is accepted in research as a consequence of respecting the right to privacy of research subjects or protecting them from harm.

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. 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. And readings will be drawn from the work of a broad array of scholars—scientists, historians, journalists, and social critics as well as philosophers.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.


First steps beyond classical logic: gaps, gluts, stories, situations, worlds, and beyond...
93902 01 (32357)
3:30-6:15 R

This course is an introduction to various philosophical issues that have motivated work in non-classical logic. Topics may include truth, falsity, necessity, moral obligation, “future contingents” (e.g., it will be true that you take this course), negated existence claims (e.g., it’s false that Mickey Mouse exists), and more. We will discuss both the philosophical ideas and the target logical frameworks, focusing on how to construct your own “logic” for philosophically perplexing phenomena. 

Philosophy of Set Theory
93904 01 (32078)
12:30-3:15 R

This course provides a philosophical introduction to the basic concepts and results of set theory for mathematical logic.