Some additonal information about this semester's courses can be found at the Arts and Sciences course descriptions page.
Each student must demonstrate reading proficiency in at least one of the following languages: ancient Greek, Latin, French, or German. Proficiency is demonstrated by passing a departmental language exam or by completing course work in the language of choice.
2050/30071 Topics in History of Philosophy
Thursday 2-4:30 PM – 1001 CL
Having considered, in the fall term, the way in which Kant seeks to articulate our idea of ourselves as self-determining, and having seen how, according to Kant, our understanding of ourselves suffers from an ineliminable darkness, the attempt to transcend which is the source of so much illusion and deceit, we shall, in the spring term, study Hegel in order to see whether the darkness can be lifted without falling into rationalist and spiritualist ravings of the sort Kant so effectively exposed. We shall read parts of the Science of Logic, specifically the sections “Objectivity” and “Idea” in the Logic of the Concept. By way of introduction, we may read some early texts of Hegel’s, such as “Verhältnis des Skeptizismus zur Philosophie” and “Glauben und Wissen”.
2075/26021 Topics in Ancient Philosophy
Aristotle’s de Anima
Thursday 11:00-1:30 PM – 1001 CL
Cross-listed with Classics 2390/26020
The plan for this seminar is to read de Anima, using Christopher Shields’ new translation and commentary (Clarendon Aristotle Series, OUP, 2016). We will be working through the text, in order. Typically, the primary text and Shields’ commentary will be paired with one classic or recent article. Our aim will be to understand precisely what problems Aristotle thinks there are in grasping the nature of soul (or “life”), and how his solutions are supposed to resolve them. We will also read parts of Parva Naturalia, Parts of Animals and Generation of Animals, to see how the discussions in those treatises flesh out the fairly abstract claims in DA and provide insight into the physiological exercise of psychic capacities. This is a research seminar.
2300/25957 Ethics (core)
Tuesday 7:00-9:30 PM – 1001 CL
This course will be a survey of core issues in philosophical ethics, focusing on the nature of reasons for action and related issues in meta-ethics and moral psychology.
2335/27593 Topics in Contemporary Philosophy:
Love and Justice, Personal and Political
Tuesday 12:00-2:30PM – 1001 CL
It is often claimed that there is a tension between love and justice: love is of particular individuals as such and essentially partial, while justice requires a kind of impartiality that treats each individual on a par with all others. Yet there are lines of thought – running from Socrates and the Cynics, via Plato and the Stoics, to Iris Murdoch, Martin Luther King Jr., and others – that see love and justice as inseparable from one another. The seminar will study, selectively, such lines of thought, taking as its point of departure the “upside down” conception of politics advanced by Plato’s Socrates: politics as a kind of care of one’s own soul and goading of others to care for theirs. Important foci will be (1) the nature – especially the epistemology – of love and its connections (complementary and/or antagonistic) to justice; (2) ideal versus non-ideal theory in ethics; and (3) theory versus anti-theory (with emphasis on the nature of moral experience, especially love). I am not yet entirely sure what we’ll read, but I will certainly include works of Plato, Iris Murdoch and Martin Luther King Jr, and very probably works of Sara Ruddick, Eddie Glaude, and Greg Moses.
Requirements: two short papers (one to be presented in class) and a term paper.
This is a research seminar, but it presupposes no special background.
Wednesday 3:30-6:00PM – 1001 CL
This seminar will be about the nature of vagueness and its epistemic role. The first part of the course will focus on what vagueness is. We'll take up questions such as: Is vagueness simply a linguistic phenomenon? Are there vague propositions? Could there be vagueness in the world? The second part of the course will focus on the cognitive role of vagueness. We'll take up questions such as: What attitude should a rational agent take towards P, if they think that P is vague? Does vagueness provide a barrier to knowledge, and if so, what is the nature of the barrier? We'll read a selection of classic and more recent work. Authors will likely include: Fine, Field, Keefe, Williamson, Graff-Fara, Dorr, Hawthorne, Magidor, McGee, and Bacon.
Tuesday 3:30-6:00 PM – 1001 CL
Some metaphysical theories privilege polyadic relations as metaphysically prior to monadic properties while others privilege monadic properties as metaphysically prior to polyadic relations. We see this in the metaphysics of physical quantities and in certain debates involving structuralism in philosophy of science, especially. We will explore these debates as well as some very sobering questions like: what makes a relation polyadic as opposed to monadic? Do relations come with “positions” built into them? How does a relation relate to its converse?
2500/25958 Advanced Logic (core)
Wednesday 12:00-2:30 PM – 1001-D CL
This core course will review the basic tenets of modern logic relevant to a philosophical career: syntax and semantics of first order logic, basic modal logic, completeness and incompleteness, basic results in model theory and other topics as time permits.
2580/30243 Philosophy of Mathematics: Expressive
Means and Intelligibility in Mathematics
Monday 12:00-2:30PM – 1001 CL
Cross-listed with HPS 2679/30242
Intellectual accomplishment fundamentally consists in improved intelligibility. Direct attacks on “What is Knowledge?” must diagnose intelligibility enhancements. Mathematical contexts can provide relatively straightforward criteria of improvement. What kind of differences matter, and how? Many examples indicate: Transformation of expressive usages is a first mover in intelligibility enhancement.
Expressive modifications in mathematics can facilitate strategic information management, and structuring of search spaces. Central tenets of contemporary analytic philosophy must then adapt. Although declarative contents must indeed be importantly inter-translatable across such transformations (“straightforward criteria of improvement”), those translations fundamentally cannot preserve epistemically crucial intelligibility contributions.
This goes against conceptions of contents (eg., propositions) as exhaustively translation-invariant. It goes against the idea that existing logical formalisations can serve as adequate basis for the epistemology of mathematics. Notably, providing a basis for sound justificatory practice, the central “foundations” concern, is only one requirement on a mathematical expressive usage
2627/30246 Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
Cross-listed with HPS 2667/29871
Wednesday 2:00-4:30PM –G-28 CL
Quantum mechanics is rightly heralded as one of the great successes of 20th century physics, and provides the framework for our best contemporary theories of matter and radiation. However, almost a century after its birth, it remains unclear how we ought to understand what the theory is telling us about the world. This course will be an advanced introduction to the conceptual problems that beset the theory and selected proposals for addressing them. Topics discussed will include (i) the problem of measurement, its main proposed solutions, and the role of decoherence; (ii) Bell-type theorems, the Aharonov-Bohm effect, and the status of locality in quantum mechanics; (iii) and (if time allows) either topics at the interface of quantum and classical mechanics, or the conceptual motivation for moving beyond quantum mechanics to quantum field theory. No prior familiarity with quantum mechanics is required; all relevant background material will be introduced in class. However, the amount of mathematics required for a responsible discussion of the material is non-zero, and students will be expected to acquire the technical tools necessary for informed discussion.
Cross-listed with HPS 2660/30245
Wednesday 7:00-9:30 PM – 1001 CL
This course will offer an introduction to metaphysical theories of causation. Though it will include a survey of regularity accounts, probabilistic accounts, and process accounts of causation, the course will focus on recent attempts to utilize structural equations models and Bayesian networks to provide an account of causation, causal explanation, and the relationship between causation and objective chance.
2687/30247 Epistemology of Experimental Practices
Mitchell, Sandra/Mazviita Chirimuuta
Cross-listed with HPS 2687/29873
Wednesday 9:30AM-12:00PM – G-28 CL
Observation and Experimentation have long been taken as central to the legitimacy of scientific claims. Richard Feynman wrote “The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific ‘truth’” (1963). But how do experiments reveal the way nature is organized? In this course we will explore a range of topics in the philosophy of experiment, including underdetermination and theory-ladenness, replicability, techniques and norms of experimental practice, the relationship between experimentation, theorizing and model-building and the new challenges of digitization and big data.
2690/30133 Theories of Confirmation
Norton, John D.
Cross-listed with HPS 2682/29872
Thursday 9:30AM-12:000PM – G-28 CL
Science is distinguished from other investigations of nature in that the claims of mature sciences are strongly supported by empirical evidence. Theories of induction and confirmation provide accounts of this relation of inductive support. We shall review the range of theories of induction and confirmation, including formal and less formal approaches. The review will be critical; none of them is entirely successful. The theories will be tested against significant cases of the use of evidence in science.
2900/26245 Teaching Philosophy
Friday 12-2:30 PM – 1001-D CL
A practicum to train first-time TAs about teaching philosophy. This course has been approved as an alternative to FACDEV 2200 for Philosophy graduate students.
CMU Course Description
86-701 Special Topics in Cognitive Science Introspection and Mind
Wed 1-3:30PM, 115 Mellon Institute Conference Room
This course is a research seminar investigating the nature of introspection and what it reveals about its targets. We will focus on the nature of introspection and access to the mind, on its reliability, accuracy, and related epistemic properties, and on the role of attention. Topics include some subset of the following: what introspection and attention are, acquaintance and transparency proposals, the reliability and accuracy of introspection, hallucination, illusion, visual constancy, blur, sensations, impact on metaphysical views about perceptual experience, access to mental and bodily action, the sense of agency and ownership, and access to propositional attitudes specifically intention. The goal will be to delve into the issues in a philosophically rigorous and empirically informed way. The background is the instructor’s work on the metaphysics of perception, the nature of attention and action, and the structure of introspection. This is part of a book project on introspection and access to mind. A tentative syllabus is available. Participants must register through CMU and the course has a minimum number of attendees to be run (auditors must register as well). Requirements will be a short APA style comment presentation and a term paper. Who should take the course? Anyone interested in philosophy of mind, perception, action, self-knowledge, and philosophy of cognitive science as it relates to philosophical issues≥