Courses:Fall Term 2020 (Term 2211)

Some additonal information about this semester's courses can be found at the Arts and Sciences course descriptions page.

Fall 2020 (Term 2211)

2071/27799: Studies in Ancient Philosophy

Sara Magrin
Tuesday 10am-12:30pm CL 213

In this seminar we will try to reconstruct Plotinus' account of rational and non-rational desire in the Enneads. While Plotinus will be our focus, to reconstruct his views, we will need to understand the philosophical background against which he develops them. We will see that Plotinus builds his account of desire against the background of two distinct, but, for him, related reflections on animal and human desires, namely those of the late Plato (Philebus and Timaeus), and those of the Stoics. Plotinus seems to use Stoic views to fill some gaps in Plato, and he seems to appeal to Plato to "correct" what he thinks is in need of correction in some Stoic views. Far from indulging in some form of eclecticism, he puts Plato and the Stoics in dialogue with the aim to develop a new, and philosophically sophisticated way of explaining how desires are formed and what role emotions play in their arousal. The readings will include substantial parts of Ennead 4.3 and 4.4, of Plato's Philebus and Timaeus, and of Long&Sedley's The Hellenistic Philosophers (supplemented by excerpts from Seneca's Letters and Moral Essays).

 

2075/28452: Topics in Ancient Philosophy

Christian Wildberg
Thursday 3:55-6:25pm  Benedum 227

Ancient Cynicism and its Reception
Cross-listed with CLASS 2390/28439                            

Ancient cynicism is relatively understudied, even though it developed alongside the major branches of the traditional schools and continued to play a significant role within the intellectual culture throughout antiquity.  In this seminar we are going to read and discuss the sources that inform about the origins and early development of cynicism in antiquity (Antisthenes, Diogenes and Crates), discuss the problems connected with the interpretation of the evidence, and reflect the possible social and political function of this movement. We shall then survey the vibrant echoes and imitations of cynicism in the first centuries CE (Demetrius of Corinth, Peregrinus Proteus, Julian). A number of methodological and philosophical questions will guide our discussion. For example, is cynicism a ‘philosophy’ at all, and if so, in what sense? How does one grasp and understand an intellectual position that is inherently unsystematic? How is it possible to construct a viable hermeneutics on the basis of mere anecdotes? What is the relationship of cynicism to political power? The seminar will conclude with an exploration of modern manifestations of philosophical cynicism in Michel Foucault and Peter Sloterdijk.

2160/31875: Hume                        

Jed Lewinsohn
Thursday 12:10-2:40pm  CL 213

This seminar focuses on three highly influential features of Hume's account of justice: the role accorded to rule-following; the artificial or conventional nature of justice; and the restricted application of justice to the contingent 'circumstances of justice' (in Rawls's later terminology). In the picture that emerges, justice consists in a disposition to follow rules (rules of property, promising, and political authority) that are binding when widely adopted as a means to resolve a predicament owing to deep, but contingent features of the human situation (concerning our moral psychology as well as our environment).

Hume's most significant discussion of these issues is in Book 3 Part 2 of A Treatise of Human Nature, which will be our primary quarry. However, in order to situate Hume's account of justice within his ethical theory, as well as his theory of the mind and of the passions more broadly, we will read substantial portions of all three books of the Treatise. And before reaching Hume, we will devote several sessions to Hobbes's treatment of closely related issues. Along the way, we will place Hume in dialogue with several contemporary writers dealing with related themes (in moral and political philosophy as well as the philosophy of language and metaphysics).

2170/30649: Kant

Stephen Engstrom
Tuesday 4:30-7pm  CL 213

This seminar will explore Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment both with an eye to its overall aim and its place in the system of the critical philosophy and with special attention to its accounts of aesthetic and teleological judgment and the light they throw on the accounts of theoretical and practical judgment set out in the other two critiques.  Prior familiarity with one or more of Kant’s critiques will be helpful, but will not be assumed.

2220/: Frege

Thomas Ricketts
Wednesday 10am-12:30pm  CL 213

Frege and Russell are the principal inventors of modern logic and progenitors of the Analytic tradition in philosophy. The seminar will survey the thought of each, examining their views on logic, mathematics, truth, ontology, knowledge, and Russell as systematic philosophers in their own right without assumptions about the relevance of their ideas to contemporary philosophy. Accordingly, readings will be largely from primary sources. There will be some attention to interpretive debates among Frege scholars. In connection with these, the seminar will consider historiograhical issues posed by the history of early Analytic philosophy. About 2/3 of the semester will be devoted to Frege and 1/3 to Russell. No previous background will be presupposed

2310/30653: Moral Theory

Michael Thompson
Monday 3:25-5:55pm CL 216

No course description available

2335/30654: The Concept of Truth

Anil Gupta
Monday 12:10-2:40pm  CL 213
 
The seminar aims to introduce students to the principal views about (i) the logic, (ii) the content, and (iii) the role in metaphysics of the concept of truth. We'll devote about equal time to these three topics. Theories we'll study include correspondence and coherence theories, minimalist and prosentential theories, and fixed-point and revision theories. We'll see that ideas about the logic bear on ideas about the content of the concept of truth, and the latter in turn affect ideas about the role the concept can play in metaphysics. I'll present the logic part in a way that presupposes familiarity only with classical first-order logic-more specifically, a proof system for it and its semantics.

2400/30655: Metaphysics-Epistemology Core

Erica Shumener
Wednesday 6:30-9pm  CL 213

This seminar will introduce students to major topics in contemporary epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of language.  We will focus on reading both classic works as well as contemporary treatments of the issues. The topics covered will include:
+  Modality (How do we model modal talk? What kinds of metaphysical commitments do modal notions incur? We will cover modal metaphysics and modal semantics.)
+  Frege’s Puzzle (Why do “Hesperus is Hesperus” and “Hesperus is Phosphorous” differ in their cognitive value?)
+  Epistemic Permissivism (Is there more than one way to rationally respond to a given body of evidence?), and
+  The Hyperintensional Turn in Metaphysics (Should we make finer-grained distinctions than those (typically) captured using modal tools?).

2600/10451: Philosophy of Science (Core)

John Norton
Cross-listed with HPS 2501/10607
Wednesday 2:20-4:45pm  Lawrence 231

This seminar is an intensive and advanced introduction to some of the main themes and problems in philosophy of science including the nature of evidence, theory comparison, and the theory-observation distinction, the meaning of theoretical terms, scientific explanation and scientific change.

2695/31759: Pragmatism: Anti-Representationalism         

Robert Brandom            
Neopragmatism and Global Expressivism                             
Tuesday 1:15-3:45pm  Sennott Square 5129

This course focuses on a line of thought whose most prominent defenders are Richard Rorty, in a previous generation, and Huw Price, today.  We will read index works of theirs, and beat about in some neighboring bushes.  We’ll also read some of Bob’s pieces engaging with this tradition.

2900/10906: Teaching Philosophy

Berry, Thomas
Friday 8:55-11:25am  CL 213

This course is designed to provide information and training to new Teaching Assistants in the Department; it will meet on a bi-weekly basis throughout the Fall and Spring terms.  The course has two aims.  First, the course will offer instructional guidance through presentations by professors, older teaching assistants, and representatives from the University Center for Teaching and Learning (UTCL) and provide new TAs with a forum in which to discuss their own concerns and lessons from the classroom.  Second, the course will assist the new TAs in developing a teaching philosophy and preparing a teaching portfolio.

2950/16767: Dissertation Philosophy

James Shaw
Wednesday 1:15-3:45pm  Sennott Square 5317

The purposes of this seminar are multifold. It gives students working on dissertation projects a community of others in the same boat, it provides them with feedback on work in progress, and practice presenting their work to an audience wider than their committee. (This is important for the impression they make on the job market.) Supposing that each student admitted to candidacy makes a seminar presentation each semester, it hastens time to completion by imposing interim deadlines on the road to a completed dissertation. The seminar gives students who have been comprehensively evaluated, but not yet defended a prospectus, examples of other students who have successfully negotiated the transition. This course is offered every fall and spring.
 

SPRING 2020
 
2350/31106         Topics in Ethics
Theunissen, Nandi
Tuesday 2-4:00PM – 1008-B CL
 
As Sidgwick rightly observed, for the ancient Greeks, the good is a unified notion and controversy turns on how to relate various species of the good, including ethical virtue, to the rest of the genus. In contemporary discussions, by contrast, it is customary to conceive of non-moral and moral value as different in kind—to distinguish between mere use value and goodness proper. In this seminar we think about the consequences of this bifurcation of the good. Does it impose limits on our understanding of crucial dimensions of the good for human beings and other beings? Our menu of questions includes instrumental value, use value, causation as it pertains to value, economic value, good as good for, virtue, the idea of perfection.

The seminar naturally builds on topics explored in my 2018 seminar on value theory, but I am not assuming familiarity with the material discussed there.                                                                                                                                  

 
2330/31109         Political Philosophy
Lewinsohn, Jed
Thursday 3-5:30 PM – 1008-B CL
 

Quid pro quo exchange (doing something in exchange for something else) is perhaps the least understood of the most basic modes of human interaction. To be sure, nobody doubts that exchange involves the mutual provision of goods or services among discrete individuals or groups. Yet the bilateral performance of ostensibly desired services no more establishes that an exchange has occurred (rather than a pair of good turns, say) than does the utterance of a sentence in the indicative mood establish that an assertion has been made (rather than a guess or a joke, say). And while one who wishes to understand what endows an utterance with assertoric force has recourse to a vast philosophical literature, the determinants of exchange, over and above the bilateral provision of goods or services, remain shrouded in darkness. As with the speech act, we may expect individual motives, shared understandings, and normative relations to figure centrally in an account of exchange. Yet, the contents of these motives, understandings, and relations, as well as their configuration in an explanation of the transactional form, remain obscure. 

This seminar will tackle theoretical and applied questions pertaining to exchange. In the theoretical component, we will focus on: 1. the relation between exchange and other modes of collaboration and shared agency (e.g., going for a walk together); 2. the relation between doing A in exchange for B and doing A in order to get B; 3. the significance of the notion of debt for an understanding of exchange; and 4. the relation between exchange, on the one hand, and threats and coercion, on the other. In the applied component, we will take up some practical issues of social and political significance, such as: the place of exchange within the larger domain of political corruption, and the fraught role of exchange in friendship.

 
 
2400/31110         Metaphysics-Epistemology Core
Rescher, Nicholas
Tuesday 9:30AM-12:00 PM – 1008-B CL
 
The course has two interrelated objectives: the one methodological, the other substantive. On the one side will consider the nature of metaphysics/epistemology as a branch of inquiry: its aims, its methods, and its validity as a cognitive enterprise. On the substantive side we will consider a variety of classical issues such as existence/inexistence; reality/appearance; realism/contrarealism; lawful/accidental; substance/process; particulars/universals; mind/body; reasons/causes; freedom/determinism; lawful/accidental; substance/process. Also considered will be key principles (such as the principle of sufficient reason and “Occasm’s razor’) and issues of methodology.

 

2440/31563         Philosophy of Mind
McDowell, John
Wednesday 1-3:30PM – 1008-B CL
 
My topic will be the first person.  I plan to use Sebastian Rödl’s paper “The First Person and Self-Knowledge in Analytic Philosophy” to frame the seminar.  Rödl discusses work by Hector-Neri Castañeda, Gareth Evans, and G. E. M. Anscombe, and that will determine much of our agenda.  Among other things, I hope to compare Rödl’s treatment of Evans and Anscombe in this paper with his earlier discussion of them in Self-Consciousness.  Warning: I will not work with a set syllabus.

 

2500/23460         Logic (Core)
Ricketts, Thomas
M & W 11:00AM-12:15pm-1008-B CL
 
This course is a user-friendly introduction to some of the foundational concepts and results of twentieth century logic.  The course will open with a brisk review of quantificational logic, leading up to the completeness theorem and the Löwenheim-Skolem theorem.  Attention will then turn to Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.  As time permits, I hope to include units on formalized truth-theories and computable functions.  Text material will be provided. 

 

2505/31112         Topics in Philosophical Logic
Shaw, James
Thursday 10:00AM-12:30PM-1008-B CL
 
This course centers around two key questions: What is an inference? And, what is logic? Working through a draft manuscript on these topics, we’ll explore a view which claims that answers to these questions are intimately related. In particular, it argues that logical puzzles provide invaluable illumination of the character of deductive inference, and that logic is fundamentally a certain constrained study of good deductive inference. Subtopics will (hopefully) include: the normativity of logic, the nature of good reasoning and the role of logic in regulating it, the constraints that logical impossibility may impose on the bounds of cognition, the role of a ‘taking' or awareness condition in inference, the threat of Carrollian regress, and the grounds for and against taking Tarskian model theoretic machinery to model logical truth and consequence. Some core readings (aside from the manuscript) will be drawn from MacFarlane, Conant, Boghossian, and Etchemendy.
 
 

2553/31552         Descartes
Wilson, Mark

Monday 1:00PM-3:30PM - 1008-B CL

This course will explore the breadth of Descartes' remarkably unified thought as fully as can be accomplished within the span of a single semester. We shall also consider some of his interactions with contemporaneous figures.
 

2900/23620         Teaching Philosophy
Berry, Thomas
Friday 9:30AM-12:00PM-1008-B CL
 
This course is designed to provide information and training to new Teaching Assistants in the Department; it will meet on a bi-weekly basis throughout the Fall and Spring terms.  The course has two aims.  First, the course will offer instructional guidance through presentations by professors, older teaching assistants, and representatives from the University Center for Teaching and Learning (UTCL) and provide new TAs with a forum in which to discuss their own concerns and lessons from the classroom.  Second, the course will assist the new TAs in developing a teaching philosophy and preparing a teaching portfolio.

 

2950/23461         Dissertation Seminar                                                         
Jed Lewinsohn
Monday 4:00-6:30PM-1008-B CL
 

The purposes of this seminar (which has very successful counterparts at other top graduate programs in philosophy) are multifold. It gives students working on dissertation projects a community of others in the same boat, it provides them with feedback on work in progress, and practice presenting their work to an audience wider than their committee. (This is important for the impression they make on the job market.) Supposing that each student admitted to candidacy makes a seminar presentation each semester, it hastens time to completion by imposing interim deadlines on the road to a completed dissertation. The seminar gives students who have been comprehensively evaluated, but not yet defended a prospectus, examples of other students who have successfully negotiated the transition. This course is offered every fall and spring.