Courses: Spring Term 2018 (Term 2184)

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.


2070/31640     Ancient Philosophy: Presocratic Philosophy
Wildberg, Christian

Mo / 09:30 AM-11:55 AM / 00126 CL

Ever since Plato and especially Aristotle, the natural philosophers collectively known as ‘the Pre-Socratics’ have been viewed and understood as ‘early’, i.e. as precursors to a fully developed body of scientific investigation and teaching in the classical period. This seminar reads the Pre-Socratics instead as part of a larger contemporary culture in which knowledge of all types began to play an increasingly social and political role. It will combine the usefulness of a survey course with the excitement of close readings and interpretations of specific texts. We shall be concerned with such questions as the origins of western philosophy, orality and literacy, the transition from poetry to prose writing, the too facile distinction between mythos and logos, and the politics of knowledge acquisition and distribution. Our main textual basis will be the new Loeb edition of “Early Greek Philosophy”.


2075/24705      Topics in Ancient Philosophy                                     
Gelber, Jessica

Plato Republic                                                                    
Thursday 11:00-1:30 PM – 1001 CL

Cross-listed with Classics 2390/24704

Our goal in this seminar will be to read and discuss Plato’s Republic in its entirety. The whole book is (or at least professes to be) about The Big Moral Question: What is so great about being just? Plato’s answer is far from direct or simple. To understand it, we have to wrestle with his views about human nature, how that nature is related to the nature of society, what knowledge is and what the objects of knowledge are like, the influence of art on our lives, and what happens after death. This is a research seminar.


2171/29998      Kantian Ethics                                                                  
Rescher, Nichola

Tuesday 9:00-11:30 AM – G19-A CL 

The objective of the Seminar is to furnish a comprehensive general overview of Kant’s ethical thought and provide a grasp of his position on moral philosophy as a systematic whole. The object is to clarify Kant’s moral doctrines, and elucidate his reasons for taking the position he does, with particular emphasis on Kant’s theory of rational systematization as it bears on issues of value and teleology (i.e., Kant’s theory of knowledge outside the specifically informative arena).  Attention till also be devoted to Kant’s specifically moral concern with the concepts of obligations, laws, will, practical reason, autonomy (or freedom), and virtue.


2210/29999      Wittgenstein                                                                     
Ricketts, Thomas

Wednesday 1:00-3:30PM – 327 CL

Course description not available at this time.                                                                                                                                                                                                             


2316/30001      Ethics and Public Life                                                    
Pallikkathayil, Japa

Wednesday 10:00-12:30PM – 341 CL

This course will examine various theories of personal identity (e.g. those of Parfit, Williams, and Korsgaard) and consider their implications for the rights’ people have to their bodies.  Attention will be given to the extent to which people have the right to issue advanced directives for future medical care.


2335/25905      Topics in Contemporary Philosophy:                                      
Whiting, Jennifer

Writing Seminar                                                                                 
Monday 1:00-3:30 PM – 1001 CL

There is one problem with which most if not all contemporary philosophers must deal: publish or perish.  (Sorry, I’m stuck with this course label.) This seminar, which is aimed at third and fourth year students, will focus on philosophical writing and the sorts of questions we all confront, whether we work in value theory, M&E, history, or more technical fields.  For example, how much and what exactly can or should one assume of one audience?  Should one really explain in advance what one plans to do, then do it, and then summarize what one has done?  Or can suspense sometimes better engage the reader’s interest or serve a pedagogical purpose?  What is the best way to incorporate details without obscuring the main line of argument? 

We shall explore such questions while also attending to problems that arise all too often, even in the work of professional philosophers, at other levels, from overall organization down to the construction of individual sentences.  Each student will be expected to come to the seminar equipped with two things: (1) a writing-sample length (roughly 25 page) paper to be revised over the course of the term in response to feedback from the instructor and other participants; and (2) a published article (of approximately the same length) which the student thinks of as a model of first-rate philosophical writing.  Each will be read closely and discussed with a view to assessing the effectiveness of the writing involved.  

This seminar does not count towards your 12 courses but must nevertheless be taken for credit.  For the seminar to work, the group must be small enough that the instructor and participants can give proper attention to each student’s work.  This is labor-intensive, and it is expected that everyone who signs up will do as conscientious a job reading others’ work as they hope others will do reading their own.  So regular attendance and participation are expected; and the quality of each student’s feedback to others will be part of the basis for his or her grade. 

Note: if the number of third and fourth years who sign up is small enough, others may be admitted on a case (to be made the student) by case basis.   No auditors.


2400/30002      Metaphysics & Epistemology (core)                        
Gallow, J. Dmitri

Thursday 6:00-8:30 PM – 341 CL

This course will be an introduction to some central concepts and problems in contemporary epistemology and metaphysics. This is a core seminar, and thus listed as a "Background Seminar".


2421/30003      Topics in Philosophy of Language                             
Tirrell, Lynne

Tuesday 1:00-3:30PM – 341 CL

This is a course in language and politics, with an emphasis on understanding how discursive norms and practices shape individuals, society, even who lives and who dies. The 20th century was a period of notable genocides around the world: Armenians, the Holocaust, Holodomor (Ukrainians), Nanking, Cambodia, East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, and more.  The 21st century has seen a rise in what Rwandans call “divisionist ideology,” with nationalism and xenophobia becoming increasingly common. Language alone does not create or enact genocide, but studying the role of changing discursive practices in a society that turns genocidal can teach us how everyday practices of speaking about ourselves and others might contribute to enabling the participation of ordinary people in a genocide. Analyses of speech and harm tend to focus on hate speech, examining how hurled epithets and casual uses of derogatory terms and slurs feed oppressive systems. While studying this literature, we’ll also take a wider angle on the ways speech can be toxic and generate changes to ideology, practice, and action. We'll consider what sorts of remedies might be possible. The genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda 1994 will be our core (but not exclusive) case. Philosophy of language readings will include Wittgenstein, Austin, Sellars, Lewis, and Brandom, some work on metaphor and euphemisms (Tirrell, Camp), plus work on derogatory terms and slurs (Jeshion, Swanson, Anderson, more), including my “Genocidal Language Games” and more recent work. In addition to survivor testimonies and articles about Rwanda, we’ll read Victor Klemperer’s The Language of the Third Reich, Jacques Semelin’s Purify and Destroy, and Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works. To end with hope, we’ll seek constructive remedies to the harmful effects of toxic speech, including challenging (Brandom), blocking (Langton), inoculation (Tirrell, McGuire), and look for clues to moral repair (Walker). 

Students will be responsible for regular short essays, maybe on a private class blog, each will lead a short kick-off discussion for at least one class, and there will be one long seminar paper due at the end.


2445/30004      Philosophy of Action                                                      
McDowell, John

Thursday 2:00-4:30PM – 341 CL

We will consider some basic questions about human agency.  Readings will probably include G. E. M. Anscombe, Michael Thompson, Jennifer Hornsby, Sebastian Rödl.


2500/24656      Logic (Core)                                                                       
Caie, Michael –
1001-D CL

Tuesday 4-6:30pm

This course introduces students to some of the fundamental results of set-theory, classical propositional logic and first-order logic. If time permits we may also look at some important results in modal logic.


2900/26245      Teaching Philosophy                                                     
Berry, Thomas

Friday 11AM-1:30 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.