Courses: Spring Term 2020 (Term 2204)

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

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.