Graduate Courses

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

Fall 2022 (Term 2231) 

PHIL 2071/25223 - Studies in Ancient Philosophy  
Jennifer Whiting 

Monday   4:00PM-6:30PM - CL 1008B 

The seminar will be centered on Aristotle’s claim that human beings are by nature political animals.  We’ll start with the context provided by his biological works. How, for example, do human beings differ from other “political” animals, such as bees and ants, whose communities are “political” in the sense they involve some division of labor in pursuit of a common end?  And what difference does having logos make?  How, in general, does the presence of logos affect the operation of capacities shared with other animals -- e.g., capacities of perception, desire, and locomotion?  And how, in particular, do distinctively human forms of memory and anticipation distinguish our lives from those other animals We’ll move eventually to the roles played in the lives of human beings by the forms of cultural practice afforded by distinctively human forms of memory and anticipation -- for example, collective deliberation, the writing and reading of history, and the public performance of plays.   But we’ll look first at the accounts given in Aristotle’s political works of the “natural” (according to him) differences between and relations among various human beings: male and female, master and slave, Greek and “barbarian”, etc.  We’ll pay special attention the relations, based in philia, between parents (especially mothers) and their offspring; between brothers (Aristotle seems not to be hip to sisters); and among fellow citizens.  We’ll consider how these relations are affected, for better or worse, by economic and political arrangements.  The background for this will be the proposals made by Socrates, in Book 5 of Plato’s Republic, to abolish private families and private property among the members of the guardian class. But our focus will be on the roles played by the possession of logos in interpersonal relations. If time permits, we’ll look at the way in which Aristotle treats the self-sufficient thought of the divine unmoved mover(s) as paradigmatic of the activity around which human beings (or at least those capable of doing so) should organize their lives. The divine model will in any case be frame our discussion of the forms of self-sufficiency that are required if a polis and its citizens are to flourish. Though we will inevitably make some reference to Greek terms, and even occasionally to syntax, the course does not presuppose any knowledge of Greek and should be accessible to non-specialists.

PHIL 2175/30477 - Studies in Kant (Practical Reason)
Stephen Engstrom 

Wednesday   4:00PM-6:30PM – CL 1008B 

This course will be devoted to recovering an understanding of practical reason that was developed over the course of a long tradition in practical philosophy, principally through the contributions of Plato, Aristotle, and Kant. The primary text will be Kant's Critique of Practical Reason, but readings will also include selections from Kant's other writings, from Aristotle's ethics, and from recent literature relating to practical reason. The main aim will be to understand the idea that reason has a practical application, which constitutes a capacity for a distinct type of knowledge, practical knowledge, whose object is the good. Topics to be investigated include (on the epistemological side) reason and rational knowledge and the difference between theoretical and practical knowledge, and (on the psychological side) perception and desire, and feeling and action. Some prior familiarity with Kant's ethics and Aristotle's ethics will be helpful, but will not be assumed.

Study of Kantian texts and topics. Course may be repeated for credit if the material covered is different. 

PHIL 2310/30479 - Moral Theory 
Nandi Theunissen 

Tuesday   2:00PM-4:30PM – CL 1008B 

This is an intermediate to advanced graduate seminar in moral theory, taken almost exclusively by students in the doctoral program, usually during their second or third year of residence. The exact contents of the course vary from one occasion to the next.

PHIL 2335/31841 - Topics in Contemporary Philosophy
Stephen Ferguson 
Thursday 1:00PM-3:30PM - CL 1008B

This course undertakes the examination of philosophy and the Black experience with a focus on three primary areas: philosophical themes, conceptual problems and the placement of the works by African American philosophers within philosophical traditions and schools of thought. Particular attention is given to how African American philosophers have addressed philosophical problems within the context of academic racism. A close reading of their works, along with the examination of their lives within the profession of philosophy, is a crucial aspect of course. By way of African American philosophers and philosophy the fundamentally ‘big picture’ questions in philosophy are addressed. With our primary focus on African American philosophers and their philosophical texts, we examine key issues relating to metaphilosophy, ontology, axiology, history of philosophy, philosophy of race, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion. The historical method of introducing philosophy provides students with an understanding of the context that shapes the content of philosophical thinking. The dynamic between historical context and philosophical content is a critical tension that requires understanding the empirical/social basis for what philosophers often assume are purely conceptual approaches to questions about values, reality, knowledge, and social existence. The African American socio-historical context distinctively comprises what transpires as Black material and intellectual culture. This dual cultural dimension serves as the foundation for African American philosophers and their corresponding philosophical work. 

PHIL 2400/30480 -  Metaphysics-Epistemology Core 
James Shaw 

Monday 10:00AM-12:30PM – CL 1008B 

This is an introductory to intermediate level graduate seminar in metaphysics and epistemology, required of all students in the doctoral program in philosophy, and taken in the first or second year of residence. 

PHIL 2420/30481 - Philosophy of Language 
Robert Brandom 

Wednesday    1:00PM-3:30PM – CL 1008B 

The seminar investigates a view of language that combines normative pragmatism, semantic inferentialism, and metalinguistic expressivism about a range of concepts of particular philosophical interest: logical, modal, normative, semantic, and intentional idioms. Two overarching themes of the course are the role of normativity on the side of pragmatics (the theory of the use of linguistic expressions, and so of the application of concepts), and the role of modality on the side of semantics (the theory of the meaning of linguistic expressions, and so of the content of concepts).  A deep and unobvious connection between these phenomena becomes visible when we think about the semantics to begin with in terms of inference rather than reference or representation.  

PHIL 2499/28728 - Symbolic Logic             
Thomas Ricketts 

T & H    11:00AM-12:15PM – CL 339 

This graduate course develops skills in formal and informal reasoning in predicate-quantifier logic, and covers formal semantics for sentential logic, informal semantics for predicate-quantifier logic, and elementary syntactic metatheory. 

PHIL 2505/30482 - Topics in Philosophical Logic     
Anil Gupta 

Thursday   10:00AM-12:30PM – CL 1008B 

We’ll begin by looking at the philosophical motivations for studying truth in a formal setting. We’ll see that questions about the role of the concept of truth in (e.g.) metaphysics lead naturally to questions about the meaning of ‘true’ (and other similar words in English and other languages). And these latter questions, in turn, lead to questions that are best addressed in a formal setting. Having seen their philosophical motivation, we will settle down to studying two main formal theories of truth: fixed-point and revision theories. We’ll see that these theories are rich in their logical and philosophical consequences. I am keeping the logical prerequisites minimal for the seminar. I will assume that students are familiar with classical first-order logic—more specifically, a proof system for it and its semantics. I’ll introduce all other logical machinery as it is needed: non-classical logics, theories of ordinal and cardinal numbers, model theory, proof theory. 

PHIL 2600/10393 - Philosophy of Science Core 
John Norton 

Tuesday    9:30AM-12:00PM – CL 1008B 

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, the theory-observation distinction, the meaning of theoretical terms, scientific explanation and scientific change. 

PHIL 2900/10780 -  Teaching Philosophy 
Tom Berry 

Friday    9:30AM-11:30AM – CL 1008B 

A practicum approach to train TAs and TFs wherein faculty and senior graduate students train the more junior TAs on how to teach philosophy. This course has been approved as an alternative to FACDEV 2200 for philosophy graduate students. 

PHIL 2950/15706 - Dissertation Seminar
James Shaw
Wednesday    10:00AM-12:30PM – CL 1008B

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.

GREEK 1402  Advanced Readings in Greek Tragedy
Projected time:  Thursdays 4:00-6:30. 
Helen of Troy and Athenian politics

In the roughly 150 years between the Persian Wars and Alexander’s invasion of Persia, one recurring and pressing questions among Athenians was what to do about the powerful neighbors to the east. One way this question was discussed was to think about the Trojan War, and here in particular about the role of Helen. What one thought about Helen had political implications, and how aggressively one thought Persia ought to be dealt with had implications for what one thought about Helen. This course explores the various ‘Helens’ that were publicly debated during those years, such as Gorgias, Euripides, and Isocrates. We will familiarize ourselves with different literary genres and styles, both prose and poetry. Much of the class will be devoted to translation; a good grasp of Greek is essential. In terms of secondary literature, discussions will be informed, among others, by Ruby Blondell’s Helen of Troy (OUP 2013).



Spring 2022 (Term 2224)

PHIL 2071/31973 - Studies in Ancient Philosophy: Epictetus’ Ethics
Sara Magrin
Thursday   4:00PM-6:30PM - CL 1008B 
In this seminar, we will examine Epictetus’ ethics within the broader context of Stoic ethics. We will focus in particular on three key issues: his account of the goal of human life, his account of prohaires, and his account of the roles a human being is supposed to take on in making ethically significant decisions.  
PHIL 2170/31974 – Kant
Stephen Engstrom
Tuesday   5:00PM-7:30PM – CL 1008B 
This course aims at a general understanding of the Critique of Pure Reason.  It will examine the work’s central epistemological and metaphysical doctrines, with special attention to its hylomorphic account of knowledge and the role that this account plays in the project.  Some attention will be given to historical context, contemporary significance, and recent interpretations, but the primary focus will be on the text.
PHIL 2175/31975 - Studies in Kant
Thomas Pendlebury
Wednesday 4:00PM-6:00PM – CL 1008B
An initial approach to Hegel’s philosophy by way of his reaction to Kant, with attention to the question of the unity of this reaction and to its exegetical and philosophical assessment. 
PHIL 2210/31976 -  Wittgenstein
Thomas Ricketts
Wednesday    10:00AM-12:30PM – CL 1008B 
No course description available. 
PHIL 2305/28878 - Topics in Ethics
Jed Lewinsohn
Wednesday      7:00PM-9:30PM – CL 1008B 
No course description available.
PHIL 2310/31977 -  Moral Theory
Michael Thompson  
Wednesday 1:00PM-3:30PM – CL 1008B 
No course description available.
PHIL 2400/28882 - Metaphysics-Epistemology Core
Erica Shumener
Thursday 1:00PM-3:30PM – CL 1008B 
No course description available
PHIL 2420/31978  -Philosophy of Language
Mark Wilson
Monday    4:00PM-6:30PM – CL 1008B 
In his Essay on Man, Alexander Pope characterizes our epistemic position as creatures of real, but limited, capacity as follows: 
Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state, 
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great: 
With too much knowledge for the Skeptic’s side, 
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s side. 
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;  
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast:...  
Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl’d:  
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world! 
Nonetheless, mathematicians and philosophers frequently hope that their own proposals might remain unblemished forever: permanent monuments of truth chiseled from the impermeable rock of a priori necessity.  The physicists, biologists, economists and other human inquirers must accept that everything they propose will be eventually overturned, but the mathematicians and the philosophers needn’t harbor comparable fears as long as they remain properly diligent in their methodological rigors.   
But does this vein of thinking constitute a self-flattering illusion? The jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. thought so: 
[L]ogical method and form flatter that longing for certainty and for repose which is in every human mind.  But certainty generally is illusion, and repose is not the destiny of man. (1897)   
These are the topics we shall explore in this seminar, following the considerations I have laid out in two books Wandering Significance (2006) and Imitation of Rigor (forthcoming), which critically assess several distinct forms of apriorism.  We shall also review a number of documents that have played important roles in the historical struggle against philosophical dogmatism, including seminal articles by Mach, Hertz, Cassirer, Austin, Carnap, Lewis and Quine.  This seminar is listed as “Philosophy of Language” for want of a better category (many of the relevant disputes ultimately rest upon an assessment of our capacities for capturing nature’s behaviors in effective linguistic terms).  
PHIL 2421/31979 - Topics in Philosophy of Language
Kate Stanton
Monday    1:00PM-3:30PM – CL 1008B CL 
No course description available.
PHIL 2445/31980 - Philosophy of Action
John McDowell
Tuesday    2:00PM-4:30PM – 1008B CL 
I plan to consider some questions about action and agency that arise in connection with G.E.M. Anscombe, Intention.  Among the other writers whose work I may discuss are Michael Thompson, Jennifer Hornsby, and perhaps Sebastian Rödl.  I will not work with a syllabus; I do not want to be committed in advance to an agenda for each of the sessions. 
PHIL 2500/22741 - Logic (Core)
John McDowell
T & H     11:00AM-12:15PM – CL 1008B 
No course description available. 
PHIL 2663/31995 - Models and Modeling in Science
Robert Batterman
Monday   10:00AM-12:30PM – CL 1008B 
This course will look at a host of philosophical issues addressing explanation, idealization, and modeling. We will work our way through Collin Rice's new book, "Leveraging Distortions: Explanations, Idealization, and Universality in Science." MIT Press 2021.  This is a rich book and a fantastic starting point for lots of interesting philosophy of science.  Additional readings will also be examined. 
PHIL 2900/22881 - Teaching Philosophy
Tom Berry
Friday    9:30AM-12:00PM – CL 1008B 
This course is designed to provide information and training to new Teaching Assistants in the Department; it meets on a bi-weekly basis throughout the Fall and Spring terms.  There are  two learning objectives.  First, new TAs receive instructional guidance in a forum allowing discussion of their practical concerns from the classroom in order to help them become comfortable and successful in the classroom.  Second, new TAs develop a teaching philosophy and prepare to teach independently. 
PHIL 2950/22742 -  Dissertation Seminar
James Shaw
Thursday – 1:00pm-3:30pm
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.