Winter 2019 Class Schedule
IMPORTANT NOTE: All 100-level and most 200-level courses are introductory, and are intended to be accessible to all students, including those with no previous exposure to philosophy. For this reason there are no prerequisites, and freshman are free to enroll. Courses and times are subject to change.
|PHIL 109-6-20||First-Year Seminar - "The Self"||Zuckert||TTh 12:30-1:50pm|
PHIL 109-6-20 First-Year Seminar - "The Self"
In this course we will discuss philosophical questions about the nature of the self, raised and answered in readings from the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophical writings. Thus we may discuss questions such as: Can one prove the immortality of the soul? What guarantees the continuity of personal identity over time? How do portraits "capture" the selfhood of the sitter? To what degree is the self constituted by its social context? As with any first-year seminar, the course will also involve frequent writing assignments, including both informal exercises and formal argumentative papers.
|PHIL 109-6-21||First-Year Seminar - "Values and Power"||Lackey||TTh 2:00-3:20pm|
PHIL 109-6-21 First-Year Seminar - "Values and Power"
|PHIl 210-1||History of Philosophy: Ancient Philosophy||Marechal||TTh 12:30-1:50pm|
PHIL 210-1 History of Philosophy: Ancient Philosophy
This course will introduce you to some of the greatest thinkers and movements in the philosophy of the ancient Greek world. We will focus on these thinkers’ conceptions of the human soul, the capacity for knowledge, the good life, and law and morality. We will first discuss the views of the key figures in Classical philosophy: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. We will examine their answers to enduring questions such as: What are the fundamental constituents of reality? What is knowledge, and how do we come to have it? How can we be happy, and what is a good life? What makes for a just society? We will then move on to the Hellenistic period, and will examine Epicurean and Stoic conceptions of how we should live our lives, and why philosophy can help us flourish. Our emphasis will be on analyzing both these philosophers' views, and their reasons and arguments for holding these positions.
|PHIL 220||Introduction to Critical Theory||Alznauer||MW 11:00-12:20pm|
PHIL 220 Introduction to Critical Theory
In this class, we will focus on the foundations of critical theory in the works of Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, and Freud, paying particular attention paid to methods they devise and deploy in their treatment of moral and religious phenomena. Lectures will primarily involve a close analysis and discussion of the readings.
|PHIL 250||Elementary Logic II||S. Ebels-Duggan||MW 2:00-3:20pm|
PHIL 250 Elementary Logic II
Logic is the art of formalizing arguments: it creates symbolic languages aimed at showing which inferences are gooe ones. Metalogic is the science of evaluating those formalizations. In this class we prove the basic results concerning the First-order Logic (FOL) developed in PHIL 150. We demonstrate, mathematically, that deductive proofs really do establish the correctness of the inferences they represent (this is the Soundness Theorem). We also show that everything (FOL) says is a good inference can be established as such by deduction (this is the Completeness Theorem). Finally, we turn to some other results, among them that there exist non-standard models of arithmetic, and that FOL cannot distinguish the different infinities described by set theory. We'll also discuss some of the philosophical claims that have been made concerning these results.
|PHIL 254||Introduction to the Philosophy of Natural Science||Mueller||MW 9:30-10:50am|
PHIL 254 Introduction to the Philosophy of Natural Science
The course will introduce students to deep philosophical issues raised by modern natural science of metaphysical and epistemological nature. From a reflection on methodological questions, it will approach the question of realism. We will be guided by nested "what does it take"-questions. For example: What does it take for a system of sentences to count as a good scientific theory? What does it take for a scientific theory to be testable by observational and experimental data (and, by the way: what does it take for certain series of experiences to count as data or observations?)? What does it take for a given theory to be better supported by the available evidence than its competitors? What does it take for a given theory to explain the known phenomena in an area of knowledge? What does it take for an explanatory scientific theory to be credited with reference to underlying structures of reality? We will begin with a brief overview of the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17 th century, and then turn to the treatment of certain problems in the contemporary literature, like the problem of induction, the problem of the underdetermination of theory choice by the available data, the problem of rationality and conceptual change, the problem of realism.
|PHIL 267||Philosophy, Race & Racism||Medina||MW 9:30-10:50am|
PHIL 267 Philosophy, Race & Racism
|PHIL 273-2||The Brady Scholars Program||K. Ebels-Duggan||TTH 2:00-3:20pm|
PHIL 273-2 The Brady Scholars Program
|PHIL 315||Studies in French Philosophy - "Michel Foucault"||Johnson||TTh 9:30-10:50am|
PHIL 315 Studies in French Philosophy - "Michel Foucault"
This course offers an overview of the work of one of the most important late-twentieth-century French philosophers, Michel Foucault. Focusing on his studies of madness, the medical gaze, prisons and other institutions, gender and sex, and the search for truth, knowledge, and liberation, students will gain an understanding of Foucault’s most important concepts—concepts that over the last four decades have become central categories of inquiry and critique in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. These include archaeology, biopolitics, discipline, pleasure, power-knowledge, resistance, governmentality, and genealogy. The course is reading intensive; you should plan to read several of Foucault's major texts throughout the quarter.
|PHIL 317||Studies in 19th & 20th Century Philosophy - "The Idea of Politics: Weber and Schmitt to Arendt and Habermas"||Alznauer||MW 2:00-3:20pm|
PHIL 317 Studies in 19th & 20th Century Philosophy - "The Idea of Politics: Weber and Schmitt to Arendt and Habermas"
In this course, we will examine a series of attempts to define 'politics' or 'the political' in Twentieth Century German thought. We will begin with Max Weber's famous address on the vocation of politics and Carl Schmitt's notorious The Concept of the Political, which emphasize the irreducible importance of considerations of power in the political sphere. And we will conclude with a study Hannah Arendt and Jurgen Habermas, who emphasize instead the distinctive power of communicative action. Other figures we will treat, time permitting, include Thomas Mann, Herbert Marcuse, Leo Strauss, and Niklas Luhmann.
|PHIL 327||Philosophy of Psychology||Glanzberg||Th 3:00-5:50pm|
PHIL 327 Philosophy of Psychology
This course will explore the nature of the mind and its relation to the brain, focusing on issues of foundational significance for psychology and cognitive science. It will be organized around group of fundamental questions. First, is the mind like a computer program? If so, what kind? Is it organized like a symbolic computation system, or like a complex network of associations? What does this tell us about how the mind relates to the brain? Second, to what extent is the mind organized around separate `modules\', as opposed to being one single general intelligence engine? Third, to what extent are our cognitive abilities innate, and to what extent are they acquired through learning? Readings will be drawn from classic and contemporary papers in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience.
|PHIL 390||Special Topics in Philosophy - "Science, Objectivity, and Realism"||Mueller||MW 3:30-4:50pm|
PHIL 390 Special Topics in Philosophy - "Science, Objectivity, and Realism"
It seems that a very robust commonsense requirement for our beliefs, knowledge claims, and conceptions to be correct and epistemically authoritative (i.e. so that if we hold the contrary, we ought to correct ourselves) is that they adequately represent a reality that is in some sense independent from these claims, their structure, and the fact that we hold them. The expectation is that this explains that we are sometimes right or wrong no matter what we believe. Likewise, the reference to a ‘construction-independent’ reality seems helpful in tracking epistemic norms. It seems to tell us how our judgments, hunches and generalizations are under public, 'objective' constraints that are equally epistemically obligatory for anyone with a claim that their beliefs, assertions or conceptions are true and/or refer to this publicly accessible reality. The philosophical assumption of a mind-independent accessible reality is called ‘realism’. The set of norms that bind our claims to knowledge and representational correctness to a subject-independent reality as the ‘tribunal’ can be called ‘objectivity-norms’, expressed in claims’ being true or false, representative of fact or fiction etc. These norms are currently under politically motivated attack by the outright rejection of truth and the possibility that established theories are objectively correct, by the propagandistic rhetoric of ‘fake news’, by the false equivalence between established science and hyped-up pseudoexplanations, manufactured doubt and conspiracy-theories. These challenges look new (and shocking) in contemporary political culture. They make a defense of realism, science and objectivity-norms look desirable because the reference to a shared and equally epistemically obliging set of realities seems indispensable for rational collective belief fixation and thus ultimately, democratic forms of will formation, too. However, new as such challenges may seem to contemporary politics, philosophers of science (i.e. philosophers trying to understand the set of institutions concerned with establishing and scrutinizing objectivity-claims) have been discussing realism and its challengers anti-realism, social constructivism, relativism for decades after the mature sciences themselves produced theories postulating entities whose control, measurement and observation is no longer obviously ‘theory-independent’ (like electrons, genes, deficit trends). This course is based on these debates and aims at helping to clarify what it takes to defend of norms of scientific objectivity and reality constraints on beliefs’ correctness, and what of the challenges it needs to accommodate. Many philosophers of science have drawn from these debates the lesson that the conception of objectivity and realism operative in contemporary science is best explicated in terms of indispensable pragmatic presuppostions. The course will then look at new work on the defense of climate science results and the development of social ontology that discusses the reality and social nature of conceptions of race, gender and other ‘identity-markers’. Both will show that skeptical attitudes directed at each must rely on questionable and largely discredited assumptions from the philosophy of science.
|PHIL 401-2||First-Year Proseminar||Goldberg|
PHIL 401-2 First-Year Proseminar
|PHIL 402-2||Second-Year Proseminar||Medina|
PHIL 402-2 Second-Year Proseminar
|PHIL 410||Seminar in Special Topics - "Descartes and Spinoza"||Reed||Th 3:30-6:20pm|
PHIL 410 Seminar in Special Topics - "Descartes and Spinoza"
Descartes and Spinoza are two of the central figures in the history of Western philosophy. Descartes is often regarded as the first Modern philosopher, at least in the sense that he was the first to put forward an entire system of philosophy that captured a new way of thinking about ourselves and our relation to both the world and to God. His impact on philosophy cannot be overstated. Spinoza—notorious and often vilified in his own time—now seems like the Early Modern philosopher closest to being our contemporary. His radically unorthodox views now seem not troubling but innovative. Both Descartes and Spinoza were profoundly systematic thinkers. Learning about their views will not only help you understand how the philosophical tradition has developed but will also provide you two different frameworks for understanding the deepest philosophical problems we still face.
|PHIL 414||Seminar in German Philosophy||Lafont||T 3:00-5:50pm|
PHIL 414 Seminar in German Philosophy
In this course we will examine the main features of the philosophical paradigm of hermeneutics that Heidegger articulates in Being and Time. They key to Heidegger’s paradigm shift is the generalization of hermeneutics from a traditional method for interpreting authoritative texts to a way of understanding human beings themselves. The hermeneutic paradigm offers a radically different understanding of what is distinctive about human beings: to be human is not primarily to be a rational animal, but first and foremost to be a self-interpreting animal. In order to assess the explanatory power of hermeneutic philosophy, our seminar will undertake three tasks. First, we will analyze Being and Time’s hermeneutic conception of human identity and its main philosophical consequences. To get a sense of the full explanatory potential of Heidegger’s hermeneutics we will then analyze Gadamer’s dialogical approach to interpretation as elaborated in his Truth and Method as well as contemporary accounts that directly engage with it, like those of Brandom, Dworkin, and Habermas. Third, we will explore the potential limits of hermeneutic philosophy through an analysis of challenging approaches such as Marx’s critique of ideology, feminism, and critical race theory. Engaging with the Gadamer/Habermas debate will also help us assess the possibilities of articulating a critical hermeneutics along the lines of Habermas’s ‘democratic turn’ in critical theory.
|PHIL 459||Seminar in Metaphysics||Glanzberg||W 3:30-6:20pm|
PHIL 459 Seminar in Metaphysics
This seminar will focus on the metaphysics of material objects, which has been among the central topics in metaphysics. We will consider the nature of material objects: are they, for instance, simply collections of atoms, or are they more structured wholes, involving both matter and form? How do they persist through time, and what kinds of changes can they undergo while surviving? How easy is it to form a full-fledged object, e.g. by mereological fusion? We will also consider the nature of constitution, the holds, for instance, between a statue and the bronze that constitutes it. Discussion of constitution will lead to discussion of varieties metaphysical dependence. In what ways does the statue depend on the clay that constitutes it? Finally, as time permits, we will see how these issues extend beyond the domain of material objects, to kinds, artifacts and other such things.