FALL 2007 Courses101-1 Introduction to Philosophy
There is a popular misconception that you have to be dead to be a philosopher. But philosophy is a vibrant living subject and not merely of historical interest. Philosophy challenges us with questions that are directed to our most basic intellectual assumptions and forces us to think hard about ourselves and our position in the world. With its focus on arguments, philosophy also brings clarity and rigor to matters that may otherwise seem inherently obscure and perplexing. This course is designed as a general introduction to philosophy (no previous background in philosophy is expected) and is meant to help students develop the skills related to formulating and evaluating arguments. We'll examine such questions as: Should we believe in the existence of God? Do human beings have free will? Is machine intelligence possible? Is there a difference between humans and other animals that justifies our use of animals for food production and scientific research? What is the basis morality? For more information, please visit the course website.
101-2 Introduction to Philosophy
Philosophy is both an area, with its own questions and history of discussion of these questions - What is knowledge? What goes into making an action right or wrong? What is it to live a happy (good/worthwhile) life? What is it to act rationally? Can we ever be responsible for our behavior? What is it for a sign to have meaning? Is having a mind the same thing as having a brain? - and a certain critical way of looking at things, approaching issues, clarifying concepts, and evaluating positions and arguments. The methods philosophers use in generating and conducting investigation in their own particular subject matter, as well as many of the issues philosophers concern themselves with, can be relevant to all sorts of subject matters, which are not, of themselves, particularly philosophical. Drawing distinctions, identifying underlying assumptions, generating puzzles, coming up with arguments and evaluating them, seeing what a disagreement is really about, distinguishing the letter from the spirit of positions, are among the many tools of philosophy, which can be used in other areas not only in critical evaluation, but in seeing possible issues and questions to raise. In this course, we will look at some quite general and fundamental philosophical issues in some central areas of philosophy; it is important to realize that there are many other areas of philosophy, many other topics within these areas, and that even of the more particular issues we look at, we will only be making a start. We will be particularly concerned to bring out various sorts of philosophical tools and distinctions, relevant not only to philosophy, but to philosophical reflection or consideration about other areas, and also to see how philosophical assumptions or claims may be present even when one is not 'doing philosophy'. By the end of the course, the hope is that you will have both an interest in and ability to think interestingly, critically and productively about not only the issues we discuss, but most anything
101-3 Introduction to Philosophy
The aim of this course is to introduce the student to philosophy. We will study some different areas in philosophy and the problems and questions addressed in those areas. But we will also study how philosophers go about answering these questions - what kinds of arguments they give, what reasons led them to their views. And we will evaluate whether their arguments are good ones. These are the different areas of philosophy that we will study: Epistemology or the theory of knowledge which is concerned with questions about the nature and extent of knowledge; Philosophy of Religion, where we will understand and evaluate arguments that try to prove God exists; Ethics, where we will be concerned with whether there really is such a thing as right or wrong, and if so, what makes something right or wrong; and finally, in the last section of the course, we will examine whether it makes sense to think that human beings have Free Will if their behavior is a part of the natural, causal order.
Assignments will include both take-home and in-class essay exams.
101-4 Introduction to Philosophy
Some of the topics we will discuss in this course are: What is philosophy? What is virtue? What is the appropriate attitude toward death? Could all of our beliefs be false? What is knowledge? What can we now with certainty? Does God exist? What makes actions right or wrong? What makes some statements meaningful and others non-sensical?
We shall read the following philosophers: Plato, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Mill and Ayer.
101-5 Introduction to Philosophy
An introduction to the problems and methods of philosophy through the reading of classic philosophical works and the discussion of questions of existence, knowledge and value. The course is centered around the problem of the meaning of life, and we will consider a variety of different approaches: the “examined life”, the political life, the good life, the ethical life, the aesthetic life and the religious life, along the way looking at different conceptions of what makes a life and what makes it meaningful? Readings include Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Kant, Mill, Kierkegaard, Pascal and Sartre, along with some contemporary writings.
101-6 Introduction to Philosophy
This course will be an introduction to some of the main problems of philosophy, some of the proposed solutions to those problems, and the arguments that philosophers have advanced in defense of those solutions. Topics covered will include: epistemology (do you know that you are not inside The Matrix?); ethics (is there a single true morality?; are you morally required to donate $100 to charity this term?); metaphysics (how is the mind related to the body?; if a person's actions are determined by the antecedent physical state of world, are those actions free?). Readings will include both classical and contemporary sources.
104-1 Special Topics in Philosophy for Freshmen: Probability and Philosophy
1:00-2:15 TR (FIG)
Philosophers have used probability concepts to construct philosophical arguments on any
subjects. Examples include Blaise Pascal's 17th century argument that it is prudent to believe in God even if there is no evidence and David Hume's 18th century discussion of miracles.
There also are philosophical questions about probability -- what does it mean to say that a coin has a probability of 1/2 of landing heads, how can we gain knowledge of the probability of events, and so on. These philosophical questions pertain to the way scientists use probability and to the way each of us reasons about uncertainty in daily life. Psychologists have studied the mistakes that people tend to make when they reason about probability. This course does not presuppose prior study of probability, though familiarity with some elementary high school algebra is important. We will read works from the history of philosophy, and from contemporary philosophy and science.
104-2 Special Topics in Philosophy for Freshmen:
9:30-10:45 TR (FIG)
This course asks a series of questions about the moral quality of family life, both for children and for adults. Numerous moral questions arise, and in order to answer them and to assess their significance for public policy, we have to learn a good deal about the effects of different practices and policies, and also do some moral philosophising. Here are some of the questions: What is the best kind of upbrining for children? Do parents have rights over children -- for example, have they a right to hit their children, or to bring them up with their own religious views? Is divorce bad for children, and if so is it bad enough that public policy should discourage it? Is divorce bad for adults? Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry, and whether they should or not, should they be allowed to raise children? Should marriage be abolished altogether? In heterosexual couples should women do more child-caring and child-rearing than men? If not, why, and what (if anything) should public policy do to try and encourage men to do more of that work?
In the course we shall look at many kinds of views. Although I have thought a good deal about the questions, and have read a lot of scholarly literature, and I do have views about the right answers to some of the questions above, I appreciate both that the truth is hard to find, and that this is one of those areas in which our personal experiences influence our views. It is crucial that you take the class with a willingness to think through the issues carfeully, even when views that you encounter are surprising or even shocking to you; it is equally important that you enter with an understanding that the professor, while well read and thoughtful, is not going to tell you what to believe, and is going to expect you to think independently.
We shall do a good deal of reading -- about 1/3 of what we read will be directly related to policy and practice, and about 2/3rds will be more theoretical and abstract, but all of it is chosen because it is accessible to freshmen who are willing to study fairly hard. There will be a good number of short writing assignments, and two more substantial papers, for which you will receive a fair amount of direction, and which there will be opportunities to revise
104-3 Special Topics in Philosophy for Freshmen: The Meaning of Life
9:30-10:45 TR (FIG)
This course will consider several of the questions about the meaning of life, including, importantly, what it means to ask about life's meaning. We will consider whether God is essential for life's meaning; whether there are objective moral values that can guide us in our pursuits; and what sorts of things (pleasure? knowledge? beauty? etc.) might be worth pursuing for their own sake.
210-1 Reason in Communication
This course is about critical thinking. Some forms of reasoning are more persuasive than others, but many persuasive forms of reasoning are fallacious. We will critically examine various patterns of reasoning (arguments) commonly used in newspaper editorials, political speeches, classrooms, courtrooms, and advertisements with the aim of discerning the difference between good and bad reasoning. This skill in critical thinking may also improve your argumentative writing. This is not a course in formal, or symbolic logic like 211 although there will be some very elementary symbolic logic. We will look at simple examples of causal and statistical reasoning as well. For more information, browse through the required text: Critical thinking, 6th edition, by B.N. Moore and R. Parker, Mayfield Publishing Company.
211-1 Elementary Logic
This course provides an introduction to formal logic. We will study two formal languages and their interpretations. We will then introduce deduction systems for the two languages, i.e. formal rules for deriving conclusions from premises. Our goal is to characterize valid and invalid arguments and understand the notion of logical consequence.
211-1 Elementary Logic
A hotel manager put up a sign reading: "No one is permitted on these premises unless accompanied by a registered guest". Apparently the manager failed to realize that from the statement on the sign it follows that no unaccompanied registered guest is permitted on the premises! In general, the question of which statements follow from other statements is quite tricky. This course addresses this tricky question by (1) introducing a symbolic language into which one can translate a great many ordinary English sentences and almost all mathematical sentences, and by (2) using an automated proof procedure to show that certain sentences follow from other sentences.
241-1 Introductory Ethics (Satisfies category B for the major)
This course introduces students to ethical theory through key works by four of the most influential philosophers in the history of moral philosophy: John Stuart Mill (19th C.), Immanuel Kant (18th C.), Aristotle (4th C. BCE), and Nietzsche (19th C.), with brief selections from such lesser lights as Jeremy Bentham and Bishop Joseph Butler and some contemporary reflections from feminist and African American philosophers. Questions addressed by these writers range from "What is the good life?" and "What is the difference between right and wrong?" to "Is everyone basically selfish?" and "What is the importance of ethics, anyhow?" Course objectives are to offer a solid foundation in ethical theory for students who may wish to do further work in this or a related area and to develop skills in ethical reasoning for everyone who takes the course. No prior philosophy is presupposed. There will be three bluebook essay exams (review questions distributed in advance).
241-2 Introductory Ethics (Satisfies category B for the major)
This course is an examination of some of the central topics in moral philosophy. We will identify possible reasons for holding certain views (which philosophers reconstruct in the form of arguments) and we will critically assess those reasons. We will start by considering particular moral issues, such as: Is abortion morally permissible? Is there a moral difference between killing and letting die? What are our obligations to future generations? Then we will consider more general issues about morality, such as: What makes an action right or wrong, and to what extent is this a matter of the action's consequences? Under what conditions are human beings morally responsible for their actions? Does determinism preclude responsibility? Is there a single true morality, or is moral truth relative to cultures or individuals?
243 Ethics in Business
Profit-seeking business as we now know it came into existence after centuries of moral thinking which looked askance at any activity which is aimed solely at material gain. It is not surprising that some people think that most business activity is somewhat shady, while others think that business takes place in a peculiar world of its own where distinctions between right and wrong can have no meaning at all. In this course we will rethink our moral assumptions and apply them to business as it is actually done. We will discuss the moral legitimacy of corporate enterprise, the moral arguments for various sorts of business regulation, and some of the difficult decisions which people in business must sometimes face. Readings for the course illustrate and clarify the issues covered in the course.
Course requirements will include two written essays and a final exam.
253 Philosophy of the Arts
This course investigates a set of basic questions about the nature of art: What is art? Can it be defined? If not, why not? In addition, we will investigate a related set of questions concerning the nature of aesthetic appreciation: Is art appreciation merely a matter of taste? Or, is there some objectivity involved in matters of aesthetic judgment? We will read the works of important historical figures such as Plato, Tolstoy, Hume, Collingwood and Bell as well as the work of some contemporary philosophers. There will be two short papers, a midterm exam, and a final exam.
341-1 Contemporary Moral Issues
This course will provide students with the opportunity for an in-depth exploration of four areas of contemporary moral controversy. (1) Just war theory: when, if ever, is it just to engage in a war? Is war simply "Politics by other means," is pacifism correct in thinking that violence is never justified, or is the truth somewhere in between? And once at war, what kind of tactics are permissible? Blockades, economic sanctions, nuclear weapons, terrorism? (2) Exploitation: What kinds of practices are exploitative, and why does it matter that they are? Are student athletes, surrogate mothers, or biomedical research subjects exploited? If they are being exploited, but they have consented, does that mean it should be allowed? (3) Abortion: what is the moral status of the fetus? Is it possible to justify abortion even assuming that the fetus has a right to life? What should the law be about abortions? (4) Biotechnology: does the use of recombinant DNA techniques to modify microorganisms, plants, animals, or even humans, violate fundamental moral constraints on how we should respect nature or persons? Are genetically engineered foods safe to eat, and for the environment? Is it permissible to use animals as disease models for the benefit of human beings? Is it permissible to clone human beings, or to do research on embryos?
341-2 Contemporary Moral Issues
We shall discuss a number of contemporary public moral issues, thorough the prism of sophisticated philosophical literature, but with some reference too to the contemporary political debates about some of them. The topics include: the morality of abortion; whether children have rights; whether children have rights; whether we have patriotic obligations, and whether we should teach patriotism; parental choice, educational vouchers, and privatization of schools. The format will be lecture/discussion, and you will be evaluated on class participation, 2 papers, and 2 in-class exams.
341-3 Contemporary Moral Issues
This course, which presupposes no prior philosophical background, seeks to provide students with the tools needed to carefully analyze issues in five areas of topical ethical interest: euthanasia, the death penalty, war and terrorism, sexuality and marriage, and animal rights. The emphasis throughout will be on respectfully and sensitively appreciating the complexity and the argumentative structure of the various positions on these issues, allowing students to decide for themselves where they stand on these important matters.
341-91 Contemporary Moral Issues
430 History of Ancient Philosophy
Metaphysics and Epistemology in Ancient Greek Philosophy
We'll be studying in depth, and with close attention to the texts, ancient Greek philosophers' attempts to answer the following questions: What sorts of things are there in the world? Is a world of change consistent with a world of substances? What would be a satisfactory account of unity and diversity? What sort of knowledge, if any, can we have of the world in which we live? Why are reason and logic important? Why become a philosopher, and what=s the difference between the philosopher and the sophist?
There will be three tutorials.
432 History of Modern Philosophy
"Modern" Philosophy has come to designate the period also described as "Descartes through Kant." The central focus is on Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.
The course deals with the metaphysics and epistemology (including philosophy of religion, mind, and language) of these philosophers. Their views set much of the agenda for contemporary philosophy, both by way of development of, and revolt against, earlier perspectives. There is a long tradition of Greco-European philosophy that runs from the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle, through Medieval philosophy, into Modern philosophy, and on to contemporary Anglo-American analytic philosophy, and the Modern period is of enormous importance in its development. Among the issues discussed are the existence and nature of God, the freedom of the will, the nature of persons, what causality amounts to, the nature and sources of knowledge, theories of concepts and of meaning, individuation or what thought independently distinguishes one thing from another, perception, introspection, the nature of logic, necessity, possibility, and contingency, memory, what sorts of things are basic or primitive, scepticism, miracles, and laws of nature. The ethics and political philosophy of the period are dealt with in other courses the Department offers.
Nature and Scope of the Course
This is a philosophy course, not a history course and not a history of ideas course. We will examine the views of the Modern philosophers. In philosophy, you really understand a view to the degree that you understand the arguments for and against it. Since the course is intended to bring you to the point that you do to some considerable degree understand the views of the Modern philosophers, we will consider the arguments that they offer. The philosophers of this period were typically systematizers, and we will endeavor to see how their views, at least in intent, fit together into a coherent system. There are lots of interpretations on offer of the views of each of the Modern philosophers, and you will be given a reading list of books containing these interpretations. But our focus will be on the writings of the philosophers themselves.
We will read major works of the philosophers of the Modern period, in translation where they were not originally written in English. There will also be some strictly recommended reading for those who wish to do it. By the time the course is over, you will have read some of the most important texts in the history of philosophy.
There will be three in-class essay exams, one around week five, one around week ten, and the final at the time designated in the Timetable. You will be given a week or so before each exam a set of questions from which the actual exam will be taken. The exams are thus a sort of half-way house between a paper and an essay exam without questions passed out in advance.
We will also look at some of the ideas and arguments of some more "minor" figures when doing so will aid in our understanding and assessment of the view of Descartes through Kant.
454 Classical Philosophers: (Schopenhauer)
481 Theory of Knowledge
See 503 for description
482 Classical Philosophers: (Schopenhauer)
See 454 for description
503 Theory of Knowledge (satisfies Category A requirement)
The main goal of this course is to provide students with a survey of some of the central issues in contemporary epistemology. Topics to be covered include: skepticism (do you know that you are not in The Matrix?), the problem of induction (do you know that the sun will come out tomorrow?); the concept of knowledge (what are the conditions for someone to know something?); coherentism vs. foundationalism (must knowledge have a foundation, or could everything that we know be at the same epistemic level?); and internalism vs. externalism (is the fact that you are justified in having a belief something that is determined entirely by what is Ainside you, or can it depend on external factors?). The readings will be taken mostly from contemporary sources.
511 Symbolic Logic
This is a course about (not in) first-order logic: although the course starts with a review of first-order logic, the review is at an abstract level and presupposes knowledge of the mechanics of first-order logic (in particular, knowledge of how to translate into logical notation English sentences like "there are at most two gods"). The bulk of the course covers the main metalogical results, both positive (namely the soundness, completeness, compactness, and Löwenheim-Skolem theorems) and negative (namely Gödel's two incompleteness theorems). The emphasis is on understanding the results and becoming able to apply them, not in proving them. The course concludes with an examination of some philosophical implications of Gödel's incompleteness theorems.
516 Language and Meaning (Satisfies Category A requirement)
This class will introduce you to the philosophy of language in the analytic tradition. We are going to start from Locke's imagist theory of meaning and discuss its inadequacy by contemporary standards. This will lead to G. Frege's conception of meaning, in particular his anti-psychologism, his distinction between sense and reference, his ideas on how the meaning of complex expressions depends on that of their parts. Next we will switch to B. Russell and his views on the connection between language and the world. Our focus will be on proper names and definite descriptions. We will develop our discussion further by looking at contemporary literature on descriptions (phrases like "The first man on the moon) and at current "direct reference" theories of proper names (like "Aristotle"). We are also going to consider the pragmatic aspect of language, in particular the ways in which we can do something by uttering certain words (we say "I do" and we get married), and the ways in which we manage, on some occasions, to imply something which is distinct from the literal meaning of the words we utter (we say "well, it's midnight" and we imply "it's time for you to leave").
520 Philosophy of the Natural Sciences (Satisfies Category A for the Major)
The aim of this course is to address a simple question: What is the difference between good and bad science? We can point to examples of good science, like Newton's laws of motion. And we can point to astrology as bad examples of science, to the extent that they count as science at all. However, the task of philosophy of science is more ambitious than agreeing on examples of good and bad science. The aim is to tell the difference between good and bad science in general terms, which apply across many examples of science, in a way that could help us judge examples of new science. Science has produced theories about things we cannot see (like electrons) on the basis of what we do see (like television pictures). Another example is the theory of evolution, which makes assertions about common ancestries based the fossil record and other observational evidence. Another example is the atomic theory, which is based on observed regularities in the behavior of gases and the results of chemical reactions. Do we have good reason to believe that these theories are true, approximately true, in what they assert to exist, or are they merely accurate in their predictions? Is there an objective way in which we judge the true, approximate truth, or the predictively accuracy of scientific theories? If not, then our faith in science may in many instances may depend on prejudice, bias, or even fashion. Perhaps science is like religion--relying more on faith than reason?
549 Greal Moral Philosophers (satisfies Category B requirement)
This is a survey course in the history of moral philosophy that begins with ancient Stoics, Epicureans, and Aristotle, then moves to modern European classics (Hobbes, Butler, Kant, Mill) and concludes with highlights from the 20th century (John Rawls’s theory of justice, Simone de Beauvoir’s existentialist ethics, and Harlem Renaissance philosopher Alain Locke). For each philosopher, we will be concerned first to undertstand them and then to evaluate them, asking what remains of value today, what you think they were right about and why, what wrong and why, and what may be unclear. This is a Writing Intensive course and also a Writing Fellow course (two of your papers to be rewritten after consultation with a peer Writing Fellow, assigned to the course). There will be several short papers, a mid-term (required of everyone), and a final (required only of those who didn’t get the required papers in on time and receive at least a B average on the papers and a B on the midterm).
551 Philosophy of Mind (Satisfies Category A requirement)
This course provides a survey of philosophical theories of the mind. How is it that human beings are able to have conscious experiences? How is that we are able to represent the world to ourselves in thought? Are experiences and thoughts simply neurological states and processes? If not, what else could they be? We'll look a variety of answers to these questions and examine the most important theories that contemporary philosophers have to offer.
555 Political Philosophy
This course will be an examination of the sort of liberalism that traces its lineage back to John Locke. This is a tradition that generally assumes that the basic question for political philosophy is whether the state is an institution that can be justified at all, and generally concludes that the only states that can be justified are ones that recognize limits on their just powers. Thus a just state must guarantee its subjects some measure of freedom. We will begin by spending two or three weeks reading Locke’s Second Treatise and possibly his essay on reforming the “poor laws.” We will then read Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. We will end by reading various critics of Nozick or Locke, including Michael Otsuka and G. A. Cohen. Requirements of the course will include two papers (one about five pages long and the other about ten) and a final exam.
560 Metaphysics (Satisfies Category A requirement)
In this course, we will be discussing and investigating a number of related issues in metaphysics: possible worlds and their nature, identity across possible worlds (closely related to the issue of essentialism), and identity across time.
Possible worlds have become a standard device in philosophical discussion of necessity (truth in all possible worlds) and possibility (truth in some possible worlds), counterfactuals (the truth of the consequent in the 'nearest' possible worlds in which the antecedent is true), contents of propositional attitudes (sets of possible worlds) and elsewhere. One question that arises concerns the nature of possible worlds - what are they? According to David Lewis, they are worlds, just like the one we live in, except (in a sense to be explained) very far away. Other philosophers have less robust conceptions of what these 'worlds' are. We will look at this debate. Another important question concerns the identity of individuals across worlds. When we say that Clinton might have lost the election, we are saying, on the face of it, that there is some possible situation in which Clinton loses. But to evaluate this, we need to understand what it is for someone in another possible world (situation) to be Clinton. So this gives rise to the general question of under what conditions things in different possible worlds are identical, which, in more familiar English, is the question of the extent to which things could be different from, or have to be like, the way they in fact are - or in even more familiar English: What makes something the thing that it is ? In effect, the question of identity across worlds is the question: What is the very nature of this thing? - What has to be the case in order for this thing to exist at all? We will be looking at various theories concerning this.
The rest of the course will be concerned with the nature of individuals and identity through time. We will start with an argument that seems to show that our ordinary views about objects commit us to both the possibility and actuality of there being two things in the exact same place at the same time. We will then look at various attempts to spell out what there is, or how things do (or don=t) persist through time, which can help solve this puzzle.
So while we will be focused on the nature of worlds and questions of identity, we will in fact be concerned with a variety of issues concerning essence, modality, reduction and most generally, the nature of (physical) objects.
581 Philosophy of Language
See 516 for description
582 Philosophy of the Natural Sciences
See 520 for description.
690 Meaning of Free Will
3:30 -6:00 R
Undergraduate Seminar: Freedom and Meaning
This is a seminar for undergraduates; it is intended for students who wish to concentrate intently and in depth upon a single central philosophical issue and to discuss it closely in a group small enough to make such discussion rewarding. It is a seminar, not a lecture course, so discussion is the aim. Accordingly, participants must be able understand the readings largely on their own, and be well prepared each session to discuss the readings and the issues addressed in them. Participants will each make short presentations; the grade will be based on occasional short writing assignments and the quality of one’s participation in discussion.
The seminar will be largely devoted to the discussion of a book-length manuscript of the instructor’s, regarding the freedom of the will, and selections from the works that form its philosophical background.. (Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Spinoza, Albritton, Wittgenstein, and others.) The view developed in the manuscript is that the freedom of the human will arises from the unique representational powers of the human being —the same powers that underlie our unique possession of language, and of discursive thought. So far as our actions are in the control of our will, what we can and cannot do, and thus what we are free to do and constrained against doing, is determined by the way we mentally represent our situation, our desires, our options, our capacities, and the underlying rules and principles that constrain us and restrict our freedom. And the causal powers of these mental representations lie in their content or meaning. (This is the connection between freedom and meaning.) Such freedom as we may have, of the will, is limited to our power to represent these matters, in accordance with our own will and desire, in such a way that it is possible for us to do as we will,
This approach to the question of the freedom of the will is not one in which the usual debate, regarding the compatibility of freedom with determinism, occupies a central place; that matter will be treated only en passant. On the other hand, the nature of moral responsibility will be considered closely, as will ‘the bondage of the emotions’, and its remedy.
830 Aristotle’s Ethics
J. S. Mill praised Aristotle for his “judicious utilitarianism”, recent commentators on Aristotle have tried to find a rapprochement between Aristotle and Kant, and modern virtue ethicists have called their approach to ethics “Aristotelian”. Are any of these philosophers right? The aim of this course is to see what is distinctive about Aristotle’s approach to ethics and to consider the advantages of such an approach. Topics will include the nature of ethical virtue, the role of Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean, the question which are the ethical virtues and why, the analysis of moral dilemmas, the type of reasoning, mentality and motivation required in order to be virtuous, how much metaphysics, psychology and biology the good person is required to know, and the type of society that will allow the good person to flourish.
The main text for the course will be Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, but we’ll also look at relevant passages from his other works. At least half of each session will be devoted to discussion. There will be tutorials.
920 Pro-Seminar in Philosophy of Science
This is a survey of philosophy of science aimed at philosophy graduate students. Among the subjects we'll probably cover are confirmation, explanation, reductionism, the structure of theories, scientific realism, and the nature of scientific laws.
941 Environmental Ethics
The primary goal of this course is to prepare students to understand and critically evaluate various ethical perspectives on human beings' interactions with nature and these perspectives' applications to environmental issues. A secondary goal of the course is to familiarize students with the historical sources of these perspectives and with contemporary manifestations of them in the political and philosophical arena. The principal ethical perspectives studied will usually include anthropocentrism, animal welfare and animal rights views, biocentric individualism, and environmental holism. We will study representative descriptions and defenses of these perspectives and consider their application to contemporary environmental issues such as population policy,
hunting, the preservation of endangered species, the use of biotechnology, wilderness preservation and management, and the place of the poor and the third world in the environmental movement.
951 Consciousness and Content:
This seminar will focus primarily on the relation between content and a theory of consciousness. Representational theories of consciousness explain a state’s being a conscious state in terms of its being a certain kind of representational state, its having a certain kind of content. So called ‘first-order’ theories (e.g., Michael Tye, Fred Dretske) hold that a state is conscious if a creature in that state is conscious of something (i.e. of tables, chairs, frogs and such)— the slogan being “consciousness is consciousness of”. They argue that one can use naturalistic theories of meaning to explain a state’s being such as to afford consciousness of something. According to such a theory, any being capable of such representational states has conscious states: so if frogs are in states wherein they are conscious of other frogs, they have conscious states. Second-order theorists (e.g. David Rosenthal or Peter Carruthers) instead think that a state is conscious only if the creature in that state is conscious of its being in that state: one has to be aware of (or conscious of) being conscious of something to be in a conscious state. One has to be in a higher order representational state, a state which has a representation as its object.
We will begin the seminar by looking (briefly) at arguments for Dualism (Descartes, Frank Jackson, Chalmers), and at criticisms of those arguments (David Lewis, Grover Maxwell). The purpose of this is partly just background, but partly to understand what a theory of consciousness needs to be able to explain— what, for example, the “hard problem” of consciousness is. We will next study naturalistic theories of meaning a la Stampe, Dretske and Fodor (This part of the course should be of interest to those of you studying philosophy of language and also those of you interested in the intersection of issues in language and mind).Then we will study in some detail both Tye’s book Ten Problems of Consciousness and Dretske’s Naturalizing the Mind. And finally, we will examine some ‘higher order’ theories (Carruthers, in detail, and others, should time allow).
960 Metaphysics & Ethics
We will examine connections between metaphysics and ethics. In particular, we will examine how metaphysics can inform ethics. A familiar line of argument that we will discuss in this regard is: we think the difference between X and not-X matters to us, but then, when some metaphysics analysis reveals what the difference between X and not-X really amounts to, it no longer seems worth caring about. We will explore several instances of this pattern. We might also explore alleged influence in the other direction:
how ethics can inform metaphysics. Finally, we will discuss connections between moral concepts (like moral responsibility, praise and blame) and metaphysical concepts (like causation).
961 Seminar in the Philosophy of Religion: Concepts of God ‘East’ and ‘West’
There will be readings on each topic, and familiarity with the views to be discussed is not assumed. The seminar is self-contained. We will critically discuss concepts of God in Greek, Medieval (Jewish, Christian, Islamic), Modern European (16th-18th Century), Hindu, and Buddhist religious traditions, as they connect to some central issues in philosophy. One topic will concern the notion of a ‘greatest possible being’ which, for example, occurs influentially in the Christian and Buddhist traditions. A second concerns the notion of divine simplicity, that played a central role in Medieval thought about God. Another is the relationship between properties ascribed to God (e.g. omnipotence and omniscience) and human freedom, action, and responsibility, which arises (for example) in Islam and Dvaita Hinduism. Still another is the relation between the question of whether God is eternal (utterly without temporal properties) or everlasting (existing at all times), and how that relates to the possibility of divine action (e.g. creation and providence) a topic that arises in Vsista Advaita Hinduism and Judaism. Yet another is the question of how Perdurantism (the view that nothing that is not composite endures over time) and Endurantism (the view that non-composite things do endure over time) relates to views of non-divine persons and God in connection to questions of responsibility and survival (after-life) (Hinduism and Buddhism deeply disagree on this issue.) In common sense terms, a Perdurantist world is one in which there is replacement but nothing can last long enough to change, and an Endurantist world is one in which numerically the same thing can exist over time and change with regard to its properties. Issues concerning the possibility of religious language (must all talk about God be non-literal?) and arguments about what categories are basic (e.g, substance/property; event; property; state) are related matters (cf. the contrast between Personalist and non-Personalist Buddhist views, or the difference between Process theism and non-Process theism.) The final meeting of the seminar will concern the question as to whether Religious Pluralism, epistemic humility, and tolerance are closely connected, conceptually and behaviorally. Requirements: doing the readings, attending and participating in discussions, and a 12-page double-spaced Font Size 12 paper with normal margins in which some view concerning a central issue discussed in the course is critically examined, and carefully argued for or against.