101-1 Introduction to Philosophy
This course aims to introduce students to the general methodology of philosophical inquiry, through reflection on some of the classic questions in philosophy. What, if anything, can we know about the external world? Is there a single objective morality, or are moral codes simply social constructions that are true only relative to times and places? Is there any meaningful sense in which we have free will? What makes someone count as the same person over time? What is it to have a mind? We will read both classical and contemporary selections on these topics, and through our investigations, learn how to formulate rigorous philosophical arguments of our own and to critically evaluate those of others. Above all, the emphasis will be on questioning our assumptions and articulating reasons (if we can) for things we might already believe without knowing why.
101-2 Introduction to Philosophy
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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 I a part of the natural, causal order.
101-4 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 .
101-6 Introduction to Philosophy
The goal of this class is to teach you how to think critically about fundamental issues. The issues we will discuss concern the justification for our claims to knowledge, the distinction between believing something for a reason and believing something on faith, the nature of mind and the possibility of free will and moral responsibility, and, finally, topics in political and ethical theory, including justice and euthanasia. Assignments include short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.
104-1 Special Topics: Philosophy for Freshmen (Children, Marriage & Family)
The family is usually regarded as a cornerstone of society. But there are many families, some good, some bad, and any social institutions stands in some need of justification. In this course we shall look at philosophical criticisms and philosophical justifications of the family, and look at the kinds of families that those criticisms and justifications apply to. The family is usually justified by appeal to three different sets of interests: children’s interests, adults’ interests in being parents; and the interests of society as a whole. So we start by looking at children: what is a child, do children have rights, and if they do have rights, what rights do they have? We then look at adults: do adults have an interest in being parents, and if so why; how strong is that interest, and how should we weight it against the interests of children (for example, should we protect children by requiring that parents be competent in order to be allowed to parent)? Then we look at issues concerning the family. Is the traditional gendered division of labor unjust, and if so what, if anything, should governments do about that? You are probably familiar with the issue of whether same-sex marriage should be permitted, and we shall look at arguments for and against same sex marriage; but we shall also look at the less familiar issue of whether and why the state should promote marriage itself (whether hetero- or homo-sexual). We also look at society’s interests with regard to fertility: should democratic governments have a fertility policy, and if so what should it aim at?
In order to explore the philosophical issues it really helps to have some empirical knowledge about society and the family, and about child development. This is why the course has been combined with courses in Ed Psych and in Sociology, and the learning you do in those classes will be directly relevant to the work we do in this class.
104-2 Special Topics: Philosophy for Freshmen (The Meaning of Life and Death)
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210-1 Reason in Communication
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210-2 Reason in Communication
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210-3 Reason in Communication
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211-1 Elementary Logic
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211-2 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 he 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.
211-3 Elementary Logic
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241-1 Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement 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 (19thC), 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 (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
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241-3 Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
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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 (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
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.
261 Intro to Philosophy of Religion
In a lecture-discussion format, we will consider the following questions: (i) what properties is God supposed to have, and can anything have them? (ii) what arguments are there for the existence Of God, and how should they be assessed? (iii) what arguments are there against the existence of God, and how should they be assessed? – here we will be most concerned about arguments from evil (iv) is divine foreknowledge compatible with human freedom? (v) what view of being a person Best fits monotheistic religion, what competing views are there, and how should these competing Views be assessed? There will be two in-class essay exams during the semester taken from study Questions passed out in advance, and a final exam held at the time the timetable indicates, also taken From study questions passed out in advance.
341-1 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.
341-70 Contemporary Moral Issues
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341-91 – 9:55 MTWR
341-92 – 11:00 MTWR
341-93 – 12:05 MTWR
341-94 – 9:55 MTWR
430 History of Ancient Philosophy
N.B.: This is the only time 430 will be given during the academic year 2010-11.
History of Ancient will be given, by Professor Penner, in two back to back classes (with an intermission) on Wednesdays: 2:25-5:10.
We will study some of the most important logical, metaphysical, and ethical themes in the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle — with important glances at Parmenides, Heraclitus, and the sophist, Protagoras (all of whom show up in Plato’s Theaetetus). The time will be about evenly divided between Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato (in that order).
We begin (first week) with a quick survey of sources; a sketch of the History of Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy from the beginning up to just before the time of the great Christian Platonist, St Augustine; and a sketch of some of the key ideas introduced in the period, almost all of them by the philosophers already named.
IN DETAIL (I) ARISTOTLE: The next five or six weeks or so will be on Aristotle. First, we’ll look at the revolution which Aristotle precipitates in how we do philosophy, when he creates almost all of the basic ideas of modern logic and the theory of truth (“semantics”).
- the proposition,
- logical consequence,
- truth conditions, in which whether simple (or atomic) subject-predicate sentences are true or false is tracked in terms of what individual object (e.g., Socrates) the subject term indicates and what universal (e.g., being wise) the predicate term indicates. On this view, the proposition – the very same thing – will be true under some conditions, and false under other conditions; so that the very same proposition may be either true or false – a remarkable result (but onewhich we tend just automatically to accept).
- Connectives, such as “and”, “or” and the quantifiers “every”, “some” “none” and so forth
- logical form: which requires that the propositions employed in a bit of reasoning will be the very same thing whether they are true or false;
- the idea of imposing a grammar-like system of categories on reality in order to use logic;
- various sorts of ambiguity, and the idea of fallacies;
- the very idea of logic itself.
We’ll talk about why, surprisingly, we do not find any of those logic-oriented notions – so natural and intuitive by our lights – in Socrates and Plato. And we’ll talk about what defense there might be of their quite logic-free approach to truth, reality, and existence. I’ll also speak briefly of the one serious flaw in the whole of ancient logic: the lack of any real understanding of the key notion of relations and the consequent idea of multiple quantification (without which logic is powerless to understand the (e,d) definitions crucial to the theories of continuity and the calculus.
Going along with the categories (which, in Aristotle, are more than just very wide classes), we find the idea of existence being systematically ambiguous, standing for one thing for natural objects (humans, plants, animals, trees – a.k.a. this-es), another for qualities, another for quantities, and so forth (which are not this-es, but merely such-es). For Aristotle there is no such kind of thing as a being. Being is not a genus, as he puts it. (Thus because of these two different senses of “exist” in which Socrates and the color yellow exist, it would be meaningless (!) to say that Socrates and the color yellow are two different beings, or two different things.
Aristotle also objects to Plato on the basis of his theory of categories, arguing that Platonic Forms, such as Justice is supposed to be, represent confused attempts to treats a mere attribute (a “such”) as if it were a thing (a “this” – a category-confusion.)
We then turn to other key notions in the philosophy of Aristotle
- A new notion of identity through change (how is it that baby Socrates is the same person as the 70-year old Socrates executed by the Athenians?). This notion brings with it a distinction between the essential and the actual;
- The idea of an inbuilt sense of direction (an end) to living beings, going from germination to maturity: why does an acorn never grow into an adult pig, but only into an oak tree?
- The distinction between the potential and the actual.
- The idea of natures (teleological in Aristotle, non-teleological in Galileo and Newton);
- Necessity and what we call laws of nature; chance; and purpose (“final cause”) in nature (with Aristotle’s evidentiary objections to Empedocles’ theory of natural selection).
- Purpose in ethics, and arguably one of the best theories of pleasure and happiness ever proposed.
- Desire for the good contrasted with irrational desires in ethics: – in Aristotle desire for the good is for the apparent good = what appears best to the agent in the circumstances. This contrasts with both Socrates and Plato who think that people desire not the apparent good, but the real good.
IN DETAIL (II) SOCRATES. We then turn back to the Socrates, whom I identify (roughly) with the main character of most parts of the early dialogues of Plato. We look at his astonishing ethical theories, some parts of which Aristotle adopted or adapted, or else contradicted, as suited him:
- His belief in wide-ranging dialogue as the only method for philosophy.
- The claim that no one knows anything about the good (Socratic ignorance).
- The purely functional (means-end) account of goodness and the good (no such thing as the moral good).
- The claim that no one ever errs willingly (= no one ever does bad stuff willingly).
- The claim that (as in Plato) all desire for the good is desire for the real good.
- The claim that there are no irrational desires that ever produce action except via integration into a desire for the good: this is known as “Socratic Intellectualism”. This has the consequence – contrary now not only to Aristotle but also to the mature Plato (the principal point on which the doctrine of Socrates and the mature Plato go flatly against each other– that there is no such thing as acting contrary to what you believe is best);
- The claim that if you do something that turns out badly for you, you didn’t want to do it (a view shared by Plato, but not by Aristotle);
- The claim that rhetoric (as used in political and advertizing speech) is not a science—unless you know the truth of the matter about which you are employing so-called rhetorical (or oratorical) skill;
IN DETAIL (III) THE MATURE PLATO (Mostly based on the dialogues of Plato of the middle and late periods). Here there are four main concerns:
- Plato’s response (or what his response would have been) to claims cited above of Socrates (earlier) and Aristotle (later).
- The theory of actions as sometimes being brought about by irrational desires, acting contrary to the agent’s desire for the good.
- The Theory of Forms, and in particular the Form of the Good and it’s connection with the program of Plato’s Republic, where Plato attempts to show – by a very bizarre modeling of the good human soul on a good city – that Justice will always make us happier than injustice would in the same circumstances: and connections with the Socratic functional (means-end) theory of the Good.
- Plato’s attack, in one of his greatest masterpieces, the Theaetetus, on Protagorean Relativism. This is the doctrine that as things appear to me, so they are for me. We’ll find here, not only the beginnings of (1) relativism, and (2) linguistic conventionalism, but also (3) empiricism, and (4) a version of the Kantian unknowability of things as they are in themselves, on the grounds that we have access only to things as they appear to us. We shall look carefully at Plato’s attempt to refute all of these.
Methods: Questions for two-page written answers to be e-mailed to TA and myself by noon on Mondays of selected alternate weeks (alternating between halves of the class). In two of the weeks of the semester, there will be no lectures, but tutorials for all class members (meetings in pairs, alternatively with myself and the T.A. for roughly an hour each pair). Each person e-mails in, in advance, a 5 to 7 page paper with written answers to set questions on important passages). One tutorial week will be before mid-semester, one towards the end of the semester. Attendance is expected, and will be taken or noted fo
432 History of Modern Philosophy
In the 17th and 18th centuries, there were an unusual number of very important and influential philosophers. In this course, we will focus on the Empiricist philosophers Locke, Berkeley, and Hume; the Rationalist philosophers Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz; and finally on Immanual Kant. We will read primary texts and will be studying such metaphysical issues as the nature of substance, the will, knowledge, causality, perception, and truth. Because of the number of important philosophers in this period, the course will be demanding and involve a lot of reading and writing. There will be take-home essay exams which require the student to study, analyze, and criticize the philosopher’s arguments.
440 French Philosophy: Existentialism
In this course we shall study two of the major figures of French Existentialism, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, whose theoretical work is considerably more voluminous, complex and sophisticated.
We shall begin with a stylistic and philosophic consideration of Camus’s novel, The Stranger followed by a critical analysis of his essay The Myth of Sisyphus. We shall then read Sartre’s story, The Wall, and his novel Nausea, before moving to his theoretical works, The Transcendence of the Ego, the Emotions, and Being and Nothingness. We shall deal with this deal with this last work only in part, because it is very long and difficult.
Among the problems and concepts we shall discuss are: the nature of “existentialism,” “alienation,” “authenticity”, “the absurd,” the irrationality and ineffability of existence, the feeling of “nausea” on is supposed to have as one becomes aware of the gratuitous nature of one’s own existence, the impossibility of real or satisfactory knowledge, the nature of consciousness, self-deception, the emotions, the nature of an individuals identity, freedom and the unwelcome responsibility it entails, the possibility or impossibility of unconscious mental processes, and “existential psychoanalysis.” There will be two short papers, an exam, and a final paper or examination. Two 75 minute lectures and one discussion section per week. A critical and philosophical evaluation of the works read will be both encouraged and required.
501 Philosophy of Religion (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
Each discipline has its highly influential figures. Aquinas, Hume, and Kant have been enormously influential in the philosophy of religion. In a lecture-discussion format, we will look these three figures. In each case, we will study their actual views, and look at some of the contemporary influence these views have, what reasons can be given for thinking that these views (of Aquinas, Hume, and Kant, and their contemporary versions) are true, and what reasons can be given for thinking that they are false. Briefly: Thomas Aquinas attempted to take portions of Classical Greek thought (Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus) and baptize it into a theology that was philosophically defensible. Put another way: he give (in particular)Aristotle=s conceptual system a recasting as a version of monotheism. A famous slogan associated with his endeavor is All our concepts are abstracted from sensory experience. David Hume attempted to take portions of Ancient Skepticism and the Empiricism of his predecessors (suitably recast) and relentlessly drew secular conclusions from them. He is viewed as being the only really consistent Empiricist among his colleagues in the history of Modern philosophy. A famous slogan associated with his endeavor is All our knowledge derives from sensory experience. Immanuel Kant said he wanted to restrict reason in order to make room for faith, but he used both reason and faith in technical sense defined from within his own perspective. His philosophy of religion is commonly viewed as the most sophisticated attempt ever to reduce religion to morality, though this reading of Kant is disputed. A famous slogan associated with his endeavor is Even though all our cognition starts with experience, this does not mean that all of it arises from experience. We will discuss, and considers reasons for and against, the views that these authors, and their more recent fans, have offered.
516 Language and Meaning (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
This course is an advanced introduction to the Philosophy of Language. The basic sort of question from which this field gets its life is: what is it about a bunch of sound waves, or squiggles on paper, which makes them meaningful? And what determines the particular meaning that they have? Words – spoken or written – are physical objects just like trees and clouds. What’s the difference between them in virtue of which the former stand for, or represent something, while the latter don’t? From this basic starting point, there are lots of different questions to pursue. What is a language? What, if anything, determines the grammatical rules – the syntax – of a natural language? What is the relation between linguistic representation and mental representation? Do words simply stand for objects, or are there also semantical relations between words built into a language, such that some words give the meaning of other words? Are some sentences analytic – that is, true simply in virtue of the meanings of words (‘true by definition’)? Or does the truth or falsity of a sentence always depend on relations between words and extralinguistic objects? Is there a difference between what a sentence means, and what it implies? Is what is fundamentally true or false sentences? Or something sentences express (propositions)? More particular areas in the philosophy of language concern more particular parts of speech. What is the meaning, or semantic function, of the word ‘the’? What is the difference between a question, a command, and an assertion? Is any one of these more fundamental? (These are questions in the theory of speech acts) How do metaphors work? How do indexical expressions – words like ‘I’, ‘here’, ‘now’, which change their reference depending on the occasion of use – work? How should ascriptions of propositional attitudes – reports of beliefs, desires, etc. – be represented? Questions in other areas of philosophy are also intimately related to issues about language. For one, there is the question of what philosophers are doing. On one view, philosophers are trying to find out the meanings of words, and implications thereof. But if words don’t have meanings – but only referents – this cannot be right. Philosophy would have to be inquiry into the nature of these referents. Interpreting philosophical questions also often requires discerning the logical form of statements which aren’t themselves about language. Questions about truth – whether a statement can be true (false) despite all our evidence being to the contrary – also depend on how language works. And on and on.
Obviously, we can’t answer all these questions in a semester. But we will touch upon many of them. The idea is to become familiar with some of these questions, their significance, important proposals about how to answer them, and to enable you to pursue these and other issues on your own.
523 Philosophical Problems – Biol Sciences
This course will examine a range of philosophical questions concerning the theory of evolution.
We’ll begin with a quick review of what evolutionary theory is, and a consideration of the debate between evolutionary biology and creationism / intelligent design. Then we’ll discuss questions concerning fitness, adaptationism, the units of selection, and systematics. We’ll also consider whether there are laws in evolutionary biology and whether biology is “reducible” to physics. Finally, we’ll consider the bearing of evolutionary theory on the question of whether there is such a thing as “human nature,” the relevance of evolutionary theory to explaining features of human mind, behavior, and culture, and the relevance of evolutionary theory to ethical questions.
526 Philosophy and Literature
In this course we will examine various philosophical issues regarding literature, giving special attention to the issue of how literature can contribute to philosophical understanding and enlightenment. We will read essays on these subjects by contemporary philosophers and discuss in depth the works of several literary writers. The point of these discussions will be to see how far we can go in taking them seriously as philosophers. In this part of the course, we will focus our attention on two writers who had profound and unsettling things to say about the relationship between the individual, the state, and the state of nature: Henry David Thoreau and Robinson Jeffers. Graded assignments will include a final exam, a midterm, and a term paper.
541 – Modern Ethical Theories (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
This course is for upper-level undergraduates. It is an in-depth study of modern ethical theory, with a focus on the following specific topics: (1) the status of morality (emotivism, relativism, subjectivism, realism); (2) why should we be moral?; (3) value theory; (4) theories of moral standing; (5) consequentialism; (6) deontology; (7) contractualism; and (8) moral particularism. We will be using Russ Shafer-Landau’s Blackwell anthology, “Ethical Theory”.
543-1 – Special Topics in Ethics: Kantian Ethics
The ethics of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) will be studied through selections mainly from his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, the Philosophy of Law, the Doctrine of Virtue, “On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies,” “On Radical Evil in Human Nature” (from Religion with the Limits of Reason Alone), and the Critique of Practical Reason, together with some selections from contemporary commentaries and essays extending Kantian ideas in new directions (but the emphasis will be on Kant, rather than the commentaries and offshoots). The course will be writing intensive, will participate in the Writing Fellow program, and will include, in addition to several short papers, a mandatory mid-term essay exam. There will also be a comprehensive final essay exam that students won’t have to take whose attendance is acceptable, who do their assignments on time, and who have a “B” average on their written work prior to the final. Students can expect to present at least one paper to the class for discussion and should always come to class prepared to discuss the material assigned for that day.
543-2 – Special Topics in Ethics:
This course is for graduate students and upper-level undergraduates. It is an in-depth study of the main philosophical theories in animal ethics and a survey of the ways that empirical research is important for evaluating the truth of those theories as well as for understanding their implications. Philosophical theories covered will include animal welfare views (based on utilitarian or consequentialist ethical theories), animal rights views (based on deontological ethical theories), Neo-Cartesianism, and Anthropocentrism. Philosophical proponents of these views will be discussed, including Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Bernard Rollin, Peter Carruthers, and Carl Cohen. Related scientific research that will be discussed will include scientific understandings of animal welfare, pain, self-awareness, and temporal awareness. We will consider the implications of these views for a selection of animal-use practices.
545 Philosophical Concepts: Teaching & Learning
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549 – Great Moral Philosophers (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)
An intensive examination of some of the ethical works of Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Mill and Ross. We will consider questions about both the status and the content of ethics, including such perennial favorites as:
Is morality objective?
How can we know what’s right and wrong?
What is the best life for a human being?
Is virtue its own reward?
What is our duty to others?
551 – Philosophy of Mind (fulfills Category A requirement for the major)
We see ourselves as rational agents: we have beliefs, desires, intentions, wishes, and hopes. We also have the ability to perform actions, seemingly in light of these beliefs, desires, and intentions. Is our conception of ourselves as rational agents consistent with our scientific conception of human beings as biological organisms? We think the mind bears some relation to the brain, but is it really nothing over and above physical brain processes – and if so, is it impossible for computers or Martians to have minds? How can the conscious experience of the taste of brussels sprouts be a purely physical thing? We will also investigate how mental states get their content. How can we explain how you and I can both think about the same city of Istanbul, when we’ve never been there, or Diogenes’s Honest Man, who does not exist? What kind of knowledge do we have of our own minds, and how do we get it? How do we know whether other people even have minds? Readings primarily from contemporary sources.
911 – Seminar-Logic: Deontic Logic
Suppose an assassin (1) has an obligation to avoid killing you. Suppose further the assassin (2) is nevertheless going to kill you, and (3) has an obligation to kill you gently if he kills you. From (2) and (3) it seems to follow that (4) the assassin has an obligation to kill you gently, and from this it seems to follow that (5) the assassin has an obligation to kill you, apparently contradicting (1). This is just one of the numerous paradoxes that plague deontic logic, namely the logic of obligation, permission, and prohibition. Deontic logic has applications in ethics, law, and computer science, so resolving the paradoxes is important. This seminar examines a variety of attempts to resolve the paradoxes. The last part of the seminar deals with the question of whether there are unresolvable moral dilemmas.
This is a seminar in philosophical, not in mathematical, logic: the emphasis is on the concepts, not on proofs or technicalities. Still, familiarity with first-order logic is presupposed. The seminar requirements consist of weekly discussion emails on the readings and of a substantial term paper. Further information and a syllabus are available at <http://mywebspace.wisc.edu/vranas/web/index.htm>.
916 – Seminar: Philosophy of Language: Pragmatics/Contextualism
This seminar would begin in a study of the classic literature in which purely pragmatic factors are distinguished from purely semantic ones, and then the focus would be on mixed cases, cases in which pragmatic factors having to do with the context of the occasion of the use of expressions would seem to explain semantic properties of the utterance of those expresssions. The classic literature I have in mind is mainly from Grice. Then we would look at whether the pragmatic or contextualist factors used in giving accounts of classical phenomenon in Philosophy of Language are successful, and solve the puzzles associated with those phenomena. I have in mind here particularly Kaplan’s account of Indexicals (e.g. “I” “This”, “That” “now”), and Nathan Salmon’s and Mark Richard’s account of Psychological Contexts or Opaque Contexts (e.g., believes/desires/intends that.. ) Lastly, we would look at recent applications of contextualism in two areas of Philosophy of Mind, the controversy between incompatibilists and compatibilists about Free Will and that between the skeptic and non-skeptic about Knowledge.
941 – Seminar-Ethics: Moralism & Postmoralism: Kant
From Moralism to Postmoralism in German Philosophy: Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche
In this seminar we shall consider those writings and ideas of Nietzsche that have often been considered to constitute his ‘moral theory’, but which he often denied were moral. We shall ask whether they really should be considered as a kind of moral theory or as a rejection of moral theory, what has been referred to as ‘post-moralism’. To gain the sort of perspective that is necessary to approach this issue in a fruitful manner, we shall compare and contrast his work with that of his two most important predecessors and influences in the German tradition, Kant and Schopenhauer.
Thus the seminar will give its participants a grounding in some of the moral (and perhaps in some cases amoral, postmoral, and antimoral) writings of all three of these important and influential thinkers. We shall study Kant’s Fundamental Principles of a Metaphysics of Moral, Schopenhauer’s On the Basis of Morality and relevant parts of The World as Will and Representation, and the relevant parts of various works by Nietzsche, including The Genealogy of Morals, The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Human All Too Human. We shall also consider some of the secondary literature relevant to this issue of postmoralism, such as Brian Leiter’s Nietzsche on Morality.
I hope that by addressing the issue of, whether those writings of Nietzsche’s that have come to be conventionally considered moral theory really should be considered to be a kind of moral theory or as a distinct alternative to it, we can get a clearer idea of what constitutes the essence and limits of moral theory.
This seminar would also count toward the History of Philosophy requirement
951 – Seminar-Philosophy of Mind: Mental Causation
Critics of dualism complain that mental-physical interaction is inexplicable. Yet, some philosophers have argued that materialism is no better off. If mind is matter then mental causation is nothing other than physical causation. Minds have no causal powers in addition to those of their physical realizers or physical supervenience bases. This seminar will examine the origins of the so-called exclusion problem and attempted solutions. Topics we will need to examine include supervenience, realization, and causation. Among the philosophers we will study are Davidson, Kim, Heil, Woodward, Shoemaker, and Yablo.