Jump to: Fall 2013 Graduate Courses
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.
101-3: Introduction to Philosophy
This course will introduce students to some central problems of philosophy, and to their investigation. Topics include logic, personal identity, ethics, theory of knowledge, and philosophy of religion.
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? – as well as 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, as well as some that are more particular, such as the rationality of emotions. We will be particularly concerned to bring out various sorts of philosophical tools and distinctions which are 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’.
101-5: Introduction to Philosophy
The aim of this course is to introduce the student to philosophy, both the subject matter and the method. 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. We will evaluate whether their arguments are good ones, and try to understand what work needs to be done to build adequate theories. The different areas of philosophy we will study include the following : Epistemology or the theory of knowledge which is concerned with questions about the nature and extent of Knowledge; Philosophy of Religion, where we will examine arguments for and against the existence of God; Ethics, where the focus will be on whether there really is such a thing as right or wrong, and if so, what makes something right or wrong; and finally, Free Will, where we will examine whether human beings can have free will if their actions are a part of the natural, causal order.
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.
101-7: Introduction to Philosophy
An introduction to the problems and methods of philosophy through the reading of classic and contemporary philosophical works and the discussion of questions about reality, knowledge, and value. The course is centered around seven topics: the examined life; the theory of knowledge; ethics; metaphysics and philosophy of mind; freedom and will; the existence of God; and life, death, and immortality. Readings include Plato, Epictetus, Descartes, Kant, Hume, Sartre and others.
104: Spec. Topics in Philos for Freshmen: Children, Marriage & Family
This course examines the ethical questions surrounding family life. Most of us grow up in families, and the general arrangement seems familiar. One or two adults share a home with one or more children until the children reach the age of 18 or so and then leave to start a life that is more or less independent. The adults care for, and guide, the children, oversee their education, and share various aspects of their own lives – their religious practices, their enthusiasms and dislikes and, perhaps their politics. With luck and judgment the children become able to function in society more or less independently, and without harming other people too much. Here are just three of the topics we’ll discuss:
1. Should parents be licensed?
As it stands, if you want to adopt a child you have to undergo very rigorous and intrusive testing. But if you want to have a child naturally, there are no requirements at all. As a society we just abandon naturally born children to whoever happened to be reckless enough to have sex without contraception. Why don’t we require people to show that they are actually capable of raising a child? We require them to show they can drive a car before letting them loose on the roads.
2. Should the government promote marriage?
What is the best way of raising a child? Often we try to answer that question just by looking at the social science evidence. But determining what is “best” involves value judgments and trade offs between values, and it is only once we know what values are at stake that we know what evidence is relevant. Some children are raised by two parents of different sexes. But others are raised by just one parent. Most American children, in fact, are living with just one of their original parents by the age of 18. yet others by two of the same sex. Should society allow same-sex couples, or single parents, to raise children? Why?
3. How much should parents control their children’s values?
Normally, children attend the church their parent chooses, or, if their parent is not a church-goer, none at all. But why should parents have that sort of control over their children: the kind of control that shapes the values and choices the child will have for the rest of their lives? Some religious communities keep their children out of public schools where they would be exposed to other ideas, and some keep them out of school altogether. Should society allow that? Should it even, as happens in most of Europe, support and fund religious schools?
This is a class in moral philosophy. But it is different from most Philosophy classes, in two ways. First, we shall be looking at a series of issues concerning about a very specific area of morality; the issues concerning children, parents, and family life, asking what moral norms or values ought to guide both public policy and personal behavior, and asking also how those norms should guide. So it is very tightly focused on issues that you ought, already, to have thought about. The second way it differs from most philosophy classes is that we shall be reading a good deal of non-philosophical literature. In order to reflect critically on the norms and values relevant to the family we have actually to know something about the family: what families have actually been like and what they actually are like, as well as about their effects on the social environment. I selected the companion classes within the FIG for this purpose. So in Sociology 120 you will learn about how our society structures family life, what the effects are of different forms of family on children, and how families affect other people. In Ed Psych 320 you will learn about how children develop psychologically, and what kinds of risks they face growing up. We’ll integrate what you learn in those classes into our discussions and we will also, cover some of the same material within this class, where we shall discuss it in a different way and with different aims than in the companion classes.
The class involves reading, a little lecturing, and a lot of discussion. I am not going to tell you what you should think about the issues: I am going to raise questions and perspectives you haven’t thought about before, and help you to reflect on them carefully and critically. The new ideas you encounter will stretch your imaginations, will also help you to think better about some of the central decisions in your life, like whether to have children, how to raise them, whether to marry (and if so, who you should choose!). We’ll form a community of learners – you will get to know your classmates, you will discover that even within a small class students have had very different experiences of family life, and you will get to understand and reflect on their perspectives. No prior exposure to Philosophy is needed; and most students find, to their surprise, that they want to take at least another course on the same kinds of issues.
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 moral, legal and aesthetic reasoning. For more information, browse through the required text: Critical thinking, 10th edition, by B.N. Moore and R. Parker, McGraw-Hill.
211-1: Elementary Logic
Suppose I say, “The cheese was in the fridge when you left. If no one removed the cheese, it’s still in the fridge. I’m the only one who could’ve removed the cheese, and I didn’t. So the cheese is still in the fridge.” This argument concerning the whereabouts of the cheese contains some premises followed by a conclusion. The argument is structured so that if the premises are true, the conclusion is true as well.
In this course we will represent arguments in symbols to reveal their structure, then study argumentative structures that guarantee a true conclusion from true premises. We will also learn how to prove that an argument with a particular structure is valid. The techniques we will learn are necessary for every area of contemporary philosophy, and are relevant to areas of economics, mathematics, computer science, rhetoric, and the law.
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).
241-3: Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
In everyday life, we make a variety of ethical judgments, for example, that it is kind to help others or that it is right to keep promises. What justifies us in making such judgments, can such judgments be objective, and why and how should we live up to them? To answer these questions we shall examine various representative moral theories including Utilitarianism, Kantian Theory and Virtue Ethics, and we shall also consider the views of human nature that underlie them. The main readings for the course will be recognized classics from the history of ethics. However we shall also be considering these in the light of contemporary philosophical developments and concerns, including those of African American philosophers and feminist thinkers.
241-4: Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
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304: Special Topics in Humanities: Death
An examination of the topic of death from a variety of philosophical perspectives (supplemented by literary and artistic material). We will examine metaphysical questions about the nature of the human being (especially the relationship between mind/soul and body), epistemological questions about the end of life, and ethical and normative issues raised by our mortality, the relevance of death for the meaning of life. Readings include classic philosophical works by Plato, Seneca, Epictetus, Lucretius, Spinoza, and Sartre, and writings by contemporary philosophers.
341-1: Contemporary Moral Issues
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341-2: Contemporary Moral Issues
This writing intensive course focuses on four contemporary moral issues: surrogate motherhood, abortion, income and wealth inequalities, and health care. In order to address those issues, it also provides a fragmentary introduction to ethical theorizing and to informal logic. There will be two essays with opportunities for revision, a midterm and a final examination. This lecture does not count toward the Comm-B requirement.
341-3: Contemporary Moral Issues
When are we justified in forcing people to do things that they might not want to do? In the first five weeks of this course, we will critically examine several “liberty–limiting principles” ideas which, if they are true, will tell us when it is right to use force. during the remainder of the course, we will apply these principles to contemporary issues in which the use of coercion is involved, including: abortion, gun ownership, legalizing drugs, the redistribution of wealth, and censoring hate speech. The point of the course will be to help the student to do his or her own thinking on these issues.
341-3: Contemporary Moral Issues
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341: Contemporary Moral Issues (Lec. 91)
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341: Contemporary Moral Issues (Lec. 92)
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341: Contemporary Moral Issues (Lec. 93)
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341: Contemporary Moral Issues (Lec. 94)
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430: History of Ancient Philosophy
In this course, we will examine how ancient Greek philosophers approached fundamental questions about knowledge and reality. What is the nature and origin of the world? Did it come to be by chance, intelligence or some other cause? How do the senses and reason contribute to our understanding of the world? Is it possible to be certain about anything at all? What is the connection between language and reality? We will focus on Plato and Aristotle, but we will also study some of their philosophical predecessors, such as Parmenides and Heraclitus, as well as the post-Aristotelian philosopher Epicurus.
432: History of Modern Philosophy
In this course, we will read and discuss selections from the works of some influential 17th and 18th century philosophers: Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Though these thinkers are a diverse bunch, one thing that unites them is their preoccupation with a set of philosophical issues connected with the scientific revolution. The scientific revolution, which was closely associated with the so-called mechanical philosophy, raised troubling philosophical questions about free will, the mind-body relationship, God’s place in nature, the sources and limits of knowledge, the ultimate nature of reality, and the proper analysis of some concepts that were central to the new science. The philosophers we will study in this class struggled to clearly formulate and answer these questions.
433: 19th Century Philosophers
The purpose of this survey in nineteenth century philosophy is to explore the developments (the rise, and fall) of three ideas that were closely connected for post-Kantian philosophers: autonomy, unity, and history. Kant had put the notion of autonomy in thought and action at the forefront of his philosophy. To many of his immediate successors, however, Kant failed to secure the conditions of meaningful self-legislation because of the dualism and formalism of his system: Kant’s oppositions between duty and sentiment, on the one hand, and sensibility and understanding, on the other, seemed at odds with the unity of the self presupposed by practical and theoretical agency; and Kant’s universal system of human reason struck many as an empty formalism, out of touch with the historical and social conditions of agency. This course will take you through some of the great responses to (and criticisms of) the legacy of autonomy bequeathed by Kant, from his contemporaries to Nietzsche. The course begins with an overview of Kant’s Critical philosophy and his essays on history. We then consider how Hegel developed and expanded upon Kant’s insights to argue for a thoroughly socialized, historicized, but non-relativist account of reason’s development. Key Hegelian texts will be the Phenomenology of Spirit, the Encyclopedia Logic, the Philosophy of History, and the Aesthetics. Like Kant before him, Hegel’s system-building attracted a host of detractors. We begin with Marx (in The German Ideology), who opposed his dialectical materialism to Hegel’s purportedly “abstract” dialectical idealism to account for humankind’s historical development. Next, we turn to Kierkegaard (reading sections of Fear and Trembling and Concluding Unscientific Postscript), who voices the concern that Hegel’s system excludes the individual, rendering it insignificant to the great march of history. We conclude with Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morality), who questions not only basic assumptions of Kant’s Enlightenment project of autonomy, but also the very ideas of morality and the historical progress of rational agency.
454: Classical Philosophers: (Plato on Pleasure and Desire)
What types of pleasure and desire are there? What is the relationship between pleasure and the good? What happens when desires conflict, and what does this tell us about the nature of human motivation and the unity of the individual who undergoes such conflict? How do health and disease affect what a subject desires and enjoys? What about virtue and vice? Are some pleasures and desires more valuable or beneficial than others, and if so, is there such a thing as expert knowledge concerning them? In this seminar, we will explore these and related questions in Plato’s Gorgias, Symposium, Republic, Phaedrus, Timaeus and Philebus.
481: Meets with 501
482: Meets with 555
501: Philosophy of Religion (fulfills the Category A requirement for the major)
Focusing on Western religious tradition, we will explore some of the major philosophical issues pertaining to religion. We’ll discuss various arguments for and against God’s existence, paying special attention to what properties are traditionally ascribed to God. We will also consider issues related to whether we ought to believe in miracles and whether we could survive (bodily) death. We’ll end with a discussion of the relationship between science (e.g., evolutionary theory) and religion.
502: Spec. Topic: Philosophy of Religion: Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard is one of the most important, but also overlooked, philosophers of the 19th century. His ideas have influenced contemporary debates in analytic ethics and philosophy of religion as well as key Continental thinkers and theologians. This course will take a critical, analytic approach to Kierkegaard’s philosophical work. A prominent theme will be his distinction between three basic existential categories — the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious — and various arguments concerning their relation (for example, is one superior to the others?). We will also examine Kierkegaard’s theory of the self, notions of inwardness and subjectivity, varieties of despair and their ontological and ethical significance, and view of the relation between faith and reason. Readings will be drawn from Either/Or, Fear and Trembling, The Sickness Unto Death, and Concluding Unscientific Postscript, as well as from recent secondary literature.
503: Theory of Knowledge (fulfills the category A requirement for the major)
We will survey epistemology by focusing on three problems that are currently “hot” in the field. Readings will be from academic articles written by contemporary philosophers. Topics covered will include: knowledge (what does it take to know something?), justification (how can our beliefs be justified?), skepticism (do we know a material world exists?), closure (do I know anything that’s entailed by what I know?), internalism vs. externalism (does the justification of my beliefs depend on anything besides my other beliefs?), and disagreement (should any two people with the same evidence draw the same conclusion?). Previous experience reading and writing philosophical papers is required.
522-1: Special Topics: Philosophy of Physics: The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics
This course is an introduction to topics in contemporary philosophy that are challenged by the fact that our world is quantum mechanical. Quantum mechanics is a theory about the behavior of atomic sized objects, which Einstein had a part in developing in 1905, but later came to view as an incomplete theory of the world. Quantum mechanics correctly predicts many strange phenomena that challenge some of our naïve metaphysical assumptions about the world. We will examine which metaphysical views are challenged, and exactly how they are challenged. We shall also ask which view, such as global physicalism or relational holism, that should replace our naïve views. In epistemology, quantum mechanical phenomena challenge a potentially powerful method of reasoning known as the principle of common cause. The principle of common cause postulates the existence of common causes to explain correlated events. We will look at this principle in detail and examine the strength of the arguments for and against it. Styer (2000) (The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics. Cambridge University Press) will be used as a non-mathematical introduction to these strange quantum mechanical phenomena. No prior knowledge of quantum mechanics is required.
522-2: Special Topics
During the 17th and 18th centuries, there was no sharp divide between physics and philosophy. Those we think of today as physicists, like Galileo and Newton, didn’t simply offer scientific theories of the motion of terrestrial and celestial bodies; they also raised and attempted to answer deep philosophical questions about space, time, and motion. Conversely, those we think of today as philosophers, like Descartes, Berkeley, Leibniz, and Kant, didn’t simply confine themselves to narrowly philosophical questions; they also attempted to make contributions to physics. In this class, we will be exploring the interplay between physics and philosophy during the early modern period. We will touch on the scientific theories of motion offered by these figures, but we will focus on making sense of and evaluating their answers to tough metaphysical, conceptual, and epistemological questions about space, time, and motion: Just what are these things and how can we know them?
523: Philosophical Problems of Biological 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.
541: Modern Ethical Theories (fulfills the Category B requirement for the major)
This course is for upper-level undergraduates. It is an in-depth study of modern ethical theories, focusing on the following specific topics: (1) the status of morality; (2) the reasons for being moral; (3) value theory; (4) moral responsibility; (5) moral standing; (6) consequentialism; (7) and deontology.
543: Aesthetics (fulfills the Category B requirement for the major)
In this course we will discuss a broad range of philosophical issues raised by film, mainly working out of an anthology of readings, Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures, ed. By Noel Carroll and Jinhee Choi (Blackwell’s, 2005). We will focus on fundamental issues about the definition of film, whether it is actually possible for films to be art, and the nature of film as an art form (supposing that is what it is), as well as the contribution (if any) that fiction film might make toward the improvement of human character and understanding. We will also view several classic films in the class, mainly as illustrations of the philosophical essays we will be reading. We will be asking students to keep the time slot of Monday, 7:00–10:00 pm open for this purpose. Required work for the course will include three short papers (which will focus either on discussing philosophical issues or on interpreting films) and a final exam (on the assigned readings for the course).
554: Philosophy of the Artificial Sciences
The advent of computers in the mid-Twentieth Century suggested to some researchers the possibility of building machines that could think. In fact, Alan Turing, a foundational figure within computer science, predicted in 1950 that by the year 2000 intelligent machines would exist. He was wrong. Much of this class will be dedicated to figuring out why he was wrong. Are present-day computers simply not powerful enough to produce artificial intelligence? Are the programs they run flawed? Or, as some philosophers argue, are symbolic processes just not the stuff of which intelligence is made? If symbolic processes are inadequate, what is necessary for intelligence? Following our discussions of artificial intelligence, we will examine the claim that cognitive processes are not purely biological, but instead extend beyond the brain and out into the world. Finally, we’ll turn to related topics in the philosophy of artificial life. By what criteria should something be judged to be alive, and can life be manufactured on a computer? Assignments include 3 papers and a final exam.
555: Political Philosophy (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a range of contemporary thinking about topics in political philosophy. We shall focus on contemporary theories of justice, and, in the first part of the course, shall read John Rawls’s restatement of his influential theory of justice as fairness. Then we shall look at a series of alternative views including libertarianism, communitarianism, a liberal group rights approach and look at a form of conservatism. We’ll then look at a series of more policy-oriented issues mainly concerning equality of opportunity, including how higher education should be funded, the role of markets in education, and the distribution of the costs of rearing children. The class is run through a combination of lecture and discussion, and you will be expected to write three papers, participate in online discussions, and in the second half of the semester groups will make in class presentations.
556: Topics-Feminism & Philosophy
I understand “feminism” very broadly as a movement (historically, several movements) to mitigate and ideally end the oppression of women and girls. This course will select topics mainly in ethics and social-political philosophy, to include issues selected from such topics as rape, stalking, domestic violence, same-sex relationship issues, feminist and lesbian separatism, war and military service, as well as more abstract concerns regarding justice and care in feminist ethics. I expect readings to be from selected classics (pre-1950, a few), from the Second Wave (1970s) of feminism, and from more recent materials (emphasis here), with a heavy dose of my own work. My approach is an eclectic combination of radical and liberal feminisms. But I have not yet decided on texts (will do that this summer, so check Student Center from time to time). The course will not be a survey of feminist philosophy and will emphasize issues rather than writers. Written assignments will be mostly short papers (Writing Intensive and with the assistance of Writing Fellows), with a possible mid-term essay exam and the threat of a final exam for those who do not do the required number of papers on time or have a grade average below “BC”.
560: Metaphysics (fulfills category A requirement for the major)
Persons and Essence
In this course, we will look at some traditional metaphysical issues in contemporary garb. In the first part of the class (‘Persons’), we will look at the problem of personal identity through time – Each of you was once in the first grade: What makes it true that that first grader has persisted, is not dead? Under what conditions does a person continue, or cease, to exist? Various things of importance seem to hinge on facts about personal identity: desert or punishment for some earlier deed seems to require that you – not someone else – performed that deed. We seem to have special concern for our own future selves, but not necessarily for others. It seems to be irrational for me to do things that will make things worse for myself later on, like gambling away my retirement money, but if I do this with your money, it seems not irrational, but instead immoral. We will focus on theories of personal identity, and then move to Derek Parfit’s challenge to the ties between personal identity and these other matters that seem to depend upon it. We will look at Eric Olsen’s recent work, which argues, against prevalent psychological views, that persons are essentially animals. In the second part of the class, (‘Essence’), we will study the ‘new essentialism’ as presented in Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity. While Philosophy has often been identified with the study of the essences – the necessary properties of things – for most of the 20th century, all claims about essences were viewed as either misleading ways of talking about the definitions of words, or as simply mistaken. But Kripke’s work completely reoriented this thought with his seeming discovery of necessary a posteriori truths. Are there truths about the essences of things, and other necessary truths, which are not simply true by definition? We will look at some candidates, and think about the nature of necessity and essence.
581: Meets with 560
582: Meets with 522-2
830: Advanced Hist. of Philosophy (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. In particular, we will consider the way in which the good Aristotelian person has both virtues of character which involve the emotions, and virtues of thought which involve a certain type of reasoning. What are these virtues, what is their justification, how are they acquired, and how are they linked together? Is it right to divide them up in the way I have described? Is Aristotle describing an impossible ideal or a real person? What is the motivation of the good person and can it correctly be described as moral or aesthetic if good people aim at their own happy and pleasant life? Does the good person aim at the common good? Why is friendship important, and how do the Aristotelian virtues relate to society in general?
The main text for the course will be Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, but we’ll also read passage from his other works in ethics, politics, psychology and biology, where these are pertinent. Secondary reading will include some classic articles and very recent work in the field. The primary texts are most important. These are short, but require careful reading.
There will be ample opportunity for discussion. There will also be three tutorials. Class participants will be asked to write a series of 1500-word essays. They will then come in pairs to see the professor for an hour or so, during which time they will read out and discuss their work. Grades will be awarded to the written work. The point of the tutorial is purely educational.
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951-1: Philosophy of Mind (Agency and Practical Rationality)
This seminar will begin by covering the recent history of philosophical work on the nature of action, tailored to the familiarity the participants bring in. The philosophy of action takes up questions like the following: (1) what makes an event (e.g. a bodily movement, or a causal consequence thereof) an intentional action, as opposed to a mere happening? (2) What is an agent? What capacities must one have to be autonomous or self-determining? (3) Does action have a “constitutive aim” — a goal that is internal to the nature of action? Readings would include seminal work on the answers to these questions by Donald Davidson, G.E.M. Anscombe, Harry Frankfurt, Michael Bratman, J. David Velleman, Michael Thompson, Kieran Setiya, and Christine Korsgaard. The second part of the course would focus on contemporary discussions on the nature of practical reason and rationality. Is there such a thing as “practical inference?” What is the conclusion of practical reasoning — an action, as Aristotle seems to have thought, or a mental state such as an intention? What are the requirements of practical rationality, and why should we care about them? Joseph Raz and Niko Kolodny have argued that the putative requirements of practical rationality are a myth, and that we have no special reason to have intrinsic concern for the coherence and consistency of one’s own attitudes. Can anything more be said in favor of practical rationality than this? And if there are such requirements, do any of them apply diachronically rather than synchronically, enjoining patterns of attitudes over time rather than merely at a time?
955-1: Seminar: Health, Well-Being and Cost Effectiveness
This proposed seminar will be concerned with (a) the concept of health, (b) the nature of well-being, (c) the value of health and its contribution to well-being, (d) measuring health (or its value), and (e) employing measurements of health to judge the cost-effectiveness of alternative health policies. Much of the seminar will focus on a new book manuscript by Hausman tentatively titled Health, Well-Being, and Cost Effectiveness. Other readings will include works on the concept of health, including especially Christopher Boorse’s views, works on well-being including especially works by Griffin, Sumner, Kraut, Scanlon, Sen, and Nussbaum, and works on health and its determinants philosophers such as Brock, Broome, and Daniels and by health economists and demographers such as Marmot, Dolan, and Nord.