Jump to: Fall 2016 Graduate Courses
101-1: Introduction to Philosophy
This course provides an overview of some central questions of philosophy, and explains how philosophers go about investigating them. We will cover questions concerning the relation between mind and body, the nature of knowledge, the existence of the universe, moral obligation and value (what makes an action right vs. wrong?), and belief vs. nonbelief in God. We will also learn logical reasoning skills, which we will apply when discussing these questions. Assignments include short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.
101-2: 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 justification for our claims to knowledge, belief in God, free will and moral responsibility, ethics, and justice.
Thinking critically about these issues will be hard for many of you. This is because, first, they are of the sort that tend to draw strong opinions. Many of you probably believe in god, think that it is ok to accept claims on the basis of faith, are confident that knowledge is possible, believe that you have free will, and have views about what makes a society just or whether abortion is permissible. If you are like most people, you have not thought critically about these things. In fact, I bet that most of you believe in the god that your parents believe and for no other reason than that your parents raised you to accept their beliefs (and, in turn, they followed their parents). This would certainly explain why children of Christians, Muslims, and Jews tend to be Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Likewise, the best predictor of your views on justice and abortion are probably the views of your parents or peers. This brings us to the second reason why critical thought about fundamental issues is difficult: it requires that you suspend your belief in ideas that have probably seemed natural to you for so long.
But, finally, critical thinking is hard just because it’s hard — regardless of the issue under analysis. Critical thought requires examining assumptions that you may not realize you have made, it requires imagining alternatives that may be far from obvious, and it requires an ability to assess the soundness of arguments.
101-3: Introduction to Philosophy
The purpose of this course is to give you a better sense of what philosophy is, how it relates to other disciplines, and what it is good for. We will proceed by considering possible answers to a number of key philosophical questions: e.g. Do we have free will? What is knowledge and what sorts of things can we know? What is the fundamental nature of reality? Does God exist? Is truth relative or objective? Is life absurd and meaningless? What, if anything, determines that an action (for instance, intentionally killing an innocent person) is morally wrong? As will soon become clear, much of philosophy consists in formulating and evaluating arguments. Assuming you do the work, you can expect to emerge from this class with improved analytical skills and with an understanding of some fundamental philosophical issues.
101-4: 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.
101-5: Introduction to Philosophy
This course is an introduction to philosophical thinking and the Western philosophical tradition from antiquity to modernity. Through reading classical and contemporary texts, we will be examining central topics in this tradition: proofs for the existence of God, the nature of morality, the meaning of life, and the nature of art and beauty. By exploring these topics and works, students will develop a conception of what philosophy is, become familiar with its history, and acquire the skills needed to identify, evaluate, and construct arguments. In so doing, they will be laying the foundations for a fruitful engagement with philosophy and for critical thinking generally.
104-1: Special Topics in Philosophy-Freshman (Children, Family, & Marriage)
This is a course about children, marriage, and the family. The connecting courses will help you learn about child development and the way that the family and marriage are structured in the contemporary US; this course will help you think better about the moral issues connected to children, marriage, and the family. So, for example, we take it for granted that children will be raised in families for the first 18 or so years of their lives. But what sort of family should they be raised in? And why in families rather than, for example, in communal living environments? And why 18 years? (in the past it was often normal for children to become independent, or start contributing to the wellbeing of their families at a much earlier age). We take it for granted that parents have lots of power over their children: but do children have rights against their parents (and if so, who should help them enforce those rights)? We also take it for granted that parents should raise their biological children; does this mean that biological families are in some way better than adoptive families? And, just as adoptive parents have to pass a test showing that they will be good enough parents, should everyone have to pass a test before being entrusted with the care of a child?
The course will give you the intellectual tools to think about these questions and others in more depth than you imagined possible. In a small class of 20 students you will get to know me, and your classmates, well, and will also get to know supportive upper-class students who have already taken the course.
104-2: Special Topics in Philosophy-Freshman (Philosophy of Technology)
Science and Technology have become such pervasive aspects of our modern life that it is very easy to ignore their presence and impact. The main aim of this course is to help you develop a reflective stance toward the impact of science and technology on ethical, psychological, social, political, cultural, and environmental aspects of our lives. Some of the questions that we will discuss are: Are science and technology mere instruments for the betterment of our lives? In what ways do they shape our everyday life, values, needs, desires, and our natural environment? In what ways are scientific and technological developments shaped by their social, political, economic, and cultural context. Throughout the course, we also learn about some very influential schools of thought in the past century including existentialism, phenomenology, critical theory, and feminism. We will pay very close attention to the conceptual frameworks of these schools of thought and compare them with each other.
104-3: Special Topics in Philosophy-Freshman (Elementary Logic)
Mathematics, the natural sciences, engineering, computer sciences, and even social science are filled with systems of equations and symbols that we use to represent, manipulate, and understand reality. Students in this FIG will explore one of these systems—symbolic logic– by creating their own system. As any engineer will tell you, the best way to understand a particular type of machine is to build one yourself. Students will work together in groups, responding to carefully chosen prompts, to identify, assemble, and evaluate all the necessary parts of a formal logical system. The class will also discuss the history of logic, examining the work of twentieth-century logicians and computer scientists to see how the choices they made for their logical systems contrast with the choices we’ve made for our system in class. Students will then apply the system they’ve built, finding arguments in the world and using their logic to analyze whether those arguments successfully establish their conclusions. Finally, having built and applied our logical system, we will use the techniques of metalogic to prove that it has various reliability features considered desirable by professional logicians. This will reinforce the power of the tool the students have created, and also give them a suggestion of how logic continues on from what they’ve done. We will also consider connections to content introduced in the other courses in this FIG: General Chemistry and Introduction to Engineering.
104-4: Special Topics in Philosophy-Freshman (Philosophy, Literature, and the Good Life: Homer and Plato)
Plato and Homer, two of the most influential figures from the Ancient Greek world, tackled foundational questions about human life and values. Plato admired Homer, but also frequently criticized both the ethical ideals celebrated in the Homeric epics and the poetic medium in which they are set forth.
In this course, we will read Homer alongside Plato in order to think about the value of literature and different models for a good human life. Is literature good for us? If so, how? Is it dangerous to read literature that puts forward a bad ethical model? What value, if any, do myths have in helping us to understand the world? What is it to be courageous, and how do we understand courage within and outside of war? What role does knowledge or wisdom have in living a good life?
141: The Meaning Life
This course is an introduction to philosophy through one of the best-known philosophical questions: what is the meaning of life? We will discuss the question itself (for example, what would it even mean for a life to have a meaning?) and various classical and contemporary attempts to answer it. Assignments may include short papers and exams.
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 also look at simple examples of causal and statistical reasoning. For more information, browse through the required text: Critical thinking, 10th edition, by B.N. Moore and R. Parker, McGraw-Hill.
210-3: Reason in Communication
Argument in familiar contexts; emphasis upon developing critical skills in comprehending, evaluating, and engaging in contemporary forms of reasoning, with special attention to the uses of argument in mass communication media. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status.
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.
211-2: Elementary Logic
This course is an introduction to formal logic, the study of valid reasoning. We will studymethods for proving that an argument is either valid or invalid. Validity, as we will understand it, depends on the form of arguments rather than on their content; we will therefore work with a formal, symbolic language in which the form of sentences is made explicit. We will study both truth–functional and quantificational logic and use a deductive proof procedure for each.
220: Philosophy and the Sciences
This is a first course in philosophy of science, aimed at undergraduates who are interested in science. There are no prerequisites. The course helps fulfill Humanities and Social Science distribution requirements. The goal of the course is to understand what makes science tick. The course is divided into four sections. The first concerns the ABCs of deductive logic and probability reasoning. The second addresses the question “what is science?” as it pertains to the on-going conflict between evolutionary biology and creationism/intelligent design. The third involves a survey of some standard topics in philosophy of science – the justification of induction, the nature of explanation, the question of whether scientific evidence ever supports claims about unobservable entities, and the difference between normal scientific change and scientific revolutions. The fourth topic concerns the role of ethical and political values in scientific practice.
241-1: 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.
241-2: Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
Nature of moral problems and of ethical theory, varieties of moral skepticism, practical ethics and the evaluation of social institutions. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status.
341-1: Contemporary Moral Issues
The course will address four contemporary moral issues: surrogate motherhood, abortion, income and wealth inequalities, and health care. In order to treat the issues systematically, it will also provide a brief introduction to Kant’s moral philosophy, libertarianism, utilitarianism, and Rawls’ theory of justice. This is a writing intensive lecture (but it does not provide comm-B credit), and it aims to help students to analyze, criticize, and present arguments rigorous in clear and precise prose.
341-2: Contemporary Moral Issues
A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status or consent of instructor.
341-3: Contemporary Moral Issues
A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status or consent of instructor.
341 Contemporary Moral Issues (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
Lec. 91 9:55 MTWR
Lec. 92 11:00 MTWR
Lec. 93 12:05 MTWR
Lec. 94 8:50 MTWR
A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger. Prerequisites: Sophomore Status or consent of instructor. (Fulfills Comm B requirement).
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
Modern philosophy begins, in an important way, in the seventeenth century, with a new scientific way of looking at the world and novel approaches to old philosophical problems. In this course we will consider some central metaphysical and epistemological topics as these are addressed by a number of major seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. The topics include the nature of reality; the sources of human knowledge; the relationship between mind and body in a human being; the existence of God and its moral and causal role in the world (including the problem of evil); human freedom; the relationship between reason and faith; and other questions.
441: 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 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 hunting, the preservation of endangered species, the use of biotechnology, wilderness preservation and management, anthropogenic global climate change, and the place of the poor and the third world in the environmental movement. P: 3 cr. Philosophy envir studies, or Grad st. in IES.
464: Classical Philosophers (Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason)
Immanuel Kant is perhaps the most important philosopher since Aristotle. His Critique of Pure Reason dealt a death blow to traditional “dogmatic” philosophy, whose proponents thought that it was possible to provide proofs of the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and the reality of human freedom. In addition to denying the possibility of proving these specific claims, Kant went further by denying us any knowledge of reality in itself. This “negative” (i.e. depressing) aspect of the Critique earned Kant the moniker “the all-destroyer.” And yet, Kant also saw his philosophy as constructive – indeed, he thought he was saving Reason and the Enlightenment. In this course, we will study Kant’s seminal book and the crucial philosophical issues raised by it.
481: Meets with 503
482: Meets with 560
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.
503: Special Topics-Theory of Knowledge (Perception)
This course examines the nature of perception and will put traditional issues in the philosophy of perception in dialogue with new findings in the Cognitive Sciences. Some of the questions that we will focus on are: How could perception be a source of knowledge? Does perception depend only on what happens in our brains? Is perception a skill? How does perception guide action? Is perception shaped by our conceptual frameworks, beliefs, desires, or goals? Does perceptual learning happen and what is its philosophical significance?
522: Special Topic (Probability and Causation)
The concepts of probability and causation are central to many, if not all, areas of contemporary philosophy—for example, metaphysics, moral theory, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, the logic of conditionals, and action theory. The aim of this course is to introduce the concepts of probability and causation, and the connections between them, by thoroughly understanding a variety of simple examples. It is only through the comprehensive understanding of concrete cases that the abstract theories can be understood. Probability theory is based on three relatively simple axioms. The probabilistic theory of causation (aka Pearl’s structural theory of causation) is based on a single postulate, called the Causal Markov Condition, which connects causation to probability. From this simple theory, many things follow; probabilistic paradoxes are resolved, questions about how we infer causal relations from observational evidence are answered, the dispute between causal and evidential decision theorists is clarified, causal responsibility and moral responsibility are distinguished, and the relationship between causation and counterfactual conditionals is more clearly understood, to mention some of the applications.
524: Philosophy Problems – Biological Sciences
In this course, we’ll examine several philosophical questions concerning the theory of evolution. We’ll consider questions like the following: What do common ancestry and natural selection mean and how can hypotheses about each be tested? How should the concept of fitness and adaptation be understood? Are there laws concerning natural selection? How can natural selection cause altruistic behaviors to evolve if altruists are, by definition, less fit than selfish individuals? Does evolutionary theory show that our beliefs about morality are illusory?
541: Modern Ethical Theories
This course is an advanced introduction to contemporary thinking about ethical theory. It is impossible to understand the concerns of contemporary ethicists without some understanding of the two main kinds of ethical theory developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, consequentialism and deontology, so we spend some time looking at the most important developers of the variants of these kinds of theory, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill. In the rest of the course we shall look at various moral problems, such as the conflict between impartial demands and the intuition that we are entitled to favour our nearest and dearest, whether it would be good for us to be saints, the nature of friendship, and when it is permissible to kill people and/or let them die. We shall also read a book by a contemporary philosopher arguing that life is just awful and that we have an obligation to seek the extinction of the human race.
549: Great Moral Philosophers (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
We will discuss the work of several great moral philosophers, for example, Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Mill and Kant, and some important contemporary moral philosophers, especially women, who develop or criticize these different approaches to ethics. The aim of the course is to gain a critical appreciation of the insights of each of these philosophers. How much time we spend on each philosopher and on each topic will depend on the interests of the participants in the course.
There will be three tutorials. Class participants will be asked to write a series of 1500-word essays answering specific and challenging questions on assigned texts or particular topics. They will then come in pairs to see Professor Gottlieb for an hour or so, during which time they will read out and discuss their work. Grades will be assigned to the written work. The point of the tutorial is purely educational and fun. The final grade will be based on the grades for the three tutorial papers. Attendance and good participation in class discussion are also expected.
551: Philosophy of Mind
This course is a survey of classical and contemporary issues in philosophy of mind. Among these issues are: physicalism (is the mind composed of physical stuff? If not, what is it?); mental causation (can minds cause things?); conscious experience (why is an analysis of consciousness so hard?); extended minds (can parts of a mind exist outside the head?); and artificial intelligence (will computers ever be capable of thought?). Assignments will include a few papers (roughly 5pp. in length) and a final exam.
560: Metaphysics (fulfills category A requirement for the major)
This course will be a survey of some of the main debates within metaphysics. For example, we’ll discuss issues having to do with personal identity, necessity (and other modal notions), causation, and time and space. Students enrolled in the course will have some say in the topics being covered.
581: Meets with 541
582: Meets with 551
830: Advanced History of Philosophy: Thought and Feeling in Aristotle’s Ethics
Aristotle’s ethical works cover a broad range of topics including happiness, voluntary action, deliberate choice, virtues of character (for example, generosity and truthfulness), virtues of thought (for example, thoughtfulness (phronēsis) and sympathetic judgment), types of justice and decency, and friendship. We’ll be discussing these topics in the light of the overarching theme of thought and its relationship to feeling. What are feelings, according to Aristotle? How are they integrated with the good person’s thinking? What counts as good practical thinking, according to Aristotle? How plausible is Aristotle’s account of thought and feeling? Is Aristotle’s good person a real possibility or an unattainable ideal? Is there an aesthetic side to the good person’s motivation, and is it correct to say that the good person aims at the common good?
The main texts for the course will be Aristotle’s Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics in translation, but we’ll also read passages from his other works 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 and fun.
N.B. If you would like to receive credit for reading some texts in the original Greek, please let me know and I can arrange the grading accordingly.
Please feel free to send any questions to email@example.com
902: Proseminar in Philosophy
This seminar for incoming students is required. It provides a background/refresher in central texts in core analytic philosophy across diverse specialties, and a common, and joint entry experience into graduate school. There will be a close reading of texts and an emphasis on writing skills.
911: Seminar: Logic
Deontic logic is the logic of moral (or, more generally, normative) concepts—especially the concepts of obligation, permission, and prohibition. It addresses questions like the following: What kinds of entities (actions, propositions, state of affairs) can be obligatory, permitted, or forbidden? What is the relation between pro tanto and all-things-considered obligations? Is whatever is obligatory ipso facto permitted? Is there a fundamental distinction between unconditional and conditional obligations? Can obligatoriness be consistently defined in terms of a value relation, as consequentialism would have it? Clearly, these questions are of fundamental importance for moral philosophers or indeed for anyone engaged in normative reasoning. This seminar addresses these and many other questions in depth. Only knowledge of elementary logic is presupposed: the emphasis is on the concepts, not on proofs. The readings never exceed 45 pages per week.
916: Seminar: Philosophy of Langauge
The seminar will concern two related themes: the meaning of modal language (such as “must” and “may”) and the use of modal notions to explain meaning and assertion more generally. We will start with foundational works on modals and conditionals by David Lewis and Angelika Kratzer. We will then examine Robert Stalnaker’s use of modal notions to give accounts of propositions and assertion. In Stalnaker’s work, a proposition is a set of possible worlds, and the effect of an assertion is modeled in terms of these modally defined propositions. In the later part of the seminar, we will read various more recent proposals that give nonfactualist, probabilistic, or dynamic accounts of modals. In these proposals, the content of a modal sentence is often not a proposition in the traditional sense; thus, challenges to the traditional semantics for modals also become challenges to the broader picture about the relations among modality, assertion, and content.
951: Seminar: Philosophy of Mind (Free Will)
The seminar will focus on accounts of free will, classic accounts given by Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, G.E. Moore, but mostly on more contemporary accounts of various forms, e.g., compatibilist, libertarian, reason-responsive accounts, dispositional ones, etc.. We will examine whether any account can explain our intuitions about when an act is or is not done of our own free will. There is a lot that we can study along the way, and what direction we pursue there will be determined by the interest and backgrounds of the students: e.g., skeptical arguments against the possibility of free will (fatalist and incompatibilist), free will and moral responsibility, coercion, contextualism in free will. Here is some material in the canon I expect to cover early in the course, with the later part of the course being filled out with more recent literature:
G.E. Moore’s chapter called “Free Will” in his book Ethics
Locke’s account of ‘Liberty’
Van Inwagen “An Argument for Incompatibilism”
David Lewis, “Are We Free to Break the Laws”
J. L. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses” or “Ifs and Cans”
Peter Strawson, “Freedom and Resentment”
Descartes on ‘the Infinity of the Will’
Rogers Albritton, “Freedom of the Will and Freedom of Action”
Harry Frankfurt, “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility”, “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person” Gary Watson “Free Agency”
Reason-responsive accounts —
955: Soc-Pol Philosophy (Social Science and Social Policy)
This course will focus on normative and methodological questions that arise when attempting to put the findings of social science to use to guide public policy. The methodological problems arise because of the limitations of social scientific theories, because of the complexity of the considerations bearing on policy, and because of the difficulties extrapolating results established in one domain to the typically very different domains in which policy questions arise. The normative questions arise because of the complexity and weight of the interests at stake, because of the multiplicity of relevant normative considerations, and because the findings of social science are typically only relevant to some of the important moral considerations. Specific attention will be paid to applications of cost-benefit analysis to economic policies and to applications of cost-effectiveness analysis to health policy, both of which give rise to serious moral objections. Further questions arise when scientific authorities disagree and when policy makers have to temper their policies in the light of practical constraints. I am tentatively thinking of taking health-care provision as a case study to which to tie the general problems.