101-1 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 .
101-2 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 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 six short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.
101-3 Introduction to Philosophy
In this course, we shall consider some central philosophical topics, such as: what is philosophy, what makes behavior morally right or wrong; what is the impact of our mortality ( the fact that we die) upon the meaning and worth of our lives; what reasons do we have (if any) to believe in the existence of a god; what reasons (if any) are there to believe that the world was created by a god, what is the nature of knowledge; how reliable is our experience of the physical world; what do we know about ourselves; what is valuable for its own sake and what is valuable simply as means to something else.
We shall explore these questions and others by studying the works of some of the most historically important thinkers in our tradition. We shall read these works in their historical order and attempt, through the readings and supplementary lectures, to acquire some idea of the broad sweep of the history of philosophy from the Greek thinkers of classical times to the 20^th century. Among the philosophers we study are: Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Mill, and Ayer.
You will be taught to understand the arguments that the philosophers we read put forward and how to critically evaluate these arguments.
There will be three in class exams and a final.
101-3 Introduction to Philosophy
210-1 Reason in Communication
210-2 Reason in Communication
210-3 Reason in Communication
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
This course is an introduction to formal symbolic logic. Anyone who has survived long enough to consider taking this course has a well-developed sense of the difference between good reasoning and bad reasoning, at least where the reasoning involved is not too complicated. The aims of this course are to help sharpen this logical sense and, perhaps more importantly, to begin to analyze in detail the differences between good and bad reasoning. In this course, we shall concentrate on deductively correct reasoning: that is, on the analysis of circumstances in which the truth of a conclusion is absolutely guaranteed by the truth of the reasons on which it is based. The basic method of inquiry will be to develop a precise theory about the nature of some kinds of deductively correct reasoning.
241-1 Introductory Ethics
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
241-3 Introductory Ethics
305-1 Topics in Philosophy: Social Sciences
(meets with Medical History & Bioethics 559-002)
This course focuses on ethical issues distinctive of a population-level approach to disease prevention and health promotion, especially as they bear on the activities of governmental health agencies. Students will explore prominent theoretical approaches to public health ethics and will engage with several ethical tensions, including: the trade-offs between maximizing aggregate health benefits and addressing the special needs of vulnerable social sub-groups and individuals; the use of coercive or intrusive pubic health interventions that restrict individual freedom, infringe upon individual privacy, and/or invite individual harm (or risks of harm); the justification of paternalistic measures in societies or sub-populations that seemingly indulge in pleasurable yet unhealthy behaviors; the extent to which societies should hold individuals responsible for their health conditions; the need to decide who receives life-saving treatment or vaccination when not all can; the need to choose between the identifiable victims we can save with expensive measures here and now and the more numerous unidentifiable victims we could save in the future with the same monetary investment; and the need to establish reasonable limits to public health demands in a world where health outcomes are profoundly influenced by policies in other domains (such as transportation, housing, unemployment, and education) that generate their own ethical problems and imperatives.
305-2 Topics in Philosophy: Social Sciences
(Meets with Medical History and Bioethics 559-003)
This course will focus on the question: What do we owe each other healthwise? Ever since John Rawls ducked this question in his influential work, A Theory of Justice, many others have offered philosophical frameworks that address it head on. With a primary focus on the domestic context, we will investigate the bases on which various frameworks found political duties to address health needs. Special attention will be paid both to the ways in which the demandingness of candidate duties shapes the content and scope of bona fide social obligations, and to the special features of the domestic political context that might generate health-related responsibilities of citizenship. We will also ask how a just society will respond to the presence of disability in the populace; this will force us to address the fact that many forms of disability appear to be the result of an interplay between biomedical impairment and the wider built and social environment. When disabilities can be eliminated or alleviated through social accommodation and environmental change, how should the burdens of accommodation be distributed? Are there some disabilities that ought always to be addressed via social accommodation, even if more individualized measures (surgery or special wheelchairs, e.g.) are less expensive or less socially disruptive? Finally, we will take up the question of justice for persons with cognitive disabilities, which is still largely neglected by philosophers concerned with justice in health and health care.
341-1 Contemporary Moral Issues (Writing Intensive)
This writing intensive course will address four contemporary moral issues: Surrogate Motherhood, Abortion, Capital Punishment, and Affirmative Action, and we will also read a little bit of moral philosophy to provide some philosophical context. The course will be as concerned to help students develop their writing skills and their abilities to make and analyze arguments as it will be with the specific issues. There will be homework assignments, two papers, and a quiz, a midterm and a final examination.
341-2 Contemporary Moral Issues
The purpose of 341 is to acquaint students with rigorous forms of reasoning concerning live contemporary moral issues, and to help them develop the skills necessary to evaluate and intervene in public debates in a way that is intellectually honest and well-informed. This section of 341 focuses mainly on issues relating to childhood, family life, and education; among the issues we discuss are the morality of abortion; the permissible regulation of parenthood; cloning human beings for reproductive purposes; the morality of school choice; the morality of educational inequality, and whether parents should enroll their children in sports leagues(!). Attendance of discussion section is mandatory. Assessment of students’ work will be by papers, essay exams, and some short tests.
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.
Lec. 91 9:55 MTWR
Lec. 92 11:00 MTWR
Lec. 93 9:55 MTWR
Lec. 94 11:00 MTWR
430. History of Ancient Philosophy
We’ll be studying in depth, and with close attention to the texts, ancient Greek philosophers’ attempts to answer the following questions: What sorts of things are there in the world? Is a world of change consistent with a world of substances? What would be a satisfactory account of unity and diversity? What sort of knowledge, if any, can we have of the world in which we live? Why are reason and logic important? Why become a philosopher, and what’s the difference between the philosopher and the sophist?
There will be three tutorials.
432 History of Modern Philosophy
We will study issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophical theology in philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Philosophers include Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.
441 Environmental Ethics
This course is an examination of attempts to understand our moral obligations towards nonhuman entities in nature and nature as a whole. Do we have obligations with respect to nonhuman animals? Plants? Inanimate objects such as stones and water? Ecosystems? If so, what are the natures and grounds for these obligations?
We will investigate traditional ethical theories insofar as they address these issues. Further, we will discuss recent attempts to extend the domains of traditional views so as to include within these theories all or some of the nonhuman beings noted above. Finally, we will turn our attention to views which hold that the fundamental objects of moral concern are not individuals but natural “communities” as such.
442 Moral Philosophy & the Holocaust
This course takes up philosophical issues of evil, genocide, responsibility, punishment, and reparative justice as they arise in moral questions that faced individuals during the Holocaust and that have faced both individuals and governments in its aftermath. Texts will include philosophical selections from survivors such as Primo Levi, and Jean Amery, as well as Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem, “David Jones’ “Moral Responsibility in the Holocaust,” and my book “The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil.”
The course is writing intensive and will make use of the Writing Fellows program. Students will be asked to write short papers and take a mid-term and final essay exam, but can be excused from the final if the papers are done on time and the student has a “B” average on everything up to the final.
454 Classical Philosophers
Every human being wishes to lead a happy life, according to Aristotle, but what sort of life is a happy one? In this course we’ll consider Aristotle’s answers to the following questions (among others): What is happiness? Is happiness the same as pleasure? What qualities contribute to a happy life? Are courage, justice, generosity, truthfulness, friendliness and wit all needed to lead a happy life? If so, how are they acquired? Is a special kind of thinking needed? Are friends needed? If so, what makes a good friend? What kind of society is necessary for the good human being to flourish?
The main text for the course will be Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in translation, but we’ll also look at passages from his other works, when appropriate. There will be tutorials.
464 Classical Philosophers: Nietzsche
Since his death in 1900 the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, has exerted a considerable influence upon the intellectual and artistic the life of Europe and the Americas. An impressive array of prominent intellectuals in philosophy and a number of other disciplines, writers, and even artists have been deeply influenced by their encounter with his work.
In this course we shall consider some of Nietzsche’s most central and controversial ideas, such as his theory of “the will to power,” that human behavior is fundamentally motivated by considerations of power rather than of pleasure and the avoidance of pain; that we can and should evaluate things, actions, and people in a way that transcends the moral point of view; and that “God is dead.” To do this, we shall study a number of his works: The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Beyond Good and Evil, and The Genealogy of Morals. Because of their considerable length, we shall concentrate our discussions upon the more important sections and passages.
These are some of the major themes of the course:
1. Nietzsche’s Unifying Project
Nietzsche’s work, though infamously aphoristic and unsystematic in its presentation, actually represents the sustained and tenacious pursuit of a coherent philosophic project: to understand how human existence, which unavoidably involves considerable suffering and lacks any intrinsic meaning, can still be worth living. Nietzsche seeks this understanding in order to be able to advocate the affirmation of life as a coherent attitude rather than as a mystery that transcends rational comprehension.
2. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Attitude
In developing this thesis about Nietzsche’s work, I shall have recourse to a straightforward, but neglected, distinction between (1) philosophers whose ultimate aim is the advocacy of certain judgments, propositions, or theories, and (2) those whose ultimate aim is the inculcation of certain desirable attitudes. The ultimate aim of Nietzsche’s philosophy is the inculcation of certain desirable attitudes toward life. It also points to the possibility of better understanding a number of other historically important thinkers as being primarily inculcators of desirable attitudes rather than advocates of purportedly true propositions, and to the legitimacy and value of a philosophy of this sort
3. Nietzsche’s Psychological Transformation of Philosophy
Nietzsche developed a novel and useful method for approaching philosophical issues, which consisted in transforming the traditional issues into corresponding psychological meta-issues. Instead of trying just to answer the traditional question, by trying to determine which of the competing answers is true or most plausible, he tends to ask what is it about each of the various views under consideration that makes it attractive or unattractive to embrace, apart from the evidence for and against it. This idea calls for a radical transformation of much of our philosophical and intellectual method.
This course could serve as an introduction to Nietzsche’s work for those who are unfamiliar with it. The course could also serve to expand the limited amount of exposure to Nietzsche that one has by reading just one or two of his works in a course on ethics by placing these works in the context of his entire philosophic enterprise.
There will be two take home exercises and a final.
481 Meets with 555
482 Meets with 503
501 Philosophy of Religion
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.
503 Theory of Knowledge
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.
541 Modern Ethical Theories
This course will consider seminal work in each of the three major areas of moral philosophy: value theory, normative ethics, and metaethics. In the section on value theory, we will consider what makes for a good life, and what is intrinsically valuable. In normative ethics, we will read about various efforts to unify moral thought by reference to a supreme moral principle, such as the Golden Rule, the Principle of Utility, or Kant’s Principle of Universalizability. Finally, we will consider certain metaethical questions regarding the status, rather than the content, of morality. Here we will focus on issues of the objectivity of morality and its rational authority.
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?); conscious experience (why is an analysis of consciousness so hard?); extended minds (can parts of a mind exist outside the head?) personal identity (are you the same individual who existed yesterday?); non-human animal minds (do they have them and how could we know?) and artificial intelligence (will computers ever be capable of thought?). Assignments will include a few papers (roughly 5pp. in length) and a final exam.
555 Political Philosophy
This course will address the central questions in political philosophy in a largely historical format. It will begin with excerpts from Plato’s Republic concerning social justice and then jump to the very different “contractualist” views defended by Hobbes (in the Leviathan), Locke (Second Treatise of Government) and Rousseau (Social Contract and Discourse on the Origins of Inequality). After reading John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and discussing utilitarian views of government, we will turn to the contemporary classic work by John Rawls. There will be two papers, a midterm and a final examination.
557 Issues in Social Philosophy
4:00-7:00 pm M
Why does the achievement gap matter? What, if anything, should the government do about it? What should schools, and teachers, do about it?
In this course we shall examine the philosophical assumptions and arguments behind the idea that the achievement gap is something to be deplored. Doing this effectively will require us to delve into deeper issues in political philosophy concerning the demands of distributive justice, and within that topic we shall have to look specifically at what we should think about educational justice in circumstances (like ours, presumably) which are, otherwise, not fully just.
There is a large gap between establishing what the principles of educational justice are and establishing what, in fact, these principles demand us to do in the circumstances that actually face us. But what most people are interested in primarily is what they should do (as parents, voters, legislators, policymakers, administrators, or teachers). Working that out requires detailed engagement with what we actually know about the education system, and the children involved in it, and how it interacts with the rest of society. So we shall spend a good deal of the course examining what is known about the causes of achievement gaps in the US education system, in the light of our concern with educational equality. In the process of doing so we shall look at various policy options (charter schools, vouchers, accountability systems, proposals for longer school days and longer school years, proposals to improve the external conditions that shape the children who go to school, etc) and various practice options for schools (inclusion, tracking or detracking, smaller learning communities or smaller schools, cultural coherence or cultural discontinuity, etc).
During an interlude of 3 weeks we shall look at the US higher education system, and try to learn what justice demands of those of us who inhabit universities within this system (whether as faculty or as students).
We shall not figure out how to solve the problems facing the American education system, but we will learn a lot about what it might take to make it more just than it is.
Reading will include standard work by philosophers such as John Rawls, Amy Gutmann, Christopher Jencks, John Wilson, Elizabeth Anderson, and Debra Satz. We shall also look at contemporary empirical and rhetorical literature about the influence of external factors on school effectiveness and the achievement gap (e.g. Richard Rothstein’s Class and Schools; Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods, and Stephan Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom’s No Excuses) and literature on school reform (such as Elizabeth City’s Resourceful Leadership, work by Michael Fullan, Charles Payne, and Richard Elmore) and literature on specific practices (such as Ronald Ferguson’s Toward Excellence with Equity).
581 Meets with 541
582 Meets with 464
835 Advanced Hist. of Philosophy (Hume’s Philosophy of Religion )Meets with Phil. 961
We will focus on the core metaphysical and epistemological views that Hume offers in the TREATISE. This includes his theory of meaning, verification, self, external world, causality, human nature, and induction. Since the doctrine that ‘is’ never entails ‘ought’ is often ascribed to Hume, we will look at what he says on this topic. In addition, we will read his NATURAL HISTORY OF RELIGION and DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION. These works form an integrated philosophical system and we will consider the major views and arguments in all three documents. The section of the seminar that concentrates on the TREATISE will be longer than the secrtion that concentrates on the NATURAL HISTORY and the DIALOGUES. The views and arguments of the TREATISE form the basis for the NATURAL HISTORY and part of the DIALOGUES (An 11-4 split is probably about right.)
920 Philosophy of Science (Mathematization of Science)
The aim of this seminar is to understand how the mathematization of nature in the history science is connected to important debates in philosophy. A good (but dense) introduction to this history is provided in:
The seminar will present some representative examples of the mathematization of nature used in science in a thorough and accessible way, and then introduce the philosophical debates concretely in terms of those examples.
One debate is between rationalists, who view mathematically-expressed “first principles” as the source of our knowledge, and the empiricists, who view experience and observation as the source of our knowledge. A second debate is between realists, who want to view these “first principles” as providing us with knowledge of a reality behind what we observe, and anti-realists, who limit the content of our knowledge to what we observe directly. The following online article examines the second debate:
The most influential instance of the mathematization of nature in the history of science is the mathematization of motion developed in by Galileo and Newton. The problem originated when Copernicus (in the sixteenth century) postulated that the Earth moved around the Sun, and the Aristotelians objected that cannonballs fired straight up in the air would have to fall far from the cannon, which they do not. The problem was solved by Newton’s new theory of motion and the causes of motion (forces). But the new theory simply deduced consequences from first principles expressed mathematically without providing an easy-to-understand common sense description of the world (e.g. Newton’s strange idea that gravity acts instantaneously across astronomical distances). Philosophers, such as Leibniz, Descartes, and Spinoza, re-examined fundamental questions about the nature of scientific knowledge and the sources of human knowledge.
In recent times, the mathematization of nature has been expanded by the sciences of chemistry and biochemistry, and, increasingly, mathematical modeling is used throughout the biological sciences, the cognitive sciences, and the social sciences. Even in physics, the mathematization of motion has changed in ways unforeseen by Galileo and Newton. In fact, there are two incompatible re-conceptions of motion—one in quantum physics and another in Einstein’s theory of relativity. The mathematization involved in these theories has become increasingly abstract and even more fascinating from a philosophical point of view. For example, the logical possibility of viewing the “first principles” of quantum mechanics as descriptions of reality has been challenged by surprisingly simple arguments. Do these contemporary developments throw any new light on the debate raised in the earlier examples in the history of science or are the philosophical lessons exactly the same?
941 Seminar: Ethics (Normativity)
In this course we will read three new works on the nature of normativity: Mark Schroeder’s Slaves of the Passions (OUP 2007), Judy Thomson’s Normativity (Open Court 2008), and substantial parts of Derek Parfit’s ever-evolving manuscript, On What Matters. Seminar participants will write one-page critical papers every other week, and three 5-6 page papers over the course of the semester.
941 Seminar: Ethics (Deontic Logic & Moral Dilemmas)
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>.
955 Social & Political Philosophy (Liberty)
In this seminar we will read a variety of classical and contemporary texts on a range of issues having to do with freedom. The issues will include the proper definition of freedom (and whether it is definable), its relations government and arbitrary power, the nature of coercion, and the value (or lack of value) of freedom, and the nature of the political system (if there is one) that best embodies the idea of freedom. Authors we will read (at least in short selections) will include Locke, Rousseau, Marx, Isaiah Berlin, Gerald MacCallum, Charles Taylor, Richard Arneson, David Miller, Joel Feinberg, and Philippe Van Parijs. Assigned texts will be chosen to represent contrasting points of view. The core of the seminar will consist of an examination of principal sections of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia and essays by Nozick’s critics (mainly G. A. Cohen). Requirements: students will be expected to participate in seminar discussion and submit a 12-page paper at the end of the semester.
960 Metaphysics Seminar: (Material Objects)
The metaphysics of material objects is governed by two central questions: (1) What sorts of material objects are there? and (2) What is the manner of their persistence through time? There have been arguments and puzzles developed which seem to show that we cannot plausibly maintain all the elements of our commonsense views on these matters, which includes an ontology of tables, bears and trees, but not my-pinky-plus-your dog’s tail, and our ordinary judgments about where things have been and are (the tree in my yard has been there for 80 years, in roughly the same place, though it has grown; I’ve had my car for 5 years, though it has some new cylinders, etc.). These also help us to see that our views on these (and other) matters are deeply intertwined, and one cannot really plausibly just have an ontology or just a theory of persistence: one needs a package, and it needs to not only be internally coherent and have something sensible to say about the various puzzles, but must also be shown to be preferable to alternatives that purport to both similar merits. We will spend the first 2/3’s of the semester looking at these puzzles and a variety of solutions and overall views about material objects, focusing on recent articles and books. All of this recent work has, over the past 5 years or so, also given rise to an interest in Metaontology, or more generally, metametaphysics, due to various philosophers arguing that many or all of these disputes and issues are verbal, or in some way, not really factual. So in the last 1/3 of the class, we will look at various such challenges, and replies on behalf of the friends of ‘real’ metaphysics
961 Seminar: Phil. of Religion (Hume’s Philosophy of Religion) – Meets with Phil. 835
We will focus on the core metaphysical and epistemological views that Hume offers in the TREATISE. This includes his theory of meaning, verification, self, external world, causality, human nature, and induction. Since the doctrine that ‘is’ never entails ‘ought’ is often ascribed to Hume, we will look at what he says on this topic. In addition, we will read his NATURAL HISTORY OF RELIGION and DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION. These works form an integrated philosophical system and we will consider the major views and arguments in all three documents. The section of the seminar that concentrates on the TREATISE will be longer than the section that concentrates on the NATURAL HISTORY and the DIALOGUES. The views and arguments of the TREATISE form the basis for the NATURAL HISTORY and part of the DIALOGUES (An 11-4 split is probably about right.)