Undergraduate Courses in Which Graduate Students May Enroll (350–499)
Graduate students in the PhD program in Philosophy may take up to one fifth of their courses (so, typically, three) at the 350–499 level. This will often include Phil. 350, Symbolic Logic.
For course descriptions, consult the list of Advanced Undergraduate Electives.
Graduate-Only Courses (500+)
Epistemology Proseminar (500)
This course varies from implementation to implementation.
This class serves as the departmental proseminar in epistemology. We will briefly survey some of the classic, debate-setting articles of twentieth century epistemology and then focus on three sets of questions that are of especially vibrant contemporary interest: 1.What is justification? Are justifications value-dependent? 2. What epistemic difference does it make who is doing the knowing and who is doing the reporting? How do the social position, interests, and identity of epistemic agents affect their objectivity, access to knowledge, and credibility? 3. What is the epistemic structure of ignorance? How is ignorance constructed and maintained? How is it epistemically harmful, and can it ever be epistemically valuable?
This course is currently offered every three semesters.
Metaphysics Proseminar (501)
This course varies from implementation to implementation. The description for Spring 2016 is this:
Philosophers from an enormously wide variety of backgrounds have thought carefully and critically about issues in metaphysics. My aim is to provide you with some tools to think carefully and critically about metaphysical issues – and to do so in a way that moves beyond common assumptions about what the philosophical cannon should look like. We will begin by looking at an amazing piece of philosophy, written from within the tradition of late-20th Century Analytic Philosophy: David Lewis's On the Plurality of Worlds. We will also read a few related articles, and we will try to make sense of the type of worldview that this yields. Next, we will attempt to see how people from different backgrounds, relying on different assumptions, approach metaphysical questions. We will read a book outlining the metaphysical position of the Nahuatl speaking people of Central Mexico, who are commonly called the Aztecs; and we will read a few pieces from Classical Indian traditions (Indian Buddhists and their critics). Finally, we will turn to recent and ongoing disputes regarding the metaphysics of race and gender. You will write brief reading responses before each class (Max 1 page), a short conference-style paper (3000 word), and you will take a comprehensive exam. (Prof. Huebner for Spring 2016)
This course is currently offered every three semesters.
Ethics Proseminar (503)
This course varies from implementation to implementation. The description for Spring 2015 is this:
This course serves a dual purpose. It aims to acquaint students with foundational ideas and concepts in ethical theory, and to introduce them to some of the most important literature on the subject. It also serves as the preparation for the ethics comprehensive exam, which students must pass in order to continue in the program. The reading and writing assignments have been set up so as to achieve both these purposes. Because it is not possible to cover the entirety of ethics in a single semester, I have chosen to focus on contemporary (e.g., mostly 20th century) metaethics and normative ethics. For purposes of the comprehensive exam, you are responsible solely for the material on the syllabus; however, the course will make much more sense and be more rewarding if you are familiar with some central work in the history of ethics. As you will see, contemporary ethicists frequently refer to people like Aristotle, Kant, Hume, and Mill. Indeed, it’s hard to understand normative ethical theory without knowing something about the historical underpinnings of the major normative theories. If you haven’t ever studied the history of ethics, I strongly suggest that you read a set of texts I will recommend along with the readings in our syllabus. (Prof. Stohr for Spring 2015)
This course is currently offered every three semesters.
Stoic Ethics (520)
In this course we take up Stoic ethics, both ancient Greek and Roman redactions. We consider the doctrines of the Greek founding fathers (Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus,); some selections from the middle period, and then the works of later Stoics, such as Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, as well as Cicero’s redactions of Stoicism. The focus will be on ethics, with attention to Stoic responses to Aristotelian ethics and the Stoic reframing and answering of the ancient question: What is a flourishing or eudaimon life? Conceptions of virtue, moral luck, external goods, practical reason, the emotions and their control will be part of our discussion of Stoic flourishing. We will draw considerably from the plethora of excellent, contemporary work on the ancients and Stoics, including new books by John Cooper and Julia Annas, as well as work by Tad Brennan, Martha Nussbaum, Gisela Striker, Richard Sorabji, Margaret Graver, Nancy Sherman, among others.
Fall 2014; next offering: unknown
Moral Status (533)
This course will explore the concept of Moral Status from a variety of perspectives and at a variety of levels. The concept is critical to several deeply important moral issues, from the very applied (the treatment of non-human animals, abortion) to the more abstract (the concepts of interests, rights, dignity/sanctity). It also offers a fascinating lens for exploring a variety of meta-ethical issues: the relation between abstraction and specific pragmatic contexts/practices (eating things, use of things in research, equality of social status, recognition); the relation between theoretical reflection and felt/experiential knowledge; even questions about what ethical duties philosophers have when commenting publicly on their scepticism about the status of entities who are part of someone else's family.
Topics will include non-human animals (from the higher cognition/emotional capabilities of dophins, Great Apes, and elephants, to those such as jellyfish that press the meaning of sentience); early human organisms (from zygotes to newborns and beyond); non-standard humans among us (including the catastrophically cognitively disabled, the psychopathic, and those living with autism); and transhumanism (the implications of radically enhanced humans). In additional to using traditional academic readings, the course will aim to bring the outside world into the seminar, with guest speakers, and the seminar out into the world, with an occasional field trip.
Spring 2015; next offering: unknown
Intermediate Logic (551)
This course serves as the core required logic course for PhD students in the Philosophy Dept.
We will review axiomatic sentential logic and natural deduction in quantificational logic. We will then look at: formal semantics for quantificational logic, modal logic and possible world semantics, basic set theory and foundations of mathematical logic, and a few of the key metalogical proofs, such as completeness, compactness, and Gödel's incompleteness theorem. We will also discuss issues in the philosophy of logic as we go.
Prerequisite: Phil. 350 or its equivalent. The standard prerequisite of two prior Philosophy courses does not apply to Phil. 351.
Offered every Spring semester.
Ethics and Economics (577)
This course is an effort at interdisciplinary thinking about the possible conflicting demands of efficiency and justice. In a first section we will look at the history of economic thought, incl. the theories of Adam Smith and Karl Marx. In a second section we consult current economic theory, incl. the concepts of economic efficiency, public goods, merit goods, property rights, anti-trust legislation, and subsidies for education and social legislation. In a third section we will look at philosophical reflections upon economics as done by either philosophers or philosophically inclined economists (e.g., Hegel, Rawls, Sen, Baier, Buchanan). The implementation of ethical principles takes place within the context of existing ethos pattern (Olson or Briefs). We will also study how religious ethics plays an important role in the implementation of social justice. In a fourth section we will look how the financial crisis of 2007/08 can be clarified by the ideas developed in the previous sections. (This is a "dual-numbered course" with the undergraduate elective, Phil. 428.)
Prof. Ver Eecke
This course is offered regularly
Moral Damage, Moral Repair (610)
This course will examine the thought of one of the 19th century's most important philosophers, G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831). The course will focus on close readings of some of Hegel's most important works, such as The Phenomenology of Spirit and The Philosophy of Right. Hegel's thought cast a long shadow on European philosophy, and so the course will also examine the lasting influence on Hegel's work on philosophy and allied fields of thought. The precise focus of the course, as well as its requirements, varies from semester to semester. Please consult the instructor's syllabus for details.
During Fall, 2015, we will focus on Aristotle's philosophy of biology. We will undertake a close study of Aristotle's two most important biological treatises, the Parts of Animals and the Generation of Animals. We will focus on topics and themes of broad philosophical interest, including: essence, causation, explanation, necessity, teleology, function, form, and matter. We will also read some relevant secondary literature.
“Phenomenology” is a name both for a movement within 20th century philosophy and for a method of doing philosophy. The movement is meant to be unified by the method. These days self-identified phenomenologists are typically scholars who work on the texts and doctrines of the major figures of the movement. In this seminar we will explore the question whether we can identify a (or perhaps several) phenomenological method(s). We will examine some of the texts of leading figures in the movement (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty) with an eye to the questions, What is phenomenological method? Can it be properly distinguished from conceptual/linguistic analysis, ordinary language philosophy, and traditional philosophical dialectic? What is the distinction supposed to be between transcendental phenomenology (Husserl after about 1905) and existential phenomenology (Heidegger before about 1933 and Merleau-Ponty)?
Last offered, Fall 2013. Next offering: unkonwn.
20th Century European Philosophy (684)
In the 20th Century, European philosophers increasingly turned their attention to what Emmanuel Levinas called the “widow, orphan or stranger” – that which is excluded from the inside, other to the self, foreign to the familiar, or outlaw to the law. In a variety of different contexts, many philosophers sought to thematise this ‘outside’, to understand its constitutive yet destabilising relationship to the ‘inside’, and to explore the ethical implications of this relationship. In this course, we will trace this theme in European philosophy in the 20th and early 21st Centuries (especially in French-language philosophy, and especially in the latter half of the 20th Century). We will read essays and excerpts from authors such as Ricoeur, Barthes, Derrida, Levinas, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Beauvoir, Kristeva, and Agamben. Students will be exposed to hermeneutics, post-structuralism, deconstruction, philosophical interpretations of psychoanalysis, French feminism, the ‘theological turn’ and speculative realism. Prior familiarity with these or related philosophical traditions is neither necessary nor expected. Assessment will likely include a 2000w textual analysis, a 2000w analysis of a cultural artifact, a final 3000w conference paper, and regular contribution of discussion questions. All texts will be provided.
Heidegger’s Being and Time (685)
This course is a graduate level introduction to Martin Heidegger’s 1927 Being and Time. Being and Time is one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century, plausibly the seminal work of 20th century European philosophy. We shall try to balance the desire to get a comprehensive view of the treatise and its implications with the demand to read the text closely. In the thirteen weeks allotted by the calendar, we cannot satisfy both. We will pay special attention to Heidegger’s attempt to overturn the subjectivistic tradition in modern philosophy and reconceive human life as “being-in-the-world.” Although we will discuss Heidegger's general conception of ontology – the first chapter of the introduction to B&T is about ontology – we will focus on his proposed revision of the ontology of “Dasein” (his technical term referring to “the entity we ourselves in each case are”) and its philosophical implications. According to his account, a fundamental “familiarity with the world” is more basic than cognition or knowledge. We understand the world primarily through our skills and abilities for going about our business in the world, rather than through a stock of knowledge or an implicit theory. Division I of Being and Time develops this vision and explores some of its implications for traditional philosophical problems, such as skepticism, the nature of truth, realism/idealism, and the relation between common sense and science. Division II turns to some of the classical existentialist themes for which the treatise is known: his reconception of death, guilt, and conscience so as to generate a vision of resoluteness or authenticity that serves as the ideal he offers for human life.
Fall 2014; this course is offered regularly
Topics in Phenomenology (686)
This course addresses special topics in phenomenology. Topics, readings, and requirements may vary from implementation to implementation. Please consult the detailed description for a given semester for more details.
Unconscious in 20th Century French Philosophy (691)
In this course we will concentrate on the topic of the unconscious in twentieth century French philosophy.
We will start the course by studying some of the important influences in twentieth century French philosophy which are: Hegel, phenomenology, Saussure’s linguistics, and psychoanalysis.
In the main part of the course we will study Sartre giving attention to his theory of the look and his development of the idea of existential psychoanalysis. We then will turn to Ricoeur where we will study both his work on symbolism of evil and his treatment of psychoanalysis in his major book :”Freud and philosophy.” Next we will study Foucault ‘s works on the conception of mental illnes in the age of reason and his study of the history of sexuality. In Derrida we will study his analysis of psychoanalysis and his book on “The gift of death.” In Deleuze’s work we will study his discussions of the relationship between psychoanalysis and capitalism. Badiou will allow us to understand the philosophical meaning of the concept: the event. We will finish the course by studying the work of two women: Kristeva and Irigaray. We will study Kristeva’s essay on “Dostoyevsky, the writing of suffering and forgiveness” and Irigaray’s essays on “This sex which is not one” and “Women on the market.
Learning, Planning & Agency (705)
Humans attune to social norms and regularities, treating conformity with these norms as intrinsically rewarding, and deviance from these norms as errors to be corrected. But we live in a world that's thick with structural racism, sexism, ableism, trans*phobia, and xenophobia. And since many forms of practical competence are subserved by statistical learning systems that only adjust their behavior when things do not go as expected, biases tend to become calcified in the ongoing practices that we rely on to do academic philosophy, to navigate interpersonal interactions, to make medical decisions, and more. In this seminar, we will examine the forms of learning and behavior shaping that help to calcify such biases, and we will try to figure out how we can get the learning systems we rely upon to be attuned to ethically preferable values. Over the course of the semester, we will try to find plausible resources for developing an account of human freedom anchored in liberation from calcified patterns of bias, marginalization, and exclusion. Our readings will be drawn from the cognitive sciences, action theory, and moral psychology - and we will read things that lie within and outside of the familiar Anglo-European philosophical canon.
Pragmatics and Social Reality (710)
Whatever one thinks about the relation between knower and known when it comes to the sorts of claims that are made by natural science, social facts are both reported and constructed - at least sometimes, and in some sense. I make it the case that my dog's name is 'Fiona' and later many people can report on this social fact. A complicated bunch of people, making use of social institutions, make it the case that Washington is the capital of the US. And again, this fact can then be reported on (correctly or incorrectly.) This feature of social reality is commonplace, and hardly controversial, but the controversies arise pretty fast when we try to say anything more precise. Most folks working in this area also agree that language is very important to the process of instituting social facts. This is not to deny that non-linguistic animals can institute social facts, but language certainly ramps up the ability and the complexity. In this seminar, I want to work through three recent books, and some related literature - Haslanger's Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique, Shotwell's Knowing Otherwise: Race, Gender and Implicit Understanding, and Kukla and Lance's'Yo!' and 'Lo!': the pragmatic topography of the space of reasons - with an eye to getting clearer on the relation between the pragmatics of language and social institution. How do the various things we do with language facilitate the generation of social facts? How might a better understanding of the complexity and variety of pragmatic functions clarify what it is to know a social fact, what it is for a social fact to obtain, what different sorts of facts there might be, and importantly influence the range of forms of resistance to existing social facts that are available to us.
This seminar revolves around a close reading of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787). We will approach this text as part of Kant’s ongoing engagement with the 18th-century philosophical traditions and controversies. Accordingly, we will read it along with some of Kant’s published and unpublished works before 1781, as well as excerpts from works by his important German predecessors and contemporaries such as Wolff, Baumgarten, and Crusius. We aim at going through the entire part I the Critique (Transcendental Doctrine of Elements), which includes Transcendental Aesthetic, Transcendental Analytic, and Transcendental Dialectic. Our primary goal is to achieve a historically informed understanding of all the major philosophical problems Kant tries to address in the Critique.
Current Topics in Justice (736)
This course examines current topics arising within contemporary theories of justice. Choice of what to include and emphasize will be driven by student interests and emerging debates in the literature. Potential topics include: statist and cosmopolitan theories of justice; distributive justice and relational justice; the assignment of responsibility for structural injustice; the relation between human rights theories and theories of social justice; issues of justice arising from the structure of the global economic order; climate change and other issues of justice pertaining to the global commons; and intergenerational justice.
Law & Philosophy (738)
This course will explore through philosophical and legal readings as well as outside speakers a number of topics of interest to contemporary feminism. Topics will include (subject to change) the experience of and legal response to sexual assault and sexual harassment, the regulation of reproduction, workplace equality, transgender identity, the regulation of intimacy, marriage equality and the potential gaps between personal and legal judgments.
The course will alternate its venue between the main campus and law center (we shall provide the GUTS bus schedule for shuttling between campuses, but the metro also works and car rides may be arranged.)
During the first two thirds (approximately) of the semester, we will read recent philosophical and legal scholarship on these and related themes. Each week, the author of the particular article under review will join the seminar, present the piece and answer questions. During the last third of the semester, students will present their papers. During one of the last three or four seminar meetings, each student will have at least a half hour (maybe more depending on the enrollment numbers) to share their work, and hear questions and feedback from seminar participants.
Philosophy of Early Modern Science (744)
We are going to try to understand better what science was in the early modern period. We will examine philosophically the nature of the scientific enterprise in the early modern period in something like the way we would examine the nature of the scientific enterprise today, that is by studying the sciences themselves and interrogating them philosophically. However it seems inappropriate to begin with the standard problems of philosophy of science and project those back onto the theories, practices, disciplines, etc. of the early moderns. So our first task will be outlining the philosophy of science categories appropriate to early modern science. We will be asking: What is scientific knowledge in the early modern period? How does one get it? Is it the same as scientific knowledge today, even if the particular content is different? What answers do the practitioners of such science give to these questions?
We begin with a few weeks of secondary sources from historians of science. These will, I hope, serve to alert us to the challenges, resources, and preoccupations of the scientists of the early modern period. After that we will dig mostly into primary sources and try to understand the sciences while we develop the tools for this on the fly. We’ll return to secondary sources toward the end. The rough progression in topics is this: Origins of science in Renaissance medicine; preoccupation with the body as measuring device and device measured; the scientific background of the early moderns; the role of witnessing (as a social and as a religious activity); physics and the foundation of experiment.
I hope it works. I hope it’s fun. I hope we all learn something.
Spring 2015; next offering: unknown
Authority: Moral & Political (755)
Joseph Raz conceives of authority as involving the existence of a type of normative or moral power, a species of speech act (paradigmatically, a command) that both aims at putting others under a duty and (sometimes) succeeds in doing so. Although there are other conceptions of authority and although the seminar will attend to some of these, Raz’s conception underlies the seminar’s design, explaining the sense of moral authority that is in play. Accordingly, we will begin by studying Raz’s conception of authority. We will then turn to debates about political authority, an arena in which Raz’s conception has been a leading contender. In that context, it has been assumed that a legitimate government’s having authority entails that its citizens have a duty to obey it, but such a duty has proven difficult to defend. We will look at the challenges to this duty put forward by the “philosophical anarchist” A. John Simmons as well as some recent attempts to defend it. The second half of the seminar will take up the topic of moral authority, which is somewhat familiar if “authority” is interpreted in terms of expertise or, more broadly, simply as justification, but is not so familiar when interpreted in the Razian way. We will approach the topic of moral authority, interpreted in the last way, via the idea of the division of moral responsibility (something that has been discussed in, e.g., the literature on beneficence and the literature on global justice). From there, we will broaden out to questions about whether there is such a thing as the authorized revision of moral norms—a notion that faces both metaethical challenges and challenges with regard to the perspicuous description and explanation of the moral phenomena.
Last offered Spring 2014; next offering: unknown
Political Philosophy of the Body (759)
You, and not anyone else, should get to decide what happens with your body. But why? Is it because you are your body? Or, rather, because you own your body? In this seminar, we will seek to answer this question, and explore related practical and theoretical issues.
We’ll ask: what is a body, and what does it have to do with a self? Examining answers from analytic metaphysics, feminist philosophy, and disabilities studies, we’ll consider whether our rights in our bodies can come, directly, from our rights in our selves; and if so, how (if at all) we can use an account of the self to determine the boundaries of our bodily rights.
We’ll also ask: what is to own something? Are ownership rights natural, or socially constructed? On this, we’ll consider Lockean, Humean, Kantian, and Hegelian accounts of property rights. We’ll ask whether any of these arguments concerning the natural or social character of property might not have implications for body rights as well. If body rights are ownership rights, are they socially constructed too? If so, how (if at all) can we find principles that tell us how to construct them?
Throughout, we will consider various practical issues in political philosophy and bioethics that turn on difficult questions regarding our bodily rights, including but not limited to: the taxability or non-taxability of bodily resources; the possibility of body rights in inorganic items (an ‘extended body’ to match the much-discussed ‘extended mind’) markets in body parts and bodily services; and rights of research subjects in value created by the commercialization of tissues.
Philosophy of Rawls (761)
One of Rawls’s strongest critics, G. A. Cohen, wrote that “at most two books in the history of Western political philosophy have a claim to be regarded as greater than A Theory of Justice [TJ]: Plato’s Republic and Hobbes’s Leviathan.”1 Yet after its being at the center of discussions in political philosophy for decades, philosophers have understandably grown tired of discussion Rawls’s work. This does not mean, however, that they have gotten all of the benefit that they might out of engaging with it. For instance, Part III of TJ insightfully treats the question of the relative stability of societies, developing accounts of the good, of moral psychology, and of community that are, to this day, too little appreciated.
Ethics and Game Theory (763)
It is plausible that morality, at its core, concerns congruence and conflict of interest. A theoretical discipline that investigates this area, the mathematical theory of games, is now well established and growing rapidly. Yet the inroads that game theory has made in moral philosophy are still fairly modest. In this seminar we will examine some basic ideas of game theory and their recent applications to ethical theory. We will consider a number of simple games that have been thought to be relevant to ethical issues, including Prisoner's Dilemma, Stag Hunt, Battle of the Sexes, Ultimatum and Centipede. We will first consider a “classical” approach, in which one-shot versions of such games are examined, and strong rationality principles are assumed. Later we will look at repeated, evolutionary versions of such games that dispense with such rationality assumptions. Readings will include works by David Gauthier, Bryan Skyrms, Kenneth Binmore, Philip Kitcher, Gerald Gaus and others. The seminar will require a term paper and active participation of all students. Students may be asked to take turns in presenting material and leading discussion.
Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein (766)
This course counts as fulfilling a history of philosophy requirement for PhD students in philosophy. It could be subtitled “Classics of Analytic Philosophy: 1879-1950”, because Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein were giants of the 19th-20th centuries, and their influence on each other and on the Vienna Circle, Carnap, Quine, and many others was significant. We will focus mainly on topics on which FRW’s views overlapped. This will involve us in philosophy of mathematics, logic, philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of mind. Frege invented the predicate calculus, and a powerful and insightful philosophy of language. Russell was one of the most important logicians of the 20th century, and (along with Moore) a founder of analytic philosophy (of which Russell’s theory of descriptions is a paradigm). Russell espoused neutral monism, as a philosophy of mind. His logical atomism much impressed his student, Wittgenstein, who produced his own version of it in the Tractatus, but later turned against his own earlier views (and many of Russell’s also) in the Philosophical Investigations (e.g., via his criticism of philosophical analysis and of the possibility of a private language). Requirements: Two ten-page papers and an oral presentation (which could be related to one of the papers).
Kantian Ethics (768)
There are few great moral philosophers who have been as much maligned and little understood as Immanuel Kant. Kant is easy to criticize, and he can be hard to defend. In recent years scholars have made efforts to bring out some of the lesser known themes and ideas in Kant’s ethical works. The result is a picture of Kant’s ethics that is much more coherent, plausible, and appealing than the standard reading of the Groundwork alone would suggest. Our course will focus on this “new and improved” version of Kantian ethics. Although we will of course be looking at what Kant actually said about ethics, our main concern will be with what ethics inspired by Kant looks like. The syllabus includes some classic papers by famous Kantian ethicists, as well as recent work produced by the next generation of scholars. Most of the authors we’re reading are Kantians of some sort or other, but few of them agree with everything Kant says. The aim of the class is to take a sympathetic, but not uncritical look at one of philosophy’s most profound and powerful systems of ethical thought.
Social Epistemology (783)
We will examine recent vibrant debates and issues in social epistemology, including standpoint epistemology, the epistemology of testimony, first-person knowledge, feminist and anti-racist philosophy of science, and the role of values and interests in science and inference. We will also look at case studies from medicine and biology, in order to analyze how knowledge claims get produced and disseminated in messy science.
Explaining Practical Reasons (827)
It seems obvious that distinct rational beings can have different reasons for acting. What is not obvious is (1) how much the reasons of distinct rational beings can differ and (2) what sorts of explanations are available for these differences. These questions are relevant to issues in moral philosophy, but are interesting in their own right. Our focus will be on the familiar case of different human beings. But we will also have to think a little bit about extraterrestrials, angels, and God.
Fall 2014; next offering: unknown