Courses

Current Course Descriptions (Spring 2015)


Philosophy 001 – Introduction to Philosophy (*applies to all sections of PHIL 001)

In all sections of Philosophy 001, an enrollment maximum will be strictly enforced. The sections are taught as independent classes, each with separate reading lists, assignments, and examination policies; but the following features are common to all:

  1. The classes are small and designed to introduce students to philosophical thinking through the reading of a few great texts.
  2. The classes stress the development of good writing, reading, and thinking habits by encouraging critical analysis, philosophical debate and discussion, and clear, rigorous writing.
  3. Each section requires at least five short papers, which are carefully criticized and graded, with attention paid both to philosophical cogency and style.
  4. Students having credit for English 001 may use Philosophy 001 to satisfy the second half of the College Writing Requirement as well as the Humanities Requirement.


PHIL 001-01 / Introduction to Philosophy: History of Philosophy

Jeff McConnell / D+ / TR 10:30-11:45

This section is an introduction to philosophy, focusing on some key texts in the history of metaphysics and ethics. After comparing some ancient and modern attitudes toward the relation between freedom of will and moral responsibility and the relation between morality and religion, we will read and discuss at length some classic texts by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham and Friedrich Nietzsche. Our goal will be primarily to understand and to contrast these writers' views and only secondarily to criticize them. Throughout the course, we will discuss these classic texts in light of contemporary debates over ethical theory and the nature of persons.


PHIL 001-02 / Intro to Philosophy: The Problem of Evil & the Meaning of Life

Jeff McConnell / F+ / TR 12:00-1:15

This section is an introduction to philosophy, with a focus on the problem of evil and questions about the meaning of life. We begin with a question that has occupied philosophers and theologians for centuries: Is the existence of evil consistent with the existence of a God? We consider Leibniz's attempt to show that we live in the best of all possible worlds and Voltaire's satirical response to Leibniz with his short novel Candide. This debate over religion leads naturally to two more questions: What is evil? And is human nature evil? Some religious people think that humankind is "fallen," and that it is only through God's "grace" that any good is possible. Rousseau disagreed, and made his objections in the Discourse on Inequality. Kant has a different problem of evil – how can a rational person do evil? The problem arose for Kant because of his idea that morality is a product of reason. Kant's answer was that there is an innate, irrational tendency to evil. A concern with irrationality runs through a number of writers who follow: Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Freud. Finally, after examining the response to these questions by existentialist writers like Heidegger and Sartre, we conclude with a careful reading of Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, her account of the trial of an architect of the Holocaust. In this book, she defends her famous thesis of the "banality of evil." There will be regular writing assignments, and occasionally students may be asked to view films related to the readings.


PHIL 001-03 / Introduction to Philosophy: Problems of Philosophy

Jeff McConnell / J+ / TR 3:00-4:15

Metaphysics is the philosophical study of the ultimate character of reality. This section is an introduction to metaphysics. We will also consider certain questions in epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge. We will often be concerned with how these two areas of philosophy are connected -- what limitations our various conceptions of knowledge impose on how much of the world we can know, and what our various metaphysical conceptions have to say about knowledge. In the process, we will examine some central philosophical questions, which might include: Do we have free will? Are our actions causally determined? Does moral responsibility exist? Can we know anything? What is the nature of alienation? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the origin of the order and of the complexity in the world? Does God exist? Do miracles exist? What is the nature of time? Several readings may be drawn from classical texts, but most readings will come from the last hundred years. There will be regular writing assignments, and occasionally students may be asked to view films related to the readings.


PHIL 001-04 / Introduction to Philosophy

Christopher Phillips / G+ / MW 1:30-2:45

As an introduction to philosophy, we will be covering a variety of topics in Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Ethics, philosophy's three "main" areas of study. Pulling from sources both contemporary and ancient, we will consider a variety of philosophical issues beginning with the nature of philosophy itself. From there, we will consider the differences between belief, opinion, and knowledge (and whether the latter is even possible). Following (and paraphrasing) Descartes, perhaps all we know is that "I exist as a thinking thing" … but what does this mean? What is it to so exist? What is our fundamental nature as this kind of "thinking thing"? What about God: does God exist? How would we know this? Do we know it? What kind of being is God? Returning to our own existence as (purportedly) essentially a "thinking thing", what individuates you (as you) and me (as me)? How much can we change over time – and in what ways – and still be us? Is this "thinking thing" a will? Can we act freely; is it a free will? And what does that even mean?! Finally, how do these various concerns bear on our moral status, our ethical responsibilities? How do these considerations inform our moral obligations, how we understand what we ought to do (if anything)?

But as an introduction to philosophy, you will learn more than just what philosopher's study and think about, more even than how to engage with philosophical issues yourself. Here, you will be doing some philosophy! And in so doing, you will be writing: to process hard, abstract thoughts; to clearly and cogently express what you've processed; and – in what might be paradigmatically philosophical – to argue a position and defend it against possible critics.

Note: it is this focus on clear, cogent, critical writing that allows Philosophy 001 to substitute for the otherwise required English 02


PHIL 001-05 / Introduction to Philosophy

Christopher Phillips / I+ / MW 3:00-4:15

As an introduction to philosophy, we will be covering a variety of topics in Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Ethics, philosophy's three "main" areas of study. Pulling from sources both contemporary and ancient, we will consider a variety of philosophical issues beginning with the nature of philosophy itself. From there, we will consider the differences between belief, opinion, and knowledge (and whether the latter is even possible). Following (and paraphrasing) Descartes, perhaps all we know is that "I exist as a thinking thing" … but what does this mean? What is it to so exist? What is our fundamental nature as this kind of "thinking thing"? What about God: does God exist? How would we know this? Do we know it? What kind of being is God? Returning to our own existence as (purportedly) essentially a "thinking thing", what individuates you (as you) and me (as me)? How much can we change over time – and in what ways – and still be us? Is this "thinking thing" a will? Can we act freely; is it a free will? And what does that even mean?! Finally, how do these various concerns bear on our moral status, our ethical responsibilities? How do these considerations inform our moral obligations, how we understand what we ought to do (if anything)?

But as an introduction to philosophy, you will learn more than just what philosopher's study and think about, more even than how to engage with philosophical issues yourself. Here, you will be doing some philosophy! And in so doing, you will be writing: to process hard, abstract thoughts; to clearly and cogently express what you've processed; and – in what might be paradigmatically philosophical – to argue a position and defend it against possible critics.

Note: it is this focus on clear, cogent, critical writing that allows Philosophy 001 to substitute for the otherwise required English 02


PHIL 001-06 / Introduction to Philosophy

Charles Oliver / I+ / MW 3:00-4:15

In this course, we examine some of the ethical, religious, and scientific ideas developed by philosophers in the Western tradition. Our effort begins with the Greeks. First, we consider traditional views on the gods and morality and the Pre-Socratic and Sophistic attack on them. Then we see how philosophy emerged as a way to address these criticisms. We look, in particular, at Plato and Aristotle's attempts to create more rational accounts of the divine and of human action. From there, our inquiry moves to the modern world.  We start with Descartes, who rejected the ideas received from antiquity and attempted to put science and philosophy on a new, more certain foundation.  We then consider Hume's challenge to this new science, especially his criticism of the idea of cause and effect, and his qualified skepticism about what we can ultimately know. We emphasize throughout the connection between these thinkers' ideas and the circumstances from which they emerged as well as the continuing relevance of their insights to contemporary life.


PHIL 001-07 / Introduction to Philosophy

Charles Oliver / M+ / MW 6:00-7:15

In this course, we examine some of the ethical, religious, and scientific ideas developed by philosophers in the Western tradition. Our effort begins with the Greeks. First, we consider traditional views on the gods and morality and the Pre-Socratic and Sophistic attack on them. Then we see how philosophy emerged as a way to address these criticisms. We look, in particular, at Plato and Aristotle's attempts to create more rational accounts of the divine and of human action. From there, our inquiry moves to the modern world.  We start with Descartes, who rejected the ideas received from antiquity and attempted to put science and philosophy on a new, more certain foundation.  We then consider Hume's challenge to this new science, especially his criticism of the idea of cause and effect, and his qualified skepticism about what we can ultimately know. We emphasize throughout the connection between these thinkers' ideas and the circumstances from which they emerged as well as the continuing relevance of their insights to contemporary life.


PHIL 001-08 / Introduction to Philosophy

Monica Link / D+ / TR 10:30-11:45

In this course we will take up three broad philosophical topics. The first topic is the nature and structure of morality. How should we treat other human beings? What principles ought we to use in deciding when an action is right or wrong?

Next we will turn to questions about knowledge and reality. Can we be certain that we exist? That the external world exists? That God exists? Are the mind and the brain identical? If they are two separate entities, how are they related?

Lastly, we will discuss free will. What is it, and do we have it? Is it compatible with the idea that everything in the universe is determined? Is free will a necessary condition for holding people morally responsible for their actions?

Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary philosophers.


PHIL 001-09 / Introduction to Philosophy

David Denby / G+ / MW 1:30-2:45

The readings for the course come from ancient, modern, and contemporary sources. We will read Plato's Apology and Meno in full and most of Descartes' Meditations and Hume's Enquiry. We will also read selections from Sextus Empiricus, Anselm, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Ryle, Ayer, Chisholm, Jackson, Nagel and Armstrong. Although we will look at these in their approximate chronological order, the approach in this course will be problem-centered rather than historical; we will concentrate on live philosophical problems rather than studying intellectual history.

The focus will be on four sets of issues: the mind-body problem and the nature of a person; the nature and existence of God; knowledge and skepticism; and the problem of free will and determinism. Other issues will also arise.

The aims of this course are fourfold. First, to develop a sense of how puzzling, fascinating, and problematic some of these traditional issues in philosophy really are. Second, to gain some acquaintance with and understanding of the various positions taken and the methods employed by some of the great philosophers. Third, to develop the ability to think rigorously and critically both in philosophy and beyond. Finally something that is often thought to be impossible in introductory courses: to do some real philosophy ourselves.


PHIL 001-10 / Introduction to Philosophy

Stephen White / I+ / MW 3:00-4:15

The major types of philosophical thought and the central problems of philosophy are presented through study of some classic texts of the great philosophers. Offered each term. (May be used to satisfy the second half of the college writing requirement by students with credit for English 1.) Satisfies the Humanities Core Distribution Requirement.


PHIL 006 / Reasoning and Critical Thinking

Susan Russinoff / J+ / TR 3:00-4:15

Reasoning and Critical Thinking is an introductory course intended for all students, regardless of academic major or interests. The skills learned and reinforced in Philosophy 006 are crucial for anyone who wants to think clearly, read carefully, speak effectively, and argue convincingly. You will develop a sensitivity to language, become better able to uncover arguments, and learn to distinguish good argumentation from bad. Your ability to recognize and evaluate your own assumptions and those of others will improve, and you'll come away better able to provide compelling reasons for your own views and to evaluate critically the views of others. You will learn to reason about various subjects, including science, ethics, philosophy, and the law and have the opportunity to evaluate and closely analyze articles from a variety of texts and editorials from leading newspapers and periodicals. In addition to regular written exercises, the class will engage in oral debate. The tools you will develop in this course are important to all the disciplines.

Note: Philosophy 006 cannot be taken for credit by those who have already taken Philosophy 033. You may take Philosophy 006 and then take Philosophy 033 for credit. Unlike Philosophy 033, this course does not satisfy the mathematical sciences requirement.


PHIL 16 / Philosophy of Religion

Elizabeth Lemons / F+ / TR 12:00-1:15

This course offers an introduction to the philosophical analysis of major religious issues. We will explore such topics as the nature of religion, religious experience, and ultimate reality, the problem of evil and/or suffering, and the relationship between faith and reason and between religion and science. By exploring different philosophical approaches to the study of religion--including existential, phenomenological, linguistic and comparative, students will develop constructive responses to the variety of ways in which philosophers analyze religious beliefs and practices in diverse world religions.


PHIL 20 / Introduction to Civic Studies

Peter Levine / D+ / TR 10:30-11:45

Exploration of contrasting conceptions of active citizenship with roots in philosophy and practical experimentation. Course aims to better understand how people engage with their communities and develop strategies for building a better world. Emphasis on the perspective of individuals and small groups: what we should do to create, nourish, and sustain good communities. Consideration of  values (ethics), facts (empirical evidence), and strategies. Readings from historical and contemporary sources including Habermas, Dewey, Elinor Ostrom, Gandhi, Alinsky, Hayek, and diverse others. No prerequisites.


PHIL 24 / Introduction to Ethics

David Denby / E+ /  MW 10:30-11:45

At this moment, like every other, you're faced with a question: What should I do?

People often say that, in general, what you should do is help others. But then they would, wouldn't they? Perhaps what you really should do is always act in your own self-interest. Perhaps that is what everyone else is already doing anyway (despite what they say).

Some people say that you should promote the values of your community or society. But some societies have vile values. Indeed, don't the values of our society need at least a little adjustment? Anyway, why should the fact that a society is yours mean that you should promote its values, especially if doing so is contrary to your self-interest?

Some people say that you should act according to God's will. But what does God will, exactly? And surely we should obey Him only if He is good and commands us to do what is right. Yet that seems to mean that morality is independent of Him.

Some philosophers have argued that whether you should do an action depends entirely on its consequences (compared to those of its alternatives). But should you really ignore the past? Doesn't just punishment, for instance, depend on whether the person is actually guilty -- a fact about the past?

Other philosophers have focused instead on the motives behind an action, in particular on whether you're acting out of respect for others (and yourself). Still others have argued that whether you should do an action depends on a combination of these and perhaps other factors. But each of these suggestions faces problems: What on earth is "respecting others"? What is it to "combine" the various factors? Self-interest then?  Maybe, but even self-interest is a tricky notion. Something is not in your self-interest simply because you want it, as every smoker knows. And maybe our interests, or at least the best means for achieving them, are mutually interdependent: perhaps the best way for you to get what you want depends on what I do and vice versa.

We will discuss all this in this course. After a brief introductory discussion of logic and the nature of ethical theory we will spend most of the semester critically evaluating a number of normative ethical theories. These will include various forms of Relativism, religiously-based theories, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Egoism and Social Contract theories. We will also discuss self-interest, values, and other matters. Finally, we will discuss how to apply what we've learned to an issue of contemporary moral concern – probably abortion.


PHIL 33 / Logic

Susan Russinoff / F / TRF 12:00-12:50

*Satisfies Tufts Mathematical Sciences Distribution Requirement

How can one tell whether a deductive argument succeeds in establishing its conclusion? What distinguishes good deductive arguments from bad ones? Questions such as these will be addressed in this course. We will discuss what a formal language is, how arguments in English are to be expressed in various formal languages, and what is gained from so expressing them. In the jargon of the field, we will cover sentential logic, first-order predicate logic, identity theory, definite descriptions, and topics in metatheory. The course requires no specific background and no special ability in mathematics.


PHIL 39 / Knowing and Being

Avner Baz / D+ / TR 10:30-11:45

The course focuses on forms of philosophical skepticism—claims to the effect that we can never know, or can never really know, something that we tend to think we do know, or at least may know. We will examine three forms of skepticism and the relations among them: skepticism about the external world, skepticism about other minds, and skepticism about God. Our primary concern, in each case, will be to ask not so much whether what the skeptic says is true, but rather whether it is clear what exactly the skeptic is seeking to assert, or deny, and hence whether the skeptic's "discovery" and its significance are what he takes them to be. The skeptic typically presents himself as interested in knowledge; but a consideration of the various skeptical arguments gives us an opportunity to think deeply and systematically not merely about what we can and cannot know, but equally about issues such as the following: What does 'world' mean? What is our relation to the world and, in particular, can we truly conceive of ourselves apart from that relation? What is our relation to our body and, in particular, can we make sense of the idea that we might not have a body, or have a different body? What is our relation to other people and to their 'inner lives'? In particular, can we conceive of ourselves apart from a relation to others? In what sense might feelings, thoughts, experiences, etc, be said to be 'inner' or 'private'? What does it mean to believe, or not to believe, in God? Thus, throughout our discussion, questions that originally present themselves as epistemological questions (questions about knowledge) will turn out to be just as much metaphysical questions (questions about being). And all of those questions will involve us in reflections on language.

The primary texts in this course will be Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, Shakespeare's Othello, and Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. In addition to the primary texts we will also use texts by Hilary Putnam, Barry Stroud, Max Scheler, Stanley Cavell, Franz Rosenzweig, and Kierkegaard.


PHIL 42 / Western Political Thought II

Robert Devigne / H+ / TR 1:30-2:45

Central concepts of modern political thought. The views of those writers who launched the Enlightenment and challenged Christianity: Descartes, Hobbes, and others, an outlook centered on humanity taking responsibility for human fate, while establishing freedom and equality as the highest goals. The alternative views on the meaning of liberty and justice as developed by Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx, and how this set the stage for protracted conflict within Western civilization for over two centuries. Among other topics explored: Mill's goal to reconcile the Enlightenment and its critics; Tocqueville's examination of American democracy; Nietzsche's indictment of modernity; assessment as to whether present Western thought is at peak or in atrophy. Throughout the course, we will particularly focus on the debate that continues to animate modern political philosophy: the nature and requisites of human liberty.


PHIL 45 / War & Terrorism

Lionel McPherson / D+ / TR 10:30-11:45

The so-called "War on Terror" has prompted renewed thinking about the ethics of war. In no small part, this is due to the notion that since global terrorism is radically different from conventional forms of warfare and even from domestic terrorism, new or revised types of justifications for why, where, and how states fight global terrorism might be warranted. Preventive war, drone strikes, extralegal assassination, torture, and indefinite detention are among the more prominent and controversial issues that have emerged.

More broadly, the course will explore the following topics. What might justify the use of political violence? Are there moral limits on the conduct of war? Can soldiers bear moral responsibility for fighting? Can conscientious objection be justified or even required? Is terrorism always wrong? Are civilians necessarily innocent? Can pacifism be a credible alternative to violence?

We will be concerned at each point with philosophical argument, which may call into question certain deeply held assumptions about war and terrorism. Readings will include Frantz Fanon, Gandhi, Virginia Held, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jeff McMahan, and Michael Walzer.


PHIL 092-01 / Special Topics: Chinese Philosophy

Monica Link / J+ / TR 3:00-4:15

This course is designed to introduce students to some of the major figureheads of the classical period of Chinese philosophy: Kongzi (Confucius), Mozi (Mo Tzu), Mengzi (Mencius), Laozi (Lao Tsu), Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), and Xunzi (Hsun Tzu). Although the approach to philosophy these thinkers take is different from the Western style of argumentation, their writing is no less rich, and many of the questions that these ancient thinkers tackled are still being pursued today. Are human beings good by nature? How should we approach adversity, tragedy, and death? What duties does one have to the self, to the family and to the state, and what is the best way to balance these obligations?

In addition to examining the stances these intellectuals take on various issues, we will also look at the way that Chinese philosophy is done and consider questions such as: What role can stories play in our philosophical thinking? What is the best way to motivate others to action and to spread one's philosophy? How do different translations figure into our understanding of a text?

We will read primary texts including, but not limited to, selections from Confucius' Analects, and Laozi's Tao Te Ching (the second most translated book in history, next to the Bible).

Knowledge of Chinese language and history is not a prerequisite for this course.


PHIL 092-02 / Special Topics: Food Ethics

Sigrun Svavarsdottir / 7+ / W 1:20-4:20

Food is central to our lives. Are we to live, we will have to eat. There is no way around that. However, access to food varies. Whereas some have ample choices regarding what to consume, others have poor access to life-sustaining nutrition. Is it morally obscene that some people sit down at a fancy restaurant for a $100 meal while others starve? How ought we to respond to problems of starvation and poor nutrition within our own society and across the globe?

Our current methods of food production have an environmental impact that will shape the lives of future generations. Are there any ethical strictures on how food is produced? Is it all right to raise animals for slaughter? How is it morally responsible to till the land? Is the genetic modification of food in any way morally problematic?

In this course, we will wrestle with ethical questions concerning food production and food distribution. There is no prerequisite other than a commitment to approaching these questions in an open-minded and intellectually responsible manner. Master’s students interested in taking this course for credit should approach the instructor for the appropriate enrollment procedure.


PHIL 092-03 / Walter Benjamin & the Crisis of Experience

Paul North / L+ / TR 4:30-5:45

Advanced survey of key works by the German literary theorist and cultural critic, focusing on his theories of experience. Includes the afterlife of the past; violence destruction, fate, and law; language, literature and translation; reception of Kant, Marx, and Husserl; childhood and memory; and the uses of theology. Ancillary readings from Goethe, Proust, Baudelaire, Freud, Brecht, Kafka. In English. If taken at the 100-level: Extra assignments and class meetings.


PHIL 114 / Modal Logic

Dilip Ninan / I+ / MW 3:00-4:15

An introduction to modal logic, with an emphasis on topics of relevance to contemporary philosophy. We will begin by studying the proof theory and model theory of propositional modal logic. Topics here will include the logic of necessity and possibility, temporal logic, deontic logic, and epistemic logic. We will also cover various metatheoretical results concerning these systems (e.g. soundness and completeness). We will then move on to discuss quantified modal logic, conditional logic, and two-dimensional modal logic. The basic technique of possible worlds semantics will be used throughout the course. Assessment will consist of several problem sets and a final exam.  The prerequisites for the course are PHIL 33 or PHIL 103 or an equivalent background in logic.


PHIL 118 / Philosophy of Biology

Patrick Forber / K+ / MW 4:30-5:45

We will examine the conceptual foundations of evolutionary biology and outstanding problems in the philosophy of biology. The course begins with Darwin, and his original presentation of natural selection in the Origin of Species. Then we will look at two very different "big picture" views on the nature of evolution and the importance of natural selection. The first, defended by Richard Dawkins, emphasizes the primacy of natural selection and the demand that evolutionary theory must explain the striking adaptive designs we see all around us. The second, defended by Richard Lewontin, emphasizes the complexity of the evolutionary process and the need to appeal to non-selective forces to explain it. The course continues by discussing specific philosophical and theoretical controversies, including the units of selection, the nature of evolutionary fitness, biological function and macroevolution.


PHIL 120 / Metaphysics

Brian Epstein / G+ / MW 1:30-2:45

This course is a survey of contemporary metaphysics. Metaphysics is the study of basic questions about the nature of reality. In ordinary conversation, we seem to commit ourselves to the existence of many puzzling objects. We talk about the sum of two numbers, about having thoughts, about the causes of an event, and about durations of time. But are there such things as numbers? Are there abstract objects as well as concrete ones? What is the relation between mental objects and physical objects? What is the nature of time, and of causation?

In the first part of the class we will examine a number of key questions in contemporary metaphysics: universals and natural kinds, necessity and possibility, and the nature of time and the persistence of objects over time. In the second part, we will focus in particular on problems with causation and the nature of natural laws. We will consider classic arguments on the metaphysics of causal connections between events, and survey a number of different views taken by contemporary philosophers. The aim of the course is to provide a rigorous overview of important issues in metaphysics, and to cover central methods and concepts for understanding work in contemporary philosophy.


PHIL 124 / Bioethics

Valentina Urbanek / 11 / T 6:30-9:00

This course has four parts. In the first part, we focus on ethical issues involved in ending human life. Is it ever permissible for a health care practitioner to kill their patient? Could it even be morally required? Is there a moral difference between killing someone by lethal injection and letting them die by not resuscitating them? Is it permissible to end the life of a human fetus, for example, by aborting? Is it permissible to conduct stem cell research, which, like abortion, involves the destruction of the embryo?

New technologies, including cloning, in vitro fertilization, and genetic engineering, have raised a host of new ethical questions about creating human life. In the second part of the course, we turn to them. Is it permissible to clone human embryos for reproductive purposes? How much discretion should parents have in deciding what their future child is like -- is it permissible to select for sex? Deafness? Intelligence? Is it permissible to genetically engineer intelligence?  We will also ask, in general, whether creating human life can ever benefit or harm the person who's created, and whether it could, at least sometimes, be morally wrong to procreate.

In the third part, we discuss the patient-health care practitioner relationship, asking how involved the patient should be in his or her health care. Should advance directives always be followed? Should the health care practitioner always tell the patient the truth? What's the meaning of informed consent, and is informed consent even ethically important? If a healthy individual consents, after being informed, to amputation, should a health care practitioner perform the operation?

Finally, we will turn to ethical issues raised by allocating scarce lifesaving resources. On what basis should we decide who gets what? Age? Lifestyle/merit? Quality of life?


PHIL 125 / Racism & Social Inequality

Lionel McPherson / H+ / TR 1:30-2:45

Contrary to hope, the U.S. does not appear to be approaching a "post-racial" society. Of course, this perspective raises the question as to what would count as such a society. A place where so-called "racial" differences are hardly noticed? A place where these differences might be noticed but make little difference to the quality of our lives and life prospects? Less ideally, at least a place where social policy and criminal justice are racially impartial?

After exploring what has been meant by "race" and what "race" might mean today, we will turn our attention to the intersection of conceptual and practical issues concerning race and racial identity. Clearly, racial backlash in the so-called "age of Obama" is real—as the summer of Ferguson has laid bare. Police, prisons, class, gender, sexuality, history: these are some of the specific sites where we will explore whether and how race does or should matter.

Readings will include Michelle Alexander, Anthony Appiah, Angela Davis, W.E.B. Du Bois, Tommie Shelby, and Cornel West.


PHIL 133 / Philosophy of Language

Dilip Ninan / K+ / MW 4:30-5:45

"In an effort to reduce the number of collisions between camels and vehicles, Saudi Arabia has recently begun importing synthetic wolf urine from Sweden." Although you have probably never encountered this particular sentence before, you can probably work out what it means. Furthermore, there are indefinitely many sentences which you have never before encountered, but which you can immediately understand. What accounts for your ability to do this? A traditional approach to this question in the philosophy of language involves the hypothesis that to understand a sentence is to know the conditions under which it is true. We will examine this hypothesis by discussing a number of linguistic items in detail: proper names ("Barack Obama"), definite descriptions ("the king of France"), indexicals ("I", "now"), and conditionals ("If Oswald didn't shoot Kennedy, someone else did"). We will also discuss how the meaning of a sentence relates to our purposes in conversation, how words get their meanings, and whether we should be skeptical about the very idea that words have determinate meanings. Readings from Frege, Russell, Kripke, Grice, Wittgenstein and others.


PHIL 150 / Plato's Socrates

Ioannis Evrigenis / I+ / MW 3:00-4:15

Faced with a death sentence, Socrates claimed that even the fear of death could not prevent him from doing what is right, offering as proof not words, but deeds. Taking Socrates' distinction between words and deeds as our starting point, and focusing on the relationship between the arguments and the action, we will study the Laches, Symposium, Meno, Protagoras, and Republic, as well as the works recounting his last days, in an attempt to understand Plato's Socrates and his views regarding knowledge, virtue, justice, courage, and the care of one's soul.


PHIL 152 / History of Modern Philosophy

Christiana Olfert / L+ / TR 4:30-5:45

The Early Modern period of philosophy gave rise to some of philosophy's most enduring questions about the existence of God, the basic structure of reality, the nature of causation, human freedom, and personal identity, as well as the sources and consequences of our moral capabilities. In this course, we will discuss the most exciting and influential ideas and texts from the Early Modern period, including those by Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant. Prerequisite: PHIL 1.


PHIL 168 / Newton's Principia

George Smith / 11 / T 6:30-9:15

This is the second of a two-part course on the Newtonian Revolution.  The first part was devoted to the 17th Century developments in astronomy and mechanics, background needed to read the Principia intelligently and critically. This term we will read the entire work, with emphasis on what each section contributes to the whole. Because it is available in English translation, we will read the third edition, but we will also keep track of the ways in which it deviates from the two earlier editions. Our primary focus will be on exactly what the argument is that runs throughout the entire work -- a point that has been a source of controversy in both the history and the philosophy of science. We will try to reconstruct not only what Newton took the argument to be, but also what the argument really amounts to.  Finally, at the end of the term we will look at the immediate critical response to the Principia and at the development of Newtonian mechanics over the next 100 years; this will enable us to see what others took the argument to be at the time.

A single research paper will be required on any one of the major historical or philosophical issues surrounding the Principia. Finally, the students will be responsible for one reading beyond those assigned weekly, specifically Cohen's, The Newtonian Revolution.


PHIL 192-01 / Seminar: Kant & Philosophy of Mind

White and Phillips / K+ / MW 4:30-5:45

Kant's Theory of Mental Content:

"Concepts without intuitions are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind." – Critique of Pure Reason, A51/B75

"Presentation" [Darstellen] is a lynchpin notion for Kant, yet one too little studied and even less well understood. Getting clear on what Kant means by "presentation" [Darstellen] promises not only to clarify and simplify his theoretical philosophy – most especially his Critique of Pure Reason – it suggests a reading of Kant as primarily concerned with giving a sophisticated account of mental content and semantics. As such, Kant should be understood as not only a watershed philosopher, but one whose substantive positions still ought be taken seriously by contemporary 20th & 21st-century Analytic Philosophy for its insights into current issues in philosophy of mind and language.

Kant's transcendental idealism argues that the proper objects of human sensible intuitions are the appearances, never things-in-themselves; does this phenomenological understanding of "sensible presentation" help immunize us against misleadingly reductivist sense-datum accounts of perceptual or mental content? Robert Hanna argues that Kant's transcendental idealism entails not only empirical realism, but a sophisticated kind of direct perceptual realism: after all, if our experience of reality and its objects is only ever the immediate perception of appearances, then nothing stands between us and the only world we can hope to make sense of.

The centrality of "presentation" in Kant's account of mental content and semantics clearly has important implication for contemporary philosophy of mind and language; what these implications are, however, is highly contentious. Does the role of intuition in "presentation" [Darstellen] enrich accounts of de re reference (or alternatively, the irreducibly demonstrative content of thoughts such as "that man")? Does it clarify why de re reference is necessarily prior to meaningful de dicto content (what we mean by fully discursive thoughts such as "the third man from the left")? Does the "blindness" of intuitions prior to their being combined with concepts in the imagination – in conscious, cognizable experience – nevertheless do justice both to the seeming non-conceptual content of mere sensation, and to the richly conceptual content that still manages to appear directly and immediately to us in conscious experience?

Similar considerations shed light on a number of Hume's skeptical arguments. Kant holds that the very necessity Hume claims is absent from our (purported) causal experiences is in fact given to us in how we must imagine objectively ordered temporally successive perceptions. Usually taken as a kind of "transcendental argument", might this be better understood as a kind of "transcendental presentation" (i.e., how the objective reality of causality is made "intuitive" through an immediate and concrete "transcendental synthesis of the imagination")? Could a similar "transcendental presentation" help us rebut (the perhaps more radical) meaning and rule-following skepticism of (Late) Wittgenstein or even "Kripkestein"?

And if so, what is it that would be thus "presented"?

Prerequisites: Phil 01 and one other Phil course


"Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within." -- Kant, KpV (5:161-2)


PHIL 192-02 / Seminar: Evolving Minds from Bacteria to Bach

Daniel Dennett / 13+ / R 6:00 9:00

This seminar will work through the penultimate draft of a new book, title not yet determined, on how human minds are the product of a cascade of semi-independent evolutionary (and quasi-evolutionary) design processes. Genetic evolution provides the foundation, but cultural evolution and individual learning, itself a quasi-evolutionary process, structure the neural machinery that gives human beings their unique cognitive powers.

In addition to the book chapter drafts, reading will include material from recent books and essays by Terence Deacon, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Kim Sterelny, Dennis Bray, Ruth Millikan and others. Each week a brief commentary will be required, to be submitted on Trunk before class, and the final grade to be determined by these commentaries, class participation, and a term paper.

Applicants should submit a brief sketch of the coursework and reading they have done in philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, psychology, evolutionary biology (and any other work in the social sciences that strikes them as relevant. No student auditors.


PHIL 192-03 / Seminar: Consciousness Explored: The Neurobiology & Philosophy of the Human Mind

Dennett/Cohen / 12+ / W 6:00-9:00

What is the current state of the scientific study of human consciousness? In this course, we will review a variety of findings from psychology and neuroscience that have informed our understanding of a variety of issues associated with human consciousness (i.e. the neural correlates of consciousness, the amount of information that can be processed unconsciously, how we make decisions, etc.). While the course will primarily focus on empirical results, they will all be discussed within a broader philosophical context, with a focus on how these findings relate to classic problems in philosophy of mind.

Readings will come from both psychologists/neuroscientists (e.g. Nancy Kanwisher, Christof Koch, Stanislas Dehaene, Daniel Wegner, etc.) and philosophers (e.g. Ned Block, David Chalmers, John Searle, etc.). Each week a brief commentary will be required, to be submitted on Truck before class. The final grade will be determined by a combination of these commentaries, class participation, a take-home mid-term exam, and a final paper.


PHIL 192-04 / Seminar: Aristotle's Metaphysics

Olfert/Smith / F+ / TR 12:00-1:15

The discipline of metaphysics gained its name from Aristotle's Metaphysics, though the word meant nothing more than the work in his corpus coming after the Physics. This curiosity notwithstanding, the fundamental problems of the discipline were set by Aristotle in this work. In the seminar we will be reading the four central Books of Aristotle's Metaphysics (Ζ, Η, Θ, Ι) in translation by Montgomery Furth as well as in the now traditional Ross translation, along with supplementary material from Aristotle as needed, plus secondary material that students are likely to find helpful. Our focus will be not so much on Aristotle's answers to the fundamental questions he poses in these four books as on what he takes these questions to amount to – in particular, What is it to be one, independently existing individual? and What is it for such an individual to persist through time? The course will require writing drafts and final versions of two or three papers. Prerequisite: for undergraduates, PHIL 1 (or equivalent).


PHIL 192-06 / Seminar: Varieties of Freedom, Liberty, Choice

Amelie Rorty / F+ / TR 12:00-1:15

We shall trace transformations in the history of conceptions of liberty and freedom, alternating between political conceptions of liberty and psychological conceptions of freedom of thought and the will. We'll begin with some ancient legal and political definitions of liberty of speech and action (Pericles' Funeral Oration; Aristotle on voluntary actions); move to conceptions of "inner" psychological freedom (the Stoics, Augustine, Aquinas, Edwards); then we'll turn to Rousseau's contrast between "natural" and civic freedom and to Kant's views on the relation between freedom and morality. Moving to selections from Mill's *On Liberty,* we will have a class debate about hate speech and the curtailment of civil liberties.)  Then: back to the inner self with Dostoyevsky's dialogue between Christ and The Grand Inquisitor, and Sartre's account of existential freedom. We end with a return to the political and social domains of freedom: Isaiah Berlin's distinction between "negative" and "positive freedom" and G.A. Cohen's "Freedom and Money."

We end with a return to the political and social domains of freedom: Isaiah Berlin's distinction between "negative" and "positive freedom" and G.A. Cohen's "Freedom and Money."

Texts: Most of the readings will be printed in the Course Reader; some will be available on the course Trunk website. You'll need a copy of Mill, *On Liberty* (Hackett); Dostoyevsky, *The Grand Inquisitor* (Hackett) .

Pre-requisites: No formal pre-requisites, but a sense of humor and irony; tolerance for conflict and ambivalence; a taste for reading and thinking, a capacity to enter both critically and sympathetically into different modes of thought.

Texts: Most of the readings will be printed in the Course Reader; some will be available on the course Trunk website. You'll need a copy of Mill, *On Liberty* (Hackett); Dostoyevsky, *The Grand Inquisitor* (Hackett).


PHIL 195 / Environmental Ethics

Sheldon Krimsky / 11+ / T 6:00-9:00

Explores the values, rights, responsibilities and status of entities underlying alternative constructions of environmental issues. Subjects include: anthropocentric vs. biocentric approaches to natural resource protection, precautionary principle, ethics of cost-benefit analysis, equity and risk management, status of "rights" of non-human species and future generations, ethics of sustainable development and energy use, genetically modified crops, transgenic animals, deep ecology, and economic and non-economic value of wilderness and sacred lands.


PHIL 292-01 / Graduate Seminar: Perception & Indeterminacy

Avner Baz / 10+ / M 6:00-9:00

In his Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty says that 'we must recognize the indeterminate as a positive phenomenon'—that is, not as due to contingent limitations of our perceptual and cognitive powers that may in principle be overcome. If Merleau-Ponty is right, then much in what analytic philosophers have said about perception is wrong.

Our main aim in this seminar will be to understand Merleau-Ponty's claim. How, or in what ways or senses, is our perception essentially indeterminate? And what is the significance of that indeterminacy?

We will begin with John McDowell's Kantian claim, in Mind and World, that our experience is always 'conceptualized'; and then we will read portions of Charles Travis recent book on perception, in which he argues against McDowell's claim, and more broadly against any account of perception that takes it to provide us with 'representations'. If Travis is right, then much that has been written about perception, in Analytic philosophy as well as in psychology and cognitive science, has been deeply and fundamentally misguided. As we will see, however, Travis can't quite tell us how perception does present things to us—he typically switches at this point to the third person perspective and refers to what we perceive in objective terms, which is bound to seem to the Kantian as an avoidance of a fundamental difficulty.

In order to see whether we can do better than Travis in characterizing the world as perceived, we will then turn to Wittgenstein's remarks on 'aspect' perception and ask what, if anything, the phenomena of aspect perception can teach us about perception more broadly, and maybe even about human perception as such. Thinking about that will finally lead us to the Phenomenology of Perception.

Time permitting, we will spend the last part of the course thinking about the significance of indeterminacy for moral philosophy.

Participation in the seminar is conditioned on the instructor's approval.


PHIL 292-02 / Graduate Seminar: Functions & Functional Kinds

Brian Epstein / 2 / W 9:00-11:30

When we design and build objects, we often design them to perform functions. Can openers, for example, are designed to open cans. Cars are designed to take us from place to place, and iPhones are designed to keep us entertained. Biological structures are also often said to have functions. The heart has the function of pumping blood, and neurotransmitters have the function of carrying signals from one neuron to another. And functions are central to other fields too: mental states, languages, and social structures are all commonly understood functionally.

What is a function? What is it for an object or a kind to have a function? Are objects and kinds functionally defined or individuated? Most of the recent literature focuses on biological function, and in that area significant progress has been made. Do these advances help us understand functions more generally? Or, when we consider the functions of artifacts, social structures, and so on, do we need new approaches?

The function of this research seminar is to engage graduate students in current research. We will read classic papers in the field, including ones by Lewis, Millikan, and Cummins, but also explore new directions and approaches.


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