Courses

Current Course Descriptions (Fall 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: Section 01/Introduction to Philosophy: History of Philosophy

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

This section is an introduction to philosophy by way of a close reading of several philosophical classics. The readings will include Plato's Meno, Descartes's Meditations, parts of Locke's Essay, the entirety of Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and parts of hisTreatise, and if there is time, several short works by Friedrich Nietzsche. Along the way, we will examine some central problems of philosophy, such as these: What is the relation between the mind and the body? Do we have free will? Are our actions causally determined? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the origin of the order and of the complexity in the world? What makes us the same persons over time? How can we know anything? Can we know whether or not there is a God? What is the nature of right and wrong? What is the role of reason in our lives? 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. There will be discussion of the reading assignments and regular writing assignments.


PHIL 001: Section 02/Introduction to Philosophy: Problems of Evil/Meaning of Life

Jeff McConnell / H+ / TR 1:30-2:45

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 begin with Augustine's autobiographical Confessions, which documents his struggles with this question. Next, we consider Leibniz's attempt to show that we live in the best of all possible worlds and Voltaire's satirical response to Leibniz in 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. Kant has a different but related problem of evil – how can a rational person do evil? The problem arose for Kant because of his idea that humans are only motivated by selfishness or by morality. Evil actions, however, seem sometimes to be motivated by the desire to do the wrong thing because it is wrong. This suggests an innate, irrational tendency to evil. A concern with irrationality runs through a number of writers who follow: Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud and Sartre. Finally, 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: Section 03/Introduction to Philosophy

Christiana Olfert / D+ / TR 10:30-11:45

What is happiness, and how can we become happy?  How do pleasure, friendship, and luck contribute to a life well lived?  And how is living a good life connected to being a good person?  In this course, we will take two perspectives on these questions.  On the one hand, we will examine in detail some of philosophy's oldest and most enduring answers to these questions as they are found in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.  And on the other hand, we will examine, test, and evaluate Aristotle's classic answers in light of contemporary thinkers' views on these subjects.  Our main goal will be to generate a conversation with Aristotle, accessible in contemporary terms, about what counts as a good life.  In doing so, we will gain a broad and deep understanding of one of history's most important ethical texts – the Nicomachean Ethics – and we will also see how philosophers today continue to develop our understanding of how to live well. 


PHIL 001: Section 04/Introduction to Philosophy

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

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: Section 05/Introduction to Philosophy

Monica Link / L+ / TR 4:30-5:45

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: Section 06/Introduction to Philosophy

Valentina Urbanek / H+ / TR 1:30-2:45

In this course, we will ask and attempt to answer big metaphysical questions: What are we -- are we immaterial things, bodily things, some complicated combination? What happens to us when we die? Does God exist? Do we have free will?

We will also ask and attempt to answer big epistemological questions: How could we ever come to know the answers to these important metaphysical questions?  What is knowledge and how do we get it -- via our senses, by reasoning alone?  Is knowledge even attainable?

Throughout our examination of these metaphysical and epistemological questions, we will discuss questions about values and what we should do.  What attitude should we take toward death?  Is suicide immoral?  If we don't have free will, does that mean that everything that we do is pointless?  If we can't prove that some of our most fundamental beliefs are true, would it matter -- how should we go on with life?

Great philosophers have proposed sophisticated answers to these questions.  We will read their works, consider their theories, analyze their arguments, and grapple with our own answers, however tentative, to these big questions.


PHIL 001: Section 07/Introduction to Philosophy

Valentina Urbanek / J+ / TR 3:00-4:15

In this course, we will ask and attempt to answer big metaphysical questions: What are we -- are we immaterial things, bodily things, some complicated combination?  What happens to us when we die?  Does God exist?  Do we have free will?

We will also ask and attempt to answer big epistemological questions: How could we ever come to know the answers to these important metaphysical questions?  What is knowledge and how do we get it -- via our senses, by reasoning alone?  Is knowledge even attainable?

Throughout our examination of these metaphysical and epistemological questions, we will discuss questions about values and what we should do.  What attitude should we take toward death?  Is suicide immoral? If we don't have free will, does that mean that everything that we do is pointless?  If we can't prove that some of our most fundamental beliefs are true, would it matter -- how should we go on with life?

Great philosophers have proposed sophisticated answers to these questions.  We will read their works, consider their theories, analyze their arguments, and grapple with our own answers, however tentative, to these big questions.


PHIL 001: Section 08/Introduction to Philosophy

TBA / I+ / MW 3:00-4:15


PHIL 001: Section 09/Introduction to Philosophy

TBA / K+ / MW 4:30-5:45


PHIL 001: Section 10/Introduction to Philosophy

TBA / M+ / MW 6:00-7:15


PHIL 15/Introduction to Linguistics

Ariel Goldberg / F+ / TR 12:00-1:15

How humans encode language in their brains, so that they can produce and understand an unlimited variety of utterances in context. Language and other forms of communication; how children acquire language; biological basis of language; the structure of language -- phonology (sound structure), syntax (grammatical structure), and semantics (meaning).


PHIL 24/Introduction to Ethics

Monica Link / C / TWF 9:30-10:20

What makes an action right or wrong? What responsibilities, if any, do we have to people other than ourselves and those most close to us? How should we balance competing interests? These are the some of the questions that will be addressed as we study the fundamentals of various ethical theories including relativism, consequentialism, duty-based ethics, virtue ethics and social contract theory.

With this background, we will discuss how these ethical theories can help us analyze real-world dilemmas and make justified decisions. Two class lectures each week will be devoted to studying the philosophical theories, and one day a week will be reserved for analyzing relevant case studies. We will consider a wide range of topics pertinent to choices that an individual might face (e.g., physician assisted suicide, loyalty to family, and vegetarianism), as well as to decisions that affect larger communities (e.g., the death penalty, censorship and immigration.)

Prior experience in philosophy is not necessary; this course is intended for students interested in acquiring and sharpening their oral and written skills in order to construct, analyze, object to, and revise arguments.


PHIL 33/Logic

Susan Russinoff / J / M 4:30-5:20 TR 3:00-3:50

*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 38/Rational Choice

Stephen White / G+ / MW 1:30-2:45

This course is an introduction to the development of game theory, decision theory, and social choice theory. Topics to be discussed will include individual decision under risk, Newcomb's problem, causal decision theory, the prisoner's dilemma and its applications to moral and political theory, and Arrow's theorem. The course is organized around a text in which these theories and topics are developed rigorously and systematically. We will also go beyond the text in employing the case study method to examine the application of decision theory and game theory to real world problems such as the problem of nuclear deterrence. Requirements for the course include a number of problem sets and exercises designed to help students acquire a detailed knowledge of the logical structure of the theories under discussion. No mathematical knowledge beyond high school algebra will be presupposed. There will be two papers and a final exam.


PHIL 41 Western Political Thought I

Ioannis Evrigenes / D+ / TR 10:30-11:45

Central concepts of ancient, medieval, and early modern political thought. Ideas of Thucydides, Aristophanes, Plato, and Aristotle during the rise and fall of Athens. Subsequent transformations of political philosophy related to the decline of the Roman empire and the origins and development of Christian political doctrine, and the new political outlook of those who challenged the hegemony of Christianity. Analysis of how premodern political thought helped structure future political debate.


PHIL 43/Justice, Equality & Liberty

David Denby / I+ / MW 3:00-4:15

This is a lower-level introduction to political philosophy. It presupposes no previous acquaintance with philosophy.

We will focus on five topics: the state of nature; the justification, if any, for state power; utilitarianism; distributive justice; liberalism and its critics. A number of other topics will come up along the way, including the nature and justification of free speech, free markets, and private property. All these topics are linked, and many bear on one of the fundamental questions of political philosophy: how should a state distribute power and material goods?

Our approach will be problem-centered rather than historical, and the emphasis will be on clarity and rigor rather than on scholarship or sensitivity to historical context. Our discussions will concern fundamental principles more often than particular issues of contemporary concern. The reading is drawn from early modern, nineteenth century, and contemporary sources and is moderate to heavy in quantity. It will include selections from Hobbes, Locke, Mill, Marx, Berlin, Rawls, Nozick, Dworkin, Sandel, Cohen, and others.


PHIL 48/Feminist Philosophy

Nancy Bauer / F+ / TR 12:00-1:15

The purpose of this course is to ask whether "feminist philosophy" is possible and, if so, what it can do and what it is good for. Any number of prominent feminists believe that in its commitment to what it calls "objectivity," "universality," and "reason," philosophy inveterately and insidiously serves the interests of men and is inherently an enemy of feminism. On the other hand, mainstream philosophers, who see objectivity, universality, and reason as paradigmatically neutral values, often worry that political movements such as feminism, while they may serve lofty purposes, cannot, by definition, count as philosophy.

The guiding concern of this course will be to explore whether in fact feminism has any good reason to take an interest in philosophy—or traditional philosophy in feminism. We will focus on the following sorts of questions: Does philosophy have anything special to offer feminism? Can philosophy be feminist and remain philosophy? Why can't we, if indeed we can't, explore feminist concerns—such as the very possibility of an inherent masculine bias in some of our basic practices and concepts—within traditional philosophical inquiry? Is there anything philosophically special about oppression based on gender? Is gender a natural subject for philosophy? What is gender? What, if anything, does it have to do with people’s bodies or with sexuality? What rides, for feminism and for philosophy, on the answers to these sorts of questions?

The syllabus for the course will juxtapose contemporary feminist philosophical writings with traditional philosophical texts. The feminist writings implicitly or explicitly offer themselves as examples of or commentaries on the possibility of feminist philosophy. The traditional philosophical material criticized and appropriated by our feminist writers will include texts by philosophers such as Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Freud—authors who, ironically in this context, understood themselves to be working generally in service of human liberation.

Prerequisites: No previous experience with any of the authors mentioned above, or with philosophy or feminist theory in general, is necessary or will be presupposed.


PHIL 103/Logic

George Smith / J / M 4:30-5:20 TR 3:00-3:50

How can one tell whether a deductive argument succeeds in establishing its conclusion? What distinguishes good deductive arguments from bad ones? Questions like these will be addressed in this course.  The principal text will be Richard Jeffrey's Formal Logic, though it will be supplemented by other texts and by notes from the instructor.  The accent will be as much on coming to understand what the word 'formal' means in the title of Jeffrey's book as on what 'logic' means.  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, and definite descriptions. We will also look briefly at the history of logic.

The course requires no specific background and no special ability in mathematics. Understanding why formal methods work will be as important as manipulating them.  The course will require six written homework assignments and an open-book final exam. The homework assignments, which students are expected to work on in groups, form the core of the course. Students should anticipate spending an average of eight hours per week outside of class in this course.


PHIL 112/Syntactic Theory

Ray Jackendoff / G+ / MW 1:30-2:45

Syntactic theory, the study of grammatical structure, is the core subcomponent of contemporary linguistics.  Topics of the course include: Syntactic categories, phrase structure, long-distance dependencies, the balance between grammar and lexicon and between syntax and semantics, syntactic universals, and the innate predispositions required for children to learn the syntactic structure of their native languages.  Multiple theoretical approaches will be compared.


PHIL 113/Cognition of Society & Culture

Ray Jackendoff / 10+ / M 6:00-9:00

This seminar explores the knowledge (conscious or unconscious) necessary in order to behave appropriately in one's social/cultural context. To what extent is such knowledge learned from the culture, and to what extent might it be "hard-wired" into the species? What can we learn about human societies by studying animal societies? Are there cultural universals, or a restricted range of possibilities on which cultures can draw? What are the cognitive underpinnings of such culturally ubiquitous institutions as religion and moral codes? The seminar addresses these questions through literature in ethology, anthropology, and evolutionary psychology and through parallels with language (which is after all a social behavior).

There are no fixed prerequisites, as it is hoped that students from a wide variety of backgrounds will participate. Permission of the instructor is required.


PHIL 117/Philosophy of Mind

Stephen White / K+ / MW 4:30-5:45

This course will focus on the nature of conscious experience, its relation to the subjective point of view, and the implications of both for the mind-body problem, the problem of agency, and the problem of other minds. The traditional mind-body problem has been taken to raise such questions as whether we could continue to exist after our bodies had been destroyed and whether computers could be conscious. We will consider these questions, but we will also consider carefully the nature of the subjective point of view and the question that is involved in seeing a world that contains opportunities for genuine action, states of affairs worth striving for, and agents like ourselves.

We will begin by examining the Cartesian conception of consciousness, which holds that the intrinsic features of conscious experience are fully manifest and completely given at the time the experience takes place. The intuition behind this conception is that conscious experience has no hidden sides and no unnoticed features. This intuition supports the sense-datum theories of consciousness and experience held by the major figures from Descartes to Russell and implicit in many contemporary arguments that there could not be a naturalistic account of "qualia."

We will go on to consider a wide range of problems for this conception of consciousness, such as our ability to perceive depth and to perceive aspects. We will then look at some of the contemporary alternatives to the Cartesian conception, including behaviorism, physicalism, and functionalism and explore their implications for such topics as narrow content, mental imagery, and the emotions. Despite the success of some of these theories in handling a number of the relevant issues, the objection remains that such theories fail to explain the depth and significance of the distinction between those entities that do and those entities that do not enjoy consciousness.

We will then examine the relation between consciousness and our perceptual experience of the external world. Recent work on the "phenomenology" of perception has centered on the thesis of disjunctivism--that as between veridical perception and a matching hallucination there is no "highest common mental factor" in virtue of which we are given the world only indirectly. Though disjunctivism provides an attractive (anti-skeptical) position in epistemology, in its apparent denial of the reality of full-blown subjective experience in cases of hallucination, it raises apparently intractable problems in the philosophy of mind. Our discussion, in this context, of the varieties of the "internalism/externalism distinction" will cut across not only the boundary between epistemology and philosophy of mind, but will have important implications for virtually every major area of philosophy.

Finally, we will examine the concept of nonconceptual content and ask whether we can make sense of a kind of content that is radically different from the kind we normally suppose our mental states to have in virtue of our having a natural language.


PHIL 122/Indian Philosophies

Joseph Walser / 10 / M 6:30-9:00

Seminar on the doctrines and arguments of the major Indian schools of philosophy (Samkhya, Buddhist, Vedanta, Nyaya-

Vaisesika, and Navya-Nyaya). How these schools attempt to ground their religious systems in logical argumentation about the human soul, God, and the path to nirvana. This course counts toward the Humanities distribution requirement, World Civilization requirement and the South and Southeast Asian Culture option.


PHIL 131/Epistemology

Jody Azzouni / E+ / MW 10:30-11:45

Sometimes we know something, and sometimes we have just made a good guess. Can we tell the difference? Is there a method for recognizing that we know something? We usually can supply evidence for what we know. Must we always be able to do so for us to rightly claim that we know something? Evidence for a belief is usually something we know. Do we need evidence for our evidence? If so, how do we ever manage to know anything? Some philosophers, called skeptics, don't think we do know anything. In this course, we'll try to answer these questions, or at least explore them further. Readings will be from articles, both contemporary and classic. Requirements: Two 5-7 page papers, and weekly write-ups on the readings.


PHIL 141/Global Justice

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

Questions of global justice continue to take on greater urgency in a world increasingly connected through economic, security, and environmental interests. This course will survey contemporary writings in political philosophy, both theoretical and practical, that raise or respond to such questions.

The course will be organized around four main topics: Economic Justice across Nations; Human Rights; Political Violence; and Environmental Justice. More specifically, we will consider the global distribution of resources and wealth; the nature of human rights and challenges raised by multiculturalism, especially regarding women; the morality of war, terrorism, and torture; and the ethics of environmental sustainability.

Discussions generally will be framed by debate surrounding moral universalism versus partiality to particular national or religious communities. Readings include Rawls, Nussbaum, Okin, Walzer, McMahan, and Jamieson.


PHIL 151/Ancient Philosophy

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

The philosophers of Ancient Greece and Rome asked some of philosophy's most enduring questions, and these questions continue to inform the field today.  For instance: What does it mean to be happy? What is most fundamentally real? What is knowledge, and how is it different from other cognitive states like imagination and mere belief? And how is the justice of a just society related to the justice of individual members of that society?  This course will introduce you to Presocratic philosophers, to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and to Hellenistic schools of philosophy, all of whom attempt to answer these challenging questions.  In texts like Plato's Phaedo, Republic, and Meno, as well as in Aristotle's Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics, we will discover that from the Ancient perspective, questions about what is fundamentally real are deeply connected to questions about what it means to live a good and happy life -- both individually and collectively.  After a look back to the Pre-Socratics and their influence on the Classical thinkers (Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle), we will then turn to the Hellenistic period and the debate between the Stoics and the Ancient Skeptics, who develop even further, sometimes surprising, insights into the nature of reality, the possibility of knowledge, and human well-being.  All students of philosophy will benefit from learning how these classic questions arose, and how they were addressed by different thinkers in the Ancient period.


PHIL 186/Phenomenology & Existentialism

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

Phenomenology seeks to uncover, or recover, human experience in the face of our own natural tendency to overlook it, and in the face of its distortion-through-over-intellectualization in traditional philosophy and in modern science. Against the tendency to suppose that we already know what our experience must be (like), since (presumably) we know, objectively, what we are and what the world is like, phenomenology calls upon us to 'bracket' that objective knowledge and to reflect upon our experience without traditional or scientific presuppositions. It claims that, ultimately, even the work of science presupposes this level of 'pre-reflective' experience, or the world as perceived before it is thought. This immediately raises the question of how we can recover for ourselves a level of relation to ourselves and to our world that, on the phenomenologist's own account, we normally and naturally pass over—interested as we are in objective facts and practical results. How can we know that, in criticizing existing theories for distorting human experience, we ourselves are free of challengeable presuppositions that distort our own account? The phenomenologist's answer is that we cannot know that: existing phenomenological descriptions of our experience are always open to challenges in the name of a truer description. And yet it is undeniable that neither traditional philosophy nor modern science has much to say that is enlightening about the special way in which we perceive and relate to our own body, for example; or about what it means to relate to another human being as an other; or about the way in which the back of an object, or what's behind our back, is present in our experience; or about how to understand those moments when we look at something differently and 'everything changes even though nothing has changed'; or about the way in which our past is present in our present (and how this makes freedom both possible and limited); or on how we know, and yet do not truly know, that we are going to die; or on how sexuality, for example, or class consciousness, or a childhood trauma, affects the whole of our being. And it is also undeniable that phenomenology has much to say that is enlightening about these issues.

Existentialism reminds the traditional philosopher or 'the thinker' that, before all else—before any reasoning or theorizing—she or he exists. And this is not a conclusion—a proposition—that we necessarily arrive at if we follow Descartes' reasoning in his first and second Meditations. It is a fact we live before we think it. Descartes doubts; and then 'realizes' that in doubting, he must exist. But before any reasoning or logical derivation he lives his doubt (if it's a genuine doubt)—he enacts it. Doubting is how he spends this moment of his life; and his present act of doubting will become part of what he'll carry with him to the next moment. As the conclusion of a piece of reasoning, who knows what it means for me to exist? As something I undergo, however, my existence is undeniable. It is truly what I must begin with: not in the sense of being an Archimedean starting point or axiom for a logical derivation, which is how Descartes thought of it, but in the sense that, before all else, I exist. We each have been 'thrown into the world', and we come to every moment—even a moment of the highest and most abstract reflection—with an inheritance (personal, cultural, biological) that we are free to transcend in various ways, but not to choose. And we have no essence—no character—that precedes our interaction with the world and determines it in advance—we can only discover ourselves in our engagement with the world, not by pure, disengaged reflection or introspection.

 The philosophers we will study in this course are phenomenologists. They are also existentialists (Merleau-Ponty much more so than Husserl). For Merleau-Ponty, the fact of our existence is the fact of our embodiment—not in the trivial sense that we each have a body, but in the much deeper and more difficult sense that we are our bodies—not our bodies as science conceives of them, however, but our bodies as we (and others) perceive them. It will be interesting for us to think how, for all of the differences between them, Husserl's work made Merleau-Ponty's work possible: how within the span of two great Texts—Husserl's Cartesian Meditations (based on his Paris Lectures) and Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception—we can go from Descartes' Meditations to the most radical overthrowing to date of Cartesian metaphysics.


PHIL 191-01/Use & Abuse of Philosophy: Plato to Nietzsche

(aka:  What is Philosophy and Why Is It Worth Taking Seriously?)

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

What gets called "philosophy" by its practitioners and its readers has differed in its aims and methods, its genre, audience and conventions. It has differed in its accepted canon. Sometimes  Montaigne and Pascal, Diderot and Voltaire  were central figures, sometimes they were marginal. Many canonic philosophers wrote in radically different genres: Descartes wrote a meditation, a treatise, and scientific works on optics. Hume wrote dialogues, essays, and a history of England; Mill wrote an autobiography, literary essays and speeches for Parliament. Rousseau wrote a novel, an autobiography, essays, thought experiments. All these works were, and were intended to be philosophically significant.

We will read a number of examples of different 'genres' of philosophy, along with each author's reflections on what he was doing, in doing philosophy.  For example:

Dialogues: Plato, The Republic, Book 1; and The Seventh Letter

Meditations and Intellectual Autobiography: Descartes, Meditations, Discourses and a Treatise

Articles and Disputations: Aquinas, Summa Theologica,  Part I, Q. 77, 80, 81, 82,

Essays: Hume, "On Personal Identity," "The Stoic." "The Sceptic"

Thought Experiments: Rousseau,  Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and J.J. Thompson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Propositions: Spinoza, Ethics

Aphorisms, Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil

Fiction and an Article on that Fiction:  Sartre, Dirty Hands and Michael Walzer, "The Problem of Dirty Hands"

'Experimental Philosophy' SEP article

 Each student will select a philosophic problem or topic (e.g. the problem of moral luck, personal identity or free will) —and write on that topic in several different modalities (e.g. as a dialogue or essay, a thought experiment or Thomistic article.) What difference does a difference in genre and method make to the philosophic import of the work to a reader?

Prerequisite: One philosophy course


PHIL 191-02/Slavery: Its Moral History

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

Slavery is unquestionably a moral wrong in the minds of many. Yet the practice stretches back thousands of years. Ancient Athens, often put forward as the model of democracy, was economically founded on the back of slavery. Neither Socrates nor Plato appears to have seen this is as a moral failure of their city-state. Perhaps their sensibility, or oversight, generally sheds light on how the "Founding Fathers" of the United States could be comfortable enough constitutionally enshrining slavery through the "three-fifths compromise."

Fast forward to today. Slavery, some say, is still practiced in various forms. This raises two obvious questions:

1) How are we to understand what constitutes slavery?

2) Why is slavery, in any or all of its various forms, morally objectionable?

Over the last 50 years, David Brion Davis of Yale University has produced a three-volume study of the moral history of slavery: The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1967, Pulitzer Prize), The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution: 1770-1823 (1976, National Book Award), and The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation (2014). This study will form the core reading of the seminar, with supplementary readings from philosophers, ancient and contemporary, and social scientists. The central questions throughout will be how slavery has been morally justified over the centuries, how some forms came to be seen as morally beyond justification, and what this might tell us about morality itself.

The course will require two shorter papers and a longer paper.


PHIL 191-03/Foundations of Cognitive Science

Daniel Dennett / 11+ / T 6:00-9:00

Cognitive models of perception, memory, control and many more specific mental phenomena typically postulate systems of representation, but there is so far no uncontroversial theory of mental (or cerebral) representation, or of information-processing in the brain. This course will look at the philosophical background of work on minds and mental processes, including the topics of intentionality, functionalism, computationalism, and reductionism, and the issue of how explanation in cognitive science compares with explanations in the other sciences. This course is designed for graduate students in the disciplines comprising cognitive science, and for advanced undergraduate majors in brain and cognitive science or philosophy.


PHIL 191-04/The Philosophy of David Lewis

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

David Lewis was one of the most brilliant and influential philosophers of the late twentieth century and his work is required reading in several areas of contemporary philosophy. In this course, we will read and critically evaluate many of his most important contributions. We will devote most of the semester to discussing his metaphysical work, especially his work on ontology, causation, laws, time, and modality.  We will also discuss some of his work on the philosophy of mind and perhaps the philosophy of language and discuss some methodological issues.   We will not look at his more technical work, e.g. in semantics, or decision theory, though we might touch on some of its philosophical implications. Our approach will be problem-centered: we will consider various philosophical problems in turn, and evaluate Lewis's engagement with them rather than just do Lewis-exegesis.  Although there is an underlying unity to Lewis's work, which will emerge through the semester, we will usually treat his contributions to the various debates as independent of one another.

I will make all the readings available on line.  If you are interested in a preview, a good place to look would be his Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology or his On the Plurality of Worlds.

I hope that by the end of the course we will understand and be in a position to evaluate many of Lewis's philosophical contributions.  I also hope that we will better understand key aspects of contemporary analytic philosophy, especially metaphysics.  And I hope we will solidify our grasp of basic philosophical techniques and methodology; Lewis's work is a model of good philosophy.  Finally, I hope we'll have fun.  Lewis writes beautifully, and many of the readings display his characteristically limpid and disciplined prose. And many of his ideas are rich and strange. I also hope the class will prove a genial forum for philosophical debate. 

This is an upper-level class and students should have had logic and one other philosophy class.


PHIL 191-05/Philosophy in the Greek, Latin & Arabic Traditions

Riccardo Stobino / I+ / MW 3:00-4:15

This course will introduce students to the elaboration and transmission of key philosophical concepts from Antiquity to the Latin Middle Ages and the Arabic-Islamic tradition, and aims to offer a comparative overview of their treatment in these closely interconnected contexts.  This process of transmission contributed deeply to the shaping of central pre-modern world views, and involved complex movements of translation, interpretation and appropriation of materials by different social groups, at different moments in time and in different geographical areas. The course will focus on specific themes and address the rise of various translation movements, particularly from Greek into Arabic in 8th- to 10th-century Baghdad, and from Arabic into Latin in 12th-century Andalusia. We will look at how a broad array of topics in metaphysics, natural philosophy, psychology, epistemology, and ethics have been addressed by major philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, al-Kindī, al-Fārābī, Avicenna, Averroes, John Duns Scotus, William of Ockham and John Buridan, with the aim of highlighting the main turning points in the transmission and reception of ideas over time. There is no pre-requisite for this course. All readings will be in translation.


PHIL 291-01/Rule Following

Jody Azzouni / 11+ / T 6:00-9:00

This will be a course exploring a solution to Kripke's version of Wittgenstein's puzzle about rule-following. Kripke presents Wittgenstein as offering a challenging new paradox, that "no course of action could be determined by a rule, because every course of action can be made out to accord with the rule." We will study Kripke's version of this paradox , and study some of its philosophical fallout in metaphysics, specifically with respect to the concept of natural kinds.

I am finishing a book on this topic. Readings will be from Kripke's book, my manuscript, as well as some articles.


PHIL 297/Graduate Writing Seminar

Baz/Denby / 2 / W 9:00-11:30am

The Graduate Writing Seminar (GWS), offered every Fall semester, is required of all students entering their second year of the MA program in Philosophy.  Students who enter the program in Fall 2009 or later must earn a grade of SATISFACTORY in the GWS.  Letter grades will not be given.  Students are eligible to take the course after completion of one successful term in the MA program.  Students who wish to audit the seminar must commit to being full participants in the class, which means attending all sessions and completing all assignments.  Auditing may be appropriate for students who have already taken the course for credit or for first-semester students who are not used to writing in English.

Prospective members of the GWS, including auditors, must come to the first session of the seminar with either a draft of a potential writing sample, or a term paper that might be expanded or polished, or a detailed outline of a writing project that has already been well thought-out.  The paper/outline should be accompanied by a brief abstract and any comments the student wishes to make, such as that he or she intends to turn the paper into a writing sample for PhD program applications.

To receive a grade of SAT in the GWS, a student must have a strong attendance record; participate faithfully; and, by the end of the term, produce a solid writing sample or the equivalent thereof.  A student who does not meet these requirements will ordinarily be granted a grade of INC; making up the work will involve not only producing the final paper but also sitting through the course again.

A central goal of the workshop is to provide collective help for those applying to PhD programs in developing their writing samples.  But it is not the only one.  We will also try to develop our abilities to read, write, present, and evaluate philosophy more generally.  Topics of instruction may include: how to determine the necessary extent of a literature review; how to narrow down a topic; how to make sure that your paper is philosophical, and not just expository; how to write an introduction to a philosophy paper; how to handle transitions between sections of a paper; how to anticipate and address objections to your view; how to write a conclusion; when to ask a faculty member for criticism.  The course will involve intensive peer review of papers, class presentations, and several in-class exercises.  We will use contemporary papers in the philosophical literature as examples of how (and perhaps how not) to write a philosophy paper.

Students will be given frequent but brief out-of-class writing assignments, sometimes general exercises and sometimes term paper work.

PREREQUISITES: At least two successfully completed semester in the Tufts MA program in Philosophy. Exceptions to these restrictions may be made in unusual cases.


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