Spring 2011

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Kolodny. TuTh 8-9:30, 160 Kroeber.

We will survey the basic questions of moral and political philosophy, as well as some classic attempts to answer them. We will ask, among other things: What is the morally right thing for me to do? Why should I do it? Is there a fact of the matter what it is, or does it just depend on my feelings or upbringing? Why should I do what the government tells me to? Why should I tolerate alien moral beliefs and practices? We may read, among others: Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, Mill, and Nietzsche.

11  Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Buchak. TuTh 12:30-2, 60 Evans.

This course addresses basic questions in the philosophy of religion, primarily from the Western philosophical tradition. For example, does God exist? Should we believe in God? Are there such things as souls, and if so, how do they interact with the physical body? How should a just God punish us for our moral wrongdoing? Finally, is morality based on God’s commands? The course material will be arranged topically, rather than historically, and will be divided into four sections: arguments for and against the existence of God, epistemology, metaphysics, and morality.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Mancosu. MWF 11-12, 2060 Valley.

The course will introduce the students to the syntax and semantics of propositional and first-order logic. Both systems of logic will be motivated by the attempt to explicate the informal notion of a valid argument. Intuitively, an argument is valid when the conclusion ‘follows’ from the premises. In order to give an account of this notion we will introduce a deductive system (a natural deduction system), which explicates the intuitive notion of ‘follow’ in terms of derivational rules in a calculus. This will be done in stages, first for propositional reasoning (only connectives such as ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘if… then…’) and later for the full first-order calculus (including expressions such as ‘for all…’ and ‘there exists…’). In addition, we will also develop techniques for showing when a claim does not follow from the premises of an argument. This is done by developing the semantics for the propositional and the predicate calculus. We will introduce truth-tables for the propositional connectives and ‘interpretations’ for sentences of first-order logic. At the end of the course, if time allows, we will also cover some metatheoretical issues, such as soundness and completeness of the propositional calculus. Textbook: J. Barwise, J. Etchemendy, “Language, Proof and Logic”, latest edition. (The book comes with a CD. Do not buy the book used! If you do, you will not be able to submit your exercises on line, which you will be required to.)

25B  Modern Philosophy. Stroud. TuTh 11-12:30, 100 lewis.

An introduction to the history of modern philosophy through the problems and ideas of some of the most important philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The course will focus on close reading and discussion of some of the major works of René Descartes, John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant. Two lecture-discussion meetings and one discussion-section with a Graduate Student Instructor each week. Several short papers during the semester and a final examination. Written work will be assessed on the basis of its clarity, accuracy, and level of understanding of the philosophical issues in question.

Problems to be investigated, as they appear in the work of the different philosophers, include: What do we perceive, and how does it enable us to think and know things about the world? What can we know of our own existence and nature? How is the mind related to the body? Do objects in the world really have colors, tastes, and smells, or do we only think so because of their effects on us? Can we know that at least in general the world really is the way we believe it to be? Can we have reason to believe things about what we have not so far experienced? What is the difference between two things’ being connected as cause and effect and a mere coincidence, and how can we tell which is which? Must we think some things are causally connected with others in order to think about an independent world at all? Can we know some such things by thought alone, without dependence on sense-perception? If so, what things, and how? Is there a distinctive way in which philosophy asks and answers questions like these?

100  Philosophical Methods. Yalcin. W 2-4, 219 Dwinelle.

A course to encourage in philosophy majors the practice and development of the skills of reading and writing in philosophy. Readings will be drawn from recent essays on a variety of subjects in different areas of philosophy. These will be discussed in one two-hour classroom meeting each week. Students will be expected to read and discuss the essays in class and to write clearly and accurately about them and about the questions they raise. Each student will meet individually each week with a graduate student instructor for close assessment and discussion of the student’s writing with special attention to how it could be improved.

110  Aesthetics. Noë. MWF 12-1, 170 Barrows.

This course will explore topics in the philosophy of art. What is art? What makes art valuable? Is art really valuable? What is a picture? Why are some pictures works of art, but not others? What is performance? What makes performance art? What does art reveal about human nature? What does art tell us about the mind? We will seek to answer these and other questions. We will read writings on these and related topics by a range of philosophers (mostly from the 20th century).

Many of the readings for this course will come from an anthology entitled Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, published by Blackwells and edited by Cahn et al.

This course is an upper division philosophy course. it is intended for students with some background in philosophy. Students with knowledge of the arts are welcome, space permitting, provided they are motivated to do philosophy.

115  Political Philosophy. Sluga. MWF 9-10, 141 McCone .

The course will examine some of the basic concepts of politics and specifically the concept of the political. This concern is motivated by the thought that our traditional understanding of politics (going ultimately back to Plato and Aristotle) has come or is coming apart. In the middle section of the course attention will be focused on the work of Carl Schmitt, Hannah Arendt, and Michel Foucault and their attempts to re-conceptualize the field of politics. The final third of the course will consider how questions concerning technology, terrorism, globalization, and the environment affect the way we need to think about politics.

125  Metaphysics. Yalcin. TuTh 11-12:30, 102 Moffitt.

An advanced introduction to contemporary metaphysics, focusing on the ideas of objectivity, existence, naturalness, identity, time, causation, and possibility.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Searle. TuTh 9:30-11, 105 Northgate.

The single most important question in philosophy, and in intellectual life generally, at the present time is this: How, if at all, can we reconcile a certain conception that we have of ourselves as conscious, free, rational, ethical, language using, social and political human beings in a world consisting entirely of mindless, meaningless physical particles? This course is directed to the most essential part of that question, the nature of the human mind. What is consciousness and how can it be caused by brain processes? How does it function causally in our behavior? How do we represent reality to ourselves in our mental processes? What is the nature of perception, memory, knowledge and action? Do we have free will? Does the existence of unconscious mental processes threaten our free will? Can cognitive science extend our understanding of ourselves as human beings? Are our brains really just digital computers? How exactly do our mental processes underlie society and our construction of social institutions, such as money, property, marriage and governments? This course will be concerned with these and other such fundamental questions in the foundations of philosophy, cognitive science and psychology.

142  Philosophical Logic. MacFarlane. TuTh 12:30-2, 110 Wheeler Hall.

“Philosophical logic” includes both (a) the philosophical investigation of the fundamental concepts of logic and (b) the deployment of logical methods in the service of philosophical ends. We’ll tackle five interconnecting topics in philosophical logic:

  1. Quantifiers: You may think you learned everything there is to know about quantifiers in Philosophy 12A. But in fact, there are quite a few quantificational idioms that we can’t understand in terms of the quantification theory you learned. We’ll look at the logic of identity, numerical quantifiers, generalized quantifiers, definite descriptions, substitutional quantifiers, and plural quantifiers.

  2. Modal logic: In addition to talking about what is the case, we talk about what might have been the case and what could not have been otherwise. Modal logic gives us tools to analyze reasoning involving these notions. We’ll get a basic grasp on some of the fundamentals of propositional modal logic, and then delve into some hairy conceptual problems surrounding quantified modal logic, explored by Quine, Kripke, and others. We’ll also look at the famous “slingshot argument,” which was used by Quine and Davidson to reject modal logic and correspondence theories of truth. At this point our work on definite descriptions will come in handy!

  3. Logical consequence: If you ask what logic is about, a reasonable (though not completely satisfactory) answer is that it’s the study of what follows from what, that is, of logical consequence. But how should we think of this relation? We’ll start by looking at Tarski’s account of logical consequence, which has become the orthodox account. On this account, logical consequence is a matter of truth preservation: P follows from Q if there is no model on which P is true and Q false. We’ll talk about how this account relates to the older idea that P follows from Q if it is impossible for P to be true and Q false. Then we’ll consider some alternatives. One alternative is to define consequence in terms of proof. We’ll look at a version of this idea by Dag Prawitz, which yields a nonclassical logic called “intuitionistic logic.” We’ll then look at the suggestion that relevance in addition to truth preservation is required for logical consequence. We’ll see how one might develop a nonclassical “relevance logic,” and we’ll consider some technical and philosophical issues that speak for and against a requirement of relevance. Finally, we’ll consider how, exactly, logic relates to reasoning.

  4. Conditionals: In Philosophy 12A you were taught to translate English conditionals using the “material conditional,” a truth-functional connective. This leads to some odd results: for example, “If I am currently on Mars, then I am a hippopotamus” comes out true (since the antecedent is false). We’ll start by considering some attempts to defend the material-conditional analysis of indicative conditionals in English. Then we’ll consider some alternatives, inculding Edgington’s view that indicative conditionals have no truth-conditions, Stalnaker’s elegant modal account, and the view that indicative conditionals should be understood as conditional assertions. Finally, we’ll look at McGee’s “counterexample to modus ponens,” and consider whether this sacrosanct inference rule is actually invalid!

  5. Vagueness: Finally we’ll turn to the “sorites paradox,” or paradox of the heap, which argues: five thousand grains of sand make a heap; taking one grain away from a heap still leaves you with a heap; so…one grain of sand makes a heap. Philosophical logicians have suggested that it is a mistake to use classical logic and semantics in analyzing this argument, and they have proposed a number of alternatives. We’ll consider three of them: (a) a three-valued logic, (b) a continuum-valued (or fuzzy) logic, and © a supervaluational approach that preserves classical logic (mostly) but not classical semantics. If there’s time, we’ll also look at a short argument by Gareth Evans that purports to show that vagueness must be a semantic phenomenon: that is, that there is no vagueness “in the world.”

Requirements will include both papers and problem sets.

Prerequisites: Philosophy 12A or equivalent, and at least one other course in philosophy. The course covers some technical material, but knowledge of logic beyond 12A will not be assumed.

Books: Course Reader.

160  Plato. Frede. MWF 10-11, 20 Barrows Hall.

This course will mainly focus on Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology to elucidate what is meant by ‘Platonism’. It therefore tries to reconstruct the development of the theory of Forms from its first traces in some of Plato’s early dialogues to its application in his middle years and possible revisions in his late work. This reconstruction will at the same time require a discussion of the development in Plato’s theory of knowledge and of the methods he uses in connection with his different treatment of the Forms. The focus will be on the central passages for this topic in Plato’s Euthyphro, Meno, Phaedo, Republic, Symposium, Phaedrus, Parmenides, Sophist, and the Philebus.
The discussion will focus largely on Plato’s texts but important secondary literature will be included and made available on bspace.

185  Heidegger. Dreyfus. TuTh 11-12:30, 88 Dwinelle.

HEIDEGGER’S BEING AND TIME One of the most important philosophical works of the twentieth century, Being and Time is both a systematization of the existential insights of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and a radicalization of Husserl’s phenomenological account of intentionality. What results is an original interpretation of the human condition and an account of the nature and limitations of philosophical and scientific theory. This account has important implications for all those disciplines that study human beings.

Prerequisites: History of Modern Philosophy (25B) or an equivalent course is required. It would also help to take Searle’s Philosophy of Mind (132) and/or Kant (178).

186b  Later Wittgenstein. Stroud. TuTh 2-3:30, 210 Wheeler.

A course of close reading and detailed discussion of central parts of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. The aim is to understand Wittgenstein’s later work and its philosophical significance by responding as directly and as sympathetically as possible to the problems and lines of thought as they are presented in that book. Some other works of Wittgenstein and some interpretative commentary will be consulted occasionally, but the emphasis throughout will be on that book alone. Because the book embodies a conception of philosophy as a certain kind of activity, the course will be of greatest interest and value to those willing to engage in philosophical reflection of their own in response to Wittgenstein’s thinking. That requires careful attention to the text, active participation in classroom discussion in response to others’ contributions, and an effort to keep sharpening one’s own understanding of the issues in question. The course is meant to be as much as possible a course in doing philosophy, not just a commentary on somebody’s philosophy.

187  Special Topics in the History of Philosophy: Aristotle’s Metaphysics and Science. Gelber. M 2-5, 332 Giannini.

Pre-requisites: At least 8 units of philosophy, preferably including Philosophy 25a.

In the first two books of the Physics, his introductory work on natural science, Aristotle articulates and argues for some of his most well known philosophical doctrines. They serve as an excellent introduction to central issues in Aristotle’s philosophy. In these short two books he addresses such issues as:

What is required in order to explain changes?

What makes it the case that something is natural?

What is a cause?

Do some things occur by chance?

Are natural phenomena, such as the growth of a tree, solely due to properties of its material constituents? Or are there additional causal factors?

In this course, we will use Physics I and II as a guide, drawing on works from throughout the Aristotelian corpus. In addition to understanding what Aristotle’s positions are, we will also ask ourselves whether, and to what extent, the concepts and distinctions that Aristotle employs are still tenable. If they are, in what sorts of contexts can they be applied? If not, what does this tell us about our own philosophical outlook and presuppositions?

The format of this course will be a seminar, and enrollment is limited to 20 participants

(For this semester, this course may satisfy the 160-178 requirement for the major.)

Graduate seminars

290-1  Graduate Seminar: Science & Religion. Buchak. Tu 4-6, 234 Moses.

This course will explore the questions about the relationship between science and religion. If we take current science seriously, what room, if any, is left for religion? We will look at the assumptions behind doing science and the assumptions behind practicing religion, and examine whether these conflict. We will also examine whether evolutionary theory leaves room for the existence of a God who intervenes; whether the “fine-tuning” of the physical constants is evidence for God’s existence and whether the Anthropic Principle constitutes a good reply to the fine-tuning argument; and whether one can survive one’s own death. Finally, we will examine what faith is and the relationship between faith, religious belief, and evidence.

This course is intended for graduate students in philosophy, but advanced undergraduates may enroll with permission. No background in philosophy of religion or philosophy of science is required.

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Democratic Authority. Kolodny. Tu 2-4, 108 Wheeler.

It is often thought that the fact that a collective policy has been democratically selected is a reason, of a moral character, in favor of complying, or not interfering, with it. Either the fact that a policy was democratically selected /strengthens /the objection that others have to one’s refusing to comply with it (or to one’s interfering with it), thereby adding to the case for one’s being morally /required /to comply (or to refrain from interfering) with it. Or it /weakens /the objection that one has to their doing otherwise objectionable things in pursuit of that policy (such as threatening coercive force), thereby adding to the case for their being morally /permitted /to do those things. Why? No doubt, the fact that a collective policy is /substantively good/—good in ways that do not depend on what individuals have decided, or think, about it—is a reason, often of a broadly moral character, to comply with it. But why should the fact that people /think /that the policy is good, or /choose /it, be a reason to comply with it? We will read work on these questions by Charles Beitz, Joshua Cohen, Thomas Christiano, and David Estlund.

290-3  Graduate Seminar: Metaphysics : Objects and Properties. Lee. Th 2-4, 234 Moses.

This class will survey some recent literature in metaphysics, with a particular focus on issues concerning the constitution of objects, and the nature of properties. Topics we’ll discuss will include : Realism and Nominalism, The Relationship between Properties and Particulars, Supervenience and Constitution, Fundamentality, Intrinsicness, External vs Internal Relations, Quantities and Measurement, The Causal Theory of Properties, Humean Supervenience, Mereology and Composition, Location, 3 Dimensionalism vs 4 Dimensionalism.

290-4  Graduate Seminar: Expressivism and Relativism. MacFarlane. Tu 6-8, 234 Moses.

My judgments that a certain dish is tasty and that it is likely to rain tomorrow do not seem to be judgments about an objective domain of reality, independent of my own tastes and information. Yet they seem to be more than mere reports of my own tastes and information; for example, they can serve as loci of interpersonal disagreements. So how should we understand them? Both expressivism and relativism advertise themselves as ways of steering between the Scylla of excessive subjectivism and the Charybdis of excessive objectivism. In this seminar we will look at both approaches, with a focus on expressivism. We will be particularly concerned with understanding just how the two approaches differ, when both are fully developed, and how each differs from the subjectivist and objectivist views they are seeking to avoid. For concreteness and to ease comparison, we will focus on claims of taste and likelihood, even though much of the discussion concerns normative judgment. Readings will be drawn from A. J. Ayer, C. L. Stevenson, Peter Geach, Simon Blackburn, Allan Gibbard, Huw Price, Mark Schroeder, Frank Jackson, Jamie Dreier, Gideon Rosen, and others (including some unpublished work of my own).

290-5  Graduate Seminar: Presence & Art. Noë. W 4-6, 234 Moses.

290-6  Graduate Seminar: Probability as Constraint and Representation. Roush. W 2-4, 234 Moses.

This is a course about the use of probability in epistemology. Probability imports assumptions about and imposes constraints on any subject matter you use it to describe. Some of these constraints are well-known, but their implications are not always known or observed. In others it is an open question how much leeway probability allows. We discuss the fate of holism, foundationalism, introspective access, self-knowledge, and objects of belief under a probabilistic description. We consider the consequences of the globality of the P function and of extreme probabilities. Cases that are illuminating include the preface “paradox,” evidential support, re-calibration, justified belief, and the epistemology of logic. We discuss artifacts of representation and how to think about idealization in philosophy.

290-7  Graduate Seminar: Rationality & Consciousness. Searle. Tu 2-4, 234 Moses.

295  Dissertation Seminar. Stroud. TBA, TBA.

Extradepartmental courses

RELI 190-3  Topics in Religious Studies: Ethics of Rights, Gender, and Global Justice: East and West. Bilimoria. MW 4-5:30, 110 Wheeler.

NOTE: For the Spring 2011 semester, this Religious Studies course may be used as an upper-division Philosophy elective towards the Major.

The course focuses on major founding insights, principles and practical explication of the ethics of rights and ideas on justice, both in Western and Eastern traditions and in- between (Hellenistic, Indian, Chinese, Postcolonial). The course examines the foundational basis in morality for cultural values, religious beliefs and practices, law, justice and human rights, and ecological attitudes, as these have developed from classical to contemporary times, in religions and secular idelogies. Following a survey of key Western moral systems, beginning with their religious roots, including ideas of justice and liberalism, and their critiques (Plato, Socrates, Augustine, Grotius, Kant, Hegel, Mills, MacIntyre, Williams, Rawls, Nozick, Cavell, Sen, Nussbaum), the course critically engages Hindu, Buddhist-Jaina (Dharma) ethics, and their responses to the Asia’s moral, social and legal challenges. Similar issues are examined in the context of the dynastic and Confucian vs Daoist debates in Chinese texts. In terms of structure, the theoretical part of the course will map the formative impact of competing ethical theories that have determined the culture, or have in turn been criticized and transformed in their respective intellectual histories. The latter part will center on practical moral issues, particularly the dialectics of caste/class hierarchy versus autonomy of the individual, despotic governance vs democratic/liberal processes, rights trumping rites (duties), patriarchy vs gender justice, virtues vs instrumentalism, normativity vs intuition, as well as bioethical, animal and environmental issues. How the cultures of East & West, comparatively, have meet these challenges amidst diversity and plurality of communities, moral ideals, legal systems and practices is a question that will also inform the inquiry.