The Dennes Room

Spring 2005

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality and Social Justice. Rees. MWF 10-11, 10 Evans.

The course will introduce students to a variety of topics in both normative (theoretical) and applied ethics. We will focus, in particular, on the connections between the morality of individual agents and issues of social justice. At the individual level, we will consider both how one ought to live one’s life, and what kind of person one ought to be. At the social level, we will consider the nature and requirements of social justice, as well as which means society’s may be obligated or permitted to use in achieving it. Throughout the course, we will examine and reexamine the connections between the individual and social levels. To what extent, if any, do the requirements of social justice impose moral obligations on individuals? For example, if one lives in an unjust society, is one obligated to protest the injustice? What difference does it make if an individual must risk severe penalties in order to protest effectively? On the other hand, if some individuals do not behave morally, does social justice require the community to encourage or, even, enforce better behavior? It is clear that individual morality and social justice are not independent. In what ways, and to what extent, do they depend on each other? Is it possible for to live one’s life well, and to be a good moral agent, if one lives in an unjust society? To what extent must a just society depend on the morality of its individual members?

3  Introduction to Philosophy of the Mind. Campbell. MWF 2-3, 120 Latimer.

In this course we will be looking at the relation of psychological states, such as desires or memories, to the physical world. There are five units in the course: Foundations (Dualism, Behaviorism and Central-State Materialism) Personal Identity Functionalism Consciousness Causation The books required for the course are: David Chalmers (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). John Perry (ed.), Personal Identity (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press 1975).

What is the mind? Are mental states, such as beliefs and desires, memories and hopes, characteristics of a non-physical substance, or are they configurations of the physical world? And if we think that mental states are entirely physical, should we think of them as relating to the ways in which a person tends to behave, or are they rather states of the person’s brain? We shall begin the course by looking at these fundamental questions about the nature of the psychological. What is a person? Is a person merely a biological entity, and the identity of a person just the identity of a physical thing? Do psychological states enter into the identity of the self, or can we explain the continued existence of the self in terms that do not appeal to psychological states? And what is the importance of personal identity? Recently some theorists have argued that we should give it much less weight than we seem to ordinarily; we will look at those arguments. One of the most powerful ideas in contemporary philosophy of mind is functionalism, the idea that the character of a mental state is constituted by its potential for causal relations with other mental states and with behavior. In the third unit we look at the strengths and limitations of this idea. One limitation of functionalism is its trouble in providing an analysis of consciousness. What is the relation between conscious experience and the brain? Is consciousness something over and above the ordinary biological functioning of the brain, or can it somehow be explained in biological terms? We will try to identify the aspects of conscious experience that make it difficult to explain this characteristic of the mental life in physicalist terms. In one way or another, throughout this course we will be going over the relation of the psychological life to the physical. Finally, we will look at how psychological states can be said to have causes and effects. Do we in fact ordinarily take it that psychological states do have causes and effects? And can they do so, if the whole causal story of the world can be told entirely in terms of physics?

6  Man, God and Society in Western Literature. Dreyfus. TuTh 3:30-5, 145 Dwinelle.

This course will compare and contrast the Greek, Medieval and Modern worlds as expressed in their greatest literature. We will follow in detail how in the West polytheism gradually became more and more monolithic until everything was understood in relation to a single God, and then how this synthesis fell apart and left our culture with a choice between nihilism or a return to polytheism. The goal of the course is both to illustrate how to read difficult texts and to provide an understanding of the cultural paradigms that have formed and focused our shared beliefs and practices.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Shapiro. MWF 9-10, 2060 Valley.

This course is an introduction to truth-functional and quantificational logic. Logic is the study of good and bad arguments (pieces of reasoning). In a deductively good argument, the conclusion follows from the assumptions: if all assumptions are true, the conclusion is guaranteed to be true as well. The deductive goodness of an important class of arguments rests on patterns in the way these arguments use notions such as not, and, or, if, all and some. We will represent such patterns symbolically, and give a precise account of which patterns ensure deductive goodness and which do not. In addition, we will introduce systems of rules for constructing deductively good arguments. Besides becoming better at formulating and evaluating deductive arguments, students will gain an understanding of central logical concepts such as validity, implication, consistency, equivalence, soundness, and completeness.

Textbook: Virginia Klenk, Understanding Symbolic Logic, 4th edition (Prentice Hall, 2002).

25B  Modern Philosophy. McCann. TuTh 8-9:30, 145 Dwinelle.

A survey of the major philosophers of the modern period (17th and 18th centuries): Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. The defining characteristic of philosophy in this period was the rejection of Aristotelian philosophy as developed in the Scholastic tradition and the rise of a new mathematical/mechanical philosophy of nature (the so-called Scientific Revolution, whose major figures include Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, and Newton). We will focus on such metaphysical and epistemological issues as: the nature of substance, causation, space and time, identity (including personal identity), the relation between mind and body, the existence, attributes, and providence of God, skepticism about the external world, induction, and the structure and limits of scientific explanation. All readings are selections from primary sources (in some cases, translations of such sources).

100  Philosophical Methods. Gorton. Tu 2-4, 88 Dwinelle.

This course is restricted to Philosophy majors. It is intended to improve the student’s ability to read and write philosophy. Special emphasis will be placed on developing analytic skills. This term we will be examining a number of philosophical texts on the problem of personal identity. There will be short written assignments each week, as well as a longer final paper, which will focus on the essays we are reading. In addition to two hours of lecture, students will meet in tutorials with a teaching assistant in order to discuss the reading, their weekly writing assignment, and the preparation for the final paper.

Course readings: Personal Identity, edited by John Perry, University of California Press.

104  Ethical Theories. Vargas. TuTh 9:30-11, 3108 Etcheverry.

Course will focus on major approaches to ethical theory, including consequentialism, deontology,and virtue theories, with some attention to how these accounts connect to issues in metaethics and moral responsibility. Readings will be by both contemporary and historical figures,including Kant, Mill, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Williams, Singer, Railton, Smart, etc.

107  Moral Psychology. Rees. MWF 3-4, 88 Dwinelle.

128  Philosophy of Science. Skokowski. TuTh 11-12:30, 213 Wheeler.

133  Philosophy of Language. Searle. TuTh 2-3:30, 2 LeConte.

The main purpose of this course is to answer the question “How does language relate to the world?” In order to do this we will have to explore a lot of related questions, such as those concerning the nature of truth, reference, meaning, speech acts, metaphors, fiction, and pictures. We will also try to develop a general theoretical account of how human linguistic behavior is related to the rest of human behavior and to human mental states.

140A  Intermediate Logic. Fitelson. MWF 12-1, 110 Wheeler.

This course has two parts. Part One (first 10 weeks) will be more technical in nature. It will involve learning some of the key metalogical results for first-order logic (e.g., soundness, completeness, and compactness). The goal will be to get through Parts 1-3 of Hunter’s Metalogic textbook, which concludes with a famous metalogical paradox called “Skolem’s Paradox”. Part Two (last 5 weeks) will be more philosophical in nature. It will involve investigating the historical impact (on 20th century analytic philosophy) of the metalogical results covered in Part One of the course. For instance, we will discuss the influence of “Skolem’s Paradox” on the philosophical development of W.V.O. Quine and Hilary Putnam.

Prerequisites. PHIL 12A, and willingness to engage both in mathematical and philosophical work.

Textbook. Hunter, Metalogic, UC Press 1971. All other readings for the course will be provided via the course website.

142  Philosophical Logic. MacFarlane. TuTh 12:30-2, 126 Barrows.

An introduction to the philosophy of logic and to philosophical applications of logic. In the first part of the course (“Fundamentals”) we will discuss two notions that play a central role in logical theory: truth and validity. We will pay special attention to the philosophical significance of Tarski’s formal definitions of both notions. In the second part (“Applications”) we will look at applications of logical theory to two philosophical problems: the sorites paradox (or “paradox of the heap”) and the problem of future contingents. In grappling with these problems we will learn about many-valued logics, modal operators, supervaluations, and the logic of indexicals, and we will bring to bear our earlier, more abstract discussions of truth and validity. Prerequisites: I will not presuppose any knowledge of logic beyond what is taught in Philosophy 12A. In addition to 12A, you must have taken at least one other course in philosophy. Requirements will include both papers and occasional problem sets.

Readings: John Etchemendy, The Concept of Logical Consequence; Timothy Williamson, Vagueness; course reader.

148  Probability and Induction. Fitelson. MWF 3-4, 126 Barrows.

What is probability? How is probability useful for understanding inductive inference? Is there such a thing as inductive logic? If so, how does it relate to deductive logic, and what role does probability play in inductive logic? And, how is inductive logic related to inductive epistemology? These are the main (general) questions we will address in this course. Some specific topics we’ll discuss are: Hempel’s paradox of confirmation, Goodman’s “new riddle of induction”, Carnapian inductive logic, contemporary Bayesian confirmation theory and Bayesian epistemology, and various puzzles and paradoxes involving probability and evidence.

Prerequisites. PHIL 12A, and willingness to engage both in mathematical and philosophical work.

All readings for the course will be provided via the course website.

174  Locke. Shapiro. MFW 1-2, 110 Wheeler.

In this course, we will undertake a close study of Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, with attention to philosophical and scientific context (Scholastic and Cartesian views of reality and our capacity for knowledge, Boyle’s corpuscularianism). Among the topics to be considered: the nature of Lockean ideas, Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities, his position on substance, the role of mechanism in his philosophy, his account of kinds and their essences, his view of the functioning of language, and his account of personal identity. Throughout, we will keep in mind the Essay’s central aim of delimiting the extent of human knowledge.

Reading: John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. P. Nidditch (Oxford University Press, 1979), as well as selections in a course reader.

186B  Later Wittgenstein. Stroud. TuTh 11-12:30, 70 Evans.

188  Phenomenology. Dreyfus. TuTh 11-12:30, 166 Barrows.

With growing interest in the role of the body in perception, and in the related question of the possibility and nature of non-conceptual content, Merleau-Ponty’s classic work, Phenomenology of Perception, has become increasingly relevant. We will read Phenomenology of Perception in order to understand and evaluate Merleau-Ponty’s arguments against what he calls empiricism (a sort of behaviorism) and intellectualism (cognitivism), as well as his positive account of what he calls motor intentionality – a kind of intentionality without conceptual content that, Merleau-Ponty argues, is the basic way human beings are embedded in the world.

Graduate seminars

290-1  Locke’s Essay. McCann. Th 2-4, 234 Moses.

We have two main aims in the seminar: first, to get a clear picture of the main elements of Locke’s mechanistic philosophy of nature (including substance, identity, primary and secondary qualities, real and nominal essences, and the nature of explanation), and second, to evaluate the anti-essentialist arguments that Locke gives against the Aristotelian/Scholastic doctrine of substantial forms both in terms of their effectiveness against their intended target and in terms of their applicability to modern-day versions of essentialism (primarily Kripke’s and Putnam’s). As regards the former, we will track similarities and differences between Locke’s views on these issues and those of his scientific mentor, Robert Boyle. We will also briefly consider some background issues in Locke’s epistemology (for example, the rejection of innate ideas, the general theory of ideas and the question of indirect or representative realism), but the main focus will be on topics in metaphysics and the philosophy of science.

290-2  Metaphysics, Modality and Value. Stroud. Tu 4-6, 234 Moses.

An investigation of the extent to which support can be found for the negative metaphysical doctrines that causation (or law-like dependence), absolute (or ‘logical’) necessity, and values are not part of a reality fully independent of us and our responses to the world. The focus in each case will be on whether anyone who thinks and acts in the world in the ways we do could consistently understand our causal, modal, and evaluative attitudes as those metaphysical doctrines imply they are to be understood. A further question will be the more general metaphysical significance of any such outcome.

290-3  Context Sensitivity in Semantics. MacFarlane. W 2-4, 234 Moses.

Words like ‘I’, ‘here’, ‘now’, ‘this’, and ‘yesterday’ are generally recognized to be context-sensitive in a way that ‘cow’, ‘table’, and ‘fifteen’ are not. Their contribution to what is expressed by sentences containing them depends systematically on features of the context in which they are used. In the wake of David Kaplan’s seminal work on the logic and semantics of indexicals in the 1970s, it has become popular to represent this context sensitivity formally by relativizing sentence truth to a “context of use.”

Kaplan’s work was focused fairly narrowly on standard indexicals and demonstratives. Recently, however, philosophers and semanticists have been busily extending the bounds of semantic context sensitivity to other kinds of expressions, including gradable adjectives like ‘tall’ and ‘flat’, counterfactual and indicative conditionals, epistemic modals like ‘might’ and ‘possibly’, propositional attitude verbs, and terms of epistemic assessment like ‘know’ and ‘justify’. Accompanying the first-order discussion of these expressions (which is often motivated by philosophical as well as semantic concerns) has been considerable methodological discussion about just where to draw the line between semantic and pragmatic sources of context sensitivity. In addition to various moderate positions that draw the line in different places, two extreme positions have been defended: conservatives have argued that semantic context sensitivity is limited to the canonical indexicals, while radicals have argued that it infects all language to such an extent that formal semantics is impossible. In the first part of the seminar, we will try to sort out what is at stake in these debates.

In the second part of the seminar, I will argue for a generalization of Kaplan’s framework, in which truth is relativized not just to a context of use but also to what I call a “context of assessment.” I will argue that this generalization is needed in order to make good semantic and philosophical sense of epistemic modals, terms of epistemic assessment (like ‘know’), predicates of personal taste (like ‘fun’), tense (in an indeterministic framework), indicative conditionals, and possibly other bits of language. These expressions, I will argue, are context-sensitive, but not in the familiar way. Instead of being “use-sensitive,” they are “assessment-sensitive.” In addition to working out a formal framework for the description of assessment sensitivity, we will grapple head-on with the philosophical difficulties raised by assessment sensitivity and the kind of “relative truth” it requires.

290-4  The Nature of Consciousness. Searle. W 4-6, 234 Moses.

This seminar will be mostly concerned with recent work on philosophical problems connected with consciousness, but I would also like to tie the research on consciousness to some questions about the freedom of the will.

290-5  TBA. Rees. Tu 2-4, 234 Moses.

Extradepartmental courses

LAW 210-2  Workshop in Law, Philosophy, and Political Theory. Scheffler. TBA, TBA.