The Dennes Room

Fall 2004

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality and Social Justice. Rees. MWF 2-3, 4 LeConte.

The course will introduce students to a variety of topics in both normative (theoretical) and applied ethics. We will focus, in particular, on the connexions between the morality of individual agents and issues of social justice. At the individual level, we will be 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 connexions 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 behaviour? 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?

5  Science and Human Understanding. Skokowski. TuTh 11-12:30, 30 Wheeler.

This course provides an introduction to topics in the philosophy of science, with readings from primary sources. We start with an introduction to the philosophy of space and time, through the correspondence of Leibniz and Clarke. Next we examine the influential Logical Positivism movement and its progeny: confirmationism and falsificationism. We then spend some time analyzing Kuhn’s notion of scientific revolutions, and consider a case study in the history of science: the Copernican revolution. We come full circle and revisit the philosophy of space and time from the standpoint of 20th century physics, including empirical and theoretical results, and consider our new world view in the light of Einsteinian relativity.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Fitelson. TuTh 12:30-2, 390 Hearst Mining.

Logic is about reasoning, the difference between good and bad reasoning, and how to tell the difference between good and bad reasoning.

In this course, we will develop techniques for laying bare the structure of arguments (“reasonings”). This will enable us then to characterize, in some precise ways, the difference between good and bad reasoning, and to formulate rules of correct reasoning. These three things – a conception of structure of arguments, a precise characterization of good and bad arguments in terms of their structure, and a system of rules of correct reasoning – constitute a “system of logic.” We will actually consider several systems of logic. After all this, students should be in a better position to properly formulate and evaluate logical arguments.

The course will focus on deductively correct reasoning. That is, we will consider “good reasoning” to be reasoning in which the truth of the premises absolutely guarantees the truth of the conclusion (as in typical correct mathematical reasoning). This will briefly be put into perspective in relation to inductively good reasoning, in which the premises give significant, but not conclusive, support for a conclusion.

Textbook: Modern Logic by Graeme Forbes, Oxford University Press, 1994.

24  Freshman Seminar. Matson. Th 4-5, 234 Moses.

This course is a freshman seminar. The topic of the course will be The Odyssey, by Homer.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. MacFarlane. MWF 10-11, 100 Lewis.

This course is an introduction to ancient Greek philosophy–and, for the uninitiated, to philosophy itself. We will spend almost all of our time on the three most important Greek philosophers–Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle–with a passing glance at pre-Socratic and Hellenistic philosophers. Our primary goal will be to understand these philosophers’ characteristic methods and views, and (more importantly) their reasons for holding these views. It is often said that we should study ancient Greek philosophy because it is the intellectual basis for all later western philosophy and natural science. That is true, but it is only half the story. We should also study ancient Greek philosophy to become familiar with a worldview so alien that it throws our own into sharp relief. As you are outraged by some of the things these philosophers say, you will come to see more clearly what your own views are, and you will be forced to ask what justifies them. You will not just be studying the history of philosophy; you will be doing philosophy. Prerequisite: None.

39K  Freshman and Sophomore Seminar. Rees. Tu 2-5, 227 Cheit.

In the early seventeenth century, René Descartes proposed a radical new approach to enquiry: the Method of Doubt. This seminar will focus on Descartes’ Method: who is supposed to use it? How is the method meant to work? What did Descartes think it could achieve? Does it succeed? We will begin by reading, and critically evaluating, Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy and Discourse on Method. In the second part of the seminar, we will explore contemporary critiques of Descartes’ Method and its continuing influence on Western philosophy.

The structure of the seminar will encourage students to develop their abilities to read critically, analyze and evaluate arguments, and engage in constructive philosophical debate. Students should be willing to read and reread the text with care, raise questions, and think independently.

100  Philosophical Methods. Gorton. Th 2-4, 20 Barrows.

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. Rees. MWF 10-11, 155 Kroeber.

This course is an introduction to normative ethics in the Western, analytic tradition. As we survey a variety of ethical theories proposed by ancient, modern and contemporary philosophers, we will try to trace the development moral thought, and the continuing influence of earlier approaches on current philosophical and popular ethical views.

115  Political Philosophy. Scheffler. MWF 10-11, 145 Dwinelle.

This course will deal with central questions about the justification of political and social institutions. The primary focus will be on contemporary philosophical thought in the liberal tradition, with special emphasis on the work of Rawls.

122  Theory of Knowledge. Stroud. TuTh 11-12:30, 22 Warren.

Some central philosophical problems about the possibility of human knowledge explored through careful reading and discussion of classical and contemporary writings.

130  Philosophy of Social Science. Searle. TuTh 2-3:30, 105 North Gate.

What exactly is the ontology of social reality and how does it relate to physical and psychological reality? How do explanations in the social sciences resemble and differ from explanations in the physical sciences? What is the role of rationality in the constitution and understanding of social phenomena? What sorts of explanations, laws and theories can we reasonably expect from the social sciences? Why have the social sciences been unable to predict, understand and explain such phenomena as, for example, the collapse of the Soviet Empire?

In this course I expect to use and to extend the theories advanced in my books Intentionality, The Construction of Social Reality and Rationality in Action.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Searle. TuTh 9:30-11, A1 Hearst.

The aim of this course will be to explore certain traditional problems in the philosophy of mind in terms of recent work in philosophy and cognitive science. We will be discussing such traditional problems as the mind-body problem, the nature of intentionality, and the nature of consciousness in light of recent discussions which use computer models of cognition or which try to cast doubt on our ordinary, common-sense conceptions of the mental. These views include functionalism, artificial intelligence, eliminative materialism, parallel distributed processing, and others.

135  Theory of Meaning. Campbell. TuTh 9:30-11, 126 Barrows.

This course will review central issues in theory of meaning, in particular the relation between meaning and reference to objects. What explains our ability to refer to objects? Is the ability to think about an object a matter of standing in an appropriate causal relation to it? And if we take this view, does it help us to understand how thought might be in the end a biological phenomenon? We will look at basic lines of thought set out here by Kripke and Fodor, and theorists who have built on their ideas. We will also look at the contrasting view of meaning and reference presented by the later Wittgenstein.
We will begin, though, with the accounts of reference set out by Frege and Russell.

160  Plato. Code. MWF 1-2, 110 Wheeler.

This course will be devoted to a close examination of some of the central themes of Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology. The topics to be covered will include the theory of Forms, the doctrine the learning is recollection, the distinction between knowledge and belief, the nature and role of perception, and the treatment of non-being. We will discuss the treatment of these topics in Plato’s Phaedo, Republic, Cratylus, Theaetetus, Sophist and Parmenides.

Required Texts: Plato: Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper (Hackett: 1997). Plato 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology, edited by Gail Fine (Oxford: 1999).

170  Descartes. McCann. TuTh 9:30-11, 220 Wheeler.

Thebulk of the course will be taken up with a close study of Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy, with attention to related passages in the Objections and Replies, the Principles of Philosophy, and others of Descartes’s works. We will focus on the following issues: skepticism and its overcoming; rationalist epistemology and foundationalism; the nature of mental representation (i.e. the theory of ideas); the real distinction between mind and body; the foundations of mathematical/mechanistic science; and the existence and providence of God. There will be a brief survey at the beginning of the course of the relevant background to the Meditations, with short selections from St. Thomas Aquinas and Francis Suarez (the Scholastic background) and from Galileo (the scientific background). The course will end with a brief consideration of the work of one of Descartes’s earliest and most important successors, Nicolas Malebranche, both to trace some of Descartes’s influence and to highlight the distinctiveness of his views.

Course readings:
(1) The Philosophical Writings of Descartes Vol. 1 tr. Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch Cambridge University Press, 1985 ISBN 052128807X pb. $30.00 (2) The Philosophical Writings of Descartes Vol. 2 tr. Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch Cambridge University Press, 1985 ISBN 0521288088 pb. $30.00
(3) Nicolas Malebranche: Philosophical Selections ed. Nadler Hackett Publishing Company, 1992 ISBN 087220152X pb $14.95 (4) Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo tr. And ed. Stillman Drake Anchor Books, 1957 ISBN 0385092393 pb $11.95 (5) Short selections from St. Thomas Aquinas’s Questions on the Soul, Francis Suarez’s On the Formal Cause of Substance, and Galileo’s Dialogue concerning the Two Chief World Systems and Dialogues on Two New Sciences, available in a course reader.

178  Kant. McCann. TuTh 2-3:30, 110 Wheeler.

We will focus on key arguments in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. The main issues covered will be the nature of space and time; the theory of mental representation (i.e. the distinction between intuitions and concepts); analytic and synthetic judgments; the derivation of the categories and the justification of their application to objects of sensible perception; transcendental arguments; transcendental idealism; the objectivity and necessity of causal determination; the refutation of skepticism; self-knowledge and personal identity; the criticism of Leibnizean rationalism.

Course reading: Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason tr. Guyer and Wood Cambridge Unversity Press Cambridge University Press ISBN 0521657296 pb $28.00

Graduate seminars

200  First Year Seminar. Stroud/Campbell. W 4-6, 234 Moses.

(*open only to 1st year philosophy graduate students)

290-1  Contractualism. Scheffler. W 2-4, 234 Moses.

This seminar will be organized around a close examination of the contractualist position developed by T.M. Scanlon in What We Owe to Each Other. We will consider the relation between Scanlon’s contractualism and Rawls’s use of contractarian ideas, and we will discuss a number of critical responses to Scanlon.

290-2  Experience and the World. Noë. Tu 2-4, 234 Moses.

The topic of this seminar is the argument from illusion, direct realism, and the nature of perceptual consciousness. Among the questions we shall ask are: Is perception a mode of direct awareness of a mind-independent reality? What are the objects of perception? What is given to perceptual consciousness? The reading list will comprise recent work by A.D. Smith, John Campbell, Brian O’Shaughnessy, as well as by others, including the instructor.

290-5  Division II of Heideggar’s Being and Time. Dreyfus. M 2-4, 116 Haviland.

We will read all of Division II of Being and Time, but we will move rapidly through the existentialist elements (Chapters I, II, and III) and concentrate on Heidegger’s account of temporality (Chapters IV, V, and VI). Seminar presentations and papers will be exclusively on temporality. Prerequisite: Having received an A or A minus in Philosophy 185. Required text: M. Heidegger, Being and Time, Macquarrie trans, Harper and Row Related reading: (on reserve in Howison Library)

290-6  Conditionals. Fitelson. Tu 4-6, 234 Moses.

This seminar will focus on the nature of conditionals (if-then statements). We will try to get to the bottom of several contemporary debates about conditionals. These debates will involve semantical, metaphysical, epistemological, logical, and pragmatic aspects of conditionals of various kinds (including indicative and subjunctive conditionals). The course will be pretty self-contained, and it will not presuppose too much technical or philosophical background. Our main goal will be to complete a careful reading of (most of) Jonathan Bennett’s recent book “A Philosophical Guide to Conditionals” (an excellent survey of the contemporary literature on conditionals). We will also read some of the primary sources that Bennett discusses (these additional readings will all be made available on the seminar webpage).