Spring 2009

Undergraduate courses

3  The Nature of Mind. Campbell. TuTh 2-3:30, 390 Hearst.

In this introductory course we will be looking at the relation of psychological states, such as desires or memories, to the physical world. There are five sections in the course: Foundations (Dualism, Behaviorism and Central-State Materialism), Functionalism, Consciousness, Intentionality, and Personal Identity. 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? Can a mental state be explained by its potential for causal relations with other mental states and with behavior? 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? How can we explain our ability to think about the world? What is a person? These questions will be explored in the course of beginning to understand the nature of the mind.

11  Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Buchak. TuTh 9:30-11, 4 LeConte.

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. Warren. MWF 1-2, 2060 Valley.

This course is intended to introduce the student to the concepts and principles of deductive logic: symbolizing English language sentences and arguments in terms of formalized languages; validity, implication, and equivalence in truth-functional and quantificational logic; systems of deduction, and their soundness and completeness. In addition to the three lectures, each student will attend two sections per week.

Requirements: Lecture and section attendance, weekly problem sets, several in-section quizzes, a midterm and a final.

Text: Warren Goldfarb’s /Deductive Logic/ , Hackett, 2003.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Ginsborg. MWF 11-12, 10 Evans.

The course will cover some of the main metaphysical and epistemological views of five important early modern philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. We will be concerned with their views on the existence of God, on the nature of the human mind and its relation to the body, on the possibility of knowledge about the external world, on the nature of bodies, on causation and induction, and on other related topics. We will try to understand these views in the context of the scientific developments of the time, in particular that of the “new science” which supplanted the Aristotelian view of nature in the seventeenth century. But we will also be concerned with whether or not these views are plausible in their own right. The course will require close reading of the texts, and careful analysis and evaluation of the philosophical arguments presented in them.

100  Philosophical Methods. Noë. F 2-4, 166 Barrows.

108  Contemporary Ethical Issues. Glasgow. MWF 12-1, 20 Barrows Hall.

This course will investigate the ethical dimensions of several issues in social policy and individual conduct. The questions we ask will likely include the following. Is abortion ever morally permissible? Can patriotism be morally justified? What is racism, and what makes it wrong? Does thinking in terms of race even make sense? Should we get rid of racial thought and discourse?

110  Aesthetics. Noë. MWF 11-12, 213 Wheeler.

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. TuTh 12:30-2, 160 Kroeber.

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. Stroud. TuTh 11-12:30, 50 Birge.

A wide-ranging lecture-and-discussion course on the nature and prospects of metaphysics as the investigation of the necessary conditions of the possibility of thought and experience. Can some such conditions be discovered, and can metaphysical conclusions about reality be drawn from them? Particular topics to be explored in this way include: the problem of metaphysics; the project of Kantian or “transcendental” metaphysics; the independent reality of the colors of objects; the independent reality of causation; agency and the independent reality of values; the prospects of metaphysical satisfaction. Familiarity with the history of modern philosophy, especially the philosophy of Hume and of Kant, is strongly recommended. Required course work includes extensive reading of sometimes difficult abstract material and careful, accurate writing of focussed critical papers.

Not for beginners in philosophy.

Reading: Philosophy 125 Reader (available at Copy Central) B. Stroud, The Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour (Oxford University Press)

Course requirements: Required reading Participation in one 1-hour discussion section each week Three 5-page papers written at regular intervals during the semester on specific suggested topics One final 10-page paper

Course grades will be determined by the instructors on the basis of all information available at the end of the semester about the student’s performance in the course.

128  Philosophy of Science. Roush. TuTh 2-3:30, 210 Wheeler.

This is a course in general philosophy of science. We study five topics of central importance where formal probabilistic approaches have brought progress. We ask: What makes something a scientific explanation?, What is required for observations to confirm (support) a hypothesis?, Is simplicity a guide to truth?, What is special about predicting novel data as opposed to accommodation of old data?, and Does the success of science give us reason to believe its theories are true? Topics covered include the problem of induction, some paradoxes of confirmation, and the advantages and disadvantages of Bayesianism. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy.

141  Philosophy & Game Theory. Buchak. TuTh 2-3:30, 174 Barrows.

This course deals with applications of game theory and rational choice theory to philosophical problems, as well as with paradoxes and problems introduced by these theories. After introducing the basic concepts of game theory, the first part of the course will be devoted to problems of cooperation and convention: how people manage to coordinate their actions for mutual benefit, e.g. drive on the same side of the road, carry out a project together, or use language. The next section will explore non-cooperative games, such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma; the possible application of these games to moral problems; and the need for and execution of a social contract. Finally, we turn to problems dealing with groups, such as the problem of collective action, and some issues in group decision making.

160  Plato. Frede. TuTh 12:30-2, 210 Wheeler.

This course will study the development of Plato’s theory of Forms from its first traces in some earlier dialogues to its explanation his middle years and possible revisions in his work. The examination will also include questions of the development in Plato’s theory of knowledge and the methods he uses in the discussion of the theory of 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.

Required: Plato. Complete Works. Ed. J. M. Cooper Indianapolis 1997. Hackett Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87220-349-2

Recommended: The Cambridge Companion to Plato. Ed. R. Kraut. Cambridge 1992. Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-43018-6

Plato 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology. Ed. G. Fine. Oxford 1999. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-875206-7

White, Nicholas P. Plato on Knowledge and Reality. Indianapolis 1976. Hackett Publishing Company ISBN 0-915144-22-0

170  Descartes. Alanen. MWF 2-3, 210 Wheeler.

In this course we will make a close study of Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy, aiming to understand his new conception of the nature of the human mind and its relation to the world. We will consider his use of skepticism and the arguments for overcoming it. We will study his account of ideas and their objects that formed the starting point for subsequent theories of mind and knowledge. Special attention will be given, on the one hand, to his argument that the nature of mind is wholly distinct from that of body, and, on the other, to his account of the human being as a real union of an autonomous thinking self and an extended mechanistically moving body. We will reflect on the tensions in Descartes’s dualism and various ways of addressing them. We will also look at the context of the Meditations, reading excerpts from other texts, e.g.,The Objections and Replies, The Principles of Philosophy, The Passions of the Soul, and selections in a Course Reader.

Required: The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Vols. 1-2. Transl. by J. Cottingham. R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch, Cambridge University Press.

Recommended: The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Vol 3: The Correspondence. Transl. by J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch and A. Kenny. Cambridge University Press.

A Companion to Descartes. Ed. Janet Broughton and John Carriero. Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

Graduate seminars

290-1  Graduate Seminar: Causation in Psychology. Campbell. W 4-6, 234 Moses Hall.

There will be three components to the seminar: (1) The nature of causation and the idea of a ‘level’ of explanation. Here we will look in particular at the interventionist model of causation advocated by, among others, Woodward and Hitchcock. (2) Causation as it applies to mental states. In particular, we will consider the analysis of perception, and whether it makes a difference to the causal role of perception that perceptual states are often conscious. This will mean looking at various models of the content of conscious perception. (3) The role of rationality in an analysis of mental causation. Here we will look at mental causation in psychiatry, and whether there is a place for an assumption of rationality in cases of, for example, delusion. We will also look at the view of thinking as a motor process.

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Plato’s Phaedo. Ebrey. M 4-6, 233 Dwinelle.

In this course, we will work our way through Plato’s Phaedo, covering most topics in it and trying to get an overall understanding of the dialogue. Although only around 60 pages long, the Phaedo covers an incredibly wide range of topics. If Plato’s Meno looks like his first transition from ethical topics to epistemological ones, the Phaedo looks like his first transition from ethical topics to metaphysical ones: the nature of opposites, change, the forms, the sensible world, souls, and causation. The dialogue is framed by ethical questions which are sometimes given short-shrift in the secondary literature, but which I want us to discuss: should we fear death? Is it acceptable to commit suicide? Are our body and soul somehow at odds with one another? These ethical questions are connected to the metaphysical and epistemological issues through the main topic of the dialogue: four arguments for the immortality of the soul. In addition to the topics already mentioned, Plato develops the idea that all learning is recollection, which he had introduced in the Meno, and he provides a long myth at the end of the dialogue, which provides an overall cosmological picture of the universe.

In addition to reading the Phaedo very closely, we will be reading secondary literature, parts of other relevant dialogues, and other ancient philosophers (particularly Anaxagoras, who seems to have a very strong influence on the Phaedo).

If you have not read any Plato before this class, I strongly suggest reading the Euthyphro (one of Plato’s earlier, Socratic works) before the course begins. I also strongly encourage you to read through the entire Phaedo once before the course begins.

290-3  Graduate Seminar: Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Fitelson. W 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

290-4  Graduate Seminar: Assessment Sensitivity. MacFarlane. Tu 6-8, 234 Moses Hall.

In this seminar we will investigate how we might make sense of the idea that truth is relative, and how we might use this idea to give satisfying accounts of parts of our thought and talk that have resisted traditional methods of analysis. Although there is a substantial philosophical literature on relativism about truth, this literature (both pro and con) has tended to focus on refutations of the doctrine, or refutations of these refutations, at the expense of saying clearly what the doctrine is. The approach here will be to try to give a clear account of the view, and then to use the view to solve some problems that have concerned philosophers and semanticists. The main aim is to put relativist solutions to these problems on the table, so that they may be compared with non-relativist solutions and accepted or rejected on their merits.

The main text of the seminar will be a book manuscript I am working on, entitled Assessment Sensitivity: Relative Truth and Its Applications. We will tentatively aim to get through about one chapter each week, with the aim of covering much, though not all, of the book. (Some chapters still need to be written!) Each week there will also be quite a bit of supplemental reading by other philosophers.

The book falls into three main parts, and so will the seminar. In the first part, we will consider how a relativist view might be motivated, by reviewing the difficulties faced by various non-relativist views about the meanings of words like “tasty.” We will also survey some of the standard objections to relativism about truth, with a view to clarifying a relativist’s philosophical obligations. In the second part, we will attempt to give a clear statement of the truth relativist position and try to make some philosophical sense of it. In the third part, we will consider how the machinery developed in the second part can be applied to some real problems in semantics and philosophy (involving future contingents, knowledge attributions, epistemic and deontic modals, and indicative conditionals). If time permits, we may also consider how the view I am developing compares with other views in the vicinity.

This seminar is intended primarily for Berkeley graduate students in philosophy and in logic and the methodology of science. Others should seek my permission before enrolling in the course. A background in philosophy of language, with some exposure to truth-conditional semantics, will be helpful, though I will try to make the seminar as accessible as possible to those who need to catch up in this area.

290-5  Graduate Seminar: Consciousness, Language and Social Ontology. Searle. Tu 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

This seminar will cover a variety of topics under the general headings in its title. I want to begin by looking at the problem of disjunctivism and we will start with Tyler Burge’s article on the subject. When we finish with disjunctivism, I want to reexamine the issue of collective intentionality in light of some recent criticisms of my views on the subject. These discussion will then lead in one of or both of two directions: one about perception and one about language. Right now I do not have in focus what exactly I want to cover, but these are the general directions in which I am moving.

290-6  Graduate Seminar: Perceptual Knowledge. Stroud. Tu 4-6, 234 Moses Hall.

An investigation not of perception or of knowledge in general but of the nature and “proper objects” of perception understood as a source of knowledge. The main idea to be explored is that our knowing things about the world around us by perception can be satisfactorily explained only if we can be understood to sometimes perceive that such-and-such is so, where what we perceive to be so is the very state of the world that we thereby know to be so. Central to the possibility of perceptual knowledge understood in this way is the distinction between perceiving an object x and perceiving that p. The goal of the seminar is a better understanding of the conditions of this ‘propositional’ perception and its implications for a satisfactory explanation of perceptual knowledge of the world.

Readings will be drawn from recent works of Brewer, Burge, Campbell, Cassam, Dretske, McDowell, and others. I do not now have a fixed syllabus in mind. I envisage broad-ranging, open-ended discussions of these issues and of whatever related lines of thought are of most interest to the participants. Those in attendance will be expected to participate. If you have in mind specific readings you would like the seminar to discuss, or if you would like to present something of your own within this range of questions, please let me know.

290-7  Graduate Seminar: Valuing (Future) Persons. Wallace. M 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

It is a common thought that persons are profoundly valuable, and that their inherent value is an important desideratum for morality (perhaps the important desideratum). But what exactly is it to ascribe value to persons? How, more specifically, should the acknowledgement of the value of a person constrain or shape our deliberations about actions that might affect the person’s life in some way? This seminar will examine some recent work in moral philosophy that centers on these issues, paying attention in particular to questions about our attitudes toward persons who do not (yet) exist. Readings will include texts by Derek Parfit, T. M. Scanlon, Seana Shiffrin, David Velleman, and others.

290-8  Graduate Seminar: Representations, Consciousness, and Self-consciousness in Some Early Modern Philosophers. Warren. F 3-5, 234 Moses Hall.

We will look at the views of a number of philosophers, especially Kant, on the question of what consciousness or self-consciousness adds to representations. Other philosophers we will examine are Descartes, Arnauld, Malebranche, Locke, and Leibniz. We will focus on the clarity and distinctness of a representation, and we will consider how they relate to conceptualization and judgment, and to self-consciousness. This will put us in a position to better understand Kant’s idea that the unity of consciousness makes possible the unity of a complex representation.

295  Dissertation Seminar. Roush. W 12-2, 2523 Tolman Hall.