The Dennes Room

Fall 2009

Undergraduate courses

3  Nature of Mind. Lee. MWF 9-10, 145 Dwinelle.

This course will be an introduction to some of the major debates in Philosophy of Mind. Is consciousness a purely physical phenomenon? Is the brain a computer and the mind its software? Are our common-sense ideas about how to explain people’s behavior compatible with contemporary scientific views about the structure of the brain? How can the mind represent the external world?

7  Existentialism in Literature&Film. Dreyfus. TuTh 3:30-5, 145 Dwinelle.

The course will be organized around various attempts to reinterpret the Judeo/Christian God, and to determine in what sense, if at all, such a God is still a living God. We will study Dostoyevsky?s and Kierkegaard’s attempts to preserve a non-theological version of the God of Christianity, as well as Nietzsche?s attempt to save us from belief in any version of God offered by our tradition. We will view and discuss three films that deal with related issues

12A  Introduction to Logic. Mancosu. MWF 9-10, 105 Northgate.

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.)

24  Freshman Seminar: The Ethics of Food: Philosophical Perspectives on “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. Wallace. W 12-1, 234 Moses Hall.

We will discuss “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, and also look at some philosophical literature that touches on the issues he raises in the book. Questions to be discussed include our responsibilities as consumers of food, the moral standing of animals, and the relation between individual and collective (political) agency. This seminar is part of the On the Same Page initiative:

24-2  Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”. Warren. W 4-5:30, 111 Kroeber Hall.

We will read and discuss this important work by the British philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), which critically considers some of the most common arguments for the existence of God. Enrollment is by instructor approval only. Students will need to email the instructor at to request permission to enroll in this seminar.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. MacFarlane. MWF 10-11, 10 Evans.

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.

100  Philosophical Methods. Yalcin. Th 2-4, 110 Barrows.

This course is restricted to philosophy majors. Its focus is on developing strength in philosophical writing. Students will meet regularly in tutorials with a teaching assistant in order to discuss the reading and improve their written work. This term we will be examining a number of philosophical texts on the nature of reason and rationality, beginning with some recent work on relativism and constructivism.

Note: Enrollment priority may be given to senior philosophy majors.

104  Ethical Theories. Wallace. MWF 11-12, 101 Barker.

This course offers a survey of some of the main systematic approaches to issues in moral philosophy. We will look at several exemplary texts from the modern history of the subject (by Hobbes, Hume, Sidgwick, and Kant), as well as some influential work by contemporary philosophers (including Korsgaard, Nagel, Scanlon, and Williams). Issues to be discussed include the following: What is it that distinguishes morality from other sets of requirements (e.g. those of etiquette or law or self-interest)? Why should we care about complying with moral demands? What is the relation between the right and the good (both the good of the agent, and the impersonal good)?

115  Political Philosophy. Munoz-Dardé. MWF 12-1, 100 Wheeler.

122  Theory of Knowledge. Stroud. TuTh 11-12:30, 213 Wheeler.

An upper-division course on the philosophical theory of knowledge. Not a general, encyclopedic survey of the field, but an investigation and detailed discussion some of the central problems in the subject. Knowledge of many different kinds is obviously fundamental to scientific, cultural, social, and personal life. What is it about human perception, belief, and knowledge that makes it so difficult to find a philosophically satisfying general explanation of how human knowledge is possible? And how are those obstacles to be overcome?

We will spend about equal time on each of the three problems:

How do we come to believe and know things that we do not perceive to be so at the moment (e.g., the future)?

What exactly do we perceive, and how does it give us knowledge of the world around us at the moment?

How does one person come to believe and know anything about what another person thinks and feels?

Lectures and discussion sections will pursue these questions through close reading of assigned material in: Philosophy 122 Reader (available at Copy Central) Barry Stroud, The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism

There will be two lecture-discussion classes and a mandatory discussion section each week.

In addition to discussion-section requirements as assigned by the Graduate Student Instructors, students will be expected to write three five-page papers throughout the semester, one on each of the three questions. Possible paper topics will be suggested in each case.

125  Metaphysics. Yalcin. MWF 2-3, 213 Wheeler.

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

133  Philosophy of Language. Searle. TuTh 9:30-11, 50 Birge.

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.

There are two parts to the course. In the first part, I will explain how I think language ought to be studied philosophically. The philosophy of language is a branch of the philosophy of mind. In the second part of the course, I will teach mainstream philosophy of language, and attempt both to explain and criticize it.

135  Theory of Meaning. Campbell. MWF 3-4, 126 Barrows Hall.

136  Philosophy of Perception. Martin. MWF 1-2, 220 Wheeler Hall.

138  Philosophy of Society. Searle. TuTh 2-3:30, 126 Barrows Hall.

How does human society differ from that of other social animals? How is it possible that there can be an objective reality of such things as money, property, government, marriage, and universities, even though such things exist only because we believe they exist? What is the role of language in constituting human reality, and what is language anyhow? These and other related questions will be discussed in this course. The course deals with the foundations of the social sciences and the differences between social science explanations and natural science explanations. We will cover a large number of topics such as these: Why is the nation state such a powerful form of social organization? Why did socialism fail? Are there human rights, and if so what are they and where do they come from?

178  Kant. Warren. TuTh 2-3:30, 123 Wheeler.

185  Heidegger. Frede/Kaiser. TuTh 11-12:30, 110 Wheeler Hall.

Since its publication in 1927 Heidegger’s major work Being and Time has been many things to its various recipients. Though the work has made major contributions to existential thought, hermeneutics, and post-structuralism its main concern is a revolution of what Heidegger regarded as the central term of philosophy since antiquity: the concept of being. Because he viewed the traditional understanding of this concept as superficial and misguided, his plan was to work out a new fundamental ontology. Its design was (I) to reveal the true meaning of being on the basis of temporality as its transcendental horizon and (II) to point out the crucial missteps in the tradition (Aristotle, Descartes and Kant) that led to the misconception. Heidegger never finished this ambitious project, but the work’s first part with its extensive analysis of human understanding as the basis of the conception of being was sufficient to make this work a major challenge to friend and foe alike. The course will focus on the connection between the question of being, the analysis of human nature, and the phenomenological method that Heidegger presents as the necessary foundations of his project in Division I of Being and Time.
We will largely confine ourselves to the study of the difficult text itself (we will use the 1962 translation by John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson, available as a paperback reprint of 2008 in the Harper Perennial Modern Thought series) but a reader with some additional material and secondary literature will also be prepared. Participants are required to give one class presentation and to submit a research-paper of 15 pages at the end of the semester.

The course will be taught in a seminar format. Enrollment is limited to 25 and is by application only. Although the seminar is open to graduate students preference will be given to junior and senior philosophy majors. To apply to enroll students should write to the instructors ( and by May 24th and very briefly describe their background in philosophy and their interest in the course. Those accepted will be notified and given a course enrollment code via email by the end of June.

187  Special Topics in the History of Philosophy: Kant’s Aesthetics. Ginsborg. Tu 2-5, 2519 Tolman.

We will discuss Kant’s aesthetic theory, focussing primarily on his theory of the beautiful. We will be concerned both with the theory in its own right, and with its broader philosophical implications. Readings will be drawn mostly from the Critique of Judgment, with some background material (e.g. Hume) and some secondary readings. The class will be conducted as a seminar, and participants will be required to participate actively in discussion. Requirements will include several short writing assignments and a longer final paper.

Enrollment in the class is limited to 15 and is by application only. To apply to enroll, you should send an email (with “Philosophy 187 application” in the subject line) to the instructor at with a description of your reasons for wishing to take the course and a description of your background in philosophy, including, but not necessarily limited to, a list of philosophy courses already taken. Participants will be expected to have a strong background in philosophy, preferably including a course on Kant (although this is not essential). Preference will be given to philosophy majors. The deadline is Friday May 24. If you are accepted you will receive a course enrollment code by email soon thereafter.

Graduate seminars

200  First-Year Graduate Seminar. Kolodny/MacFarlane. M 12-2, 234 Moses Hall.

290-1  Graduate Seminar: Conceptual Representation. Ginsborg/Lombrozo. Th 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

This seminar, co-taught with Tania Lombrozo (Psychology), will explore theoretical and empirical issues in the study of conceptual representation. In particular, we will consider contemporary work from philosophy and psychology, addressing issues such as: How are conceptual representations structured? How do they refer to the world? And how are they acquired? The seminar will be co-taught by a philosopher and a psychologist (and cross-listed in both departments), so the approach will be interdisciplinary and students are encouraged to have an interest and some background in both psychology and philosophy. Requirements will include active participation in class discussions as well as a final paper.

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Attention, Consciousness and Mental Causation. Campbell. Tu 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

We will start out by looking at joint attention and its role in linguistic communication. Then we’ll move on to the phenomenon of attention itself and its relation to consciousness. Finally, we’ll explicitly consider what kind of causal analysis to give of perceptual experience, given the roles that attention and consciousness play in perception.

290-3  Proof Theory. Mancosu. M 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

The seminar will cover in detail some basic results in proof theory. We will use the original articles by Gerhard Gentzen (1909-1945), who founded both structural proof theory and ordinal proof theory. This is timely as this year many conferences have been organized to celebrate the centenary of Gentzen’s birth. In structural proof theory we will cover, among other things, the natural deduction calculus, the sequent calculus, cut-elimination and mid-sequent theorem for the sequent calculus, and various applications of such results. In ordinal proof theory we will study, among other things, Gentzen’s consistency proof for first-order Peano Arithmetic using ordinal induction up to epsilon-zero. In addition, we will also read some other logical and philosophical articles by Gentzen and some secondary literature, where appropriate. The seminar will be of interest to philosophers, logicians, computer scientists, linguists and mathematicians. Through this material, philosophy students will acquire the tools required for tackling further debates in philosophy of mathematics (prospects for Hilbert’s program and its relativized versions etc.) and philosophy of logic and language (meaning of the logical constants; proof-theoretic semantics; realism/anti-realism, Dummett’s program (normalization, harmony etc.)). Graduate students in philosophy may use this course, with previous agreement by the head graduate adviser and myself, for satisfying the formal philosophy course requirement (i.e. a course in the 140 series or equivalent).

The minimal requirement for taking the seminar is Philosophy 12A (Introduction to Logic), although a certain amount of logical/mathematical maturity (but no specific knowledge of advanced mathematics) will be necessary for mastering the material.

290-4  Graduate Seminar: Content & Consciousness. Martin. W 4-6, 234 Moses Hall.

What is the connection between consciousness, and more specifically sensory consciousness and the idea of mental content? “Content of consciousness” is a phrase often used in a manner which contrasts with “propositional/representational/mental content”. But some people have argued that it is obvious that states of mind which exemplify sensory consciousness have content in the second sense, and that one cannot suppose that there is any content of consciousness in the first sense without accepting that sensory states have such content in the second sense. In these seminars I want to start out by looking at some recent arguments for the centrality of propositional content in sense experience. But the aim is not to settle the question whether perceptual experiences have (propositional) content but to try and formulate the best terms in which anything might turn on this. In this context I want to look first at some slightly older discussions of representation and sense-data and then move back to the beginning of the twentieth century to look at some of Moore’s writings on sensory awareness, sense-data and our knowledge of the external world.


Students taking this course for credit will write a term paper due no later than one week after the last day of class.

290-5  Graduate Seminar: Contractualism and its Critics. Munoz-Dardé. Tu 4-6, 234 Moses Hall.

This seminar will be organized around contractualist approaches in contemporary political philosophy. The seminar will pursue three key themes. First, authority: Is the principal concern of political theory the authority of the state and the source of our obligations to obey state institutions and its agents? If not, what should our principal concerns in political philosophy be? Second, the weight of numbers: Aren’t aggregative concerns intuitively compelling in certain social policy contexts? Does that show that we must move beyond a pure individualistic perspective to one in which consequential outcomes are part of the measure of justice? Third, equality: Is equality or fairness a political value in itself? In what sense can a position claim to be egalitarian or guided by equality if it denies that equality has a special value?

In pursuing these questions we will consider writings by T. M. Scanlon, John Rawls, Joseph Raz and G. A. Cohen, as well as some historical texts. I will also distribute parts of the manuscript of a book I am working on.

290-6  Graduate Seminar: Art and Human Nature. Noë. W 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

The topic of this seminar is art and human nature. What is art? Why do we value art as we do? What does art reveal about our nature? Drawing on philosophy, art history, and cognitive science, we will explore these questions. We will also look at recent efforts to frame problems about art in terms of neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Not only the pictorial but also the performing arts will concern us. This seminar is open to graduate students of philosophy. All other students require the permission of the instructor to attend.

295  Dissertation Seminar. Kolodny. TBA, TBA.

302  Teaching Seminar. Noë. TBA, TBA.