The Dennes Room

Spring 2012

Undergraduate courses

R1B  Reading & Composition through Philosophy. Engen. MWF 12-1, 121 Latimer.

R1B  Reading & Composition through Philosophy. Engen. MWF 2-3, 104 GPB.

R1B  Reading & Composition through Philosophy. Engen. MWF 3-4, 225 Wheeler.

3  Nature of Mind. Lee. MWF 11-12, 159 Mulford.

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?

4  Knowledge & its Limits. Roush. TuTh 11-12:30, 155 Donner.

In this course we think about knowledge: How do we know we’re not in a Matrix? Is our knowledge built on a foundation or are we floating on a raft, or does our knowledge have the structure of a teepee? What are the requirements for knowledge? How much do we need to trust others in order to know? Can we trust ourselves? Can conspiracy theories ever be justified? Do animals have knowledge?

7  Existentialism in Literature & Film. Dreyfus. TuTh 3:30-5, 159 Mulford.

In the traditional Judeo/Christian understanding, God is the ground of all meaning. At the end of the Medieval World, Descartes and Kant attempt to promote Man as an autonomous ground, taking the traditional place of God. The promotion of man undermines the authority of God, but as an autonomous ground Man turns out to be existentially insufficient. The dual failure of God and Man as ground, leaves us with the threat of nihilism. The course asks: Can we preserve the existential insight common to both traditions that life needs some kind of ground, without finding such a ground in a Supreme Being or in autonomous Man?

The answer depends upon whether one can uncover an authority other than us that, although not a Supreme Being, nevertheless serves as a ground. The course will be devoted to a series of philosophical-religious thinkers who describe just such a possibility. Pascal speaks of God as essentially hidden and makes a virtue of his hiddenness. Kierkegaard holds that after the God-man appears in the world we no longer have, nor do we need, access to God the Father. Nietzsche embraces as liberating the sheer absence of any ground. In opposition, Dostoyevsky attempts to show how one can live a meaningful life that preserves the authority of our Judeo-Christian practices without recourse to a monotheistic metaphysics.

Required Reading: Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov (Dover) Kierkegaard, Fear & Trembling (Penguin) Nietzsche, The Gay Science (Vintage) Twilight of the Idols (Penguin)

Recommended: Duras, M., Hiroshima Mon Amour (Grove Press) Dudley, A., (ed.), Breathless (Rutgers U. Press)

Requirements: 1)Three 5 page papers on subjects to be selected from a list of suggested paper topics, or on a topic approved by your instructor. (2) Up to 200 pages of reading per week (3) Attendance at weekly discussion sections

12A  Introduction to Logic. Warren. MWF 12-1, 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.

24  Freshman Seminar: Philosophy with Socrates. Corcilius. W 11-12, 214 Haviland.

In this seminar we will jointly read and discuss a series of ancient texts in which the Greek philosopher Socrates examines other people’s claims about pleasure, justice, piety, virtue, the good life, death, happiness, philosophy and many other important things. We will learn about the so-called Socratic Method, about its aims and structure and discuss the issues raised by Socrates for ourselves.  

Professor Klaus Corcilius’ interest is in ancient philosophy, theoretical and practical, and within ancient philosophy especially Aristotle. Currently, he is working on Aristotle’s scientific conception of the soul. Corcilius was an undergraduate at Hamburg University, Germany, and completed his doctoral studies at Humboldt Universität Berlin.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Ginsborg. MWF 11-12, 2040 Valley.

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

114  History of Political Philosophy. Kolodny. MWF 10-11, 155 Kroeber.

Please note: As taught this semester Phil 114 will satisfy the ethics requirement.

Political science seeks to describe, explain, and predict political phenomena. These questions must be settled empirically: by consulting history, observing differences between countries, conducting statistical studies, and so on. Political philosophy asks different questions, which it is less clear that we can settle empirically. Some of these questions are conceptual. What makes a particular form of human interaction political? Other questions are normative. What sort of government should we have? How should we, as individuals, relate to it?

This course will survey some major works of political philosophy of the 17th-19th centuries. More specifically, we will read several, but not all, of the following authors: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Bentham, Mill, Kant, Hegel, and Marx. The selection remains to be determined.

The course will be more interpretive than many philosophy classes. Although we may hope to learn something about the questions that interest us, we will be discussing, in the first instance, the questions that interested the authors. Furthermore, our interpretations will have a different focus from courses on the same texts in other departments. There will be greater emphasis on normative foundations than on institutional design, and greater emphasis on the internal logical structure of the arguments than on their author’s rhetoric or immediate political aims. For this reason, some experience with philosophical reasoning is essential.

125  Metaphysics. Lee. MWF 3-4, 180 Tan.

This course will be a survey of some ongoing debates in metaphysics. Questions we will consider will include: Why does the universe exist? Is time’s passage an illusion? Is space a container and the world its contents? What is it for an object to exist at more than one time? Do other possible worlds exist?

128  Philosophy of Science. Skokowski. TuTh 11-12:30, 103 GPB.

This course is an intermediate level introduction to problems in philosophy of science through readings of primary sources. We will examine several movements in recent philosophy of science ranging from logical positivism to realism and anti-realism about scientific theories and entities. We will also examine philosophical problems in specific sciences, including, for example, physics. A scientific or technical background is not required - just a philosophical curiosity about science.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Searle. TuTh 2-3:30, 2040 Valley.

135  Theory of Meaning. Campbell. MWF 2-3, 110 Barrows.

This course reviews 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 Putnam, and theorists such as Dretske and Fodor 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, however, with the classical views of Frege and Russell. Prerequisite: two previous courses in philosophy.

140B  Intermediate Logic. Mancosu. MWF 11-12, 110 Wheeler.

This course covers the most important metalogical results that are of interest to philosophers. It is divided into three parts. The first two parts are mathematical in style whereas the last part is philosophical. In the first part we will cover the basic notions of computability theory and study in detail the Turing machine approach to computability. The second part of the course will give a detailed presentation of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and related results. Finally, we will look at the philosophical relevance of these logical results to various areas of philosophy.

Prerequisite: 12A (or equivalent) or permission from the instructor.

Course requirements: exercise sets approximately every ten days (counting for 60% of final grade) and a philosophical paper due at the end of the semester (40% of final grade).

160  Plato. Corcilius. TuTh 11-12:30, 20 Barrows.

In this course we will examine the main currents within Plato’s philosophy. This will include his conceptions of philosophy, the good life, the soul, causes and explanation, the hypothesis of the Forms, his account of human knowledge and some of the later developments and revisions of these conceptions. The focus will lie on Plato’s Dialogues Euthyphro, Republic, Meno, Phaedo, Symposium, Phaedrus, Parmenides, Sophist and Philebus. The discussion will focus largely on Plato’s texts. Important secondary literature will be made available on bspace. No previous knowledge of Plato required. Required text: Plato. Complete Works. Ed. J. M. Cooper Indianapolis 1997. Hackett Publishing Company. ISBN 0–87220–349–2

173  Leibniz. Crockett. MWF 3-4, 262 Dwinelle.

This course will be a detailed examination of several central works of the 17th century philosopher G.W. Leibniz, with an emphasis on his metaphysical views.Topics will include Leibniz’s views on the relation between mind and body, the nature of space and time, the relation between our representations of the world and the world as it is in itself, the nature of substance and material reality, the relation between God and creation, the nature of inter- and intra-substantial causality, and the unity of organic entities.

Enrollment in the class is limited to 20 and is restricted to philosophy majors who have had PHIL 25B or an equivalent course.

183  Schopenhauer & Nietzsche. Kaiser. TuTh 2-3:30, 20 Wheeler.

Schopenhauer’s pessimism and Nietzsche’s forceful ‘affirmation of life’ seem to be worlds apart from each other. On closer analysis though, the two philosophies are interestingly related. In addition, many of Nietzsche’s central theses can be understood properly only against the background of Schopenhauer’s thought.

The course offers a systematic comparative study of both philosophers’ interpretations of life (or existence). Particular attention will be paid to the role of art and the function of aesthetic experience in their accounts of life. Other topics to be discussed include nihilism, the nature of the will and the drives (instincts), and the relation between the rational intellect and the bodily self.

Readings will include selections from Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation and central texts by Nietzsche from the different phases of his philosophy.

Enrollment by instructor’s approval only. Students who would like to enroll should write a brief email to the instructor (at kuk@berkeley.edu) detailing their background in philosophy and their interest in the course.

187  Topics in the History of Philosophy: Kant’s aesthetics. Ginsborg. W 2-5, 233 Dwinelle.

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 and some secondary readings; we may also read some contemporary aesthetic theory. Choice of readings will to some extent be determined by the interests of the students participating. The class will be conducted as a seminar, and participants will be expected to participate actively in discussion. Requirements will include several short writing assignments and a long final paper; participation in class discussion will be taken into account in determining the final grade.

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 ginsborg@berkeley.edu with a brief 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 and the corresponding grades. Participants will be expected to have a substantial background in philosophy. Preference will be given to philosophy majors, and, within that group, to seniors. The deadline is Friday Dec 9. If your application is accepted, you will receive a course enrollment code by email before the end of December.

189  Topics in Recent European Philosophy: Foucault. Sluga. TuTh 12:30-2, 60 Evans.

The course will focus exclusively on the work of Michel Foucault. Foucault himself has repeatedly described his thinking as passing from a concern with knowledge to one with power and finally to one with the subject. The course will examine the evolution of Foucault’s thinking through these three phases.

Graduate seminars

290-1  Graduate Seminar: Aristotle’s Psychology. Corcilius. M 2-4, 234 Moses.

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Promises and Promissory Obligation. Kolodny/Wallace. M 12-2, 234 Moses.

Promises are ubiquitous phenomena that greatly facilitate human social life, but they are also philosophically elusive. Promising can be understood as a device for generating new obligations where there were none before, a device whose operations help us to coordinate our activities and to make effective plans for the future. But how exactly do promises function? Do promissory obligations result from our participation in beneficial social practices, or do they derive instead from the effects of the promise on the attitudes of the promisee? Can promises be binding even if nobody expects you to fulfill them? Promises seem to involve obligations that are directional, insofar as they are owed specifically to the promisee; but is this an idea that we can make good sense of? How do promises function in the law (what is the relation between promises and contracts?), and in the context of intimate personal relationships? What human interests ultimately ground the kind of “normative powers” that promising confers on agents?

The seminar will involve close study of some of the most important contributions to the extensive contemporary literature on promising. Philosophers whose works will be discussed include Raz, Scanlon, Thomson, Shiffrin, and Owens (among others).

290-3  Graduate Seminar: Probability in Epistemology. Roush. Th 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, empiricism, introspective access, self-knowledge, belief in logical truth, and closure of knowledge under known implication. under a probabilistic description. We consider the consequences of the globality of the P function and of extreme probabilities. We discuss artifacts of representation and how to think about idealization in philosophy. Idealizations are false models, so how can one be better than another, or any of them illuminating?

290-4  Graduate Seminar: The Intentionality of Perceptual Experience. Searle. Th 11-1, 234 Moses.

I think many, indeed most, of the philosophic confusions about perception come from a failure to understand the intentionality of perceptual experience. Many philosophers deny that perception has intentionality, and even those who accept it tend to give a false account of the intentionality. A correct account will not only enable us to give an adequate account of perceptual experiences but to refute the standard mistakes in the field, such as phenomenalism, the representative theory, disjunctivism, etc. This subject obviously opens up into a whole lot of related subjects in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind, and I intend to pursue several of those.

290-5  Graduate Seminar: The Philosophy of History. Sluga. W 2-4, 234 Moses.

Issues in the philosophy of history from Kant, Hegel, and Marx to Foucault.

290-6  Graduate Seminar: Judgement, Competence, and ‘Practical Knowledge’. Stroud. W 4-6, 234 Moses.

A beginning exploration of some interrelated questions concerning the conditions of propositional thought: understanding, a capacity for judgement and for believing and doing things for reasons, and how knowledge of what is so and one’s knowledge of oneself are or are not involved in the competent exercise of such capacities.

290-7  Graduate Seminar: Kant’s Transcendental Deduction. Warren. F 2-4, 234 Moses.

We will discuss some of the central themes of Kant’s metaphysics and epistemology by closely examining the argument of the “Transcendental Deduction of the Categories” and related texts in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Prolegomena, as well as some of the relevant secondary literature. The topics in Kant that I plan to cover include consciousness and apperception, the unity of the self, the character of conceptual representation, the notions of a category, of judgment, and of the form of a judgment, and the concept of an object.

295  Dissertation Seminar. Ginsborg. TBA, TBA.