Spring 2020

Undergraduate courses

R1B  Reading and Composition Through Philosophy: Mind and Cognition. Winning. TuTh 3:30-5, Barrows 50.

The goal of this course is to teach students how to read and understand complex philosophical texts, how to articulate that understanding in writing, and how to analyze and critically assess philosophical arguments. Students will be expected to devote significant time and effort to writing. The topic will be mind and cognition. This course satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement.

2  Individual Morality and Social Justice. Wallace. MWF 10-11, Stanley 105.

An introduction to central issues in moral and political philosophy. The course will focus on some basic questions about our conduct as individuals and our relation to the broader social world we inhabit, including the following: Are there objective norms or values? What is the relation of moral standards to religion and human evolution? What are some specific moral requirements (relating to killing, sex, and helping people in need)? What is involved in leading a meaningful human life? Are friendship and partiality fundamentally at odds with morality? What makes a society just, and worthy of our allegiance? Under what conditions might we owe reparations to those whose ancestors suffered grave injustices in our political community? What is political pluralism, and what are its implications for a culture of toleration? When and why should we tolerate the expression of views that we find abhorrent?

Texts will be taken from contemporary sources, and will be made available on the bCourses site for the class.

3  The Nature of Mind. Campbell. MWF 9-10, Stanley 105.

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.

5  Science and Human Understanding. Dasgupta. MWF 11-12, LeConte 2.

This course will survey a range of philosophical topics relating to modern science. Topic 1: Science and Religion. Is there a scientific explanation of our existence? Does the “Fine Tuning” of the laws of physics imply that the universe was designed by a creator to support life? Topic 2: Science and Society. What is the role of science in a democracy? What obligations do scientists have to citizens, and citizens to scientists? Topic 3: The Philosophy of Computer Science. Elon Musk recently said that we probably live in a computer simulation—is he right? What is the “singularity” and how should we prepare for it? What is the ethical status of an artificial intelligence? Topic 4: The Metaphysics of Science. Does science discover a read-made world that exists “out there”, independently of us? When biologists sort organisms into species, are they carving the world “at its natural joints” or do their categories more reflect their own way of thinking? Topic 5: The Epistemology of Science. Scientists typically extrapolate from data, making predictions about the future that have not yet been observed. Is there any non-circular argument that their predictions will be reliable? If not, does this mean that science is ultimately based on faith? The course is designed for students across the university; no prior knowledge of philosophy or science is required.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Yalcin. MWF 1-2, Lewis 100.

Syntax, semantics, and proof theory of sentential and predicate logic.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Crockett. MWF 2-3, Li Ka Shing 245.

In this course we will study the philosophical views of the most important and influential thinkers in early modern philosophy (roughly, the 17th and 18th centuries). This period in western thought was nothing short of extraordinary in that it saw the overthrow of a philosophical and scientific worldview that had dominated the west for over one thousand years. Prior to the 17th century, philosophy had been a blend of church doctrine and classical philosophy, and its methodology had been quite narrowly defined. The unfortunate effect of both the church’s influence on scholarly endeavors and the strictly defined methodology was that philosophical and scientific creativity was largely stifled. By the 17th century, however, the medieval worldview was beginning to crumble due in large part to a variety of subversive scientific discoveries. Advances in physics, astronomy and chemistry undermined central assumptions of classical science, which resulted in the wholesale abandonment of medieval philosophy more generally. Thus the scientific revolution of the 17th century set off an explosion of inspiration and creativity in the world of philosophy. It forced thinkers to make a new start in answering fundamental questions about the world such as: What is the nature of mind? What are the limits of human knowledge? What is a person? What is the basic stuff in the world? These thinkers were the radicals of their day, and their views have shaped the way we practice contemporary philosophy. In fact, many of the philosophical questions we ask today could not have been formulated before these thinkers began to challenge philosophical orthodoxy. For that reason, studying the moderns is of central importance for understanding contemporary philosophy, and for understanding the nature of philosophical revolutions more generally.

98BC-1  Berkeley Connect. Dolan. M 5-6, Dwinelle 247.

98BC-2  Berkeley Connect. Dolan. M 6-7, Dwinelle 247.

100  Philosophical Methods. Crockett. W 4-6, Wheeler 102.

This course is intended to improve the student’s ability to read and write philosophy. Special emphasis will be placed on developing analytic skills.

This class is restricted to Philosophy majors.

104  Ethical Theories. Wallace. MWF 2-3, Wheeler 204.

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 influential work by important contemporary philosophers (including Foot, Korsgaard, Scheffler, Williams, and Wolf). 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)? Is there anything interesting that we can say, in general terms, about what makes actions morally right or wrong?

107  Moral Psychology. Shun. MWF 3-4, Barrows 56.

The course will examine a range of psychological phenomena related to the ethical and spiritual life of humans, drawing on both contemporary Western philosophical approaches and non-Western traditions (Confucianism, and to some extent Daoism and Buddhism). It will also draw on the writings of other literary or intellectual figures, some recent psychological literature, as well as alternative approaches to the prevalent mode of ethical reflection. Topics to be covered include: pride and humility; anger, resentment and forgiveness; compassion, empathy and sympathy; death, acceptance, and detachment; as well as other selected topics. The unifying theme underlying the exploration of these topics is the idea of ‘no self’, that is, the idea that ethical self-transformation involves a move away from various forms of undue focus on the self.

128  Philosophy of Science. Dasgupta. MWF 12-1, Wheeler 102.

This course will investigate how our concepts of space, time, and chance have been shaped by developments in modern science. Topics may include: (1) What does physics teach us about the structure of space? (2) Is there a scientific explanation of the flow of time? (3) Are physical chances objective or just measures of subjective ignorance? (4) How do high-level sciences like biology and economics relate to physics? Along the way, we’ll use these discussions as gateways into more general issues in the philosophy of science such as realism vs anti-realism, the nature of scientific laws, and the demarcation problem. By the end, we’ll have worked our way towards a certain picture of how the different sciences hang together as a unified whole.

As taught this semester, Phil 128, can satisfy group A of the Epistemology/Metaphysics requirement.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Lee. TuTh 11-12:30, Wheeler 204.

This course will focus on the philosophy and science of conscious experience. What is consciousness? Can it be explained scientifically, and if so, what would a mature science of it look like? Optimistic philosophers and scientists have proposed theories of consciousness, while pessimists argue that there are fundamental philosophical obstacles to achieving a fully satisfactory theory. We will consider a number of proposed theories, and assess some of the alleged obstacles, including the notorious “hard problem” of consciousness.

133  Philosophy of Language. Yalcin. TuTh 2-3:30, Wheeler 222.

An advanced introduction to the philosophy of language. We will consider questions like: What is distinctive of language as a system of representation and communication? In virtue of what can pieces of language be true or false? How do we model the way the meaning of a whole sentence depends on the meanings of its parts? What is information? How can we model its transfer in conversation? How does language-specific knowledge interact with general reasoning in communication and action? How do meaning and communication depend on context? What is it, in general, to know a language? What kind of limits, if any, does language place on our conception of reality?

This should not be your first or second course in philosophy. Phil 12A is strongly recommended.

149  Special Topics in Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics: Proof Theory. Mancosu. TuTh 9:30-11, Wheeler 204.

The course will cover in detail the basic results of structural and ordinal proof theory. Both branches of proof theory go back to the work of Gerhard Gentzen who, working in the tradition of Hilbert’s program, established the foundational results of the discipline in the 1930s. In structural proof theory, they include the formulation of natural deduction systems and sequent calculi and the major metatheorems about them (normalization and sub-formula property for natural deduction; cut elimination and sub-formula property for sequent calculi). In ordinal proof theory, Gentzen gave a constructive proof of the consistency of Peano Arithmetic by means of ordinal notations and a principle of induction for such notations (up to an ordinal called epsilon-zero). The lectures will be based on a forthcoming book on proof theory by Prof. Mancosu. The course will be of interest to philosophers, logicians, mathematicians, computer scientists, and linguists. 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, i.e., normalization, harmony etc.). Prerequisites: Phil 12A or equivalent.

161  Aristotle. MacFarlane. TuTh 12:30-2, Barrows 56.

A concentrated study of Aristotle’s theoretical philosophy: logic, theory of explanation, natural philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. Students will learn how to read Aristotle’s dense prose and form their own judgments about controversial matters of interpretation. Prerequisite: Two previous courses in philosophy, including Philosophy 25A or the equivalent.

173  Leibniz. Crockett. MWF 11-12, Barrows 56.

This course will be a detailed examination of the philosophical writings of the 17th century philosopher G.W. Leibniz, with an emphasis on his metaphysical views in relation to those of Descartes and (especially) Malebranche. Topics will include Leibniz’s theodicy, as well as his 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, the nature of ideas and intellectual cognition, and the unity of organic entities.

185  Heidegger. Kaiser. MW 6:30-8, Wheeler 204.

Since its publication in 1927, Heidegger’s major work Being and Time has been many things to its various recipients. Although the work became enormously important for the development of phenomenology, hermeneutics, existential thought, and post-structuralism, its main concern was a revolution in what Heidegger regarded as the central concept of philosophy since antiquity: that of being. Because he viewed the traditional understanding of this concept as superficial and misguided, his plan was (in part) to work out a new fundamental ontology. Its design was (I) to reveal the proper meaning of being on the basis of temporality as its transcendental horizon and (II) to point out the crucial steps in the philosophical tradition (Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant) that led to the deeply problematic contemporary conception of being. Heidegger never finished this ambitious project, but the work’s first part—with its extensive analysis of ‘Dasein’ and human understanding as the basis of the conception of being—was sufficient to make Being and Time an essential text for friend and foe alike.

The course will be devoted to a close study of this challenging, influential, and fascinating work. We 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 foundation of his project in Division I of Being and Time. We will also cover his analysis of death, conscience, resoluteness, and Dasein’s authentic potentiality for being ‘whole’, i.e. the first three chapters of Division II. In light of the recent publication of his ‘Black Notebooks’ and the renewed debate of his political views and engagement during the National Socialist years in Germany, special attention will be paid to potentially problematic concepts within his early philosophy.

Main text: Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie/Edward Robinson, paperback reprint (Harper Perennial Modern Thought Series, 2008). However, we will also consult the revised edition by Dennis J. Schmidt of the Joan Stambaugh translation of Being and Time (SUNY Series in Contemporary Philosophy, 2010).

189  Special Topics in Recent European Philosophy. Sluga. TuTh 2-3:30, Barrows 56.

Michel Foucault: A comprehensive examination of Foucault’s thought from The Order of Things of 1966 to his late writings from the 1980’s on politics and ethics.

Readings: Foucault, Discipline and Punish The History of Sexuality, vol. 1 A class reader (to be made available at Copy Central)

*As taught this semester, this course satisfies the 160-187 (but not the 160-178) requirement for the major.

190  Proseminar: Critical Theory: Ideology and Critique. Novakovic. MW 12-1:30, Moses 234.

In this seminar we will discuss classical and contemporary texts in the tradition of Frankfurt School Critical Theory, primarily programmatic texts that outline the very project of a critical theory of society. Our focus will be the problem of ideology for social criticism and the possibility of what this tradition calls “ideology-critique” (Ideologiekritik). Questions we will address include: What is ideology? What role does it play in social life, especially in the capitalist market? Does it present a special problem for the possibility of social criticism? And what would a critique of ideology look like?

Admission by application only: If you are interested in taking the course, please write the instructor (andreja@berkeley.edu) and briefly outline your background in philosophy (listing the courses already taken) and explain why you are interested in this seminar. Philosophy majors who are seniors and juniors will be given priority. The deadline for applications is Friday, November 15. Enrollment capacity for the course is 15 students.

H196  Senior Seminar. Holliday. Tu 4-6, Barrows 186.

A collaborative writing workshop. Students in the honors program will develop their thesis, which they will have started to write in the Fall in Philos H195. Other students will develop a paper from a previous course into a form suitable for a writing sample for applying to graduate school. Students will present drafts, followed by comments by an assigned respondent, and open discussion. As time permits, philosophical background for the work in progress may be read and discussed.

Enrollment is by instructor approval. Students who are not in the honors program, but who are interested in enrolling should email Wes Holliday with: (1) a list of courses taken or in progress in philosophy, together with grades received (or an unofficial transcript); and (2) a draft, outline, or description (as much as possible at this admittedly early stage) of the paper to be developed. Students who are in the honors program should email Wes Holliday (wesholliday@berkeley.edu) for an enrollment code, but do not need to give any additional information about courses or thesis topic (which they already gave when they first enrolled in the honors program).

198BC-1  Berkeley Connect. Klempner. Tu 5-6, Barrows 175.

198BC-2  Berkeley Connect. Klempner. Tu 6-7, Barrows 174.

198BC-3  Berkeley Connect. Kerr. W 5-6, Wheeler 24.

198BC-4  Berkeley Connect. Kerr. W 6-7, Wheeler 24.

Graduate seminars

290-1  Seminar: Consciousness. Lee. Tu 2-4, Moses 234.

In this seminar we will discuss some of the philosophical problems that arise when we try to explain conscious experience. The readings will be chapters from a book manuscript I have been working on, tentatively titled “The Search for the Inner Light: Explanation and Objectivity in the Study of Consciousness”, plus other supplementary readings.

Following the book, the seminar will be divided into three parts. First, we will talk about the form that a mature scientific theory of consciousness might take, and what kinds of evidence and methods of epistemic evaluation there can be for theories like this. This will include discussion of some notorious (alleged) obstacles to knowledge of an explanatory theory, including the “hard problem” and the “methodological puzzle”. Second, we will look at the problem of measuring and describing the phenomenal properties of experience, including a detour into the history of psychophysics. Third, we will look at the scope and significance of consciousness. How far does it reach in the tree of life? What is it’s moral and epistemic significance? Which questions about consciousness have determinate answers?

290-2  Seminar: Vagueness. MacFarlane. W 2-4, Moses 234.

We will consider some of the philosophical issues raised by vagueness. Much of the voluminous literature on vagueness focuses on its implications for logic and formal semantics. We will focus instead on issues in the philosophy of language and epistemology. (1) How do we communicate using vague language? In what does our shared grasp of the meanings of vague words consist? Does the fuzziness, fluidity, or context sensitivity of vague language pose a problem for standard accounts of communication? (2) What distinguishes vague thoughts from precise ones? How should we describe our attitudes of ambivalence towards borderline propositions? If it is a kind of partial belief, what kind? What sort of decision theory makes sense in the presence of vagueness?

290-3  Seminar: The Infinite. Mancosu. Tu 4-6, Moses 234.

The infinite is, quite appropriately, a never ending source of philosophical puzzlement. The earliest pre-Socratic fragments already engage with it and the contemporary discussion on the topic is as lively as ever. While mathematics (which Hermann Weyl once defined as “the science of the infinite”) has provided us with wonderful tools to tame the infinite, philosophical puzzles persist. In the seminar we will cover a variety of topics concerning infinity ranging from Greek philosophy (Aristotle, Philoponus) and modern philosophy and mathematics (Kant, Bolzano, Cantor), to contemporary philosophy and recent developments in mathematics (higher reaches of set theory, non-Archimedean continua, non-Archimedean probability theory, theories of numerosities) and cosmology (cosmic topology).

290-4  Seminar: Crisis and Entanglement in Science and Culture. Noë. Th 2-4, Moses 234.

Despite work in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, and other allied fields, the use of the methods of modern science to study human nature faces fundamental obstacles. Can there be a natural science of us? What are the broader implications of this question, for science, for philosophy, and for our broader culture? These questions give of us the topic of this seminar.

In the first part of the seminar we will undertake a close reading of Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences (translated by David Carr, Northwestern, 1970). In the second part of the seminar, we will turn to a selection of writings from Hans Jonas, PF Strawson, Daniel Dennett, Robert Boyd, as well as some new work by Alva Noë.

A complete list of texts will be provided at the first meeting, but for background, interested participants might wish to read Phenomenology: The Basics, by Dan Zahavi, and Robert Crease’s The Workshop and the World (Norton, 2019).

290-5  Seminar: Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Novakovic. W 4-6, Dwinelle 283.

This seminar will be a close reading of parts of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit with an emphasis on his concept of experience. As one of the richest and most influential texts in European philosophy, it addresses a vast range of topics from epistemology to social and political philosophy. In this seminar we will begin by looking at key chapters with the following questions in mind: what does Hegel mean by “experience”, what is “learned” through experience, and who is doing this learning? We will then consider how experience so conceived works in the second half of the book, in which Hegel is analyzing what he calls “shapes of spirit” or forms of social organization. This will allow us evaluate whether this second half of the book does indeed follow the path of the first, which Hegel had initially intended to publish on its own under the title Science of the Experience of Consciousness. It will also allow us to evaluate whether Hegel’s concept of experience has a significant role to play in his account of social and political contexts, especially social and political change.

290-6  Seminar: Workshop in Law, Philosophy & Political Theory. Cohen. TBA, TBA.

This course is a workshop for discussing works in progress in moral, political, and legal theory. The workshop creates a space for students to engage directly with philosophers, political theorists, and legal scholars working on normative questions toward the goal of fostering critical thinking about concepts of value and developing analytical thinking and writing skills. Another aim is to bring together people from different disciplines and perspectives who have strong normative interests or who speak to issues philosophers and theorists should know something about.

For Spring 2020, the workshop will focus on work at the intersection of political economy, democracy, and justice. The schedule of guest speakers is included below.

The format of the course is as follows. For the sessions with guest presenters, lunch will be served starting at 12:00. We’ll begin at 12:15. A designated commentator will lead off with a 15-minute comment on the paper. The presenter will have 5-10 minutes to respond and then we will open up the discussion to the group. The first part of the course will be open to non-enrolled students, faculty, and visitors who wish to participate in the workshop discussion. We’ll stop for a break at 2 and those not enrolled in the course will leave. Enrolled students will continue the discussion with the guest from 2:10 to 3:00.

This is a shared seating course between the Law School (Law 210.2B), the Philosophy Department (Philosophy 290-6), and the Political Science Department (PS 211).

Guest speaker schedule:

Jan. 17: Introductory session (for enrolled students only)

Jan. 24: Gina Schouten (Harvard Philosophy)

Jan. 31: Katharina Pistor (Columbia Law)

Feb. 7: Aziz Rana (Cornell Law)

Feb.14: Isabelle Ferreras (University of Louvain)

Feb.21: Stefan Eich (Georgetown Political Science)

Feb.28: Steven Vogel (Berkeley Political Science)

March 6: David Grewal (Berkeley Law)

March 13: Enrico Moretti (Berkeley Economics)

March 20: Sophia Moreau (Toronto Law & Philosophy)

April 3: Lucas Stanczyk (Harvard Philosophy)

April 10: Amy Kapczynski (Yale Law)

April 17: Reva Siegel (Yale Law)

April 24: Closing session (for enrolled students only)

290-7  Seminar: Equality and Rule. Kolodny. Th 10-12, 234 Moses.

This seminar will work through a draft of a book, tentatively entitled Equality and Rule, in political philosophy. Topics include: the justification of the state, coercion, liberalism, economic inequality, equality of opportunity, discrimination, corruption, republicanism, and democracy. The bCourses site, with the manuscript, is here: https://bcourses.berkeley.edu/courses/1488901.

290-8  Foundations for Beneficial AI. Buchak/Holliday. M 2-4, 103 Moffit.

Instructors: Stuart Russell (CS); Lara Buchak and Wesley Holliday (Philosophy); Shachar Kariv (Economics).

This interdisciplinary course examines the application of ideas from philosophy and economics to decision making by AI systems on behalf of humans, and in particular to the problem of ensuring that increasingly intelligent AI systems remain beneficial to humans. Solving this problem requires designing AI systems whose objective is to satisfy human preferences while remaining necessarily uncertain as to what those preferences are. The course will study issues arising when applying these principles to make decisions on behalf of multiple humans and real (rather than idealized) humans. Topics include utility theory, bounded rationality, utilitarianism, altruism, interpersonal comparisons of utility, preference learning, plasticity of human preferences, epistemic uncertainty about preferences, decision making under risk, social choice theory, and inequality. Students will read papers from the literature in AI, philosophy, and economics and will work in interdisciplinary teams to develop substantial analyses in one or more of these areas. No advanced mathematical background is assumed, but students should be comfortable with formal arguments involving axioms and proofs.

All students will be waitlisted initially. In order to ensure a balance of disciplines in the course, final enrollment decisions will be made by the instructors by the end of the first week of class. Preference will be given to PhD students in CS, Philosophy, and Economics, but other well-prepared students with a particular interest in the course will be considered.

295  Dissertation Seminar. Dasgupta. TBA, TBA.

Presentations by graduate students of dissertation research in progress.

375  Teaching Seminar. Novakovic. Tu 4-6, Moses 234.

A hands-on training seminar for new philosophy GSIs that addresses both practical and theoretical issues.