The Dennes Room

Fall 2020

Undergraduate courses

R1B  Reading and Composition Through Philosophy. Klempner. TuTh 9:30-11, TBA.

This is a seminar in reading and writing philosophy. Students will practice analyzing, critically assessing, and writing about philosophical texts. The class will also involve student presentations and review of others students’ written work. Readings will include texts in ethics and aesthetics. This course fulfills the university’s second-semester reading and composition (R&C) requirement.

2  Individual Morality and Social Justice. Sluga. MWF 10-11, Lewis 100.

The course deals with fundamental ethical issues and is intended, at the same time, as an introduction to philosophy. It seeks to addresses questions concerning the self, our relations to others and our commitment to various human communities. It asks, thus: How can I lead a good life? Are there rules for my relations with others? How are we to settle questions of social living together?

We will examine these issues with the help of writings from both Western and Non-Western sources, both classical and modern authors. All the required readings will be made available in a Class Reader.

3  The Nature of Mind. Noë. TuTh 9:30-11, Evans 10.

Introduction to the philosophy of mind. Topics to be considered may include the relation between mind and body; the structure of action; the nature of desires and beliefs; the role of the unconscious.

5  Science and Human Understanding. Dasgupta. MWF 12-1, McCone 141.

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. Warren. MWF 2-3, Dwinelle 145.

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.

25A  Ancient Philosophy. Clarke. TuTh 11-12:30, GPB 100.

This course is an introduction to ancient Greek philosophy. Most of the course will be devoted to the thought of Socrates (469-399 BCE), Plato (427-347), and Aristotle (384-322). We will also look briefly at the Presocratics and the Sophists, and at the major philosophical movements of the Hellenistic period: the Epicureans, Stoics, and Sceptics.

Prerequisites: None.

98BC-1  Berkeley Connect. STAFF. M 5-6, TBA.

98BC-2  Berkeley Connect. STAFF. M 6-7, TBA.

100  Philosophical Methods. Lee. W 4-6, Barrows 170.

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 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.

Text: Personal Identity, edited by John Perry, University of California Press

108  Contemporary Ethical Issues. Crockett. MWF 3-4, Barrows 56.

This course will be devoted to in-depth discussion of a variety of problems in moral philosophy raised by real-life questions of individual conduct and social policy. Its contents will vary from occasion to occasion. Possible topics include philosophical problems posed by affirmative action, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, terrorism, war, poverty, and climate change.

Note: As taught this semester, Philosophy 108 will satisfy the Ethics requirement.

110  Aesthetics. Noë. TuTh 12:30-2, Barrows 60.

115  Political Philosophy. Munoz-Dardé. MWF 11-12, Barrows 56.

This course is devoted to some of the central questions in contemporary political philosophy: liberty, authority, justice and equality. The course is focused particularly on the work of John Rawls.

The course will be organized around three basic themes:

  1. Problems of Authority: Consent and Membership We will look at the significance of obedience to the law in political theory. Are we obliged to obey the laws of a state because we have offered our (tacit) consent by residing within the borders of this state? What, if any, is the force of hypothetical consent? Is there a relation between valuing one’s membership in the political society to which one belongs, and one’s obligations to obey the laws of that society?
  1. Rawls’s Political Liberalism Rawls offers a conception of justice and of the contractualist outlook in his A Theory of Justice and Justice as Fairness a Restatement. We shall examine the basic elements of Rawls’s approach: the role of the Original Position in justifying the account; the significance of the Basic Structure; the priority of liberty; the Difference Principle; the contrast with utilitarianism; the importance of reflective equilibrium; the idea of Political Liberalism.
  1. Egalitarianism Rawls presents his political liberalism as a version of egalitarian theory. Various political philosophers have questioned whether political liberalism is genuinely a form of egalitarianism. We will look at this egalitarian critique. We will also examine the question of whether equality matters, and if so how.

128  Philosophy of Science. Dasgupta. MWF 1-2, 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. Martin. MWF 12-1, Barrows 56.

From the earliest point in our lives we mark a distinction between the social world of animate beings and the inanimate objects about us. The distinctions we make are fundamental to our ways of finding out about the world and responding to what we discover there. But do the distinctions we mark reflect ultimate differences in the nature of the world around us? These are the questions addressed in this course. We will be looking at some of the oldest and most fundamental questions about the mind: the nature of consciousness, knowledge of our own minds and of others’; physicalism and dualism; functionalism.

133  Philosophy of Language. Yalcin. MW 6:30-8, Wheeler 102.

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.

140B  Intermediate Logic. Mancosu. TuTh 9:30-11, Barrows 56.

This course covers some of 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).

143  Modal Logic. Holliday. TuTh 2-3:30, Barrows 56.

An introduction to the logical study of modality in its many forms: reasoning about necessity, knowledge, obligation, time, counterfactuals, provability, and other modal notions. Covers core concepts and basic metatheory of propositional modal logic, including relations to first-order logic; the basics of quantified modal logic; and selected philosophical applications ranging from epistemology to ethics, from metaphysics to mathematics.

Pre-requisite: PHILOS 12A or equivalent.

148  Probability and Induction. Holliday. TuTh 11-12:30, Barrows 56.

An introduction to the fundamental concepts of probability and inductive logic (the axioms of probability, conditional probability, Bayes’ rule, and expected value), the subjective Bayesian approach to probability (degrees of belief, coherence, and updating on evidence), and the frequentist approach to probability (long-run frequencies, normal approximations, significance and power, and confidence intervals). Discussion of the philosophical problem of induction from the subjectivist and frequentist perspectives. Applications to the ethics of statistics and risk: e.g., is it morally acceptable to convict someone on the basis of merely statistical evidence? What is it to make a judgement of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”? How should we weigh the risks of public policies with uncertain effects?

Prerequisites: 12A (or equivalent) or consent of the instructor

170  Descartes. Crockett. MWF 11-12, Wheeler 102.

An intensive introduction to Descartes’s views on physics, metaphysics and epistemology through examination of Descartes’ early works on method, physics and physiology. This includes an in-depth study of the Meditations, focusing on both Descartes’ epistemological project and his anti-scholastic metaphysics supplemented by readings from the Objections and Replies, the Principles, and several important pieces of secondary literature. Issues discussed include the method of doubt, the Cartesian circle, Descartes’ mode of presentation in the Meditations, the creation and ontological status of the eternal truths, the status of the human being, the nature of substance, mind-body dualism and Descartes’ physics as presented in the Principles.

184  Nietzsche. Kaiser. TuTh 12:30-2, Barrows 56.

The course will focus on key ideas in Nietzsche’s philosophy, including his theory of drives, perspectivism, nihilism, the revaluation of values, the ‘will to power’, herd morality, ‘self’-creation, art, and the ‘affirmation of life’. We will discuss, among other shorter works, extensive excerpts from The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Genealogy of Morals, and the late notes posthumously collected in The Will to Power.

190  Proseminar: Analytic/Synthetic. Mancosu. TuTh 2-3:30, Barrows 50.

The analytic/synthetic distinction has played a major role in philosophy, especially after Kant made the thesis that there are synthetic a priori judgements the cornerstone of his philosophy. Kant contrasted sentences like “all bodies are extended” (analytic) and “all bodies are heavy” (synthetic). While abandoning the details of the Kantian explication(s) for the distinction, many thinkers after Kant still thought there was something very important about the distinction: “all bachelors are unmarried” (analytic), some of these thinkers claimed, only requires semantic/conceptual mastery to be assessed as true or false whereas determining the truth value of “all bachelors wear trousers” (synthetic) requires checking how reality is. A major turning point in the fortunes of the notions in question came with Quine’s influential claims concerning the unviability of the distinction in the middle of the twentieth century. After Quine’s criticisms there seemed to be little prospect that the analytic/synthetic divide could be salvaged. But post-Quinean developments have shown that the distinction, while subject to much philosophical debate, still plays a role in several core areas of philosophy (logic, mathematics, language, epistemology, mataphysics, among others). The seminar will investigate the importance of the analytic/synthetic distinction in some classical philosophers (Kant, Bolzano, Frege, Carnap), Quine’s criticisms, and the more recent philosophical discussions as to the problems and prospects facing a reassessment of the notions of the analytic and the synthetic. Readings by, among others, Kant, Bolzano, Frege, Carnap, Quine, Putnam, Kaplan, Boghossian, Wright, Boolos, and Williamson.

Admission by application only: If you are interested in taking the course, please write the instructor (mancosu@socrates.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, June 15. Enrollment capacity for the course is 15 students.

Prerequisites: Phil 12A (or equivalent) and Phil 25B.

190  Proseminar: Feminist Philosophy. Bailey. TuTh 9:30-11:00, TBA.

This seminar is an exploration of select issues in feminist philosophy. We will lay the groundwork for that exploration by investigating some core concepts in feminist theory, including social construction, oppression, epistemic positionality, and intersectionality. Then, we will analyze three influential philosophical approaches to thinking about sex oppression: humanistic feminism, gynocentric feminism, and the dominance approach. Finally, we will zero in on two topics that have been the focus of groundbreaking recent work. In a unit on epistemic injustice, we will ask: how do social power relations, including gendered power relations, shape our status and skills as knowers and communicators? Are there forms of knowledge that have been neglected or undervalued because of sexism or misogyny, and how might they best be recovered or revalorized? And in a unit on decolonial feminism, we will ask: How can feminism can address the impact of imperialism? How can it respect cultural difference without losing its critical bite? Throughout the course, we will particularly focus on the ways in which questions about the nature, status, and rights of women and female people intersect with questions about race, class, religion, coloniality, and disability. Readings will consist of a mixture of contemporary work and landmark texts from the past century and are subject to change based on student interest and ability.

Admission by application: If you are interested in taking the course, please write the instructor (at livi.bailey@googlemail.com) 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. Enrollment capacity for the course is 15 students.

198BC-1  Berkeley Connect. STAFF. Tu 5-6, TBA.

198BC-2  Berkeley Connect. STAFF. Tu 6-7, TBA.

198BC-3  Berkeley Connect. STAFF. W 5-6, TBA.

198BC-4  Berkeley Connect. STAFF. W 6-7, TBA.

Graduate seminars

200  First Year Graduate Seminar. Ginsborg/Campbell. Th 12-2, Moses 234.

290-1  Graduate Seminar: Conditionals and Conditional Attitudes. Yalcin. M 12-2, Moses 234.

A graduate seminar on the meaning of conditionals, with an emphasis on their interactions with attitude verbs. There are a number of puzzles about what it is think conditional thoughts, or have conditional knowledge; we’ll get into them by thinking about the corresponding language. We’ll spend relatively more time on indicative conditionals, though we’ll at least touch on counterfactuals. We will start out with some classic papers, but most of the seminar will engage work from the past decade or so in semantics, pragmatics, and formal epistemology.

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Evolutionary and Developmental Perspectives on Morality. Wallace/Engelmann. M 6-8, Moses 234.

The seminar will look at recent work on the evolution of capacities for moral agency and their development in individual humans, combining both philosophical and empirical perspectives on these issues. Authors to be discussed include Allen Buchanen, Margaret Gilbert, Chris Korsgaard, Philip Pettit, and Jay Wallace (on the philosophy side) and Jan Engelmann, Michael Tomasello, and Frans de Waal (on the psychology side).

290-3  Graduate Seminar: Mental Representation, Function and Perception. Lee. W 12-2, Moses 234.

This seminar will be a survey of philosophical debates about the nature of mental representation, with a particular focus on mental representations as theoretical posits of cognitive science, as opposed to the propositional attitudes of personal-level folk psychology, and with a particular focus on mental representation in perception. Some of the big questions we will address include: What role does an internal state have to play to count as a representation? What varieties of representation are there? How exactly do representations of different kinds help explain the function and behavior of a system? How should we understand the idea that representations have “contents” concerning the environment, what exactly fixes these contents, and how do they contribute to the explanatory role of a representation? To what extent do cognitive/perceptual processes actually use representations?

Specific topics covered (time permitting) will include : representational formats (e.g. analog vs digital representation); indicator/informational accounts of representation; representation by structural resemblance; teleosemantic theories and the evolutionary function of representation; the role of representations in solving the inverse problem and allowing perceptual constancies; representation in non-animal species such as plants; neural coding and representation at the neural level; probabilistic representation and the role of representation in Bayesian accounts of perceptual computation; representation in neural networks.

290-4  Graduate Seminar. Campbell/Martin. Tu 2-4, Moses 234.

290-5  Graduate Seminar: Excavating the Basic Structure: Archaeology and Architecture of A Theory of Justice. Munoz-Dardé. Th 10-12, Moses 234.

290-6  Graduate Seminar: Feminist Epistemology. Novakovic. Tu 12-2, Moses 234.

Feminist epistemology is committed to starting from the socially situated standpoints of the oppressed, exploited, or marginalized and to treating such standpoints as epistemically privileged. This seminar will cover two broad areas of interest to feminist epistemologists. First, we will examine the tenets of standpoint theory, asking how a standpoint is to be identified and why we are to think that some standpoints have epistemic privilege over others. In particular, we will discuss the Marxist roots of standpoint theory, Black feminist thought, intersectionality, as well as feminist conceptions of objectivity and its relation to values. Second, we will discuss issues at the intersection of epistemology and ethics, specifically different ways of failing others as knowers. Our menu of topics will include epistemic injustice and related concepts, epistemologies of ignorance, and virtue epistemology.

290-7  Graduate Seminar: Spinoza’s Ethics. Primus. Tu 10-12, Moses 234.

This course will be an in-depth study of Parts I, II, and V of Spinoza’s Ethics. Topics will include the mode-substance relation, the nature of causation, the doctrine of the “parallelism” of ideas and bodies, epistemic certainty, finite human minds’ relation to the infinite intellect, intellectual love of God, and blessedness. Although our focus will be on Spinoza’s text, we will also attend to influential works by Descartes, Hobbes, Maimonides, and Gersonides.

290-8  Graduate Seminar. Warren. Th 2-4, Moses 234.

290-9  Graduate Seminar: Workshop in Law, Philosophy, and Political Theory. Cohen/Jagmohan. F 12-3, Law 141.

This course is a workshop for discussing work-in-progress in moral, political, and legal theory. The central aim is to enable students to engage directly with legal scholars, philosophers, and political theorists working on important normative questions. Another aim is to bring together scholars from different disciplines and perspectives, such as economics, history, sociology, and political science, who have normative interests. In Fall 2020, the workshop will focus on the theme of property and justice.

The format of the course is as follows. For the sessions with guest presenters. A designated student 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 2:00 and those not enrolled in the course will leave. Enrolled students will continue the discussion with the guest until 3:00.

This is a cross-listed/room-shared course with Law and Political Science. Students may also enroll through Law (Law 210.2) or Political Science (PS 211).

8/28 Intro meeting (for enrolled students only)

9/4 Burke Hendrix, University of Oregon

9/11 Hannah Carnegy-Arbuthnott, York University

9/18 Leif Wenar, Stanford University

9/25 Caitlin Rosenthal, UC, Berkeley

10/2 Talha Syed, UC, Berkeley

10/9 Stephanie Jones-Rogers, UC, Berkeley

10/16 Robert Nichols, University of Minnesota

10/23 Chris Essert, University of Toronto

11/30 Zac Zimmer, University of California, Santa Cruz

11/6 Katrina Wyman, NYU Law

11/13 Martin Hagglund, Yale University

11/20 Larissa Katz, University of Toronto

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.