The Dennes Room

Spring 2021

Undergraduate courses

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

2  Individual Morality and Social Justice. Wallace. MWF 2-3, TBA.

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 that we owe to other individuals? For instance, is it ever permissible to kill or harm some as a way of saving others? What is the nature and extent of our duties to assist those in extreme need? Is it alright to consume pornography or to neglect the needs of individuals who are sexually deprived? 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 protect 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  Nature of Mind. Campbell. MWF 10-11, TBA.

7  Existentialism in Literature and Film. Novakovic. TuTh 9:30-11, TBA.

In this course, we will explore central themes in Existentialism as a postwar philosophical movement and how these themes are reflected in works of literature and film. Of special interest will be the relationship between social context and individual freedom. Included will be selections from Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, and Simone Weil.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Mancosu. TuTh 9:30-11, TBA.

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 explicate 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 to show 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.)

25B  Modern Philosophy. Primus. MWF 1-2, TBA.

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

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

100  Philosophical Methods. Warren. W 4-6, TBA.

104  Ethical Theories. Wallace. MWF 10-11, TBA.

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 Anscombe, Foot, Korsgaard, Railton, Scheffler, Wallace, 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? Can the phenomenon of moral obligation be made sense of in the context of modern cultural and intellectual ideas?

107  Moral Psychology. Shun. MWF 3-4, TBA.

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 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; death, acceptance, and detachment; compassion, empathy and sympathy; Iris Murdoch; ethical outlook and the idea of spirituality. 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.

117AC  Philosophy of Race, Ethnicity and Citizenship. Crockett. TuTh 11-12:30, TBA.

This course explores philosophical questions of race, ethnicity, and citizenship, with special attention to the experiences of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and indigenous peoples of the United States. Topics include the meaning of “race,” “ethnicity,” and “citizenship,” border control and immigration, reparations for past wrongs, discrimination and affirmative action, civic obligation and group solidarity, and the right to vote.

121  Moral Questions of Data Science. Kolodny. MWF 9-10, TBA.

This course explores, from a philosophical perspective, ethical questions arising from collecting, drawing inferences from, and acting on data, especially when these activities are automated and on a large scale. Topics include: bias, fairness, discrimination, interpretability, privacy, paternalism, freedom of speech, and democracy.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Lee. TuTh 12:30-2, TBA.

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.

135  Theory of Meaning. Campbell. MWF 12-1, TBA.

142  Philosophical Logic. MacFarlane. TuTh 11-12:30, TBA.

We will think about the limitations of, presuppositions of, and alternatives to classical first-order predicate logic, focusing on the following questions: Are there quantificational idioms that cannot be expressed with the familiar universal and existential quantifiers? How can logic be extended to capture modal notions like necessity and obligation? Does the material conditional adequately capture the meaning of ‘if’—and if not, what are the alternatives? Should logical consequence be understood in terms of models or in terms of proofs? Can one intelligibly question the validity of basic logical principles like Modus Ponens or Double Negation Elimination? Is the fact that classical logic validates the inference from a contradiction to anything a flaw, and if so, how can logic be modified to repair it? How, exactly, is logic related to reasoning? Must classical logic be revised in order to be applied to vague language, and if so how? The course requires both problem sets and a philosophical paper. Prerequisite: Philosophy 12A.

161  Aristotle. Clarke. MWF 11-12, TBA.

This course is an in-depth introduction to the philosophy of Aristotle. We will study selections from each of his major works. The course divides into four units: (1) The Organon; (2) The Philosophy of Nature; (3) Metaphysics; (4) Ethics and Political Philosophy.

Prerequisites: Philosophy 25A or an equivalent lower-level course in ancient Greek philosophy.

Required text: Aristotle: Selections, trans. Terence Irwin and Gail Fine (Hackett, 1995).

176  Hume. Bailey. MWF 11-12, TBA.

This course is devoted to the theoretical and practical philosophy of David Hume (1711-1776). Topics include: the science of human nature, the theory of impressions and ideas, causation and necessary connection, belief and rules of reason, the self, the existence of external objects, skeptical despair, the nature of the will and its freedom, the foundations and character of morality, natural and artificial virtues, the grounds of political obligation, natural religion. Our principal text will be the monumental A Treatise of Human Nature, supplemented with other readings from Hume’s Essays and Enquiries. Emphasis throughout will be on close examination of the primary texts. No strict prerequisites, but the course is designed for upper division undergraduates with some prior experience of philosophy.

Required texts: A Treatise of Human Nature, edited by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton, OUP; Enquiries concerning Human Understanding and concerning the Principles of Morals, edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge, 3rd ed. revised by P. H. Nidditch, OUP.

178  Kant. Warren. TuTh 2-3:30, TBA.

187  Special Topics in the History of Philosophy. Novakovic. TuTh 12:30-2, TBA.

This course is an introduction German Idealism, covering selections from the writings of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel. Our focus will be their conceptions of subjectivity, experience, and knowledge. We will conclude with Marx’s criticisms of Idealism.

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

190  Proseminar: Intersubjectivity, Communality, and Responsibility. Kaiser/Grosser. Tu 4-7, TBA.

Intersubjectivity, Communality, and Responsibility: The critical reception of Heidegger’s thought in phenomenology, existentialism, and critical theory

Many seminal philosophers have taken up strands in the early or later work of Martin Heidegger, focusing on themes such as intersubjectivity, communality, and responsibility. Important examples include Hannah Arendt, Simone De Beauvoir, Emanuel Levinas, Kitaro Nishida, Hans Jonas, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas. These thinkers’ critical engagement with Heideggerian themes has contributed decisively to important movements in twentieth-century thought, such as discourse theory, environmental ethics, existentialist feminist philosophy, and the Kyoto School of phenomenology. More recently, Lisa Guenther, Sara Ahmed, Byung Chul Han, and Achille Mbembe have continued to engage with this particular line of philosophical inheritance, bringing to it a new emphasis on issues of gender and race.

We will begin with a brief study of key excerpts from Being and Time and a couple of influential later essays by Heidegger, to provide the relevant background, followed by a comprehensive survey of works by the other figures mentioned above.

The seminar will be conducted in a collaborative, explorative way.

Requirements:

Each participant will be encouraged to give a short presentation (co-presentations are welcome) on one of the selected texts with an accompanying handout. Alternatively, a short paper could be produced in lieu of the presentation. The final paper will allow for an in-depth exploration of a topic tailored to your specific interests.

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

190  Proseminar: Philosophical Perspectives on Race, Racism and Racial Justice. Crockett. TuTh 2-3:30, TBA.

In this seminar we will examine some important philosophical works on the ontology of race and the concept of racial identity, theories of racism and racial oppression, and issues regarding racial justice.

Questions we will consider include: What is race? What is it to have a racial identity? If race is socially constructed in some sense, does this mean that race is not real? And what exactly does it mean to say that race is socially constructed? Should we strive to eliminate talk of and thinking in terms of race and racial identity? What does it mean to say that something (a person, an act, an institution) is racist? How should we understand the idea of “systemic racism”? How might racial oppression be related to (and “intersect” with) other forms of oppression? What strategies might be most effective in moving society in the direction of a non-racist (or, at least, less racist) world?

Since this is a seminar, the expectation is that participants will come to class prepared to discuss in a respectful and collaborative way the ideas and arguments expressed in the readings.

This seminar is intended for philosophy majors who have had at least two philosophy courses. In special cases, however, permission to take the seminar may be granted by the instructor.

Enrollment is limited to 15.

H196  Senior Seminar. Ginsborg. W 4-6, TBA.

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 Hannah Ginsborg (ginsborg@berkeley.edu) 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 of the paper to be developed. Students who are in the honors program should email Hannah Ginsborg (ginsborg@berkeley.edu) for an enrollment code, but do not need to give any additional information about courses or thesis topic.

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

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

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

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

Graduate seminars

290-1  Graduate Seminar: Plato’s Sophist. Clarke. M 2-4, TBA.

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Seminar on Probability. Holliday/Mancosu. Tu 2-4, TBA.

A discussion of philosophical issues in probability theory with emphasis on the following topics:

a) Eliciting subjective probabilities

b) Probability and infinity

c) Probabilistic social choice

290-3  Graduate Seminar: Belief, Credence, and Reasons. MacFarlane. W 2-4, TBA.

We can describe an agent’s doxastic state by saying which propositions the agent believes. Alternatively, we can assign credences or confidence levels between 0 and 1 to each proposition. The first approach is “digital,” positing a binary, on/off relation of belief, while the second is “analog,” recognizing continuous variation in the strength of belief. What is the relation between these two ways of describing a doxastic state? Is one of the two modes of description accurate, and the other inaccurate? Or are they just different ways of describing the same underlying reality? Is one of the two modes of description fundamental, and the other derivative? Why do we have these two modes of description? Do they serve different purposes?

The divide between digital and analog descriptions of doxastic states corresponds to a divide in theories of reasoning. Traditional accounts of reasoning give a central role to the notion of a reason. We decide what to believe, and what do do, by balancing up the reasons for and against and evaluating their weight. Much traditional epistemology is shaped by this conception of reasoning. But this notion does not play a role in Bayesian epistemology or in decision theory, which focuses more on a holistic notion of rationality. We will consider arguments that the constraints of rationality make sense only for credences, not for beliefs. We will also consider whether the notion of a reason makes sense only in the context of the full-belief ontology. Can we think of actions rationalized by states of partial belief as done for reasons? If not, is that a problem for the idea that reasons are central to reasoning? Do we care about reasons because we want to make better decisions, or for some other reason?

We will read and discuss some of the recent literature bearing on these topics.

290-4  Graduate Seminar: Imagination and its Morals. Bailey. W 4-6, TBA.

This course is concerned with the following two-part question: What is imagination, and what roles does imagination play in our lives as agents, practical reasoners, aspirants to virtue, and selves that care and are cared for? We will begin with an exploration of what imagination actually is, drawing on both contemporary and historical sources. We will consider questions such as: What is the relation between imagination and perception? What are the objects of imagination? Does imagining something sometimes or always involve mentally picturing that thing? Does it really make sense to speak of imagination as a single faculty or activity? Once we have a better sense of the principal puzzles and possibilities concerning imagination’s nature, we will advance to questions about its import. Questions we will take up in this latter section of the course include: in what sense, if any, is our self-understanding (or even self-constitution) dependent upon imagination? What is the relationship between practical reason and imagination? Does moral understanding or motivation require imagination? We will also ask about the morality of imagination: are there things it is morally bad or wrong to imagine or fantasize about, and if so, why? Readings range across philosophy of mind, epistemology, moral psychology, philosophy of art, and political philosophy. Requirements: regular participation, weekly posting of questions, brief term paper prospectus, term paper.

290-5  Graduate Seminar: Politics and the Common Good. Sluga/Nylan. W 12-2, TBA.

The seminar examines the concept of the common good in classical and modern contexts, both Western and non-Western, and its relation to the idea of social justice. The course begins with some major Western texts on the subject such as Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and his Politics and John Rawls’ Theory of Justice and then turns to theories from early China (in many cases using translations generated by Michael Nylan). The comparison of the two traditions will bring out the same base-line presumptions, but as those presumptions have played out in very different socio-political circumstances. And this is bound to challenge some of the standard assumptions of Western thinking about the ideas of justice and the common good. A final component of the course will be to look at some real-time, real-life situations in which questions about the common good and about social justice and injustice are particularly pertinent.

This seminar will be taught synchronously, via remote instruction. It will meet regularly during the scheduled class times, and students will need to attend those meetings to succeed in the class.

290-6  Graduate Seminar: Pragmatism. Dasgupta. Th 2-4, TBA.

290-7  Graduate Seminar: Workshop in Law, Philosophy & Political Theory. Cohen/Gould. F 12-3, 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 2021, the workshop will focus on the theme of democracy.

The schedule of guest speakers is included below.

The format of the course is as follows. For the sessions with guest presenter, we’ll begin at 12:00. 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).

Speaker schedule:

January 22 – Michael Hanchard (UPenn Africana Studies)

January 29 – Nadia Urbinati (Columbia Political Science)

February 5 – Eric Schickler & Paul Pierson (Berkeley Political Science)

February 12 – Daniela Cammack (Berkeley Political Science)

February 19 – Hélène Landemore (Yale Political Science)

February 26 – Lawrie Balfour (Virginia Politics)

March 5 – Niko Kolodny (Berkeley Philosophy)

March 12 – Aziz Huq (UChicago Law)

March 19 – Jonathan Gould (Berkeley Law)

April 2 – Melissa Lane (Princeton Politics)

April 9 – Richard Pildes (NYU Law)

April 16 – Michael Dawson (UChicago Political Science)

April 23 – David Estlund (Brown Philosophy)

April 30 – Closing session (enrolled students only)