The Dennes Room

Fall 2021

Undergraduate courses

R1B  Reading and Composition Through Philosophy. Gooding. MWF 1-2, 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 9-10, TBA.

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. Campbell. MWF 1-2, TBA.

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.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Warren. MWF 2-3, TBA.

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. MWF 10-11, TBA.

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. Khokhar. M 5-6, TBA.

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

100  Philosophical Methods. Dasgupta. W 2-4, TBA.

THIS COURSE IS RESTRICTED TO PHILOSOPHY MAJORS. It is intended to improve the student’s ability to read and write philosophy. Special emphasis will be placed on developing analytic skills. This semester we will first discuss questions about the ethics of AI and other future technologies, and then examine a number of philosophical texts on the foundations of ethical theory. 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.

104  Ethical Theories. Wallace. MWF 11-12, 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?

115  Political Philosophy. Munoz-Dardé. TuTh 12:30-2, TBA.

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:

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?

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.

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.

119  Feminism & Philosophy. Bailey. MW 6:30-8, TBA.

This class is an introduction to a range of historical and contemporary feminist issues. Is there an essential difference between women and men? If so, what is the nature of this difference and what are its moral, social, and political implications? If not, what explains the apparent differences? How do questions about gender intersect with questions about race, class, religion, and cross-cultural difference? Can a psychological account of how we tend to sort people into distinct social categories illuminate how we ought to understand these categories? Can assumptions about gender compromise scientific objectivity? This course introduces philosophy students to these and related questions in feminist thought, concluding with analyses of a few specific debates in contemporary feminist epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics.

125  Metaphysics. Yalcin. TuTh 11-12:30, TBA.

What is reality like in itself, considered independently from our thought or experience of it? Questions of this sort arise for specific domains. For instance: does mind-independent reality fix the truths of morality? Or is morality really some sort of projection of our attitudes, or some kind of human invention? Do things have colors independently of us, or do we “gild or stain all natural objects with the colours, borrowed from internal sentiment”, as Hume put it? Is causation a real thing, or does it merely seem to be, owing to the way we happen to apprehend the world? Do things have necessary or essential properties independently of our modes of thinking and talking about them? What even are properties — how do they fit into reality? And what about familiar entities of everyday life, like persons and material objects — can we arrive at a conception of their nature entirely in abstraction from our ways of thinking and perceiving such things? Metaphysics is characterized by a special preoccupation with questions like these — and with the meta-question of whether such questions can even be answered.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Noë. TuTh 2-3:30, TBA.

This is a course on the nature of mind. The central question we ask: Can we make sense of mind as a natural phenomenon? We will read widely in philosophy and cognitive science as we seek to answer this fundamental question. Among the topics we will cover: the nature of perception and consciousness, the possibility of machine minds, neuroscience as the basic science of human experience, our knowledge of each other.

135  Theory of Meaning. MacFarlane. TuTh 11-12:30, TBA.

An examination of some philosophical problems about the intentionality of language and thought. By virtue of what are some things in the world (for example, sentences and thoughts) about others? Is meaning always a matter of interpretation, or do some things have meaning independently of interpretation? Is conceptual thought prior to language? What would it take for a computer to have thoughts? Are the meanings of our words and the contents of our mental states determined by what’s going on inside our brains, or do they depend also on features of our physical and social environments? Could there be facts about meaning we could only discover by looking in someone’s brain? Are there objective facts about meaning at all? In exploring these and related questions, we will read the work of Quine, Davidson, Grice, Putnam, Dennett, Burge, Block, Fodor, Dretske, and others.

136  Philosophy of Perception. Martin. TuTh 12:30-2, TBA.

The philosophy of perception is a microcosm of the metaphysics of mind. Its central problems - What is perception? What is the nature of perceptual consciousness? How can one fit an account of perceptual experience into a broader account of the nature of the mind and the world? - are problems at the heart of metaphysics. It is often justifiably said that the theory of perception (and especially vision) is the area of psychology and neuroscience.

As taught this semester, Philosophy 136 will satisfy Group C of the Theory of Knowledge/Epistemology/Metaphysics requirement.

172  Spinoza. Primus. TuTh 9:30-11, TBA.

In this course, we will study the distinctive metaphysical, epistemological, psychological, and ethical positions Spinoza argues for in his Ethics. We will analyze his arguments for monism and necessitarianism, evaluate his response to skepticism, assess the philosophical viability of his accounts of the human mind and human passions, and see whether the resultant picture of what constitutes a good human life is coherent (or attractive).

178  Kant. Warren. TuTh 2-3:30, TBA.

186  Merleau-Ponty. Noë. TuTh 9:30-11, TBA.

With growing interest in the role of the body in perception and consciousness, Merleau-Ponty’s classic work, Phenomenology of Perception, has become increasingly relevant. We will read the book in order to understand and evaluate Merleau-Ponty’s arguments against what he calls empiricism (a sort of behaviorism) and intellectualism (cognitivism), as well as his positive account of what he calls motor intentionality—a kind of intentionality without conceptuality that, Merleau-Ponty argues, is the basic way human beings are embedded in the world.

190  Proseminar: Ethics and the Environment. Crockett. MW 5-6:30, TBA.

In this seminar we will examine a wide range of perspectives on the ethical dimensions of our relationship with the natural world and its constituents–animals, plants, ecosystems, etc. Topics of readings and discussions will include: animal rights, the value of species and organisms, land and wilderness ethics, deep ecology, social ecology, environmental justice, ecofeminism, biocentric ethics, sustainability, population and consumption, and obligations to future generations.

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.

Note: As taught this semester, Philosophy 190 will satisfy the Ethics requirement.

Enrollment is limited to 15.

190  Proseminar: Philosophical Perspectives on Race, Racism and Racial Justice. Crockett. TuTh 11-12:30, 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.

190  Proseminar: Hannah Arendt: The Human Condition. Kaiser. Tu 4-7, 234 Moses Hall.

This seminar will focus on Hannah Arendt’s major work The Human Condition. At the center of this work is the notion of a vita activa: a life confined neither to ‘labor’ and its bodily forms of biological sustenance, nor to ‘work’ associated paradigmatically with ‘fabricating’ instruments and products. Instead, everything hinges on our freely immersing ourselves in action and speech within the dynamic web of human relations. Only the ‘polis’, understood as the ‘common space of appearance’ in which we humans can emerge ‘explicitly’ in our plurality and self-identity, allows for such a flourishing life. Though the emphasis is on action and speech in their revolutionary potential as ‘new beginnings’ within this participatory political context, Arendt does not neglect the importance of thinking, willing, and judging which figure prominently in her later studies of the life of the mind.

Seminar discussions will build on a close reading of The Human Condition and a few other essays and texts by Arendt. But we will also trace the influences on Arendt’s thinking of other philosophers and philosophical movements, including Aristotle, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche and the phenomenological thinkers of the 20th century, as well as lesser-known sources within the emergent school of critical theory. A discussion of the relevance of Arendt’s seminal work for a broad range of contemporary philosophical theories will conclude the seminar.

As taught this semester, Phil 190 may satisfy the more inclusive history requirement (which is: 153, 155, 156A, 160–188).

Required text: Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, enlarged 2nd edition 2018, University of Chicago Press. ISBN-10 : 022658660X; ISBN-13 : 978-0226586601
Additional texts will be made available either in a reader or online via bCourses at the start of the semester.

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

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

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

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

Graduate seminars

200  First Year Graduate Seminar. Ginsborg/Lee. M 1-3, TBA.

290-1  Graduate Seminar. Lee. M 10-12, TBA.

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Hegel’s Science of Logic. Novakovic. Tu 12-2, TBA.

290-3  Graduate Seminar: Early Modern Minds. Primus. Tu 2-4, TBA.

In this course, we will study some early modern debates about the nature of ideas, intentionality, representation, sensation, perception, consciousness, introspection, and intellection. Readings will include works by Descartes, Malebranche, Arnauld, Spinoza, Cavendish, and Leibniz.

290-4  Graduate Seminar: Subject, Index, Content: Revisiting Russellian Psychology. Martin. W 4-6, TBA.

In the lectures, the Philosophy of Logical Atomism, Russell claims that ‘partiality’ is central to understanding consciousness, and that this raises a fundamental problem for ‘neutral monism’ (a view Russell came shortly to embrace). For Russell once we recognize the fundamental role of acquaintance, we can understand demonstratives, like ‘this’, indexicals like ‘I’, our grasp of the contrast between present, past, and future, and consciousness and subjectivity themselves.

Although Russell’s psychology did not regain popularity after he abandoned it, the connection he drew between acquaintance, perspective, and consciousness remains a persistent theme in contemporary philosophy of mind.

The aim this term is to look at four such contemporary issues deriving from Russell’s concerns. We’ll focus on one piece of reading each week, but I’ll add further reading for each of the issues. Participants are invited to present on one of the core pieces of reading.

290-5  Graduate Seminar. MacFarlane/Yalcin. Th 2-4, TBA.

290-6  Graduate Seminar. Munoz-Dardé/Cohen. F 12-3, TBA.

290-7  Graduate Seminar: Topics in Population Ethics. Frick. W 2-4, TBA.

This seminar will examine ethical questions surrounding the creation of new persons. We will look both at the individual decision to procreate as well as at social policies that influence the number, identity, and wellbeing of future persons. Among the questions we will consider are:

  • Can I harm or benefit a person by bringing her into existence?
  • Can it be wrong for me to create a person whose life is well worth living, because I could instead have created a different person whose life would have foreseeably been happier? If so, why?
  • If I have a moral reason not to create a child whose life would foreseeably be miserable, is there a corresponding moral reason to create a child whose life would be happy? If not, what might explain the asymmetry in our judgments?
  • All else equal, does the world go better if more happy lives are created? Does the world go better the larger the total utility contained in all lives that are ever lived?
  • What reasons, if any, are there for wanting humankind to survive for as long as possible?
  • What is the significance of posterity (i.e. the fact that there will be people living after our death) for our own lives?

In the course of discussing these questions, we will grapple with four famous (and notoriously difficult) problems in population ethics that were first systematically discussed by Derek Parfit in Part IV of his book Reasons and Persons: the Non-Identity Problem, the Asymmetry, the Repugnant Conclusion, and the Mere Addition Paradox.

295  Dissertation Seminar. Primus. TBA, TBA.

375  Teaching Seminar. Novakovic. Tu 4-6, TBA.

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