Spring 2024

Undergraduate courses

R1B  Reading and Composition Through Philosophy. Crockett. MW 5-6:30, AAPB155.

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. Wallace. MWF 10-11, Hearst Annex A1.

An introduction to some central issues in moral and political philosophy. The course will focus on issues of objectivity, disagreement, and pluralism in the domain of value. Questions to be addressed include: Are there objective moral standards, or are moral and other values relative? What are some specific moral requirements (relating to killing, sex, and helping people in need)? What is involved in leading a meaningful human life? Can morality contribute to making one’s life good? What makes a society just, and worthy of our allegiance? What are the implications of pluralism for social tolerance? When and why should we tolerate moral and political views that we find abhorrent? Texts will be taken from contemporary sources, and will be made available on the bCourses site for the class.

4  Knowledge and Its Limits. Zhang. MWF 12-1, Cory 277.

We know many things: there were dinosaurs, the Sun will rise tomorrow, the Earth is not flat, etc. Or do we? If so, how? More generally, how should we reply to the skeptical challenges, while properly taking into account our own fallibility? What does rationality require of us in an increasingly polarized society, where it has become ever more difficult to tell facts from fiction and knowledge from opinions? In this course we will look into these and other questions.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Warren. MWF 2-3, Latimer 120.

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.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Primus. MWF 11-12, Evans 10.

In this course, we will study works by central figures in 17th and 18th century philosophy, including Descartes, Elisabeth, Spinoza, Locke, Conway, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant. Topics will include the relation of the self to the world, the possibility and extent of one’s knowledge, the nature of bodies and causation, and the relationship of theology to philosophy.

98BC-2  Berkeley Connect. Kassman-Tod. Tu 6-7, Dwinelle 262.

98BC-1  Berkeley Connect. Kassman-Tod. Tu 5-6, Dwinelle 262.

100  Philosophical Methods. Dasgupta. W 4-6, Dwinelle 88.

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 3-4, Wheeler 102.

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?

110  Aesthetics. Noë. MWF 11-12, Wheeler 222.

This course will explore topics in the philosophy of art. What is art? What makes art valuable? Is art really valuable? What is a picture? Why are some pictures works of art, but not others? What is performance? What makes performance art? What does art reveal about human nature? What does art tell us about the mind? We will seek to answer these and other questions. We will read writings on these and related topics by a range of philosophers (mostly from the 20th century). Many of the readings for this course will come from an anthology entitled Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, published by Blackwells and edited by Cahn et al.

119  Feminism and Philosophy. Bailey. TuTh 12:30-2, Wheeler 102.

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. As taught this semester, Phil 119 satisfies the ethics requirement for the philosophy major.

122  Theory of Knowledge. Yalcin. TuTh 11-12:30, Wheeler 222.

A relatively formal upper-division course in modern epistemology, focusing on these two questions: What makes for rational belief? What makes for knowledge? The section of the course on rational belief will be an introduction to Bayesian epistemology. We’ll ask how to formally model the belief states of rational agents; how a rational agent should update her beliefs in response to evidence; what evidence even is; and what makes a theory or hypothesis confirmed by evidence. In the section of the course on knowledge, we’ll ask how to formally model states of knowledge; how knowledge goes beyond justified belief; what empirical knowledge has to do with information; and how ascriptions of knowledge explain action. Prior completion of Philosophy 12A, and at least one other upper level philosophy course, are strongly recommended. Though a basic acquaintance with probability theory is not required, it would be helpful.

125  Metaphysics. Lee. TuTh 2-3:30, Donner 155.

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

126  Philosophy of Physics. Rubenstein. MW 6:30-8, Wheeler 102.

This course is an advanced introduction to various philosophical issues which arise in physics, focusing especially on the nature of space and time. Questions to be discussed include: what is motion? In what sense is classical mechanics deterministic? Does space exist (and what does that even mean)? What makes time different from space? In what sense does time have a direction? What does special relativity tell us about the nature of space and time? Do the past and the future exist? The necessary physics background will be presented from scratch, but solid high school physics is recommended.

As taught this semester, Phil 126, can satisfy group A of the Epistemology/Metaphysics requirement.

135  Theory of Meaning. Campbell. MWF 9-10, Wheeler 222.

143  Modal Logic. Holliday. TuTh 11-12:30, Stanley 179.

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 (e.g., MATH 55 or CS 70).

146  Philosophy of Mathematics. Mancosu. TuTh 9:30-11, AAPB155.

This is an introduction to the classics of philosophy of mathematics with emphasis on the debates on the foundations of mathematics. Topics to be covered: infinitist theorems in seventeenth century mathematics; the foundations of the Leibnizian differential calculus and Berkeley’s ‘Analyst’; Kant on pure intuition in arithmetic and geometry; the arithmetization of analysis (Bolzano, Dedekind); Frege’s logicism; the emergence of Cantorian set theory; Zermelo’s axiomatization of set theory; Hilbert’s program; Russell’s logicism; Brouwer’s intuitionism; Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. Prerequisites: Phil 12A or equivalent.

161  Aristotle. Clarke. TuTh 11-12:30, Social Sci 56.

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).

173  Leibniz. Crockett. MWF 3-4, AAPB155.

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.

184  Nietzsche. Kaiser. MW 6:30-8, Wheeler 222.

The course will focus on key ideas in Nietzsche’s philosophy, such as his theory of drives, perspectivism, analysis of nihilism, revaluation of values, ‘will to power’, art, and the ‘affirmation of life’. We will discuss, among other works, The Birth of Tragedy, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Genealogy of Morals, and extensive excerpts from Nietzsche’s late notes.

190  Proseminar: The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir. Novakovic. Tu 4-7, Dwinelle 89.

Simone de Beauvoir is an important and influential twentieth century philosopher, but her contributions are often neglected and rarely taught. Our aim in this seminar is to take Beauvoir seriously as a philosopher in her own right and to take her philosophical project on its own terms. In particular, we will examine how her phenomenology, moral philosophy, and feminist philosophy informed one another. Our focus will be on “Pyrrhus and Cineas”, Ethics of Ambiguity, as well as her feminist classic The Second Sex (selections). Since Beauvoir was also a celebrated novelist, we will read and discuss some of Beauvoir’s literary writings, such as her newly published and translated novella, the Inseparables.

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

H196  Senior Seminar. Ginsborg. M 12-2, Philosophy 302.

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).

198BC-1  Berkeley Connect. Haddow. W 5-6, Evan 35.

198BC-2  Berkeley Connect. Haddow. W 6-7, Evan 35.

Graduate seminars

290-1  Graduate Seminar: Intentionality and the Psychology of Concepts. Gómez Sánchez. M 12-2, Philosophy 234.

This seminar will be an introduction to contemporary theories of concepts in philosophy and cognitive science (from a representationalist perspective). Some of the questions we will discuss are: What are concepts? How do they represent entities in the world? Do concepts have internal structures? If so, what are these structures like? How is concept learning possible, and how does it work?

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Belief. MacFarlane. Tu 12-2, Philosophy 234.

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 them fundamental, and the other derivative? Are they competing or complementary descriptions? If they are complementary, what are their distinctive roles? If they are competing, which should we prefer, and what should we make of the other?

In this seminar we will mostly be assuming that the analog description of cognitive states in terms of credences is useful, and asking whether any important theoretical role remains for the digital description in terms of beliefs. Many have thought not. Richard Jeffrey writes that he is “inclined to think that Ramsey sucked the marrow out of the ordinary notion, and used it to nourish a more adequate view,” and David Christensen argues that “believes” is like “large” or “warm”—a useful word in everyday life, but not one that plays a role in useful scientific or epistemological theories. We will see if we can resist these conclusions. Casting a broad net, we will consider a number of different approaches to making sense of belief: in terms of its role in psychological explanation, in terms of credence, as a cognitive heuristic, and in terms of its relations to cognitive norms, knowledge, assertion, reactive attitudes, reasons, guesses, and inquiry.

Readings will be drawn from the recent literature on this topic. This course is aimed at graduate students in philosophy. Others who are interested in the seminar should request the permission of the instructor.

290-3  Graduate Seminar: Provability Logic. Holliday/Mancosu. Tu 2-4, Philosophy 234.

Provability logic is the branch of modal logic in which the box operator is interpreted as provability in a formal theory, such as Peano Arithmetic. In this seminar, we will cover the core results of provability logic as presented in The Logic of Provability by George Boolos, including the most famous result in the field: Solovay’s Arithmetical Completeness Theorem for the Gödel-Löb logic GL. Additional material may be drawn from Artemov and Beklemishev’s chapter on provability logic in the Handbook of Philosophical Logic, as well as Verbrugge’s survey in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. All enrolled students must give a presentation in at least one seminar session (or more, depending on enrollment) and submit a final paper. Enrollment by undergraduates is subject to consent of the instructors. Class attendance and participation is mandatory.

290-4  Graduate Seminar: Forms of Fellow Feeling: Empathy and Its Kin. Bailey. Tu 4-6, Philosophy 234.

Here is a thought with broad and enduring appeal: when we burrow down to the very core of our moral lives, we will find there some form of fellow feeling. Philosophers and psychologists have made some ambitious claims about the moral significance of empathy, sympathy, compassion, and their kin. Empathy, for instance, has variously been cast as the primary driver of altruistic behavior, a key mechanism of moral judgment, the means by which we recognize others as worthy of respect or concern, and a bulwark against both ordinary cruelty and the dangerous excesses to which moral theorizing is prone. Fellow feeling forms a crucial bridge or bridges between oneself and others. And not only that: on some views, it is essential to our own constitution as temporally extended, practically rational selves. While many of these claims seem intuitively attractive, they have also been met with important challenges. Skeptics charge that forms of fellow feeling are not reasonable, impartial, or powerful enough to play the many roles ascribed to them. This graduate seminar explores the question: what is fellow feeling, and what roles does fellow feeling play in our lives as agents, as reasoners, and as the subjects and objects of moral concern?

We will begin with some taxonomies of fellow feeling, and with a brief consideration of two important historical examples of sympathy-centered moral psychological theory. Then, we will turn to the question of what the feeling in fellow feeling amounts consists in. We will consider competing contemporary theories concerning emotions’ nature and import. With that general background in place, we will finally proceed to the moral and practical significance of fellow feeling in particular. Questions we will take up include: what is the relationship between empathy and moral concern? Is sympathy essential to (or even helpful for) moral judgment, or is it actually an obscuring force? To what extent is fellow feeling possible across differences in history, values, or other character-defining features? What role (if any) should empathy play in our political engagement? And: are there moral limits on the extent of our fellow feeling?

This is a course in moral psychology, but readings range across philosophy of mind, epistemology, moral philosophy, and social and political philosophy. Most but not all materials are of recent vintage. Requirements include regular seminar participation, the weekly posting of questions, an in-seminar presentation, and a term paper. No prior background in moral psychology is expected. Enrollment for graduate students is open. Enrollment for undergraduates by special permission only.

290-5  Graduate Seminar: Explanation. Rubenstein. W 2-4, Philosophy 234.

This seminar will be an introductory overview of the vast philosophical literature on explanation, with a focus on scientific explanation and metaphysical explanation.

290-6  Graduate Seminar: Eternity, Duration, and Time. Primus/Carriero. W 4-6, Philosophy 234.

For much of the history of Western philosophy, time is not found at the most fundamental level of reality (think, for example, of Plato’s Forms). God, in particular, is often viewed as eternal (indeed as identified with Eternity), in the sense of being “outside” or “beyond” time. This contrasts with a contemporary attitude that views the actual as what’s found in space and time, and sees things outside of space and time as abstract and less than fully real. In this seminar, we will explore the idea of an eternal order/being and its positioning vis-à-vis a durational order (involving successive existence and time). Among the issues we’ll take up are the nature of eternity and God’s relation to it; accounts of how God, as an (the?) eternal being, is epistemically and causally related to durational things; and views about the extent to which things besides God might have a share in Eternity. Our plan is to begin with some ancient background sources, then try to articulate some standard conception(s) of eternity in medieval philosophy, and finally move on to consider some treatments in early modern rationalism. Authors that we may consider include: Plato, Plotinus, Boethius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Occam, Spinoza, and Leibniz.

290-7  Graduate Seminar–Political Realism: Social Complexity and the Limits of Political Intelligibility. Sluga. Th 10-12, Philosophy 234.

Normative political philosophy suffers from a lack of attention to the reality to which its norms are meant to be applied. We need, instead, a realist approach to politics that takes due cognizance of the social and political circumstances before we try to determine how to proceed. (“You can’t make decisions in a game, unless you know what game is being played.”) This is what Machiavelli and Hobbes understood. But their versions of political realism are no longer sufficient since contemporary society has undergone dramatic change. An essential feature of contemporary social and political structures is that they are highly complex systems. The first goal of the seminar is to explore the nature of that complexity. Cognitive orientation becomes, moreover, increasingly difficult under conditions of heightened complexity. The second question for the seminar is therefore what the limits of intelligibility are given the complexity of contemporary social reality and what this means for the conduct of politics. How, in particular, are we to conceive of democracy in this situation? In the course of the semester, we will look at Danilo Zolo’s 1992 book Democracy and Complexity. A Realist Approach and John Dunn’s book The Cunning on Unreason. Making Sense of Politics of 2000 as well as his more recent 2014 book Breaking Democracy’s Spell.

290-8  Graduate Seminar: The Philosophy and History of Automated Decision Making. Dasgupta/Recht. Th 2-4, Soda Hall 510.

Co-taught by Shamik Dasgupta (Philosophy) and Ben Recht (EECS)

This course will survey automated decision making, focusing on its historical development during the Cold War and its philosophical foundations. We will consider the parallel development of modern optimization, game theory, randomized clinical trials, and machine learning between 1944 and 1970 and how seminal data science was forged on the first computers. This history will let us ask what one needs to assume about the future in order to automate decisions based on past experience. Along the way, we will examine various philosophical issues that arise in deploying these decision-making systems, including idealization in scientific models and rational choice theory, the role of chance and probability in guiding decisions, and the nature of pattern recognition. Through this philosophical lens, we’ll probe why these particular decision-making frameworks have become so entrenched over the past 50 years.

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

Intelligence: Human, Animal, Artificial

290-10  Kavli Graduate Seminar in Philosophy: The Moral and Political Philosophy of AI. Mannino/Masny. Th 12-2, Philosophy 234.

This graduate seminar addresses selected moral and political issues raised by the development and deployment of AI technologies. In the first half, we will discuss the moral, political, and decision-theoretic challenges of aligning advanced, potentially dangerous AI systems with human values. In the second half, we will cover three topics: the future of work, deepfakes, and the possibility of AI well-being. (In order to register, use Course Number 33890. Syllabus available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Iba8YcyugR_tFMijpXVpS-almpocJrykAZq99IirDos)

295  Dissertation Seminar. Ginsborg. TBA, TBA.