Philosophy 290-3

Spring 2014

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-3 Graduate Seminar: The Nature of Nature Dreyfus/Noë W 2-4 234 Moses Hall

Science, from its beginning, has taken inspiration from what Bernard Williams called the Absolute Conception of Reality. This is a conception of the world as “it really is” entirely apart from how it appears to us: a colorless, odorless, meaningless and value-free domain organized in accordance with timeless and immutable mathematical laws. Modern science shapes a conception of the cosmos, its subject matter, that excludes us. And so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it has proved difficult, over the centuries, to find a place for us, and for phenomena such as meaning, experience, value, purpose, not to mention religion and art, in the natural order so conceived. Maybe it’s just a matter of time. Newer sciences such as neuroscience and linguistics are moving in, step by step, on the sought after comprehension of ourselves. Or maybe the problem runs deeper than that and stems from our very conception of nature itself and so also of what a natural science is supposed to be and so what the right sort of explanations are supposed to look like?

In this seminar we ask after the nature of nature. It is our aim to raise questions and to indicate possible ways forward.

Among the authors whose work we will read are Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, Hilary Putnam, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Evan Thompson.

This is a research seminar designed primarily for graduate students of philosophy. Others are welcome space permitting.