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Past Graduate Courses

(For a list of upcoming/current graduate courses, click here.)

Fall 2018 Courses

 

PHIL 6322: Logic & Philosophy (Class #22882)

Prof. Garson
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM, Room: M 111

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This course is an introduction to the application of logic to philosophy. It provides a background in predicate logic sufficient for navigating the philosophical literature, and serves as a graduate level introduction to the philosophy of logic. The first half of the course will be concerned primarily with predicate logic: translation of English argumentation into predicate logic notation, proofs and trees for checking validity, and discussion of some metalogical features such as soundness, completeness, and the lack of a decision procedure. The second half will explore applications of predicate logic to a number of philosophical issues, including the theory of descriptions, the paradoxes of material implication, and the semantical analysis of natural language. We will also look at topics in non-standard logics including modal logic, tense logic, free logic, multi-valued logic and others. Students will have the opportunity to select the topics to be covered to match their philosophical interests.

Text: Predicate Logic (PL) H. Pospesel The text will be used primarily as a resource on predicate logic, and to provide necessary exercises. Other course materials will be handed out in class. Exercises will be due weekly and represent a substantial portion of the students’ grades. There will be an in-class Midterm Exam and a Final.


PHIL 6395: Agent-Relative Reasons (Class #22874)

Prof. Phillips
We 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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In this course, we are likely to read, inter alia: Sidgwick, Moore, Ross, Broad, Nagel, Parfit, Williams, Korsgaard, McNaughton and Rawling, Crisp and Mark Schroeder.


PHIL 6395: Philosophy of the Special Sciences (Class #22875)

Prof. Buckner
Th 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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Philosophy of science often focuses on metaphysical and epistemological issues—such as unity, reduction, and explanation—in the abstract. In this course, we will rather study these questions as they arise from within the “special sciences”, such as biology, neuroscience, and psychology. In this course, we will review five debates surrounding central posits in the special sciences: species, concepts, emotions, cognition, and deep learning neural networks. Central questions will involve the following:

  • Which disagreements are genuine and which are merely rhetorical or terminological?
  • How can we distinguish ontological disagreements from methodological or epistemological ones?
  • How can or should such disagreements be resolved?
  • Should findings from other sciences be deemed relevant to answering these questions—and if so, in what way?

Note that in this course we will get our hands dirty with details from the sciences. Background readings on basic texts in these areas are available on request.


PHIL 6396: Seminar in the History of Philosophy (Class #22873)

Prof. Hattab
Mo 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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No further information is available at this time.

 

Spring 2018

 

PHIL 6305: History of 18th Century Philosophy (Class #22452)

Prof. Hattab
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM, Room: AH 302

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Enlightenment philosophers developed complex philosophical systems to address the tensions that the scientific revolution had produced between: 1) the world as we experience it through the senses 2) the world as described by science, and 3) traditional metaphysical notions of substance, cause, the self and freedom of the will.  Much of this course will therefore be devoted to getting clear on the different ways in which these tensions get resolved in George Berkeley’s idealism, David Hume’s radical empiricism, Immanuel Kant’s transcendental idealism, and Thomas Reid’s common sense philosophy.  Our primary goal is to understand the theoretical foundations of enlightenment thought through careful study of Berkeley’s Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature and Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, and Thomas Reid’s Inquiry and Essays.  A second and related goal of this course is to improve your reading, reasoning and writing skills.  To that end, we will pay careful attention to the forms of reasoning employed in the assigned texts, and you will complete a series of writing assignments teaching you how to interpret historical texts, break down an argument, evaluate it and formulate objections to it.  


PHIL 6322: Logic and Philosophy (Class #22450)

Prof. Garson
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM, Room: M 109

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   This course is an introduction to the application of logic to philosophy. It provides a background in predicate logic and modal logic sufficient for navigating the philosophical literature, and serves as a graduate level introduction to the philosophy of logic.
        The first half of the course will be concerned primarily with predicate logic: translation of English argumentation into predicate logic notation, proofs and trees for checking validity, and discussion of some metalogical features such as soundness, completeness, and the lack of a decision procedure.
        The second half will explore applications of predicate logic to a number of philosophical issues, including the theory of descriptions, the paradoxes of material implication, and the semantical analysis of natural language. We may also look at topics in modal and other non standard logics including counterfactuals, intuitionistic logic, and the logic of vagueness.  Students will play an active role in determining the topics in the second half of the course.


PHIL 6344: Philosophy of Science (Class #22453)

Prof. Weisberg
MoWe 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: C 108

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6358: Classics in the History of Ethics (Class #22458)

Prof. Morrisson
MoWeFr 9:00AM - 10:00AM, Room: L 212L

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6376: Philosophy and the Scientific Revolution (Class #22451)

Prof. Brown
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: AH 7

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In this course we will examine the interaction between philosophy, science, and religion during the 17th and early 18th centuries, the century of the Scientific Revolution. In particular, we will discuss the debates that arose concerning the nature of explanation, scientific methodology, the status of natural laws and their relation to miracles, and the status of so-called "occult qualities." All of these issues were joined in the protracted conflict that arose between Continental philosophers and scientists, most prominently Leibniz (1646-1716), and the English Newtonians (Newton: 1643-1727) over the status of gravitational force. This conflict involved a central methodological, debate, pitting the Newtonian "experimental philosophy" against the "mechanical philosophy" favored on the Continent. This conflict, in its many and varied forms, will be discussed in detail, as will the equally vexed debate about the "force of a body's motion" — the so-called vis viva controversy.


PHIL 6395: Animal Cognition (Class #22448)

Prof. Buckner
Tu 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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When philosophers have attempted to define human nature, it is often by reference to or contrast with that of animals. And yet the most natural way to understand the thought processes of animals is by comparing their abilities to (what we think we know about) our own.  Our thinking about animal minds thus seems trapped between two biases:  viewing animals as wordless, furry versions of ourselves (anthropomorphism), and holding that animal thought is only rational, interesting, or otherwise valuable insofar as it resembles human cognition (anthropocentrism).  These doubts can leave us wondering whether a rigorous empirical study of animal cognition is even possible.

In the first half of this course, we will review the study of animal thought from the Ancients to the current explosion of empirical work on animal cognition.  We will begin with the debates about human nature in Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, continue to survey the notion of the wordless “brute” caught in the debate between the rationalists and empiricists, review the dramatic way that Darwin’s theory of evolution changed the terms of the debate, explore the foundations of comparative psychology in Morgan and Romanes, consider the arguments of the radical behaviorists, and finally assess the cognitive revolution against the behaviorist’s epistemological strictures. 

In the second half, we will explore particular debates in current animal cognition research.  The empirical study of animal cognition today is a highly interdisciplinary field—with crucial contributions by psychologists, ethologists, philosophers, and biologists—that aspires to use well-designed experiments to overcome the biases of anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism.  However, there remain a variety of philosophical challenges facing the field, such as whether folk psychology (appealing to contentful mental states like beliefs and desires) provides a viable framework for the empirical study of animal psychology, whether animals have consciousness, whether animal cognition can be studied in the lab or only in the wild, and whether neuroscience might provide additional purchase on these issues.  We will conclude the course by reviewing the ways in which these issues arise in several debates over particular animal cognitive capacities, such as tool use, episodic memory, theory of mind, transitive inference, and metacognition.


PHIL 6395: Contemporary Metaethics (Class #22447)

Prof. Phillips
Mo 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6396: Seminar in the History of Philosophy (Class #22449)

Prof. Freeland
Th 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6397: Philosophy of Film (Class #22454)

Prof. Mag Uidhir
We 5:30PM - 8:30PM, Room: AH 302

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6397: Aesthetics (Class #22455)

Prof. Freeland
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM Room: AH 201

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No further information is available at this time.


Fall 2016


PHIL 6304: History of 17th Century Philosophy (Class #11180)

Prof. Brown
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM, Room: SW 219

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An examination of the central metaphysical and epistemological issues in 17th-century philosophy. The works of some of the major philosophical figures of the century will be systematically discussed. These figures include Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, and Leibniz.

There will be two essay examinations: a midterm and a final. Students will also be required to submit a 12-15 page term paper (20-25 pages for graduate students) on a topic determined in consultation with the instructor.


PHIL 6332: Philosophy of Language (Class #23962)

Prof. Buckner
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM, Room: AH 302

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This course is an introduction to the philosophy of language. This is a large area that encompasses many topics, including meaning, truth, the relationship between logic and language, and the distinctions between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. In the first half of the course, we will review some classics in this area by Frege, Russell, Tarski, Quine, Wittgenstein, Austin, Grice, Kripke, Putnam, Davidson, and Evans. We will consider how these issues intersect in some of the central "problems" of philosophy of language, such as vagueness and language learning. In the final section of the course, we will explore more recent interdisciplinary work on the way that language evolved from the protolinguistic communication systems of non-human animals, including views such as that of Dorit Bar-On, Joëlle Proust, and Tecumseh Fitch.


PHIL 6358: Classics in the History of Ethics (Class #20818)

Prof. Phillips
MoWe 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: AH 7

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In this course we will read and discuss the most important ethical works of four central figures in the modern history of ethics: John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), G.E. Moore (1873-1958) and W.D. Ross (1877-1971). There will be three pieces of written work for the course: a take home midterm and a take home final, both consisting of two questions each requiring about 4-5 pages of writing, and a 7-8 page paper.


PHIL 6383: Ancient Philosophy (Class #19943)

Prof. Hattab
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: MH 129

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In this course we will study the origins of Western Philosophy, beginning with the earliest surviving fragments of Ancient Greek philosophical texts by the Presocratic philosophers, dating back to the early sixth century BC.  The Presocratics were mostly concerned with explaining the origins and nature of the universe, and its parts.  Through our study of their theories you will become familiar with the branches of philosophy known as Metaphysics and Epistemology.  Metaphysical questions concern the nature of reality, which can include the nature of divine beings and the soul as well as physical beings. Epistemological questions concern the possibility, nature and extent of our knowledge of these beings.  In the second part of the course we will not only encounter a different kind of philosophical answer to these questions, but we will also encounter a different kind of philosophical question.  Socrates (469-399BC), and his student Plato (c.427-347BC), were not just interested in figuring out where things came from and what their ultimate natures were.  It is fair to say that they were more interested in figuring out what human beings should do in order to successfully live.  This involved posing and attempting to answer questions such as:  “What kind of life is a good life?”  “What is the good?”  “What is justice?” and “What kind of a state best promotes the good and just life?”  The first three questions fall under the branch of philosophy called Ethics, and the last two come under Political Philosophy.  In the third part of the course we will study the philosophy of Plato’s student, Aristotle (384-322BC).  Aristotle, who was arguably the most influential philosopher in the history of Western thought, addressed all these questions in a systematic manner and developed new areas of philosophical study such as Logic, History of Philosophy and Philosophy of Science.  Finally, we will conclude the course with one post-Aristotelian school of Philosophy.  Through Epictetus’ Handbook we will learn about the Stoic approach to the good life.


PHIL 6395: Moral Responsibility and the Emotions (Class #23696)

Prof. Sommers
Mo 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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This course examines the debate over free will and moral responsibility, focusing on the tradition that began with P.F. Strawson’s groundbreaking essay “Freedom and Resentment.” Strawson argued that metaphysical concerns about the threat of determinism were misguided, that they “overintellectualized the facts” about blame and praise.  He sought instead to ground our responsibility judgments in the natural human attitudes and practices expressed in our interpersonal relationships.  The framework of these attitudes and practices, according to Strawson, “neither calls for, nor permits, an external ‘rational’ justification.”  The paper launched a new literature and single-handedly shifted the emphasis of the philosophical debate from metaphysics to ethics.  We’ll examine Strawson’s ideas, his critics, and whether contemporary “Strawsonians” are staying faithful to the spirit of that remarkable essay.


PHIL 6395: Consciousness Debunked (Class #23970)

Prof. Weisberg
Tu 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: TBA

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This seminar will develop a debunking response to the so-called “hard problem of consciousness” (Chalmers 1996).  The hard problem claims that even if we knew all the functional and physical facts about a creature we’d still be unable to determine in principle if the creature is conscious.  The main line of support for this claim lies in the way consciousness appears to us from the first-person perspective.  A debunking claim challenges this line of evidence by providing an alternative explanation of how consciousness appears to us, one compatible with physicalism.             

In the seminar, we’ll first develop a clear statement of the hard problem and then sketch the general debunking approach, considering parallel arguments in moral theory and philosophy of religion.  Next, we’ll review a range of debunking-style claims in consciousness studies from Derk Pereboom, Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, and others.  Then we’ll introduce a novel version of the debunking approach, one that builds on previous views, but hopefully avoids their difficulties.  We’ll close by considering what empirical evidence might be relevant to establishing the debunking claim, looking at evidence from the psychology of expertise, automaticity, and confabulation, among others.

The seminar deals with contemporary issues in philosophy of mind and metaphysics, epistemology (particularly first-person knowledge), and in cognitive science.  Students will be required to write one seminar paper on a topic approved by the professor.


PHIL 6395: Aesthetics (Class #23971)

Prof. Mag Uidhir
Th 4:00PM - 7:00PM, Room: AH 512

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6397: History of 20th Century Philosophy (Class #22354)

Prof. Morrison
MoWeFr 9:00AM - 10:00AM, Room: AH 302

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In this class we will explore the 20th century response to the diagnosis of nihilism that Nietzsche levels at Western Civilization at the end of the 19th century. We will read three thinkers – Camus, Adorno and Murdoch – who are very different in their concerns but who can be read in terms of their response to the challenge of nihilism. What are the possible solutions each offers and how do these solutions relate to each other? 


Spring 2016


PHIL 6334: Philosophy of Mind (Class #23314)

Prof. Weisberg
MoWe 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: SW 219

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6356: Feminist Philosophy (Class #23437)

Dr. Luttrell
MoWeFr 11:00AM - 12:00PM, Room: AH 202

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This course is advanced survey of feminist philosophy, in terms of its intellectual and political history, as well as its current debates. The goal of this course is two-fold: first, an acquaintance with the evolution and debates of historical feminist theory, and second, a critical engagement with some of the central and current concerns of the field. We approach our topics from the perspective of intersectionality, and topics covered include: the role of women in the history of philosophy; liberal and radical feminisms; accounts of the body and problems of essentialism; women, war and peace; transnational feminisms; masculinities. Students will be encouraged to connect their own research and activism interests to issues in feminist philosophy. Given that this is an advanced-level class in philosophy, the pace will be quick and the reading will be plenty. You are expected to read the material assigned for the day and to actively participate in all of the discussions, and, in the end, produce a well-formed research paper.


PHIL 6382: Medieval philosophy (Class #23435)

Prof. Hattab
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM, Room: AH 512

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This course delves into the writings of influential Christian, Jewish and Islamic medieval philosophers on philosophical issues like the problem of evil, God’s existence, free will and moral responsibility, the nature and source of virtue, the basis of knowledge and the foundations of political authority. We will begin with St Augustine’s Confessions, and then read select works by St Anselm, St Thomas Aquinas, Ibn Tufayl, Al Ghazali, Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Moses Maimonides, John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. Assignments include three philosophical essays, at least one group presentation and a debate.


PHIL 6386: History of 19th Century Philosophy (Class #20700)

Prof. Morrison
MoWeFr 9:00AM - 10:00AM, Location: L 212L

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In this class we will look at the religious, political, and moral thought of the 19th century through three very different windows: Kierkegaard's The Present Age, Mill's On Liberty, and Nietzsche's The Gay Science. How are the diverse perspectives presented in these books related? Is each thinker responding in his own way to a shared set of intellectual problems or do they even hold a sense of what the problems are in common?


PHIL 6387: History of American Philosophy (Class #23315)

Prof. Freeland
TuTh 11:30AM-1:00, Room: H 34

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6395: Seminar in Philosophical Problems (Class #23309)

Prof. Coates
We 1:00PM - 4:00PM, Room:AH 512

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No further information is available at this time.


PHIL 6395: Logic and Ontology (Class #23310)

Prof. Garson
Tu 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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In analytic philosophy, doctrines on ontological matters have been strongly influenced by developments in formal logic. This seminar will begin with a historical introduction concerning the influence of predicate logic. It will include a survey of ontological themes in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and Quine’s views about what there is. Then we will study Tarski’s theory of truth and some of its many-valued alternatives. Here ontological concerns will focus on time, and will include fatalism, the open future, and time’s passage. A third concern will be modal logic and especially possible world’s semantics. Possible topics of discussion include: the ontological status of possible worlds and possible objects, contingent and trans-world identity, and essentialism. Finally, we will study two-dimensional semantics and its application to arguments for dualism in the philosophy of mind. If we have time, we might even take a look at so called ontology as practiced in artificial intelligence research, and its dependence on the framework of predicate logic. After the first few weeks, students will play a role in determining the direction of the course.


PHIL 6396: The Problem of Universals (Class #23308)

Prof. Hattab
Mo 2:30PM - 5:30PM, Room: AH 512

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In this seminar we will trace the ways in which the problem of universals is addressed and transformed over the course of the history of philosophy. We will begin with the origins of the problem in key passages of Aristotle’s works and examine solutions to the problem developed by his most influential medieval commentators: Avicenna, St Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. We will then look at the ways in which these solutions were both criticized and developed by various early modern philosophers, such as Francisco Suarez, René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes and Benedict de Spinoza. We will conclude with some contemporary literature on the significance that their criticisms of Aristotelian universals have for current theories of universals.


PHIL 6397: Philosophy of Cognitive Science (Class #23311)

Prof. Buckner
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM, Room: Room TBA

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  • Can robots have minds? Could my mind be downloaded to a computer?
  • Is my behavior caused by my beliefs and desires, or is it all just neural activity in my brain?
  • Do animals have thoughts? What kinds of experiments could we perform to find out?
  • Must cognitive science appeal to representations? How can we accurately map or represent the world around us?
  • How did intelligence evolve? What distinguishes rational life forms from non-rational ones?
  • What counts as a good explanation in cognitive science? Is the mind governed by general laws (like physical particles), chemical mechanisms (like biological life forms), or is intelligence something that inexplicably emerges out of the chaotic firing of billions of neurons?

Cognitive science attempts to answer these questions through the cooperation of psychology, computer science, philosophy, linguistics, neuroscience, biology, and anthropology. In this course, we will review the philosophical and methodological foundations of cognitive science, especially regarding how findings from so many different sciences with different methods could fit together in a coherent way. We will discuss how cognitive science began as a response to behaviorism in psychology, and cover its attempts to answer these daunting questions with scientific rigor. In particular, we will see what the major paradigms in the history of cognitive science would say about these issues, including classical computationalism, connectionism, dynamicism, and the predictive coding approach. No philosophical background is required, but an introductory course in Logic, Psychology, or Computer Science is highly recommended.

Required Reading: Andy Clark, Mindware - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science, 2nd edition