550 – Epistemology
Foundations of Bayesian Decision Theory. This class will focus on evaluating the foundations of Bayesian decision theory, and the arguments that have been provided to justify it and related normative claims. Possible topics include: the relation between the norms of Bayesianism and the norms of decision theory, Objective versus Subjective Bayesianism, Internalist versus Externalist understandings of Bayesianism, and Dutch book, convergence, epistemic utility and representation theorem arguments for conditionalization and probabilism (that our beliefs should satisfy the probability axioms).
Given time, we may also look at questions of whether and how we should extend the standard Bayesian account to accommodate various things, such as uncertain evidence, imprecise degrees of belief, and self-locating or ''de se'' beliefs.
551 – Metaphysics
Bricker & Schaffer
Topic – Causation and Conditionals.
This course is a mix of philosophical logic and metaphysics. It will begin by surveying the various theories of indicative and subjunctive conditionals. (To see the difference between indicative and subjunctive conditionals, consider the pair: "If Shakespeare did not write Hamlet, then some aristocrat did" (indicative); and "If Shakespeare had not written Hamlet, then some aristocrat would have" (subjunctive).) It will then focus on the question how and whether causation can be analyzed in terms of subjunctive conditionals. And it will conclude by asking whether a unified account of indicative and subjunctive conditionals is possible. Along the way, it will touch upon numerous topics including possible worlds semantics, probability and belief-change, probability and logic, the pragmatics of conversation, ambiguity, vagueness, and the law of excluded middle. The course is restricted to graduate students and advanced undergraduates with at least three courses in philosophy.
563 – Ethical Theory
In the first half of this course we will study some of the most important theories in the normative ethics of behavior. Among these will be various forms of utilitarianism and various forms of Kantianism. In each case, one focus will be on clear and accurate formulation of the theory. Another focus will be on understanding and evaluating classic objections to the theories. In the second half of the course we will study some of the most important theories of axiology. Among these will be hedonism, eudaimonism, and various forms of axiological pluralism. Readings from Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Bentham, Mill, Kant, Ross, Moore, and others. Text: an anthology of papers in ethics, title TBA. Requirements: two take-home exams, no term paper. Prerequisite: two courses in philosophy.
591K – Kant
Introduction to Kant's Theoretical Philosophy. This seminar will be a graduate-level introduction to Kant's metaphysics and epistemology. The idea of the course is that the Critique of Pure Reason is best understood as the outcome of Kant's continuous engagement with a set of metaphysical and epistemological issues over the course of the previous three decades. The goal of the seminar will be to introduce students to the main doctrines of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason by examining both the development of those doctrines through Kant's earlier pre-Critical works and by reading major sections of the Critique itself. The focus of the course will be Kant's views on substance, space, causation, modality and a priori knowledge.
592A – Action
This course falls into two parts. In the first part we will examine several influential recent models of action – that is, accounts of what it is to be an agent rather than a subject of mere behavior or bodily movement. These models are offered as answers to Wittgenstein's curious question: "What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?" Readings for this part of the course include Anscombe's Intention and essays by Davidson, Bratman, Frankfurt, and Velleman. In the second part of the course we will examine the relation between reasons for action and motivation. Hume famously argued that reason is the slave of the passions. Many philosophers have taken Hume's claim to be equivalent to, or to imply, the claim that an agent's reasons for action depend in one way or another on her motives or desires. We will consider certain arguments that have been offered for and against Hume's claim so understood. Readings for the second part of the course include, in addition to Hume's discussion of the matter, essays by Stroud, Michael Smith, Bernard Williams, McDowell, Susan Hurley, and Velleman.
593M – Philosophy of Mind
An in-depth study of the philosophical issues surrounding mental representation and cognitive architecture through the work of Jerry Fodor. Permission of instructor is required for undergraduates.
703 – Problems in History
The topic of this seminar is seventeenth-century rationalists’ systems of nature, as well as the accounts of natural change that underlie these systems. We will focus on problems concerning the mechanical account of bodily interactionism; mind-body interactionism and union; efficient causality, the scope and grounding of the laws of nature; secondary causes and divine concurrence; antecendent, occasional and immanent causes; and the doctrines of spontaneity and “world-apart.” In short, the course will take us to the heart of rationalist metaphysics—a metaphysics that was the underpinning of the developing mechanical science and of traditional theological doctrines that were often in tension with mechanism. In addition to a selection of primary sources drawn from the works of Descartes, Malebranche and Leibniz, weekly readings will also include one or two articles by contemporary historians of philosophy that underline, and attempt to solve, problems that arise in the primary texts. In our discussions and seminar presentations, we will use the secondary commentaries as a way to focus on particular interpretive and philosophical problems. Following recent scholarship’s attention to tracing the historical roots of early modern philosophy, we will examine some ancient, medieval and late scholastic sources for some of the concepts and doctrines central to the rationalists’ systems of nature. Prerequisites: Graduate student status in the Philosophy Program or permission of the instructor. Requirements: Class participation and presentations, one short paper (roughly 5 pages), and a final paper (roughly 15 –20 pages) on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor.
791C – Truth and Being
We will discuss the relation between truth and being, paying particular attention to various truthmaking principles. Requirements: one long paper, of roughly 20 pages. Readings: Armstrong, D. M. 1997. Chapter 8 of A World of States of Affairs. Cambridge University Press. Lewis, David 2001. “Truthmaking and Difference-Making,” Nous 35: 602-15. Molnar, George 2000. “Truthmakers for Negative Truths,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 78: 72-86. The main text for our course will be Trenton Merricks’s new book Truth and Ontology (2007, Oxford University Press).
792E – Naturalized Epistemology
Antony & Kornblith
793F – First-Person Perspective
Baker & Matthews
This seminar will discuss the significance of our ability to think of ourselves from the first-person point of view. Topics will include historical treatments (Matthews on Augustine and Descartes), agency (Anscombe and Kim), persistence without identity (Parfit and Matthews), epistemic/pragmatic accounts of the first-person (Lewis and Perry), eliminative accounts of the first-person (Dennett, Metzinger and Baker), and a metaphysical account of the first-person (Baker). Course requirements are two class presentations, a short paper, and a term paper. This seminar is open only to philosophy graduate students, except by permission of the instructors.
794O – Moral Obligation
In this course we will look at a number of questions concerning the nature of moral obligation. Among the many questions we will consider are: does ought imply can, is it possible for there to be moral dilemmas—situations in which no matter what one does, one does what one ought not to do—, is what we ought to do dictated by the facts of our situation or by what we have evidence to believe about our situation, how should conditional moral obligation be understood, and is there such a thing as prima facie moral obligation and if so what is its relation to all-things-considered moral obligation.
795L – Neo-Logicism
An in-depth examination of the recent attempts to revive the position in the philosophy of mathematics known as logicism: the theory that arithmetical truths are a species of logical or analytical truth, or that pure mathematics (or arithmetic at least) reduces to logic in one form or another. Readings include short works by Frege, Wright, Hale, Boolos, Heck, Shapiro, Zalta and/or others. Requirements: weekly reading assignments, presentation and term paper. Prerequisites: Graduate student with strong background in formal logic, or consent of instructor