Modal Logic


TuTh 10:00-11:15
This course is intended to follow Philosophy 310 (Intermediate Logic), and examines various modal logical systems including alethic modal logic, epistemic logic, deontic logic, tense logic, and the logic of propositional attitudes. Emphasis will be on quantification, identity, descriptions, scoped singular terms, and actuality. Text: Hardegree, Introduction to Modal Logic (available on-line). Prerequisite: Philosophy 310, or consent of the instructor. For more information, consult course website.


Topics in Epistemology


Tu 1:00-3:30
Topic: Metacognition. We will spend the semester carefully reading Joelle Proust's new book, The Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness. This book has a very thorough discussion of literature in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, and it develops and interesting and original view.


Topics in Ethics


M 7:00-9:30
In this course we will examine many of the factors moral theorists have thought to be relevant to the moral permissibility and impermissibility of behavior. Among the many questions we will discuss are the following: Are an action's consequences morally relevant to its permissibility? If so, in what ways are they relevant? Is there a moral prohibition against harming others, even in cases in which doing so would bring about the best outcome? If there is such a prohibition, what are its contours? In what ways is consent morally relevant, if at all, to the permissibility of a person's actions? To what extent are we morally obliged to help those in desperate need? Requirements: two take-home exams, no term paper.


Seminar – Formal Philosophy

Perez Carballo

W 4:00-6:30

This course is an overview of recent work on conditionals. Topics include: the canonical semantics for conditionals and some of the alternatives (e.g. expressivist, relativist, NTV, and dynamic theories); the logic of indicative and counterfactual conditionals; the formal criteria that any theory of conditionals should meet; the relationship between conditionals and conditional probability; the analysis of conditional obligations; the relationship between chance and counterfactual conditionals.

Prerequisites (for undergraduate students): three prior courses in philosophy, including one of Phil 110 (Intro to Logic) or Phil 310 (Intermediate Logic), or a similar class.


Kant's Ethical Theory


Th 1:00-3:30

Kant’s moral philosophy is typically regarded as one of the most influential ethical views in Western philosophy, alongside virtue ethics (Aristotle) and utilitarianism (Bentham/Mill). This course is a basic introduction to Kant’s ethics. 

In this course, we will focus on Kant’s overall value theory.  The first half of the course will focus on Kant’s views about (1) moral value.  Some topics to be discussed include his views about human dignity, respect, treating people as ‘ends in themselves’, rights, and the overall relationship between morality and politics.  The second half of the course will focus on Kant’s views about (2) non-moral value.  Some topics to be discussed include his views about happiness, welfare, our obligations to non-rational animals/nature, and ideal vs. non-ideal theory.

There are no course prerequisites. For graduate students, this course can fulfill either a history or an ethics requirement.


Topics in History of Philosophy


W 1:00-3:30

In recent decades, the causal role of body (e.g., external objects, as well as brain states) in Descartes' account of the content of sensory ideas has come in for considerable debate. Some commentators argue that Descartes ultimately held that body is not an efficient cause of sensory content. They claim that in late texts, Descartes identifies bodies as the occasions rather than the causes, of the content of sense ideas. This has led some to suggest that Descartes was moving toward the system of nature most famously held by Descartes' successor, Malebranche, namely the system of occasionalism According to Malebranche, whose texts we will examine closely, bodies are devoid of any causal power. A fortiori, they are incapable of causing sensory contents in minds.  Instead, on the occasion of the presence of particular bodies, God alone causes specific sensory content in minds. Other commentators argue that Descartes, both early and late, followed the anti-occasionalist view of Aquinas, who held that bodies are partial efficient causes of sensory content in minds. We will also examine the Cartesian texts that are cited as evidence for both readings. But there is a third option that has been neglected by the literature: bodies are neither non-causal, Malebranchean occasions nor are they full-fledged, partial efficient causes of the content of sense ideas. Instead, they are the occasional causes whose pedigree goes back to the antecedent causes of the ancient Stoics and Galen. We will read some excerpts from these two ancient sources, as well as from some of Descartes' contemporaries, such as Margaret Cavendish, who made use of these occasional causes in their natural philosophy. We will scrutinize Descartes' texts and attempt to see the precise causal contribution he attributes to bodies as occasional causes of the content of our sensory ideas.
Prerequisite for undergraduates: Students must have previously taken and passed Phil. 321 (History of Modern Philosophy), or have transfer credit for the equivalent of Phil 321, or have taken and passed a 500-level UMass course in the history of philosophy.


Selected Philosopher – Carnap


F 1:00-3:30
A close examination of the philosophy of Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970), with special emphasis on his Der Logische Aufbau der Welt (The Logical Structure of the World, 1928). Topics include logical positivism, the significance and nature of philosophical problems (or pseudo-problems), empiricism, logic and language. Requirements: in class-presentation, weekly reading assignments and term paper. Pre-requisites: graduate student standing or consent of instructor.


Seminar in Metaphysics


M 4:00-6:30
This course will be an exploration of the metaphysics of relations, and the associated notion of structure.  Among the philosophers we will read are:  Lewis, Armstrong, Fine, Williamson, Sider, and Schaffer.


Seminar in Philosophy of Science


M 1:00-3:30
There's a lot of talk in mainstream epistemology about "the basing relation" and "reasons" for believing something. In this class we’ll try to wrap our heads around what these notions are, whether and why they’re important, and how they fit (in they do fit) with traditional approaches to formal epistemology.
Questions we’ll examine will include: What is the "basing relation", and what role (if any) should they play in an adequate account of epistemic rationality? What are (epistemic) "reasons", and should an adequate account of epistemic rationality be formulated in terms of them? Can either of these notions, and the normative claims people make about them, be made sense of by traditional approaches to formal epistemology? If so, how? And if not, what should we do about it?


Seminar – Morality and Mind


Tu 4:00-6:30

What ought we to do?

How do we decide what we ought to do?

What does the second question have to do with the first?

The philosophical study of morality has, for centuries, been conducted as an a priori enterprise.  Insofar as philosophers thought about how human beings actually think about moral issues, they relied on casual observation and introspection. Recently, however, some empirically-minded philosophers have joined forces with cognitive, developmental, and social psychologists, neuroscientists, and behavioral economists to investigate the psychological and neurological processes that underlie human moral judgments, to figure out scientifically how we decide what we ought to do.  Is moral judgment a matter of following rules?  Which rules?  What is the role of emotion in moral judgment?  Is morality innate, or acquired through culture?

Candidate answers are emerging, but so are new philosophical questions.  Primary among them is this: what does the way we actually make moral judgments tell us about how we ought to make moral judgments? It's known that human reasoners routinely make mistakes when they think about probability – can they be systematically mistaken about morality, too?  Or is the ethical domain – unlike the mathematical domain – simply constituted by what humans take it to be?

In this seminar, we will survey some of the main theories and controversies coming out of the new interdisciplinary approach to human moral judgment, including: developmental and evolutionary perspectives on altruism, "dual-systems" theories of moral decision-making (Joshua Greene, Jonathan Haidt)," work in "experimental philosophy" on responsibility and intentionality (Joshua Knobe), the "moral grammar" theory of John Mikhail and Susan Dwyer, and John Doris's "situationist" challenge to virtue ethics. 


Dissertation Seminar


by arr.