Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Fall 2016


PHIL 001-01/Intro to Phil: Problem of Evil & Meaning of Life

Jeff McConnell / TR 1:30-2:45 / H+

This section is an introduction to philosophy, with a focus on the problem of evil and questions about the meaning of life. We begin with a question that has occupied philosophers and theologians for centuries: Is the existence of evil consistent with the existence of a God? We begin with Augustine's autobiographical Confessions, which documents his struggles with this question. Next, we consider Leibniz's attempt to show that we live in the best of all possible worlds and Voltaire's satirical response to Leibniz in his short novel Candide. This debate over religion leads naturally to two more questions: What is evil? And is human nature evil? Some religious people think that humankind is "fallen," and that it is only through God's "grace" that any good is possible. Kant has a different but related problem of evil – how can a rational person do evil? The problem arose for Kant because of his idea that humans are only motivated by selfishness or by morality. Evil actions, however, seem sometimes to be motivated by the desire to do the wrong thing because it is wrong. This suggests an innate, irrational tendency to evil. A concern with irrationality runs through a number of writers who follow: Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud and Sartre. Finally, we conclude with a careful reading of Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, her account of the trial of an architect of the Holocaust. In this book, she defends her famous thesis of the "banality of evil." There will be regular writing assignments, and occasionally students may be asked to view films related to the readings.


PHIL 001-02/Intro to Phil: Problems of Philosophy

Jeff McConnell / TR 3:00-4:15 / J+

Metaphysics is the philosophical study of the ultimate character of reality. This section is an introduction to metaphysics. We will also consider certain questions in epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge. We will often be concerned with how these two areas of philosophy are connected -- what limitations our various conceptions of knowledge impose on how much of the world we can know, and what our various metaphysical conceptions have to say about knowledge. In the process, we will examine some central philosophical questions, which might include: Do we have free will? Are our actions causally determined? Does moral responsibility exist? Can we know anything? What is the nature of alienation? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the origin of the order and of the complexity in the world? Does God exist? Do miracles exist? What is the nature of time? Several readings may be drawn from classical texts, but most readings will come from the last hundred years. There will be regular writing assignments, and occasionally students may be asked to view films related to the readings.


PHIL 001-03/Introduction to Philosophy

Susan Russinoff / TR 12:00-1:15 / F+

This is an introduction to philosophy through an examination of some of the classical problems in the history of Western Philosophy. We start by investigating various kinds of reasoning used by philosophers and then take a careful look at questions concerning belief, knowledge, and reality. We also explore how humans ought to make decisions, and investigate questions that arise when we think about whether an act is right or wrong. This is done, in part, by considering and evaluating answers given by various philosophers and their reasons for giving them. The course introduces you to several areas of philosophy and helps to develop both your analytic skills and your ability to express your own views and thoughts clearly. Readings will include selections by Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Goodman, Pascal, Mill, and Kant. Students will write five short essays and will be given the opportunity to write several drafts of each.


PHIL 001-04/Introduction to Philosophy

Monica Link / MW 4:30-5:45 / K+

In this course we will take up three broad philosophical topics. The first topic is the nature and structure of morality. How should we treat other human beings? What principles ought we to use in deciding when an action is right or wrong?
Next we will turn to questions about knowledge and reality. Can we be certain that we exist? That God exists? Are the mind and the brain identical? What is conscious experience and can it be described in physical terms?
Lastly, we will discuss free will. What is it, and do we have it? Is it compatible with the idea that everything in the universe is determined? Is free will a necessary condition for holding people morally responsible for their actions?
Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary philosophers.


PHIL 001-05/Introduction to Philosophy

Monica Link / MW 1:30-2:45 / G+

In this course we will take up three broad philosophical topics. The first topic is the nature and structure of morality. How should we treat other human beings? What principles ought we to use in deciding when an action is right or wrong?
Next we will turn to questions about knowledge and reality. Can we be certain that we exist? That God exists? Are the mind and the brain identical? What is conscious experience and can it be described in physical terms?
Lastly, we will discuss free will. What is it, and do we have it? Is it compatible with the idea that everything in the universe is determined? Is free will a necessary condition for holding people morally responsible for their actions?
Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary philosophers.


PHIL 001-06/Introduction to Philosophy

Ian Blaustein / TR 10:30-11:45 / D+

This course introduces students to problems in metaphysics and epistemology through close reading of several classical texts of Western Philosophy. Metaphysics is the study of the fundamental nature of reality. We will focus on the following metaphysical questions: What are we? Are we immaterial things, bodily things, some combination? What happens to us when we die? Does God exist? Do we have free will? Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How could we ever come to know the answers to these metaphysical questions? What is knowledge and how do we get it? Is knowledge even attainable? Throughout our examination of these questions, we will also consider questions about values and what we should do. For example, what attitude should we take toward death? If we can't be certain that some of our most fundamental beliefs are true, would it matter? If we don't have free will, does that mean that everything that we do is pointless? Great philosophers have proposed sophisticated answers to these questions. We will read their works, consider their theories, and analyze and evaluate their arguments, with the objective of coming closer to our own answers, however tentative, to some of life's biggest questions.


PHIL 001-07/Introduction to Philosophy

Valentina Urbanek / TR 12:00-1:15 / F+

This course introduces students to problems in metaphysics and epistemology through close reading of several classical texts of Western Philosophy. Metaphysics is the study of the fundamental nature of reality. We will focus on the following metaphysical questions: What are we? Are we immaterial things, bodily things, some combination? What happens to us when we die? Does God exist? Do we have free will? Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How could we ever come to know the answers to these metaphysical questions? What is knowledge and how do we get it? Is knowledge even attainable? Throughout our examination of these questions, we will also consider questions about values and what we should do. For example, what attitude should we take toward death? If we can't be certain that some of our most fundamental beliefs are true, would it matter? If we don't have free will, does that mean that everything that we do is pointless? Great philosophers have proposed sophisticated answers to these questions. We will read their works, consider their theories, and analyze and evaluate their arguments, with the objective of coming closer to our own answers, however tentative, to some of life's biggest questions.


PHIL 001-08/Introduction to Philosophy

David Denby / TR 1:30-2:45 / H+

The readings for the course come from ancient, modern, and contemporary sources. We will read Plato's Apology and Meno in full and most of Descartes' Meditations and Hume's Enquiry. We will also read selections from Sextus Empiricus, Anselm, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Ryle, Ayer, Chisholm, Jackson, Nagel and Armstrong. Although we will look at these in their approximate chronological order, the approach in this course will be problem-centered rather than historical; we will concentrate on live philosophical problems rather than studying intellectual history.
The focus will be on four sets of issues: the mind-body problem and the nature of a person; the nature and existence of God; knowledge and skepticism; and the problem of free will and determinism. Other issues will also arise.
The aims of this course are fourfold. First, to develop a sense of how puzzling, fascinating, and problematic some of these traditional issues in philosophy really are. Second, to gain some acquaintance with and understanding of the various positions taken and the methods employed by some of the great philosophers. Third, to develop the ability to think rigorously and critically both in philosophy and beyond. Finally something that is often thought to be impossible in introductory courses: to do some real philosophy ourselves.


PHIL 001-09/Introduction to Philosophy

Stephen White / MW 6:00-7:15 / M+

Philosophy 001-09 is an introduction to the major problems of contemporary philosophy. Our knowledge of the external world, for example, seems to have its source in our perceptual experience. But consider that what we are given in subjective experience--an experience, say, that seems to be of a room, other people, etc.--could have had any number of causes besides the ones we normally take it to have. It could have been caused, for example, by a dream, by an evil genius, by our being in a virtual reality setup, etc. What, then, justifies our belief that we are in touch with a "real" external world?
Again, consider the relation between subjective experience and the brain. It seems that we could know everything there is to know about the brain from a scientific perspective, but that if we had never tasted chocolate, there is something we would learn on tasting it for the first time. Does this mean there are subjective facts in addition to the facts we discover through ordinary scientific inquiry?
Besides the problem of skepticism and the mind-body problem, we will discuss the alleged paradoxes of time travel: Could you go back in time and give your younger self information necessary for you to become what you are now? What would happen if you tried to kill one of your parents before you were conceived?
The problem of personal identity arises when we ask what it is in virtue of which you are the same person today that you were a decade ago. Is it conceivable that you could come to have a different physical body from the one you have now?
Human agency becomes puzzling when we consider that from the objective point of view everything seems to be a mere happening--there seems to be no room for anything that would constitute our doing something. This is not because everything is determined, but because randomness is no more a basis for our genuinely doing something--for our being the authors of our actions--than is causal determination.
Finally, are values something we discover, or do we make them up? If we make them up, could we have made up murder, theft, arson, and fraud as values?
The text used to introduce the basic issues is Thought Probes: Philosophy through Science Fiction Literature, which pairs classic and contemporary philosophical texts with relevant pieces of science-fiction literature. The introduction will be followed by the discussion of recent articles from the philosophical literature In addition, we will discuss a number of films and film clips, including portions of Vanilla Sky, Animatrix, Ghost in the Shell, La Femme Nikita, La Jetée, and The Measure of a Man (Startrek, The Next Generation).
Philosophy 001 is an English 002 equivalent and involves a strong emphasis on writing. There will be several short paper assignments, some of which may be rewrites of earlier drafts. The class is discussion oriented and requires very active participation. Attendance is extremely important and will be counted toward the grade.


PHIL 001-10/Introduction to Philosophy

Peter Levine / MW 3:00-4:15 / I+

This introductory course will emphasize one of the great philosophical questions: "How should I live?" The readings will specifically consider whether truthfulness, happiness, and justice are important aspects of a good life, and how each should be defined. Readings will be selected from both classic and contemporary philosophers and from many parts of the world.


PHIL 001-11/Introduction to Philosophy

Erin Kelly / MW 10:30-11:45 / E+

This course deals with both classical and contemporary works by philosophers on questions about the nature of justice, morality, knowledge, and freedom. For instance, we will ask, Can we know of the world or other people that they exist? The skeptic claims we cannot. Can the skeptic be answered? We will also investigate the following: What do morality and justice require of us in our interactions with one another? What are the source and limits of political authority? To what extent can the government justifiably limit a person’s freedom? What might justify the use of political violence? Are there moral constraints on the conduct of war? Do combatants bear moral responsibility for whether and how they fight?

Class time will be devoted largely to discussion, including discussion in small groups. There will be several short writing assignments which aim to help you to develop your analytical skills and to learn how to construct a philosophical argument. Readings from Plato, Descartes, Hobbes, Mill and several contemporary philosophers.


PHIL 001-12/Introduction to Philosophy

Stephen Martin / MW 4:30-5:45 / L+

What is the difference between appearance and reality? What is the relation between mind and body? Who am I, and how should I live? Answering these questions means joining an ongoing conversation about several fundamental areas of human concern, including knowledge, the self, the existence of God, morality, freedom, and fulfillment. In joining this conversation, you will come to learn the rudiments of arguing rigorously about topics that have engaged some of the world’s deepest and most insightful thinkers, and you will come to understand why the problems of philosophy have not, and perhaps will not, go away.


PHIL 001-13/Introduction to Philosophy

Stephen Martin / TR 6:00-7:15 / N+

What is the difference between appearance and reality? What is the relation between mind and body? Who am I, and how should I live? Answering these questions means joining an ongoing conversation about several fundamental areas of human concern, including knowledge, the self, the existence of God, morality, freedom, and fulfillment. In joining this conversation, you will come to learn the rudiments of arguing rigorously about topics that have engaged some of the world’s deepest and most insightful thinkers, and you will come to understand why the problems of philosophy have not, and perhaps will not, go away.


PHIL 003-01/Language & Mind

Brian Epstein / MW 4:30-5:45 / K+

Are we the only species with minds? Do animals — dolphins, chimpanzees, birds, spiders — have minds, or do they just have brains? We are the only species with language. Some animals have what might be called proto-languages, much simpler signaling systems, but these do not seem to give those species the spectacular boost in intelligence that language gives us. It is generally agreed that language makes our minds very different from animal minds, but how, and why? Are we the only conscious species? Are we the only self-conscious species? What is it like to be a bat? Is it like anything to be a spider?
In the first half of the course we will explore fundamental questions about the nature of minds. What does it take for something to have a mind? We will discuss the empirical research that has recently shed new light on the questions about animal minds, while sharpening philosophical questions about the nature of minds in general.
In the second half of the course, we will look at human language, its structure and evolution, and the effects it has on our minds. We will also explore "linguistic relativity": do people in other cultures think differently than we do? Is there a relation between the language we speak and how we think?
The course has no prerequisites, and it is particularly appropriate for students who are not likely to major in philosophy but want to get a substantial introduction to the specific philosophical issues surrounding the mind-body problem and its relation to language. Readings will include classic philosophical essays by Turing, Nagel, Putnam, Jackendoff, Dennett, and others.


PHIL 024-01/Introduction to Ethics

David Denby / TR 3:00-4:15 / J+

At this moment, like every other, you're faced with a question: What should I do?
People often say that, in general, what you should do is help others. But then they would, wouldn't they? Perhaps what you really should do is always act in your own self-interest. Perhaps that is what everyone else is already doing anyway (despite what they say).
Some people say that you should promote the values of your community or society. But some societies have vile values. Indeed, don't the values of our society need at least a little adjustment? Anyway, why should the fact that a society is yours mean that you should promote its values, especially if doing so is contrary to your self-interest?
Some people say that you should act according to God's will. But what does God will, exactly? And surely we should obey Him only if He is good and commands us to do what is right. Yet that seems to mean that morality is independent of Him.
Some philosophers have argued that whether you should do an action depends entirely on its consequences (compared to those of its alternatives). But should you really ignore the past? Doesn't just punishment, for instance, depend on whether the person is actually guilty -- a fact about the past?
Other philosophers have focused instead on the motives behind an action, in particular on whether you're acting out of respect for others (and yourself). Still others have argued that whether you should do an action depends on a combination of these and perhaps other factors. But each of these suggestions faces problems: What on earth is "respecting others"? What is it to "combine" the various factors? Self-interest then? Maybe, but even self-interest is a tricky notion. Something is not in your self-interest simply because you want it, as every smoker knows. And maybe our interests, or at least the best means for achieving them, are mutually interdependent: perhaps the best way for you to get what you want depends on what I do and vice versa.
We will discuss all this in this course. After a brief introductory discussion of logic and the nature of ethical theory we will spend most of the semester critically evaluating a number of normative ethical theories. These will include various forms of Relativism, religiously-based theories, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Egoism and Social Contract theories. We will also discuss self-interest, values, and other matters. Finally, we will discuss how to apply what we've learned to an issue of contemporary moral concern – probably abortion.


PHIL 033-01/Logic

Susan Russinoff / M 4:30-5:20, TR 3:00-3:50 / J

*Satisfies Tufts Mathematical Sciences Distribution Requirement

How can one tell whether a deductive argument succeeds in establishing its conclusion? What distinguishes good deductive arguments from bad ones? Questions such as these will be addressed in this course. We will discuss what a formal language is, how arguments in English are to be expressed in various formal languages, and what is gained from so expressing them. In the jargon of the field, we will cover sentential logic, first-order predicate logic, identity theory, definite descriptions, and topics in metatheory. The course requires no specific background and no special ability in mathematics.


PHIL 038-01/Rational Choice

Patrick Forber / MW 3:00-4:15 / I+

Decision making and strategic interaction are activities we engage in everyday. But do we make the right decisions? Do we adopt the most advantageous strategies? This course will approach these questions by using a set of formal methods for analyzing decisions and strategies: decision theory and game theory. We will cover the basic formal frameworks of probability and game theory and their application to problems in decision making and strategic thinking, tackling a number of troublesome paradoxes that emerge. We will also look at promising applications of game theory to understanding evolution in both biological and cultural domains. There are no prerequisites. Course requirements include problem sets, short papers, and a final exam.


PHIL 091-01/Paradoxes & Dilemmas

Riccardo Strobino / MW 3:00-4:15 / I+

Paradoxes and dilemmas are problematic cases, conundrums or puzzles that force us to accept counterintuitive conclusions from apparently acceptable premises or to choose among equally undesirable outcomes without an apparent justification.
They are often associated with moments of crisis and revolutionary developments in the history of philosophy and beyond.
The course will introduce students to an array of famous cases in the history of Western thought from Antiquity to the present. Themes under discussion will include - but not be limited to - Zeno's paradoxes (the infinite), the liar paradox (truth), the heap (vagueness), the ship of Theseus (identity), Russell's paradox (sets), the Gettier problem (knowledge), moral luck, nuclear deterrence, the lottery paradox, the voting paradox and the prisoner's dilemma.
The course indirectly provides an introduction to various fundamental themes in metaphysics, logic, epistemology and moral philosophy and offers analytical tools that can be useful for students in any area of the humanities, social sciences and international relations.


PHIL 091-02/Freedom from Self & World

Monica Link / TR 1:30-2:45 / H+

This course explores important questions about the self, and about the self living in the world, from the vantage point of various Chinese, Indian and Japanese classical schools of thought. In particular, we will consider questions such as:
What makes for a truly free life? What does it mean to try to be a "not self" and to "not-think"? How should we navigate the mind-body relationship? What is natural and what is unnatural? How are order and change both important? What, if anything, is permanent? How should we view and manage suffering? What is the value and practice of meditation? What is the function of rituals? How can we live free but engaged lives?
Texts we will cover include selections from the following works or thinkers: Daodejing (Tao Te Ching), Zhuangzi, Vedas, Upanisads, Bauddha Darsana, Bhagavad Gita, Dogen and Shinran.
In addressing these questions, we will see how the thinkers from these Eastern traditions use
historical anecdotes, legend, dialogue, metaphor, and meditation. Hence, we will also observe and discuss what it means do philosophy in ways that depart from the Western analytic tradition.


PHIL 091-03/Ethics Bowl

Susan Russinoff / MW 3:00-4:15 / Block I+

The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl is a debate-style competition in which teams of undergraduates argue against each other to resolve cases of actual ethical dilemmas. The Ethics Bowl gives students a chance to enter an academic competition that combines excitement and fun with an educationally valuable experience in the areas of practical and professional ethics. Participating students can earn 1/2 credit (pass/fail) and will attend coaching sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays during the noon free blocks during the weeks leading up to the Tufts competition. These sessions will help students think through ethical questions and issues and prepare them to construct arguments to support their positions on the cases written for the Ethics Bowl.


PHIL 103-01/Logic

George Smith / M 4:30-5:20, TR 3:00-3:50 / J

How can one tell whether a deductive argument succeeds in establishing its conclusion? What distinguishes good deductive arguments from bad ones? Questions like these will be addressed in this course. The principal text will be Richard Jeffrey's Formal Logic, though it will be supplemented by other texts and by notes from the instructor. The accent will be as much on coming to understand what the word 'formal' means in the title of Jeffrey's book as on what 'logic' means. We will discuss what a formal language is, how arguments in English are to be expressed in various formal languages, and what is gained from so expressing them. In the jargon of the field, we will cover sentential logic, first order predicate logic, identity theory, and definite descriptions. We will also look briefly at the history of logic.
The course requires no specific background and no special ability in mathematics. Understanding why formal methods work will be as important as manipulating them. The course will require six written homework assignments and an open-book final exam. The homework assignments, which students are expected to work on in groups, form the core of the course. Students should anticipate spending an average of eight hours per week outside of class in this course.


PHIL 117-01/Philosophy of Mind

Stephen White / MW 3:00-4:15 / I+

This course will focus on the nature of conscious experience, its relation to the subjective point of view, and the implications of both for the mind-body problem. We will also consider carefully the nature of the subjective point of view as it is involved in seeing a world that contains opportunities for genuine action, states of affairs worth striving for, and agents like ourselves.

We will begin by examining the Cartesian conception of consciousness, which holds that the intrinsic features of conscious experience are fully manifest and completely given at the time the experience takes place. The intuition behind this conception is that conscious experience has no hidden sides and no unnoticed features. This intuition supports the sense-data theories of consciousness and experience held by the major figures from Descartes to Kant and implicit in many contemporary arguments that there cannot be a materialistic account of "qualia."

We will go on to consider a wide range of problems for this conception of consciousness, such as our ability to perceive depth and to perceive aspects. We will then look at some of the contemporary alternatives to the Cartesian conception, including behaviorism, physicalism, and functionalism. Despite the success of some of these theories in handling a number of the problems, the objection remains that such theories fail to explain the depth and significance of the distinction between those entities that do and those entities that do not enjoy consciousness.

An important distinction in the philosophy of mind is the distinction between intentional states such as beliefs and perceptual states, which represent the world as being a certain way, and sensational states, such as pains, which allegedly do not. Much of the work in philosophy of mind on consciousness has focused on such sensational or qualitative states, but more recently the emphasis has shifted toward perceptual experience. Work on perceptual experience raises important questions about the nature of the concepts that figure in our intentional states in general, the relation of those concepts to experience, and the assumption of the normative nature of intentional states.

This leads to Kripke's work on Wittgenstein's rule-following paradox, important in its own right and as an objection to functionalism. (Objections such as Jackson's objection based on the knowledge argument focus on the alleged inadequacies of functionalism as a theory of qualia. The rule-following argument focuses on functionalism's alleged inadequacies as a theory of content--usually thought to be its strong suit.) We will then consider whether Kripke's own so-called "skeptical solution" to the rule-following paradox is tenable. The threat of meaning skepticism leads to a number of transcendental arguments, which have implications both for the concept of agency and for causal theories across a range of philosophical subdisciplines. And the requirement that we do justice to agency leads to an alternative to the usual conception of science--one in which the priority of theory to practice is reversed.

With these points in place, we will examine the relation between consciousness and the justification of our perceptual beliefs about the external world. Recent work on the "phenomenology" of perception has centered on the thesis of disjunctivism--that as between veridical perception and a matching hallucination there is no "highest common mental factor" in virtue of which we are given the world only indirectly. Disjunctivism provides an attractive (anti-skeptical) position in epistemology, but in its apparent denial of the reality of full-blown subjective experience in cases of hallucination, it raises seemingly intractable problems in the philosophy of mind. Our discussion, in this context, of the varieties of the "internal/external distinction" will not only cut across the boundary between epistemology and philosophy of mind, it will have important implications for every major branch of philosophy.

Finally, we will draw on our earlier discussion of concepts when we examine the notion of nonconceptual content. Here, the fundamental question is whether we can make sense of a kind of content that is radically different from the kind we normally suppose our mental states have in virtue of our having a natural language.


PHIL 118-01/Philosophy of Biology

Patrick Forber / T 1:30-4:00 / 6

We will examine the conceptual foundations of evolution, ecology, and genetics, with special attention to outstanding philosophical problems. The course begins with Darwin, and his original presentation of natural selection in the Origin of Species. We will then look at two very different "big picture" views on evolutionary biology and the importance of natural selection, the first defended by Richard Dawkins and the second, by Richard Lewontin. The course continues by discussing specific philosophical and theoretical controversies, such as those over the units of selection, the nature of fitness, altruism and spite, biological function, causation, individuals, and what natural selection explains. Students require some exposure to philosophy or biological science, preferably both. Course requirements include regular attendance and participation in discussion, short essay exams, and a final term paper.


PHIL 131-01/Epistemology

Jody Azzouni / MW 10:30-11:45 / E+

Sometimes we know something, and sometimes we have just made a good guess. Can we tell the difference? Is there a method for recognizing that we know something? We usually can supply evidence for what we know. Must we always be able to do so for us to rightly claim that we know something? Evidence for a belief is usually something we know. Do we need evidence for our evidence? If so, how do we ever manage to know anything? Some philosophers, called skeptics, don't think we do know anything. In this course, we'll try to answer these questions, or at least explore them further. Readings will be from articles, both contemporary and classic. Requirements: Two 5-7 page papers, and weekly write-ups on the readings.


PHIL 134-01/Philosophy of Social Science

Brian Epstein / MW 1:30-2:45 / G+

Why are the social sciences so difficult? If engineers can build airplanes that stay aloft, why can't economists figure out how to avoid recessions? If biologists can design mice that glow in the dark, and make bacteria crank out drugs to fight cancer, why can't we design political systems that avoid corruption and gridlock? Why are there so many versions of history, and why do theories in psychology go in and out of fashion every few years?
Are the social sciences inherently harder than the natural sciences? Are they just younger and less mature? Is the social world more complex than the natural world? Or are the goals of the social sciences, or the subjects they address, somehow different from those of the natural sciences?
This course is an introduction to the philosophy of social science. We will consider the nature of explanation in the social sciences, contrasting a variety of approaches taken by historical and contemporary thinkers. We will read theorists who have put forward different approaches for making the social sciences scientific, and critics who argue that social science is essentially a matter for interpretation. Then we will turn to the nature of social facts, and finally to the pros and cons of "methodological individualism," i.e., the idea that society can be modeled in terms of individual people interacting with one another.


PHIL 152-01/History of Modern Philosophy

Mario DeCaro / MW 4:30-5:45 / K+

This course will take you back in time inside the heads of a group of very bizarre creatures: the great philosophers of Modernity. Through their eyes we will look at the strange and fascinating worlds they used to inhabit and the intellectual problems they faced. Surprisingly enough, there is a lot to learn from such a journey.
"Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it," the old saying goes. There are good reasons to think that this is true for philosophy as well: understanding what the philosophers of the past had to say, besides being fun, can teach us a lot about how we should deal with our most urgent philosophical problems.
The intellectual journey of the course will cover the beginning of the Modern age and the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Positivism, up to the crisis of Modernity and the age of globalization. The readings will include selections from the writings of some the greatest minds of the Western world, including
Machiavelli, Luther, Galileo, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt, Wittgenstein, and Quine.
Among the issues that we will discuss there will be free will, moral responsibility, the mind-body problem, the nature of art, the relationship between science and common sense, the possibility of a just war, and the existence of God. Special attention will be paid to the connection of the philosophical conceptions with politics, ethics, science, religion, and the arts.
A particular feature of this course will be that clips and movies will be shown during the meetings in order to illustrate the topics.


PHIL 167-01/Science Before Newton's Principia

George Smith / T 6:30-9:00 / 11

This is the first part of a two-course sequence focusing on Newton's Principia, the book that first showed the world how to do science in the modern sense of the term. In Philosophy 168 in the spring semester we will read the Principia itself. The revolution produced by the Principia is undoubtedly the most important single event in the history of science, ending controversies begun by the Copernican model of the planetary system and leading over the next 60 years to what we now call Newtonian mechanics. It produced no less of a revolution in scientific method by illustrating a way of marshaling evidence that stood in sharp contrast to both the narrow empiricist line then prevalent in England and the rationalist line prevalent on the continent. Because of this, the Principia is as important to philosophy of science as it is to history of science. It is the perfect work to focus on in investigating how science at its best succeeds in turning data into decisive evidence. The Principia is accessible to a wide range of students. It requires no background in physics or calculus. It does, however, require historical knowledge of the scientific context in which it was written. Thus, the goal of the fall semester is to cover the background needed to grasp the force of the evidential arguments in the Principia. We will review the work on planetary orbits by Kepler and those after him; Galileo's efforts toward a science of motion; Descartes' theory of planetary motion; and studies of curvilinear motion by Huygens and Newton that led directly into the Principia. Three 6 to 8 page papers will be required during the fall semester. In the spring semester we will examine the evidential argument developed throughout the Principia and responses to it. The sole written requirement will be a term paper dealing with one of the major historical or philosophical issues surrounding the work.
Studying the Principia can be of value to a wide range of students. Besides offering an ideal way of studying the philosophy of science, it gives history students a vehicle for getting into the history of science. It offers students in the physical sciences and engineering an opportunity to learn how the foundations of their disciplines were secured. And it offers students in the humanities a way of studying what science is like from the inside, where the fundamental problem is not to obtain data, but to find ways of turning data into evidence. Science distribution credit is given for the spring semester.


PHIL 186-01/Phenomenology & Existentialism

Avner Baz / M 6:00-9:00 / 10+

Phenomenology seeks to uncover, or recover,
human experience in the face of our own natural tendency to overlook it, and in the face of its distortion-through-over-intellectualization in traditional philosophy and in modern science. Against the tendency to suppose that we already know what our experience must be (like), since (presumably) we know, objectively, what we are and what the world is like, phenomenology calls upon us to 'bracket' that objective knowledge and to reflect upon our experience without traditional or scientific presuppositions. It claims that, ultimately, even the work of science presupposes this level of 'pre-reflective' experience, or the world as perceived before it is thought. This immediately raises the question of how we can recover for ourselves a level of relation to ourselves and to our world that, on the phenomenologist's own account, we normally and naturally pass over—interested as we are in objective facts and practical results. How can we know that, in criticizing existing theories for distorting human experience, we ourselves are free of challengeable presuppositions that distort our own account? The phenomenologist's answer is that we cannot know that: existing phenomenological descriptions of our experience are always open to challenges in the name of a truer description. And yet it is undeniable that neither traditional philosophy nor modern science has much to say that is enlightening about the special way in which we perceive and relate to our own body, for example; or about what it means to relate to another human being as an other; or about the way in which the back of an object, or what's behind our back, is present in our experience; or about how to understand those moments when we look at something differently and 'everything changes even though nothing has changed'; or about the way in which our past is present in our present (and how this makes freedom both possible and limited); or on how we know, and yet do not truly know, that we are going to die; or on how sexuality, for example, or class consciousness, or a childhood trauma, affects the whole of our being. And it is also undeniable that phenomenology has much to say that is enlightening about these issues.
Existentialism reminds the traditional philosopher or 'the thinker' that, before all else—before any reasoning or theorizing—she or he exists. And this is not a conclusion—a proposition—that we necessarily arrive at if we follow Descartes' reasoning in his first and second Meditations. It is a fact we live before we think it. Descartes doubts; and then 'realizes' that in doubting, he must exist. But before any reasoning or logical derivation he lives his doubt (if it's a genuine doubt)—he enacts it. Doubting is how he spends this moment of his life; and his present act of doubting will become part of what he'll carry with him to the next moment. As the conclusion of a piece of reasoning, who knows what it means for me to exist? As something I undergo, however, my existence is undeniable. It is truly what I must begin with: not in the sense of being an Archimedean starting point or axiom for a logical derivation, which is how Descartes thought of it, but in the sense that, before all else, I exist. We each have been 'thrown into the world', and we come to every moment—even a moment of the highest and most abstract reflection—with an inheritance (personal, cultural, biological) that we are free to transcend in various ways, but not to choose. And we have no essence—no character—that precedes our interaction with the world and determines it in advance—we can only discover ourselves in our engagement with the world, not by pure, disengaged reflection or introspection.
The philosophers we will study in this course are phenomenologists. They are also existentialists (Merleau-Ponty much more so than Husserl). For Merleau-Ponty, the fact of our existence is the fact of our embodiment—not in the trivial sense that we each have a body, but in the much deeper and more difficult sense that we are our bodies—not our bodies as science conceives of them, however, but our bodies as we (and others) perceive them. It will be interesting for us to think how, for all of the differences between them, Husserl's work made Merleau-Ponty's work possible: how within the span of two great Texts—Husserl's Cartesian Meditations (based on his Paris Lectures) and Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception—we can go from Descartes' Meditations to the most radical overthrowing to date of Cartesian metaphysics.


PHIL 191-01/Morphological Theory

Ray Jackendoff / MW 1:30-2:45 / G+

Morphology is the study of the structure of complex words. We will look at major phenomena of word structure in English and many other languages: inflectional morphology (e.g. tense, gender, case), derivational morphology (e.g. building nouns such as construction from verbs such as construct), and compounding (jamming two words together as in doghouse). A crucial question is how to deal with irregularity, for instance that the past tense of sing is sang rather than singed. We will look at the implications of these phenomena not just for theories of morphology, but also for theories of syntax, language acquisition, language processing, and the nature of the mind in general.


PHIL 191-02/From Individuals to Citizens

Amelie Rorty / TR 12:00-1:15 / F+

"Education is the primary aim and function of the polity." - Aristotle
"A political system is only as good as the education it provides." - Dewey
What do some classical political theories (Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, Dewey) assume about the raw material of human nature, about standard basic default motivation, and about the roles of rationality, emotion and the imagination in choice and action? How do political institutions and social structures shape the psychology and mentality of citizens? What kind of education (broadly conceived) do they project as necessary for citizens capable of constructive and cooperative civic life? How do these classical political theories address the fundamental problems of education: Who should be educated in what, for what and by whom? Who is the implicit primary beneficiary of education (the individual, the extended family, the economy, the polity?) What aspects of individuals should be developed (or suppressed) for the sake of what? What roles do social and economic institutions (the family, work places, unions, corporations) play in education? Should the Nation-State mandate a curriculum? Should the Nation-State engage in religious, moral and civic education? What are the stages in education and what is the curriculum appropriate to each? Do different sectors of the population (men, women, intellectuals, workers, non-citizens, etc.) have distinctive educational goals?


PHIL 191-03/Topics in Metaphysics

David Denby / TR 10:30-11:45 / D+

On the face of it, the world consists of things having (essential and accidental) properties and standing in various relations. But what exactly are things? What are properties and relations? And what is it to have a property or relation essentially or accidentally?
These issues have always been central to metaphysics and in this seminar we will investigate them, with particular focus on recent work. First, we will look at things. We will focus on questions about their nature, constitution, and perhaps their persistence. Then, we will look at properties and relations. We will focus on whether there really are such things in addition to the things that have them. Next, we will look at essences. Finally, we will examine whether in fact we should have taken the world as prior to its constituents rather than the other way round. Other issues, e.g., the debate over truthmakers, will come up along the way.
We will read some background material, often from the early or mid-twentieth-century, followed by recent discussions from the late nineties and early twenty-first century. Authors will include, among others: Armstrong, Fine, Haslanger, Hawthorne, Hoffman and Rosenkranz, Kripke, Lewis, Markosian, Paul, Plantinga, Quine, Russell, Schaffer, Sider, Stalnaker, Szabo, Thomasson, and Zimmerman.


PHIL 191-04/Foundations of Cognitive Science

Daniel Dennett / W 6:30-9:00 / 12

Cognitive models of perception, memory, control and many more specific mental phenomena typically postulate systems of representation, but there is so far no uncontroversial theory of mental (or cerebral) representation, or of information-processing in the brain. This course will look at the philosophical background of work on minds and mental processes, including the topics of intentionality, functionalism, computationalism, and reductionism, and the issue of how explanation in cognitive science compares with explanations in the other sciences. This course is designed for graduate students in the disciplines comprising cognitive science, and for advanced undergraduate majors in brain and cognitive science or philosophy.


PHIL 191-05/Free Will & Moral Responsibility

Mario DeCaro / T 6:30-9:00 / 11

You're reading this course description. Nobody forced you to do so, so you think you did that out of free will. Maybe it's so, but maybe it isn't.
According to Descartes, Kant, and Sartre that we have free will is one of our most basic and irrefutable beliefs; according to Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and Pereboom it's pretty obvious that we don't have free will; according to Chomsky and van Inwagen, the problem of free will is intractable for our minds and will always remain a mystery. Somebody has to be wrong here, right?
Also, among people who believe in free will, some argue that it requires indeterminism, others that it requires determinism, and still others that it is
compatible with both determinism and indeterminism. Again, they can't all be right. And what about the relation between freedom and responsibility: does the latter need the former or not? Nowadays philosophers disagree on this issue as well.
Finally, to make things more complicated, today a lot of evidence from cogsci and the neurosciences gives us other compelling reasons to doubt that free will really is what we normally think it is.
These discussions have huge consequences for our view of ourselves, ethical thinking, and the conception of punishment, which will investigate in detail.
Readings for the courses will include texts by Hume, Kant, Frankfurt, van Inwagen, the Strawsons, Dennett, Wegner, Libet, Mele, Pereboom, and P.S. Churchland.


PHIL 191-06/Environmental Ethics

Sheldon Krimsky / W 6:00-9:00 / 12+


PHIL 191-07/Quine

Jody Azzouni & Jeff McConnell / M 6:00-9:00 / 10+

W. V. O. Quine is widely regarded as the most important philosopher of the second half of the 20th Century; a 2009 survey ranked him as the fifth most important philosopher of the last 200 years (after Wittgenstein, Frege, Russell and Mill). During the 1950's and 1960's, Quine published some seminal essays, which include: "On What There Is," which contains Quine's criterion of ontological commitment, "to be is to be the value of a variable"; "Two Dogmas of Empiricism," in which Quine attacked the analytic-synthetic distinction, a bedrock of logical empiricism; "Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes," in which Quine set out the basic terms for the debates over "quantifying in" intensional contexts; and "Epistemology Naturalized," in which Quine rejected the traditional conception of epistemology as a normative enterprise independent of the sciences. In 1960, he published his major work, Word and Object, in which he argued for the "indeterminacy of translation." Our focus in the course will be Word and Object, but we will also look at essays he published in the decade before that book and the decade after it, collected in From a Logical Point of View, Ontological Relativity and Ways of Paradox.


PHIL 197-01/Ethics, Law, & Society

Lionel McPherson / TR 1:30-2:45 / H+

This course forms the core of a certificate program in Ethics, Law and Society, administered through the philosophy department. We will study how moral and political philosophy relate to questions of public importance. The seminar will study a range of practical ethical questions concerning such themes as: international justice, especially regarding migrants and "the resource curse”; income and wealth inequality; multiculturalism and religious toleration; mass incarceration and the aims of punishment; and climate change.

We will approach these questions by considering case studies and by evaluating moral guidelines for resolving conflicts and dilemmas. We will be especially concerned with the challenges to ethical thought posed by ethnic, religious, and political diversity.

Requirements for the course include two short papers and a longer term paper.


PHIL 291-01/Value

Sigrún Svavarsdóttir / R 6:30-9:00 / 13

I don't know about you, but I believe that some things are of value and others are not. To what exactly does this belief commit me? What is it for something to have value? Are there any legitimate metaphysical worries about ascriptions of value? How is value related to reasons for actions and attitudes? What is the relation between value and
practical rationality? These questions set the main research agenda for this seminar. We will read some of the contemporary literature on these issues, including my published and unpublished work. Students will be expected to write a seminar paper, closely related to the seminar topic. Some smaller writing exercises or oral presentations may also be assigned. This seminar is suitable for philosophy graduate students and advanced undergraduate philosophy majors.


PHIL 297-01/Graduate Writing Seminar

Avner Baz & Lionel McPherson / 11:30-2:00 / ARRF