FALL 1997


All Philosophy classes will be held in the Department Conference Room, Main Building, Room 503M, except G83.2280 Contemporary Political Philosophy, G83.2282 Philosophy of Law and G83 2284 Contemporary Ethical Theory.

G83.2226-001 Metaphysics
R 02:00 - 04:00

Causation: Topics may include: What causes what-events, states, properties; counterfactual vs nomological accounts; mental causation; why (or whether) causation is a useful notion, and whether it is an essentially macroscopic notion; causation at a distance; must a cause be earlier than its effects; why do we explain by giving causes rather than effects; why do we bring about effects by producing their causes instead of the other way around; the relation between singular and general causal claims; the relation between correlation and causation.


G83.2280-001 Contemporary Political Philosophy
Prof. Nagel
T 02:00 - 04:00 Note: Same as L06.3009

The course will follow the Law School calendar, with the first meeting on August 26. A study of recent developments in political theory, including the topics of justice, liberty, equality, democracy, and individual rights, through the work of John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, T.M. Scanlon, Joseph Raz, G.A. Cohen, Samuel Scheffler, and others.


G83.2282-001 Philosophy of Law
Prof. Murphy
To Be Arranged Note: Same as L06.3005

The course surveys twentieth-century contributions to legal philosophy. In addition to the central debate between H.L.A. Hart and Ronald Dworkin over the concept of law we discuss Natural Law Theory, Legal Realism, Critical Legal Studies, Feminist Jurisprudence, Critical Race Theory, and some aspects of Postmodern Legal Theory. The course begins with a very brief introduction to the methods of moral and political theory. There is a take-home examination, with a paper option for half the credit for the course.


G83.2284-001 Contemporary Ethical Theory
Prof. Kamm
W 04:00 - 06:00

This seminar will examine the structure of nonconsequentialism, including
(1) distinctions between harming and not aiding; (2) intending harm and merely foreseeing harm; (3) when it is permissible to harm some and aid others; (4) the nature and justification of a prerogative not to produce the best state of affairs or to maximize good; (5) the nature of rights that serve as constraints on agents' conduct and the associated idea of inviolability; (6) the relation between duties, prerogatives and supererogation.

The text will be Morality, Mortality, vol II. by F. M. Kamm (Oxford Univeristy Press, 1996), and other selected contemporary material. Requirements: short class presentation and a twenty page final term paper.


G83.2285-001 Ethics: Selected Topics
Moral Concepts
Prof. Svavarsdottir
T 06:30 - 08:30

This Selected Topics seminar will give you a fairly comprehensive overview of the main issues and positions within contemporary metaethics: the study of the nature and grounds of moral judgments. However, the main focus will be on questions about moral concepts. Questions like: Are there moral concepts or are there merely moral "pseudo-concepts" as Ayer has claimed? To what does this distinction amount anyway? If there are moral concepts, what is distinctive about them? How are answers to these questions affected by our background theory of concepts? Does the study of moral concepts provide new insights for the study of concepts in general? We will read a selection of contemporary articles, many of them published in a recent anthology edited by Darwall, Gibbard, Railton: Moral Discourse and Practice (Oxford, 1997).


G83.2226-002 Metaphysics
M 03:30 - 06:00

A unifying topic of this course is one philosophers typically label "Personal Identity"; it's really (more like) the conditions minimally required for one of us to exist at both an earlier and a later time. Our work will lead us to consider quite a few other central topics in metaphysics, as well as in matters of prudential and moral concern. Right now focusing on metaphysical matters, here are a few of the issues we'll be exploring: What is the relation between you and your (presumably living) body? How is it that some of the world's matter now constitutes your body, and (presumably) some of it now constitutes you? Even assuming that there is some such thing, what is matter; what's the difference between space occupied by matter ("material space") and space occupied by no matter (materially empty space)? While we'll become very deeply involved in such metaphysical matters, we'll also get greatly involved in issues of prudential and moral concern.

Much of the reading for the course will be from photo-copies that will be placed on our "reading reserve." As well, much will be from three recent books that, at 50% discount, students may buy from Professor Unger: 1. Eric Olson's The Human Animal: Personal Identity without Psychology (OUP,1997) 2. Michael Rea (ed.), Material Constitution : A Reader (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997 paperback) 3. Peter Unger's Identity, Consciousness and Value (OUP 1990, but paperback 1992).

Toward gaining an understanding of (some of) this course's main topics, and towards producing some good philosophical work, throughout this seminar students will do a lot of writing including a lot of rewriting. Students needn't, and probably shouldn't, write lengthy papers, with many pages. What's important is that, before the very end of the course, a student will have written some philosophically good pages.

While the professors fully intend for all of the students to work very hard, we also intend for the course to proceed in a manner that's more cooperative than competitive.


G83.2294-002 Philosophy of Mind
Prof. Strawson
T 04:00 - 06:00

The Self and the Sense of the Self

Many analytic philosophers think that the problem of the self is disreputable or illusory. Others think it can be reduced to a few points of philosophical logic. Or that philosophy must increasingly defer to experimental psychology. Few are really satisfied by these approaches, however; and if they are they ought not to be.
I aim to show why this is so, and to develop a new framework in which to approach the problem. I will argue that phenomenology must precede metaphysics when one approaches the question of the nature and existence of the self, and raise four main questions. The first is the local phenomenological question (1) What is the nature of the human sense of the self (in so far as we can generalize about it)? This triggers the general phenomenological question (2) Are there other possibilities, when it comes to a sense of the self? (Can we describe the minimal case of genuine possession of a sense of the self)? The answers to (1) and (2) raise the conditions question. (3) What are the grounds or preconditions of possession of a sense of the self? and (3) raises a battery of subsidiary questions. (It is best approached via the familiar question `What are the necessary conditions of self-consciousness?' I will suggest that many have overestimated the strength of the conditions that can be established as necessary for self-consciousness.) But progress is being made, at least potentially. For if one can produce satisfactory answers to (1), (2), and (3), I think one can finally get into a good position to raise and answer the factual question, the straightforwardly metaphysical question (4) Is there (could there be) such a thing as the self? I will try to remove some very large obstacles, both real and imagined, to answer Yes to question (4).

READING: There are no large primary texts, but most of you will already know some some of the most useful starting points.

More detailed reading lists for each week will be circulated in advance of each week's meeting.


G83.3300-001 Philosophical Research
To Be Arranged


G83.3301-001 Philosophical Research
To Be Arranged


G83.3302-001 Colloquium in Law, Philosophy & Political Theory
W 11:00 - 01:00
R 04:00 - 07:00 Note: Same as L06.3517

This course will follow the Law School calendar, with the first meeting on Wednesday, August 27.

Enrollment requires permission of the instructors. If you wish to enroll, submit a brief statement describing your interest and background in philosophy and political theory to Lynn Gilbert, secretary to Prof. Dworkin, 422 Vanderbuilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South. Admission will be decided just before the beginning of the term. The Colloquium is a research seminar at which visitors and local faculty present their current work. Each week there is material to read in advance, which is discussed in detail with the author. Topics depend on what people are working on. In addition to the conveners and others from the NYU Law and Philosophy faculties, those whose work is discussed are expected to include Anthony Appiah, John Hart Ely, Barbara Herman, Will Kymlicka, Robert Post, John Roemer, and John Simmons.