NYU Philosophy Department
Graduate Courses:

FALL 1998

All Philosophy classes will be held in the Department Conference Room, MainBuilding, room 503 - Unless otherwise specified.

Prof. Richardson
W 4:15 - 6:15pm

The course will focus on Aristotle's (philosophical) biology and psychology. After a few weeks preparing the context in his metaphysics by examining key concepts such as substance, actuality, and reason/cause, we'll turn to his account of living things. This biology has often been judged deeply flawed, especially in its insistence on teleological and 'essentialist' explanations of organisms, which many take to have been refuted by Darwinism. By inspecting the logic of these explanations, and comparing it with that of evolutionary accounts, we'll reassess this common criticism. We'll then turn to Aristotle's 'philosophy of mind', i.e. his analysis of cognitive or mental powers. Here again our interest will be in the relation to current positions; among other things, we'll look at the recent debate whether Aristotle offers a 'functionalist' analysis of mind. At the end we may look briefly at the way both biology and psychology orient Aristotle's ethics.


Profs. Unger/Gibbons
T 4:15 - 6:15pm

Justification is a normative property. Different theories of justification, foundationalism, coherentism, reliablism, etc., disagree about which facts make it the case that something has this normative property. But the theories also differ structurally. The holistic and linear conceptions of justification disagree not only about what makes something justified, but also about the kind of thing that gets justified in the first instance, a system of beliefs or particular beliefs.

By looking at various epistemological theories, we get a model for thinking about similar questions in other areas. What makes it the case that something has a moral or mental property? What does "making it the case" come to? And what are the primary bearers of moral properties (agents, actions or states of affairs) and mental properties (theories, beliefs, or experiences)?

We will be concerned with issues specific to epistemology, for example, questions about the relation between experience and justification and the nature of the priori, but we will try to keep an eye on these structural issues that reappear in other areas of philosophy. The readings will be at least primarily twentieth century, some of the classics and some brand new, and we hope to have a few visitors in to tell us what they are working on now.


Prof. Parfit
T 2:00 - 4:00pm

Topics will include the nature and importance of personal identity, time's passage, why The Universe exists.


Prof. Fine
R 4:15 - 6:15pm

Graduate Seminar: Essence and Modality

This seminar will deal with certain fundamental questions concerning the intelligibility and significance of modal and essentialist notions. In the first part, I shall examine the criticisms of these notions made by Quine and the various responses to them. In the second part, I shall develop my own 'ultra-essentialist' view, according to which essentialist claims are conceived as going beyond modal claims, and show how this has interesting implications for the nature of metaphysics.


Philosophy of Law
Prof. Murphy
M/W 11:00 - 12:30pm

Cross-listed with the Law School's course L06.3005, Introduction to Legal Philosophy.

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. The course will meet Mondays and Wednesdays, from 11 to 12:30pm, in room 208; note that classes begin a week early at the law school.


Ethics: Selected Topic
Prof. Svavarsdottir
W 2:00 - 4:00pm

The seminar will focus on objectivity in ethics. We will be addressing the question whether there is any objectivity to be had in ethics; but first we need to get clear on what the question is. We will see that philosophers have different conceptions of objectivity in ethics and, hence, a different understanding of the above question. Although the focus of the seminar will be on objectivity, it will provide a general overview of the major issues and positions in metaethics. And some attention will be paid to the question whether there is any viable distinction to be drawn between normative and metaethics. Readings will include selections from the work of John Mackie, Bernard Williams, Thomas Nagel, Simon Blackburn, and Allan Gibbard.


Ethics: Selected Topics
Prof. Parfit
R 2:00 - 4:00pm

Topics will include reasons for caring and for acting, rationality, normativity, motivation, naturalism, non-cognitivism, non-reductive realism, contactualism, self-defeating theories, distributive Justice.


Ethics: Selected Topics
Profs. Nagel/Murphy
R 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Cross-listed with the Law School's course L06.3519, Topics in Legal, Moral, and Political Philosophy.

Topic for fall, 1998: Distributive Justice and Some Issues in Tax Policy

The course will examine selected issues in taxation policy from the perspective of the philosophy of distributed justice. We will begin with a survey of the major positions in contemporary discussions of distributive justice. Tax policy issues to be discussed will include tax equity norms, progressivity in tax rates, the choice of tax base, and the taxation of gratuitous transfers of wealth. Readings will include works by Rawls, Nozick, and writers in the utilitarian tradition, as well as recent work by Louis Kaplow and other tax policy theorists.

Please note: Philosophy students must obtain the permission of the instructors before registering for this course.


Ethics: Selected Topics (Philosophical Problems of Race and Racism)
Prof. Appiah
W 9:00-11:00 a.m.
NYU Law School - Vanderbilt Hall Rm. 313

Cross-listed with the Law School's course L06.3550.


Philosophical Research

To be arranged


Philosophical Research

To be arranged

updated 9/9/98