Graduate Courses Fall 1999
G83.1181-001 (new course proposal)
Philosophy of Math
This will be a background course in philosophy of mathematics and, to a lesser extent, philosophy of logic. Questions will include:
1. Is mathematics as a whole, or significant parts of it, true? A priori? Analytic? Necessarily true? Etc.
2. Is mathematics as a whole, or significant parts of it, concerned with special kinds of entities? If so, what is their nature? (E.g., are they somehow mind-dependent or language-dependent?) Why should we believe that there are any such entities? Also, how many kinds of mathematical entities are there? (e.g., are they all really just sets, or sets and numbers? Is the claim that mathematics is concerned with structures significantly different from the claim that it is concerned with special entities, and is it less problematic?
3. How objective is mathematics? What is the relation between mathematical truth and mathematical proof?
Readings will include famous works of Frege, Quine, Carnap, Godel, Benacerraf, Putnam, etc., together with a substantial amount of more recent writings.
G83.2299-001 (new course proposal)
Theory of Meaning
Among the most foundational questions in the theory of meaningand the theory of propositional-attitude content generallyare these: Are there such things as meanings? If so, what is their nature? And what relation must a sentence or mental representation bear to a meaning in order to have that meaning as its meaning? The seminar, which will be based on a book I'm writing called The Things We Mean, will attempt to answer these questions and other questions that can be answered on the basis of the answers to the first questions. After laying out the geography of the relevant area of logical space, and after reviewing the theories that attempt to occupy that space, I'll explain and try to motivate a certain conception of propositions and concepts and to use it to answer the initial foundational questions. The theory thus developed will then be applied (time permitting) to such issues as: the supervenience (or failure of supervenience) of the intentional on the non-intentional; compositional semantics; truth and reference; the relation of language to thought; psychological explanation; privileged access and externalism; vagueness and indeterminacy; conditionals; and moral realism. For those who don't accept any of my theories, the seminar will serve as a high-level survey in the theory of linguistic and mental representation.
Philosophy of Science
Topics in the philosophy of space and time. We will look at a number of historical and modern discussions, with an eye on the relation between physics and metaphysics. Possible topics: the ontological status of space and time in physical theories, the nature of change and motion, the direction of time.
Contemporary Ethical Theory
This course will begin with an overview of normative ethical theory, including discussion of consequentialism, deontology, and contractarianism. Then we shall move on to focus on the theory of rights. In virtue of its first part, the course is a graduate level background-to-norma tive-ethics course; in virtue of its second part, it will be more at the research seminar level. The course will be taught on the Law School schedule amd the first class will be on Wed. August 25. The requirement is a final paper. For the first class, students should read the first 40 pages of Normative Ethics by Shelly Kagan, on sale at the main NYU Bookstore on Washington Place. A Xerox also will also be available at the NYU Law School Library.
We will end this century by studying conceptions of agency. The seminar aims to give a comprehensive background in the philosophy of action, although it will to a great extent concentrate on what types of mental attitude and activity are characteristic of rational agency. Among the topics covered will be: the nature of rationalizing (intentional/mentalistic/motivational) explanations; the individuation of actions; intention formation; the justificatory role of reasons; the determinant of the weight and relevance of reasons in deliberation; the role of evaluative judgments and attitudes in practical reasoning; the connection between having a reason for action, motivation, and having a desire; the connection between acting on reasons and acting freely.
Colloquium in Law & Philosophy
Wednesday/11:00am 1:00pm (class)
Thursday/4:00pm 7:00pm (colloquium)
The Colloquium is a research seminar in which different individuals present current or recently published work on topics in law, philosophy, and political theory. The presenters will be a mixture of visitors from other universities and NYU faculty. There is no set topic for the term. Students meet with Professor Dworkin each Wednesday for two hours, and write a short paper each week, on the material under discussion. The Colloquium itself is on Thursdays, and meets for three hours. Students al so write a longer final paper. The Colloquium meets on a Law School schedule, and meets in the Law School building, Vanderbilt Hall. The first sessions are Wednesday and Thursday, August 25 and 26. Enrollment is by permission of the instructors. Contact Lynn Gilbert at 998-6252 to submit a request for permission to enroll.
Philosophy of Law
Tuesday/Thursday/11:00 - 12:30pm
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 Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 11 to 12:30pm, in room 216; please note that this class will run on a Law School sechedule, and the first class will meet on Thursday, August 26.