Graduate Courses Fall 2000
Friday/ 11.00a- 1.00p
The purposes of the ProSeminar, which is obligatory for and restricted to first-year Ph.D students, are (i) to give graduates experience in writing philosophy and receiving feedback thereon every week, (ii) to lead students new to the program into making effective presentations and contributions to seminars, and (iii) to cover some core topics and literature in recent philosophy, topics which anyone needs to master, whatever their eventual area of specialization. The range of literature and topics chosen will be sensitive to the needs of the incoming class.
Philosophy of Science
Prof. Belot & Prof. Field
Russell argued that the concept of causation has been shown to be outmoded by physics, and ought to be abandoned. But this is hard to take seriously: consider the importance of knowing whether smoke causes cancer. On the other hand, talk of causation really does seem absent from fundamental physics, so what is there about the physical world that makes this an important concept? Among the puzzling facets of this is the directionality of causation, which seems to have no obvious counterpart in fundamental physics. We'll also look at several notions besides causation that seem to have an important directionality, such as counterfactuals, and discuss views about how they relate to causation. We will discuss the way the statistical generalizations provide evidence for causal claims, including various kinds of fallacies about this, and the relation between singular and general causal claims. We will discuss the way in which quantum nonlocality challenges our ordinary causal assumptions.
[Note: This course will run for the first 6 weeks of Fall Term, and then for the last 6 weeks of Spring term]
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.
We'll examine the currently dominant metaphysics, Scientiphicalism, according to which each of us is wholly constituted of mindless and choiceless parts, like cells molecules, atoms, electrons, and so on, with our more basic constituents each having only some few quite limited propensities or powers. Is Scientiphicalism a view that allows us to make much sense of ourselves? Or, do we need to abandon the academically dominant view, and develop some alternative metaphysics, more or less radically different from it? A serious attempt to answer questions like those will guide much of, though not absolutely all of, the work in this course.
Are there properties? If so what are they like? Are there as many of them as we normally seem to assume? If there are no such things, what is going on when we talk as if there were? We will investigate different answers to these questions, and see how they relate to different views about the nature of metaphysics.
Ethics: Selected Topics
Wednesday/4:00pm – 6:00pm
Prof. Kamm & Prof. Parfit
[Note: This course will run for the first 6 weeks of the Fall Term, and then for the last 6 weeks of the Spring Term]
Topics will include reasons for caring and for acting, rationality, normativity, motivation, naturalism, non-cognitivism, non-reductive realism, contractualism, self-defeating theories, distributive justice. Much of the course will be devoted to Kant's ethics.
Philosophy of Mind
Tuesday/2:00pm – 4:00pm
Background of contemporary philosophy of mind.