Graduate Courses Fall 2001
Monday 1:00-4:00 PM
Prof. Dorr & Prof. White
The main aim of this course is to provide new graduate
students in the department with an opportunity to work on the skills involved
in reading, writing and discussing philosophy. The readings will cover
a range of major themes in twentieth-century analytic philosophy.
All and only first-year graduate students will take
Topics in Ethics and Political Philosophy
Tuesday 5:00-7:00 PM
Prof. Ruddick (with Dr. Solmon Benatar for 3
Principal course concerns are moral and political
concepts of justice and fairness, paternalism and autonomy, personhood
and individualism. We will also consider notions of choice, deception and
self-deception, trust and mistrust, hope and optimism, lives and deaths
as they bear on these more general topics, especially in current issues
in local and international medical practice, research, and bioethics.
Readings will be in contemporary work in political philosophy, ethics,
and bioethics. There will two short commentaries and one essay, first in
draft and then revised in the light of critiques by the instructor and
Wednesday 3:00-5:00 PM
Prof. Field & Prof. Fine
This will be a course on the set-theoretic and semantic
paradoxes and how they interrelate. There is a standard solution of the
set-theoretic paradoxes, but it doesn't carry over to the semantic. We'll
start by looking at a number of approaches to the semantic paradoxes, both
approaches that stick to classical logic but weaken classical truth theory
and approaches that weaken classical logic in order to keep more of (maybe
all of) classical truth theory. We'll then consider how some of these approaches
might be applied to the case of set-theory; and, in the last part of the
seminar, we'll look at a particular way of developing a set theory that
is as strong as ZF and yet allows for the existence of very large sets
(such as the set of all sets or the set of all sets of a given cardinality).
Wednesday 10:00-12:00 AM
In many different areas of philosophy, from ethics
and aesthetics to the philosophy of science and mathematics, one keeps
finding that the most fundamental debate is a debate about the objectivity
of our thought and talk about the subject matter in question. When things
go well with our inquiries, are we discovering a realm of genuine, objective
facts? Or is there nothing more to the subject-matter than what we ourselves
construct or constitute by our thoughts and practices—is the whole thing
just a projection onto reality of idiosyncratic features of our own subjective
Debates of this sort—especially when they are phrased as I have just
been phrasing them—are often deeply obscure. Nevertheless, there are several
clear questions that might be at issue: this course will be a survey of
some of the clearest of them. We will discuss several general strategies
for making sense of some sort of anti-realist thought about a given subject-matter:
expressivism, error theories, fictionalism, radical reductionism, and response-dependence.
We will conclude by considering the prospects in various domains of the
sort of anti-realism which holds that what appear to be genuine disagreements
about some subject matter are really merely verbal disputes, which arise
because key expressions can be understood in different ways.
Ethics: Selected Topics/Topics in Moral &
Promise and other Artificial Obligations
Does Hume's argument that justice and fidelity to promise are artificial
virtues survive a rejection of Humean moral philosophy? If so, there are
general lessons to be learned about the role of social convention, including
law, in the constitution of central elements of commonsense moral thought.
That, most generally, is the topic of this seminar.
By justice, Hume had in mind mainly property rights. We are accustomed
to the idea that these are conventional, parasitic on a social practice
that is independently justified, i.e. without reference to people's property
rights. The case of promise is more puzzling (for Hume, "'tis one of the
most mysterious and incomprehensible operations than can possibly be imagined").
Anscombe and others contend that the obligation to keep promises is similarly
parasitic on practice; Scanlon has recently offered an elaborate and ingenious
argument against this view. One main focus will be to adjudicate this dispute;
we also consider other theories of promise, such as that of Raz.
To the extent that a given obligation is parasitic
on social practice, the role of law in morality (as opposed to the more
familiar, reverse question), becomes pressing. We will consider Nietzsche's
speculation that the origin of promise is the legal relationship between
debtor and creditor and also confront our philosophical reflections about
promise with the main positions in the history of contract theory.
Philosophy of Mind
This course will discuss philosophical and empirical
issues about the nature of consciousness. On the philosophy side, topics
may include: the relation between consciousness and attention, behavioral
and functional theories of consciousness, the epistemic and ontological
status of physicalism, consciousness and normativity, the theory that conscious
character is representational content, the explanatory gap, the question
of whether Frege's problem applied to consciousness shows physicalism is
false, modal arguments for dualism, consciousness and "textbook Kripkeanism",
the Knowledge Argument for dualism, whether a theory of the objective nature
of consciousness is possible, consciousness and the self, consciousness
and higher order thought, the nature of phenomenal concepts, whether 'conscious'
is ambiguous and consciousness and action.
On the empirical side, topics may include: the relation between consciousness
and attention (the empirical issues), what a neural correlate of consciousness
is, blindsight, the empirical evidence for and against the possibility
of an inverted spectrum, the nature of "unconscious perception", disorders
of consciousness, consciousness and evolution and the function of consciousness.
Colloquium in Law, Philosophy, and Social Theory
Thursday 4:05-7:05; Wednesday 2:05-3:55
Profs. Nagel and Dworkin