Philosophy Department
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 this course.
Topics in Ethics and Political Philosophy
Tuesday 5:00-7:00 PM
Prof. Ruddick (with Dr. Solmon Benatar for 3 meetings)
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 other students.
Philosophical Logic
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).
Metaphysics: Objectivity
Wednesday 10:00-12:00 AM
Prof. Dorr
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 perspective?
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 & Political Philosophy
Thursday 10:30-12:30PM
Prof. Murphy
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
Tuesday 2:00-4:00PM
Prof. Block
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.
G83.3302 (LO6.3517)
Colloquium in Law, Philosophy, and Social Theory
Thursday 4:05-7:05; Wednesday 2:05-3:55
Profs. Nagel and Dworkin
For information on this course, please go to the following web site: