Philosophy Department
Graduate Courses Fall 2002

Monday 1-4 PM
Prof. Dorr & Prof. White
Call#: 30868

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.

Philosophy of Science
Thursday 11:00-1:00 PM
Roger White
Call#: 31293

We will consider the notion of explanation and its role in reasoning, including, but not restricted to, debates over scientific realism (there will be little if any overlap with my previous seminar on probability and explanation). We'll examine the idea of Inference to the Best Explanation, reading the work of Harman, van Fraassen, and Peter Lipton. Some of the related questions we'll consider include, Are all explanations implicitly contrastive? Which facts require explanation, and which should we be content to accept as "brute facts"?, What is an appropriate stopping point in an explanation? Are some supervenient facts, (e.g., mental facts, normative facts) required to explain anything, or can all explanation be done at the subvenient level (physical facts, non-normative facts).

Epistemology (Graduate Seminar on Reasons)
Thursday 1:30-3:30 PM
Christopher Peacocke
Call#: 31412

We will be addressing the question: what is it for someone to be entitled to believe a given proposition? Is this relation of entitlement explicable in terms of the references and truth-conditions of the proposition, and if so, how? How do perceptual and other mental states entitle us to believe propositions about the world beyond our own mental states? How is non-conclusive entitlement possible? Is entitlement sometimes, or always, an a priori matter? Philosophical theories of some subject-matters, notably mind-dependent theories of ethics and other domains, seem to rule out purely a priori entitlement to judgements in those domains. What are the consequences of a good theory of entitlement for these and other metaphysical theories? It is clear that a substantive theory of entitlement will have to deal with central questions in the theory of understanding, meaning and justification. In attempting to address these questions, I aim to develop a general account of entitlement, one that leads to a generalized rationalism.

Wednesday 4:30-6:30 PM
Derek Parfit
Call#: 30872

[Note: This course will run for the first 6 weeks of Fall Term, and then for the last 6 weeks of Spring term]

The main subjects discussed in this seminar will be personal identity, time's passage, rationality, and the origin of the Universe.

Ethics: Selected Topics
Tuesday 3:30-5:30 PM
Prof. Unger
Call#: 30873

Method and Substance in Ethics and Other Philosophy

Most of analytic philosophy proceeds a lot like this. A philosopher presents a General Claim, at least fairly general, often with some supporting argumentation. A critical opponent presents the philosopher with a Counterexample to his, or her, Claim. When he does his job well, the opponent gets us, at least most of us, to respond in a wanted way to the putative Counterexample: Our response is to be Intuitive and, what's more, it's to run counter to the Claim.

A stock instance from Ethics: An Act Utilitarian makes a Claim that, roughly, someone morally ought to act in such a way as does best by the greatest number of (maybe already existing) people, or sentient creatures, or whatever. The opponent presents a case of a police chief who has it that an innocent man is hanged, so as to quell a crazed and angry mob, in the only way then really possible, thus preventing the mob from killing at least ten innocents during the next few hours. Many respond that what this police chief does is wrong, and is Not what he morally ought to have done, even granting that it did best by the greatest number, or whatever. So the Act Utilitarian must change his Claim, we typically think. Maybe, he should be a Rule Utilitarian; or maybe something else? Anyway, for him, it's back to the drawing boards.

Though that's the conventional wisdom, perhaps it may be effectively questioned.

While my chief interest here will be in Ethics, I think the most effective questioning can't be restricted to just that area of philosophy. So, we'll also look at Other Philosophy.

A famous instance from Other Philosophy: Plato, it is said, Claimed that Knowledge is Justified True Certainty (or Belief). And, more recently, Ayer made such a Claim. Preceding Gettier by many years, and Ayer by quite a few, too, Russell offers this simple Example, apparently Countering the Claim: For the first time in a couple of days, someone looks at a clock that, for a long time used reliably, has stopped just in the past couple of days. The clock reads two o'clock. And, seeing just that, the looker is certain (or believes) that it's two. As it happens, that's the true time. So, the looker has the justified true certainty (or belief) that it's two. But, he doesn't know. So, Plato must change his Claim, as must Ayer. For them, it's back to the drawing boards.

Though that's the conventional wisdom, perhaps it may be effectively questioned.

In this course, I shall be arguing that, very often, putative Counterexamples don't do much, if anything at all, to undermine the Claims at which they are aimed. And, as I shall also be arguing, other Examples don't do much, if anything at all, to underwrite Claims they're offered to support. For, very often, our responses to Examples are primarily promoted by psychological proclivities that have little bearing, if any at all, on philosophical issues.

Both in Ethics and in Other Philosophy, we shall try to characterize the most widely influential of these philosophically distortional tendencies. As well, we shall try to see how we may avoid the influence of these tendencies and, in so doing, better assess philosophically Substantial Claims.

Ethics: Selected Topics
Friday 3-5 PM
Derek Parfit
Call#: 30874

[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]

This course will be mainly devoted to Kant's ethics, contractualism, and consequentialism. Other topics will be reasons for caring and acting, normativity, motivation, naturalism, non-cognitivism and non-reductive normative realism.

Philosophy of Language
Wednesday 2-4 PM
Kit Fine
Call#: 31419

We shall deal with some fundamental problems of reference and meaning. These will include: the interpretation of variables and quantifiers in first-order logic; the semantics of proper names in ordinary language; problems of substitutivity in belief contexts; Frege's puzzle concerning identity; and Moore's paradox of analysis. I shall suggest that these problems cannot be properly solved without embracing a doctrine of semantic relationism, according to which there are relationships of meaning that cannot be reduced to the intrinsic meaning of the expressions between which the relationships hold.

We shall review the background literature; and the seminar should therefore be intelligible to those without previous background in the philosophy of language. However, we shall also attempt to cover the most recent research in the area and to spend time working out the details of the relationist approach.

History of Philosophy: Spinoza
Tuesday 1-3 PM
Harry Frankfurt
Call#: 31416

This seminar will be devoted to a careful examination of leading aspects of Spinoza's thought, with particular attention to the systematic development of his ideas in the "Ethics".

G83.3302 (LO6.3517)
Colloquium in Law, Philosophy, and Social Theory
Thursday 4:05-7:05; Wednesday 12:05-1:55 PM
Ronald Dworkin/Thomas Nagel
Call#: 30880

The colloquium examines topics at the intersection of law, philosophy, and political theory (e.g., the moral theory of liberalism and the political theory of the United States Constitution), and includes examination and discussion of ongoing research and writing on these topics of faculty participants and other guests who have been invited to participate in the work of the colloquium.

Registration for the course requires permission of the instructor. Interested students should provide Professor Dworkin's secretary, ( or VH422) with a brief, informal statement of their philosophy background and why they would like to take this class. You may include a CV or any other documentation to support your request. This may be turned in at any time but no later than August 29, 2002. Students will be notified at the first meeting of the seminar if not before.

For information on course, and a list of this term's speakers, please go to the following web site:

Thesis Preparation Seminar
Christopher Peacocke
Friday 10:30-12:30
Call#: 31090

This Seminar is open to all NYU graduate students in their third or later years. The purpose of the Seminar is to aid graduates in developing and refining material for their dissertation or prospectus, and to gain experience in presenting material to a philosophical audience in an informed and supportive environment. Only students from NYU, and no faculty (other than the organizer) will be present. Students attending the seminar will be expected to make one or more presentation of work in progress. We will attempt as far as possible to organize the presentations in such a way that they are grouped by subject-matter, and provide a rational path through the territory we cover.