Philosophy Department
Graduate Courses Fall 2004



Sharon Street/Liz Harman
Wednesday 2-5

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.


Advanced Introduction to Metaphysics
Peter Unger
Thursday 2:00-4:00

The course will be organized around Professor Unger's attempt to articulate a metaphysics of concrete reality that's analytically adequate for, but that's also speculatively bold enough to, make some progress with the problems that get most first drawn into philosophy, and that always comprise the subject's heart: problems of appearance and reality, problems of personal identity, problems of mind and body, problems of free will, and more. Over the last seven years, this metaphysical attempt has been receiving improving formulations in a book-in-progress, All the Power in the World, that will still be progressing throughout the course. The developing metaphysical system draws heavily on, and it’s a response to, several central figures of Modern Philosophy: Descartes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume. Several 20th century figures also influence the work, notably Bertrand Russell, David Lewis, C.B. Martin, Roderick Chisholm, Peter van Inwagen, and David Armstrong. As well as reading the nine chapters of All the Power, we'll read collateral selections from several of these influential thinkers, and from several other thinkers.

So that this course serves well as an Advanced Introduction to Metaphysics, we’ll also address some issues that are only tangential to the book’s many main concerns. Readings for this will be drawn from sources Unger uses for his basic undergraduate metaphysics course: Metaphysics: The Big Questions, edited by van Inwagen and Zimmerman, and a small course-pack provided gratis. Students will be required to write just one paper, preferably at least 12 standard pages, but not more than 20. And, students will make a class presentation, each on a different Advanced topic covered in the course. To avoid the issuing of Incompletes, the all students will make there presentations well before the last class session, and each all will submit her paper a full week before the course's last scheduled meeting.

Nico Silins
Thursday 4:30-6:30

This seminar will survey recent work on knowledge and the verb "to know". The focus will be on the relation of knowledge to mental states and the evidence a subject possesses, as well as on roles knowledge might play in psychological explanation, assertion, and practical reasoning. We will also evaluate classic contextualism in epistemology and recent alternatives to the view. The reading will consist of John Hawthorne’s Knowledge and Lotteries, key chapters from Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and Its Limits, and supplementary articles. 

Ethics: Selected Topics: Topics in Ethics and Meta-ethics.
Derek Parfit/Liz Harman
Tuesday 4:30-:6:30

Course meets for the first six weeks of the fall semester and the last six weeks of the spring semester

Topics will include most of the following: self-defeating normative theories, egoism, consequentialism, common sense morality, rationality and reasons, the rationality of attitudes to time, obligations to future generations, distributive justice, naturalism, non- cognitivism, normativity, irreducibly normative truths, different senses of ‘wrong’ and kinds of wrongness, and the role of intuitions in moral arguments.

Ethics: Selected Topics: Kant’s Ethics, Contractualism, and Practical Reasons.
Derek Parfit
Friday 2-4

Course meets for the first six weeks of the fall semester and the last six weeks of the spring semester

Ethics: Selected Topics: Constructivism in Ethics
Sharon Street
Thursday 12-2

This seminar will focus on the writings of John Rawls, T. M. Scanlon, Christine Korsgaard, and selected commentators. Our goal will be to examine and assess these authors’ views on the nature of justice, morality, reasons, and normativity. Some of the more specific questions we will ask include: What is constructivism in ethics? How successful is constructivism as an account of specific types of reasons, such as reasons of justice (as in Rawls’s view) or reasons of morality (as in Scanlon’s view)? What are the prospects for constructivism as an account of the nature of all reasons (as suggested by Korsgaard’s view)? What is the relationship between constructivism and relativism? Where does constructivism figure in the realism/anti-realism and cognitivism/non-cognitivism debates in metaethics? Our coverage of Rawls will focus on his more metaethical writings, and, among other topics, on the notion of reflective equilibrium and its significance. We will do a close reading of most of Scanlon’s What We Owe to Each Other, and we will read Korsgaard’s The Sources of Normativity and selected other essays.

History of Philosophy: Advanced Introduction to Rationalism in the Seventeenth Century
Don Garrett
Tuesday 11:30-1:30

This course will focus on epistemology, metaphysics, moral psychology, and ethics together with their interrelations in four influential seventeenth century philosophers: Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza, and Leibniz. Specific topics will include philosophical method, truth, logic, skepticism, justification, the foundations of natural science, causation, modality, mental representation, mind and matter, the will, the passions, freedom, and virtue.


History of Philosophy: Selected Topics: Aristotle
John Richardson
Wednesday 12-2

The course will focus on Aristotle’s teleology. Since this is basic and pervasive in his thinking, the course will cover a wide range of his works and positions. It will begin with an overview of his ontology (his account of what there is: substances) and etiology (his account of the ‘causes’ by which substances are explained). Both accounts show the crucial role of teleology: substances are essentially ‘for (the sake of)’ ends, and need to be explained as such. We will try to make precise the logic of this teleology, and to judge it in the light of familiar objections to explaining by ends. We will also compare Aristotle’s teleology with the variety advocated by some neo-Darwinists (in recent analyses of natural selection and biological function). The bulk of the course will then go on to pursue this teleology into several other sectors of Aristotle’s thought, including his biology (how he uses organisms’ ends to explain their structure and behavior), psychology (his account of the intentionality involved in directedness), ethics (his attempt to identify the human end and to construct his ethics around it), and theology (what role god plays in establishing all of these ends).


Thesis Preparation Seminar
Stephen Schiffer

Philosophy of Science: High Level Explanation
Michael Strevens
Tuesday 7-9

Much scientific explanation occurs at a relatively high level of description: it is couched in terms of organisms, economies, societies, ideas, rather than of particles or electromagnetic forces. Does high level explanation offer benefits above and beyond low level explanation? Can higher level understanding also be deeper understanding? Is there some sense in which the high level can be explanatorily autonomous? What is the explanatory role of certain kinds of properties that seem to emerge only at a relatively abstract level of description: robustness, probability, function, and (perhaps) representation? The seminar will focus on these questions. Examples will be taken from evolutionary biology, genetics, the social sciences, psychology and the philosophy of mind, and statistical mechanics.


Philosophy of Language: Some Questions of Reference and Meaning
Kit Fine
Monday 1:30-3:30

This seminar will deal with some puzzles concerning co-reference and synonymy. These include Frege's puzzle, Kripke's puzzle about belief, Moore's paradox of analysis, plus some other less familiar puzzles. I hope to go through some of the standard literature and to cover my own 'relational' approach to the puzzles.