NYU Philosophy Department
All Philosophy classes will be held in the Department Conference Room,
Main Building, Room 503 - Unless otherwise specified.
Life and Death
W 6:10 - 8:10pm
The course will examine philosophical efforts to
say what kind of end death is and the significance it should have for the
living of one's life. Specific topics will include the opposition between
philosophers who attempt to expel our fear of death (Epicurus, Stoics) and
those who insist that life must be lived with awareness of our mortality
(Heidegger); the ways in which death is a good or bad thing (Nagel, Williams)
conflicts between "whole brain" and "higher brain" definitions
of death; the alleged contrast between the conceivability and significance
of our own deaths and the death of other people; the metaphysical presuppositions
of traditional postmortem survival theories and funeral practices.
Metaphysics/Parts and Wholes
R 4:30 - 6:30pm
This seminar is focused on the topic of material
constitution. What is it for one material thing to constitute another? Can
distinct material things coincide? Are there material things in arbitrary
regions of space-time? We begin with some readings from a recent collection
Material Constitution (ed. M. Rea, Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).
Prof. Fine will then present and argue from a novel conception of constitution.
Ph.D. students taking the class will be expected to make presentations.
Philosophy of Mind
M 4:00 - 6:00pm
Please Note: The first class will meet on Wednesday,
January 14th, 1998.
Metaphysics, Epistemology and the Theory of Understanding
In many areas of philosophy, there is some tension
between our conception of truth in that area (the metaphysics of the area)
and our conception of how we come to know truths in that area. The tension
is generated by the fact that the methods by which we normally take ourselves
to come to know truths in that area seem to fall short in one respect or
another of establishing truth as we ordinarily conceive it for that area.
The problem arises for such diverse areas as thought about the past, about
our own intentional mental states, about human freedom in thought and action,
and about justification and entitlement itself. In the seminar I aim to
discuss the general question of the form which should be taken by a theory
which resolves the tension in any given area. In particular, I will be arguing
for a conception of a theory of understanding which links it both with the
theory of knowledge, as well as with truth-conditions. A resolution in any
one of these areas has to take the form of developing a theory of understanding
of that kind. I am to elaborate such a general account; and to apply it
to some of the problematic areas.
Ethics: Selected Topics
W 11:00 - 1:00pm
Cross listed with: L06.3519 Topics in
Legal, Moral and Political Philosophy
Please Note: The first meeting of this class is
Monday, March 23rd, 1998.
Topic for 1998: Two problems from contract law.
1. Promise and Contract. There is obviously some
connection between contractual obligation at law and the commonsense ethical
idea that people should keep their promises. The exact nature of that connection
remains unclear, however, in large part because the foundations of the ethics
of promising are no less the subject of controversy than the foundations
of contractual obligation. We investigate a variety of views about the ethics
of promising, linking them up with views about contractual obligation. Our
focus will be on the "practiced-based" account of promising defended
Seminar on Language and Mind
T 4:00 - 7:00pm
The Topic of the Research Seminar on Language and
Mind will be concepts.
The Research Seminar is divided into two parts: There will be an open session
on Tuesday from 4 - 7pm and a session restricted to those who are taking
the course for credit on Monday from 5 - 6pm.
In a typical open session, the members of the seminar
receive copies a week in advance of work in progress from eminent thinkers
who are visiting from other universities. After reading the week's work,
the students discuss it with one of the instructors at the Monday session.
Then at the Seminar on Tuesday, one of the instructors will briefly summarize
the papers and lay out the agenda for the session. Both instructors will
give critiques of the work, and the author will respond to the critiques
and also to questions from others in the audience. This term the thinkers
of the week will probably include the following:
Vagueness and Indeterminacy
T 2:00 - 4:00pm
We'll begin with vagueness, both with vague predicates
like `bald' and with vague referring expressions like `here' and `now' The
main problem here is to devise a semantics and logic of vague terms which
both explains the notion of a borderline case and solves the sorites paradox.
After a brief survey of the various possible solutions, we'll focus discussion
on the few positions we consider most promising.
The remainder of the seminar (roughly, the last third) will discuss whether
there are cases of semantic indeterminacy which are interestingly distinct
from vagueness, and why they might be of philosophical importance. This
discussion will include Benacerraf's "What Numbers Could Not Be"
and Lewis's "How to Define Theoretical Terms". We intend this
seminar to be both a high-level introduction to these issues and also an
attempt to make some headway on them.