NYU Philosophy Department
Graduate Courses:


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
(Law School)

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 by Hume.


Research 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:

Tyler Burge
Andy Clark
Martin Davies
Jerry Fodor
Frank Jackson
Jerry Katz
Brian Loar
Mike Martin
Christopher Peacocke
Mark Sainsbury
Stephen Schiffer
Robert Stalnaker
Crispin Wright


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.


Philosophical Research


Philosophical Research

updated 2/3/98