NYU Philosophy Department
Graduate Courses
Spring 1999


Philosophical Logic
Professor Hartry Field
Monday 2:00 — 4:00pm

This class will be concerned with some of the central concepts, methods and theorems of formal logic, and with their philosophical significance. I will put a lot more emphasis on the philosophical issues that in a typical advanced logic course; but a prerequisite to evaluating the philosophical significance is a clear understanding of the concepts and proofs, so I will be teaching some of the logic as well as its philosophy. The ratio of logic to philosophy — insofar as the two can be separated — will depend on the background and interests of the students.

The topics in logic will probably include: soundness and completeness theorems; the Skolem-Lowenheim and compactness theorems and their use in the construction of non-standard models; the Godel incompleteness theorems and consequences; probably a little bit on the semantic paradoxes; possibly something on extensions of first order logic. (The choice of topics may also depend somewhat on class background and interests.) A central philosophical concern will be, what if anything these and similar results tell us about truth and valid inference.



Professor Roy Sorensen
Wednesday 2:00 — 4:00pm

The focus of this course will be representations of impossibilities. Special attention will be devoted to the connection between inconsistency and vagueness.

Relevant questions: Can you draw an impossible object? Can you believe a contradiction? If you can conceive of a proposition being true, does it follow that it frames a genuine possibility? If something is possible, does it follow that you can conceive of it being true? These questions bear on the informativeness of deduction, the role of thought experiments in testing modal claims, and the nature of belief.

We will discuss articles by Donald Davidson, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Fodor, Saul Kripke, Ruth Marcus, Robert Stalnaker, Stephen Yablo, and others. Also included will be my manuscript The Threshold of Contradiction. This book appeals to the epistemology and psychology of contradiction to explain the incredibility of the view that vagueness is just a species of ignorance. To borrow Noam Chomsky’s terminology, the sorites paradox is an Orwell problem rather than a Plato problem. Instead of there being lots to discover about an esoteric logic of vagueness, there is a simple solution (deny the induction step, adjust to the consequent and independently inevitable sharp boundaries). The formidable problem is to explain how this could be so incredible.



Philosophy of Mind
Professor Christopher Peacocke
Monday — Wednesday 4:15pm — 6:15pm
March 22 — May 3

This course will consider philosophical theories of concepts. What constraints should such theories meet? Are there credible theories of particular concepts meeting those constraints? I will be concerned with the consequences of theories of particular concepts for some core issues in at least some of the following areas: metaphysics, epistemology and their interrelations; the psychological aspects of concept possession; the possibility of a prior knowledge and the phenomena of "rational intuition"; and the metaphysics and epistemology of the normative.



Philosophy of Mind

Professor Thomas Nagel
Thursday 4:15pm — 6:15pm

The course will be about the Mind-Body Problem and its recent history. We will read a selection of authors, including Wittgenstein, Putnam, Kripke, Shoemaker, Dennett, Searle, McGinn, and others.


Language & Mind Seminar
Professors Paul Boghossian and Stephen Schiffer
Monday 6:30—7:30pm
Tuesday 4:00—7:00pm

The topic of this year’s seminar is the objectivity of knowledge, and we plan to discuss this under the following three rubrics: anti-objectivism about truth (e.g., non-factualism or relativism); anti-objectivism about justification; and the underdetermination of belief by evidence. Each week’s seminar will focus on previously distributed work by the week’s visiting thinker. Boghossian or Schiffer will open the discussion with expository and critical remarks on the distributed work, the visitor will respond, and a general discussion will ensue. The schedule as follows is subject to change.


Ethics: Selected Topics

Thursday 1:30 — 4:00 pm
March 25 — April 29



Tuesday 1:30 — 4:00 pm
March 23 – April 27