Philosophy Department

Graduate Courses Spring 2002




Advanced Introduction to Ethics

Tuesday 1:00-3:00

Thomas Nagel


A background course in ethical theory which will concentrate on three issues: the dispute between subjective and objective theories of morality; the competing claims of impartiality and the standpoint of the individual agent; and the opposition between aggregative maximization and egalitarian priority as the way to settle conflicts of interest.




Advanced Introduction to Philosophy of Language

Thursday 5:00-7:00

Stephen Schiffer


The seminar will provide a high-level introduction to the philosophy of language which brings graduate students as much up to speed in the subject as can be managed in one semester.  The seminar will be (a) systematic while (b) focusing on those issues and theories with which analytical philosophers most need to be acquainted.  As regards (a), the primary goal will be to provide the student with a comprehensive map of the relevant area of logical space, a map that shows the various issues and theories in the philosophy of language and their inter-relations.  In order to accomplish this, we’ll begin with the most foundational issues and show how all other issues emanate from them and the various possible responses to them.  As regards (b), you can get an idea of some of the points of focus from the following abbreviated (and provisional—some subtopics will have to be sacrificed owing to time constraints) syllabus outline.


1. Contents: The Objects of Meaning and Thought


2. Determinants of Content


3. Reference, Truth and Necessity


4. Vagueness and Indeterminacy

·        Theories of vagueness: the semantics and logic of vague language

·        Non-vagueness indeterminacy


Course work: Two short papers on approved topics, with an option for one longish paper.  Since this is a “background” course, there will be a no-Incomplete policy—i.e., in the absence of very special circumstances, students will not be allowed to take Incompletes.




Philosophy of Science

Thursday 8:00-10:00

Gordon Belot


The course will be a non-technical introduction to the philosophy of space and time, focusing on symmetry arguments. The first half will concern the classical controversy about the relativity of motion and the nature of space. Readings from Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Mach, Poincaré, and others. The second half of the course will survey a variety of topics of current interest: the contemporary consensus regarding the classical debate; the nature of time in special and general relativity; attempts to generalize considerations about symmetry and indistinguishability in various directions.





Monday/Wednesday 6:00-8:00

Crispin Wright


[Note: Course start date is 3/18/2002; Course end date is 5/3/2002]


The course will center on skepticism about knowledge and justified belief.  Skeptical  arguments should be viewed as just one species of philosophical paradox.  The first prerequisite for a satisfactory treatment of them is thus careful analysis of the assumptions they make, and of the way they reason from those assumptions.  Too much traditional and recent discussion of skepticism suffers from presumption, or oversimplification, in this respect, taking it for granted that we all know what the skeptical arguments are and how they are supposed to work.  We will develop in detail a number of challenging skeptical lines of thought confronting our claims to knowledge/justified belief about a material world distinct from our experience, about others' mental states, about the past, and about general laws and the future.  We will also pay more careful attention than is usual to the question, what in principle could constitute a satisfactory response to such arguments.  An overriding concern will be with whether they may after all prove to allow of a direct, rationalistic deconstruction or whether we must ultimately acquiesce in the naturalistic, quietist, or even merely scornful reactions that have become common in recent philosophy.





Wednesday 2:00-4:00

Peter Unger


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 experience appearance and reality, problems of skepticism, problems of mind and body, problems of free will, and more.  Over the last five years, this attempt has been receiving formulation in a book-in-progress, All the Power in the World, that will still be progressing throughout the course, and beyond.

        The metaphysical system offered draws ideas from quite a few figures central to Modern Philosophy, notably Descartes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume; and, according to the system, the extraordinarily rich concrete reality hypothesized by Spinoza prevails over Kant's proposal that our reality must be utterly opaque to human conception.  Several 20th century figures also influence the work, notably Bertrand Russell, Peter Strawson, David Armstrong, C.B. Martin, Roderick Chisholm, Peter van Inwagen, and David Lewis.

        As well as reading the 8 or 9 chapters so far comprising All the Power, we'll read short selections from several of these influential historical thinkers, and from several of these more recent thinkers, and from several other recent thinkers.

        Students will be required to write two fairly short papers, each on a different topic discussed in class.  One will be due a bit before the middle of the term and, to help with the writing of the second, this will be discussed with the professor at some length.  To avoid the issuing of Incompletes, the second will be due about a week before the course's last scheduled meeting.




Research Seminar on Mind & Language

Monday 5:00-6:00/Tuesday 4:00-7:00

Paul Boghossian & Paul Horwich


We will focus on work that addresses one or more of the following questions: Which facts, if any, constitute someone's meaning something by a word? What are the facts, if any, in virtue of which a person follows a given rule?  What connection, if any, is there between the preceding two questions?  Does being justified involve following rules?  How does justification relate to meaning and can it derive solely from meaning?


Jan 22   Paul Horwich
Jan 29   Paul Boghossian
Feb 5    Michael Williams
Feb 12   Robert Brandom
Feb 19   Barry Loewer
Feb 26   Kit Fine
Mar 5     Tyler Burge
Mar 19   Ruth Millikan
Mar 26   Neil Tennant
Apr 2     Jerry Fodor
Apr 9     Crispin Wright
Apr 16   Peter Railton
Apr 23   Huw Price
Apr 30   Susan Haack




History of Philosophy Selected Topics

Thursday 11:00-1:00

John Richardson


I expect to divide the course into 3 parts.  1) We’ll survey a series of topics in Nietzsche’s theory, ranging from his theory of truth (if any) and perspectivism, through his notions of will to power and eternal return, and into his critique of morality.  Here we’ll use an anthology of (relatively) analytic articles, as well as selected and scattered excerpts from many of his books.  (I’ll also introduce the reading of Nietzsche I gave in Nietzsche’s System).  2) We’ll read more closely and consecutively one or two of Nietzsche’s books, probably On the Genealogy of Morals and maybe Beyond Good and Evil.  3) I’ll present the reading of Nietzsche I’m working on now; this argues for an important Darwinian element in his thinking, which allows him/us to “naturalize” many of his ideas.  Here we’ll use a typescript for a book tentatively titled Nietzsche’s New Darwinism.