Philosophy Department

Graduate Courses Spring 2000

( All classes meet in the Department's conference room, Main Building Room 503. )


G83.2225-001 /Torchtone call #31282


Thursday/4:00pm – 6:00pm


We shall try to give an account of ourselves--of our own nature--that has it be pretty intelligible how each of us might be not only an experiencing being, and one who sometimes thinks hard and actively, but, as well, a being who has the power to choose what to think, from among real alternatives for her as to what she might think.  One thing we’ll attempt, then, is to resolve--somewhat satisfactorily--the main difficulties placed under the traditional heading “The Problem of Free Will.”  Another will be to articulate--somewhat satisfactorily--what must be the central features of concrete mental reality:  As we’ll will attempt to argue, the best account may be surprisingly similar to Descartes’ view (without his Theism, his demanding epistemology, his insistence all of mental life is conscious mental life, and without other dispensable Cartesian features).  As far as it’s allowed by the development of a substantial metaphysical view, which will be quite far indeed, our account will accord with our commonsense view of ourselves.


Is there more to reality than mental reality?  Against Berkeley and with Descartes, we shall favor the proposition that there is nonmental concrete reality and, further, that it’s physical reality.  (In our “solution” of the Problems of Free Will, it will have been argued, against the prevailing orthodoxy of the last 40 years or so, that, as there’s mental reality that’s not physical, there’s more to concrete reality than physical reality.)  Despite our most arduous efforts to conceive what might be the true nature of physical reality, the (presumed?) realm of the physical will remain, just as it must, quite mysterious to us, far more so than the (admittedly puzzling) nature of ourselves and the (admittedly puzzling) facts of our thinking and experiencing.   In these most arduous efforts, we will begin with the Neo-Lockean metaphysics proposed by C.B. Martin, though we shall see a  need to modify it very greatly.  As it will then develop, the best position on “The Mind-Body Problem” may be a form of Dualisitic Interactionism that, even as it’s reasonably respectful of common sense and well-rooted in Descartes, finds other roots in Locke.


Most of our reading will be from contemporary sources.  But, as almost all the most prominent philosophical contemporaries proceed on the “Scientiphical” propositions that (1) all of concrete reality is physical reality and that (2) thanks to science, the nature of the physical is already quite clear enough to us, most reading will be from current philosophers that aren’t particularly prominent.


G83.2299-001 /Torchtone call #31428

Theory of Meaning

Wednesday/2:00pm – 4:00pm


The general topic is the meaning of linguistic expressions and the content of mental states, but special emphasis will be on the notion of the truth conditions (of sentences and sentential states), and on the referential notions needed in the theory of truth conditions.  I expect to be advocating what has been called a “deflationist” view of all of these issues.  The last part of the course will be on whether such “deflationism” can accommodate the idea of “factual defectiveness”; that is, the idea that for some meaningful questions there is no fact of the matter as to their answers.


G83.2285-001 /Torchtone call #31121

Ethics: Selected Topics

Seminar/Colloquium in Bioethics

Wednesday/5:00pm – 7:00pm


* Open to Graduate School of Arts and Science, NYU Medical School, and the School of Law


Topics to be discussed are (1) the genome project; (2) assisted suicide; and (3) rationing.  The course will be run as a colloquium, i.e., for at least 9 out of the 14 sessions, prominent visitors will come to discuss their written work (distributed a week in advance). On (1), Dan Brock, Norman Daniels, and Allen Buchanan will visit; on (2) Seana Shiffrin, David Velleman, and Judith Thomson; on (3) Dan Brock, Paul Menzel, and Ruth Faden. The remaining sessions will provide background to the topics and a survey of concepts in ethical theory presupposed for their discussions.  Open to graduate, law and medical students by permission of the instructor. Background in ethical theory and/or bioethics required. Classes will be held at the NYU Medical School, 31st and 1st Avenue (actual classroom location: TBA).


G83.2295-001 /Torchtone call #30914

Research Seminar on Mind and Language

Monday/ 5:30pm – 7:30pm

Tuesday/ 4:00pm – 7:00pm

*Registration requires permission of the instructors.  Those wishing to register should attend the first session and indicate their interest. A decision on who can take the course will be made by the second session.  There will be no registration in advance.


The topic of this year's seminar will be consciousness. Papers for discussion will be available one week in advance and will be distributed at the preceding seminar. They can also be picked up at the Department of Philosophy, Main Building Room 503, 100 Washington Square East, and that is where you can find the first paper. Many of the papers will also be available the course's web page by clicking on the title of the paper. Inquiries should be addressed to Debbie Bula in the Department of Philosophy: 998-8320,


Course web page:


Schedule of Visitors:

January 18, 2000:  Stephen Yablo, MIT

January 25, 2000: John Perry, Stanford University

February 1, 2000: Ned Block, NYU

February 8, 2000: Thomas Nagel, NYU

February 15, 2000: David Papineau, Kings College London

February 22, 2000: Dan Dennett, Tufts University

February 29, 2000: David Chalmers, University of Arizona, Tucson

March 7, 2000: Susan Hurley, University of Warwick

March 21, 2000:  Tyler Burge, UCLA

March 28, 2000: Alex Byrne, MIT

April 4, 2000: Stephen White, Tufts University

April 11, 2000: Robert Nozick, Harvard University

April 18, 2000: Frank Jackson, Australian National University

April 25, 2000: Sydney Shoemaker, Cornell University


G83.2320-001 /Torchtone call #31368

History of Philosophy: Selected Topics

Thursday/2:00pm – 4:00pm


The course will be organized around a reading of Kant's Critique of Judgment.  From this reading, with its own obvious goals of clarifying and evaluating Kant's arguments, the course will expand in two directions: first to consider the light this third Critique casts on Kant's larger critical project, and second to consider certain recent analytic treatments of the issues in that book.  Since the main topics of the Critique of Judgment  are our aesthetic and teleological judgments, this will mean considering certain recent debates in aesthetics, and in the philosophy of biology.  Examples of the former are debates over the kind of 'subjectivity' in aesthetic judgments, and the possibilities for 'objectivity' there; examples of the latter are debates over the logic and use of such notions as 'function' and 'adaptation' within evolutionary theory.


G83.3300-001 /Torchtone call #30915

G83.3301-001 /Torchtone call #30916

Philosophical Research

Variable credit, 1-8 points