Philosophy Department
Graduate Courses Spring 2001


Wednesday 1:30-3:30 PM
Prof. Boghossian & Prof. Peacocke

We will be concerned with the notions of reasons, justification and entitlement, and their relations to three interrelated topics.

(1) Many reasons appear to have an a priori status. Is this appearance correct? If it is, what is the nature of such reasons, and how are they possible? What is their relation to reasons that are not a priori? How do a priori reasons function in different domains of thought?

(2) Reasons for accepting a proposition are reasons for accepting that it is true. A philosophical theory of reasons must have a systematic and general connection with the theory of reference and truth. How are we to conceive of this relation? Does our conception of truth bear upon our conception of what is a good reason for accepting a proposition?

(3) Some reasons for accepting a given proposition seem to result from the very identity of the concepts that feature in the proposition. Do they really do so, and if they do, what is the general relation between concepts and reasons? Can a good account of this general relation illuminate the nature of justification in areas in which it has classically been thought to be problematic?


Monday 12:00-2:00 PM
Prof. White

Epistemological topics involving probability and explanation. No knowledge of probability theory will be assumed; the minimal technical background required will be explained. First an introduction to central topics: axiomatization and interpretations of probability, conditionalization, and Dutch book arguments. Then some progressively more unusual topics: prediction vs. accommodation, indifference principles and Bertrand's paradox, What makes some facts puzzling, or "cry out" for explanation?, the Doomsday Argument, and puzzles concerning probability and indexical belief.


The Method of Postulation
Thursday 12:30-2:30 PM
Prof. Fine

In this seminar I shall attempt to develop a new approach to the foundations of mathematics.  It is based upon the old idea that one can simply *postulate* the existence of mathematical and other abstract objects.  The traditional development of this idea suffers from numerous technical and philosophical difficulties, whereas the present approach - which is based upon a procedural conception of postulation - is both able to avoid these difficulties and to provide a unified account of the various fundamental branches of mathematics. Although the focus of the seminar is on the postulational method, I shall attempt to compare it with other approaches to the foundations of mathematics (logicism, predicativism, constructivism, formalism etc) and so the course, as a whole, may be regarded as a general introduction to the subject.  Some knowledge of mathematical logic is desirable, though not strictly required, since all of the relevant background material will be developed from scratch.


Thursday 4:30-6:30 PM
Prof. Parfit

[Note: Course start date is 3/19/2001; Course end date is 5/1/2001]

The remaining sessions of this course will mostly be about personal identity, but there will also be some discussion of the rationality of our attitudes to personal identity and to time, and the metaphysics of time's passage.


Monday 3:00-5:00 PM
Prof. Ruddick

The course examines aesthetic judgments and theories with special attention to human and architectural beauty, plainness, and ugliness.  Readings include Plato, Aquinas, Hume, Kant, Hegel, G.E. Moore, Dewey, LeCorbusier, Wittgenstein, and contemporary writers (Isenberg, Goodman, Scruton, Mothersill, Danto, Carroll, and others).


Ethics: Selected Topics
Wednesday 4:00-6:00 PM
Prof. Kamm & Prof. Parfit

[Note: Course start date is 3/19/2001; Course end date is 5/1/2001]

Topics will include reasons for caring and for acting, rationality, normativity, motivation, naturalism, non-cognitivism, non-reductive realism, contractualism, self-defeating theories, and distributive justice.  Much of the course will be devoted to Kant's ethics.


Research Seminar on Mind & Language
Monday 6:00-7:00 PM; Tuesday 4:00-7:00 PM
Prof. Field & Prof. Schiffer

This year's Mind & Language seminar is on Content & Its Role in Explanation. This topic raises foundational questions about content, explanation, and the interface between the two. The topic is especially important in that a crucial test for any theory of content is what it implies about the nature of propositional-attitude explanations of behavior. The "thinkers of the week" are:

  1. (1/16) Stephen Schiffer
  2. (1/23) Allen Gibbard
  3. (1/30) Martin Davies                  
  4. (2/6) Christopher Peacocke
  5. (2/13) Paul Horwich
  6. (2/20) Hartry Field
  7. (2/27) Karen Neander
  8. (3/6) Robert Stalnaker
  9. (3/20) Simon Blackburn
  10. (3/27) Timothy Williamson
  11. (4/3) Crispin Wright
  12. (4/10) Louise Antony
  13. (4/17) Dorothy Edgington
  14. (4/24) Mark Crimmins


History of Philosophy Selected Topics
Thursday 2:30-4:30 PM
Prof. Richardson

The course will be mainly occupied with a reading of Heidegger's Being and Time, supplemented by some of his other works of that (early) period, and by various secondary sources.  Main topics will be Heidegger's conception of his phenomenological method, his quasi-pragmatist account of how we are "in the world", his existentialist treatments of our social nature and of anxiety, death, and authenticity, and--especially--his analysis of our temporality as collecting and clarifying all these other ideas.  The task will be not just to understand but to evaluate Heidegger's positions on these topics, in part by relating them to current treatments of analogous issues.