Spring 2008 Courses

Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Spring 2008 quarter. These course lists may change.

The Registrar's office has up to date scheduling information for all University of Chicago graduate and undergraduate courses.

College students may only enroll in courses whose first number is 2. Graduate students may only enroll in courses whose first number is 3 or higher.

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Spring Courses

Open to Undergraduates:

21600. Introduction to Political Philosophy. What would a just liberal democratic political order involve, and is that the best or only form of "legitimate" government? What are the best, reasoned justifications for such a political order, and how utopian or distant from present realities is the political philosophizing behind such justifications? Does a just liberal democratic society require that citizens be friends, or equals, or autonomous choosers, or free of particular identities or political passions? How would it reconstruct gender and sexuality? And what are the duties of citizens when the political order falls short of this ideal? How should this ideal guide current political practice and determine the role of countries such as the U.S. in world politics? In an age of terror and globalization, when many view the U.S. as a new empire, how optimistic can one be or should one be about the fate of the distinctively modern ideal of a just liberal democratic society? This course will address these questions and others, taking as a point of departure the political theories of John Stuart Mill, John Rawls, and Martha Nussbaum. (A) R. Barton Schultz.

21311. Other Minds. Philosophers have long thought that the existence of mental lives other than our own poses a peculiar philosophical problem. What exactly this problem is, however, is difficult to discern. On the one hand, the philosophical problem of other minds has something to do with how we know of the existence and contents of other minds. This is an epistemological problem, a problem in the theory of knowledge. On the other hand, the philosophical problem of other minds has something to do with the nature of minds in general. Minds are peculiar things, different in many respects from other kinds of worldly entities, and presumably this has something to do with why they are epistemologically problematic. The epistemological problem of other minds is thus intimately connected to broader issues in the philosophy of mind. This course will amount to a general introduction to theories of knowledge and mind oriented around the specific problem of other minds. We will try to understand just what it is that's philosophically problematic about other minds, and in so doing we will broach many central issues in both epistemology and philosophy of mind. (B) Ben McMyler.

21716. Thinking the Body/The Body Thinking. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, dance has developed into a serious art form. Yet it seldom figures as a topic in a course on aesthetics; and, more generally, it continues to attract little attention from philosophers inquiring into the nature of art. Why is this the case? Is dance perhaps too corporeal or too unreflective or in some other way too marginal to be a fruitful topic for philosophical reflection? Or does the failure of mainstream philosophical aesthetics to take dance seriously perhaps signal unacknowledged biases in such approaches? Might dance, the art form whose medium is the human body, have something to contribute to current philosophical interest in rethinking the human body and, particularly, the relation between mind and body? Seeking responses to questions such as these, this course provides an introduction to the place of dance in the theory of art. (A) Kristin Boyce.

23011. Faith and Reason. Recently, a number of best-selling books, by professional philosophers like Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), scientists like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and popular writers like Sam Harris (The End of Faith) have argued that modern science shows that religious faith is fundamentally irrational. This argument has not gone unanswered (for example by Francis Collins in The Language of God and by Pope Benedict XVI, in his Regensburg Lecture). This course will examine the relationship between religious faith and reason. We will discuss four positions: (1) reason and faith are in conflict, and it is best to abandon science in favor of faith (religious fundamentalism); (2) reason and faith are in conflict, and it is best to abandon faith in favor of science (scientific atheism); (3) reason and faith do not make cognitive contact, and one can freely choose faith without conflict with reason ("non-overlapping magisteria," fideism); (4) reason and faith do make cognitive contact but are mutually supporting, not in conflict (harmonious compatibilism). We will focus on contemporary debates but also consider their historical roots (for example, Aquinas, Leibniz, Voltaire, Hume, William James). Among the topics to be discussed will be the nature of reason and faith, arguments for and against the existence of God, the problem of evil, evolution and intelligent design, cosmology and the origin of the universe, the rationality of belief in miracles and the supernatural, and evolutionary and neuroscientific explanations of religious belief and religious experience. (B) Michael Kremer.

24901. Moral/Immoral, Natural/Unnatural. Opponents of homosexuality, gay marriage, and stem cell research often charge that these kinds of behavior or activity are unnatural. Proponents defend their behavior or activity on the grounds that it is natural. Both assume that whether something is natural is relevant to its moral status. But is it? This course will examine the role that 'appeals to nature' play in historical and contemporary debates and ask what role it should play in debates about morality. We will begin by looking at select historical debates and issues from the middle ages to the early part of the 20th century, before turning to more recent debates about genetic engineering, homosexuality, jealousy and rape. In the last part of the class, we will look at contemporary moral theories that attempt to ground human ends in human nature (Foot, Nussbaum) and criticisms of these views (Kant, Korsgaard, Hurka). Along the way, we will consider just how appeals to nature have changed historically; the relation between something's being natural and something's being good; whether we can be held responsible for things that are in our nature; what role the appeal to nature should play in certain contemporary debates and moral theory in general; and whether it is useful at all to think of humans as having a nature in the same way that animals do. (A) Daniel Groll.

27000. History of Philosophy III: Kant and the Nineteenth Century. Prerequisites: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities. . This course provides a broad introduction to the most important thinkers and themes in later 18th and 19th century Philosophy. Michael Forster.

29200. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Authenticity and Dependence. Prerequisites: Open only to philosophy majors. How can one lead an authentic life? For many thinkers and artists in modernity, this question became fundamental. Their answer often seemed to involve a turning of one's back on society. Life in society, especially in modern society, they thought, was 'mannered', 'theatrical', 'alienated', so that we are 'forever asking others what we are'. Instead, some of them envisage an ideal state of nature, praise states of absorption, or recommend a noble 'pathos of distance' towards others. But do such suggestions make sense? Can we leave society behind and succeed in leading a free, authentic life? Is our 'authenticity' up to us? And who are 'we' outside of society, anyway? In this course we shall reflect on such questions through texts by Rousseau, Diderot, Marx and Sartre, among others. We shall also try to see how these concerns resonated in the work of contemporary artists. Uri Pasovsky. Seniors should register for this course as PHIL 29300.

29200. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Freedom, Control, and Responsibility. What is it to act freely, and what it is to be responsible for ones acts? To answer these questions we first study several philosophical positions regarding the space for freedom in the natural world, and then consider the consequences of these views on our actual practices of praising and blaming, punishing and rewarding. Does responsibility for an act require that it was wholly under the agents control? Moral luck, the phenomenon of ascribing responsibility even when a significant aspect of what the agent did depended on factors beyond his control, indicates that our actual practices do not require such absolute control. In addition, we will consider how control over the development of ones own character fits into our understanding of responsibility, and how the distinction between luck and responsibility can play a role in political philosophy. We read ancient, modern, and contemporary writers, including Alexander of Aphrodisius, Hume, Kant, Ayer, Frankfurt, Nagel, Williams, Chisholm, Dennett, P.F. Strawson, and Galen Strawson, among others. Ryan Long. Seniors should register for this course as PHIL 29300

Open to Graduates and Undergraduates:

21005 / 31005. Early Analytic Philosophy: Frege--Russell--Wittgenstein. In this course, we will make a detailed and patient study of some of the most important texts of the early analytic tradition, texts from which arose much of modern logic and philosophy of language. We will make a close reading of several classic papers by both Frege and Russell, before turning to Wittgenstein's early work, the Tractatus, discussing too some of the most influential and important contributions to the secondary literature, such as Geach's "Saying and Showing in Frege and early Wittgenstein" and Russell's own introduction to the Tractatus. Although these texts are difficult, an understanding of them is essential to an understanding of many of the central developments of later analytic philosophy. The course will be largely discussion based, focusing on making a careful reading of the primary texts. (B) Edmund Dain.

21312 / 31312. Self and Morality in 18th Century British Moral Thought. This course will examine the relationship between moral theory and a conception of the self in four major 18th century British philosophers:  Shaftesbury, Butler, Hume and Adam Smith.  We will also take short excursions into Mandeville and Hutcheson.  Questions to be examined include:  What is self-deceit, and how important a problem is it for morality?  To what extent do the views of the self held by these philosophers - as transparent to itself or as prone to self-deceit, as unified or fragmented, as largely shaped by society or as autonomous - affect the moral philosophies they develop?  To what extent might moral practice help unify the self, or give it independence from its society?  We will also a consider a range of other questions about the moral theories we examine, especially about how they try to break free of theological underpinnings. (A) (V) Samuel Fleischacker.

21313 / 31313. Presocratic Philosophy. In the two centuries before Plato and Xenophon committed Socrates to writing, thinkers across the eastern Mediterranean embarked on projects that came to be part of philosophy. This development has been vaguely but compellingly characterized as a transition from religion to philosophy or from mysticism to reason; that characterization has also been roundly criticized. One of our tasks in the course will be to characterize more precisely and open-mindedly what differences there are between the Ionian natural philosophers (e.g. Anaximander, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras) and their predecessors. Is it the use of argument? critical engagement with a tradition? generality in explanation? do the thinkers themselves have a conception or conceptions of rationality (logos, or nous?) which they take to distinguish their thought? This investigation is expected to illuminate and refine our own understanding of what constitutes rationality. In the study of the presocratics, the vagueness of claims about 'rationality' is compensated for by monumental scholarship reconstructing the ideas and arguments of these remote thinkers. Studying the presocratics thus provides a hands-on education in handling source-material critically. The course will not cover every presocratic but will focus on those who developed views 'on nature' (peri phuseôs) and those, like Parmenides, who subjected this project to criticism. We will focus on Anaximander, Heraclitus, Xenophanes, Parmenides and his followers, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, and Leucippus-Democritus. (B) (IV) Rachana Kamtekar.

20300 / 30300 . Scientific and Technological Change. Since Kuhn's watershed book in 1962, scientific change has been a major problem in philosophy and in history of science. We will survey different accounts of scientific and technological change in their cumulative and revolutionary modes starting with Kuhn and his critics, then Latour, Basalla, Simon, and Wimsatt, and consider detailed case studies from modern science to test and illuminate these accounts. (B) William Wimsatt.

20615 / 30615. Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception. The Phenomenology of Perception (first published in 1945) is Maurice Merleau-Ponty's masterpiece, and one of the landmarks of phenomenology in the 20th century. With this book, phenomenology took a decisive turn towards a philosophy of embodiment and perceptual rootedness in the world. This perspective, which has continued to deeply influence the development of Continental thought for the last half-century, opens up a different perspective on a number of the issues that dominate contemporary Anglophone cognitive science and philosophy of mind. More strikingly still, the book is now being accorded a second reception in recent years by people working in these areas. Thus it has come to pass that this classic of French phenomenology is now playing a central role in contemporary debates again, in philosophy and beyond. This introductory class will be dedicated to a systematic reading of this work in English translation. (B) (III) Jocelyn Benoist.

21918 / 31918. Decision-making: Principles and Foundations. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor. The course will be co-taught with Douglas Baird.. Individuals, particularly those in leadership positions, are called upon to make decisions on behalf of others. This course offers a rigorous study of how philosophers and others have examined the process of decision-making. We also focus on the tools they have used, including those from behavioral economics and game theory. We discuss moral dilemmas and some of the more common pathologies of decision-making: akrasia, self-deception, and blind obedience to authority. (A) (I) Martha Nussbaum.

23105 / 33105. Philosophy of Mathematics. We will look at some traditional and modern conceptions of mathematics, including Platonism, logicism, formalism, intuitionism, fictionalism, and structuralism. We will also discuss the concept of 'impredicativity', and examine the role it plays in motivating (or criticizing) various strains of the views just listed. (B) (II) Kevin Davey.

24715 / 34715. Nietzsche's Moral and Political Psychology. Nietzsche regularly insisted that he was not a philosopher or metaphysician or moralist but a "psychologist." Since he clearly did not mean what we now would call empirical psychology and appeared to reject what has come to be known as philosophical psychology, this leaves as a serious question what he did mean by that self-ascription. That shall be our question. Main texts: The Gay Science, and The Genealogy of Morals. (A) (V) Robert Pippin.

2000 / 3000 The Philosophy of Human Rights. The language of rights has come to constitute a central way of understanding the standing of individuals within states. But what rights, if any, do people really have? Legal arguments focus on the interpretation of such documents as the Bill of Rights and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. But those documents are, at best, imperfect guides to the underlying moral reality. This course focuses on the philosophical justifications of rights; what are the moral underpinnings of human rights, and what rights do they support? We shall explore the two main normative theories of rights -- the choice theory and the interest theory -- as well as the most influential critiques -- the utilitarian and communitarian critiques. We shall also look at the content and justification of particular rights, such as the right to free expression and the right to freedom of religion; as well as what might be though of as special cases -- children's rights and the rights of the disabled. Among the literature we shall read will be work by Ronald Dworkin, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Joseph Raz, Martha Nussbaum, John Rawls, Susan Moller Okin, Will Kymlicka, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Jeremy Waldron. (A) Harry Brighouse.

Open to Graduate Students:

50119. Self-Knowledge and Agency. According to a familiar, venerable, and appealing line of thought, something important that sets us self-determining rational animals apart from our brutish fellow creatures is a capacity to reflect critically on our own inclinations and motives. In this seminar, we'll be trying to come to a better understanding of this sort of reflection. We'll discuss questions about, and theories concerning, on the one hand, how we so often manage to be aware of our own motives and inclinations and, on the other hand, the bearing that this kind of self-knowledge has on agency. Although this will be, in some respects, a continuation of last spring's Consciousness seminar, it is not expected that students will have taken that course. Readings will likely be drawn from the work of Gilbert Ryle, Stuart Hampshire, David Velleman, Michael Thompson, Dorit Bar-On, and Sebastian Rödl, among others. (III) David Finkelstein.

50102 . Husserlian Semantics (Meaning and Intentionality). This seminar will be dedicated to a systematic investigation of Husserl's theory of sense and reference. This theory played a leading role in the development of what Husserl called 'phenomenology', but it is also of interest as one of the most significant theories of these topics to emerge at the beginning of the 20th century, usefully to be compared with those of Frege, Russell and others. We shall read as our basic text Husserl's First Logical Investigation, first published in1901 (in its English translation), where he sets forth his 'theory of meaning'; but we shall also study a number of additional texts, including the lectures that he gave in 1908 on the theory of meaning, as well as the opening of his Sixth Logical Investigation (also from 1901) and the attempted rewriting of it in 1913-1914. This seminar is meant to serve both as a historical introduction to an important dimension of Husserl's overall phenomenology, as well as an occasion in which to focus on and explore specific issues in the philosophy of language and mind of continuing interest on which phenomenology can still shed considerable light. Among the topics to be explored in this connection are the following: the distinction between sense and nonsense, propositional reference, 'empty' reference, proper nouns, indexicality, context-dependence, 'subjective' and 'objective' meaning, and, more generally, the problem of the relation between meaning and intentionality. (III) Jocelyn Benoist.

50121. Plato's Psychology. Aristotle tells us that Socrates investigated ethical questions but neglected nature (Metaph. I.6). Yet Plato's Socrates does investigate the nature of the soul, for example in the Phaedo, which explores the question of what we must be like so that we shouldn't fear death, and in the Republic, which asks what our soul must be like, for it to be the case that justice is its harmonious condition. Aristotle's observation is true of Plato's Socrates in that his psychological accounts are always produced to elucidate and defend ethical claims. Indeed, only in the Timaeus does Plato describe the soul in the context of describing nature in general. In this seminar, we will examine the different accounts of the soul across Plato's dialogues (focusing on the Phaedo, Republic, Phaedrus and Timaeus), with the goals of explaining differences and identifying Plato's core psychological commitments. In particular, we will follow the course of the view that all (rational) actions aim at the agent's good. (IV) Rachana Kamtekar.

50120. Ethics and Psychoanalysis. Graduate Course Ph.D. students only in Philosophy and Social Thought. Jonathan Lear.

50103. Spinoza's Ethica. Open to grad students. Prerequisites: Knowledge of Latin, French, German useful but not required. The seminar is an in-depth study of Spinoza's major work, the Ethics, with a special emphasis on Spinoza's dialogue with Descartes. Among the topics to be discussed are: the style and structure of the book, the definition of God, the meaning of being and the question of ontology, infinity, duration and eternity, the nature of Spinoza's attributes, the substance-mode relation, Spinoza's proof of substance-monism, infinite modes, necessitarianism, the nature of ideas, parallelism, individuals and their limits, the nature of bodies, the three kinds of knowledge, the conatus and the affects, Spinoza's view of good and evil, blessedness and divine intellectual love. (V) Co-taught by Yitzhak Melamed and Jean Luc Marion.

50515. Scientific and Technological Change. Since Kuhn's watershed book in 1962, scientific change has been a major problem in philosophy and in history of science. We will survey different accounts of scientific and technological change in their cumulative and revolutionary modes starting with Kuhn and his critics, then Latour, Basalla, Simon, and Wimsatt, and consider detailed case studies from modern science to test and illuminate these accounts. We will look at changes in theory, experiment, practice, and technology, and how they articulate. (II)  William Wimsatt.

50119. Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Through a careful reading of this text we shall consider, among other things, whether such a book exists. Enrollment limited to Ph.D. students in Philosophy and Social Thought. Jonathan Lear.

51111. Seminar: Philosophy of Logic. A selection of topics in the foundations of logic. Examples are logical truth and consequence, the relation of logic and mathematics, the role of the concept of truth, the status of higher-order, plural, and constructive logics. (II) Charles Parsons.

51200. Seminar: Law & Philosophy. This is a seminar/workshop most of whose participants are faculty from seven area institutions. It admits approximately ten students by permission of the instructors. Its aim is to study, each year, a topic that arises in both philosophy and the law and to ask how bringing the two fields together may yield mutual illumination. There are ten to twelve meetings throughout the year, always on Mondays from 4 to 6 PM. Half of the sessions are led by local faculty, half by visiting speakers. The leader assigns readings for the session (which may be by that person, by other contemporaries, or by major historical figures), and the session consists of a brief introduction by the leader, followed by structured questioning by the two faculty coordinators, followed by general discussion. Students write either two 4-6 page papers per quarter, or a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year. The course satisfies the Law School Writing Requirement. The schedule of meetings will be announced by mid-September, and prospective students should submit their credentials to both instructors by September 20. Past themes have included: practical reason; equality; privacy; autonomy; global justice; pluralism and toleration; war. The theme for 2007-8 will be Coercion. People whom we are planning to invite include Catharine MacKinnon, Stephen Schulhofer, Cass Sunstein, Bernard Harcourt, Marcia Baron, and Alan Wertheimer. Martha Nussbaum. *Special note: This course is co-taught by Martha Nussbaum and Scott Anderson (Law-Philosophy Fellow, The Law School and Assistant Professor of Philosophy, The University of British Columbia). It meets over three quarters.

53900. Wittgenstein Workshop. James Conant.
56000. Early Modern Workshop. Yitzhak Melamed.
58600. Continental Philosophy. Arnold Davidson
59000. Philosophy of Mind Workshop. David Finkelstein.
59910. Workshop: Ancient Philosophy. Gabriel Richardson Lear.
59900. Contemporary Workshop. David Finkelstein.