Winter 2008 Courses

Michael Kremer receiving the Llewellyn John & Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2008.


Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Winter 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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Winter Courses

Open to Undergraduates:

21000. Introduction to Ethics. Prerequisites: Some prior work in philosophy is helpful, but not required. In this course, we will read, write, and think about central issues in moral philosophy. This survey course is designed to give a rapid introduction to philosophical ethics, largely in the Anglo-North American tradition (although not entirely as a product of Anglo-North American philosophers). We will begin with work by Immanuel Kant and Henry Sidgwick and conclude with important twentieth-century work in metaethics and normative ethics. (Among the things that we will consider are the distinctions between metaethics, normative ethics, and the various fields united under the rubric 'applied ethics'). This course is intended as an introductory course in moral philosophy. (A) Jay Elliot.

22502. Stories. A consideration of stories, especially fictions, with regard to our engagement with them. Relevant questions will be: How do we distinguish truth from falsity within entirely fictional texts?, What kinds of feelings can we have for people and things known not to exist?, What--if anything--can stories teach? (A) Ted Cohen.

22601.  Autonomy and Medical Paternalism. The course will focus on the concepts of paternalism and autonomy, and their application to issues in clinical medical ethics.  We will consider different definitions of these concepts and why one concept (paternalism) is generally thought morally suspect and the other (autonomy) morally valuable.  We will examine challenges to the coherence of the claim to patient autonomy, as well as debates about the limits to patient autonomy in certain clinical contexts.  We will finish by looking at one place where the claim to autonomy is currently hotly disputed, the issue of assisted suicide. (A) Daniel Brudney.  Co-taught with John D. Lantos

24123. Philosophy of Action Wittgenstein once rhetorically asked, "What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?" Whatever Wittgenstein's own views on the matter, understanding the difference between mere bodily movement and intentional action became central to the philosophical investigation of action and agency in the 20th century. In this course we will examine this distinction between mere movement and action and why it should matter to us. Our topics include the causal theory of action, human freedom, the nature of reasons for action, the role of desire and belief in reasons explanations, anti-psychologistic views, and the possibility of locating reason in action. We will read works by Bratman, Davidson, Hume, McDowell, Nagel, Thompson, Velleman and others. We will discuss Austin's "Three Ways of Spilling Ink" on the first day of class.  (B) Charles Todd.

25100. Evolutionary Theory and Its Role in the Human Sciences. Prerequisites: Third- or fourth-year. The course's aim is two-fold: 1) an examination of the origins and development of Darwin's theory from the early 19th century to the present; and 2) a selective investigation of the ways various disciplines of the human sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, ethics, politics, economics) have used evolutionary ideas. (B) Robert Richards.

26000. History of Philosophy - II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. Prerequisites: Completion of general education requirement in the Humanities. PHIL 25000 helpful. . The course is an introduction to the metaphysical thought of the 17th and 18th centuries. Among the primary topics to be discussed are: the concept of substance; the mind-body problem; the part-whole relation; the principle of sufficient reason; causation; time; skepticism; the nature and existence of God; free will. Readings will include texts by Suarez, Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Yitzhak Melamed.

29200 / 29300-01.  Junior/Senior Tutorial: Plato on philosophers and sophists. Plato is widely considered to be the first philosopher to have demarcated philosophy as a distinct activity concerned with the acquisition of truth and knowledge. While others before him had taken themselves to be in pursuit of wisdom, it is Plato who shows that one must have an account of truth and knowledge themselves, and of what it means to come to know something, before one can claim to be a genuine philosophos. However, less often acknowledged is the fact that Plato does this work to define philosophy primarily in opposition to another new art: sophistry. In doing so, Plato gives epistemological issues about truth and knowledge ethical relevance. By coming to understand what a philosopher is and what it means to pursue the truth, Plato hopes to give his readers a reason to choose one way of life over another. In this course we will read a number of dialogues in which Plato tries to work out aspects of this project. The dialogues include: Euthydemus, Protagoras, Gorgias, Theaetetus, Sophist, and portions of the Republic. Abby Dean. Students registering for a first tutorial should register for this course as PHIL 29200.  Students registering for a second tutorial should register for PHIL 29300.

29200 / 29300-02.  Junior/Senior Tutorial: Kant and Skepticism Prerequisites: Open only to philosophy majors.  Kant and Skepticism: In everyday life, we take it for granted that we know things based on our perceptions. To doubt, for instance, that you are sitting there reading this course description, or that the sun will rise tomorrow, seems absurd; few perceptual beliefs seem more certain than these. Yet René Descartes and David Hume entertain just such doubts, raising skeptical challenges to the idea that we ever really have such knowledge. In this class, we'll learn why Descartes and Hume thought philosophy should level these doubts and challenges, we'll look briefly at Descartes' optimistic answer that the possibility of knowledge based on perception rests on God, and at Hume's pessimistic answer that we only think we have such knowledge because of certain customs or habits of ours which we cannot explain further. Then, we'll take a more detailed look at a different approach to skepticism, found in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Rather than attempting to answer the skeptical challenges directly and at face value, Kant questions the very terms in which the challenges are posed in the first place -- yet still with a view toward vindicating the idea that we can and do have knowledge based on perception. We will read substantial selections from the Critique, to see what makes Kant's response to skepticism so interesting and innovative, and to determine whether his approach succeeds or fails to answer the challenges of his philosophical predecessors." Nate Zuckerman. Students registering for a first tutorial should register for this course as PHIL 29200.  Students registering for a second tutorial should register for PHIL 29300.

29200 / 29300-03. Junior/Senior Tutorial:  Divine Command Ethics: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. There is an influential and long-standing philosophical tradition that explains morality, or some crucial aspect of it, by reference to the will of God. Moreover, it remains the case that most people, if pressed to characterize what ultimately makes an action right or wrong, would probably turn out to be something like "naïve divine command theorists."1 Within contemporary moral philosophy, the divine command approach is clearly a minority view. However, there has also been a revival of interest in divine command ethics among professional philosophers in the last few decades.2 This course looks at historical and contemporary instances of divine command ethics, in an effort to figure out what a philosophically viable form of divine command theory might look like. Micah Lott. Students registering for a first tutorial should register for this course as PHIL 29200.  Students registering for a second tutorial should register for PHIL 29300.

Open to Graduates and Undergraduates:

20705 / 30705 German Philosophy of Language. This course will mainly cover Herder, Hamann, Schleiermacher, the Schlegels, von Humboldt, and Hegel. (B) (V) Michael Forster.

21415 / 31415. Contemporary Analytic Metaethics: Moral Realism & Its Enemies. This course will provide an introduction to the central issues, themes and positions in one of the most dynamic and interesting areas of contemporary analytic philosophy by way of a close reading of some of the most important and influential texts in the field. Focusing on the dispute between moral realists and anti-realists, we will pursue questions in metaphysics (Are there moral facts and properties? If so, what kind of facts and properties are they?), epistemology (Can we know which moral statements are true and which false? If so, how?), philosophy of language (What does it mean to say that something is good or bad, right or wrong, in an ethical sense?) and moral psychology (Are moral judgments intrinsically motivating?), among other areas. The range of positions discussed will include classic stances such as G. E. Moore's particular brand of non-naturalism, as well as newly emerging positions such as moral fictionalism. (A) Edmund Dain.

22201 / 32201.  Genetics in an Evolutionary Perspective.   Prerequisites: Biological Sciences Common Core or its equivalent, pre-calculus math.  Historical development of theories of heredity and evolution, from before Darwin and Mendel, through the development of cytology and classical genetics, population genetics and neo-Darwinism to evolutionary developmental biology and "eco-evo-devo" and the relation between macro-evolution and micro-evolution. Disputes, current and historical, over applications in biology and the social sciences. Lab/discussion. Computer simulations for historical and modern simpler models in population biology, and the strategy and tactics of mathematical model building.  (B) (II)   William Wimsatt.

22215 / 32215. Cicero's De Finibus and Hellenistic Ethics. Cicero's dialogue De Finibus (On Ends) is his attempt to sort out the major arguments for and against the ethical theories characteristic of Epicureanism, Stoicism, and the "New Academy."  It thus provides us with some of our best information about the views of these schools, as well as with critical arguments of great interest.   We will read extracts from the dialogue in Latin, focusing on Epicureanism (Books I and II) and Stoicism (Books III and IV), and we will study the entire work in translation, along with relevant primary sources for the views of the schools (the surviving letters of Epicurus, central texts of Greek and Roman Stoicism).  The course will thus aim to provide a solid introduction to the major ethical theories of the Hellenistic period.  The course is open to all who have had five quarters of Latin, or equivalent preparation.  Translation will always take place during the first hour, and students without Latin are invited to take the course for an R or audit, arriving after that time and doing all the readings in translation.  In some cases Independent Study numbers may be arranged for students who want to do some of the course requirements (paper and exam essays) without Latin. (A) (IV)  Martha Nussbaum

22601 / 33600. Autonomy and Medical Paternalism. The course will focus on the concepts of paternalism and autonomy, and their application to issues in clinical medical ethics. We will consider different definitions of these concepts and why one concept (paternalism) is generally thought morally suspect and the other (autonomy) morally valuable. We will examine challenges to the coherence of the claim to patient autonomy, as well as debates about the limits to patient autonomy in certain clinical contexts. We will finish by looking at one place where the claim to autonomy is currently hotly disputed, the issue of assisted suicide. (A) Daniel Brudney. Co-taught with Alison Winter and John D. Lantos.

25401 / 35401. History, Philosophy and Politics of Psychoanalysis. A reading of some central texts of Freud (both early and late) in the context of a study of the role of psychoanalysis in contemporary European philosophy. Other authors to be read may include Foucault, Deleuze and Guatteri, Marcuse, and Derrida. (B) (I) Arnold Davidson.

29400 / 39600. Intermediate Logic - I. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.. This is a course in the science of logic. It presupposes a knowledge of the use of truth-functions and quantifiers as tools: such as the art of logic. Our principal task in this course is to study these tools in a systematic way. We cover the central theorems about first-order logic with identity: completeness, compactness, and the Löwenheim-Skolem theorems. We introduce any necessary set-theoretic and mathematical apparatus as required. We also study the topic of definition in more detail than is customary in such courses, culminating with a proof of Beth's theorem on implicit and explicit definitions. (B) (II) Michael Kremer.

Open to Graduate Students:

32201. Genetics in an Evolutionary Perspective. Prerequisites: Biological Sciences Common Core or its equivalent, pre-calculus math. Historical development of theories of heredity and evolution, from before Darwin and Mendel, through the development of cytology and classical genetics, population genetics and neo-Darwinism to evolutionary developmental biology and "eco-evo-devo" and the relation between macro-evolution and micro-evolution. Disputes, current and historical, over applications in biology and the social sciences. Lab/discussion. Computer simulations for historical and modern simpler models in population biology, and the strategy and tactics of mathematical model building William Wimsatt.

50116. Pragmatism. Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in Pragmatism, not only in philosophy, but in political science, sociology, cultural studies, and many other areas of intellectual pursuit. This seminar will examine main themes, problems, and trends in Pragmatism. It will focus on the writings of Peirce, James, and Dewey, and the implications of their ideas to current controversies concerning truth, knowledge, relativism, inquiry and world-making. The Pragmatists views about the goals and methods of philosophy will be explored along the way. (III) Robert Schwartz.

50117. Metaphors and Jokes. Both metaphors and jokes are novelties, typically involving the breaking of rules, either rules of language or other rules, typically social.  But it seems to be that these rules are required for comprehension.  In this class we will try to understand how such "transgressive" items can succeed.  Readings will be slight, and mostly from contemporary sources. (I) Ted Cohen.

50118. Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The focus of the course will be on evaluating and advancing ongoing debates in the contemporary secondary literature concerning how best to interpret the overall aims, methods, and doctrines of the Tractatus. Some attention will also be given to the following topics: Wittgenstein's early criticisms of the views of Frege and Russell, the history of the reception of the Tractatus in Anglo-American philosophy, the relation between Wittgenstein's pre-Tractatus writings and the Tractatus itself, and the relation between Wittgenstein's early and later thought. Readings will include texts by Frege, Russell, Ramsey, Carnap, Anscombe, Geach, McGuiness, Hacker, Goldfarb, Ricketts, Diamond, Kremer, Sullivan, White, and Floyd. (III) James Conant.

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. William Wimsatt.

51110. Hegel's Phenomenology of Self-Consciousness. The main text for the seminar will be Chapter Four of Hegel's 1807 Phenomenology of Spirit, which is called simply "Self-Consciousness," and contains his famous account of the "Master-Bondsman" dialectic and his defense of the social nature of self-consciousness. Some material from his earlier Jena lectures and his Encyclopedia Philosophy of Spirit will also be discussed, but for the most part the seminar will consist in a close textual reading of this one chapter. (V) Robert Pippin.

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.