Spring 2009 Courses


Jason Bridges writing on a blackboard during a workshop.

 

Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Spring 2009 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.

Note: 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.

Note: Letters A and B refer to undergraduate field designations; Roman numerals I-V refer to graduate field designations.

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Open to Undergraduates:

216000. 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). B. Schultz.

21302. Good and Lucky: The Role of Luck in Ethics. In this course we will consider whether it is within each person's power to be a good human being or whether this requires a certain degree of luck, the cooperation of circumstances beyond one's control. Ethical luck purportedly enters our lives in many ways: in character formation, in the cooperation of the world with our purposes, and in the situations in which we find ourselves compelled to act. In the first section of the course we will consider the case for ethical luck and the Aristotelian framework of human flourishing that many of its proponents espouse. In the second section of the course we will consider the case against ethical luck from within a Kantian framework emphasizing the good will. In the third section of the course we will consider the communal nature of human life and ask whether some impediments (or aids) to the good life are more than mere luck but instead are systemic. We will consider race, gender, class, along with theological conceptions of original sin. Throughout the course we will attempt to balance a careful study of the philosophical systems that underpin ideas about moral luck with a discussion of robust examples drawn from drama, literature and history. J. Lockhart. (A)

21423. Marx. (= FNDL 21805). Open only to College students. This is an introduction to the works of Karl Marx. There are no prerequisites. The course will proceed thematically, rather than chronologically, and will cover such topics as alienation, ideology, the critique of capitalism, historical change and revolution. Readings will be primarily from Marx himself. Open to undergraduates only. A. Ford. (A)

21505. Wonder, Magic, and Skepticism. Open only to College students. In the course of discussing how it is that a philosophical problem arises in the first place, Wittgenstein says, “The decisive movement in the conjuring trick has been made, and it was the very one that we thought quite innocent.” This isn’t the only place where Wittgenstein speaks as if being gripped by philosophical problems is a matter of succumbing to illusions--as if a philosophers are magicians who are taken in by their own tricks. In this course, we’ll discuss philosophy and magical performance, with the aim of coming to a deeper understanding of what both are about. We’ll be particularly concerned with Wittgenstein’s picture of what philosophy is and does. Another focus of the course will be the passion of wonder. In the *Theatetus*, Plato has Socrates say, “The sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin.” And when magicians write about their aesthetic aims, they almost always describe themselves as trying to instill wonder in others. Does magic end where philosophy begins? And what becomes of wonder after philosophy is done with it? D. Finkelstein. (B)

23400. Philosophy of Mind and Science Fiction. Open to college students. Could computers be conscious? Might they be affected by changes in size or time scale, hardware, development, social, cultural, or ecological factors? Does our form of life constrain our ability to visualize or detect alternative forms of order, life, or mentality, or to interpret them correctly? How do assumptions of consciousness affect how we study and relate to other beings? This course examines issues in philosophy of mind raised by recent progress in biology, psychology, and simulations of life and intelligence, with readings from philosophy, the relevant sciences, and science fiction. W. Wimsatt. (B)

27000. History of Philosophy III: Kant and the Nineteenth Century. (=PLSC 26600) PQ: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities. This course studies a number of important philosophers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Kant, Bentham, Hegel, Marx, Mill, Nietzsche, and others may be read. M. Forster.

29700. Reading Course. PQ: Consent of intructor and director of undergraduate studies. By arrangement.

29902. Senior Seminar II. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay. The senior essay peer review workshop meets in all three quarters but students register for senior seminar in only two quarters. Students register for Senior Seminar II in either Winter or Spring Quarter. NOTE: Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter. M. Kremer or B. Callard.

PHIL 29200/29300-02. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Nature and Virtue: Aristotle and Rousseau. The “natural” has tremendous cachet and enters into various aspects of our considerations of how to live a good life, in the guise of, e.g., “all-natural” foods, holistic medicine, natural rights of man. But what is a human life that is “true to nature”? For Aristotle, it is the good life that aims at the telos of human beings, a life of reason in accordance with virtue. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, writing two millennia after Aristotle, also implores human beings to live the “natural” life in modern civilization, striking a virtuous balance between a pastoral ideal and a civic existence. Are the two thinkers’ conceptions of the good life according to nature compatible, similar, or mutually exclusive? Do these conceptions seem enticing? Available to the 21st-century person? Compatible with a commitment to liberal democracy? We will explore these questions in reading parts of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics and Rousseau’s Second Discourse and Emile. The course will finish with a discussion of the current “go green” movement which lauds the “natural,” “nature-preserving,” and ecologically responsible life for its moral implications. Is being “green” a new way of being virtuous? Is it conceptually part of or severed from the virtuous life conceived as the life that is “true to human nature,” as Aristotle and Rousseau claim? In reading parts of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, we will evaluate environmental virtue and the contemporary version of the “natural” life from an Aristotelian and a Rousseauian perspective. D. Polzik.

29200/29300-01. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, since its initial publication in 1781 and revised edition in 1787, has given lasting shape to the philosophical landscape. In this course we will ask, “Why is Kant so important?” To do so, we will first study the most philosophically stimulating and influential parts of the first *Critique.* Next, we will trace Kant’s influence through two of last century’s major philosophical figures, P.F. Strawson and Martin Heidegger. Although Strawson and Heidegger stand at the heads of seemingly opposed streams in contemporary philosophy, each nevertheless understands himself as occupying a place in the Kantian landscape. At the conclusion of this course we will be in a position to critically examine Strawson's and Heidegger's respective appropriations of Kant for the purpose of determining how we will appropriate Kant into our own philosophical thinking. J. Shaddock.

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Open to Graduates and Undergraduates:

20703/30703. The Social Contract Theorists. In this course we will consider the answers given to the fundamental questions of political philosophy by the three founding figures of the social contract tradition: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. We will consider both what they shared as social contract theorists, and how they differed; for each of the three inaugurated a distinct tradition that continues to the present day. We will consider, among other things, their differing approaches to the relationship between practical reason, morality and politics; the role of the concept of human nature in political philosophy; their attitudes to the idea of a "limit" to sovereign authority; and their accounts of the concepts of justice and freedom. B. Laurence (A) (I)

21009/31009. Aesthetics. T. Cohen.

23705/33705. Rationality. In one sense of the term, “rationality” stands for the capacity—perhaps possessed by human beings alone among animals—to recognize and be moved by reasons. In another sense, “rationality” names an achievement, understood variously as consisting in coherence, freedom from bias, judiciousness, dispassion, etc. This course explores both concepts, and their joint role in structuring our attempts to understand and explain the thoughts and activities of other people and ourselves. Topics include: the role of rules or principles in thinking, the normativity and subjectivity of folk-psychological explanation, the context-sensitivity of reasons, the nature of bias, and the assumptions of decision theory. Authors read include: Davidson, Elster, Harman, McDowell, Raz, and Searle, among many others. J. Bridges. (B) (III)

27200/37200. Spinoza's Ethics. Spinoza's ETHICS is one of the most important works in the history of philosophy. It is also among the most difficult and enigmatic. This course will be devoted to a close analytical reading of Spinoza's philosophical masterpiece. We will concentrate on metaphysical and epistemological themes from Parts One and Two, and his moral philosophy from Parts Four and Five, although we will also study the account of the passions in Part Three. We will examine, among other topics, Spinoza's identification of God and Nature, his account of the relationship between mind and body in a human being, and his account of the relationship between knowledge, freedom, virtue and happiness. S. Nadler

24601/34601. Analytic Philosophy. Open to college and grad students. Philosophy in the English language in the 20th century has been dominated by questions of the "analysis of language," meaning, and logic. We will survey the history of the analytic tradition, focusing as much on questions of philosophical method, fundamental presuppositions, and the nature of philosophical activity as on the specific philosophical issues which we will discuss. We will begin with the historical background at the beginning of the 20th century: idealism in Britain (Bradley) and the development of new logical techniques (Frege). We will look at the use of these new logical techniques by Moore and Russell to argue against idealism, and their development of a classical paradigm of "analysis." We will consider the problematic place of Wittgenstein's early work in relation to this tradition, and its appropriation by the logical positivists (Carnap, Schlick). We will then examine the unraveling of this tradition in the diverse criticisms mounted by ordinary language philosophy (Ryle, Austin), later Wittgenstein, and American neo-positivist/neo-pragmatist philosophers (Quine, Sellars, Putnam, Davidson), ending with the question of the future of that tradition as it stands at what appears to be a crucial juncture in its history. M. Kremer. (B) (III)

28000/38000. The Lifeworld: Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences. This class will be dedicated to a continuous reading of the English translation of Husserl’s very last work: The Crisis of European Sciences and the Transcendental Phenomenology. That unfinished book exerted a deep influence on the development of Continental phenomenology, in particular on Merleau-Ponty’s work, for which it proved absolutely decisive. Still in ‘phenomenological’ perspective, it might also be read as some kind of reply by the later Husserl to his best disciple estranged at that time: Heidegger. It is however also true that, in the context of the contemporary debate in philosophy of mind and ontology, it might take a new topicality, as far as, for instance, a possible contrast between a ‘manifest image’ and a ‘scientific image’ of the world, and the possibility – and maybe, the necessity – of an intentional ontology are concerned. We shall adopt that contemporary take in our reading, without ignoring the historical perspective completely, and we shall focus on the concept of a lifeworld, as Husserl develops it at that time. What does it mean, a ‘lifeworld’? In what kind of relation is it to the world? What kind of twist to ontology is called for by that notion? And what does it demand as to the relation between phenomenology and ontology? J. Benoist. (B) (V)

29400/39600. Intermediate Logic – I. Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor. Quantification theory and the completeness theorem, along with some discussion of sets, functions, numbers and model theory. W. Tait. (B) (II)

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Open to Graduate Students:

30099: Topics in Metaphysics. In this course we will grapple with a number of the main questions in metaphysics. These questions include: the nature of time; the nature of identity across time, especially the identity of persons; the problem of nonexistent objects; causation; the proper account of modality; our conception of God; the arguments for and against Platonism; and the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. This course is open to advanced undergraduates, MAPH students, and PhD students. B. Callard. (B) (III)

49700. Preliminary Essay Workshop. C. Vogler.

49900. Reading and Research. Staff.

41500. Philosophy of Punishment.In this seminar we will examine the central accounts of punishment, with a special emphasis on retributive accounts. Drawing on historical and current philosophical writings on the subject, we will try to answer the following questions (among others): what is punishment? What is the purpose of punishment? What justifies punishment? Does punishment violate the principle that "two wrongs don't make a right"? What if anything is wrong with vigilantism? What special concerns attach to capital punishment? We will also read and assess some recent work on the theories of desert and moral responsibility. Ben Callard. (I)

49990. Reading and Research. Staff.

50109. Aristotelian Change. We will examine some of the central features of Aristotle’s natural philosophy: the four causes (matter, form, goal, and efficient cause); nature; form and privation; potentiality and actuality. We will give particular attention to his claim that natural things have an inner principle of change (in what sense is it “inner”?), to his arguments in favor of final causation, and to his rather mysterious analysis of change as “the actuality of potential being, as such”. Getting clearer on these issues is important for understanding not only his philosophy of science, but also his ethics and metaphysics. Readings will be primarily from the Physics. G. Lear (IV)

54400. Heidegger: Being and Time: Div 2. J. Haugelaund.

55000. Contextualism. This seminar examines semantic contextualism, understood as the thesis that the content of an utterance is shaped in far-reaching and unobvious ways by the context in which it is uttered. Semantic contextualism has recently become one of the most widely discussed views in contemporary philosophy of language, as well as in the philosophy of mind and epistemology. Among other things, contextualists have argued: that contextualism spells the doom of truth-conditional semantics (as exemplified by Davidsonian theories of meaning and related formal approaches such as Montague semantics), that demonstrating the truth of contextualism was one of the central preoccupations of the later Wittgenstein, and that contextualism resolves, or at least sheds significant light on, fundamental and long-standing metaphysical and epistemological puzzles. We will discuss all three of these claims, although our focus will be on the first two. Readings are drawn from a wide range of contemporary sources, as well as from Wittgenstein, Austin and Cavell. J. Bridges. (III)

56200. Intentional Objects: inquiry into the common origins of phenomenology and Analytic philosophy. We are going to try and cover a history that goes from the first half of the XIXth century (with some intensification after 1870) until the Tractatus, and, possibly, beyond until the early 30’. The problem was put by Bolzano in his Theory of Science (1837): there are ‘objectless presentations’. Brentano gave the problem a new formulation, and a new dimension, when he reintroduced the old concept of ‘intentionality’ in order to frame it. On such terms, it became the core issue of the Brentanian school, in which a lot of brilliant philosophical minds (Twardowski, Meinong, Marty, Husserl) developed quite different views on the matter. On the other side, a completely different mode of treatment of the very same question was introduced and developed by Frege, then Russell – one more time with quite substantial differences between them. The early Wittgenstein, to whom the issue is still decisive (we are going to try and have a look at the Tractatus in such perspective), stands at the crossroads of both traditions and breaks his path through by a bold combination of their points of view. It will be our working hypothesis, to be tested in that seminar. J. Benoist. (III)

Law-Philosophy Seminar This is a seminar/workshop most of whose participants are faculty from various 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 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 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; sexuality and family.

Students are admitted by permission of the instructors. They should submit a c.v. and a statement (reasons for interest in the course, relevant background in law and/or philosophy) by September 20 to Nussbaum and Leiter by e mail. Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students. The theme for 2008-9 will be Religious Liberty and Toleration.
Professor Martha Nussbaum (Law, Philosophy, Divinity) and Professor Brian Leiter (Law)

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Workshops

51200. Law and Philosophy Martha Nussbaum, Brian Leiter

53900. Wittgenstein Pending

56100. Modern Philosophy Robert B Pippin, Anton Ford

59000. Philosophy of Mind David Finkelstein, Jason Bridges

59900. Contemporary Philosophy David Finkelstein

59910. Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy Gabriel Lear

59920. Formal Philosophy Kevin Davey