Autumn 2009 Courses


James Conant and Michael Kremer discuss Tom Lockhart's presentation to the Wittgenstein Workshop.


Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Autumn 2009 quarter. This course list 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:

21000. Introduction to Ethics. (=HIPS 21000, ISHU 29200) The central question of ethics, as traditionally conceived, is how we ought to live, or how we ought to live together. This course begins with the examination of two ancient expressions of “immoralism,” according to which it is only a kind of a high-minded foolishness to think of the good of another, or to worry oneself about justice. We consider how this challenge is addressed by Plato and, then, overleaping the centuries, by a number of modern and contemporary authors. A. Ford. (A)

22209. Philosophies of Environmentalism and Sustainability. What does “going green” really mean? What is “sustainability?” How do different fundamental ethical and political perspectives yield different approaches to and understandings of “environmentalism,” “conservation,” “stewardship,” and “sustainable development”? This course uses a combination of classic environmentalist texts (e.g., Thoreau, Leopold, Carson) and contemporary works to clarify and address the most hotly contested and urgent philosophical issues dividing the global environmental movement today. Various field trips and guest speakers help us philosophize about the fate of the earth by connecting the local and the global. B. Schultz. (A)

24109. McDowell’s Mind and World.John McDowell is arguably the most important and influential "analytic" philosopher of our time. He works principally in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language — and, above all — their intersection: the problem of concepts and understanding.
In this course, we will focus primarily on McDowell's most famous and influential work: Mind and World. Though it's a relatively slender volume, it takes some effort to read. Accordingly, we will devote considerable attention to background and explication especially — by way of class discussion. By way of background,  we will begin first with some "classic" articles from the last half-century, by the likes of W. V. O. Quine, Donald Davidson, and Richard Rorty.
The course is designed and intended primarily for advanced undergraduate philosophy concentrators, but exceptions may be made in special cases. J. Haugeland. (B)

24800. Foucault and The History of Sexuality. (=GNDR 23100, HIPS 24300, CMLT 25001) PQ: Prior philosophy course or consent of instructor. This course centers on a close reading of the first volume of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, with some attention to his writings on the history of ancient conceptualizations of sex. How should a history of sexuality take into account scientific theories, social relations of power, and different experiences of the self? We discuss the contrasting descriptions and conceptions of sexual behavior before and after the emergence of a science of sexuality. Other writers influenced by and critical of Foucault are also discussed. A. Davidson. (A)

25000. History of Philosophy I: Ancient Philosophy. (=ANST 23200, CLCV 22700) PQ: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities. This course in ancient Greek philosophy studies major works by Plato and Aristotle that introduced the philosophical questions we struggle with to this day: What are the goals of a life well-lived? Why should we have friends? How do we explain weakness of will? What makes living things different from nonliving things? What is the difference between knowledge and belief? What is definition and what is capable of being defined? A. Callard.

29200/29300. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Perception and Thought in Early Modern Philosophy.The focus of this course is the theory of ideas in early modern philosophy of mind.  The theory of ideas present in this period is infamously linked with the notion of the veil of perception, according to which the mind only has direct access to its own private, imagistic items—its own ideas.  Despite the popularity of this formulation of the theory, it is questionable how far anyone in this period ascribed to it, if at all.  In the course, after a short excursus through Aquinas, we will investigate if this formulation of the theory is ascribable Descartes, (possibly Arnauld or Malebranche), Locke, Berkeley and Hume.  Themes to be pursed include the directness of perception and thought, the nature of their content, what is represented by the content of each and how perception and thought relate to one another. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. Z. Loveless.

29200/29300. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Reasons and Causes. In our everyday lives, we take for granted that we can explain our own actions and those of our peers by citing /reasons/ that count in favor of what we do. But appealing to an agent’s reasons to explain her actions raises a number of important philosophical questions. This course will focus on the central question of identifying and describing the kind of explanation that rational explanations afford. Is rational explanation a form of causal explanation? If it is, do rational explanations compete with, or stand in need of vindication from, the causal claims made about human behavior by cognitive psychology? Or is rational explanation something different from causal explanation—and if so, what? We will pursue these questions in the context of the late 20th century literature in the philosophy of mind, action, and psychology. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. T. McKinney.

29601. Intensive Track Seminar. PQ: Open only to students in the Intensive Track. Topics for this small, discussion-oriented seminar vary. C. Vogler.

29901. Senior Seminar I. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay. This seminar meets during Winter and Spring Quarters; however, students register for it in either Autumn or Winter Quarter. NOTE: Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter.

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Open to Graduates and Undergraduates:

20100/30000. Elementary Logic. (=CHSS 33500, HIPS 20700) Course not for field credit. An introduction to the concepts and principles of symbolic logic.  We learn the syntax and semantics of truth-functional and first-order quantificational logic, and apply the resultant conceptual framework to the analysis of valid and invalid arguments, the structure of formal languages, and logical relations among sentences of ordinary discourse.  Occasionally we will venture into topics in philosophy of language and philosophical logic, but our primary focus is on acquiring a facility with symbolic logic as such. J. Bridges.

20209/30209. Film Aesthetics: Agency and Fate in Film Noir. (= GERMN 30209, SCTH 30209) This course is a discussion of how philosophical issues are raised and addressed by movies through an examination of a particular film genre. The genre to be considered: film noir. We focus on ten Hollywood film noirs from the 1940s and 1950s. Topics include the pictorial and dramatic representation of the relation between thought and action, the nature of agency, and the problem of fate. We also secondarily touch on questions concerning the ontology and aesthetics of film (e.g., What is a movie? What is it to give a reading of a movie? What is a film genre?). We see and discuss a film each week and read several pieces of criticism about each film. J. Conant, R. Pippin. (A)

21700/31600. Human Rights I: Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. (=HIST 29301/39301, HMRT 20100/30100, ISHU 28700/38700, INRE 31600, LAWS 41200, LLSO 25100, MAPH 40000) This course helps students think philosophically about human rights. We ask whether human rights has or needs philosophical foundations, what we need such foundations for, and where they might be found. We also ask some questions that tend to generate the search for philosophical foundations: Are human rights universal or merely the product of particular cultures? What kinds of rights (e.g., political, cultural, economic, negative, positive) are human rights? Can there be human rights without human duties? Without universal enforcement? Do the rights we enshrine as human mark only some of us (e.g., men) as human? (A) S. Fleischacker.

23801/33801. Theory of Reference III. (=DVPR 33800) PQ: PHIL 30000 or equivalent required; prior exposure to analytic philosophy recommended. This course is a survey of recent theories of names, descriptions, and truth. We discuss the relation of reference to meaning, as well as the epistemological and metaphysical consequences drawn from theses about reference. After briefly reviewing classical sources (e.g., Frege, Russell, Tarski), we concentrate on current work by Searle, Kripke, Donnellan, Kaplan, Putnam, Evans, Davidson, and Burge. J. Stern. (B)

23900/33900. Austin and Grice. (ISHU 23700, ISHU 33700) Course readings are in the works of J. L. Austin, mainly How to Do Things with Words, and essays related to those lectures. If time permits, we consider later developments in the works of Grice and Cavell, among others. T. Cohen. (B) (III)

24300/34300. Evolution of Mind and Morality: Nineteenth to Twenty-First Centuries. (=CHSS 35900, HIPS 25901, HIST 25501/35501, PSYC 28200) PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing. This lecture/discussion course focuses on theories of the evolution of mind and moral behavior. We begin with Spencer’s and Darwin’s conception of mental and moral evolution, examine the psychological status of these ideas during the last part of the century in the work of William James, then jump to the last part of the twentieth century, examining the development of sociobiology. The second part of the course concentrates on
the central features of evolutionary psychology, as that new discipline has come to be known, and on contemporary theories of the evolution of ethical behavior and rational cognition. R. Richards. (B)

24801/34801. Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy of Religion. (=DVPR 34811, RLST 24801) Open to college and grad students. This course focuses on the 18th century philosophical challenge to rational religion, and on the most important 18th and 19th century responses to that challenge. Writers to be examined include Hume, Kant, Schleiermacher and Kierkegaard. D. Brudney. (A)

26109/36109. Plato’s Aesthetics. The ideas that poetic creativity is inspired rather than grounded in technical knowledge, that it is mimetic, that the audience of poetry suspends ordinary rational evaluation, that poems should be evaluated in terms of their moral effect--the way Plato developed these thoughts proved to be enormously influential on the history of Western poetics.  In this course we will examine Plato's fascinating discussions of poetry with an eye to understanding the nuances of his theory and in the hope of understanding why this great innovator in poetic theory was also one of poetry's greatest critics.  Dialogues to be read in whole or in part include Ion, Republic, Gorgias, Protagoras, and Laws. (IV) (B). G. Lear.

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Open to Graduate Students:

31414. Philosophy/MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. A survey of some of the central concerns in various areas of philosophy, pursued from the perspective of the analytic tradition. In epistemology, our topics will include the definition of knowledge, the challenge of skepticism, and the nature of justification. In the philosophy of mind, we will explore the mind-body problem and the nature and structure of intentional states. In the philosophy of language, we will address theories of truth and of speech acts, the sense/reference distinction, and the semantics of names and descriptions. In ethics, we will focus on the debate between utilitarians and Kantians. This course is open only to MAPH students. MAPH students who wish to apply to PhD programs in Philosophy are strongly urged to take this course. B. Callard.  

49700. Preliminary Essay Workshop. C. Vogler.

49900. Reading and Research. Staff.

50009. Contemporary French Philosophy: The Final Foucault A close study of Michel Foucault’s final course at the Collège de France, Le courage de la vérité. Starting from ancient philosophy, and especially the cynics, Foucault elaborates his conception of ethics and of philosophy more generally.  PQ: Reading knowledge of French.  A. Davidson.

50100. First Year Seminar. J. Bridges.

50309 Rawls on Justice.(RETH 51001, PLSC 51001, LAWS 51001) This course will study John Rawls’s two great works of political philosophy, A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, trying to understand their argument as well as possible.  We will also read other related writings of Rawls and some of the best critical literature.  In the latter third of the course we will examine critiques of Rawls from several points of view, including the capabilities approach of Nussbaum and Sen.  PQ: This course is open by permission of the instructor, and those who wish to attend should email the instructor by Sept. 20, giving an account of prior preparation in philosophy.  An undergraduate major or the equivalent preparation is a necessary condition.  M. Nussbaum.

50209 Heidegger: The Basic Problems of Phenomenology This will be a graduate seminar  devoted to the interpretation of Heidegger’s The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. J. Haugeland.

51200. Law-Philosophy Seminar (LAWS 61512,RETH 51301,GNDR 50101,HMRT 51301) 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)

51309. From Individuality to Selfhood (SCTH  51310, DVPR 51310). The intention of the course is to study and submit to criticism – through the closed reading of classical texts – our common ideas about the individual and the self, i.e. the ideas prevailing in our culture. It will try to do that by bringing together two powerful intellectual traditions: the tradition of philosophy (Descartes, Locke, Kant, William James, Wittgenstein) and the tradition of historical sociology (Max Weber, Marcel Mauss, Louis Dumont).
Modern philosophy has often been characterized by the foundational position it gives to the assertion in the first person of the existence of the thinker (ego cogitans). It is a disputed question whether this idea of the self is a modern one, altogether missing in ancient philosophy (cf. Richard Sorabji, Self: Ancient and Modern Insights about Individuality, Life and Death, 2006). In order to approach this moot point, one needs to take into account the social and historical contexts in which people develop their views on their own individuality. This is where the distinctions drawn by the sociology of religion becomes relevant, particularly the distinction between two kinds of individualism: first, the attitude of the “other-worldly” individual (withdrawal from the world), which is to be found in antiquity and medieval Christianity, then the attitude of the “inner-worldly” individual (modern times). V. Descombes

55410. Modern Sociological Theory (SCTH  43410, SOCI 50026). The purpose of this class is to offer an overview of contemporary developments and debates in sociological theory in the U.S. and Europe. The guiding thread of the course lies in the following questions: What is human action? How is social order possible? What are the mechanisms of social change? How do we have to understand contemporary societies? The point of departure for this class is Talcott Parsons’s attempt at synthesizing the classical sociological theories. This attempt dominated sociology in the world after 1945. The different schools of a critique of Parsons (rational choice; symbolic interactionism; ethnomethodology; conflict sociology) will then be presented. After that the course will focus on later developments from the 1980s until today. These last decades can be characterized as the age of a “new theoretical movement” with several new attempts to come to a new theoretical synthesis (Habermas, Luhmann, Giddens, Touraine, Bourdieu, neofunctionalism, neopragmatism, new sociology of power). The whole course is based on my book Social Theory, written with W. Knoebl, published in German in 2004, English translation Cambridge University Press 2009. H. Joas

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Workshops

53900. Wittgenstein James Conant

59909 Practical Philosophy Anton Ford, Agnes Callard, Dan Brudney

53300 Semantics and Philosophy of Language Josef Stern, Chris Kennedy (Linguistics) and Anastasia Giannakidou (Linguistics)

56100. Modern Philosophy Michael Forster

58609. Contemporary European Philosophy. A. Davidson

59900. Contemporary Philosophy

59910. Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy Gabriel Lear, E. Asmis