Spring 2010 Courses


Agnes Callard giving a lecture.

 

Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Spring 2010 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:

21600. Introduction to Political Philosophy. (=GNDR 21601) In times of crisis, political philosophy is especially relevant, calling for critical clarification of and reflection on the most fundamental terms of our political life and suggesting new possibilities for the future. What does a justifiable or legitimate political order involve? What are the most compelling and reasonable theories of justice, and how does justice relate to rights, obligations, duties, virtues, freedoms, democracy, patriotism, political ideals, and the other terms of political philosophy and civic knowledge? How, for example, should a “just society” reconstruct notions of gender and sexuality, forms of political participation, our relations to the environment, and our relations to the global order, especially the global poor? And what should citizens do when the political order falls short of the justificatory ideal? B. Schultz. (A)

22109. Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind and Artificial Intelligence. This course is a survey of several research directions in the last fifty or so years. We pursue the presumed possibility of constructing an intelligent artifact (and thereby, perhaps, undermining the last objection to materialism). J. Haugeland. (B)

24410 Human Rights and Human Nature: Philosophical Approaches. (=HMRT 23410) Human rights belong to us as human beings.  The idea of human rights, then, seems to rely on the notion of something common to all humans - our humanity, or human nature.  But what  account of "the human" does the idea of human rights require, and how should we understand this notion?  This course considers recent attempts by philosophers to explain and justify human rights, each of which relies on some view of human nature.  We will examine: 1) the Kantian- inspired arguments of Alan Gewirth, 2) the “the capabilities approach” to human rights developed by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, and 3) the recent theistic account of Nicholas Wolterstorff.  In addition, we will consider skepticism about the idea to human nature and its importance for a philosophical account of human rights. Micah Lott.

29909. Freedom of the Will. The problem of free will is one of the most vexing philosophical problems. On the one hand, human agents seem to be free to choose among different courses of action. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that a combination of factors such as upbringing, unconscious desires, social conditions, and neural processes determines our choices. What are we to conclude? Is there no free will? Or do these factors not fully determine our choices? Is there, perhaps, a middle ground, a kind of determination that leaves room for freedom? In this course, we will approach these questions by first asking what we mean when we say that we are free. This question, it turns out, is considerably more difficult to answer than it may initially seem. Accordingly, the strategy of the course will be to survey a variety of conflicting accounts of human freedom, which have been offered by philosophers. We will discuss and critically assess these accounts, in part by confronting them with concrete examples of human agency, which we will take from a number of literary texts. Readings to include works by Immanuel Kant, David Hume, A.J. Ayer, Harry Frankfurt, Peter van Inwagen, Peter Strawson, Theodore Dreiser, Richard Wright, and B.F. Skinner. T. Land.

27000. History of Philosophy III: Kant and the Nineteenth Century. 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.

29200/29300. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Religion and Truth. What sorts of claims are religious claims and how should we interpret them? Must claims like “God is good” or even “God exists” be understood as applicable to God only metaphorically? Are we inevitably thrown into paradox when we try to speak about God? Or are traditional religious claims simply incoherent? Or perhaps the difficulties posed by these questions reveal that religious claims ought not be understood as anything like factual claims about a special kind of being or realm at all. Instead, some have argued that religious doctrines are best understood as allegorical descriptions of philosophical or ethical truths, or as expressions of emotions, values, or attitudes toward life. Readings will include works by Aquinas, Maimonides, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Paul Tillich, Wittgenstein, D. Z. Phillips, and Richard Swinburne. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. D. Chow.

29200/29300. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Plato and the Philosophical Use of the Passions.For Plato and Plato’s Socrates, the practice of philosophy is far from a detached intellectual inquiry. First, philosophical conversation apparently aims at great feats of persuasion, up to the point of causing a radical change in the values and way of life of the non-philosopher. Second, the provocation of emotional responses is (arguably) important to the philosophical arguments of Plato’s dialogues. In this course we will consider these two themes, and try to make sense of them in light of each other. The main readings for the course will be Plato’s Gorgias, Symposium, and Phaedrus, which variously feature discussions of shame, eros, persuasion, and how a person might become (or fail to become) a philosopher. In each of these dialogues, the psychological themes under discussion also seem to be enacted in the drama between the characters of the dialogue, so we will also have to consider the relationship between philosophical content and dramatic presentation. The main readings will be supplemented by brief passages from other Platonic dialogues and other Greek sources, as well as contemporary secondary literature. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.T. Chow.

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.

29902. Senior Seminar II. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay. Students participate in both Winter and Spring Quarters, but register only once 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:

20109/30109. Introduction to Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. Sartre’s philosophical masterwork, Being and Nothingness (1943), remains one of the pivotal works of the twentieth century. Besides introducing a then-new philosophical strain to France (i.e., phenomenology), the book exerted a deep influence on the development of the whole of Continental thought. It is a classic today, which deserves a study of its own. Thus, it appears that that ambitious work deals with issues that have become central again in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of mind, on both sides of the Analytic/Continental divide, and puts forward a comprehensive view about them. So, in discussion with Sartre, we try to say something about intentionality and reality, mind and world. Text in English. J. Benoist. (B)

20705/30705. German Philosophy of Language. This course provides an introduction to a tradition of thought from the later eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries in Germany which is heavily focused on issues concerning language. The thinkers in this tradition include Herder, Hamann, the Schlegel brothers, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and Hegel. In addition to covering philosophy of language in the narrow sense, we consider topics in such closely related areas as the theory of interpretation (“hermeneutics”) and the theory of translation. M. Forster. (B) (V)

21009/31009. Aesthetics. PQ: Consent of instructor. This course introduces problems in the philosophy of art with both traditional and contemporary texts. Topics include the definition of art, representation, expression, metaphor, and taste. T. Cohen. (A)
21109/31109. Topics in Philosophy of Science: Causation and Mechanism. (=HIPS 28202) Background in science not required. This course charts the development of the notion of mechanism—from the ancient atomists; to the seventeenth century corpuscularians; up to the present day, where the search for mechanisms in nature has been severely challenged by quantum mechanics. We examine whether and how our conceptions of scientific explanation and causation depend on the notion of mechanism. Are the only good explanations in science those that connect causes and effects in continuous chains? What notion of causation is required to make this work? How are these questions affected by results in modern science, physics and biology in particular? Relevant scientific material is treated conceptually. B. Fogel. (B) (II)

25209/35209. Emotion, Reason, and Law. (=LAWS 99301, GNDR 28210, GNDR 38300, PLSC 49301, RETH 32900) PQ: Consent of instructor. Emotions figure in many areas of the law, and many legal doctrines (from reasonable provocation in homicide to mercy in criminal sentencing) invite us to think about emotions and their relationship to reason. In addition, some prominent theories of the limits of law make reference to emotions: thus Lord Devlin and, more recently, Leon Kass have argued that the disgust of the average member of society is a sufficient reason for rendering a practice illegal, even though it does no harm to others. Emotions, however, are all too rarely studied closely, with the result that both theory and doctrine are often confused. M. Nussbaum. (A)

22900/32900. Philosophy of Social Science. (=CHSS 37700, HIPS 22300, ISHU 32900) This course considers philosophical issues in the social science, such as the interaction of factual, methodological, valuational issues, problems special to the historical sciences, issues of scale and hierarchy, the use of quantitative and qualitative methods, models of rationality and the relation between normative and descriptive theories of behavior, the nature of teleology, functional organization and explanation, social adaptations, levels of selection, and methodological individualism, cultural and conceptual relativity, and heuristics and problems with and strategies for analyzing complex systems. W. Wimsatt. (B)

22909/32909 Relevance and Meaning: Philosophical and Empirical Issues in Pragmatics. Contrary to the commonly held view, linguistic utterances do not encode the speaker’s meaning, they merely provide evidence of it. How is speaker’s meaning reconstructed on the basis of this evidence? What is linguistically encoded? What are the relationships between the linguistically encoded meanings studied by semanticists and the representational contents that humans are capable of entertaining and communicating? How should we analyze literal meaning, approximations, metaphors, and ironies? What is the relationship between the ability to comprehend others’ meaning and the general ability to comprehend others? How does communication both enable and constrain the flow of information among humans? These are some of the issues we will be discussing, drawing heavily on work in relevance theory. D. Sperber. (B)

28990/38990. Introduction to History and Philosophy of Biology. (=CHSS 38901) In this course we will (1) use the history of biological science to help us identify and solve philosophical problems in biology, and (2) use the tools of philosophical analysis to help us understand the importance of particular episodes in the history of biology.  Among other things, we will examine historical and philosophical issues associated with the theory of natural selection, population genetics, and phylogenetic inference.  C. Haufe. (B)

29400/39600. Intermediate Logic I. (=CHSS 33600, HIPS 20500) PQ: Consent of instructor. Covers very basic model theory---for example, the completeness, compactness and Löwenheim-Skolem theorems for classical first-order logic. Some elementary set theory relating to the  fundamental notion of a structure (model) will be discussed. Familiarity with the formalism of first-order predicate logic will be assumed. W. Tait. (B) (II)

38209. Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. (=HIPS 28101, SCTH 37501) PQ: Open to students who are majoring in philosophy with advanced standing. We work with Freud and Lacan, and pay special attention to questions about the status of the unconscious, the role of fantasy in lending shape to some aspects of life, material on the interpretation of dreams and on the senses in which questions about human life and normative authority inform neuroses. J. Lear, C. Vogler. (A)

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Open to Graduate Students:

38209. Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. (=HIPS 28101, SCTH 37501) PQ: Open to students who are majoring in philosophy with advanced standing. We work with Freud and Lacan, and pay special attention to questions about the status of the unconscious, the role of fantasy in lending shape to some aspects of life, material on the interpretation of dreams and on the senses in which questions about human life and normative authority inform neuroses. J. Lear, C. Vogler. (A)

49700. Preliminary Essay Workshop. C. Vogler.

49900. Reading and Research. Staff.

51909 Rousseau and the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar. (=SCTH 37312, PLSC 37312, FNDL 27312) Open to undergraduates with consent. In this seminar I shall present a comprehensive and detailed discussion of the most controversial writing Rousseau published during this lifetime. The Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar caused the theologico-political persecution of Rousseau in France and Switzerland. Today it is mostly understood to be Rousseau's and not just the Vicar's creed. The seminar will give a differential analysis of the Vicar's religious-moral teaching and of Rousseau's own philosophical position. It will clarify the distinction between natural religion and natural theology, interpret Rousseau's critique of faith in revelation, and show the crucial importance of Rousseau's confrontation with Christianity for an adequate understanding of his political philosophy. In addition to the Profession of Faith the chapter on civil religion in the Social Contract will be discussed. The seminar will be based on the French text of the Pleacuteiade and on Allan Bloom's translation of the Eacutemile. H. Meier.

52909. The Concept of Reality."The seminar will explore the concept announced in the course title -- a concept equally central to epistemology, philosophy of mind and metaphysics. It will be devoted, in particular to
exploring difficulties that arise in the context of the philosophical elucidation of this concept. Modern Philosophy has been characterized by the dominance of epistemology, understood as a doctrine concerning the nature of our cognitive access to (something that is then called) 'reality'. The basic problem that arises, when the question is posed in this way, is the following: how can our thought reach reality? We shall reflect on the presuppositions and the limits of this epistemological framework. An alternative question that will concern us in this regard is the following: to what extent is reality properly construed as something to which we should be thought of as requiring access in this sense? Our aim will not be so extreme as to seek to jettison the very idea of such access, but rather to determine the conditions of its meaningful application. Thus we shall try and show that the very notion of such access makes sense only where there is already some prior relation of contact in place one which should not in turn be glossed in terms of a kind of access. We shall be concerned in this seminar, first, to uncover the nature and meaning of this prior condition of contact in which we stand to reality, and thus, second, to overcome what one might call the traditional metaphysical illusion of the transcendence of reality, while according due weight to the grammatical fact of the indifference of reality. In discussing these matters, we shall draw primarily on three traditions of thought: on the great early modern thinkers (Descartes, Kant), on phenomenology (Brentano, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty), and last but not least, on the trio of Wittgenstein, Austin and McDowell. J. Benoist.

54909. 18th Century Moral Thought: Hutcheson, Hume, Smith. Much 18th century moral thought puts the focus on the human capacity to respond to others.  This involves a metaethical claim (about the source of moral judgments), a normative claim (about the criteria for assessing conduct and character) and a claim about the range of human motivations.  In this seminar we will examine three major British figures:  Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith.  The goal is both to get clear on their specific forms of moral sentimentalism and to see how far a plausible account of the moral life can be extracted from their texts. D. Brudney. (I)

55909. Aristotle on Justice & Political Friendship. (=SCTH 55909)This course will examine some of Aristotle's ethical and political writings with a view to understanding his theory of justice and political friendship. As time permits we will consider Aristotle's distinction between general and particular justice, his distinction between distributive and rectificatory justice, his claim that man is a "political animal,"  his account of slavery and other forms of rule, the varieties of friendship, and his views about the best form of political constitution. A. Ford, G. Lear (IV)

56909. Kant's Transcendental Deduction. (=SCTH 56909) A close reading and discussion of Kant’s First Critique, focusing on the Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding. We will also explore carefully explore a handful of proposals for how to interpret the First Critique and especially the Transcendental Deduction, including ones put forward by Henrich, Strawson, Sellars, Allison, and McDowell. J. Conant, R. Pippin. (V)

52200. Social and Political Philosophy of Hegel and Marx.(LAWS 76103) Hegel and Marx are the most important anti-liberal political philosophers of the modern era. In this seminar, we will critically evaluate their conceptions of history, society, and the 'good life' through careful study of selected texts. The seminar is open to PhD students and to JD students who have some background in philosophy or political theory. Students will be required to produce a research paper of 20-30 pages. Writing for this seminar may be used as partial fulfillment of the JD writing requirement (SWP for JD '10; SRP or WP for JD '11 and JD '12). Please e-mail bleiter@uchicago.edu if you have any questions. B. Leiter, M. Forster.

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)

 

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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

59900. Contemporary Philosophy

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

58609. Contemporary European Philosophy Workshop Arnold I. Davidson, Jocelyn Benoist, Ryan Coyne

51200. Law and Philosophy Workshop Martha Nussbaum, Brian Leiter (Law)