Winter 2010 Courses

A University of Chicago Philosophy graduate student tries to read Plato's Protagoras while being photographed.


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

Click to go directly to:

Open to Undergraduates:

22601. Autonomy and Medical Paternalism. (=BIOS 29311, BPRO 22600, HIPS 21901) PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing. This course is an in-depth analysis of what we mean by autonomy and how that meaning might be changed in a medical context. In particular, we focus on the potential compromises created by serious illness in a person with decision-making capacity and the peculiar transformations in the meaning of autonomy created by advance directives and substituted judgment. D. Brudney, J. Lantos. (A)

23209. The Chicago School of Philosophy. (=HIST 27202) From the 1890s to the present, the University of Chicago has been known for its prominent contributions to the
humanities and philosophy. Our rich philosophical legacy has come from such figures as John Dewey, James H. Tufts, George Herbert Mead, Mortimer Adler, and Richard McKeon. This course focuses on the original “Chicago School,” which was made famous in the 1890s by the pragmatist philosopher, educator, and reformer John Dewey and his circle (e.g., Mead; Tufts; such reformers as Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House). This School has had a profound effect on the shape of modern philosophy, and its influence continues to be felt both within and beyond the academy, not least in the political philosophy of President Barack Obama. Field trips and guest speakers enrich philosophical history. B. Schultz. (B)

26000. History of Philosophy II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. (=HIPS 26000) PQ: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities required; PHIL 25000 recommended. This course examines some central philosophical questions through the prism of works by Augustine, Duns
Scotus, Ockham, Descartes, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume. B. Callard.

20010. Morality and the Meaning of Life. What exactly do we mean by “the meaning of life”?  And how does that idea relate to finding meaning within our lives, or to living a meaningful lives?  In addition to wanting to live meaningful lives, many of us want to live morally good lives.  That is, we want to be morally virtuous –to act justly toward others, to fulfill our duties, to be generous and kind, etc.  But how does the notion of a meaningful life relate to the notion of a morally good life?  For example, is it possible to live a life that is morally good but not meaningful, or vice-versa?  This course examines the notion of “meaning” as it relates to human life, paying particular attention to the connections between living a meaningful life and living a morally good life.  The main sources for this course will be philosophical texts, but we will also explore our topic using film and imaginative literature (Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road). M. Lott.

26209. Sex and Ethics. (=BPRO 28200, ENGL 28500, GNDR 28502) PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing. Sex is a big problem. How do we think about sex in proximity to considering the ethics of risk, the ethics of harm, the potential for good? Developing an account specifically of an ethics of sex requires thinking about the place of sex and sexual vulnerability in social life with an eye toward understanding what’s good and what might count as abuses, violations, disruptions, or deprivations of specifically good things about sex. In this course, we read, write, and think about sex and ethics in relation to a variety of the rubrics (e.g., act, harm, fantasy, a good, technology, health, disability, love). Probable syllabus contents involve philosophy, cinema, literature, and social science. L. Berlant, C. Vogler.

27209. Soren Kierkegaard/Johannes Climacus: Concluding Unscientific Postscript. (=FNDL 22616) PQ: Open to students who are majoring in Fundamentals or Philosophy, or with consent of instructor. This seminar is a careful reading of Concluding Unscientific Postscript. This difficult text was written by Johannes Climacus, who was one of Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous authors. Discussion questions include: What is subjectivity? What is irony? What is commitment? J. Lear.

29200/29300. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Philosophy of Logic: Propositions, Inference, and Truth. We will approach some central areas of the Philosophy of Logic by studying three problems that were intensely discussed by early analytic philosophers: the problem of the unity of the proposition (How is it that a proposition is not a mere list of words, but a unity that manages to say something?); the problem of the justification of inference (How is it that some propositions follow logically from other propositions?); and the problem of the assertoric force of judgment (How is it that in a judgment a mere propositional content comes to make a claim on the world, and becomes in this way determinately true or false?). In each of these cases we seem to face an infinite regress. We will emphasize the structural similarity of these three problems, consider some diagnoses of their origins, and compare different strategies of solution. Since particular attention will be given to the way in which these problems are discussed by Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the class will also provide an entry into some of the central views of this difficult book. We will read texts by Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Bradley, Carroll, Tarski, Geach and Stroud, among others. There are no prerequisites, even though some knowledge of elementary logic is recommended. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. S. Bronzo.

29200/29300. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Torture. Recent history has unfortunately made questions of the nature and permissibility of torture a pressing concern for both moral philosophers, and the wider intellectual community. We will read a large chunk of the recent/contemporary literature on torture, authored both by moral philosophers and by academics in other fields (e.g. political theory, law). However, our focus will be specifically moral-philosophical. The course has two aims. Firstly, we will try to elucidate torture as a moral concept by clarifying the distinctions between torture and other forms of violence and coercion (what torture is), and the unique form of violation or harm that torture constitutes (why and how it is wrong). Secondly, we will try to expose the central philosophical assumptions of major positions in contemporary moral philosophy – such as Kantianism and consequentialism – by looking at the characteristic responses to central questions surrounding torture (e.g. “Is interrogational torture ever morally permissible?”) that these positions yield. Thus, having refined our sense of the nature of torture itself, we will turn around and use the debate on torture as the means for achieving a better sense of the lay of the land in contemporary moral theory. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. D. Holiday.

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.


back to top

Open to Graduates and Undergraduates:

20610/30610. Goethe: Literature, Science, and Philosophy.(= HIST 25304, HIST 35304, CHSS 31202, GRMN 25304, GRMN 35304, HIPS 26701) This lecture/discussion course examines Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s intellectual development, from the time he wrote Sorrows of Young Werther through the final stages of Faust. Along the way, we read a selection of Goethe’s plays, poetry, and travel literature. We also examine his scientific work, especially his theory of color and his morphological theories. On the philosophical side, we discuss Goethe’s coming to terms with Kant (especially the latter’s Third Critique) and his adoption of Schelling’s transcendental idealism. The theme uniting the exploration of the various works of Goethe is the unity of the artistic and scientific understanding of nature, especially as he exemplified that unity in “the eternal feminine.” German is not required, but helpful. R. Richards. (A) (V)

21209/31209. Contemporary European Philosophy and Religion. (=CMLT 21201,CMLT 31201,DVPR 40900,JWSC 21201,JWSC 31201,HIJD 40901). In the first part of this course we will consider Martin Heidegger's critique of humanism and various attempts, both explicit and implicit, especially in contemporary French philosophy, to formulate alternative versions of humanism. We will study Emmanuel Levinas' conception of ethics as first philosophy and its effect on political philosophy and philosophy of religion, Jacques Derrida's politics of hospitality and cosmopolitanism, and Pierre hadot's conception of spiritual exercises and philosophy as a way of life. In the second part of this course, we will discuss the status of ethical, political, and religious concepts (and especially those concepts linked to the ideals of humanism) after the experience of Auschwitz. How should such an event affect the articulation of these concepts? The main text for this part of the course will be Primo Levi's If This is a Man(translated into English with the misleading title Survival in Auschwitz). Other readings may come from Levinas, Robert Antelme, Sara Kofman and Hans Jonas. Although all texts will be read in English, the ability to read the texts in the original languages is an advantage. A. Davidson.

21210/31210. Philosophy and Literature. This course is a reading of works by a variety of contemporary authors who deal with the question of whether, and how, fiction and philosophy are related to one another. T. Cohen. (A)

23000/33000. Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology. This course is a survey of influential contributions to metaphysics and epistemology, most or all in the twentieth-century Anglo-American tradition. J. Haugeland. (B)

22000/33300. Introduction to Philosophy of Science. (CHSS 33300,PHIL 32000, HIPS 22000) Philosophers study the way science works with the hope that doing so can teach us general lessons about what knowledge is and how it is acquired.  In this course, well will examine how important concepts such as explanation, confirmation, inductive inference, and theory function in the practice of science.  By examining patterns of investigation, reasoning, and assent within the scientific community, we can develop philosophical theories about the nature of science and about how we come to have justified beliefs about how the world works.  C. Haufe. (II) (B)

22500/32500. Biological and Cultural Evolution. (=BIOS 29286, BPRO 23900, CHSS 37900, HIPS 23900, LING 11000, NCDV 27400) PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing, or consent of instructor required; core background in genetics and evolution recommended. This course does not meet requirements for the biological sciences major. This course draws on readings in and case studies of language evolution, biological evolution, cognitive development and scaffolding, processes of socialization and formation of groups and institutions, and the history and philosophy of science and technology. We seek primarily to elaborate theory to understand and model processes of cultural evolution, while exploring analogies, differences, and relations to biological evolution. This has been a highly contentious area, and we examine why. We see to evaluate what such a theory could reasonably cover and what it cannot. W. Wimsatt, S. Mufwene. (B)

24209/34209. Cicero’s De Officiis (On Duties). (=LATN 27209/37209, LAWS 47801, RETH 33100) PQ: Five quarters of Latin or equivalent, or option to audit. This course is a study of one of the most influential works in the whole history of Western political thought—a primary foundation for modern ideas of global justice and the just war. We understand it in the context of Cicero’s thought and its background in Hellenistic philosophy, and we also do readings in translation that show its subsequent influence. Optional translation sessions held in first hour of each class. M. Nussbaum. (A)

28109/38109. The Philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars. This course looks carefully at some of Sellars’s most important philosophical writings, especially Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind and Science and Metaphysics. We close with a brief look at Naturalism and Ontology. We explore Sellars’s disagreements with some of his contemporaries (e.g., Lewis, Ayer, Schlick, Chisolm), as well as disagreements about how best to interpret him that have arisen amongst his contemporary commentators (e.g., Brandom, Rosenberg, McDowell, Williams, de Vries). J. Conant. (B)

29109/39109. Plato on Desire. PQ: Consent of instructor. Class limited to twenty students. What is it about us, or about the world, that makes us prone to initiating changes in it? The question of why we do anything at all is a question about the nature of desire, a subject on which Plato had a lot to say. In this seminar, we try to think, with Plato and Socrates, about the relationship between desire, pleasure, goodness, and action. Readings come from Plato’s Philebus, Symposium, Gorgias, Republic, and Protagoras. A. Callard.

back to top

Open to Graduate Students:


49900. Reading and Research. Staff.

51209. Weakness of the Will. Sometimes we do something bad, even though we know better: we over-eat, or under-tip, or let our curiosity get the better of us. This phenomenon, known as “weakness of the will”, raises the following question: why would someone knowingly do what’s worse, when he’s fully capable of doing what’s better? Socrates found this kind of action so puzzling that he concluded it was impossible. Was he right? If not, then we need an account of such action; and such an account turns out to be surprisingly hard to give. But what may be even more suprising is that there is anything to puzzle over here: what could be less remarkable than the fact that sometimes we don’t behave the way we’re supposed to? Apart from this apparent lack of problematicity, weakness of will might seem too small a target for any systematic investigation. But from a philosophical point of view it makes up in location what it lacks in size and splendor; poised at the crucial spot where ethics, epistemology and the philosophy of mind intersect, weakness of the will forces us to re-ask questions fundamental to each area, among them: what is it to know the right course of action? Is such knowledge desirable, if it doesn’t issue in action? If I want something, do I have to see that thing as (in some way) good? Is there more than one way to be moved to act? Do souls have parts? A. Callard. (I)

51109. Skepticism. Do we know, or at least have reason to believe, anything about the world we live in? A powerful form of argument, familiar to the ancient Greeks and most famously presented by Descartes, concludes that we do not. In this seminar we will explore and assess some important putative refutations of the skeptic by Fred Dretske, Hilary Putnam, David Chalmers, and others. B. Callard. (III)

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)

51409. Self-Conscious / Unconscious.(= SCTH 43280) Open to Ph.D. students in Philosophy and Social Thought. Otherwise by permission of instructors. It is arguable (and Rödl argues in Self-Consciousness) that self-consciousness is the form of rational life and as such the form of human life. However, it is a traditional idea (an ancient idea) that the human soul has parts, and that alongside reason its parts are thumos and epithumia, the strive for honor and recognition, and sensory desire. This division of the human soul is revealed in the fact that, for men, self-knowledge is difficult (perhaps impossible), for it requires, or, rather, is the actuality of, the unity of the human soul.

We want to think about reason, thumos and epithumia as parts of the soul (we are not implying that these are parts in the same way) and about the frailty and difficulty that attends self-knowledge as an achievement in human life insofar as the human soul has these parts. We shall read selections from Plato and Aristotle, Freud, Lear and Rödl. J. Lear, S. Rödl. (III)

53300. Philosophy of Language (=LING 53300) Contemporary work on semantics and the theory of reference. Selected topics to be decided in consultation with students in the Fall. Josef Stern. (III)

55509. Knowing-How and Knowing-That What is it to know how to do something? And how, if at all, is it different from knowing that something is the case? The now-familiar distinction between "knowing-how" and "knowing-that" was first discussed by Gilbert Ryle in his 1949 book, The Concept of Mind. Though it soon became a standard piece of philosophical equipment, the Rylean distinction has recently come under vigorous attack. As time permits the course will examine (i) Ryle's original treatment of the topic and its development by Kenny and others; (ii) the recent critical discussion of this; and (iii) some ancient and modern sources of the idea that there is a kind of productive power—exemplified by, say, the "art" of medicine, or the "craft" of carpentry—that is not, or not simply, a knowledge of facts, but that nevertheless deserves to be called knowledge. A. Ford. (III)

back to top


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, Ben Laurence.

58609. Contemporary European Philosophy A. Davidson, R. Coyne

59900. Contemporary Philosophy

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