Winter 2011 Courses

Amos Browne making his point (center) with Matt Teichman (left) and Nadav Arviv (right).


Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Winter 2011 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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If you click on the image or link below, you will find an enlargeable image of a chart which perspicuously represents the weekly meeting times of our Winter 2011 Courses. Once the chart has opened in a new window, you can enlarge the image to whatever size you like in order to make it easier to read.

Winter 2011 Courses at-a-glance (PDF)

Open to Undergraduates:

20110 Plato's Theaetetus. (=FNDL 21713) Plato’s Theaetetus is the first systematic treatment of the question: what is it to know anything at all?  This class is a close reading of the dialogue; and an exploration of the nature of human knowledge.  Examples of questions we will think about are: What is it to define something?  What is the relationship between knowledge and perception?  What would it mean for a belief to be justified, over and above its being true?  How is false belief possible—and why would anyone think there is a problem about it’s being possible?  No Greek required. A. Callard. (B)

20950. Ethics and Utopian Dreaming. Given the many ways disappointment permeates our relation to the political realm, difficult questions arise concerning the wisdom of compromise and the courage of intransigence in our efforts to live well and to act ethically.  It is often difficult to distinguish instances when compromise is prudent and constitutes true progress, moving concrete, lived conditions towards one’s ultimate goals and ideals, from instances when compromise is a kind of moral failure, revealing insufficient commitment to the ideals supposedly animating the agent.  This course concerns the necessity of dreams and frustrated desire for producing a vision of who we want to become.  The difficulty is to craft an ideal that manages to make the right sort of contact with the reality we live, where human interactions are often disappointing, unjust, and even cruel.  Starting from Plato’s Republic, the central example of utopian thinking in the construction of ethical theory, the class will consider both the substance and method of utopian thinking.  Example of questions we will consider: What is the nature of the activity identified as utopian thinking?  What gets rejected as mere wishful thinking and what is accepted as psychologically realizable?  How are these judgments as to what is possible or impossible justified?  Is the philosopher’s removal from more practical concerns an asset in utopian thinking, allowing for a more faithful exposition of the ideal?  Or is this remove from the harsh realities others must confront damning to their project of articulating the social good?  Is there a distinction to be made between political and moral concerns in working towards this vision of the ideal? E. Holberg

21600. Introduction to Political Philosophy. (=GNDR 21601, PLSC 22600).  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. B. Schultz. (A)

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. A survey of the thought of some of the most important figures of this period, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. B. Callard.

29100. Reading Course: Philosophy.  Consent of Instructor & Director of Undergraduate Studies.  Students are required to submit the college reading & research course form.  Staff. 

29407. Bioethics and Democratic Reason (=HIPS 29407) How should we apply the principle of equality to allocating scarce organ transplants? How can we create fruitful public discourse about critical issues in biotechnology? These questions bring the concepts and ideals of democracy to the ethical problems created by new technologies. In fact, bioethicists often integrate democratic ideals into their publications and consultations, which often makes their work publicly relevant because they are tackling bioethical problems in the same framework as public policy and health care. In addition, being relevant to public concerns means that bioethics stands out compared to many academic disciplines, which often struggle to relate their specialized research to everyday problems. But there is a cost to straddling the abstractions of academia and the concrete situations of the hospital or legislature: bioethics has historically struggled to develop a single method or discipline to address the entire range of ethical issues posed by biomedical technologies. In this class, we will investigate if and how bioethics can thrive as a practically relevant discipline of ethical reasoning and judgment. In specific, we will cover a variety of important bioethical topics in the context of democratic political philosophy, including terminal life support and the right to privacy, equality and resource allocation, and genetic engineering and the pursuit of happiness. B. Sterner.

29901.  Senior Seminar I. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay. Students writing senior essays register once for Phil 29901, in either the Autumn or Winter quarter, and once for Phil 29902,  in either the Winter or Spring quarter.  (Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter.) The senior seminar will in fact meet in all three quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout.  J. Bridges, B. Callard. staff. Autumn, Winter.

29902.  Senior Seminar II. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay. Students writing senior essays register once for Phil 29901, in either the Autumn or Winter quarter, and once for Phil 29902,  in either the Winter or Spring quarter.  (Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter.) The senior seminar will in fact meet in all three quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout.  J. Bridges, B. Callard, staff. Winter, Spring.

29200/29300. Junior/Senior Tutorial: The Birth of Analytic Philosophy. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. Topics for this small, discussion-oriented seminar vary. Winter, Spring.
The appellation ‘Analytic Philosophy’ is thought to pick out both a distinctive method for doing philosophy and a particular genealogy of philosophical problems and arguments. In this course, we will read central texts from the first half-century of the analytic tradition with an eye to understanding that methodology and the historical trajectory of a few key issues in the analytic conception of language, metaphysics and epistemology. These issues include analytic philosophy’s particular brand of realism, its particular brand of empiricism, the method and significance of linguistic analysis, and the attempt to come to grips with necessity. Contemporary work in metaphysics and epistemology is shaped by this history and the hope is that in studying the history of analytic philosophy we will not only come to understand this important moment in philosophy’s recent history, but also gain perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary work in these areas. The central figures under discussion will be Moore, Russell, Frege, Wittgenstein, Carnap and Quine. A. Gray.

29200/29300. Junior/Senior Tutorial: Metaphysics of Mind and Mental Causation. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. Topics for this small, discussion-oriented seminar vary. Winter, Spring.
It is central to our self-understanding that what we think, intend, believe, and desire can figure in the etiology of what we do, as when I raise my hand at a lecture because I want to ask a question.  Indeed, our recognition of such a causal relationship between a person’s mind and her body is arguably what grounds our practice of assigning moral responsibility, praise, and blame, not to mention our understanding of ourselves as persons who act for reasons at all.  Nevertheless, for all its importance to our lives, and for all the familiarity and ubiquity of the situations in which it occurs, such “mental causation”—as philosophers of mind are wont to call it—has proven ferociously difficult to make sense of, and to do so has been a central project within the philosophy of mind at least since Descartes.  In this course, we will explore the reasons why the so-called “Problem of Mental Causation” has proven so intractable.  To this end, we will examine a number of the most influential conceptions of a person’s mind or mental life, and of its relation to her body and to the rest of the world more generally.  In each case, we will pay particular attention to how these different metaphysical conceptions respond to and engender different forms of the Problem of Mental Causation.  Indeed, as we shall find, the history of various conceptions of the mind-body relation since Descartes is helpfully understood as a dialectically interrelated series of responses to the Problem of Mental Causation.  Ultimately, our objective in this course will be to develop a clear sense of what the most philosophically promising options are for resolving—or perhaps even for dissolving—the Problem of Mental Causation. P. Murray.


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Open to Graduates and Undergraduates:

21910/31910.  Problems Around Foucault. (=CHSS 31910, HIPS  21910, CMLT 25102/35102, DVPR 35100) We will read some of Foucault’s most important essays and lectures, from all periods of his work, in an attempt to assess the originality and continued significance  of his thought in the context of twentieth century European philosophy. We will also look at the work of other philosophers who influenced or were influenced by Foucault, for example: Georges Canguilhem, Gilles Deleuze, Paul Veyne, Pierre Hadot, Ian Hacking, etc. A final section of the course will consider how we can make use of Foucault today, with respect to questions of epistemology, politics, and ethics. A. Davidson.

22610/32610. Herder's Philosophy. This course will attempt to provide a broad introduction to Herder's philosophical thought. Among the topics covered will be his philosophy of language (including his theories of interpretation and translation); his philosophy of mind; his aesthetic theory; his philosophy of history; and his political philosophy. The course will consist mainly of lectures, but discussion will also be encouraged.  M. Forster.

22000/32000.  Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. (=CHSS 33300, 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. (B) (II)

22110/32110. 18th Century Aesthetics. Readings in the work of Hume and Kant, and of some of their predecessors. T. Cohen. (A)

23560/33560. Husserl   This course concerns the philosophical work of Edmund Husserl. Husserl is the principal founder of phenomenology as a philosophical movement and is among the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. The course will focus on four texts: (i) Ideas I, (ii) Cartesian Meditations, (iii) Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, and (iv) On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time. C. Frey. (III) B

25110/35110.  Maimonides and Hume on Religion. (=JWSC 26100, RLST 25110, HIJD 35200)This course will study in alternation chapters from Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed and David Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, two major philosophical works whose literary forms are at least as important as their contents. Topics will include human knowledge of the existence and nature of God, anthropomorphism and idolatry, religious language, and the problem of evil. Time permitting, we shall also read other short works by these two authors on related themes. (B) J. Stern


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Open to Graduate Students:

45000.  Forms of Philosophical Skepticism. The aim of the course will be to consider some of the most influential treatments of skepticism in the post-war analytic philosophical tradition—in relation both to the broader history of philosophy and to current tendencies in contemporary analytic philosophy. The first part of the course will begin by distinguishing two broad varieties of skepticism—Cartesian and Kantian—and their evolution over the past two centuries (students without any prior familiarity with both Descartes and Kant will be at a significant disadvantage here), and will go on to isolate and explore some of the most significant variants of each of these varieties in recent analytic philosophy.  The second part of the course will involve a close look at recent influential analytic treatments of skepticism. It will also involve a brief look at various versions of contextualism with regard to epistemological claims.  We will carefully read and critically evaluate writings on skepticism by the following authors: J. L. Austin, Robert Brandom, Stanley Cavell, Thompson Clarke, Saul Kripke, C. I. Lewis, John McDowell, H. H. Price, Hilary Putnam, Barry Stroud, Charles Travis, Michael Williams, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. This will be an advanced lecture course open to graduate students and undergraduates with a prior background in analytic philosophy. J. Conant. (B) (III)

49900. Reading and Research. Staff.

50100. First-Year Seminar. PQ: Limited to first-year students in the Philosophy PhD program. This course introduces students to some classic works of analytic philosophy which are part of the lingua franca both of the discipline and of this department. The course also serves as an introduction to graduate-level work in philosophy, as well as to bring together the first-year class in a philosophical conversation. The course is graded pass/fail, and is run as a seminar. I expect extensive participation in discussion from all students in the class.  Readings will include works by Carnap, Quine, Sellars, Davidson, Rorty, Kripke and McDowell. Autumn, Winter. M. Kremer.

52020. Meaning Without Truth. Open to grad students. We will focus on philosophical and linguistic challenges to the dogma, going back at least to Frege, that a successful theory of meaning must be based on the notion of truth. We will start with a detailed introduction to modern truth-conditional semantics, which will include a study of foundational work in formal semantics. We will continue with a study of the most pressing philosophical and linguistic problems for truth-conditional semantics, and also try to understand the challenges that arise for any semantic theory that departs from the truth-conditional perspective on meaning and communication. Once all of this is in place, we will focus on recent attempts at developing non-truth-conditional semantics, including recent work on expressivism and dynamic semantics. The class addresses advanced topics in philosophy of language, but is at the same time concerned with foundational semantic questions in epistemology, metaphysics and ethics, and it will be of interest to anyone working in these areas. M. Willer. (II)

53290.  Subjects, Consciousness  and Self-Consciousness. (=SCTH 43290) This Seminar will present a new account of what it is to be a subject of consciousness, and will relate the account to various classical issues surrounding the self and subjectivity. We will consider the relations between being a subject and the capacity for first person thought. The various forms of self-consciousness, their correct characterization, their relation to objective thought, and their metaphysical and epistemological significance will be examined. Time permitting, we will consider the relations between the offered account of being a subject and the views of Descartes and Kant; to the characterizations of self-consciousness in such varied writers as Kierkegaard, Sartre, Strawson, Perry and Evans; and to discussions in contemporary psychology and ethology.  C. Peacocke

50011. The Modern Regime in Art II: The Ends of Modernism (=SCTH 50011, GRMN 50011, CMLT 50001) A continuation of the Fall Quarter Seminar. Readings this quarter will include work by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, von Hofmannstahl, Greenberg, Clark, Fried, Benjamin, Adorno, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and a consideration of abstractionism in art. R. Pippin, D. Wellbery.

53506. Non-Deductive Inference.(=CHSS 53506) Many of our everyday inferences are not deductive. In such cases, we often say that the conclusions of our arguments are merely probable. But what does it mean to say that something is probably true, and how are degrees of probability supposed to be assigned? We examine some traditional approaches to this problem. Depending on class interest, we will look at some applications of these issues to philosophical problems in the sciences (such as those associated with statistical mechanics) and outside the sciences (such as those associated with theistic Design arguments.) We will also ask what light a careful philosophical understanding of probability sheds on the traditional problem of induction.  K. Davey. (II)

53710: Aristotle's Theory of Action. This class examines Aristotle's account of the nature of human action.  Topics: choice and virtue and 'for its own sake'; voluntariness and responsibility; process, action, activity, capacity and product; nature, habit, ‘second nature’ and norm; desire, perception, and the cause of animal movement; teleology (purpose) in action as compared to natural teleology.

Readings will center on Aristotles’s  Nicomachean Ethics,with additional readings from his Eudemian Ethics, Physics, De Motu Animalium, De Anima, and Metaphysics.  Secondary literature by J.L. Ackrill, H. Segvic, S. Broadie, D. Charles, J.M. Cooper, J. Whiting, G. Lear, V. Caston, A. Kosman, J. Richardson & others. We’ll end with a look at contemporary “neo-Aristotelian” accounts of action-theory, e.g. G.E.M. Anscombe, Michael Thompson, and others and try to assess how Aristotelian they really are.  All students (including auditors) will do at least one presentation.  A. Callard. (IV)

50310. Ideal Theory: John Rawls and Karl Marx. (=HMRT 50310) This course will examine two important examples of ideal theory:  the well-ordered society of Rawls’s justice as fairness and the “true communism” of the young Marx.  The course will focus on both substance and method.  What are the two writers’ pictures of the good society?  What are their accounts of the rational justification of these pictures?  How does each understand the role of a picture of an ideal society at a time when reality falls far short of it? D. Brudney. (I). D. Brudney.

51200. Law-Philosophy Workshop. (=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 the instructors by e mail.  Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students. B. Leiter, B. Laurence (Law).


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53900. Wittgenstein Workshop. James Conant, Michael Kremer

59920. Formal Philosophy Workshop. Kevin Davey, William Tait.

59909. Practical Philosophy Workshop. Agnes Callard, Dan Brudney

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

59900. Contemporary Philosophy Workshop. Ben Laurenece

59910. Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy Workshop. Agnes Callard, Elizabeth Asmis

59100.. German Philosophy Worskhop. James Conant, Robert Pippin

51200. Law Philosophy Workshop. Ben Laurence, Brian Leiter (Law)

59200. (=SCTH 59200). Literature and Philosophy Workshop. Robert Pippin.

58609. Contemporary European Philosophy Workshop. Arnold Davidson.