Spring 2015 Courses

Wigeland Visiting Professor Christel Fricke from the University of Oslo, Spring 2014.


Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Spring 2015 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 without prior permission from the instructor. A College student who has secured prior permission to sign up for a course from the instructor may, in that case and only in that case, enroll in a course whose first number is larger than 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 Spring 2015 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.

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Spring Courses at-a-glance - PDF

Open to Undergraduates

PHIL 21000. Introduction to Ethics. (=FNDL 23107) An exploration of some of the central questions in metaethics, moral theory, and applied ethics. These questions include the following: are there objective moral truths, as there are (as it seems) objective scientific truths? If so, how can we come to know these truths? Should we make the world as good as we can, or are there moral constraints on what we can do that are not a function of the consequences of our actions? Is the best life a maximally moral life? What distribution of goods in a society satisfies the demands of justice? Can beliefs and desires be immoral, or only actions? What is “moral luck”? What is courage?   (A) B. Callard.

PHIL 24097. On the Origins of Morality and Religion: Nietzsche’s and Freud’s Genealogical Methods. Are our moral and religious values eternal and unchanging or were they shaped by contingent historical events in the distant past? If the latter is the case, did these events leave traces in our psychology in a manner which is not immediately obvious and accessible to us, but which could nevertheless become accessible? What would be the implications of such historical and psychological influences for our moral and religious values: might we need to reassess, and perhaps radically alter, all or some of our moral and religious beliefs? In this course we will discuss Friedrich Nietzsche’s and Sigmund Freud’s original answers to these questions. In the first part of the course, we will examine Nietzsche’s project of criticizing morality and religion, especially via a close reading of his Genealogy of Morals. We will discuss such themes as his genealogical account of Christian morality, the development and moralization of our conscience through religion, and will to power and the nature of truth. We will also consider broader explanatory and normative issues, such the scope and ambitions of Nietzsche’s critique of morality and its meta-ethical implications. In the second part of the course, we will read most of Freud’s cultural texts, such as Totem and Taboo, The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents, and Moses and Monotheism, and discuss his genealogical accounts of morality and religion and their complex relations to human psychology. Throughout our discussion, we will be concerned with Freud’s notion of the unconscious and models of the psyche, as well as with the transition from individual to group psychology. Finally, we will also critically assess the status and plausibility of Nietzsche’s and Freud’s respective accounts: are these two philosophers telling us factual historical stories, mere psychological stories, or a combination of both? In order to answer these questions we will read works by leading philosophers and psychoanalysts, as well as passages from Scripture. N. Ben Moshe.

PHIL 27000. History of Philosophy III: Kant and 19th Century. Prerequisites: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities. The philosophical ideas and methods of Immanuel Kant’s “critical” philosophy set off a revolution that reverberated throughout the 19th century. The only reaction it did not elicit was one of indifference. Kant’s revolution polarized the philosophical community, meeting with eager extensions as well as intense and varied resistance – and often both within a single thinker’s response. This class will seek to understand the nature of Kant’s philosophical innovations and the principle sources of his successors’ (dis-)satisfaction with them.
Kant’s central philosophical achievement was double-edged.  He simultaneously celebrated human Reason as the supreme cognitive faculty while nevertheless setting for it sensible limits that were, in certain ways, far more restrictive than anyone had previously envisaged.
In the practical sphere, Reason is identified as the original source of all moral principles, the wellspring of all goodness and freedom.  Yet as sensible, libidinal beings, we humans are subject to desires and modes of self-deception which threaten to undermine the efficacy of reason in determining our will and which occlude our modes of self-assessment and cloud our conscience.
In the theoretical sphere, human Reason not only interrogates nature, but shapes and constitutes the very structure of natural phenomena.  Reason dictates the principles that govern the knowable world.  Yet for precisely this reason, all our knowledge is restricted to what Reason helps to constitute: we know only appearances, but have no cognitive access to things in themselves. 
This class will pursue the import and impact of Kant’s thought in the theoretical sphere, as subsequent thinkers grapple with and react to Kant’s idea that, though Reason helps to constitute the structure of the knowable, there is a realm of things in themselves of which we are necessarily ignorant.  Fichte will urge that a proper appreciation of the self-conscious nature of Reason shows that nothing can extend beyond its ken. Hegel will likewise accept the preeminence of Reason, but suggest that it has a historical and interpersonal basis which afflicts it with a logical series of challenges that must be resolved before absolute knowledge is possible. And Nietzsche will argue that the claims of Reason, though legitimate, are life-denying in demonstrating our ultimate ignorance and insignificance and thus require revaluation and artistic reinterpretation in order to sustain the human spirit they epitomize. D. Smyth.

29200/29300-01. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Aristotle’s Physics. Meets with Jr/Sr section. Pre-requisite: Open only to intensive-track majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. By Aristotle’s time, the intelligibility (and even the possibility) of a natural world had come under widespread philosophical attack. Aristotle is the first philosopher to defend the science of nature against these attacks, and at the same time the first philosopher to develop a systematic understanding of change and the natural world. This course is a reading of selections from Aristotle’s Physics, with the aim of touchng on all of its major themes, and investigating in depth some of Aristotle’s most important theses. Our reading of the Physics will be structured around four challenges to the possibility of a natural science: the Eleatic dilemma, Zeno’s puzzles about change, Plato’s ‘moment of change’ problem, and the problem of how causal chains can terminate. We will work out the details of Aristotle’s solutions to these problems, with particular attention to how they are related, and how his solutions contribute to his conception of nature. A. Brooks.

29200/29300-02. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Nietzsche On Skepticism, Nihilism, and the Affirmation of Life. Meets with Jr/Sr section. Pre-requisite: Open only to intensive-track majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. Nietzsche famously declared that he “distrust[s] all systematizers... The will to a system is a lack of integrity.” This has not deterred any number of commentators from trying to find some kind of philosophical system in what Alexander Nehamas has referred to as the “dazzling obscurity” of Nietzsche’s texts. In this course, we will explore the idea that the unity of Nietzsche’s thought (to the extent that it is unified) derives not from a philosophical doctrine or principle (such as the will to power), nor from a system built up of such doctrines or principles, but rather from a preoccupation with a set of interrelated cultural and existential crises. The catch-all term for these crises is nihilism. In the first half of the course, we will explore nihilism historically, by tracing Nietzsche’s account of (a) the socio-evolutionary emergence of the ‘human,’ (b) the rise of philosophy and Judeo–Christianity, and finally (c) the triumph of what Nietzsche calls the ‘ascetic ideal.’ In the second half of the course, we will explore the ambivalent place of philosophical skepticism in Nietzsche’s thought, specifically, its role as both a symptom of and the cure for nihilism—as both a negation and an affirmation of life. R. Eichorn.

29200/29300-03. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Gilles Deleuze: Difference and Repetition. Meets with Jr/Sr section. Pre-requisite: Open only to intensive-track majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. There is an obvious fact which has played an important role in philosophy: the fact that when we think about the world, it is indeed the world which figures in our thoughts. Many philosophers – for example, Immanuel Kant, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John McDowell – claim that making sense of this fact involves appealing to the irreducibly conceptual structure of thought. According to these philosophers, that the order of thinking and the order of the world are in some important sense the same is spelled out at the most fundamental level in terms of our ability to think about the world using concepts. Because of this, each of them attempts to overcome the skepticism-inducing idea of a sub-conceptual interface between thought and the world it thinks about.
Like many other philosophers, Gilles Deleuze also aims to make sense of the fact that the order of thinking and the order of the world are the same. However, unlike the philosophers mentioned in the previous paragraph, he seeks to do so precisely by identifying a sub-conceptual realm which appears as a pre-conceptual element of thought and a non-conceptualizable element of the world. The pre-conceptual element of thought which he identifies is not some kind of skepticism-inducing interface between the world and our thinking of it: rather, it is one side of a sub-conceptual realm which is common to both thought and the world. Deleuze's work is immensely exciting because he agrees with the philosophers mentioned above that positing a sub-conceptual interface between thought and the world is philosophically disastrous, while nevertheless affirming that there is a philosophical explanation of the common origin of the structure of thought and the world which appeals to the sub-conceptual. A fascinating consequence which he draws is that thought and the will are not as such aimed at the true/the good. Thought and the will can aim at the true/the good, but this is not how they are most fundamentally constituted. The result is an a priori account of both the actuality and the necessity of false thoughts and bad actions.
We will spend the course reading Deleuze's book Difference and Repetition in the hopes of understanding his arguments for the sub-conceptual and for the rejection of the image of thought and the will as true/good. To assist us in this project, we will occasionally draw upon secondary literature (from authors like Levi Bryant, Henry Somers-Hall, and Paul Patton) and we will also occasionally read selections from other writings by Deleuze (especially The Logic of Sense). Questions we will explore include: Are there sub-conceptual differences and repetitions? Are the concepts of difference and repetition intelligible independently of an account of conceptual structure? Can they be used to ground an account of thought's conceptual structure? Does the attempt to find a sub-conceptual element of thought and the world devolve into skepticism? Does Deleuze want us to give up on the projects of thinking true thoughts and performing good actions? If not, how are we able to think truly and act well on his view?
Finally, at the end of the course we will consider Deleuze's view of philosophy by looking at selections from the book What is Philosophy? (by Deleuze and Felix Guattari). One of the first things that strikes any reader of Deleuze is how fluid his terminology and arguments appear to be. This fluidity seems to be in some kind of important relationship to his philosophical theory, which attempts to explain the pre-conceptual fluidity of thought and the world. Nevertheless, his work is full of arguments which employ concepts. If philosophy is supposed to be in contact with a sub-conceptual realm, how should we evaluate it? What kind of argumentative resources should it draw upon? What is its task?
A note about philosophical pre-requisites: Deleuze's writing is difficult, principally because he draws on many different sources in D&R (both philosophical – Duns Scotus, Kant, Nietzsche, etc. – and non-philosophical – different novelists, painters, biologists, and mathematicians, as well as Freud, Tarde, Saussure, etc.). This course will not presuppose any prior knowledge of the philosophical and non-philosophical traditions from which Deleuze draws, or any prior knowledge of the philosophical terrain (France in the 60's) in which Deleuze wrote. Antecedent familiarity with the traditions Deleuze is in dialogue with may allows students to explore connections between Deleuze's work and the work of others more fully, but it is neither necessary nor expected. The content of the course only presupposes an interest in the philosophical project of explaining the relationship between mind and world. A. Werner.

29700. Reading Course. Consent of Instructor & Director of Undergraduate Studies; Students are required to submit the college reading & research course form. Staff.

29902 -01, 02, -03, -04. Senior Seminar II. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Note(s): 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 meets all three quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout. Staff.

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Open to Graduates and Undergraduates

PHIL 20212/30212. Ethics with Anscombe. Elizabeth Anscombe has deeply influenced moral philosophy ever since the publication of her book Intention and the article “Modern Moral Philosophy”. The rise of contemporary Virtue Ethics is only one indication of this influence; and the important themes addressed in those writings are only some among a great many topics raised and absorbingly discussed in Anscomnbe’s work on ethics and matters moral.
This class is intended to track and discuss the most central issues she brings to our attention in her uniquely original and searching way. It is to cover both question in the area of “meta-ethics” and the discussion of basic moral standards, including such topics as: Teleological and psychological foundations; Kinds and sources of practical necessity; The importance of truth; Practical reasoning; Morally relevant action descriptions; Intention and consequence; “linguistically created” institutions; Knowledge and certainty in moral matters; Upbringing versus conscience; Sex and marriage; War and murder; Man’s spiritual nature. (I) (A) A. Mueller.

PHIL 21700/31600. Human Rights I: Philosophical Foundation. (=HMRT 20100/30100, HIST 29301/39301, LLSO 25100, INRE 31600, LAWS 41200, MAPH 40000) Human rights are claims of justice that hold merely in virtue of our shared humanity. In this course we will explore philosophical theories of this elementary and crucial form of justice. Among topics to be considered are the role that dignity and humanity play in grounding such rights, their relation to political and economic institutions, and the distinction between duties of justice and claims of charity or humanitarian aid. Finally we will consider the application of such theories to concrete, problematic and pressing problems, such as global poverty, torture and genocide. (A) (I). B. Laurence.

PHIL 23005/33005. Metaphysics and Ethics of Death. What is death, and what is its significance for our lives and how we lead them? In this course we will tack back and forth between the metaphysics of death (What is nonexistence? Are death and pre-birth metaphysically symmetrical?) and the ethical questions raised by death (Is death a misfortune—something we should fear or lament? Should we be glad not to be immortal? How should we understand the ethics of abortion and capital punishment?) Our exploration of these issues will take us through the work of many figures in the Western philosophical tradition (Plato, Augustine, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger), but we will be concentrating on the recent and dramatic flowering of work on the subject. B. Callard.

PHIL 23414/33414. Temporal Forms of Thought. (=SCTH 30101). According to one prevalent philosophical conception, thoughts and/or propositions are to be understood as able to represent time without themselves possessing a temporal character. We shall consider some challenges to this prevalent concept and explore a competing conception, according to which thoughts and/or propositions are to be understood as possessing an intrinsically temporal form. It will emerge as one important consequence of this competing conception that the philosophical study of temporality coincides with the study of the predicative form of thought or propositionhood. I. Kimhi.

PHIL 23415/33415. The Being of Human Beings: Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism. (=SCTH 30102). We shall read “Letter on Humanism” and discuss Heidegger’s understanding of philosophy as originary ethics (i.e., ethics of being) in which the traditional division between practical and theoretical philosophy is canceled. We shall also focus on Heidegger’s discussion of language and the being of human beings in this essay. J. Lear, I. Kimhi.

PHIL 24717/34717. Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra Books III and IV. (=SCTH 37317) In this seminar I shall present a new reading of Nietzsche’s most famous work. Thus Spoke Zarathustra combines philosophy and poetry, wisdom and prophecy, solitude and politics, speech and deed, preaching in riddles and parody of the Gospel. The work is a challenge to faith in revelation and a task for philosophical interpretation. In the spring of 2014 I interpreted books I and II. Books III and IV I shall teach this spring. This procedure may be justified in light of Nietzsche’s own procedure: He published each of the books before the following book was written and in fact without announcing that one, two or even three books would follow the first one. At the beginning of the seminar I shall summarize my interpretation of books I and II. The seminar does not presuppose that students tok the seminar I taught before. But all participants should have read books I and II when the seminar starts. I shall use the English translation by Graham Parkes, Oxford World’s Classics (ISBN 0199537097). Those who can read the text in German should know that I use the Colli/Montinari edition (Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd. 4, DTV, ISBN 3423301546). H. Meier.

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Open to Graduate Students

PHIL 31900. Feminist Philosophy. (=LAWS 47701, GNDR 29600, HMRT 31900, PLSC 51900, RETH 41000) NOTE:  Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor.  The course is an introduction to the major varieties of philosophical feminism: Liberal Feminism (Mill, Wollstonecraft, Okin, Nussbaum), Radical Feminism (MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin), Difference Feminism (Gilligan, Held, Noddings), and Postmodern "Queer" Feminism (Rubin, Butler).  After studying each of these approaches, we will focus on political and ethical problems of contemporary international feminism, asking how well each of the approaches addresses these problems. (A) M. Nussbaum.

PHIL 36905. Introduction to Phenomenology: Husserl. (=DVPR 32104). The purpose of this course is to introduce the main themes and the method of phenomenology, by focusing on the 1913 standard exposition of the « idealist turn » of Husserl. By an internal and close reading of this text, one will discover that phenomenology does not consist first in a doctrine or a set of theoretical propositions, but mostly and above all in a series of intellectual operations, intended to allow things to appear as themselves, and not as what we commonly assume they are. J. Marion.

49700. Workship: Preliminary Essay. PQ: All and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years. A two-quarter (Spring, Autumn) workshop on the preliminary essay required for all doctoral students in the Spring of their second year and the Autumn of their third year. The workshop involves discussion of general issues in writing the essay and student presentations of their work. Although students do not register for the Summer quarter, they are expected to make significant progress on their preliminary essay over the summer. D. Brudney.

49900. Reading & Research. Staff.

PHIL 50217. Induction and Evidence. In this class, we will look at various forms of non-deductive reasoning and will try to understand the relationships between them and the problems that surround them. Of particular interest will be the nature of inductive reasoning, the nature of abductive reasoning (inference to the best explanation), and the relationship between them. Some have argued that both of these forms of inference should be viewed as autonomous and independent forms of non-deductive inference, while others have argued that one should be subsumed under the other. We will also look at criticisms of both induction and abduction. We will begin by looking at the writings of Pierce, and will use this as a springboard to the modern literature. (II) K. Davey.

PHIL 51200. Workshop: Law and Philosophy: Free Speech and Its Critics.(=LAWS 61512, RETH 51301, HMRT 51301, PLSC 51512, GNSE 50101) PQ: Students are admitted by permission of the two instructors.  They should submit a c.v. and a statement (reasons for interest in the course, relevant background in law and/or philosophy) to the instructors by e mail.  Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students. The Workshop will consider important philosophical defenses of free speech and critics of those rationales. Topics will include the idea of the "marketplace of ideas," autonomy interests in free speech, the harms of speech, and the problem of propaganda and other manipulative speech.  Note: This is a seminar/workshop many of whose participants are faculty from various related disciplines.  It admits approximately ten students.  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. Most sessions are led by visiting speakers, from either outside institutions or our own faculty, who circulate their papers in advance.   The session consists of a brief introduction by the speaker, followed by initial questioning by the two faculty coordinators, followed by general discussion, in which students are given priority. Several sessions involve students only, and are led by the instructors. Students write a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year.  The course satisfies the Law School Substantial Writing Requirement.   There are approximately four meetings in each of the three quarters.  Students must therefore enroll for all three quarters. Autumn, Winter, Spring. B. Leiter, M. Nussbaum, A. Green.

PHIL 51420. Utopianism. In this class, we will explore the idea that political philosophy is practical. We will address questions such as the following. What is the best interpretation of this idea? How might we defend it against skepticism? What consequences does it have for method? What is it for a political philosophy to be utopian? Is there a good and a bad way of being utopian? How are these to be distinguished? What is it for a political philosophy to be cynical? Does “human nature” place constraints on our political theorizing? What ought we to mean by “human nature” in this context? How do concepts like scarcity and abundance relate to utopian enterprise? (I) B. Laurence.

PHIL 51825. When is Political Power Legitimate? (=LAWS 98403, PLSC 58403) When political power is exercised, what makes it legitimate? Political theorists have long wondered how to justify political rule, which in general is any system whereby certain people get to make decisions on behalf of others and direct them to comply with the decisions, often ensuring their compliance through the threat or use of force. What justification can be provided for the normative standing of such systems of rule? The question of legitimacy is distinct from whether political rule is just or whether it is lawful (exercised according to a constitutional order), although those questions are not entirely separable.
In this seminar, we will examine the possible grounds on which we might begin to establish why and how a particular political order is legitimate. We will begin with the paradigmatic case of the state, but we will also look at sub-national and international forms of political rule. We will examine and assess the prominent kinds of answers offered to this question: the common good / social welfare, individual freedom / natural rights, the social contract, and the democratic ideal of equality. Readings will include philosophers such as Plato, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, as well as contemporary theorists such as Hannah Arendt, John Rawls, and Joseph Raz. Students will be evaluated based on class participation and their final option. Students have the option of taking a final exam or submitting a series of thought papers (for two credits), or submitting a set of short research papers or a major research paper (for three credits). A. Greene.

51836. The Very Concept of Criticism. (SCHT 49915, GRMN 44915). What does it mean to develop a critical reading of a literary text (or artwork or film)? What is the object, the logic, the justification of critical judgment? This question – or package of questions –has been raised since antiquity (Aristotle), but has become especially pressing since historical variation emerged into the foreground of aesthetic consideration in the course of the nineteenth century. How can we understand the act of criticism in the absence of clearly formulated norms? If innovation predominates in literary and artistic production, then what is the critic to base her judgment on? In this class, seminar we will examine this question (and its various solutions) as it unfolds from Kant (Critique of the Power of Judgment) to Cavell, with such intermediate stations along the way as Friedrich Schlegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. The seminar will also consider para dogmatic examples of criticism (e.g., Auerbach, Frye, Barthes), while examining the very idea of a classic. R. Pippin, D. Wellbery.

PHIL 53421. The Concept of Revelation Between Philosophy and Theology (II). (=DVPR 55401) This course continues the development of a new analytical and phenomenological approach to the relationship between revelation and reason (revelatio et ratio), between theology and philosophy, as they are constructed in Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought, and in close relationship to their patristic precursors.  Specific themes to be engaged include: relevation as paradox ; the different forms of knowledge implied in ratio (with discussion of Scheleiermacher, Hegel, Spinoza, Kant and Fichte); and the role of the Trinity between relevation and reason (with particular attention to Basil and Augustine, as well as Hegel, Schelling and von Balthasar). Enrollment in the spring 2014 seminar (The Concept of Revelation between Theology and Philosophy I will be helpful, but is not required). J. Marion.

PHIL 53910. The Later Philosophy of Wittgenstein. This course will have four foci: 1) a close reading of the verba ipsissima of Philosophical Investigations and a handful of closely related writings by Wittgenstein; 2) an overview of the history of the reception of the book and some of the most influential readings it has occasioned; 3) a discussion of a handful of recent debates in the secondary literature on some its most contested sequences of sections – including those on ostensive definition, the critique of Wittgenstein’s early work, the nature of philosophy, rule-following, practices/forms of life, the so-called private language argument, the nature of first-person authority, and the relations between meaning and use, inner and outer, criteria and mental states, sensations and discursive forms of mindedness; 4) an assessment of how best to interpret the overall aims, methods, and teachings that confer unity on the work as a whole, with special attention to the conception of philosophy at work in the Philosophical Investigations . Throughout the course, we will seek to evaluate some of the most influential options put forward in the secondary literature regarding how to read the book, with a special focus on various aspects of the controversy surrounding so-called “quietest” and “anti-quietest” interpretations of the aims and methods of the work. Readings will include texts by Albritton, Anscombe, Baker, Brandom, Browne, Cavell, Child, Cook, Diamond, Goldfarb, Hacker, Kripke, Kuusela, Malcolm, McDowell, Pitcher, Schulte, Stroud, and Wright. (III) J. Conant, D. Finkelstein.

59950. Workshop: Job Placement. This workshop is open only to PhD Philosophy graduate students planning to go on the job market in the fall of 2015.  Approval of dissertation committee is required. Course begins in late Spring quarter and continues in the Autumn quarter. Pass/Fail. D. Finklestein.

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