Autumn 2015 Courses

Roman Ondák's "Table", as seen on July 15 at MK Galerie, Rudi-Dutschke-strasse 26, Berlin. Photographer: Marc Wathieu.


Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Autumn 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 priorpermission 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 Autumn 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.

Autumn 2015 Courses at-a-glance - PDF

Open to Undergraduates

PHIL 21000. Introduction to Ethics. (=FNDL 23107, HIPS 21000) 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 21219. Introduction to Philosophy of Art: What is Art? PQ: Background in Philosophy, Art History or the Arts. If unsure, please approach instructor. This course explores the question ‘What is art?’ when applied to visual works of art. Another way of forming the question is: ‘What differentiates a work of art from something which is not a work of art?’. The course follows several attempts to answer this question including the representational, expressive, formal, emotive, conventional and historic theories. In the second part of the course, we will address the question: ‘How do we best understand a work of art?’. We will see how these questions are related. Each topic in this course will focus on a single work of art so that the philosophical reading will be understood and evaluated in light of a guided analysis of the work in question. A. Lazar.

PHIL 24800. Foucault: History of Sexuality. (=GNSE 23100, HIPS 24300, CMLT 25001, FNDL 22001) Note: One prior philosophy course is strongly recommended. This course centers on a close reading of the first volume of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, with some attention to his writings on the history of ancient conceptualizations of sex. How should a history of sexuality take into account scientific theories, social relations of power, and different experiences of the self? We discuss the contrasting descriptions and conceptions of sexual behavior before and after the emergence of a science of sexuality. Other writers influenced by and critical of Foucault are also discussed. A. Davidson. 

PHIL 25000. History of Philosophy I: Ancient Philosophy. (=CLCV 22700) Prerequisites: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.  An examination of ancient Greek philosophical texts that are foundational for Western philosophy, especially the work of Plato and Aristotle. Topics will include: the nature and possibility of knowledge and its role in human life; the nature of the soul; virtue; happiness and the human good. G. Lear.

PHIL 29200-01/29300-01. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Moral Luck. 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. Late in his career, the English philosopher Bernard Williams wrote, ‘Philosophy, and in particular moral philosophy, is still deeply attached to giving good news.’ In particular, he thought that the philosophical tradition that we have inherited is attached to the consoling thought that how well we live is in the most important respects under our control. This thought can be defended on the basis of a pair of commitments: that how well we live from a moral point of view is under our control, and that moral considerations are the most important considerations. Williams challenged both of these commitments, arguing that morality does not have the supreme importance traditionally attributed to it and that moral value is not immune to luck—that there is such a thing as ‘moral luck’. In this course, we will examine these ideas. More specifically, we will cover three topics: 1. In the first part of the course, we will examine the idea that certain activities or onditions are of supreme importance, all other things being worthless in omparison. This idea is associated with the ancient thought that the virtuous person cannot be harmed. In relation to this idea, will discuss the meaning and the possibility of tragedy. 2. In the second part of the course, we will examine the idea that moral value is immune to luck. We will discuss the problem of moral luck due to incomplete control over the morally significant consequences of one’s actions (‘consequential luck’), moral luck due to incomplete control over morally significant aspects of one’s character (‘constitutive luck’), and moral luck due to ignorance of the moral significance of what one is doing (‘moral ignorance’). 3. Throughout the course, we will aim to gain clarity about the metaphysics of agency, control, luck, and the self. P. Brixel.

PHIL 29200-02/29300-02. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Contemporary Liberalism. 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. Liberalism is the dominant tradition of political thought in contemporary political philosophy, and its vocabulary is the lingua franca of the political discourse of Western political societies. One of the chief commitments of liberalism is that a just society is necessarily a free society. Otherwise put, liberalism conceives of citizens as having an overriding interest in some type of freedom. But this abstract commitment is susceptible to a wide variety of competing and incompatible specifications.
In this course, we will examine the ways in which various liberal political philosophers have specified the notion of freedom and conceived of its role in the just society. The guiding questions of the course are: (1) What does it mean to say that citizens have a fundamental interest in freedom, and (2) What obligations of justice does this fundamental interest generate on the part of the state?
We will begin by reading a sizeable portion of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (weeks 1-3), which contains his argument that citizens have a right to a set of basic liberties that cannot be given up even if it is in citizens’ economic interest to do so. In week 4, we will consider an objection to Rawls’s argument advanced by H.L.A. Hart and Rawls’s response.
Next, we will consider various alternatives to Rawls’s approach (weeks 5-6), namely those of Joseph Raz, Philip Pettit, and Martha Nussbaum. These alternatives conceive of freedom as autonomy (the capacity to make certain choices), non-domination (freedom from dependence on the choices of others), and capability (the opportunity to develop one’s capacities to become a fully functioning human being), respectively.
We will then move onto a view called political liberalism (weeks 7-9). This view holds a conception of freedom according to which a citizen is free when he is capable of endorsing the legal framework of his society - in particular the way this framework employs coercive power against and determines the life chances of citizens. We will conclude (week 10) with Joseph Raz’s influential criticism of this view. J. Butcher.

PHIL 29200-03/29300-03. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Philosophical Conceptions of Pleasure in Classical Antiquity. 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. What is pleasure? In what way is it valuable? How does pleasure relate to action, passion, and the good life? These are the questions we shall investigate in this course by working through the leading theories of pleasure in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy from Aristippus of Cyrene through Plato and Aristotle down to the Stoics and the Epicureans. In addition to proceeding chronologically and seeing how later thinkers respond to or refine the arguments of earlier ones, the course will take up three broad themes: (i) the value of pleasure, (ii) what sorts of pleasures there are and whether pleasure is unified, and (iii) how pleasure figures in goal-directed behavior in us and in animals. The final week of the course will be devoted to the reception of ancient ideas about pleasure in two modern thinkers, John Stuart Mill and Gilbert Ryle. Some experience working with Plato and Aristotle is desirable; no knowledge of Greek or Latin is required. D. Jagannathan.

PHIL 29601. Intensive Track Seminar. Topic: Skepticism. PQ: Open only to third-year students who have been admitted to the intensive track program. J. Stern.

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

29901-01, -02, -03, -04. Senior Seminar I. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Note(s): Required and only open to fourth-year students who have been accepted into the BA essay program.  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. A. Ford, Staff.

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Open to Graduates and Undergraduates:

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

PHIL 20105/30100. Naturalism. Naturalism is a view that many philosophers say they accept. The view seems to have a bearing on virtually every area of philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of mathematics, and ethics. What is the view? What is to be said for, or against, it? B. Callard.

PHIL 20120/30120. Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. (=FNDL 20120) PQ: At least one Philosophy course. A close reading of Philosophical Investigations. Topics include: meaning, justification, rule following, inference, sensation, intentionality, and the nature of philosophy. Supplementary readings will be drawn from Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics and other later writings. (III) (B) J. Bridges.

PHIL 22100/32100. Space and Time. This course is an introduction to some traditional philosophical problems about space and time. The course will begin with a discussion of Zeno’s paradoxes.  We will then look at the debate between Newton and Leibniz concerning the ontological status of space and time, and will examine reactions to this debate by thinkers such as Mach and Poincare. Finally, we will discuss the question of what sense is to be made of the claim that space is curved, looking at the writings of Poincare, Eddington, Einstein, Grunbaum, and others. Students will be introduced to the basics of the special and general theories of relativity, at a qualitative level. (II) (B) K. Davey.

PHIL 23007/33007. Introduction to Metaphysics: Existence, Truth and Activity. (=SCTH 30104). An introduction to metaphysics for advanced undergraduate students with prior background in philosophy and for graduate students. We shall focus on the history and the logic of the philosophical concepts of actuality (i.e., activity, existence truth.)
Among the themes which we shall discuss in this class are (1) Did existence emerge as a distinct concept in greek philosophy? (2) The emergence of modal metaphysics in Arabic philosophy, (3) The essence/existence distinction and the arguments for existence of God (3) Kant's thesis: existence is not a real predicate, (4) Frege's thesis: truth is not a real predicate. Through the course we shall engage with the treatment of similar themes in the first part of Heidegger's "Basic Problems of Phenomenology" We shall read from the writings of Aristotle, Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas, Suarez, Kant, Frege, Wittgenstein, Lewis, Kripke. I. Kimhi.

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Open to Graduate Students

PHIL 31414. Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. This course is designed to provide MAPH students with an introduction to some recent and ongoing debates between philosophers working in the analytic tradition. The course is, however, neither a history nor an overview of analytic philosophy. Instead, we will focus on three different debates, spending about three weeks on each. We will likely consider one debate in metaphysics (on the freedom of the will), one in metaethics (on “constitutivism”), and one in epistemology (on the nature of knowledge and reasons for belief). N. Koziolek.

PHIL 49700. Preliminary Essay Workshop. 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.

PHIL 49900. Reading and Research. PQ: Consent of Instructor. Staff.

PHIL 50100. First Year Seminar. PQ: Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students. Open to grad students. This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters. A. Vasudevan.

PHIL 50123 V. Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death. (SCTH 55507). This seminar will be a close reading of Kierkegaard's classic text, written under the pseudonym of "Anti-Climacus".  Among the topics to be discussed are the nature and forms of despair, hopelessness and hopefulness, faith, sickness, guilt and sin. (V) J. Lear.

PHIL 50315 I. Amartya Sen’s Philosophical Work. (=LAWS 78604, RETH 53015, PLSC 50315). Admission by permission of the instructor.  Permission must be sought in writing by September 15.  Prerequisite: An undergraduate major in philosophy or some equivalent solid philosophy preparation.  This is a 500 level course.  Ph.D. students in Philosophy and Political Theory may enroll without permission.  I am eager to have some Economics graduate students in the class, and will discuss the philosophy prerequisite in a flexible way with such students.  Amartya Sen is, of course, a distinguished economist, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize.  But he is also a philosopher whose philosophical thought informs his economic writings and who has long defended the importance of philosophy for economic thought.  This course will study the philosophical aspects of his thought, not attempting to separate them from his economic contributions, which would be wrong, but attempting to focus on the specific contributions Sen has been able to make to economics in virtue of being a philosopher.  We will begin by studying two distinct though related strands of his thought: work on choice, welfare, and measurement, and work on development.  We continue with his influential critique of Utilitarianism on the nature of preference and value, and the importance of equality.  We will then devote substantial time to The Idea of Justice, a major contribution to political philosophy.  Finally, we will examine more recent writings on Indian rationalist philosophy and on religious identity. M. Nussbaum.

PHIL 51200. Workshop: Law and Philosophy.(=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 theme for 2015-16 is “Race and Law.”  Speakers will include (in addition to Darby): Elizabeth Anderson (Michigan), Justin Driver (Chicago), Sally Haslanger (MIT), Charles Mills (Northwestern), Michele Moody-Adams (Columbia), Tommie Shelby (Harvard).

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. Students must enroll for all three quarters to receive credit.

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 by September 20. Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students. Autumn, Winter, Spring. M. Nussbaum.

PHIL 51415. Sartrean Meditations. This seminar will be devoted mostly to the reading of texts of Sartre. Our goal will be to try to define the meaning of Sartre’s project of elaborating an existential psychoanalysis. In what sense can it be an alternative to Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalysis? We will try to follow Sartre in the elaboration of such a project in reading texts in which Sartre develops an existential psychoanalysis of French writers like Baudelaire, Genet and Flaubert. R. Moati.

52805. Cultural Evolution. (=SOCI 40196). This course explores the nature of process of cultural evolution. After establishing a background on the characteristics of biological evolution, we consider topics in cultural evolution that explore similarities and differences between processes of biological and cultural evolution, and theoretical and conceptual innovations necessary to deal with the latter, using a variety of approaches and methodologies, including agent-based modeling, “big data” approaches, and case studies. These will include topics like: the nature of inheritance, the limits of ‘memes’, the role of cognitive development, the coevolution of cognition and lithic technology, the scaffolding and evolution of social support, institutions, organizations and firms, the structure of scientific communities, entrenchment and the emergence of conventions and standards, the role of technology, horizontal vs. vertical transmission, multichannel inheritance, economic markets, the nature of innovation, and the role of history. W. Wimsatt, J. Evans.

PHIL 53101. What’s Given to Perceptual Experience. Readings from Sellars, McDowell, Travis, and Boyle, among others. (III) D. Finkelstein.

PHIL 53310. The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction. This course will trace the history of the philosophical controversy over the analytic/synthetic distinction from Carnap and Klein through contemporary defenses by Gillian Russell and others.  (II) (III) J. Stern.

PHIL 53359. Topics in Philosophy of Judaism: Ethics and Halakhah. (=DVPR 53359, THEO 53359, HIJD 53359) PQ: All students interested in enrolling in this course should send an application to by 09/11/2015. Applications should be no longer than one page and should include name, email address, phone number, and department or committee. Applicants should briefly describe their background and explain their interest in, and their reasons for applying to, this course. Does Judaism recognize an ethics independent of Halakhah (Jewish law)? What are the interrelations, conceptually and normatively, between ethics and Halakhah? How should we understand the conflicts between ethics and Halakhah, morality and religion? How does the Jewish tradition conceive of the notion of mitzvah (commandment), and what is the relationship between interpersonal mitzvot and mitzvot between human beings and God? What are the modes of Halakhic reasoning distinct from ethical argumentation? These topics will be considered through a study of the work of Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Aharon Lichtenstein, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, David Weiss Halivni, Daniel Sperber, and Emmanuel Lévinas.  Specific examples to be discussed may include the status of women, prayer, and repentance A. Davidson.

PHIL 59950: Job Placement Workshop. 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. Finkelstein.

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