Spring 2016 Courses

This is not a sign.


Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Spring 2016 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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Spring 2016 Courses at a Glance - PDF

Open to Undergraduates

PHIL 20665. The Emotions: Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. (=CHDV 20665, SCTH 20665) The emotions seem to have aspects of a variety of other types of mental states: they seem to disclose objective aspects of the world just as beliefs do. They seem to be motivating just as desires are. They seem to have a felt aspect just as perceptions do. And they seem to essentially involve the body, just as pains and itches do. Emotions are thus very much like Descartes’s pineal gland: the function where mind and body most closely and mysteriously interact. A topic of study in the Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern traditions, the emotions have been neglected in much of the twentieth century by philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists alike — perhaps because of the sheer variety of phenomena covered by the word “emotion” and perhaps precisely because of the resistance of the phenomena to disciplinary classification. In recent years, however, emotions have become the focus of vigorous interest in philosophy, as well as in cognitive science. In this course we will examine the nature of the emotions from three perspectives: Philosophical, Psychological-Psychoanalytic, and Natural Scientific. The following question will serve as our guide in this investigation: are these perspective, does the capacity to feel and freedom stand in necessary opposition? We will thereby not only gain preliminary insights into the nature of the emotions, but also an understanding of the power and limitations of these perspectives in the study of the emotions in particular, and the human being in general. A. Berg

PHIL 21505. Wonder, Magic, and Skepticism. Prerequisites: either three college-level philosophy courses, or Philosophical Perspectives plus two philosophy courses, or permission of the instructor. In the course of discussing how it is that a philosophical problem arises in the first place, Wittgenstein says, “The decisive movement in the conjuring trick has been made, and it was the very one that we thought quite innocent.” This isn’t the only place where Wittgenstein speaks as if being gripped by philosophical problems is a matter of succumbing to illusions--as if a philosophers are magicians who are taken in by their own tricks. In this course, we’ll discuss philosophy and magical performance, with the aim of coming to a deeper understanding of what both are about. We’ll be particularly concerned with Wittgenstein’s picture of what philosophy is and does. Another focus of the course will be the passion of wonder. In the Theatetus, Plato has Socrates say, “The sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin.” And when magicians write about their aesthetic aims, they almost always describe themselves as trying to instill wonder in others. Does magic end where philosophy begins? And what becomes of wonder after philosophy is done with it? (B) D. Finkelstein.

PHIL 21620. The Problem of Evil. (=RLST 23620) “Epicurus's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” This course will consider the challenge posed by the existence of evil to the rationality of traditional theistic belief. Drawing on both classic and contemporary readings, we will discuss atheistic arguments from evil in both “logical” and “evidential” forms. We will analyze attempts by theistic philosophers to construct “theodicies” and “defenses” in response to these arguments, including the “free-will defense” and “soul-making theodicies.” We will also consider critiques of such theodicies as philosophically confused, morally depraved, or both; and we will discuss the problems of divinely commanded or enacted evil and of divine hiddenness. M. Kremer.

PHIL 22960. Introduction to Bayesian Epistemology. (B) A. Vasudevan.

PHIL 23000. Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology. In this course we will explore some of the central questions in epistemology and metaphysics. In epistemology, these questions will include: What is knowledge? What facts or states justify a belief? How can the threat of skepticism be adequately answered? How do we know what we (seem to) know about mathematics and morality? In metaphysics, these questions will include: What is time? What is the best account of personal identity across time? Do we have free will? We will also discuss how the construction of a theory of knowledge ought to relate to the construction of a metaphysical theory—roughly speaking, what comes first, epistemology or metaphysics? (B) B. Callard.

PHIL 23205. Introduction to Phenomenology. The aim of this course is to introduce students to one of the most important and influential traditions in the European Philosophy of the 20th Century: Phenomenology. The main task of this course will be to present Phenomenology’s main concepts and the meaning of Phenomenology’s transformations from Husserl to Heidegger, Sartre, Levinas and Henry.
The fundamental credo of Phenomenology consists in the emphasis laid upon phenomena given to consciousness. This emphasis coincides with the “return to things in themselves” as formulated by Husserl. What can this kind of return actually mean? And what does this claim suggest about philosophical practices prior to phenomenology, idealism or empiricism? In what way, for Husserl, was classical philosophy not able to give access to things such as they are truly given ? And what is the meaning of such idea of « givenness ». Does Phenomenology fall into the so-called « myth of the Given » . No future phenomenologists after Husserl will question the fundamental idea of returning to things in themselves thanks to the phenomenological importance given to phenomena, but they will question the privilege of intentional consciousness postulated by Husserl - Heidegger will expand phenomenology to the ancient question of “Being” (thanks to the existential clarification of the Husserlian concept of Intentionality) and Levinas will question Husserl’s and Heidegger’s approaches of phenomenology - intentional and existential - as falling into the Western problem of Ontology and Totality against Otherness and Ethics. As we will see, even if Phenomenology coincides with the philosophical description of our "Openness to Exteriority", this openness - Intentional, Existential or Ethical - entails necessarily not the abandonment, but a radical redefinition of the concept of Subjective Immanence." R. Moati.

PHIL 27000. History of Philosophy III: Kant and the 19th Century. 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. His revolution polarized the philosophical community, meeting with eager forms of inheritance as well as intense and varied resistance — and, as we shall see, usually both within a single thinker’s response to Kant. This class will seek to understand the nature of Kant’s philosophical innovations and the principle sources of his successors’ (dis-)satisfaction with them. This class will seek to introduce students to the outlines of Kant’s “critical” philosophy, well as its subsequent reception, as the first two generations of post-Kantian thinkers grappled with and reacted to his ideas. The first half of the course will be devoted to a careful reading of portions of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason; while the second half will focus on various aspects of its reception, transformation, and rejection at the hands of Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. The course as a whole will focus on the following five topics: (1) the dialectical relation between skepticism and dogmatism in philosophy, (2) the difference between our theoretical and practical cognitive powers, (3) the proper account of the “finititude” of these powers, (4) the tendency of human reflection to overstep the boundaries of its legitimate employment, (5) what a satisfying treatment of the four preceding topics reveals about what philosophy is and what it can and cannot accomplish. J. Conant

29200-01/29300-01. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Freedom and Ethics. 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 does it mean to be free? What is a free action? Is freedom an absolute term or actions could be more or less free? Can we act ethically but not freely, i.e., do the right thing, without being free? Can one act freely but not ethically, i.e. freely do the wrong? The relation between the notion of free action and ethics has been central to practical philosophy since antiquity and different ways to answer these questions are at the heart of the main traditions in ethics. We will explore these questions in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant as well as contemporary texts by Korsgaard, Boyle, Rödl and Thompson. A. Amit.

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 20214/30214. Final Ends. By a “final end” we mean any purpose, pursued by a human being, whose attainment is not viewed as instrumental to any further purpose. In the philosophical tradition there have been controversies about a set of issues surrounding that notion, and this class is going to introduce you to the most important ones. 1) Is the pursuit of a final end inevitably determined by your desire and nothing else (as Humeans and preference utilitarians think), or are final ends determined / imposed on us by any objective standard / requirement (as assumed by Kantians and classical utilitarians as well as ancient and medieval philosophers)? 2) Does the teleological structure of human agency imply that there must be a final end, and precisely one? 3) If - as many philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant and Mill, assume - a single overall end is imposed on us by an objective determinant, what is this determinant? Is it represented by a conception of human nature (rationality?), of well-being, happiness, of moral or some other type of perfection? Is it individual or social? Is it state or activity? 4) How can the answer to such questions be known? 5) In what sense can an objective end be “imposed on us”, or “binding”? 6) Does the existence of a final end - whether determined by desire or independently of it - imply that all practical reasoning should, at least implicitly, start from a conception of it? Or should you pursue such ends obliquely (Kierkegaard: The door to happiness opens outward)? - The lectures will be complemented by preparatory readings from classical and contemporary texts as well as by your own contributions to the discussion of that vital question: Can we say what we live for? C. Vogler, A. Mueller.

PHIL 20208/30208. Film Aesthetics. (=SCTH 38112, CMST 27205, CMST 37205) This course will examine two main questions: what bearing or importance does narrative film have on philosophy? Could film be said to be a form of philosophical thought? a form moral reflection? of social critique? Second, what sort of aesthetic object is a film? This question opens on to several others: what is the goal of an interpretation of a film? Is there a distinct form of cinematic intelligibility? What difference does it make to such questions that Hollywood films are commercial products, made for mass consumer societies? What role does the “star” system play in our experience of a film? We will raise these questions by attempting close readings of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Films to be discussed: Shadow of a Doubt; Notorious; Strangers on a Train; Rear Window; Vertigo; North by Northwest; Psycho; Marnie. Selected critical readings will also be discussed. (I) J. Conant, R. Pippin.

PHIL 21102/31102. Opera As Idea and As Performance. (=LAWS XXXXX, MUSI 24416, MUSI 30716) The academic study of opera all too often considers the score and libretto in a void, ignoring performance. But opera is a multi-dimensional art-form in which performance (staging, scene design, costume, musical direction, and of course the artistic interpretations of singers) makes an enormous contribution to the realization of the work.  This course will study opera as drama in performance, asking how performance both realizes and renders determinate a musical and textual blueprint.  Visitors to the class will include expert contributors in each of the major areas of operatic performance.  The tentative list of operas to be studied includes: Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppaea, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Beethoven’s Fidelio, Verdi’s Don Carlo and Otello, Wagner’s Lohengrin, and Strauss’s Elektra
Remark: students do not need to be able to read music, but antecedent familiarity with opera would be extremely helpful. M. Nussbaum, A. Freud.

PHIL 21301/31311. Moral Theory. Why be moral? Is there any principled distinction between matters of fact and matters of value?  What is the character of obligation?  What is a virtue?  In this course we will read, think, and write about twentieth century Anglo-North American philosophical attempts to give a systematic account of morality. (I) (A) C. Vogler.

PHIL 21700/31600. Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. (=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 21420/31420. The Problem of Free Will. The problem of free will stands at the crossroads of many of the central issues in philosophy, including the theory of reasons, causation, moral responsibility, the mind-body problem, and modality. In this course we will draw on ancient, early  modern, and current work to try to understand, and gather the materials of a solution to, the problem. B. Callard.

PHIL 24015/34015. Modality. (=LING 24015/34015) PQ: Knowledge of first-order logic with identity strongly recommended. Students will benefit most if they have taken classes in semantics or philosophy of language before. Modal information—information conveyed by sentences such as ‘Mary might be at home’ or ‘Charles ought to give to the poor’—play an outstanding role in everyday discourse and reasoning. The goal of this class is to explain and evaluate contemporary semantic theories of modality by discussing a wide range of linguistic phenomena from the perspective of these theories. After introducing possible worlds semantics for modality developed in modal logic, we will consider current theories of modal semantics within linguistics as well as the most important empirical areas of research. Throughout, we will keep an eye on the relation between modality and other topics that are prominent in linguists and philosophy, including tense, conditionals, and discourse meaning. (B) M. Willer.

PHIL 25209/35209. Emotion, Reason, and Law. (=LAWS 99301, PLSC 49301, RETH 32900, GNSE 28210/38300) Note: Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor. Emotions figure in many areas of the law, and many legal doctrines (from reasonable provocation in homicide to mercy in criminal sentencing) invite us to think about emotions and their relationship to reason.   In addition, some prominent theories of the limits of law make reference to emotions: thus Lord Devlin and, more recently, Leon Kass have argued that the disgust of the average member of society is a sufficient reason for rendering a practice illegal, even though it does no harm to others.  Emotions, however, are all too rarely studied closely, with the result that both theory and doctrine are often confused.  
The first part of this course will study major theories of emotion, asking about the relationship between emotion and cognition, focusing on philosophical accounts, but also learning from anthropology and psychology.  We will ask how far emotions embody cognitions, and of what type, and then we will ask whether there is reason to consider some or all emotions “irrational” in a normative sense. 
We then turn to the criminal law, asking how specific emotions figure in doctrine and theory: anger, fear, compassion, disgust, guilt, and shame. Legal areas considered will include self-defense, reasonable provocation, mercy, victim impact statements, sodomy laws, sexual harassment, shame-based punishments.
Next, we turn to the role played by emotions in constitutional law and in thought about just institutions – a topic that seems initially unpromising, but one that will turn out to be full of interest.  (A)
Other topics will be included as time permits. M. Nussbaum.

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Open to Graduate Students

30119. An Advanced Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus(=SCTH 30107). This course will have three foci: 1) a close reading of some of the central parts of Wittgenstein’s difficult and puzzling early work, the Tractatus, along with related writings by Wittgenstein, 2) an equally close reading of G. E. M. Anscombe’s under-appreciated classic An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus , and 3) a discussion of some of the related recent secondary literature on the Tractatus, as well as on Anscombe’s reading of it. Readings will include texts by Conant, Diamond, Frege, Geach, Goldfarb, Kremer, Ramsey, Ricketts, and Sullivan. (III) J. Conant and I. Kimhi.

PHIL 41160. You Call This Democracy? We will begin with a sampling of theories of democracy as an ideal of justice. We will then consider recent empirical work suggesting that federal legislation in the United States is responsive only to the preferences of wealthy citizens. Juxtaposing the normative accounts of democracy and these disturbing results, we will ask whether the USA is in fact a democracy. We will be concerned with what turns on this question of classification. Is the denial or affirmation that we live in a democracy a mere rhetorical ploy? Is it a matter of only taxonomic interest? Or does the classification have important normative and practical implications for political action and thinking about justice under the nonideal condition in which we find ourselves? (I) B. Laurence.

PHIL 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.

PHIL 49900. Reading & Research. Staff.

PHIL 54110. Philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars. This course will be  structured around a close reading of Sellars's seminal "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind." Each week we will read between one and three major sections of that work (out of sixteen sections in all), along with relevant background material illustrating the kinds of positions that Sellars was reacting to and drawing from (including such authors as Russell, Ayer, CI Lewis, Schlick, Carnap, and Ryle), other selections from Sellars's works (including the essays in the anthology In the Space of Reasons, Science and Metaphysics, and "The Structure of Knowledge"), and relevant recent secondary literature on Sellars's thought (from authors such as Brandom, McDowell, Rosenberg, DeVries, O'Shea, Michael Williams, Lance, Kukla etc.). (III). M. Kremer.

PHIL 55805. Aristotle’s De anima. G.W.F. Hegel, in the Introduction to the Philosophy of Spirit, writes the following: 'The books of Aristotle on the Soul, along with his discussions on its special aspects and states, are for this reason’ — namely, because they integrate ‘Rational’ and ‘Empirical’ psychology — 'still by far the most admirable, perhaps even the sole, work of philosophical value on this topic.’ He continues: 'The main aim of a philosophy of mind can only be to reintroduce unity of idea and principle into the theory of mind, and so reinterpret the lesson of those Aristotelian books’ (Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Part III, §378). 
Statements such as these are not easily mustered nowadays, not even by Aristotle's warmest admirers. Still they do prick the curiosity, and so in this course we will spend the quarter on a close reading of Aristotle’s De anima. S. Kelsey. (IV)

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.

he 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).
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. M. Nussbaum.

PHIL 52015. Indexicals. (=LING 52015) Indexical expressions—those whose reference and content can shift from context to context, such as ‘I’, ‘now’, ‘here’, ‘she’, and ‘today’—and indexical attitudes have played a prominent role in theoretical reflections on language and the mind. In this class, we will consider the philosophical and linguistic implications of indexicality, starting with Kaplan’s theory of indexicals and then taking a close look at Perry’s and Lewis’s seminal arguments that indexicals and indexical thoughts pose exciting problems for traditional views about propositions and attitudes. We will then ask to what extent their observations have important consequences for epistemology, ethics, and other areas of philosophy outside of philosophy of language and mind, but also consider critical perspectives on the Perry-Lewis tradition. Throughout the quarter we will keep an eye on the relation between perspectival thought and talk and the more general phenomenon of subjectivity. (II) M. Willer.

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 2016.  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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